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In The Jury Box;

By David Eide

joblog

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


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NATIONALISM

I resisted the gigantic ways the world can be viewed. For instance, as a series of nation-states in relation to global interconnections. The nation-state defends itself and its enemies are many. My feeling was that we, the people in a democracy, are responsible for the decisions of state so we need to know. To know is to invite the unpardonable sins into the calculus of supporting or attacking the nature of the so-called state. After all, if one emerges out of the rough and tumble period he seeks to secure himself to something, even if it is the apron strings of an idea. Yet, we either are or are not free citizens. If not then why fake it? If we are we take up those obligations necessary to make sure what exists will be here tomorrow and improve. We are both lover and bitch.

First we remove scenarios we don't want: total collapse and invasion, therefore loss of sovereignty. Extremists ala fascist, communist, or fundamentalist getting to the center and forcing everything to conform to that center. Or, even, complacency and hatred screwed into the eyes of everyday people. Leaving off those scenarios we are left with a few animating ideas and the common sense whether we are fulfilling those ideas or letting them go out of disgust to become something wholly historic and sadly doomed as a result.

Looking at society, even the world, one could say, "Ah, it is ripe for a new belief system to discipline it and lead it into the future." That is not wanted or needed because we know what happens. The belief creates a series of conflicts, the conflicts inspire repression, the ones who dominate do everything in their power to keep power, progress is slowed, problems get worse etc. etc. What is needed is the intelligent ability to use everything through the strength of the system itself, whether that system is in decline or not. And I doubt if American democracy is in dire straits although it's a tough thing to love at times.

When you have that consciousness you need to see how imminent it is and what the causes would be. I don't think it's imminent and I think the root causes would be "overreach" and the profound separation between the nature of the society, the core of its value and vast amounts of people. It would begin as soon as you had permanent classes that "could not move," from where they started because the country is too deeply involved in the intrigues of the world and simply can't afford the types of renovation that would be needed to prevent more and more decay.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

No doubt the American populace is feeling the stress of bad economy, big problems, incompetent government, and bad war among other things. It takes one back to basics but also makes people look at the reality of a huge machine called government, the total fragmentations of politics, the bad influences that play on it, the backwardness of the vaunted people, the rise of rivals, the emptiness of slogans and lofty rhetoric, the cruel feeling that even in a huge nation-state we are merely trapped rats.

I watched a retrospective on the development of NASA through the Gemini project. It took me back to adolescence. The space adventure took the American, if not global, mind out to something larger than the normal fare with a lot of physical challenges, technical and scientific challenges thrown in.

That is thoroughly missing in today's world. After the cold war it's been purely materialistic greed; maybe the most profoundly driven greed in the history of the planet.

The internet could be seen along the lines of a collective project but the fact that it is a necessity now changes all of that. It is still the best stimulant going evidenced by the fact it carries great good and great evil on its back.

What is needed is a national improvement program across many systems.

Of course the national view is a very flawed one. It is a wonderful exercise to make it as precise as you can and then writing through the titanic vision. But even when it is on the mark it is less than perfect. That requires many views from many quarters. The best way to enter the national is to be thoroughly absorbed in the region and know the region inside and out.

One would have a national view because of familial experience, personal experience, pride, necessity to keep the spirit of democracy alive and moving forward. But that view is only good when he or she admits the limits of that view.

The last thirty or forty years has proven to me that the culture can change, is responsive to calls for justice and to correct wrongs and abuses. But then it tires of the whole prospect and is eager to move into another modus operandi. Such is the political reality of the large nation-state.

Ideally we want to have an identity in spacious regions, with vitality all its own but connected to the center and core of the culture, wherever that may be. In many ways it is in that dangerous territory called the mind because America started as an idea and all ideas have shadows and shades of grey. Nothing interprets ideas quite like action. All action can be traced back to ideas. The fight for civil rights from the 50’s onward was a series of positive actions that commented on the idea of “all men are created equal.” Every region had its particular interpretation of what civil rights was but the “whole” of it came from the sense of a national idea.

That said, the living must deal with America as a "whole", as a federal system, with both awful complexity and opportunities, even as regions act on their particular interpretation.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Respect the people and their lives; that’s the only social philosophy that makes sense. A few of the people might report on the shadows they see in the people and culture; respect them and listen to them. Ignore anyone that has contempt for the people and who want to circumvent the due diligence, checks and balances etc. that are in place in the society.

Nothing moves forward in human affairs without mutual respect. One person respecting another but getting nothing but salt in the eyes in return is going to result in conflict. And respect means that you listen to that person because his background, his experience, his knowledge doesn't intimidate or annoy you. In fact, his differences are invited into the self as a great enhancement to one’s own knowledge and experience. From that moment on the possibility of communicating and having a relation with another seems very possible.

There is toleration for even the worst activity in honor of the fundamental soundness of the structure of governance. And that can create inner conflict that resonates within and without the citizen. I, as a person, want a moral system for myself at the very least. I want integrity as a person. But in an ideal way I doubt if it matters that no one else shares that moral system as long as I am free to pursue it. And isn't it interesting that when one is most vulnerable in the experience of self then all comes into question and the differences are acute and threatening. But when there is confidence in the experience of self they aren't?

It appears that the goal of the society is the full development of the people who are made aware of their potential and given the tools to live their potential out for the benefit of family, community and society. What other goal would there be. Even when the society recognizes that there are many different goals and ways to get there that appears to be the central concern, after survival. It is hate, repression, resentment, lack of ability to deal with failure and assorted pressures that destroy this relation.

Influences, coercions, manipulations are sometimes the best teachers. It's trying to get from under these things that teaches one to pursue knowledge and wisdom or, at least, “fulfilling potential of self.” The family counts, the community counts, the education counts but all those are dressed down by what Lippmann called, “the acids of modernity.” So one must know what coerces and manipulates and impresses the modern type. I always come up with science, technology, capital, and some form of accommodating government that has to prove to its citizens that their lot will improve through time. If you are ignorant of what manipulates you, if you don't understand the nature of things in your own time then what can you say to it? And is that the state of democracy we want to sustain? Most people measure their knowledge of these things by their use of them. But do they consider how much they are dependent on these things? And what that dependence does to their sense of being liberal democratic citizens?

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Without a sense of liberal democracy the society appears to be a huge bureaucracy and a powerful military, no different than China or Russia. What distinguishes the liberal democracy? And in my estimation it was the ability of the citizen to be "beyond" the powerful which they would acquire through experience and knowledge. I found that without self-awareness of liberal democracy and experience of spiritual resource there could be little freedom. The key is in keeping the integrity of self without which one flies out into nothingness without the ability to make sense of the nothingness. This was clear to me in the 70’s as I watched the melting away of faith in liberal democracy and the rise of cults in the Bay Area. And cults are the canary birds in the mineshaft for liberal democracy, as is tribalism. The intensity of both is a measure of how far the idea of liberal democracy has decayed.

There's this dilemma. We are best when we look for ideals. But to sustain a real democracy you need boots on the ground so to say. You need a life where things matter. A life, for instance, that doesn't dismiss everything as a post-death, carnival nightmare not worth sustaining. That it matters that nukes exist. It matters that vast poverty exists. It matters that there is corruption in government. It matters that there is greed. And it matters that the democratic people see the necessity to keep on and not give up. Life is what it is and yet we believe it can be better, even perfect way off in the distance. Is not our sense of perfection the source of reality for some future?

There is nothing more important than the fair treatment of women, the freedom of women and so on. It is proof of higher civilization when women are free to plot their own course of action and when they own property and have money, etc. In other words, to have the full potential of the female out engaged in the world. On the other hand, you don't want the culture to get feminized. You don't want it to get into a state of guilt or resentment or dark secrets or neurotic complexity that spins its own wheels. When the masculine is depressed in favor of the feminine you find a lot of violence, porn, corruption and so on. The masculine exists for building things, leading things, using common sense. These are attributes and don’t belong specifically to men and women but to persons.

Among the things that create inequality are education, wealth creation, and status. What a democracy tries to do is spread those things around as much as possible so the "equality" is deeper in the society. Would you really want a society where everyone is at the same level? Human beings aren't robots and they respond to different motives and inducements. You need, for instance, educated people to run the institutions so you must make the incentives for people to go to school and that means there is a lot of competition among families who look to get their kids the best possible education. This competition in itself creates inequality since one family is more resourceful than the next or has better adult models or sees the sheer necessity of it. So from the outset, at the basic institutional level there is inequality created. Politics fights over these items and culture modulates the nature of defining these things.

The society has developed such complexity that to radically change it you'd have to tear it all down and start over. If, that is, you wanted to produce ideal equity. Unfortunately, we know what happens and it is usually bad. And we assume that elections are, on a small scale, a version of that very thing. Free, honest elections are necessary for the integrity of the liberal democracy. However banal that may sound it needs to be said over and over, especially when foreign powers interfere or, even, rival parties make elections less free, less honest to gain power.

We know too much perhaps. We know of all the schemes and dreams. We know all the fickleness of human nature, all of its persistent need to protect wrong ideas. We would say what you need is a radical restructuring of the human being but that too has been attempted a thousand times over albeit in small, privileged groups. We know too much about it. And good models can be provided from time to time that are taken up by the complex whole.

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The "60's"

Was the rebellion worth it? There were more than one. It did shake things up and when all the pieces fell back to earth there were interesting new configurations as in environmental concern, attempts to integrate society, consumer, food awareness, computers and the like. It was the adrenaline a large nation-state system needs at least once in a century, maybe twice. A lot of bad seeped into the culture. One thing was apparent: anyone who was susceptible to addiction found their favorite poison or it found them. It’s clear too that "liberation" can be as Darwinian as "repression" unless it is joined with self-discipline.

"Liberation" can be as dogmatic as any other sensibility and prevent as much good as allows for it.

What is America but what you make it to be? Its civic life can be bizarre in many cases or, even worse, somnambulant; you experience both in one lifetime. Vietnam, Watergate, protection of civil rights, environmental protection, War on Terrorism, cold war, space as well as run of the mill scandals are some of the historic events the public has had to respond to. The society itself, the culture, is a raw potential that one must touch lightly and deftly. Laugh with and not at it.

Drive the freeways. What do you think? Intermingle with its variety of classes economic, racial, religious, etc. Do you survive with integrity still intact? Chase some dream. What is the depth of your disappointment? Read history. Can you find it in your midst?

The disorientations of modern America often drive people to safety behind a variety of walls and shields.

It is not a genteel freedom in America but something pushed up from the bottom; with both fear and amazement that life could be this good and this awful.

It appeared to me that a liberal democracy was practically impossible under the duress of a technological, highly charged capitalism. And liberal democracy meant more to me than technology or capitalism; I admire aspects of both yet both exist under many different political and social forms including communism, fascism, and theocracy. It was the dominance of those two things that created the values, not the other way around. Liberal democracy existed in little pockets of air here and there. I don’t know if that was merely a fear or a misperception on my part but it did result in a few decisions. At this late stage all that can be said is that a liberal democracy can produce wise individuals who know the nature of technology and capitalism and can apply common sense to their use and development.

It is the quality of the citizen, the health of the organizing principles, the quality of the questions raised, the sense of where the thing is at any given moment that piques the interest of the free liberal, democratic citizen. Obviously too many things are going on at one moment to make anything absolute. Most places I look the citizens are, if not happy, not going to pull it all down. I don’t even sense a low state of morale that I’ve felt here from time to time. It just rolls on. Things are reduced to even rows, now fresh shaven and without a spark of wit in them. They get all their expletives from cartoon shows. Perhaps Trump will inspire a new need to examine the nature of liberal, democracy.

It matters how much a person knows. But who is going to define what it is that needs to be known? As a functioning citizen what matters is the effectiveness of doing what nature intended the person to do.

America is the opportunity to become a liberal democratic citizen. It demands the ability to fight against the odds. It requires a whole generation to reduce the life they confront to a series of problems and their solutions. And then spend their life as citizens to try and enact some of those solutions.

November 17, 2017

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MY WORLD IS NOT FLAT

The problem is not “unity” in America, it is the management of strife. Politics fills with strife until it exhausts itself. The framers were a lot more sophisticated than most of the weeping sentimentalists who view the Constitution as written exclusively for them. Or, that could just as well be the genius of the document.

Ambition creates strife. Ambition is to fight ambition. The people surround this strife in a variety of ways and make sure something moves forward. In the beginning they want leaps but by the time they get to be mature its drips and drabs.

In a genuine crisis the people respond. They don’t respond when the crisis is manufactured. It’s usually discovered after the fact that some segment of the plurality has been manipulated into believing there is a crisis to raise money or get out the vote.

What the framers did not want is for “God” to end the conversation.

They wanted the people to get to the level of those who ruled them. That was a simpler matter when all the people rode horses and most were planters. It’s a bit different when Byzantine is built on Babylon.

And that is the world we live in. It is a dynamic culture. Many channels of activity and freedom exist. The people pick and choose as life drives them forward. In that sense the people are always “wrong” because they can’t see beyond their own worlds or self-interest. In that sense the people are right because they have to defend their worlds and self-interest. Strife. One of the genuine responsibilities of the citizen is to make sure the strife doesn’t do the genius of the liberal democracy in and drive it toward the tyrannies of left or right.

One of them at any rate.

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A morning of punditry. We are a nation of catty types. Its necessary as most things are and can be rationalized as this, this, and that. And it attracts many people crowding into spaces to make their pitch, their plea. Punditry is another finger pointing at a moon hard to define. All we can say is that this finger is long and bony, or thick like a cigar, or crooked, or bedecked with ornament, or with bitten nails that resemble the mountains of the moon through an amateur telescope.

And like the moon it has shadows. The shadow of journalism is punditry. "Ah, they no longer want to go after the hard-grinding boring facts and they have read a bit of philosophy!"

The single most important person in journalism today is the lonely and fact-driven type who has no agenda as to how the facts are used. A very rare breed today.

Punditry does no harm and provides a few chuckles. Once in a great while it can be very stimulating. I go to them on Saturday mornings like I used to rush to the TV and watch the cartoons every Saturday morning. Now my entertainments, my crusader rabbits, jet jackson's, and boo-boo's are in print with photo's of people I swear I went to high school with.

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What America lacks is vision, certainly an over-used word. But it is obvious that mere fantasy is transformed quickly in a market/technological economy. The mind gets used up quickly in an environment such as this. Which is why modern types thirst for the replenishments.

What is needed is mind that is outside the assumptions, systems, rewards of the thing that exists and contemplates the future.

