VoiceFromTheWilderness

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Government We Deserve

I think the fundamental reason I started blogging was because I felt that 99.9% of the political discourse that I read somehow didn't articulate a fundamental point. That point is that the patterns that move and shake our world are not as dependent on the vagaries of this or that politician, this or that party, or even, really, this or that ideology. The fundamental drivers of what goes on in this world are much bigger than the individuals we obsess over so much. Clearly I am talking about the 'great man' theory of history vs. the 'socio-cultural forces' theory of history.

I am however, way too good a student of quantum mechanics to be caught by silly dualisms. Clearly both have their place, clearly neither of these theories is 'the single one and only truth'. However our American culture with it's emphasis on the individual both historically and in the invidious comparison that runs our economy, has placed an utterly outsized emphasis on the idea that it's the individual that matters. Thus we are routinely surprised when young, un-monied, powerless radicals who care about society, people and life, turn into rich, empowered, insiders and 'suddenly' start becoming 'conservative'. (Joe you listening out there?). They and we think it's because 'they've changed their minds', but we are both wrong, what has changed is their circumstance, the changing mind follows as day follows night.

A very common phrase coming from the Administration is 'No one could have forseen' whatever fuck up is currently getting them in the hot seat. As a group though, I think we have forgotten just how well forseen the whole geostrategic and socio-cultural situation of modern America has been, and how long ago. Alexis DeTocqueville said in 1805 (or there abouts) 'Democracy will only last until the people realize they can vote themselves money'. (or something to that effect). Robert Heinlein in a couple of books published in the middle 1950's predicted the rise of a theocratic government in the US. He also predicted that the population would become increasingly un-educated and the government would more and more promote a stance of anti-science. (those predictions all seemed wacky to me when I read them in the 70's). George Orwell predicted the rise of states whose fundamental grip on power was based in the perpetual fear of an enemy as well as a state that would attempt to manipulate the meaning of words, more generaly the truth, in order to keep the citizenry confused, and impotent, focused on the powers that be as the sole source of anything positive. Many authors over the last 25 years or more have talked in non-fiction about the coming troubles when oil gets scarce. None of these people knew anything about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Osama Bin Laden (I haven't even talked about all the predictions for the rise of terrorism), or whomsoever it is that you love to hate. (Once you really get this perspective deep into your blood stream you realize that the incompetence of this administration is the greatest blessing not their primary fault)

We are living through a period that has long been foretold, and most of those tellings end badly. As a culture we have stopped believing in the most basic truths of our forefathers. We see it all around us every day. Christians who believe that 'God' wants them to kill people in foreign lands, 'Conservatives' that don't give a hoot about a balanced budget and have in fact for the 2nd time made this nation one of the most indebted nations in the world. 'Small government advocates' who think government ought to be going around destabilizing countries for selling cocain to the children of the wealthy. And for that matter, liberals who want to use the federal government to enforce a morality of environmentalism that (extremely unfortunately) they are unable to sell on it's own merits. And of course I haven't even gotten to the basic duplicity of a culture that has forgotten that it is science, not sales that made it strong, science, not money that provides the nuclear weapons they are so hot to use, even as they attempt to legislate science, to control it so that it only produces politically expedient results. This administration came into power on a platform that 'improved efficiency' was impossible (far out!). Is it any wonder they have spent their time fighting wars for control of resources? Finally perhaps most duplicitously of all, the belief that societal good is inherently not a real thing, that it flows purely and simply from personal good. That the only value we as citizen need concern ourselves with is our own financial 'success' (vs. others). The financial success of our corporations being deemed the greatest possible good, we do not notice how shipping jobs (of ever increasing sophistication) overseas creates financial difficulties for the macro economy here in this country. And of course the heads of corporations -- who could not possibly invent, nor indeed really even comprehend, the systems that make their companies rich, and yet somehow are given not just the lions share, but indeed, in the end, the whole share of the wealth generated by those inventions -- don't care, because they no longer regard themselves as bound to 'America' but rather as an international elite whose loyalties lie with an altogether different culture. (not all of course -- the exceptions are strong and important). We think to rule the world through technology even as we refuse to pay those who understand technology more than a 3rd world wage, and worse, shun science, truth and teaching in our schools.

