Reforming the Old World

May 24, 2012

Should be simple in principle but difficult in practice: identify the evil and work to eliminate it.

Because hierarchies are neither collective nor creative, they resist change.

I feel the New World full of hope and change — and not the kind promised by the head honcho of the land between the shining seas — but I don’t know how that change will manifest itself.

We have a lot of work to do.


Q & A

May 22, 2012

Why is there money in politics?

Why do we pay for medical procedures?

Why do the sins of the Old World still exist?


Who’s Your Daddy?

January 21, 2009

A: Don’t you believe in democracy? Would you rather live in a totalitarian country?

B: I would rather live in a country whose citizens are capable of intelligent discourse. But I don’t believe any such country exists.

A: Perhaps. But haven’t you heard the quote that democracy might not be the best government, but it is better than any of the alternatives?

B: Winston Churchill. I believe the exact quote is “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”

A: Thank you. Exactly. Democracy has flaws, of course. But it is the best that we have.

B: I prefer to look at politics in cynical and reductionist terms.

A: Why am I not surprised?

B: Because you know me too well. Bear with me a moment. Humans are primates. Primates are social hierarchical animals. Animals in social hierarchies usually defer to other animals in positions of power and influence. The most obvious example of this is the family. Children, who are young and ignorant and helpless, have no choice but to defer to their parents, who are the most powerful and influential beings in their lives.

A: Did your mother love you?

B: Cheap shot.

A: I take what I can get.

B: Get this: the president of the United States is often referred to as the most powerful man alive. Being the most powerful man alive, he exists at the pinnacle of a social hierarchy, and he has people — Secret Service agents — who are sworn to sacrifice their lives, if called upon to do so, in order to save his.

A: Power has its privileges.

B: Indeed it does. And we, as citizens, are also called upon to heed his words and to support him and the decisions that he makes.

A: We don’t have to support the decisions that he makes: we can disagree with him.

B: But beyond that, we can do nothing.

A: We can vote him out of office.

B: And so the cycle begins again. Let me put it in stark terms: in America, every four years, we are given the freedom to choose the alpha male. And after we make our choice the only thing we can do is watch what he does.

A: You make it sound like we are just passive participants in the political process.

B: Prove to me that we aren’t.

A: But don’t you hope for a change?

B: Hope is not an action and change is but a buzzword. And hoping for a thing does not make it so.

A: I hope that one day you can be happy.

B: So do I. But at times I do not believe it is possible for self-conscious primates to be happy. Maybe that’s why we created religion.

A: Which often takes the form of a political hierarchy.

B: Such as the Catholic Church.

A: Right. And the Pope?

B: The father of the church.

In the Shadow of Joy

January 19, 2009

The feeling I have when surrounded by Obamaphiles reminds me of my adolescent experience in a pentecostal church: discomforting. Long ago I realized that Barack Obama is a salesman peddling a product: Barack Obama. Naturally, this makes me a pariah — an alien sensation! — among many.

Enthusiasm and euphoria, especially of a religious nature, is immune to inquiry and analysis. Being high is justification enough. So because I am loathe to ruin their buzz, among Obamaphiles I smile and remain silent.

When I want to voice my opinion, I remind myself of the Taoist maxim: Spare speech and let things be. And I comfort myself with In Tenebris #2 by Thomas Hardy.

WHEN the clouds’ swoln bosoms echo back the shouts of the many and strong
That things are all as they best may be, save a few to be right ere long,
And my eyes have not the vision in them to discern what to these is so clear,
The blot seems straightway in me alone; one better he were not here.

The stout upstanders say, All’s well with us; ruers have nought to rue!
And what the potent say so oft, can it fail to be somewhat true?
Breezily go they, breezily come; their dust smokes around their career,
Till I think I am one born out of due time, who has no calling here.

Their dawns bring lusty joys, it seems; their evenings all that is sweet;
Our times are blessed times, they cry: Life shapes it as is most meet,
And nothing is much the matter; there are many smiles to a tear;
Then what is the matter is I, I say. Why should such a one be here?…

Let him in whose ears the low-voiced Best is killed by the clash of the First,
Who holds that if way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst,
Who feels that delight is a delicate growth cramped by crookedness, custom and fear,
Get him up and be gone as one shaped awry; he disturbs the order here.

Cynics and gadflys have always been pariahs and outcasts.

Hmm. Maybe I should start a commune.

Against Nationalism

May 6, 2008

Love of country is a prejudice. Love of country leads to war. That’s why I hate nationalism.

Why do you hate America?

Why do you hate Japan?

Against exceptionalism

April 29, 2008

America is not an exceptional nation. Nor is America an exceptional civilization. Human civilization has existed for more than 10,000 years. What is two hundred plus years of national history compared to 10,000 years of human civilization?

Civilization is based on irrigation, agriculture, and sanitation. Every viable civilization on this planet has had those technologies. If you believe in the myth of American exceptionalism, you need to read more history. And sincerely ask yourself: What is so exceptional about America?

The Aztecs had irrigation and urban planning. The Egyptians completed massive public works. And Athens had democracy.

What is so special about America? Why do people’s hearts swell with pride when they see a tattered banner flapping in the wind?

All of the presidential candidates buy into the myth of American exceptionalism. But I never believed that America was exceptional — even after thousands of recitations of compulsory indoctrination — worshipping an ugly and inelegant icon — and I no longer believe in the myth of American greatness. And I do not quite understand the point of “electing” a “president” to the greatest military empire that this world has ever seen. (And I distrust the motives of anyone who would be King.)

If you believe that America is exceptional because it is a liberal democracy, you haven’t been reading the news. As Noam Chomsky never tires of pointing out, America is not a functioning democracy because public opinion does not matter. America is not a liberal democracy: it is an oligarchy: Our political class is made up of the rich and rules for the rich. Is that fact in doubt?

While I do admit that America is better than other nations, especially if you’re a sexual minority, it is past time we abandoned the myth that we live in a country that is exceptional; that we live in a land that is blessed by God. What does it mean for God to bless a nation? Does God bless Algeria? Does God bless Morocco? Does God bless Zimbabwe? Do you actually believe that the Creator of the Cosmos is really concerned with geopolitics? (If you answer yes to that question, I assume you’re still stuck in the narrative of the Old Testament.)

I’m tired of the myth of American exceptionalism. I’m tired of the narrative of nationalism. And I’m tired of the belief that patriotism — the Religion of the State, which is a form of prejudice — is a virtue.

I wish people would abandon these tattered security blankets.

And wake up.

Against Nationalism

April 14, 2008

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.

Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.