What is needed is the rehabilitation of the idea of liberal democracy and its dependence on good individual citizens in it. It doesn't need the fear and paranoia I find all over the place. It doesn't need the creaming and communalship of political parties. It has those. Those never go away. It can be an interesting process esp. as one party corrupts and the other is still trying to refind itself. It's transmutations are a fascinating detail of our transient life.

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Listening to a discussion on "globalism," there is and there-is-not such a thing I suppose. It's too complex a subject to argue here. It's touted as the major issue dividing people today. Obviously there are global structures of scientific research, technology, capital, and politics that cream out national and local cultures to a degree. But even one who is leveraged by these items in a trans-national way must use a passport to get into another country and obey the laws of that culture. The vast majority of people live in a region, have always lived in the region, and will always live in a region. A politican who is a globalist has much more in common with his counterparts in Asia, Africa, S America, and Europe, not to mention the Middle-East than he does with the farmer in North Dakota or the oil rig operator in Louisiana. And that could be multiplied many ways. But if he doesn't try and alleviate the problems of the ND farmer or the oil rig operator in Louisiana then there are political consequences.

And, I suspect, most of the actors on the global scene return to their provincial roots. People and groups use the global scene for their self-interest and then bow out and go back to be replaced by new, younger ambitious types. As long as regions benefit there's no reason to stop it. And truly, economy like politics is "local."

It's worth noting that global agents didn't bail out the global economy, national governments did. And the upsurge in "economic nationalism" the last few years indicate that local populations have pin-pointed the source of their problems. Even many "globalists" admit to the problems created while not renouncing the idea. That means that the globalists need to be jolted from their assumptions. What other check is there against the power of globalism? If globalism had been this self-regulated system the financial collapse of a decade ago would not have happened. There would not be the backlash you see in nationalist movements.

And it will be proven in the long run that a pure nationalist identity needs the infusion of globalism to thrive. Isn't it a case of "mutualism?" Whatever point of view you begin with you end up realizing you are dependent on the other. If "globalism" exists in order to enhance many regions in the world, then it has to intersect the "nationalism" that claims the region as one of its own. What this means is that the ambitions of each are constrained by the mutual advantage obtained by a globalist view in the middle of nation-states.

A general fear arises that if and when national boundaries are no longer relevant, the globe will go through a terrible wracking. There will not be an easy transition from the old nationalism to the new globalism. Many systems will falter and collapse, won't be maintained but simply used up, followed by long periods of turmoil. It won't be voted on, this end of national boundaries that seems so important to a few of the globalists. But to say that globalism is not right or is not good for economy or world culture is not quite right either.

The “globalist view,” or whatever one wants to call it is the view of privileged countries, persons, and organizations that can scope the whole world out with aplomb. It is an intellectual mind-game responding to advances in technology, especially computers and communications. In the U.S. it is a part of the responsibility of being a citizen to know how, why, and when technology permits the global moment. It's important to look at the nature of opportunities and constraints that can be factored into globalism.

It’s a very abstract view that makes me think of those board games we used to play as kids: D-Day, Strategy, Risk among them. That abstraction can be likened to the chip that represents a tank division and here is the play. Oops. Taken out by a chip full of tank-killers. Yet, all the drama in war and conflict exists in a guy driving the tank confronting the tank-killers who, no doubt, are thinking why they ended up as tank-killers. There is agony, heroism, cowardice and very cheap death that only later is sanctified by large public ceremonies. And that isn’t even speaking to the civilians who happen to be in the way of the geopolitical fantasies of so called leaders. The chip represents something that is actually lived and suffered by human beings. The abstract types say, “well, it is necessary in order to win the battle.” Just as the globalists view their own abstract views of the world as necessary to bring a sense of order to it so that it can be managed better. Nonetheless it needs to be treated critically as well and needs more balance in its insatiable desire to convert everything into markets. And abstraction is the only feeble way we have in dealing with it. So it's no wonder that low-abstraction types protest or vote irrationally to try and change something, anything.

That’s one side of the ledger since “globalism” putatively operates in the realm of public discourse, checks and balances and is in accord with some formulation of national self-interest.

And there is the interesting, painful contradiction between the nation’s self-interest and what the democratic people can live with. Where is the threshold past which the people cease being the freedom-loving types because they are corrupted by the nations self-interest?

And finally, it comes down to this. Yes, human beings have organized in the nation-state system. Sometimes there are ethnic and other enclaves nested in those nations but most legitimate power is in a nation-state form. Yes, huge waves of capital, goods, armaments, people are moved daily through the global systems. Yes, mass media watches it all in one form or another. Yet, we ask are the people any better? Are they more capable? Do they produce, out of themselves, an astounding act that shows how much leverage the world has provided them? It is open to interpretation but, in America, it leans to the negative.

Globalization, as I view it, is a phase of development. I think it exists because of weak national governments, rising tide of affluence that is evident in the world today, and the eternal desire of human beings to move, explore, and trade. It's an affluence not fully shared but a substantial fact just the same. We used to say, "the world is shrinking," and it referred to globalization. It is developing a level of sophistication among a definite group of people. And like regionalism is only meaningful if it is attached to a ruling form, a sovereign nation-state, that protects and advances the majority of people. It's clear now that if significant numbers of people miss out on the benefits of globalism they will strike against it. It makes no sense to untie to the tethering institutions that give order to people's lives as well as identity. And, of course, things can break down along the way as we have seen. Within any half-decent region, the forces of globalism will sweep in. Sometimes it will look like it is competing with the national government but a strong region will make sure that both are working on behalf of the region. Corruption, in all senses of the word is important to define and focus on in this respect.

This global thinking creates headaches. Life is lived locally. Yet powers and powers and powers make little decisions that seep into every crack available, local or no. And more importantly, the globalist thought begins in cheery optimism and earnest saviorism but invariably ends in giant conflicts. I see as much pulling apart as I do coming together. It could be another layer of global control by master strategists that are not voted on by the people. Are globalists truly concerned about global economies or are they interested in their own self-interest and conflate that self-interest with global interest? "What is good for us is good for you...idiot!"

On the global scale human nature always sees itself as great and generous. Why then does its shadow create the future?

Most citizens have that lucky sadness that only wants light and laughter and not power.

October 18, 2017

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A Patch Work of Thoughts on Democracy

I was not much of a believer in nationalism in youth. The "nation" only meant something to me when I had to pay taxes, obey the laws, show up for jury duty, understand my family history, and understand American history and so on. I was weaned on a critical view and it sharpened during my college days and even beyond that. It was only when I lived in Berkeley and saw some of the implications of a collapse of liberal democracy that I swam back toward the original stream. In that way, since I had to work to reignite a belief in liberal democracy, there are a few smell tests that ideas or politicians have to pass before they have any credibility. It was apparent that "liberal democracy" was best practiced on a local, regional level but that the region depended on a strong federalism to really flourish. Where "liberal democracy" is more a joyful effusion of freedom, "nationalism" is kind of a dour, grinding responsibility to ensure the health of the system of goverance.

I got over the idea, too, of a world government although I wanted to believe in something like that, especially with the profound vision of "whole Earth" fresh in mind. A crucial moment of political development occurs when you realize such a thing will exist, if at all, many era's away from your own. You have a patchwork along those lines with modern diplomacy but the idea that nations would give up sovereignty to some transcendent ruling force seems science fiction. And the United Nations is a forum for diplomacy not world govt. Meeting many people from around the world helped give me some perspective as did the travel tales by various family and friends. There is a common humanity but it is expressed in an infinite manifestation of difference, including language, religion, and culture.

Hierarchy of Disintegrations: Or, the breakdown of idealistic attitudes.

  • Universe
  • World
  • Country
  • Region
  • Self

You need to bring a playful consciousness to the modern mind. These wonderful categories can be obliterated only when one has challenged them with the integrity of knowledge and experience.

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Whenever there is a piece on Vietnam and the protests of the era of that time, it sparks off emotions and memories. I said a few years after that in the late 70's that Vietnam was not a waste, it was a terrible mistake but one inevitable for a new power to engage in. To understand Vietnam it's necessary to understand the world before World War II when the center of it was in Western Europe. The dissolution of that center and the shift to America was as historical as anything we know of in the 20th century. That shift however was followed by an intense cold war with the Soviet Union, the introduction of mass produced nuclear weapons and the odd historical fact that gigantic nation-states were coming to dominate the planet. This could only have happened in a technological age I think, although it makes Rome look even more remarkable. America was not prepared for this role. She was not adept at it. And frankly, only a very few people actually organized the foreign affairs of this country. I think this will all be noted.

Vietnam split the American self into those who adhered to a democratic conscience and those who accepted the reality of being a world power. Everything from the poignant to the absurd was presented to defend one or the other view. Vietnam could have taken a lesser nation down. It did take down this country for a time in terms of morale, economic decline through the 70's, and, after Watergate, a thorough distrust of government that exists to this day. I defy anyone to look at the height of Vietnam and look at all the things the US government was trying to do in this world to see how much power has been taken from the government. And that was the popular choice; the crucible coming in the 1980 election. One could almost make the argument that the past 25 years has been the restoration of American power or, at least, American morale. The protests, for the most part, were heart-felt. It still amazes me how angry people get about that. It was never a zero-sum game with the soldiers. And the sad truth is that young people are almost always cannon fodder for the fantasies of old people; war fantasies and/or utopian fantasies. The last twenty-five years has its own integrity and has left that Vietnam era long gone in the dust.

I still think, like many historians, that the Civil War was the beginning of the modern era. And that the modern person must study four distinct areas to understand the present time:

  1. Science
  2. Technology
  3. Capital
  4. Democracy

Those are the forces that mold and shape the present world. Underneath that is faith of various types, qualities that go to a feudal or ancient order of things, wisdom from craft and artisan groups, and aspects of each major phase of human development. Certainly there is a permanent sort of culture in the form of objects and ideas that never die. It’s a mysterious thing but it is there and nothing, not even politics can change it. Those few things. Those few, magnificent things.

History is beyond the study of one person. I want to know it as a way to let others teach me more about it. But, it was for the literary imagination after all. I went through the litany of significant developments since I was born: atomic power, wide-spread use of electricity, wide-spread use of credit, jet/rocketry; in the first category goes nukes and the use of nuclear power, second goes TV, computers, etc,, in the third is the modern economy, fourth, the development of the means to escape the gravitational pull of Earth's gravity. The democratic way has spread all up and down the spectrum; a certain good. I believe it is important to have a thorough grasp of all this, sear it, and then forget it and focus on the present, as a living member of the society, never forgetting the past but never forgetting that one lives in a present world.

One pitfall is the reliance on philosophy and literature developed during the utter collapse of European civilization from 1914 -1945 -- that is a historic event which will be commented on and noted. Another pitfall is the tyranny of the four aspects noted above so that an individual human being can “hide" in the power of the time without breaking a sweat and not enter into that painful process of growth and development.

All times have their resources. The raw experience of the modern world and the fulcrum one uses to get perspective on it demands modern resources but also an enlarged capacity within the self. So, the need to grasp modern invention, modern cities, modern systems, modern habits, modern expectations, as well as modern events; we are now in the event: war on terrorism/Iraq but many other events are out in the dark waiting for us. Science, at some point, is important for the leverage it gives one in relation to just about everything. Left to itself and it becomes an angry god only appeased by the destruction of common sense and imagination. To a democratic citizen, science can only be a useful service, with definitive skills learned in the educational system. It’s good to know the litany of scientific practices and laws. An independent mind would try to figure out when science is being open-ended and when it closes down the mind. That’s the art of the free citizen.

The question posed by technology is, “can the mind catch up, grasp, absorb, and learn wise uses in relation to even the greatest technology or most imposing.....”? I know some of the sociological ramifications of technology as it impacts society and individuals. I have some grasp of the impact of technology on the environment. These go toward my world view but they are hardly absolute.

And capital is a central fact today. The formation of capital in corporations, the use of capital in public and private projects, as it is taxed by governments, the savings and revenues of small businesses and individuals, the forms of credit, the “new things" enabled by capital, etc. The central questions that emerge out of capital is "why this way?" and "why is their poverty and suffering in its plenitude?"

These larger concerns intersect with another interesting question, " Why am I loyal to the society? Why does it pain me when planes hit the buildings but it doesn't pain me more when children are killed by American bombs? Why does going from San Francisco to New York not thrill me or seem exotic but going from San Francisco to China does? Society is passed through communication and gestures and acts. One's own cohesion is a corollary to the cohesion of a society or an attempt at such a thing. But society says I can be anything I want to be. Society says there is no identity to speak of except that which I make out of it and out of myself. Freedom and tolerance are just that. They exist as part of the transaction with a larger society. I don’t interfere with you and you don't interfere with me. Now, that presents a lot of problems for the development of people and yet, in the long run, it is the best way. It creates variety. It creates a sense that the person may move into different stages of his or her life, it emphases tolerance as a good, as something to be proud of as a citizen and the behavior does not impinge on the rational person at all; that is, as long as the rational person is doing all he can to fulfill his potential. Of course, there is no guarantee of anything.

I remember the time driving over the Golden Gate Bridge with people who were visiting the area. Alongside of us came dozens of Hells Angels on their bikes, at the time when they had very foul reputations. The people in my car got very excited, started snapping pictures and waving to the anti-heroes. Now, obviously they, my guests, were not Hells Angels. They were probably very sedate suburbanites, I forget. But, the behavior, the existence of the Hells Angels did not alter them one iota and they thought it a hoot, as something rare to catch a glimpse of in strange California. Obviously if they were captured by the Hells Angels and made into Hell's Angels it would be a different story. Or, if they were born into a family of Hells Angels and wanted to get from out of that group, or if they were police officers who dealt with the Hells Angels then their view may have been different. Their attitude was both naive and tolerant, typically American.

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Anyone familiar with history cannot be satisfied with his or her “own time.” That is for the eternal people. Get the insights, resolve the conflict, and make it as palatable as can be.

Yet history happens through us even if we don't worship history. The ambitious try to insinuate themselves into it somehow but it is pretty lame. The future and caretakers of the past laugh at them or hold them up as horrible examples of why "we are lucky to live in our own time". And those ambitious types depend on a wicked belief that something catastrophic will end their own time so it will be juxtaposed next to the following times.

The adventure into space, the civil rights movement, the rise of America as the dominant power, weapons of mass destruction, environmental concerns, “globalization,” and technological innovation. These are the historical or among the historical items that people will be interested in. Perhaps one prefers the beheading of queens, religious wars, exploration of the oceans, and king rule but there you have it.

It was obvious to me and predicted by futurists that life would be lived long now. One life would be lived as two or three distinct lives. It makes a difference. It’s not all good.

The computer and internet will be seen as innovations; the advance in medical drugs certainly will be noted. However, the present will experience the "unintended consequences" of these things and not be sentimental about it.

