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Writers Notebook
Brief Impressions At the Still Point 

By David Eide


"....and thy women will rule and thy men shall write verses....."

Old prophetic passage from a long forgotten spiritual text.


There's more information about feeds here.

Impressions of the Democratic Party

The fight between Hillary and Obama is a good one because it defines "what the Democratic party" will be to the end of the decade and into the first quarter of the 21st century. Hillary is a representation of the "Kennedy Era," that spanned from 1960 to 1980. Government was seen as "good," as a collaborator with the people to produce things like the civil rights bill, anti-poverty programs, and myriad environmental laws. The people said, "we are good, therefore what represents us is good, therefore what they produce in the form of law is good. And being good we obey the laws." That was the idealistic logic through much of the storied 60's.

It shattered apart with Vietnam, Watergate, "stagflation," Iran hostage crisis and morphed into the Reagan Era which is now slowly dying on the vine.

Kennedy and Reagan each cut through the morass of the time and set a path for new, stimulating adventures. It's needed now seeing how bogged down America is. The "Kennedy Era" ended as a period of irreconcilable differences, bitter conflicts, impossible idealisms and brutal reactions. It appeared that this condition would last and last and, eventually, destroy the society.

Reagan cut through that and successfully moved from one era to another, mainly because the people agreed it was time to move on. By shifting the emphasis from big government to private initiative a great jolt of stimulation took place. Even a guy who had more loyalty to the Kennedy Era than Reagan Era can see that. This Era is ending in Bushism, declinism, dummism, and a few other isms.

It is obvious, by an observer of these things, that the Democratic party needs a fresh start, a new horizon for itself. If it slips back down to the Kennedy Era-politics it will find itself sucking hind- tit again, at least in the race for the West Wing.

What it needs is Kennedy-like-energy and Reagan-like-energy. That is, energy that collaborates with a critical mass of the people who want to go forward.

Obama seems to me far more conscious of this while Hillary seems more interested in generating memory in the boomers for those storied times.

She overestimates how wound up people are about the "right-wing conspiracy." And that personal animus does make her look like Nixon. Is she going to have a "right-wing conspiracy enemies list?" And frankly what I know of her, she is exactly the type to use her office for personal vendettas. More importantly she doesn't represent anything new or exciting to cut through the morass of the past 25 years. She knows that collaboration is the key and tries to cultivate it but she doesn't have the personality to pull it off. Her form of collaboration is, "Bill and I are smarter than you rubes and we're the only shot you've got."

Her attitude is, "colloborate with me so I can have the power I have always desired and make it into the history books," rather than, "colloborate with me so we can slice through the horrible stagnant space we occupy and get excited again about freedom and the future."

Hillary would initiate another bog and slog era with a critical mass of people seething the Clinton's are back in the White House and being rather persnickety about it. Her base would be fueled up and dancing in the street but would learn what they should have learned after Mr. Clinton; the base comes second after the Clinton's vanity and self-interest as "historical people" has been served.

Obama talks like he wants a new horizon. He has the tone right but we aren't quite sure about his ability to pull it off. The model is perhaps what Schwartzenegger has done in California. His success is a result of his listening to the people, mostly especially when he is wrong, and moving in the direction they want to go. Only a politician with charisma, even with a bit of political innocence, can gain that trust with the American people. Reagan was the last example of that. Time will tell about Obama.

2007 is not like 1980. It's a space unto itself, bogged down, confused, embarrassed by the incompetence of the Bush Administration, without vision, without aspiration for a better future, simmering in old habits of thought and doing, no more prepared for the 21st century than George Bush was for being POTUS.

A space that needs a crack in its own egg so it can jet out to the future clean and with fresh energy and intelligence.

The man, woman, party, or philosophy that cracks that egg will win.

* * * * * * * *

What is one of the great political lessons of the last forty years? If you fragment and nationalize gender, race, or class the large pool of conservative fundamentalists will rule. I would hope the Democrats finally get this obvious lesson.

The Clintons are like a powerful drug. At the first hit something of euphoria and a glow of greatness comes over one. Then it wears off and you are stuck with the reality. And by the third hit you are angry at the drug for fooling you and keeping you addicted.

Obama would make mistakes but if he gained the confidence of the people he would upright himself and present an interesting new horizon. Even though Kennedy didn't accomplish what he wanted he certainly energized the society and, in fact, the government. He took the people out of the Depression/World War II fixation and put things in a more emphatic direction; civil rights, space, confidence in fighting the cold war. That era was ground to bits by some of the things commented on above but after the dust had settled big changes had taken place.

