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?


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.