In the end it swallows us whole.

That said, there is a lot of work to be done.

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Reading in my Constitution books again; Hamilton's argument of how different the President would be from the King. One thing he mentions is that the King controlled the armies, treaties, etc. The King could make war. The President could not make war; Congress made war. I was thinking of the preemption of President Bush and how that violated, as the Democrats mentioned, this very important differentiation. And Trump looks perilously close to an imperial President. The Constitution only makes sense as a document pounded out by real men who had either participated or witnesses the revolution as real men. The challenge was making the Constitution a real democratic document by giving the “common people," a chance to run things. I do think the framers wanted that. I don’t think they wanted a perpetual group of semi-aristocratic types in there. Sometimes the people have arisen to the challenge and sometimes they have not. I do think we have a "mixed government" in that classes do exist but they really share in the running of things and it only works when law is respected.

I think America is going through some kind of maturing process. Two things will kill it off. One is conformity that destroys innovation or brave and bold ideas or creativity. The other is a huge pissing match between the U.S. and the rest of the world. I started out very idealistic --- the utopia strain was quite profound at that time and I lapped it up. Communes and anarchism, Kropotkin style, and all. I don't regret it. I think Whitman was a hero, Thoreau certainly. They blazed a true path in my humble mind. And yet how can a "society" be created from their attempts? It can't. They are by, for, and with the individual person. Whereas a Lincoln or Martin Luther King, great individuals, are for the collective moral sense.

I went through a terrific disillusionment, the nature of which I can't figure completely out. There was a sense of protection against the reality of he society and then it came crashing through. I flirted with various ideologies. America lost its interest for at least a decade. I went to European sources and found them a good deal more authentic. America appeared to me to go off its nut. No generation or political persuasion was immune. It was a total meltdown of confidence, common sense, and connection. I would put this period as the mid-70's to mid-80's period of time. No political philosophy was satisfactory. I did read a lot of classic political texts; Machiavelli, Marx, Plato, Dante, Cicero, Montesquieu, among others. I think it stopped around Comte. I also read the pessimistic historicists like Spengler and Toynbee. I must have decided at that time that "politics" and the relations between power and the citizen was a private, intimate affair and to simply observe my own passage from one thing to another. I know I went through a period of pushing away all the influences of youth and connecting to more mainstream thinking. This was during the Reagan years. I felt by Reagan’s second term some new turning had taken place. I thought it much more important to look at America as a world power rather than as an experiment in democracy. At some point that became obvious to me. That my old heroes Whitman and Thoreau were right for their time but something new had entered the picture.

The first real act of a citizen is to admit his fear. Fear is a great distortion and falls left or right depending more on the upbringing of the person than anything else. Fear of the future, of machines, of corporations, of radicals, of change, of different ideas or peoples, all these fears emerge and the effort to beat back the fears and not allow them center stage is the real democratic struggle. I began to sense that this idea of being a "democratic citizen" was important to the writer as a foundation, as a backdrop to all his doings. But, consciously, he had to get into some orientation with American power and place. And that brought on a study of history, a study of different civilizations.

The problem was the hole left in the democratic conscience; the up rootedness of the democratic creed. Yes, it is great that the people have built this magnificence. Yes, it is great that the people have learned to rule themselves. Yes, it is great that the people are, for the most part, affluent. But, then what? Is it sustainable? Does it simply bankrupt its own aspiration and dream and become a stiff, oppressive thing? These were questions, no doubt about it. All men and women are political animals. Their snout is either in the ground or in the air. Sometimes the tail is in the air and the head is buried deep in the ground. I find most but not all politics to be manipulative but there are plenty of good and sincere people in it. Its problems are legion: alienation, bigness that turns a lot of people off, money, nonchalance, a lack of critical thinking and others.

I think the challenge for liberal democracies is the world itself. Is the fact of the hugeness of effect that comes pouring down on sentient human beings without the ability to fight back or keep the pressures of the world out. Mass communications, globalization. huge technologies, massive cities, all of these things burn away at the ability to produce liberal, democratic citizens and so you are left with big glops of nothingness easily shifted this way and that way, the glops always winning over the individual. So, the individual in the spirit of the framers, in the spirit of Thoreau and Emerson, in the spirit of Whitman or MLKing or any number of others is the big loser, is the marginalized knat as the people hoist cartoon characters above their heads to proclaim as their leaders. The writer must keep pushing. His loyalty is not the huge systems of the free world. He supports the systems and wishes them well. But the writer must assume the worst for the world he lives in and the best for the future; an odd contrarian view but necessary to fend off the mass effects of the present world. So, ironically, success has led to a kind of stasis in American culture. What is beginning to evolve is a set of very powerful intermediating groups and institutions and persons who fight gallantly for what they believe America is, what its' true principles are and they are surrounded by powerful nihilistic true believers-of-their-own- glory on top and massives of disaffiliated, dumbed-down, what-me-worry types. Not particularly idealistic a structure I don't think.

The question of "democratic vs. aristocratic" appears because of this: Never in history has a nation attained the stature and power of America without a sharp division between the rulers and the ruled. So, the problem is how do you take the democratic idea, the democratic creed and yet maintain the stature of power and influence? That is a more pertinent question than earlier "what is the democratic man?" questions. That question has been solved and is almost second nature. Fortunately, I grew up among very exemplary democratic men and women. They believed in self-reliance, in freedom, in knowledge, in creativity and the rest of it. Almost all of them are disillusioned with the state of the democracy. Aspirations never begin in the collective mind. Youth shames itself of its illusions.

The normal citizen neither saves nor destroys the “American soul.” He simply goes about his self-interested business and enjoys the fruits of many struggles others have engaged in other eras. He doesn't care about the struggles of the framers, the struggles over slavery, the struggles of Lincoln and the Civil War, the struggles of building the west, the struggles through Depression and World War, the struggles with fascism and communism, and the struggles over Vietnam and civil rights. These struggles are not real to the normal, average citizen. His struggles over his marriage, car and house payments, lousy boss, rebellious kids, etc these are utterly real and determine whether he imbibes in that perfect American myth; the pursuit of happiness or not. The democratic creed is still opportunity, self-rule, self-reliance, equality before the law and so forth. Perhaps not equality to make the law but that is a different story. And this creed is still an animating one even though I have heard very divisive and harsh things said about it. That is, about who really rules and so on.

I believe that America has a lot of life left in it. It is a glop but it is a free glop and one can pull away from it, use some of the gloppy material to improve, get better, differentiate and the rest of it.

Its' politics are always rather absurd. The size and different regions and multivarious nature of the culture make it so. I'm sure the framers would have a few belly laughs and shocked expressions to see the state of politics. But they would ask a few excellent questions. "Are they shooting at each other?" "Is there money in the till?" "Are there still checks and balances?" If they got a No, Yes, Yes answer I think they would be pleased.

Does human nature change through time? Does human nature expressed by a democratic creed change through time? It does and it does not. It does because a free nature is called on to handle different problems, different challenges, different perceptions, different bases of knowledge. It does not because human nature is confined in a body and the brain operates no differently than it did ten thousand years ago. Mind, though. Yes, mind. But mind is created by everything a huge culture like this represses in its daily existence. An existence which is hugely Brain. There is that conundrum. The central problem for a "materialistic “culture is that Brain rules Mind, rather than the other way around. And Brain is as nuts now as it was ten thousand years ago.

I don't believe in a "ruling elite." I believe that people should take it on themselves to drive freedom a long-distance into the cold night and let everything else take care of itself. I think people should think on things that matter and let it be. And America and freedom have surprised me enough to be somewhat optimistic all told.. This impotence of intelligence is the most dangerous thing in a liberal, democratic culture. And look at the response! All irrational and doomed to make democracy a totalitarian system if it doesn't watch out. The horrendous thought is this: We are democratic men and women but if we take our citizenship seriously we are relegated to the backwater of the culture while mad money comes in and recreates everything. Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton are mute. They have no say anymore. Trump lead the way now; democracy -in-decline and not rescue able it appears to this guy. Is not our despair and impotence a sign of the times? And isn't it a warning to future or does the future merely laugh at our concerns? Perhaps they laugh because somehow people have found the secret, again, to cheap energy. We wish it were not so but we are only one. And democracy is run by the many. Happily so I believe unless the many are so inept, so incompetent, so ignorant that they are really vessels for the ambition of stronger men and women. In this sense it would conform to the classic debasement of a good thing. The masses want something and a few offer it to them with the provision that they must give up their powers and allow the few to rule them, if not for all-time then, at least, their lifetime.

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There’s no greater sin than the worship of power and/or its opposite the fear of power. The health of this particular democracy rests on the balance of this equation.

Between the reaction is pride in the institutions and processes by which, through which, things get done.

Laugh at any power that attempts to intimidate the free man or woman.

Power exists to be exercised wisely. When it is not exercised wisely there is suffering. When there is suffering power digs its own grave.

This is why corruption (a particular problem at this time) is so disheartening. The game spoils under this pressure. No one is sure if power is doing everything which it can do to solve problems.

October 1 2017

Rough and Shoddy Notes on Democracy

"He who rules men lives in confusion;
He who is ruled by men lives in sorrow."
The Empty Boat Chuang Tzu

The thing is that most orthodoxy, most calcified thought, most established ideas were annihilated in the summer of my youth. It wasn't something I needed to fight. Quite the contrary I had to fight for what worked in terms of idea or practice or wisdom. None of the substitutes that came swirling into the vacuum made it upright. That is, fundamentalism, racialism, genderism, socialism, nationalism among other forms to appear. That was one side of the equation. On the other hand, a few good questions were opened up following the great burn-out: what hasn't been invented yet? What hasn't been discovered yet? What hasn't been created yet?

The political required (as well as the economic) the ability to negotiate the transient life. The time was here. The time in the present doesn’t exist in the past and won’t in the future yet both lodge in the present. The transient put emphasis on technique and execution. It drew the mind to use resources to solve problems. It required each generation to figure out what value it wanted for the society; what it wanted from the society, transient as it is. And so life lived day-by-day solving large and small problems to form a life that was meaningful for people.

This was before the internet which, ironically, made me a better liberal democratic citizen because I had to develop mutual respect with those who I had defended myself against. Such is the way of life. Perhaps it was the fact I didn't have to look them in the eye.

Just as America is an experiment of sorts, the citizen is in an experiment, not simply in self-rule but in the ways and means, the bends and straightaways that confront the self on its mysterious move toward some end that is known as fact but completely unknown. Who knows why this happens or that happens? The important thing is to have the resources to see what happens and come to some conclusion about it. If you stop along the line anywhere you're cooked; someone has waited for you to stop and eats you, tail and all.

I think on the world from time to time because my membership in the democratic society requires it. I like to say that in my wildly optimistic youth I took on three huge problems with the belief that they changed the nature of things, if not human nature then the thing human nature was up against. One was the nuclear dilemma which simply made the future look problematical and, without a future, the liberal democracy would collapse in a morass of self-indulgence or fear. The building would stop.

Then there was the question of human beings fouling their own nest, attacking the life functions of the planet, then the nature of resource depletion and the erosion of support for future generations. Only a fool in the flush of optimistic youth would approach these questions, done so because I lived in a society of free people, based on the concept of self-rule; not on coteries of experts or self-appointed tyrants, or fanatics political and/or religious. I didn't solve anything but I ran into some interesting places as a result. I came more and more to realize that the solution to these problems was collective out of individual personal values that could connect to the policy platform in a meaningful way. And then a great infusion of spiritual wisdom to carry one past the demoralizing end-gaps to each of these problems. I felt the literary should be a natural expression out of all this. I'm not sure about that now.

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What creates oppression today are not ideas but perceptions not yet defined. A free person will usually want to know and experience the world he or she is thrown into and enters into this vast anonymous complexity that is like the old, original nature. On the one hand it really never disappears and on the other most human beings do something to try and alleviate the awful fact of the perception through family, political affiliation, cult thought, achieving success through the available system, faith, travel, etc. A journey that is complete only when the person feels fully human and is able to act on a fully human scale. Most of the journey is cut short by the type of affiliation the person chooses as the desperate perception takes hold. Sometimes the process is successful, sometimes it is not. The troubling thing is when the power to organize and help understand that process is given over to a single tyrant or belief system or institution. That is the way human beings are organized from the top, down. And that is not democratic or liberal in my opinion.

There are enormous problems with democracies. One of the problems is that it’s based on a crude power that can only find its completion in massive groups. So the idea of liberal democracy, the idea of the self-sufficient thinking and feeling man or woman who can make decisions of values is taken away.

Once groups get a momentum they strip away the ability of the individual to effectively participate. An alienated view comes to dominate an enormous mass of individuals; all that is left is a consuming machine who further vents his or her secret despair by becoming what is expected of them to an extreme and debilitating point.

I find it hard to believe that a liberal democracy will survive a "mass culture." The worst thing that could happen would be for a small, strong group of individuals to take it upon themselves to re-institute some simple form of aristocracy who would “rescue” the masses from their misery and then put them to work. Perhaps we can even admit that large contending groups prevent this but nonetheless.

Unless those groups can grow out of themselves and quit when they smell the odor of their own rot and disband at will, the group will suffocate the liberal democratic citizen.

What is the individual to do? At the very least he can observe the fears in the world as they’re being worked out and recognize the source of those fears are in himself and see those fears transformed in his own spirit. There is nothing that makes fear impotent more than a fear that has transformed itself out of the state of fear.

What is a liberal democracy without new profound dreams? And those occur when fear has been transformed. And what demonstrates the dexterity of liberal democracy more than encouraging the betterment of a person's nature while trying to initiate new, profound dreams?

It's very difficult having a utopian point of view alongside an awareness of history. The failures of history are analyzed and a few principles put forward to account for the fall of historical people and then some new principle advanced, fresh and in mint condition. People get excited again by the prospect of a perfect existence on Earth. The irony is that very thing must be put forward for all the unintended consequences that accrue when seeking and failing to gain perfection. It teaches agility if nothing else.

Our "perfection" and "utopia" exists in the idea that we have both a secular and spiritual nature and both need to be cultured to the highest degree.

In the secular world I am mostly interested in innovation, creativity, health of the governing infrastructure, transitions from a perceived bad to a perceived good. The present will be what it will be. I laugh and join in.

The spiritual is about the purity and impurity of energy, the solace of transcendence, and full relation to everything that can't be explained away so that mystery itself is a resource.

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Dead?