I haven't even touched on the increasing willingness of Americans to listen to lies, slander, inuendo, con-artistry, mean, mean spirited people saying and doing anything to manipulate their listeners into believing what they want them to believe. We can blame the liars who for example haven't served a day in the US military while they slander ex-soldiers who lost limbs fighting in the con-game wars of yesteryear out of a sense of duty. But really, who is the real problem? The liar or the person who believes the liar? If as a group we all decided to fold our arms and scratch our chins and say 'hmm, doesn't look that way to me' -- this whole nightmare would vanish in a puff of smoke. When Michael Chertoff goes around implementing a bunch of rushed measures that do nothing to affect real security, despite having been in the loop for months about the british investigation (much less that the 'threat' was identified years ago and ignored, chopped out of a recent budget), does that prove he is 'on the ball' or does that demonstrate that he is involved in con-artistry? When the President tells us that the war in Iraq is the center stage of the War on Terror and the only important threat since 9/11 comes out of Pakistan and Britain (!) does that prove that their stategy is oh so insightful, or does it prove that those of who were going 'wait a minute, you're making an alliance with Pakistan?' way back in 2001-2 were maybe on to something? Does it prove they are telling the truth or does it prove they are conning us? But, again, whose worse -- the lying cheating bastards or the fools that keep ponying up the cash?

And that is the really important issue. See as long as any politician, do gooder, pundit, or loose lipped smarty pants (such as yours truly) keeps us focused on what's wrong with cheating bastards, they are basically doing us a disservice. Why? Because they don't ask us to do the hard work of taking responsibility, of growing up, and seeing that what we do, say, spend, read, watch *affects* the world we live in. 'It's all the media's fault -- they are just in the pockets of the xxxx's'. So why are you buying their paper? In a world in which Faux News is the most succesful (in corporate capitalist monetary terms, and in popularity) news show in America, guess what? They are going to get immitated. The problem is not Fox News. The problem is all the people watching Fox News. And that is something that our entire system, from top to bottom, is absolutely designed not inform us of. People don't want to take responsibility. They would much rather blame someone else. We don't want to recognize the importance that our choices have on the world around us. In a point, not unlike that of DeTocqueville, the result of 'free market' news, and 'democracy' (better known as pandering to the masses) is that the foibles of the majority get pandered to. People who want to gain leverage don't say things that would be regarded as 'biting the hand that feeds them' and in this case that hand is the great consumer. So the whole society is endlessly looking for scapegoats, someone to blame for the problems that are all around us, and the most likely culprit -- in a lot of really fundamental areas -- is the one group that is absolutley immune from prosecution: Joe Everyman.

And so what happens? one generation of panderers rises, gets blamed and falls, and then a new generation of panderers comes onto the stage. But the stooge audience, they have season tickets, and bloody well want their money's worth of blood, comedy, and craziness, and they do love a a good car chase with a nice big pile up at the end.

Americans love the idea of a war in the middle east. They love it. And so it will come to be. They love indulging their anger and aggression on a target that they know can't hit back, and if the target tries to hit back they get really, really mad about it. Many of them love the idea of 'armageddon' the end times, and so there are plenty of con-artists waiting in the wings to sell them 'The Armageddon Show'. Hoping no doubt to find a quick surprise ending that leaves them, the con-artist, alive at the end. As all good guys do right?

You say that isn't you? That you are 'forced' to advocate war because of how evil the other guy is? hmmm, guess you've forgotten what culture you come from. Are 'they' really so evil? Have we really not done 'anything' to them? really? Does data seem lacking? is the truth something you prefer to get from people who tell you what you want to hear?

Or does none of this sound like you? If so, great, but what comes next? Will there be a war? Which side are you on? Will you stand up and make a choice -- no matter what bill of goods some con-artists is shilling today about how it's all their fault, and for their own good, and we know what's best, and you have to break a few eggs? Will you look for data, and even more importantly stop letting people play on your baser emotions?

Will you stop blaming and start choosing?

VoiceFromTheWilderness

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's up to us

I have realized for some time now that I have not been really deeply clear about what I see happening in the world. This blog has mostly been a collection of things I've thought at certain times, some of them not even 'real' time, and I do realize that it hasn't particularly articulated a clear and cogent view.

I have all too often fallen into the 'Us vs. Them' mentality of the Left, with which I identify, and as a result have all too easily seen through that filter. Among other horrors which have been visited upon us by the political process that has been unfolding over the last 25 years, the forcing people into one of two boxes, ultimately and quite plainly amounting to no more than 'With me, or agin' me', is easily one of the most pernicious. I have to admit that my own psychology has not only bought into that kind of world view, but indeed promoted it, and been fueled by it. It is, nonetheless, a false ideology.