Hillary would be an establishmentarian- school-marm making statements few would pay attention to. She would be the second-coming of Jimmy Carter and let her ease and fascination for details put a wedge between herself and the people.

The Democrats would be wise to throw themselves into a new direction, do some creative deconstruction on all their political assumptions, and bond with the people in ways that were not possible with the ideology they carried the past 30 years.

* * * * * * * *

The key question these candidates have to answer is, "how to make government more effective without opening its gates for the vast dependencies of the past?" And dependency on the government is the worst condition anyone can get into because at that moment they are the inevitable victims of politics.

December 10, 2007

Impressions of political citizens

Politics works when free and ambitious people fight like hell for the center. The shooting only starts when "the center does not hold." It's not even a light year's worth of closeness to that point in 2007 America. It is that way in Iraq because you have non-free, ambitious people fighting for their own personal power and personal freedom.

The "conflicts" of today's political landscape are chicken-feed to what occurred in the founding generation or the civil war period or the 1960's. It's probably a good thing but then something outside of individual people determines these things. Not that the issues are any less important but that the nature of the divide is much less, despite the entertaining commentators.

A quick glance shows that Obama understands this but Hillary does not.

* * * * * * * *

Politics is usually divided between people who hate change, people who want nothing but change, and people who once wanted nothing but change but have some doubts now. Everyone plays their role. To the old, change is hideous because it means a world is growing up and away from them without their consent. The young love change because they are its agents. And the slowly maturing types see that change is more problematical as they gain more responsibility in the society. Facts become barriers to political passions.

And out of the clash of ambitions comes something, never to anyone's satisfaction but when you look back you say, "well, something good happened." And when you look way back you say, "Good God, what a new moon rises on us the living!"

After all, the purpose of American democracy is not to "tell people what to do," but to liberate the finest energies in all the people. The infrastructure to do such a thing, as Iraq proves, must be healthy for the finest energies to be liberated.

* * * * * * * *

If reform is needed then the people have to reform everything, themselves included.

* * * * * * * *

Government and politics are as much "victims" of the modern world as individual people. Huge, sudden effects have blown through the globe; the population has tripled, they are moving toward urban areas, monumental problems suddenly appear like nuclear proliferation or global warming, the people fragment into thousands of groups, powerful groups pour huge sums of money into the system to control it, politicians are inadequate to do anything, the citizen decays and gives it all up for temporary pleasure. This calculus has produced something unprecedented and requires the full energies of free and thinking people still devoted to the idea of "self-rule."

Everything at the furthest end of government and economy depends on the choices people make every day.

An argument could be made that economy is driven on the back of bad habits.

This is why democracy is always about the individual person and his or her character.

* * * * * * * *

The art to being a citizen in the United States is recognizing that the fierce struggles of the past created permanent values each generation can take up as its own. And those struggles go way back to the very beginning, through the Revolution, through the attempt to overcome slavery, through the adaptation of the industrial revolution and capitalism, through the labor movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement, the civil rights movements, the tax payer revolt among others. All the just struggles in the United States have produced living values and the art of the citizen is not simply understanding these values but connecting, not to one of them, but all of them.

The sublime nature of the art is then to embed the values, forget them, and look at the culture as a brand-new-thing with long and deep horizons. A citizen employing this sort of art has to let the profound fear that jumps on the naive and innocent mind to, as the old song says, "walk on by."

The citizen naturally carries emotion and hopefully emotion motivates the citizen to participate in the democracy. However, emotion has enormous limitation and if kept at emotion, the citizen is simple fodder for smart people who learn early on how to manipulate emotions with the intent of gaining and securing power.

The question of illegal immigration is not solved by "emotions." The interest in it may be started with an emotion, one way or the other, but eventually the citizen has to learn how to break down the emotion, accept the shadow of the emotion, go to other sources besides his emotional resources and understand the complexity of the issue, cut through the complexity to what is reasonable-for-solution and then find leadership willing to carry up the reasonable solution.

* * * * * * * *

The instant rush of information into the brains of people is making it appear that we can have a direct democracy. I think we are seeing something else. That instant rush of information is inflating people past the tipping point and giving them a rush of power. At the end point of this is an irritated sort of frustration that is both a good motivator but a bad decision-maker.

Even at this late date one would hope for a golden mean that cuts through a government that rules top-down because "it knows everything," and a people irrationally crazy at the idea of government itself.

Information built into solid knowledge, clashing with other knowledge-bases, intermixed with rich experience, patience, due diligence, and due process results in a good liberal democracy.

Or, so it would seem. Some of the more remarkable changes have taken place by sheer populism that the politicians couldn't hold back. We are not in that type of era yet.

December 2, 2007

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