Read a report on the current state of divisive politics- disturbing in a blasé sort of way. The country never recovered from being rent asunder by the days when I was young. There seems to be an irreconcilable difference which only requires that there is time out to look at the system itself from time to time and check on its fitness, its health. And in a democracy it's always the people. A dumb, addicted population isn't going to create a wonderful enlightened government. You simply have to have a hard core of citizens who let the ambitious fight it out among themselves and then pick and choose the little morsels of policy and fact that make sense to the future health of the nation and let the animals continually rip each other apart. You need "loyal opposition." You need the checks and balances, due process, due diligence, access and transparency and everything else that goes up to making a democracy possible. And those things simply make it possible for the people to act with political will in an intelligent way or, as Franklin challenged, "we've given you a Republic if you can keep it." I feel no loyalty to the ambitious ones. I don't trust the Democrats. I don't see any competence in the Republicans. Yet they fight so earnestly!

The "wings" of the political spectrum are toxic. They exist to flash on the scene a problem. There should be a strong enough "middle" to accept the criticism as worth looking at and keep the toxicity at bay. This is easier said than done.

If democracy is "dead" then why are we faking it? It lives through the basic constituent, "self-government," which implies some burden on the individual person does it not? It requires so much. But we have some faith in it and it is a precept that needs to be carried to the final step, after which we have no responsibility.

It can be a very intimidating society. You need experience in it and the structure of character to deal with rejection, power, money and so forth. Knowledge is necessary. If you try and wrap your youthful, naïve mind around it you'll end up with massive conflicts and contradictions that only the largest imagination and intellect can really deal with.

America's problems are humanities problems and have been here longer than America. We take a step forward, a few backward, one forward. We have the privilege of being able to deal with some of the problems. We are a work in progress and lay down legacies each generation that can be taken up and used by the future. Therefore, taking on one or several of these problems is an obligation on the part of the free citizen whether it is race relations, poverty, environmental, better jobs, increase in wages etc.

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Living the Good Life

If someone were to ask me what is required to live a good life I would answer very simply: "Do three things: Fight for your freedom, fight for democracy, fight for each other." It takes some experience to understand the art and skill of these fights but that's what it comes down to. Don't trust the given. Don't assume a thing. The world is not an oyster; it is a death machine. Fight.

What idealists never get or factor into their dream states is how difficult it is to get anything worthwhile done. They underestimate the corruption of human nature especially as it gathers power and tries to keep it. They underestimate that when you apply huge vision to practical affairs many dynamics come into play that are easily dismissed in the vision. Idealism should be a literary or philosophical pursuit for the purpose of cleaning out old dead categories or stimulating the mind to think in ways that it knows, itself, are real and doable. That is the art of idealism.

I can see why the American people turn away from "philosophy" because they are bedeviled at every turn by an almost neurotic need to reduce everything to, "well, it depends on what the definition of "is" is." That world is dominated by legalism and specialism and has nothing to do with the basic American common sense that has more truth acuity than the close-cropping of words. The more intelligence, the more experience one brings to common sense the better off a person is.

America as I know it is not a control system but an open one; it is special when so much intellect and imagination can be brought to it. It has several different metaphors to move through. The buffalo, for instance, roamed free and plentiful until, for whatever reason, they became a prime commodity. You could say the same thing about gold. And the intrinsic qualities can suffer the same fate without question. America’s dark side expresses itself through squandering and wasting and bankruptcy.

It is open but connected together by systems and, up close, confused by its lack of knowledge and experience.

It is its mountains and streams and ocean coasts. The people struggle every generation for something. I’m not sure they ever find out what it is.

We are developing distinctive epochs that can play off each other. We are not completely ruined by inevitable corruption.

The people always seem to be sensible in ways that fanatics and intellectuals are not.

The people become better as they believe that the system is theirs. It belongs to them, it is a tool to free them from their oppressions. Intellectual types, ideologues can’t stand this but it is the bottom-line truth.

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Youth

My own youthful time now seems but a blip on the radar.

Vietnam will not linger in American consciousness. The living has drained it out of themselves like old pus. I’m not sure that the trip to the moon can be readily dismissed. The upheaval in the cities and campuses will be noted but hardly analyzed. The assassinations will be fairly meaningless because the authentic personality of the martyrs will not be experienced. The fact that there were economic expansions doesn’t move anyone but a few historians trying to understand this period of time. Watergate will be remembered but people in the future will never experience the degree of oppression this incident caused esp. with young men and women of conscience.

I can’t say exactly what the attraction for events is. There is always the need to derive some order from that which has moved the mind or emotions. Events, as they are portrayed on television or newspapers certainly do this. There are personalities that arise that seem to galvanize various attitudes or represent a dominant mood that one gets caught up in. And when the thing passes into history you wonder why you got caught up as you did. But, you did get caught up and so for several years your emotions and thought were directed in a particular direction.

Well, the “cause” if there is one is freedom- is liberation. For that to occur there must be a divestment of that which passes through you. And then, in a more rational frame of mind you can then structure out the issue, the event and so forth and discover its necessity. The truth of the matter is that you can’t “predict” future events, astrologers notwithstanding. There are certain things that happen, however, that are signals to watch out. The State funding or helping a country during a conflict that has little relation to the interests of the US- or apparent interests of the US, for instance.

Some events happen as a bolt out of the blue sky, such as Kennedy’s assassination or the Shuttle disaster or 9/11. Other events simply grow and grow like Vietnam.

And the ultimate question is really, "what attitude is the citizen going to have toward the event(s)?" Assuming that he has no power except to help form a consensus that is part of the ideological structure of the day, one can say that it is an important thing to do.

The truth of the matter is that human beings have never confronted units, political and economic, as powerful and sizeable as this. But then, why would the citizen deliberately oppose these things? What is the reason behind that? After all, life does move through these institutions and things get done and events do occur as a result. I suppose the real question is, what relation does the mind as a quality of human inheritance have toward these units? What in the world can the individual do but either critique, rationalize, or reform these units? All of these exist throughout the thinking universe. As someone who is pursuing his own self-interest the State or the multinational do not bother me. I hardly think about them. I am engaged in my self-interest. They only intrude when they are doing something to me, to my self-interest or something which I perceive as harmful to a public realm that I am a part of, as all other citizens are part of..

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The federal system is something that has to be constantly studied. When it is done, America is done. My admiration for Madison grows a lot more the past several days.

The cynics among us burn on a pyre of hatred and delusion.

It is interesting and necessary to see if this country can sustain and transmit itself through the cycles. In fact, one could imagine that the cycles will end only when the country begins to disintegrate from outside invasion or internal strife. The emptiness, however, arise from the people themselves who are thrown into a world that surrounds them and, eventually, consumes them.

The emptiness comes from the vastness of things they can perceive but the emptiness they feel comes from within themselves. Not only do they feel it but they demand that the wretched feeling is fully expressed for them in the form of popular culture.

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It runs through me

Something that I identify as American runs through me. Everything that connects to where my freedom comes from, where people I’ve known come from, where I have visited, where I have lived + the Constitution. I am happy about all of this I suppose. I don’t think Americans should be self-complacent or arrogant about themselves. But, when they throw away the richness of the resource then one wonders. Nature, the natural world is a permanent part of the American experience.

The largeness of it makes for a fat mind that must transform itself through experience and knowledge.

What is America but how one uses their freedom? And I doubt there is a perfect way to choose. It becomes a personal question. Abstract history and the privilege of looking backward as our reality becomes merely mind stuff, will come to its conclusions. An honest person will look at the good, bad, and ugly. But, before it was an abstraction, it was a full blown reality.

Fighting empire, fighting themselves, fighting for empire? Is that all there is?

America, like many other things, is what you make it to be. So it has the wonderful capacity to permit the self to expand and develop in ways that are rare. There are acts that are repellent committed in the name of America but then, as well, an irrational hatred of America forces every evil into the very core of the nation with its own brand of casualty.

Ultimately the citizen is in the position of having responsibility to both embrace the core of American values and to be able to see abuse and correct it without destroying the core of the value.

America is unique because of the variegated ways in which development can progress toward goals that belong to the individual.

I have seen plenty of the shadow in America. Most of it comes from the frustration in the process of development. Conflict and argument are natural offspring of trying to find the best solution.

The shadow is always revealed by the enemy.

A man who considers himself free is never ready for conclusions.

Find the right rope between liberty and idiocy.

The key for a democracy is to get to the organizing principles quickly, connect, don't let anyone interfere, and develop resources that strengthen those principles. Everything else is conformity and of the worst sort. And conformity is repression.

Certainly I would love to give my full and undivided attention to the happenings in the political state but what possible relation to it is available? It is too huge to master, it is finely turned in its policy operations, it scorns philosophy, its practical ideas have to be diluted as they go through the elites who control national politics. Just about everything else is idle speculation. No doubt, idle speculation can produce revolutions in the mind but, even there, the ideas and idea-makers lose grasp of the revolution. In some fundamental way, democracy both succeeds and fails. It is here, its operation is very plain, its laws are complex but accessible. There is continuity. And, compared to many other states it simply looks better, more secure, and more able to provide a strong background for the activities of its citizens. But, it fails to imagine the best efforts, it fails to spur the citizens onward in a progressive, intelligent way. It fails to enlighten after a period of time which, to the mind, is a signal of some sort.

So it must survive but how will it survive if it is not urged on to better places than it is in now? That is very much a matter for the democratic citizen and his improvement, rather than the easy and shabby manipulation of the politicians.

Democracy justifies itself by taking on problems and, if not completely solving them, at least ameliorating them. Once it stops solving problems then it is necessary to throw it out for something else. That is not upon us thankfully.

August 31, 2017

Democracy Is A Person

My politics are rather simple: keep the infrastructure of governance healthy, produce robust, intelligent citizens with a stake in the present and future, and have as simple and as direct a connection between the ambitions of power and those who suffer it. It’s not a Republican or Democratic thing at all as both seem to be at the verge of total failure. They have failed because they lack courage and boldness. They are unable to conduct the necessary battle, the eternal battle, between ambitions that results in progress for the people “not in the battle.” The heart of the problem is that the American people have protected themselves against their own dilemma. That is, how to have an effective, living democracy with so much diversity and complexity?

The most crucial questions about politics are: What is being done outside of politics? What is being constructed, made, created, discovered?

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A young citizen often faces the misery of trying to solve every problem versus the beauty of creating something that is good and full of intelligent heart. Perhaps no problem is solved yet the effort contributes to something necessary for the morale of the human being. And sometimes the problem, if not solved, is made livable and the burden is put on institutions to carry it…. now. And after the surge of wonderful feeling for creating something good and full of heart comes the crash. This is the moment that a young man will say, "life is irony."

The freedoms here are real enough. There are magnificent variations. It is a splendid thing. But is it enough? What about our freedom, our variation that has not seen the light of day yet? When people say or imply that you should be doing this, this and the other thing rather than that and that many times then one wonders about their sense of freedom, about their commitment to it and whether what they have is freedom at all. "Ah," sad youth says, "their freedom is some kind of compromise, a sacrifice between an ideal and a reality." And while that is fully understood and respected is it enough? Who then keeps the flame of the next freedom alive?

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I did experience a society from top to bottom. I experienced it from the neighborhoods I lived in and traveled through, in the jobs I had, including Sunoasis Jobs, in observing and reading, including sociology. It's neatly codified or seems like it. Changes occur and I always recommend the happy attitude that welcomes change. There's a precise art to it. And family was a great window into the society and mine was very diverse in all sense of that word. Berkeley was a kind of laboratory where all the mad scientists congregate. But I lived in more sedate places that were more reflective of the mainstream.

"Who solves the problems of whatever identity I have?" Answer that and you will know who your masters are. This is especially the case for young people. As people age most of the problems have been solved or shucked off as impossible to solve and most of their belief is soft but adamant because they know the process that the young must endure. So any threat to the "solution" is a threat to the identity and everyone involved with it. It is not belief as much as it is the impossibility of living without the solutions to various local and universal problems. We have added a layer or two of problems in the modern world. And our solutions are technical for the most part or through consensus politics. Yet, the individual must suffer the problem and its solution without falling prostate to the solution or disintegrating in misery.

There are spiritual questions then: Who solves the dilemma of the lack of morale? Who solves the problems of the self? Who binds up the wounds? Who transforms misery into happiness? Who "explains" the mystery's of life and death?

When I think of my 20's the word "crisis" pops up. It's hard communicating the nature of the collapse of authority at that time. Or to outline the nuttiness that prevailed. Politically and socially the end result was Reagan and the rise of the conservatives. Personally I went back to whatever solid foundation I could find. The three that come to mind are family, spiritual truth, and liberal democracy, however those things are defined. And an aspect of defining them occurs as you try to embody them or let them in or develop resource in relation to them. That was a product of the time that I had no control over. It was a period of desperation. Everything was out of sync, doomed, decaying, decimated and so on. There was not a shred of credibility in the "establishment." I was fighting all these heavy influences that had shaped me as a young man, including mass, pop culture as well as "family as coercive force." I had a secular viewpoint and viewed religion as a relic and of interest only to lowly educated people. There was a great deal of personal pain at the time. I look back in admiration for how much youth can endure.

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The civil rights movement was an eye opener for me who didn't, growing up, have many contacts with African Americans. It taught, above all else, that people must fight for their freedom. That is a lesson average Americans should take to heart and should learn from that honorable movement. For the mainstream white population that fight occurred before their time, in the Revolution, the Civil War, even the World War II. Those were the moments that could be marked as "fighting for freedom." And it's noteworthy that plenty of African Americans fought in those conflicts as well even as their group, itself, was being repressed. I think a lot of whites felt odd watching African Americans do what whites had done, especially at the beginning of the country's formation; that is, fight and struggle for a freedom that wasn't there. And unlike the colonists of the 1770's the African Americans came away from the whole deal with a greater respect from the dominant culture because of that fight. And certainly an ideal remains that one day all people will be free of prejudice, free of group hatred, free of the stupidity that used to be the case in this country, all countries, all societies from the beginning of time.

Whenever I hear a generalization about a group I see a thousand contradictions.

The worst thing you can do in a democracy is make enemies. Make allies from enemies. Just the attempt to do so will improve your ability to know more about your problems and possible solutions than anything else. But don't tear down other people, person, organization in order to "solve a problem or dilemma." Look to the positive that needs to catalyze the solution to problems and dilemmas.

I think tolerance is key to a liberal democracy. It will disintegrate without it. You learn to respect the other person until he or she reveals they aren't worth the respect. This crosses every type of person imaginable. Such a simple idea; with all the complexity one could imagine belongs to a nuclear bomb! I experienced that mutual respect for a brief time in Alameda County. It works. It breaks down when differences become politicized and one has to rush under their own flag for their own protection, albeit in the civil way these things work out in America. Rarely are shots fired across divided lines.

