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Writers Notebook
In The Jury Box;

By David Eide


"....when you decide a case you bring in all your experience, knowledge, and common are not a robot."
Instruction of a judge to a jury.


Impressions of the Contradiction of the Assumptions

The basic solution of life can be summarized in the phrase, "I shift my shit onto you."

As long as that is done successfully all is well but, as we know too well, eventually the shit comes flying back in your face and then war commences.

So in a democracy it is apparent that the people must be responsible for their own shadows so they don't throw the burden of themselves on other individuals or groups. Anyone with a family understands the ancient, tribal pattern.

This works on many levels but how do you get a "nation," or, even, a "globe" to take responsibility for its shadows? The discussion of this either brings on blank stares or open hostility.

I think in America we resolve this with pragmatism. This is, the ability to use both experience and knowledge in some form of union to assess "what is true," and to come to some temporary conclusion about "what works." How this is sensed among the people is a kind of happy mystery but they seem to have the uncanny ability to know what does and what does not work.

However, when things work and seem to work well the shadows are lost or ignored until they burst forth and destroy everything, as we are seeing with the financial system.

It points out the necessity to have the sort of "unions" that produce enlightenment.

* * * * * * * *

There is democracy because there are two basic principles imperfectly at play: One is the rule of law and the second is the self-rule by the people. And every real or fake self-effacement by power tries to emphasize one or the other of these principles. "Law" because, however imperfect the justice system is, every citizen participates in the making, discussing, changing, administering of law. And self-rule as the principle that tries to bridge the gap between responsibility and freedom. And we know those entities change every generation.

There is nothing static about any of these terms; they are dynamic as in the difference between the terms responsibility and freedom during "good times," and "bad times." And no doubt there is a relationship between how far responsibility and freedom stretch apart and the closer good times get to bad.

Any cosmological model of democracy would start at the core of these principles. And those principles would be shaped by other dynamics. For instance, if those principles were simply stamped down on the whole culture you'd end up with a culture of monks and nuns but little else. Therefore those principles are flexible and for use in an experimental sense every generation.

* * * * * * * *

The bottom-line is this. It's never about the politicians. They are always bad. They are always made bad by the system. Bad ones who get in there become worse. Good ones that get in there fight the bad but are defeated in the end. A democracy can never be dependent on the politicians. It's always dependent on the nature and quality of the people. That is the great change in history. If a politician leads people to their best nature, then he is good. They are no different than the Roman politicians or the Assyrian politicians or the Namibian politicians. The difference is that the system makes the people, themselves, responsible for the good and bad in it.

* * * * * * * *

You always have to congratulate reality on being real. It is a question of who you know and what you know. It is contracts and due diligence with a dose of pleasurable sauce thrown in. Sometimes it appears to be a squashed down version of what it could be. Other times it soars beyond expectations. It is. But it is good, bad, and ugly. There is power where the entanglements are deep and result in treachery more than good works. There are the minions of power who work-to-live and gather enough courage to actually believe in what they are doing. It is conditioning by structure and procedure. It produces the archetypal experience of knowing how it works but knowing how powerless you are in its machinery.

The reality determines everything under the aegis of its term as reality.

And we know from history that the reality changes. The reality of New York 1789 and New York 2009 are two vastly different things.

All houses and apartments, condo's and shacks fill up with some version of the reality.

Political leadership is won by those who make it appear that the leader is working for all and his or her work is a sacrifice.

Of course, then there is the west coast and northern California which is often a defiance of the reality. In the squashed down world the drinks and women are good but the dreams are bad.

Here we seek the full and rounded world. The startling world.

* * * * * * * *

As I have noted for a long time, liberal democracy is about growth and development, from the person to the broad public policies that effect millions of people. There are pains; of recognizing problems, dealing with them, letting them go, moving on. And we know that's far easier in an individual person than a bureaucracy or even a plurality.

I certainly wanted to note the "confrontation" with what the world presented to me: bombs that could annihilate cities. And there were thousands of them and my own area was a target. A breaking into space in a tactile way, opening the universe. The proliferation of perceptions willy nilly like leaves in a storm, often defining reality. And I learned that without a firm and large knowledge base it would cause horrendous, modern superstitions that people would not be able to recognize until it was too late. The struggle of the individual to gain authenticity and identity in a world of others, speed, and power. That was a powerful confrontation without a doubt.

Spiritual, family, knowledge, creativity, experience are all good ways to fight against the rage of the inhuman. So is the cultivation of a "sense of place," especially an enriched region like the one I live in.

* * * * * * * *

The conservatives are hypnotized by their past success. Their words are empty. Who saves us, rules us. That is the political psychology that permeates this culture. And it was government, in an astonishing way, that leapt up and "saved the system." It wasn't Microsoft, IMB, Time-Warner, even McDonalds. They were all saved by the government. And the government will successfully lard the lower middle to middle classes with things. And that most significant class will be happy. And after several decades it will begin to sag under its own weight and then a new vector. The conservatives don't get this yet.

The financial system will not be trusted for a very long time. The free-marketers will have a very hard sell for quite awhile.

And the ironic thing, the telling thing, was that the financial system was saved by a government that hated itself. What happens when the government begins to love itself?

And when the people love the government for saving the system what kind of conservative ideas will you have? There will be excellent anti-statist arguments but they will have the same ear play as the redistribution schemes of the left liberals in the 70's. The only conservative arguments that will hold water are ideas to make government more efficient.

This is a time of "contradicting the assumptions." An exciting time for some, a beguiling time for others. It all depends on the assumptions one carries around.