What is unfolding in the world today is not surprising. It is not unforseen. What it is, is a vast sociological, and psychological pattern, deeply rooted in the human heart, slowly but surely making itself known. If we were honest with ourself we would recognize that 'democracy', and 'openness', and indeed 'truth' are things which have only rarely held sway in human affairs. And while it is more than sad to watch them go, it is not at all surprising.

Unfortunately, our American culture all to easily, and subtly, encourages us to obsess about the individual, to look for the beliefs, choices, and desires of the individual at the core of every event. What is happening around us is much bigger than the manipulations of even the most manipulative of people. While manipulative people surely exist, they rise to the fore, or at least achieve effectiveness most when they are in fact riding the tide of human affairs.

George Bush is not our problem. Indeed, his very incompetence, and naivete may be our best asset. Karl Rove is not our problem.

Our problem is that we believe. As a group we don't really know which way up is. We listen to lies and con-artists, and don't quite know what to make of it. We listen to personal attack, inuendo, appeals to bigotry, to hatred, to jealousy, to fear, to doubt, and do not recognize that they play on our own weaknesses.

If we would see in a new way, and find a new possibility we must recognize something. The patterns that unfold cannot be blamed on an individual or group of individuals. Their ability to control events stems solely and completely from our willingness to go along. But for the gullibility, the indulgence of the group, the individual is powerless.

We have long standing systemic paterns coming home to roost. The patterns that are unfolding are not a surprise, nor are they someone elses fault.

There are always reasons. Everyone has a reason. What is not as well known is that there are also always choices, and the intent behind those choices. We can, have, and do, choose everyday what kind of world we want. We may give those choices away to logic, to party, to reason, to emotion, to men, to women, to any set of interlocking compelling self-justifiying cause other than our own choice. But in fact the choice is ours.

We must choose. This is the nature of reality. The question of course, as always, is what do we choose.

Is this the world you want? Do you think that peace comes from violence? Do you believe that truth arises out of falsehood, denial, manipulation, belief or 'loyalty'.

Is this the world you want? Do you want more of it? That is what is coming. More of the same. The choice, the freedom to act is yours now. While we do always have choice, the greater machine of which we are all cogs does move forward, it's tipping points rare, and it's motion implacable. While *we* can always choose, changing it's course is a horse of a different color. There are moments when small causes have big consequences, but once the pattern is in place, once things achieve a steady state, the dynamical system locks into a pattern and then? Well, then there is no change, or worse, the illusion of change which is just more of the same.

Do not blame those who 'lead'. Stupid followers have only one destiny. To be led by stupid people. The converse is less clear I admit, but nonetheless worth trying.

I know that I have failed in communicating a vision that could surmount what is happening. I recognize that those who would make a different world, and I would count myself among their number, have not done so, and in fact have in many cases been guilty of creating the events that allow for the reactions that overwhelm us today. I see in myself the tendency toward righteousness that does not convince but only causes reactive, negative, aggressive response.

Nontheless the choice still lies with each and everyone of us. To think otherwise is just another excuse for those who have set up on a course of destruction.

This is the moment. Very possibly the last tipping point, before the pattern freezes in.

Is this the pattern you want? Is this pattern leading to what you want to achieve, more importantly to what you want others, your children, to inherit? Is it?

Soon there will be no more choice. Soon the interlocking logic, the reactive recriminations, the 'he said/she said', the 'you don't understand what they did' well freeze into place, and there will be no more choice, no more freedom, no more truth, no more options. There will only be violence, and power, and death.

Do not fool yourself America. Do not let the word 'power' get you all excited -- ohh, yeah, baby, more power, that's what I'm talking about. You long since gave away the power when you decided to become reliant on oil, and wealth, and not on self, and life. You have no real power in this situation, only the last vestiges of the illusion of power. The real power lies with the source of the energy you need. When you choose to wake up to that is anyone guess. You gave away your power when you decided to believe in what was said, and not what was true. You gave away your power when you decided that science was a political phenomena and not the very source of everything that made you strong. You gave up your power when you chose easy living over tough fact, when you chose comfort over work, when you chose gadgets over yourself. You gave away your power when you chose to believe the sweet lies that told you that you were the center of the world, and everything spun at your finger tips. You gave away your own deepest truth when you decided that the self-determination of others was best dealt with at the point of weapon (built by science), and that freedom was something that was reserved for you, and no other.