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I've been thinking of the raw conflicts I've dealt with, the ones that stick finely to things. One was certainly liberal, democratic values vs. American power. Another was "authority of the past" vs. the non-credentialed present.

The fact that the US is such a huge multidimensional culture means one can get lost, yet find themselves anew. It means that the only thing that is significant is the health of the system and the wisdom of its leadership in the world. That is, we're still on the updraft of its power and enjoy its bounty. Yet brave enought to ask questions like: "Is the heart sickened? Is the mind dead? What do the people truly learn?"

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We like to believe there are solutions to great problems that involve the systems of state or society. As free people we have to assume that is the case, otherwise our efforts as citizens are somewhat fruitless. Not completely since we live in a free society and our number one priority is to live fully in the freedom of imaginative, intellectual, and spiritual resource. To solve problems one has to have an inkling of what system flows through the problem. And, inevitably, one system runs into another and so on until the whole of it is involved. That comprehension is not possible now because each systsem has worlds upon worlds of complexity that escape fully knowing. I think the future will take seriously this belief that to be a "democratic” society, its members must know everything about the culture, its systems and to learn the art of liberating that culture so that it creates new and better futures.

Patchworks of that knowledge exist here and there but usually in the departments of high specialization, accessible only to the specialist. A few may even branch out and try to include another specialty but it would never be enough given the scope, power, and complexity of the modern world. Short of that we use whatever common sense and consensus is available in a generation and try to make our way; pitting ambition against ambition and hoping things work out ok.

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I don't know how to define myself as an "American." I know the experience of my family and self. I know the history of America, some of it very shameful. It comes with an eternal idea but when the idea is disillusioned it can be a horror show. Yet, there is nature. And a sense of infinite freedom and possibility, followed by tracks to a variety of communities with some unpredictable outcomes. It is image and the reversal of image. Connected to the root and change is bearable, even desirable. Wild abandon is rewarded and then destroyed. Everyone is an enemy; everyone is a friend.

One thing I do know. I feel very little connection with the "rulers," ie those with political power and/or financial power. Am I away from them, far away enough, to want to see the whole thing come down? No, I know the consequences for that and know who catches the very first and the very last flight out of town. It's not me. So, no I don't want the thing ruined, I don't know how to do anything about its problems, but the central question remains, "is this the best? Is this what, finally, emerges from the revolution, Constitution, Civil War, settling the west, industrial/technology revolutions, Depression, WWII, 60's, etc.?? This is it?" Exigency makes me study it. Experience makes me love it. Is there anything better yet? Is there anywhere where I would feel free, as myself, unafraid of fully manifesting? Which brings one to an axiom about democracy: the people are always better than those who rule them. The ambition for power or wealth has conditioned those pursuing it. But their obligation, the checks and balances available through the whole of it, allow for the free development of the people and the necessity of the people to be conditioned by their freedom, to recognize that their freedom depends on their ability to keep the obligation in front of the powerful.

It has me, yet I am free.

I did feel, maybe still feel, that the US was at a tipping point between fulfilling its aspirations as a liberal democracy and/or being the big stick in the world. I'm not sure it's an either/or but the conflict was presented as an either/or. I did feel, in confronting the US as a young guy, that as a liberal democracy it was utterly dependent on the constituent level; that self-rule meant something, it was historic and the legacy of the US rose and fell on whether self-rule was a success or not. Several things begin to creep in: one was the discrepancy between the obligations of a large world power and democratic conscience, another was the immense role money played in determining leadership which meant you wouldn't have this rich mixture in the constituent level and you'd turn that constituent level into passive/aggressive people, cut away and alienated from the flows of power. Another red flag was the dominance of families in political leadership tending toward the benign monarchy model rather than the liberal, democratic one. It indicated a paucity of imagination in the liberal democracy and the presence of big money.

It was apparent that the culture had to build from the constituent level up and out rather than from the institutional level on down. That complexity had put all the power in the institutions who had the resources to deal with vast problems; problems that would break down the constituent into forms of addiction, alienation, or simply accepting the powers of institutions and go the play and savor route.

Fear itself, as FDR knew, would do a democracy in because fear is the one quality that will shut down the necessity to be free men and women, unafraid of the complex system that runs through them, unafraid of the gargantuan emotions that get sprayed from every direction. Unafraid of the willfulness to drive an active democracy like this one. Unafraid of the future that must be built unafraid of the unattainable.

The fearful person has lost the thread of his truest intention, lost the connection to eternity and is easily manipulated.

Fear can be induced by power. The mind and spirit have to be marshalled against it, against that aspect of power that would make us afraid of our own words, afraid of our dreams.

Fear climbs up the spine of even the finest person and leers like a laughing monkey.

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When I look at a map I see the things that have impressed me the most in the time I've spent here. It has been dominated by the two perceptions I've described elsewhere; the opening of the universe to human consciousness and the awareness that weapons can destroy whole cities of millions of people. Other things include the communications revolution with TV, computer, internet. The civil rights movement. The growth and development of the developing countries and/or old colonies of European powers. The significance of cheap oil and the middle-east, esp. with the rise of Islam, the globalization of economy, the destruction of so many barriers, vast disparities of wealth and poverty, destruction to the environment by technological culture among other things.

The fact that it works at all is an amazement itself.

Democracy is the central way because it's the only way that allows for and encourages growth and development, a sense of progress, self-criticism, unbounded imagination, self-rule, individual rights and so forth. It conforms, channels, and destroys as a shadow.

It is grown from the bottom up in terms of the individual. When it is merely a facade for corrupt institutions then it is dead and will be swept away.

Democracy is always in the state of this quandary.

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I reject the sense that life is meaningless, that it is purely physical, we are animals who live and die like turtles and that nothing saves us, nothing redeems us. I reject it because when I had that sense I was destructive, I was in a secret rage and wanted to control everything all the while pretending to be so nice and tolerant. In wanting to be a writer, a father, a citizen and so on life became meaningful and so the struggle with the world began.

There was the struggle between my desire for meaning and the desire of the world to put me at the core of its meaninglessness. Or, so it seemed. It was a struggle and seemed awfully real to me.

A large part of me simply wanted to roam around unselfconscious of anything but wind and sea. Of good women and good red wine and interesting odd curious things in the world. A very large part of me wanted nothing but that.

Life and reality will always trump the thinking person. And yet, without thinking, even in the face of all scorn, how would we construct anything? How would we improve anything?

How would we discriminate between the good and bad? How would we know to go to resources that could help us?

I put great value on the constructive imagination.

We go through at least one terrible season of being clobbered by the right people and comforted by the wrong ones.

August 1, 2017

The Magnificent Beast

America is a magnificent beast without question. I heartily support its basic organizing principle. It doesn't define me. It doesn't tell me to stop imagining, to stop thinking, to stop laughing. It doesn't do that at all. It forces one to take on the nature of world power, the global scene, and world history even. It cannot afford the provincialism of its youth. It either matures or smothers itself in the inane. It can never move backwards. That is the consequence of its history since the 1940's. It must decide what it wants to be, what will it be in relation to the rest of the world; how will its resources be deployed? So much to recommend it. So much potential. The criticism should be for that which falls away from the potential.

Always at stake in America is the virtue and challenge of self-rule. What does it mean in a country of 300 million people in a large land mass and with trillion dollar budgets? Often the people are ruling only a caricature of it that exists in their interface with media. Who studies and then comprehends the vastness of its ganglion self? And who rises to the level necessary to maintain a democracy? That is a major theme of the time. If you give up too early you end up an idiot of cynicism. If you never wake up you end up one of these balls of complacent fat that roll effortlessly into the heart to kill it.

The eternal question of power and those led by power is always, "what is the state of morale for those who are being led?" "Are they about ready to jump ship?" "Are they secretly wishing it would go down or become something that resembles a tyranny of old?"

Only when the citizens give up on themselves will that happen. When that is they give up the notion of "self-rule" because it is a meaningless phrase.

If the big American Government succeeds in demoralizing the people then it has done what power, in whatever form, has done to remain in place. I don't think you can quantify that but you can sense it, feel it, and if you've paid attention to yourself as a citizen know it. The last two elections seem to bear this out.

If power elites are happy and successful but the many more millions and millions of people are unhappy, frightened, devastated, and feel themselves slipping away as effective beings then what sort of "thing" exists?

If power elites are corrupt and the people ape them in that corruption I doubt there is any hope left for a true democracy.

The elites fail miserably because they fall in love with their minds.

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Democracy is central; fascism and communism have been subdued. Medieval fundamentalism is going down. Democracy meaning (1) accountability of power to the people who suffer and benefit from it, (2) checks and balances, (3) due process,(4) law ruling men, (5) transparency, (6) free expression in press, faith, association, etc. The purpose of which is to get the individual person to the height of his or her potential, many such persons in community fulfilling their potential and, so, ensure the health and continuity of the community.

Ambition can travel a variety of routes. There is a kind of meritocracy, a kind of market and political evaluation that "creates" the culture at any given time. Luck plays a big role. I would not want to justify everything that goes on in the culture but there is a kind of sense to it looking at it with a wide angle.

America is not falling apart. It is too big to make nasty or sentimental judgments on it. It must be experienced and then expressed through the high intellect. Without that it is simply a filled up gut spewing out gas and solid, churning and eating itself alive.

It is a strong culture with more than a few fragile fault lines. A single man or woman can't solve the problems.

Our political dissensions are muted by the genius of the founders who didn't want a violent political culture. They wanted constant, intelligent pressure applied to all points of power by people who were curious to find out the truth and involved enough to want things to go on, go forward and so forth.

Our polarities are only a prelude to a greater synthesis that will happen over time because the first law of democracy is, "don't make enemies," a precept the current President is ignorant of. And if you have enemies do everything you can to make them your ally. These polarities are simply ignorant enemies who have yet to understand they may be excellent allies.

Why have politics? Perhaps it is simply a biologically driven need to organize for survival. But then, why does it break down?

The one answer that makes sense is that experience has taught human beings, over many generations, that it is a necessity and never disappears. In its absence it will instantaneously resurrect itself in one form or another. And we can see the forms in our modern world. Theocracy, Dictatorship, ISIS like anarchy among others. What form of politics permits the working out of the citizen's potential to the utmost?

It is good when you have checks and balances, due process, a bill of rights, free speech, free press and the rest of it. These are values and what new form of politics would protect these?

However, all the protections in political law and custom says nothing to the human beings working and expressing themselves in a culture that emerges out of them. These are separate in that nothing in the laws says that the citizen can not be a novelist or live in the woods. As a result the culture is a buzzing discovery of itself always conscious of what has transpired before it. And in a world of new technologies, new effects, new knowledge, new experience there are, obviously, the need for new men and women. New citizens.

If new citizens are produced who destroy the system of governance what can we say but that a catastrophe has occurred. But if the new citizens protect the necessary infrastructure while developing in new and startling ways then something valuable and good has come into being.

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The end of democracy is to produce free people. But for that to happen you have to have effective, efficient government; ie. the full potential of self-rule as an active agent in the on-going process of life. The question is how to balance those so the citizen is attached to the destiny of the system and yet creating new paths for the future? Too much attachment stifles authentic imagination. But a mind cut loose from the attachment usually ends up destroying itself or others.

A bad government will result in a small class of "free, unhindered" persons playing on the world stage; being the freest of the free while the majority struggle for scraps. But a machine-like, efficient govt. without goals related to real persons is a machine that will collapse for lack of interest. The key to this is to answer the question, "what is the threshold of corruption among the people and among the government or, any institution of authority?"

That may be a clue as to what needs correcting.

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Some Americans are more comfortable in the woods then in the city. The city is something painfully learned. The woods teach at all moments. But, we live in cities so the learning is hard and painful. But the imagination that is not connected to the woods is one eternally frustrated.

As a young man I loved the city. Cities are for youth and its transformations. Cities are for youth to find the "other," and embrace it in themselves.

The city is where youth finds the speed in things and make it their own. The city is the thing that is renounced when nature says it is time to renounce.

The city, on a happy day when the sky fuses with the buildings, when the crowds are out talking and dancing a bit and strange delightful smells are tasted and all rottenness lifted up and out on fresh winds and fears run away from the quickened body, the city at that moment is a perfect place. A rare place. A scintillating piece of information.

The quintessential problem of liberal democracy is this: the people quite rightly resist the effort to predict and control them and they see this coming from experts, bureaucrats, intellectuals. The roots of the people come from the bottom, up and they instinctively resist "intellectualism" as a product of the long-standing burdens of the historic aristocracy. Their loyalty is with instinct, with adrenaline, with energy itself. But what is more predictable than the human animal filled with instinct, adrenaline and energy??

Liberal democracy is about breaking the bad habits of the past. It's about de-hypnotizing the self to the point where it is eyeball to eyeball with power and wealth, not out of anger and fear but out of confidence that knowledge and experience offers up.

Bad habits will teach you much more about yourself than good habits.

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So how does one acquire the knowledge and experience to go eyeball to eyeball with wealth and power? The "solution" in a huge, complex political culture is by developing advocacy groups that "think" for the people, have resources that the people lack and then go eyeball to eyeball with wealth and power. If not a solution it's at least some form of amelioration.

In that sense American democracy does look fairly ancient because "resource" is relative. Yes, the people have a lot of resources but then power and wealth have a great deal more and relative to the total amount of resource each has only a portion. All is ignorant. But some more so than others.

And on the path to awareness ignorance gets stuck in disillusionment and cynicism.

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I lost the taste for politics, at least the exciting youthful kind that promises wholesale changes. I realized that before politics there has to be knowledge or understanding of governance, an understanding of problems, and the complexities that make up problems and their solutions. All of that must be laid out in front before "politics" makes any sense. And it is a test of credibility, at least with me, that a person must have these in front of them before their "politics" means anything. Anything less is that most deceitful and manipulative essence called emotion.

And driving the emotion of politics is power; how far close, how far removed one is, not simply in the general political make-up but in the sense of control one has in their own life.

Sometimes things seem pessimistic but that is only because we choose to see things from the point of view of problems or as if everything travels in a straight line. It doesn't. This is why character is so important since it is that and only that which permits strength against the storm. Strong institutions are good as long as their "strength" is indicative of the national strength and haven't been disabled by corruption. It's always the people. They must have the character to withstand bad times. If and when the people turn against self-rule then it is finished. If and when the people sink in the sunset because they can't bear the weight of the culture then it is over. It is not over simply because China has more cash or the kids in India are getting better educations or that the debt in America is an oppression, no longer serving as a stimulus to authentic economic growth.

As my sea-faring uncle used to tell me, "everything is a bell curve; it goes up and down, up and down." I can't argue with him.