August 9, 2009

Impressions of the January 20, 2009 Inaugural

A writer should never read the speech he has written. The words always get in the way of the intention.

After reading representative opinions about the coming days and years I am glad there is one president and that his decisions and opinions actually count and his name is Barack H. Obama.

* * * * * * * *

"Make it new but know everything that has gone on before."

Democracy proves itself beyond the flatlands of history, current and otherwise, by going beyond self-congratuation that it is a democracy; when it strives for the specacular and creative and says, "I have gone to the moon," "I have fed millions of people," "I have created a new communications system," it justifies itself.

Democracy implies a break from all that went before and, therefore, development at the highest level possible.

It does require a cultural humbleness no doubt.

Democracy thankfully removed the old social habits that were, in the end, unnecessary and inhibiting.

Shouldn't self-rule make persons much more interested in the world surrounding them? And if they aren't what makes democracy different than any other system that manipulates and controls its population?

* * * * * * * *

Government is important of course. But government is not the destiny of the liberal democratic citizen. Government is what the citizen has an honest and thorough relation with so that he or she can execute their destiny, fulfill their potential and live merrily into the future. Dependence of government won't permit that but neither will a government that is incompetant because the people have cut loose from it.

The Obama victory points to the creative tension between the obligations of being a citizen and the freedom and liberty of the citizens.

Mere politics offers up equal parts of adrenaline, hogwash, and depression.

A Short and Happy History of a Republic

It emerged from the Constitution.

It has developed a history from the beginning of George Washington's terms as President.

It is a combination of elected officials, appointed officials, and hired help.

It is filled with intricacy and secrets. It says as much as it has to say about itself and very little more.

Ideally it would be fully efficient, fully just and so on but most sane people give up on that prospect early on. It is an amalgam of institutional objectivity, tradition, and human nature that has pledged its loyalty to the vagueness of it but is mostly loyal to its own self-interest. All of this is tested in due time.

Every bureau is it's own world.

* * * * * * * *

It's too vast to be really covered by the news so something dramatic has to happen to know anything going on. The news is usually important only to the people directly involved, perhaps their family and a few friends and that's about it.

Frustration and fatigue mark an old governemnt.

* * * * * * * *

The Republic is too important to ignore but too slow, ineffective, and boring to get to know too well.

* * * * * * * *

The most playful question to ask is, "does it need to exist?" The answer is always a yes, the more so the more experienced one is in the world. And even if we laugh at it, scorn it and try to keep it honest it does deliver, it does do the good and necessary things that keeps things together. And when it falls it will be a very large fall. And the jolt will be felt. And our gig will pass.

Knowing this will happen, the citizen hopes it is way down the line.

* * * * * * * *

The Republic was formed out of an extraordinary moment in human history when young, ambitious, intelligent men could start history all over again. They did so in a a funny kind of way but the rest of the world is still trying to catch up, still hung up on the history they can not escape. But it is "historic" in that all groups, at all times, had some form of governance.

* * * * * * * *

It is a practical fact that by the time a citizen gets into middle-age he or she is fully exhausted and disgusted at the Republic.

The political leaders become stick figures bashed around by the upset citizenry.

From one point of view a group of protesting citizens is as effective as birds dropping seeds on a battleship hoping to sink it or change its course. From another point of view an upset group of citizens is a mirror to the Republic and signals something to the Republic it can't perceive from its own position.

* * * * * * * *

Depending on the density of the stench, its leaders can achieve stature. Most of the time it is a benign sort of machine that moves as a hive and time passes and little is known of some of the destruction the thing wrought.

* * * * * * * *

In any community there is political ambition. It starts small. It's usually a person frustrated that no one recognizes his or her greatness and is determined to do something about it. It is a form of self-improvement but will quickly spoil into low levels of corruption if the attitude isn't corrected soon enough. And by the time the ambition has curdled in endless committees and useless legislation the person has rationalized it all away and uses the tried and true cliches well-known as a cover to get as much out of the thing as he can.

The community can stop ambitious people at the moment they first appear. There is a kind of intuitive vetting that goes on. Any community would have great regret if they could perceive some of those they have rejected.

Old men can be found in any community who have a scrapbook of their campaign for the school board. "Even though I didn't make it it was an exciting time for me."

* * * * * * * *

The process of going from local, to state, to federal levels depends on any number of factors. The politician has to gain credibility at every level, to larger and larger groups in a much more competitive environment. Out of that spawn comes national leaders where the process goes on and on until a few get locked into the power of the Republic for a decade or two. They come on the scene, do their dance, then leave in startlingly quick fashion. Only a handfull make a permanent mark.

And before anyone notices a whole era, a whole epoch is a few film clips and cliches. And yet every era and epoch is justified by sustaining, changing, and transmitting the forgotten.

* * * * * * * *

The Republic is defined by the people in a variety of ways. Some of it is defined by ideology. Some of it is defined by principle. Some of it is defined by the experience of the citizen. It often stands there defiant of the people's definition of itself.

It is better to see the Republic as the child of the citizens rather than the father.

* * * * * * * *

Doesn't the future want some evidence that a few of the citizens believed the spirit of a man or woman was greater than even the trillions of dollars and military might of nukes? And that they understood history and knew the relation between change and scale begins in the Republic?

And he speculates whether the Republic in its present form would be recognizable to the people who created it.

A free person always chafes under the burden of having no alternatives.

Boxed in like that he starts to think and tries to be as reasonable as he can be.

But history also proves that it is and it is yet to be.

That it is as susceptible to the act of pure idea as any other object.

January 21, 2009

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