Is this still the land of the free and the home of the brave? Do you believe "Give me Liberty or give me Death"? Or do you believe that it's probably best to obey those who control your world in the hopes that they will give you what you want? In the hopes that from their power, of which you do not partake, some small benefit might yet arise that will keep the goodies coming, and the scary stuff far, far away?

I don't know, is that cogent? I doubt it, but it'll have to do. The moment has come.

This is the time, to stand up, and be counted. This is the time to know what is true and what is false. This is the time to see clearly with eyes unclouded. This is the time to make a choice.

Your choice will ring out down the ages. Make it a good one.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Strategy is Now Clear, and the response is Simple

The right wing strategy for getting us into a war in Iran is now clear enough for us to begin an effective counter to it. Their strategy rests on the following proposition: The current situation in Lebanon represents a broad offensive by Tehran against the US and it’s allies, therefore we must strike back” ( lobe) ( koppel – how they got Ted Koppel to buy into this malarkey is anyone’s guess. Ted my man, step away from the Kool-Aid)

The defense against this madness is straightforward. It is clearly twisted an perverse to call Hezbollah’s taking of two Israeli soldiers an ‘offensive’, while simultaneously encouraging an invasion by “land, sea, and air”, the destruction of civilian infrastructure such as airports, fuel supplies, electricity systems, the displacement of upto half a million individuals, and of course the killings of hundreds of civilians. The latest atrocity of air launched missiles striking fleeing civilians in a bus only underscores the extravagantly exaggerated, self-righteous, Israeli response.

While creditable observers have claimed that Israel has been planning this response for years, and that a May meeting in Washington DC gave them the go ahead (sorry both links forgotten, but it’s out there), the key, basic, obvious fact that we need to keep clear on is that kidnapping two soldiers is not ‘an offensive’. Invading by land, sea and air is. It really is that simple. We must not allow the spin meisters of the entrenched interests of this country to confuse us on this point.

And, we need to be very clear on something: We must not start another war in the Middle East.

So, how do we do that? I don’t know. But I suggest two things: One – non-stop raising of this issue on every blog, web site, print and video medium that is willing to participate until the crisis passes, and Two – a sit down strike.

Everyone in this country who wants their lives back, and wants a world to pass on to their children, needs to focus now on what is happening. The moment has come. If the powers that be (and the recent Senate vote (see link above) in support of what is happening ought to make you realize just how widespread the problem is) are allowed to succeed in this con-game, this manipulation where in Iran is blamed for Israeli aggression, and the US goes to war again, the chaos and insanity of the last 5 years will look like a walk in the park.

Do not let the madness continue.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Here it comes

The time of challenges is upon us. What unfolds in the next 6 months could affect human history for a thousand years. While the fiddler plays, and the world burns, the opposition is distracted with yesterday’s battles, and the trivia of party politics. Very soon now, unless significant numbers of people think in a new way, the much ballyhooed War on Terror will become a self-sustaining engine, implacable and unopposeable in it’s logic, endlessly generating it’s own justification for being. The American electorate’s love of warfare could very well soon once more be taken advantage of by politicians intent on sustaining their own power, and if successful, could forever seal off the possibility of returning in our lifetimes to a world where peace, cooperation, and mutual benefit were the watch words. Rather through deliberate machination, and, far more importantly, deep rooted human mass psychological need, a new era threatens to dawn. An era of might makes right, of truth betrayed to the needs of power and wealth, an era of lies, religious intolerance, and mass manipulation, and endemic warfare.

The powers that be in Washington, and more importantly the cultural, political, and ideological forces behind them have been advertising to all who would listen for many years now their intent to attack Iran. People in the know have been warning us for the last 9 months of the ever increasing planning within the Defense Dept. for just such a strike. The political calculus of rallying the pro-war American voters to stave off an incipient electoral Donnybrook has been not only much anticipated, but indeed openly avowed. The drumbeat of vilification of Iran has been growing ever louder in the conservative media.

The only thing that has not been clear was how the new war would be sold, what justification would be used. There has been clear maneuvering in the simultaneously vilified United Nations quite reminiscent of that leading up to the invasion of Iraq. However it’s transparency has led most observers to conclude that the Europeans, and certainly the Russians, and the Chinese would not this time be fooled into providing cover for a government intent on aggressive warfare. Indeed it seems entirely likely, though admittedly guesswork, to wonder if the recent denial of WTO membership to Russia wasn’t caused by a failure to obtain support from that quarter for a far more desperately desired goal. Something else was needed.