On this day, July 4th, I reflect on the differences between the British Empire that exploited and shackled the colonies and the present day American Government. There are procedural differences without a doubt. But then all things big tend to look alike. All things big and powerful have one trajectory. The differences start to clump in a private corner to raise hell with itself. The Big Thing could care less.

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I've tried to learn about myself as a political animal through this time. Unfortunately, the thing is such a huge beast it's hard to feel confident about securing any real political identity. I have a firmer allegiance to the democrats than the republicans. Most of the so-called third parties leave me cold. I just don't think these large political parties should determine the end point of the discussion. I only got interested in this question when I realized that nothing could be taken for granted. That one had to assume the very worst, the most dire scenario and be thankful for the way the thing actually was. I assumed that corruption had corrupted the people and the whole thing stayed together out of economic self-interest. But that too was a part of being a citizen, facing up to the corruption and so on. There is always the larger question of what is the freedom beyond what the parties present, the antics of the citizens present, the structure of governance presents? What is it? Even though I have second thoughts about the things I've poured forth on political subjects I thought it was necessary, a necessary piece of the puzzle.

And I am a citizen in a democracy, don't trust big government or big corporations, don't care about how much money people may have or not have. But I also believe the democracy and nations need to be imagined and thought-through, not simply in a literary sense but many senses. And it is not a case of bad people running institutions, not all of them at any rate. It is that the power in these institutions ranges so above what the people possess that there is a real divide without question. But then, why shouldn't people with ambition claw their way up to that power and use it as well as possible? Perhaps that is a primal dilemma in a culture like this. I don't know what the answer is.

What impressed me more than European thinkers was American entrepreneurship---- truly---that spirit evidenced authentic freedom.

America has to get from under the shadow of Europe; it has to skirt between that influence (extremely high in academia) and the stupid nativism represented by the fundamentalists for instance.

I've tried to trace my political feelings one way or the other. I've connected with a lot of the political philosophy of the past plus a lot of information and knowledge by writers and scholars on the present day set up, at least in the last 100 years. It is important because it connects with Law.

And Law is the putative ruler among free, liberal democratic people.

It connects with what a citizen believes is the core principles of the society. And that includes, of course, the ability to scrutinize and critique the law and overcome aspects of it. And law never tells us what we can do. That's up to the imaginative resources of a free people.

July 15, 2017

FACTS and TRUTHS

The most important act of a democratic citizen is to find out for him or herself what "facts" and "truths," are. To do it, for instance, as Christ did out in the empty plains with nothing around but a seductive devil. Or as Buddha did, with every scary and tempting thing coming at him. And to rebuke that entity and fears and go with compassion rather than wealth and power. Facts are different when truth trumps wealth and power. But, as is said, "facts are stubborn things." That there are 100 Senators in the US Congress is a fact. That we are obligated to treat each other as equals, as endowed with rights, including the right of self-dignity is a truth.

Facts and truths expand as the democratic society expands. The very complexity of things makes it more difficult to discover the facts and truth. On the one hand complexity can be used to redefine and obfuscate facts and truth. And on the other hand complexity can make ignorance enraged or very passive, and neither of those conditions benefits liberal democracy.

It is frightening from time to time to see how dumbed-down, ignorant, and alienated are great swatches of people. It's a bad generalization because they are embedded in every category imaginable. I found them in cities as well as rural areas. I found them among the well-to-do and the poor. I found them among men and women, people of all races and backgrounds. Their destiny is to be manipulated, controlled, exploited in ways that are detrimental to liberal democracy. I'm not sure who is at fault for it. On the other hand there is a lot of good in this society. There is a good deal of common sense among the people and good will. However, the writer's role is one of criticizing the "falling off," if, that is, liberal democracy is a real and unique moment in history. That is something the writer puts in front of him at any rate.

The core of American "culture" appears to be PT Barnum, Zelda the Porn Queen, and fantasy football. I'm not sure that is a criticism or not. It does not appear to be "Leaves of Grass," "Huck Finn," and the "Federalist Papers."

If I owned a culture and was jealous of my power, it would be much more desirable to have "masses" who are cut away and useful fodder to keep wages down then to have a critical mass of liberal democratic citizens who know what is at stake.

Is it true that a great softening has occurred in the American mind? Perhaps the great danger we haven't looked at enough is when the culture loses its intellectual suppleness that is expressed in the loss of devising and seeking goals. The suppleness has to be strong enough not to surrender to the regressive, the superstitious, to the hate-filled or revenge seeking.

Certainly one cause for alarm is that the intellectual enterprise is not as well organized as the irrational one. The intellectual enterprise fourishes in the university but nowhere else. It may be replicated in corporations and policy forming groups in government but even there it is hardly what you could call a dynamic culture.

The people aren't stupid. They are alert and are responding to things all the time; they simply don't use the resources that are available to them.

Divisiveness seems natural in a society where power is the goal in life and everyone must pursue power at the constituent level.

But a citizen's attitude changes through time. When young you may have sympathy for a form of divisiveness. But then, as the years roll on he comes to realize that the goal of the divisive is to destroy all other division but its own. The boundaries harden. It furthers a breakdown in the ability to transmit the good of the culture. It leads to a three or four-tiered society at war with itself, with no respect between the tiers and naked force keeping the tiers from destroying each other. One tier will make the major decisions and own the property and tools, the next tier will manage the organizations, the next tier will be service personal and the fourth- tier will be the chronically unemployed, homeless, poor, etc. As this occurs the traditional sense of democracy will go flying out the window and be replaced by the discipline and custom of mass republics. The mass republic will eventually exhaust itself in the interceding struggles and that will be that. A pessimistic view for certain and not close to happening even in our most divisive period of time. The problem is that the size and complexity of ALL makes it much more likely the relations will become permanent.

In an authentic democracy you would witness ambition clashing with ambition only to reveal bits of pieces of the truth and facts. From that point it would be the more enlarged citizens who would patch together the best of the truth and facts and then get representation somewhere to lead power to do the best. When you have wholesale abdication as you've had in the last 30 years it is merely the ambitious, merely the ideological, merely the ignorant who have dominated and determined the political culture.

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When thinking of intrusive forces, the decline of liberal democracy was certainly one or the sense of it after Vietnam and Watergate. Another, certainly, was mass media which creates perception but not of knowledge or, even, experience. And so a kind of loony toons culture develops because the people are exposed to more perception than they are knowledge. And doesn't a free and democratic culture encourage every voice and point of view to jump around a bit in the ring? The felt need on the part of the citizen was to find his own voice, find his own truth, find his own integrity that could sift through, find, and build on the raw material from the incredible amount of information available. That became a singular mission for the free, liberal democratic citizen. The question is just how much of that available resource did they get to produce a point of view?

So comes the painful process of the citizen getting to the precise moment when he or she can differentiate the truth and facts out of the boiling vat of politics and engage the democracy with intelligent value. Knowing everything that has happened in the past without denying the significant features of the present time is part of the process. And knowledge of the region that contains the majority of his or her experience and life is another part of the process.

A free citizen has to develop so that he or she can pick through the array of stuff on the table and get only that which permits growth and development.

Pay attention to the full system and it will drive a good man crazy. Perhaps it's wishful thinking but, eventually, the citizen only pays attention to what will enhance and build a liberal democracy and what will destroy it.

Mass ignorance will destroy it. Idol worship will destroy it. Money able to buy off every constructive value will destroy it. The nihilism of wealth will destroy it. Tribalism and cultism will destroy it. In short, the Republican Party. Well, many things in the U.S. have the possibility of destroying it. That is why freedom and liberal democracy has to be fought for every generation. It has to be re-defined and improved on as concepts. It has to do this as a culture; the political system has to sustain and continue across generations. We know the culture needs a huge infusion of creativity and imagination because everything is clumped up at the top and the political parties are devoid of anything vital.

"In its decadence everything disappears before the spectacle. The spectacle defines all." Old historians are fond of saying things like that. If it were that simple.

The irrational creates the condition for totalitarianism, at least in a liberal democracy. In the past 30 years I've seen the irrational believe in itself and then look out at the tempered liberal democracy and get big eyes at how vulnerable it is. The most dangerous condition is when the people, themselves, cultivate the principles of self-rule, checks and balances, due process and due diligence and then wildly nihilistic sub-cultures erupt in it and create vast illusions and con games that destroy the principles or, at least, challenge them and, at a specific point, look to remake the whole of the political culture in its image.

If the liberal democracy is strong and has integrity it will create the pressure to limit the damages and let seep in the few kernels of truth the irrational may carry in itself. If the liberal democracy is weak , without integrity, then the irrational will transform everything in its image and create the conditions of decline.

The pessimist says, "A generation will rise up that will hate the burdens of what we have created and wipe us out; the music, the movies, the politics, the books, clothes, the cars, the desires even. It will render what we believe to be "forever" moot and silent as a bird that has fallen dead into the Amazon River." Or, perhaps a prophet from the old country shouts that in empty parks.

The cautious optimist says, "I hope they return to some principles but there is no guarantee." Truly, a modern man.

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Thinking over some of the relations I've had over that 30-year period.

Politics: I wasn't that interested in "politics" as I was with the quality of relation between the citizen and the system of governance. I wasn't an expert. It was an obligation fueled by what I saw in Berkeley/Oakland and the levels of alienation I experienced. Democracy "works" when its basic principles are intact and there is a good deal of clashing ambitions and participation among the people. It works where the problems are thrashed out from every point of view and the citizens open to sort out the facts from the fiction. So, at the end process of that, "the principles are intact and from them a thousand flowers bloom." The problems start when one of the petals decides it wants to become the principle.

I felt ideally, for self-rule, you had to have citizens eyeball to eyeball with state power, in terms of experience and knowledge. And that, ideally, a citizen would know everything going on, how everything works, what the problems are and so on.

This does happen from time to time, here and there.

The dangerous thing is when you have a large, critical mass of people cut away who feel there is an impassable gulf between the system of governance and themselves and so reinforcing the fact that people with the same stake in the system actually run and participate in it. In that sense the system becomes corrupt because on the one hand it's an inside job and on the other hand mere manipulation of all the rest.

What heals the wound between the system of governance and the people?

How do the people rule themselves in the middle of huge effects, perceptions, propaganda, complexities, and a large land mass made up of many distinct regions?

Indifference, complacency, dirty money are the great dangers and the first two come about because of a lack of knowledge and/or experience and the all too human foible of either adoring power or hating it.

I do believe in "democracy as an experiment," in that it requires much more from its people than sensation. That it works best when individuals arise out of primal groups like families and then form associations based on self-interest and mutual respect. In those 30 years I've seen the weakening of democracy from "religious fanaticism," "racialism of both sides of the spectrum," "dirty money," most of it originating in superstition, susceptibility to propaganda, a lack of checks and balances and great fear projected against the feared.

To be "against democracy" puts one in league with communists, fascists, and fundamentalists of every stripe. But if democracy becomes nothing more than illiterate, backward, faceless, ignorant masses then it is doomed. It is better as a semi-oiled professional class doing the actual work of a democracy but then that corrupts as we've seen even among the group that claimed it was going to "return government to the people." They really only consigned it to the sharks among us. It only works by creative leaps, emphatic shutting of the door to the immediate past, new dreams and aspirations never heard or seen before all the while a new, tolerant, intelligent citizenry grows up in the middle of it. That eventually sputters and collapses in due time but the interval can be very productive and interesting.

The odd and sublime thing the people don't seem to understand about politics is that it is a war, a dysfunctional family, a beast-heaving-with-ambitions so that the people, themselves, don't have to be. So the people are free of dsyfunction, wars, and beast heaving with ambition and become remarkably stable and competant and creative people. People so pleased with their freedom they act as if it is real and reach into the steaming Hell of politics to grab wiggling heels to hold them to the fire if that freedom starts to erode.

What one would have to fear more than anything is a stable, competant, even creative politics ruling a horrificly messed up people.

I experienced the dissembling of the 70's and the destruction to liberal democracy by cults, tribalism, absolutism, fanaticism, and the irrational. The connection to history was done as the "present" lost its credibility. And when it regained its credibility it was through the forms that were or made the present singular: science, technology, rising affluence, and liberal democracy. It was also very important to "know" the region; know it through experience, through moving in it, traveling in it, knowing the geography, the history, the climate and so on. Knowing the systems that run through it. Knowing it as I did meant that the rich tales of travel from friends and family had that much more meaning for me.

I look out further into the 21st century and back through the last quarter of the 20th century, the last 30 years as a matter of fact and make a few observations. The last 30 years sputtered and spewed its way to the cul de sac and has basically ended up a train wreck. Good things happened. Bad governance leading to bad economy and bad habits pile up in a heaping pile of smoking ruins. A few decent things happened. Most of the good happened with science and technology like the space shuttle, computer, and internet. There was an authentic attempt to integrate the society as an act of liberty, as a healthy act. There was a surge of confidence from the mid-80's to the end of the century. The bridge to the future collapsed. Perhaps it was a pork barrel project to begin with and then the public forgot to maintain it. Bad money, extreme selfishness, celebritism, irrational beliefs, corruption all up and down the spectrum resulted in the mess we have today.

"The people did not want to be liberal democratic citizens. They wanted to be rich bastards," says the cynic.

I'm hopeful because reality always proves to be stronger than our ideas or fantasies or fears of it. How to go from the creative to the reality without losing a lot of continuity?

We admit that reality is something. It is nature and the unrelenting ocean. It is the pattern of human life from the beginning. Elaborations come and go but the need to piss always remains.

We have picked our way through the elaborations and love many of them!

The systems we've built are elaborations but transgenerational.

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Despite everything I do believe the U.S. is very unique. I think, in the long analysis, the U.S. is the repository of most of history. I think it is the reservoir that has collected much of the aspiration of the past, from the beginning. I think it challenges each generation or at least individuals from each generation to blaze new paths into the future based on a firm grounding of freedom and liberty. It is not "superior," in fact, in some ways it lacks a great deal that other, traditional countries have. But it is unique in that it has one chance, always, to leap into the undiscovered future without which there is little imagination or incentive to progress. The key is to either be that path or find that path and point to it.

The rottenness in America will stink for many tomorrows.

Yet, enough richness gets churned that it justifies itself. That is, as long as the central principles are not destroyed.

It has to distinguish between authentic conflict and mere human neurosis that is always creating conflict and drama where none is really justified.

Unless an American learns to fight for what he or she believes or values they are little sucklings taken to the slaughterhouse with a song on their lips.

But who can speak for all of America? One speaks what drives through the living heart of a man who has known his region and has studied the history of the nation.

The most diverse thing about America is its activities.

I would hope America would develop "citizens for the 21st century," with tolerance, curiosity, an ever expanding knowledge base, rich experience, with the ingredients of liberal democracy like due process, due diligence, checks and balances working inside of them. Whether that happens or not is a large question. Do the responsibilities of power America possesses enlarge or diminish the citizens? Can they stand eyeball to eyeball with that power and have the strength to make that power accountable to the enlarged self and not the diminished one?

June 30, 2017

PERSONAL POLITICS

I meditated a bit on why I write on democracy. As I explained earlier it came as a result of the experience of the 70's in which full and complete disillusionment took over and I saw the rise of cults and rigid ideology. And if democracy does not matter to the man than what matters to him? And if it is too big why not study the bigness a bit and bring it down into his understanding? It is a poetic consciousness thing, the idea of democracy. If it's laid waste by the common forces of history then it is poetry that has been laid waste. It is the ability to imagine better futures that is laid waste. It is the very dignity of human life that is laid waste. So one must fight to the bitter end on that score.

I did not approach democracy from a philosophical point of view but from the view of a "free liberal democratic citizen," who enters the world and is impinged from one end to the other by any and all substances that have the power to impinge. Any disgust I had about the state, government, institutions etc were from that point of view.

I've come to the same conclusion that others have: that democracy must operate on two levels. On the one hand, it's civilization aspect, its daily aspect, its political and economic aspect must be pragmatic. It has to operate on what works, on the legacy of what works and on the ability to see what doesn't work even if it worked in the past and to change what doesn't work. That requires both knowledge and experience, not one exclusively or the other.

On the other hand it must be able to dream, to aspire, to imagine beyond what exists in order to bring in all possible futures. That is the cultural aspect. It has to bring its imaginative self to a high level.

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I view America as a "society." It is contained within certain boundaries. As a citizen you "own" it. Anything and everything can be a resource. To get to that viewpoint you need to abandon most of the categories of identity available to free people and take on a stance of tolerance, patience, good will, common sense and the ability to put the resources to their best uses. Anything less is just a piece of bad history.

"Society" meant something to me because I wanted to be a novelist. Therefore, what I experienced helped form ideas for what to write about. Berkeley and northern California was my "society," bits and pieces of it at any rate. So anything that occurred during that time, in that space was meaningful, had purpose if for nothing else than my own production as a writer. I was aware of other societies and other eras that had their variety of societies and that made some difference. The realization that peoples have lived as earnestly as you have is a startling one. And I focused on things that marked us as different; technology, science, capital growth, Constitutional law, among others. But we are centered in something eternally human no matter what the differences. I didn't want to be cut off by not thinking, not noticing, not analyzing and so on. But I didn't want to be removed from society either.

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It's better to build an idea based on the feeling or attitude that things will get better than from a post-apocalyptic feeling that it has collapsed and has no energy left to solve any problem. If, that is, you are addressing political questions that are connected to the actual society that exists in front of you.

It is striking how much politics has failed. Not simply politics but political ideas. No one believes in the old politics or the ideas that support them. It's gotten to pure emotion which is a dangerous place. Democracy is still devoutly wished for. But socialism, theocracy, neo-liberalism, corporate republicanism all have collapsed as credible 'ideas'. And see how they all rush behind the words "freedom", 'Constitution", and "justice."

People get very skeptical because they see public money going to DC and losing its value through some mysterious process and when it empties out to the targeted area enough corruption greets the new money that it's not very effective in fighting these problems. Private local money might be more effective. But then what is being talked about? Tens and tens of millions of poor people, urban and rural, mired down with crime as the young see the only out as drugs, drug dealing and all the problems of gangs and turf wars. Every region has its version of it. A reasonable person asks this, "what has been done? What has worked? What is being done now? Why doesn't the problem disappear with the billions that have been poured into its "solution?"

Politics always blusters in the belief it will solve this dilemma but here we are, after all the schemes and dreams, in whatever state one wishes to describe it as. And that all depends on where one is at that moment. If she is young and hardly making money and fearful of losing her job or having rents rise its one thing. If she has a great brokerage account, a safe and secure home it's quite another. Often politics is this clash of orientations.

Unfortunately, we are not at the beginning. We are not at the end. We are in that bulging midgard carnival that is a powerful nation-state. The channels for decisions are narrow and predictable to a degree. Those who love the country admit it is not the same thing as loving a woman or God or one's work and children. It has us we sacrifice a bit to know it, to try and understand it. It has us and it is big. So we end up laughing hysterically, "what can I possibly know about this monstrosity?" Yet, others claim they know it and spew out these claims and try to gain adherents. But then time is wasted refuting them. And if they have adherents how can one ignore them? Aren't people in democracy implicated in anything that has power or wants power?

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I don't know why I am concerned with this. It is important in terms of identity, a sense of being with something that is real; even as one struggles at times with that reality. Is the reality going to change? I would hope for a more universal identity in the future but the "reality" of that is not only far away but would bring on more suffering in enacting it. It implies suffering. So these relations to your "nation" bounce up and down during one lifetime for any number of reasons. For one thing, it's so big and varietal it takes enormous patience and experience to discover most of it. Not only that but the self is changing; sometimes things are good, sometimes bad and that colors that relation. I like to read about China, about India but I don't experience them as anything but descriptions and interpretations. I wish them well. I do see the fascinations; I see the similarities. But only one claims me, only one has contained the generations of my family, only one acts in my name. There is love and hate mainly because we can't control things and we often hate what we can't control. If you believe in democracy, if you believe in liberal democracy then you need to have that relation, no matter how fabricated the nation is. It doesn't matter if the fabrication has come out of struggle, deprivation, sacrifice and shows evidence of progress, of improving itself because on reflection it did things wrong.

I don't know where "America" is at this point. It's beyond doing anything about, yet I have seen a lot of change, good change as well as evidence of decay. I always believe the country, America, can leap into the next phase easier than other entities. I don't think it oppresses in the old sense of the word. It influences which irritates some, is despised by others. Its capitalism, left to itself, is akin to putting a thousand Buffalo Bill's on trains with ak-47's to kill the last of the herd. But it's never left to itself because it must answer to consumers or lawyers or government officials. At this stage of things you are not going back to old feudal, agrarian Jeffersonian ideals. I don't see any effort on the part of the world nations to lower their gnp, growth rate, trade balances, etc. So, we're either in it or not. Critique against capitalism should always be brought forward because it does have to reform itself from time to time. Wealth has to be spread around; politics needs to respond to the people. Very simple. When these systems are working well there is well-being, when they are not there is grief, anger, social tension and the rest of it.

Now, maybe the chic thing is to abandon it altogether and get so cynical one says, "we will let the future take care of itself," and goes down the material trough without looking up once. I would not abandon America because I don't see anything better than "self-rule." And I take self-rule to mean the people, being equal in nature, make accountability a number one priority, not simply in govt. but in personal life as well; all facets of life. Once that concept is defeated and seen as non-relevant then that is the time America begins to decline.

I think out of itself it could produce more truth and beauty.

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Despite everything you must believe in the future. We live in the future of those, including myself, who lived 15 years ago. Everything is changed. Many of the same problem still exists. 15 years ago many people, including myself, did not believe a future existed. Many people, including myself, realize that we were wrong. But what kind of future? I can see a future which demands that humanity step out of its shrouded view of things and step onto a new stage of action and thought.

Those 15 years taught one that even good intentions are not enough. That you must be able to demonstrate, on a large scale, what is harming the community and what is promoting it. That for every act, every thought, every object and product that comes out of the human being there is a shadow, dark side and there is its intention which is overwhelmingly good.

When young the question is always who has authority. Who should have authority and so on. If you give that authority to the worst, expect the worst and don't complain when the reality is revealed to you.

If you give authority to the tawdry, the greedy, the slimy expect those qualities to be your masters. And they will order you to the end of your days and on your deathbed they will appear to you and taunt you.

Recognize that authority is transient. It is a passing need. It exists to give a bit more order and stability to complexity. When authority is abusive the wound is deeper since it implicates the very nature of order and the possibility of order.

But what will have authority? What will give the order to the chaotic nature of the mind? This becomes, in a democracy filled with free men and women, a choice that must be exercised or lost forever.

The question has to be addressed in relation to the extraordinary nature of today's world. Most of which is living very unconsciously and giving authority to what is worst in nature.

One large conflict is between the claims of secular authority and the claims of religious authority. Each is suspicious of the other and cannot see the absolute in the other.

This was a question addressed long ago by Augustine and his division of the earth into the city of God and the earthly city; the city of eternity and the city of the temporal which, as forms, still have efficacy. We are forced to live in the temporal and make the most out of it and yet strive for the eternal and absolute.

The temporal evidences progress, the eternal evidences grace and truth.

The basic nature of the conflict is, when you get down to it, authority over one's fears and aspirations.

Another conflict is between family and culture; the claims of each, the value of each and so forth. And just what is the nature of the culture? This conflict lessens as time moves forward, nonetheless, you keep meeting the constellation of family and the culture.

Culture means the advancement of the essential attributes and their elaboration and occasional celebration.

Another conflict exists between the institution and the individual. The institution is by nature, by the fact of its existence, exerting power and pressure because it asserts the power of the group. It asserts the identity of the group and this always institutes something in the individual; respect or all out subversion.

And yet all responsibility rests with the individual; the initiative emerges out of the individual and so on.

So that's a constant conflict depending on the nature of the institution and nature of the individual person.

June 7, 2017

TO SWALLOW THE BEAST IS A HARD THING

Before there is a political idea or a citizen there has to be a sense that politics and the structure of power is real. The structure of power must be real to the person who is creating an idea about politics or who is participating as a citizen. And the structure of power becomes real through both experience and knowledge. Experience since, as a person, we are subject to taxes, military drafts (sometimes), public works projects, jury summons and so on. Knowledge since there is a great deal we do not directly experience but that exists just the same. It exists and it is our responsibility to discover it. That is one act of freedom for the citizen. We can't know everything about the structure of power. We discover our limitations and, from that point, start a dialog and respect both the knowledge and limitations of others just as we respect it in ourselves.

I was aware of myself as a political animal. I rejected a lot of the "politics" I had to wade through both in the city and the suburbs. But, I came away from Berkeley with the belief that a liberal democracy needed to be upheld and that the actual value of it extracted and experienced as a real substance and not an abstraction. This despite the fact I didn't like a lot of American democracy or much of the democratic people. I had more knowledge of them than I had love of them. However, I was with them in a certain sense. I also realized that I was in a fully formed democratic society that had gained a lot of power in the world and wasn't going back. Two of the great tensions that I experienced and thought a bit about were the conflict between the democratic conscience and the necessities of being a world power and the nature of the modern world as a sense object with its multitude of complexity as against the necessity of the democratic citizen to know everything that had control over him. I was way over on the west coast far from the corridors of power in the east coast. So liberal democracy was a kind of personal development rather than an analysis of power and so on. I didn't see where the arrangement of power in this democracy was going to change a whole lot to the end of its run as a liberal democracy. No doubt this all came out of very painful experience in my youth.

A few points:

  • A free, liberal democratic culture is dependent on personal character. No one is perfect. Mistakes are made. Growth and development is a necessity. Are these in place here? Impossible to know. I've seen evidence of it being here. I've seen evidence for its not being here.
  • The citizen must live in the present. The citizen oftentimes is dropped into the present against his or her will and saddled to the noxious gases of his fellow citizens.
  • The present offers up its array of activities from the smallest of the largest. Each activity has its depth and complications. Each activity is an interplay between the mind and the depth and complexity.
  • The citizen eventually attempts to comprehend as much as he can and out of this comprehension, make his decisions about any number of issues and persons who run for office.

I am very much a believer in the empowerment of the citizen. If the citizen breaks down, corrupts, dissolved into the slagheap, then everything on top of the citizen will come tumbling down as well. And as it is tumbling down the totalitarian brain types will emerge to reorganize the corrupt and bloodied citizens.

Why can't the citizen become the culmination of those erratic efforts in the past to create a fulfilled creature? All of those philosophic and poetic dreams of 3000 years did not have the resources to bring their ideals to fruition. Now, it is almost as if there can be no other choice.

This creature would have to be fully informed for one thing, would need to know all the things going on, generally, in the society. This creature would have to be fully objective. He would have to know human nature and how to love that nature itself, beyond itself and so forth.

This creature would know the dangers of the general world but understand the fundamental aspiration for human beings to reconcile their love of life with the knowledge of limitation.

His primary responsibility would be to the truth. To the perfect citizen truth is uppermost. Truth is the great crucible through which every institution, every incident, personal and otherwise, is made real.

Ah, but what is truth?

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The existential moment for a democracy is when the citizen realizes that he must "be as democratic as he can" but that the system rises or falls outside of his or her control. Demand that democracy be lived to its fullest, that human beings can't live any freer or fulfilled as now, take care of the various points of foundation and if it is meant to fail then it is a fantastic failure that will be exemplary to the future of those who make a difference.

So much of what we live through depends on perception. Our perception of society for instance. How is this created? It can be argued as an interplay between the rational and irrational. Pure rationalism itself is threatened by every nod by the irrational. Volatile irrationality sees every act of the rational as oppressive and rebels against it. Invariably, culture has to work its way through to a place where you can see the truth and facts of the matter. Invariably those who get behind one of the functions join with others to create a mythology they all partake of. It is the interplay that creates the dynamism of culture and, it's fate, for good or ill.

Democracy's greatest good is its effort to get rid of its own evil.

John Adams is correct that the end of government is to provide the platform for the majority of people to pursue happiness. Happiness is the end of that part of life that we can know for certain. What is happiness? He thought the government can provide ameliorations and infrastructure for the pursuit of happiness but it depends on the character of people whether they take up the pursuit. Many have had this idea. With that in mind we look at the unhappiest of the lot and try to discover why the infrastructure for this pursuit is not in their midst. And then an argument, "they don't have the character," or, "they have been denied the infrastructure because abcd." Who is to know for certain?

What if the one's pursuing happiness "oppress" others by prejudice or "superiority"? It is something that can't be controlled by the government unless the oppression is made into a blocking of employment, housing, mobility or other options open to free people. But, what if it is simply "attitude"?

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When I was a young man all the problems that the government could not solve made me very unhappy. Yet, I could not solve them and, as I investigated it further, the government could not solve them fully. I doubt if problems ever go away. The Cold War ends, the threat of mass nuclear annihilation passes, and up pops the "war on terrorism" and the asymmetrical use of nukes. It's understandable then to see why citizens, pursuing happiness, would block out the problems and leave them up to a variety of hires. So once the chain of trust in government is broken the possibility of citizen unhappiness goes up.