The invasion of Lebanon may well be it. It is the perfect, made to order justification for a rapid widening of the conflict in the Middle East, just in time for the next election cycle. Already voices in the media are blaming Iran for the events that have transpired. With even a small amount of reactive validation from the Arab world, not necessarily limited to Iran, but certainly including Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, these voices could quickly rise to a crescendo calling for US involvement in a military action against Iran. Indeed, unilateral action by Israel alone could quickly force our hand, if, as seems likely, and not at all unjustified, the US is deemed complicit in such an event by fundamentalist Islam.

The stakes are high, and the outcome plain to any who have eyes to see with, and ears to hear. If the United States goes to war against Iran, the world as we know it will be gone forever. Abundant energy, low taxes, a generally harmonious culture with cheap and abundant consumer goods, and free interchange and travel around the globe will be gone. In it’s place will be a world at war. Gasoline will skyrocket in price. The 100 dollar a barrel nightmare scenario is clearly already within spitting distance. Are we ready for $400? Inflation? Taxes? You just wait. A multi-front war, with the source of over half of the worlds oil supply is not going to be cheap. In fact it is going to be the most expensive undertaking we have ever seen. Guaranteed. And we haven’t even begun to factor in the final fracturing of both American and European societies around the issue of support or opposition to such a war, and the resumption of long forgotten hostilities with Russia, and China.

Indeed perhaps the single most likely reason these events might not come to pass is that American business interests must at some level already understand that this war cannot serve them in any way, and this administration they have created must now be stopped. As for the rest of us, I’m not sure what we can do besides pray.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More Fun with Arabs

I'm still off about the Iran situation.

I remember when 9/11 happened, and then the slow drift into war in Iraq how few people, in my view, saw what was going on. How many people, not just the news media, but certainly aided by it, were confused about what was happening, why, and what the obvious outcome was going to be -- still are for that matter. I remember listening to 'experts' saying that the Iraq thing was going to be okay, even a strategically wise move, if the administration made sure to pay attention to reconstruction, and then in the next sentence, these same experts saying how it didn't look like that was happening (by the way I'm talking Dec 2002 here) but we should support the administration anyway. Well it wasn't okay. It wasn't strategic -- except in a sense those experts didn't mean. It certainly wasn't cheap, and it certainly wasn't/isn't easy. It's a mess. One which all by itself will have repercussions for this county that will last for decades. Iraq isn't like Vietnam. In Vietnam there was a cohesive social system that was ready (aching in fact) to put in place it's own governement that, in the event, proved to be stable, effective and long lasting. Even I, a non-expert in arab affairs know that Iraq was never going to be like that. Iraq is going to be a sucking wound for decades, the waves of trouble are going to spread out from it beyond anyone's ability to predict.

And now comes Iran. Once again, no one is paying attention. Once again, just like the last time, most people just sort of blindly assume that things will 'work out'. We assume the situation basically is what the administration says ('runaway' autocratic state, intent on 'insane' goals, un-responsive to diplomatic pressure with a citizenry that will not support it when push comes to shove), that whatever happens we can pretty much call 'game over' should somehow the going get to sticky. We assume that 'the system' will prevent the administration from doing anything to off the mark, and that the pundit class must have some reason for supporting the centrist tide of confrontation with Iran other than the call of the paycheck. We assume there are no lies being told. Most important of all however, we allow doubt, uncertainty and hesitation to stop us from acting.

The most amazing thing of all to me is how even now, three years after the start of the Iraq war, and five years after the real machinations began, people, most of them, still don't really believe that the administration is guilty of what is claimed. The famous 'man in the street' still does kind of wonder if maybe Valerie Plame did send off her husband, never for a moment allowing themselves to remember that this is an utterly irrelevent charge that misses entirely the point. Very, very few people get it that by exposing Valerie Plame the administration diminished the ability of the CIA to spy on Iran! (that story came out in February (here) -- where was the MSM then? Still sleeping off the hangover? Still Doubting?) Most people still think there is some kind of doubt as to whether Karl Rove is the most power hungry, stop at nothing manipulator on the planet, and still kind of think the Democrats do play politics too much. For that matter plenty of people probably still believe that 'Tax and Spend' is an insightful criticism. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are fostered by our political system, by our culture of 'not until proven beyond a shadow of a doubt' even about things that no one will ever prove -- politics. How much more proof does America need that this administration does not have peace in mind? How much more plain than the nose on your face can it get that War, perpetual, generational War is the plan? How much more obvious does it need to be that they will do and say anything to hold on to power? How many more lies do you have to hear before you can start to realize that they are lying? How many? Do you need a war with the entire arab world before you figure it out? That is the question on the table right now.

America has been heading for fall for a long time -- wandering around the globe making things up to suit there own interests, and lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, and destabilizing the entire globe to achieve it's ends. If you really think that the 'Post 9/11 age', the 'new kind of war' is a call for more of the same only bigger and badder, well, then that is what you will get. It is up to us, but it won't be up to us for long. If we attack Iran the dominoes really will fall down. There will be global calls for war on the US, and there will be no going back. There will be no 'debating' whether we should or shouldn't pull out and cut our losses when things get ugly. There will be no 'missed opportunities' or 'missions accomplished'. There will be no 'Game Over'. The day we attack Iran, Pervez Musharaff will fall, and we will have a nuclear country as our enemy -- that very day. The day we attack Iran the Saudi's will lose control of their populace. The Turks will turn against us forever -- they already hate us for what we've done in their region. And I haven't even brought up the Chinese and the Russians yet.

Well, lets hope I'm wrong. lets hope the insanity really is obvious and 'the powers that be' really are already working behind the scenes to stop this president. You'd think the business community would figure out one of these days that what is going on is bad for business -- but then you check the stock market and you are forced to think again. You'd think that someone in the 'big league' business world would start doing something. Well maybe they are, maybe they are.

Here are some other pieces talking about the Iran situation: here, and here. Firedoglake talks about the Plame story here.


Game Over:

Hudson: Well that's great, that's just fuckin' great man. Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? We're in some real pretty shit now man... That's it man, game over man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?

Burke: Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Nuclear Tipping Point

Well, here we go.

The Iran situation is heating up -- quickly and very dangerously. The IAEA has found Iran to be violating it's treaty obligations, Iran 'couldn't care a damn', and the Administration is ratcheting up it's rhetoric and calling on the UN -- whose actions are notoriously weak, even in the dim past when the UN hadn't been hobbled by the withdrawl of the political support of the United States. Now, Robert Fox of the Guardian quotes Michael Gordon of the NY Times as saying "The chances of diplomacy succeeding are nil". here

Well great, not only does the US refuse to negotiate directly with the agent of this supposedly 'very serious situation', and in fact refuse to 'recognize' Iran (though Republican's are happy to sell them weapons under St. Reagan as long as it can be used to support other pet projects -- you gotta love their priorities, values, integrity, commitment to the word of God, and 'principles') but somehow the zeitgeist of American politics is deciding, and encouraging others to believe apparently, that diplomacy is already, and without possiblity of alteration doomed. So, like, if diplomacy has zero chance of success, doesn't that mean we are going to war? 'Cause Iran isn't going to back down because of some scary articles by Sey Hirsch.

If there is anyone out there listening, please, we have to understand, if we go to war with Iran, 'the Long War on Terror' really will, at best, be a very, very long war. This will make the cold war look like a walk in the park on spring day. If we attack Iran, you can be 100% certain that there are Muslims, and Arabs, who will make it there life's work to see the US destroyed -- thousands, millions of them, where once there were a few hundred. Pakistan has Nuclear technology. Musharaff will not hold power if the US attacks Iran, and then A.Q. Khan, the founder of the Pakistani weapons program, not to mention his ISI supporters, will be free to export technology where ever, and to whomever they want.

This is absurd, and it is happening very fast. Wake up folks. Do you really want your children to be fighting a war against 1/4 of the world, do you really want to see the world in flames for generations? Is that what you want? There may still be time to make a choice. But you will have to make it. Are you for 'The Long War', or would you rather live, and bequeath a life to your children and theirs and theirs?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Turning on the AC during the Fog of War

I saw two different things today both of which were emblematic of the real problem in this country.

The first was something I’ve seen before that is one of those perfect horror stories for use at cocktail parties, but only as a way of trying to defuse the real rage it brings on. Before I explain what I saw, I have to set up the context. So here in the nations capital we have been having the perfect weather that only comes for 2 weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall, and makes California-philes like myself forget for just a moment what a bummer this ‘city on a swamp’ is. The weather is perfect: 70 degrees Fahrenheit, humidity at about 40%, sun shining, flowers blooming literally everywhere even in the little plots of ‘nature’ at the strip malls. It’s gorgeous out, and really this is only about the 4th or 5th day like this, so it’s still quite easy to appreciate. So I head on over to my local Starbucks on my way to school, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a woman in an SUV, a really big V8 Toyota Sequoia, with all her windows up, running the engine, just sitting there in the parking lot, doing her bills apparently. So I go into Starbucks, get a latte, sit down for a while, read a bit, then head back out, and what do you think I saw? The same woman, in the same SUV, with her engine still running easily 10 minutes after I went in. I assume that she had her windows up, and engine running so that she could experience the joys of air conditioning, on the first golden day in 6 months. On my second pass I also noticed that she had a nice ‘support the troops’ magnetic ribbon (no more bumper stickers for the wealthy Americans – when the political winds shift you can throw out your old convictions without even a mark remaining on your beautiful Toyota Sequoia and who cares if your just casually throwing out magnetic metals?)

Since I’m not sure that it’s completely transparent just how incredibly horrible that is I will spell it out. Here sits this woman who is all about ‘supporting the troops’ burning up precious fossil fuels, polluting our air not just with gasoline fumes, but also with toxins associated with air conditioning, when the weather outside is gorgeous! Not only apparently would she rather that other people fight and die to preserve her right to waste gasoline, and not only is she not even remotely concerned about driving an extremely inefficient vehicle, but she has gotten so inured to the realities not only of the causes of the events swirling around this country but even inured to the basic facts of the weather. I have been in cars heated up by a day in the parking lot where even on perfectly cool days, their owners would rather take a 5 minute drive with the windows up and the air conditioner on – though in 5 minutes the AC can’t really change the temp in the car – than roll down the windows! Americans have gotten so used to their privilege and so committed to ‘not connecting the dots’ between those privileges and events in the big world, that it never occurs to them how extraordinarily self centered, ignorant, and effectively, deliberately in your face it is to keep on consuming, even when that consuming doesn’t even improve the situation in the slightest, and then turn right around and demand more and harsher military actions to prevent the world from expressing what is real in response to that consumption. The worst part I suppose is those poor soldiers in Iraq who are fighting and dying so that this woman can have air conditioning on a perfect day, while she sits around in her air conditioned stupor talking about how she ‘supports them’. Sure yeah, you really support them alright. You support them right into their graves.

The next thing I saw was some graffiti on a bathroom wall. It said “All terrorists must die” or words to that effect (I think it was more gutter level). And then someone else had written “Yes – that means Bush because he’s the real Terrorist”. And then someone else had written “Idiot” about the 2nd guy. What’s behind this? These words were observed on a college campus in the middle of Virginia. The odds that the individual who wrote them had ever known anyone who was harmed by a terrorist is extremely low. The most likely chance of him knowing someone harmed in the ‘War on Terrorism’ would be if he knew, or was himself in Iraq, in which case the person he knew was harmed by people defending their own country – in whatever confused way – from the naked aggression of US power, and in particular against military targets and so was in no sense a terrorist. So we see how the American people have come to see ‘terrorism’ all around them, in their fantasies of righteous rage they imagine enemies everywhere and fantasize glory in defeating them. And it is a fantasy, the fact is that for citizens of the United States of America, at this time in history, a vanishingly small portion of deaths in this country are in any way related to terrorism. I am far more concerned about the welfare of those I know for a multitude of other reasons (including driving on freeway, heart attacks due to smoking, and lung disease due to air pollution!), and looking out over the next century think the only reason my relatives will be harmed in any terrorist related way is if they are a part of the US military, or present at or near US military actions, engaged in promulgating this unilateral attack on the ¾ of the worlds population. Absent that, and absent the impetus to provide nuclear weapons to terrorists that the ‘War on Terror’ has stirred up, we could easily be quite unlikely to ever see an actual live terrorist in our whole lives.

Finally the other ‘authors’ of graffiti that responded to the first one, demonstrate how strongly polarized our society is becoming. The ‘self righteous, stick your head in the sand’ defenders of the right wing takeover have long since decided, as a point of honor actually, that silly things like facts, and realities, and truth, and the perspectives of others are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is ‘loyalty’ to the powers that be (even as those powers shift and change). On the other hand, the aggressive, finger pointing, blame throwing, of the ‘opposition’ asks us to believe that some how the stupidest president in history, and his scowling, nasty side kick/master somehow did this all by themselves – that if we can just get rid of George W. Bush, all of our problems will just magically go away.

In general this country is absolutely entranced with the ‘great man’ theory of history. That’s why the media obsesses so much about individual perpetrators of terrorism. The idea that if we just ‘got’ Bin Laden, Zarkawi, and the evil tyrants that are in charge of Iran, or indeed the evil tyrant that ran Iraq, all of our problems would just dry up and blow away, is nonsense of an incredibly delusional sort. (Saddam is gone, but the problems remain) While on occasion one man can make a difference in what unfolds in a limited area, the US’s need for enemies to hate, and excuses to invade, and it’s love of military might is a far more sweeping historical phenomena. Indeed the very paucity of actual terrorists is only a transient fact in the face of such naked aggression against the self-determination of others that has become the hallmark of US international activity over the last 50 years or more.

The fact is that there were huge forces at work, and the machinations of large numbers of people were required to create the alignment that is the ascendancy of George Bush. It was obvious at the time of his first run for office that Bush was selected by the Republican party not for his smarts, successful track record, deep knowledge of either domestic or international politics nor for his long standing efforts toward the goal of political power, but rather, and quite plainly because he was electable. They needed a face, a smile, a joke that could sway the deeply reactive, and largely uninformed American electorate. And they found those qualities in George W. Bush. The truth is that his incompetence is the greatest gift the left ever got. If Tricky Dick had come back it would be much, much less clear what was going on. Things like the outing of Valerie Plame could easily have been handled with more finesse – and then where would we be?

This is probably as good a time as any to clarify that in my opinion one doesn’t need to believe in, or not believe in, conspiracy theories. Nor does my basic point that the War on Terror is the Cold War meets The War on Drugs require that those in charge actually plan the kind of self-reinforcing cycle that it really is. The reality is that the people of this country, through their knee jerk emotional reactions, and jingoistic know nothing attitudes, and love of violence for it’s own sake, are the only real force needed to drive the war on terror forward. Any politician who isn’t willing to get on the band wagon and lead this herd where it wants to go, finds that no one is willing to follow – ask any number of people from Al Gore, to Michael Dukakis. It’s not that either the Republicans or the Democrats are ‘bad’ or are failing us, it’s that the mass of people have a set of emotional responses and pre-ordained beliefs about how the world is, that they are not willing to investigate or change. Of course I can sit in my V8 automobile and run the AC on perfectly fine day when oil prices have doubled in 2 years, and of course I am quite happy to vote for more troops to make sure that I can continue to do so. And the idea that there is anything at all about my behavior that is open to question is only an invitation to a fight. The idea that the Democrats are going to save us, or that if they don’t that means they are ‘bad’ or failures or whatever, is the same basic drive that is moving us away from democracy in the first place – the belief that in a democracy what happens is not reflective of the people. Which is a deep fantasy.

We have to understand something. In a monarchy if the king rules badly, ignores information, promotes friends rather than competence, then things go badly, and everyone gets to blame the king. And more importantly, Kings who want to govern well quickly begin to realize that they have to, in plain terms, grow up. But in a democracy there is a deep and subtle problem. Individual power centers, special interests, try to manipulate the mass of people in order to get what they want. Whether it be businesses or government or whoever, people attempt to manipulate information so that the democracy gives the special interests what they want. More importantly because blame is so nebulously diffused the responsibility for what happens is difficult to take on individually. Furthermore in free market society, where everything is valued only for how well it sells, short term, emotionally reactive, and primal motivations are used to keep the sales up. The result of all this is that people are free not to grow up, not to understand how what they do affects the system. Finally because they don’t grow up, the information gathering and dissemination systems (the media and the government) are more and more prone to tell people what they want to hear. The Bush administrations manipulation of intelligence is just a symptom of a much larger societal process in which we refuse to hear things that we don’t want to hear. Why because we don’t have to grow up. The failures of the media and of government aren’t isolated, and they can’t be blamed on nefarious individuals with either sinister motives or lack of ability. They are extremely capably motivated to provide to the public the exact things that will pay the bills. And those things are lies, con-games, and ‘happy stories’ that put us to sleep, keep us free from guilt, and responsibility, and make us feel not just happy, and fun, but deeply morally right. Whether on the left or the right, we all believe the fundamental story of our time – it’s someone else’s fault.