I did take on this problem: liberal democracy in America was no longer at the point of being an effusive joyful understanding of building something new. It had become a burden. And the question was always when will the critical mass of citizens give up the burden? If all their enthusiasm and joy is cannibalized by people with a thousand times more resources, then why would they continue to do it? The burden was 1) the complexity of the world which required a series of systems and expertise to operate, so the sense that I, a single citizen, had no power and was dependent on things I didn't have a clue about and 2) the necessity of maintaining America as a world power and all the compromises that entail.

I don't know any other solution other than for the citizen to work him and herself up to a point where they know enough to understand the necessity and even celebrate the necessity, understanding the need to solve problems and not to repeat problems.

The citizen goes through profound disillusionment and then discovers him or herself one way or the other. There is a delicate balance between "knowing the system" and critiquing it. The chief thing you want to criticize is abuse either to individuals, groups, or the system itself because the goal of the system is to liberate the human being and allow them the widest range of activity as possible without losing connection to the system or the society. And the literary imagination always seeks what is not apparent. So there was a need to create something by first writing on the limitations of that growth and development. Or, the manifestations of it====that was a pure literary conceit.

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There has certainly been a lot of erosion in the belief in America and democracy in the past fifteen years. The attacks made America vulnerable but the mistakes and lies of Iraq, especially, was demoralizing. Then, on top of it, a financial meltdown and recession that took enormous govt. involvement to dig out of. The culture has gotten vulgar and crude, violent and nihilistic. It isn't appealing to anyone who has a sense about him or her. This election cycle was not only awful but bodes little optimism for the near-term future. It's torturing itself to death. It lacks self-respect and resource. Americans are not dumb but they are ignorant in so many ways. They believe they have enough resources but they don't. They need so much more. Their leaders have failed them; the institutions have failed them so they don't believe anyone any more. They need to know how things work, they need to be able to get eyeball to eyeball with authority both to keep feet to the fire but also to develop the mutual respect that is desperately needed at this time.

Progress is the key element, a concept that was denigrated in my youth because it was clear that technology, too, has a shadow and sins, as does science, as does progressive politics, as do people who believe they would be perfect if only "this, this, and that" didn't exist.

Progress means to "put behind what obstructs," in my mind. It means a full range of thinking, a full range of vision, a full range of skills.

The crazy energies at play in the political culture aren't worth the energy they demand.

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I still feel that renovation must be the operative word in American society. Perhaps human nature cannot contend with the massive state and the massive projects, hard to say. It becomes a dangerous situation when the people are highly alienated, frustrated, demoralized and no longer care about things. Whose fault is this? Or is it a fault? I think the root of the problem is that we are a nativist people, provincial, highly suspicious of intelligence so when confronted with the huge projects and huge effects of the day go nuts, the people go nuts and end up on alcohol or drugs or some sinister political social or religious group. Meanwhile the healthy and powerful get more sophisticated about the world, have access to it, the motives are oftentimes questionable.

Of course there are appalling conflicts in the United States. I like to think that most are kept to a local level. If the individual allows these conflicts to fester in him then he can get into great trouble. The individual must solve his conflicts, his dilemmas before he can dissolve others. The misshapen person sees nothing but emptiness in himself and grabs hold of the powerful engines in the world that represent some source of power to him or her. A society filled with powerful engines and misshapen persons is a lousy society.

The only way social conflicts are resolved is through mutual respect. Politics is zero-sum and only creates enemies. The experience of living poor and down on the street level for ten years in Berkeley taught me that painful but necessary lesson. People no more want your patronage or sympathy than they do dog shit on their lawn. You can't force resolution; you can't manufacture it. That's not to say people should not stand up for themselves and speak out when they feel oppressed or have a legitimate grievance with the government. That is one of the basic chores, if not responsibilities, of the citizen.

Politics, all told, stunts the imagination and intellect. That's why it's crucial to have a vibrant "culture" that is "outside" of politics, that operates despite politics.

Politics is an obligation because we've figured out after a spell or two of doubt, that the federal system and its Constitutional basis is still the best way to go in organizing a huge nation-state like this. That it's downfall would precipitate a catastrophe for the wrong people who seemingly always get crushed by catastrophe. And, in fact, the current system was set up to protect the people. It was to make sure the people are strong, secure, and are able to live free lives.

The crisis is "how does a huge nation-state, more powerful than any other state in history, maintain its democracy? Can it maintain its democracy despite utopian ideas about the state from one side and total disillusionment from the other side? What is the proper role of the state in that case? It is to maintain security, ensure rights for everyone, encourage the growth and development of the people in all ways necessary. The question is always how much, how little? How much do the people do on their own, how much is required by the state? Who pays, how much do they pay? There's definitely a clash of values between a "secular" view that upholds a utilitarian notion and a "religious" view that upholds a moral notion. How much inclusion and how much exclusion takes place in the public sector? How is the American citizen to be defined? What larger goals can the society have beyond the requirements of a civil nation?

As many philosophers have pointed out most political dispute is about the interpretation of words. And crudely speaking, it's either words that come from experience or words that come from knowledge; hopefully words that come out of both, tempered by some wisdom because, after all, something has built these things. Something has maintained these things. And certainly, something conditions these things. The conditioning of things are the things most open to interpretation in this day. It could be economic, it could be geographical, it could be facts of the physical universe, it could be tradition. And the opening into what? A conditionless state? That would be heaven or death. A conditionless state in relation to other conditioned states? That's more reasonable. A conditioned state that understands its conditioning and willfully acts against it? And then how would one act in a conditionless state since each act would be in relation to a condition of some sort and that would help determine the nature of the conditionless state? Politically it is impossible since politics can be defined as willful public acts. Is it reasonable to experience some form of a conditionless state and then attempt to move the politics to that state?

Freedom proves itself when it is tired of itself as an action and imagines something more.

Freedom is always seeking the seed of bigger dreams.

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National politics is a deadpool more or less. It has its old polarities for sure but lacks imagination, creativity, intelligence on a level rarely seen in this country I'm sure. Emotionalism drives the dialog and that's a losing proposition. The emotionalism could keep something alive for a thousand years that should have died yesterday. I have to believe that regionalism is the only way to go. That is the only place where ideas can take root and flourish, where experiments in living can take place, where successful models of doing things of a critical nature can happen. The region is proof of itself. It flourishes because of its inner character. The national scene will only return when there is a real existential threat that comes from without such as happened in WWII.

The only political ideas that make sense now are ones that demonstrate how the middle class will be replenished, enriched, empowered. How the poor will be leveraged into the middle class----- this to me is important because the middle contains creativity, innovation, new forms of democracy, etc. If it is flat, demoralized, etc. then it withers and dies away and you have, merely, what you always have had---wealthy, corrupt minorities keeping the lid on everything. There are ideas out there---what you need is political will----Sanders and Trump point to it but they are not it.

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America is a great beast to swallow whole. If you swallow her whole don't be amazed if she shits all over you. Treat her with intelligence, treat her with increments of love and devotion. Understand the acts of separation that occur.

Some general things; the discredited American power led to some good as well as some pathetic developments. The questioning of authority is healthy as long as there is a common route to the sense of reality. What has evolved since that time are competing views of the very ground of reality which creates chaos and division.

I most adamantly hope that America is not a failed experiment. Sometimes I get a terrible feeling that it is. That it will sink down in a morass from which it will never extricate itself. That the citizens are cynical and hard and unfit for the future. That is a terrible thought to have but I admit that I have had it from time to time.

So on one end of the spectrum there is the sense of a failed experiment. On the other end of the spectrum there is a sense of renewal. There are the poles of force working themselves out in the present.

May 27, 2017

POLITICS and POTENTIAL

Politics is a sticky kind of thing since it is hardly believable yet presents itself as the most important thing going. A lot of this has to do with the fact they are addressing things you really can't get a handle on because you cannot experience, in any substantial way, what it is they are speaking about. How do you experience a defense budget of 300 billion dollars? I see the plane in the air- with the vapor trail- or a grotesque looking helicopter. I can't really believe that if these disappeared I would be in terrible danger. Politicians try to convince me that this is so. And they point to the Russians or terrorists and say this, this and the other thing but it really doesn't make all that much sense. Why fifty jets and not ten? Why ten carriers and not five? Or, what does a budget of one trillion dollars really mean to a democratic person? It may be a source of pride for some but it's unreal nature leads to a lot of lies and deceptions.

So the gauntlet you throw at the feet of leaders is, how do you perceive the future? How do you perceive the world? Do you see it as a grasping, Hobbesian zone of conflict in which the strongest prevails? Or, does strength make you magnanimous; make you secure and so on?

These may seem like simple questions but that's where you start. You can't presume anything.

They will say, "I can't think of the future because the present is busily happening now and demands attention." If they refer to the future at all it is full of meaningless cliches.

Then again, what if a 300 billion dollar budget for the military was absolutely experienced by the citizen, in his or her bones? What if every penny rattled around somewhere in the vast field of potential in the citizen? Lies and distortions only come about because of ignorance. If all are ignorant then everything is a lie and the truth will burst through unannounced and fiercely one day. If all are ignorant but a few then the few have the power to manipulate the ignorant or to empower them. Since all evidence points to the fact it runs both ways it is a sticky game that is played.

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The chief justification for democracy is that each individual in its domain can attain his or her most fruitful being. That all of the potential within an individual; intellectual, social, creative et al can come to fruition and from the end point of that fruition, from the endpoint, a politics will emerge which will see, in process, the benefits of that fruition and make laws accordingly. Just the opposite has occurred however. The institutional life assumes that the fruition has occurred within it and so assumes that individuals inside the protection of the institution will shape themselves accordingly. This is democracy frozen in fear of its own implications. The sort of dependence government and politics has established in the people does not allow that perfect equation: citizens so knowledgeable of government that it vanishes as an obstacle to their "fruition of being."

The purpose is not to produce a "great shiny government," the purpose is to produce excellent liberal, democratic people. Democratic government exists so that "government" will not destroy the society and the people in it. Or permit other governments from doing harm to it and the people. And government destroys peoples when it's misrule subjects the people to useless wars or becomes corrupt so nothing changes and problems backup. The purpose of a democracy is to prevent that very thing through checks and balances throughout the culture, from states checking the federal government to the executive branch checking the legislative and so on and so forth. That was one side of the equation. The other side was the free development of the people so that every bit of good energy would flow through the happy culture. The people had to be free of the coercions of the government yet connected in such a way that they could determine whether the government was wrecking the society and themselves in it.

First, there is the foundation of the Law. Then there is the foundation of the Resources. Then there is the evolution of the character of the people who are deeply involved in both law and the resources.

Individual liberty precedes the collective judgment. I think that was the intention of the framers before they outlined the rules for containing the collective judgment. The liberty is dynamic rather than a series of static definitions. In fact, the more static the liberty the more power goes over to the collective and the less assurance there is that the liberty will survive. So what's the nature of this liberty? We've seen everyone from gays to fundamentalist Christians use the word to support their political activity. It goes to the question of what is an individual.

You can never take your cue from the state or from any institution really. The cues are always from individuals who are demonstrating the proof of the larger spirit.

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When a country reaches the stage that the U.S. has it doesn't go back. It pushes forward until it is empty of itself, of its myth and is rolled over by men and history. It's why it's crucial to know and understand all things American, all things of value, all unrequitedness in America, all potential not yet tapped and it must be done by an excellent combination of imagination, intellect, and emotional intelligence. Whatever happens there will always be a vital spot in her, somewhere, restless for truth and beauty, for new things, new beginnings, new building, new dreams. Its vitality will be defined by these things as a matter of fact. Even if all around this is ruin, invasion, and pettiness, America will live in that one precious spot.

One thing about this country is that however confusing things get people still seek the old circles to hold onto. My own heart is not necessarily provincial but it needed to find the provincial in order to go on ahead. I had been caught in a flurry of abstractions, all of them international in scope but they were meaningless without the provincial.

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The "disparity of wealth" that has been mentioned quite a bit of late is not an unprecedented problem. But several things have to be kept in mind: One, never before has so much wealth flourished among so many people and, two, never has a country had to sustain so many different ideologies, so many varieties of life all contending for the prize so to speak; the prize of wealth and power.

Either one or two things occur under these circumstances. Human nature responds with its best effort and practical compassions are fleshed to the surface and made, nearly, to operate or the opposite occurs and the whole implodes into itself and suffers a long, painful death. The good desperately tries to find some equilibrium between these two.

When democracy is truly working people should be feeling and thinking on possibilities.

Since we are refugees in this country, the degree of rootlessness displayed by the people depends on how close they are to the centers of power. But even at the very center of power there is no feeling of solidarity. Rootlessness is really a condition of the modern world that is magnified by the many ideas people cling to in order to fight the sense of rootlessness.

When it begins to dissipate there is nothing for a sensate creature to do but worship himself or worship some exotic being.

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The society has struggled mightily to overcome its simple reliance on the past. The past was largely sentimentalized and provided a bulwark of sorts that anyone with legs could stand, even reach for the stars for a brief moment. But the paradox of the tradition is that to love it you must destroy it or, at least, a part of it in order to enjoy its fruits. We destroy it and then sentimentalize it and progress onward.

There is a purely American, existential moment. And that precedes the knowledge of old legacies. But without that knowledge that pristine existential moment devolves to addiction, crime, murder even. But it was to be that way because America reversed the relation between power and the people. And that can only be maintained when the people exercise the full nature of their freedom while maintaining a responsible relation to power.

"Make it new but know all that has gone before."

It comes down in having a relation to the "whole of things" without getting necessarily sucked down into any particular. That is, for a relationship between the personality and the "society". What do you know of the "society?" There are the ideals, there are the institutions that grow and crust over those ideals, there are those who take on the image of power, those who take on the image of the image, those who develop anti-images. There are the natural facts of technique and machines and how they are mediated, used and for what purpose.

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Invariably a society will accumulate a great many ills and problems; an insufferable amount, partly due to its need to progress. At some point the population will be stripped of the inner development necessary to go forward and be left with a whole nature of problems that seem overwhelming. At that point impossible desires are projected into it in order to make the problems vanish. Ideology serves this purpose.

One would like to think that a thousand little technical treatises on various problems would do it. But it can't, at least, not in the present. It has to be assumed that every human problem, no matter how inhuman it appears, no matter what inhuman manifestation and grotesque consequence it carries has its origin in the human heart and brain. So that each problem has its ethical/moral aspects and its technical, problematical aspect that can be traced back into the condition of the problem itself.

I had a common concern. That the society I knew was so organized into special interests, so concentrated on the specific tasks, thousands of them all at once; the task of building and maintaining technology so overwhelming that the "society" was becoming nothing more than the shadow side, was expressing nothing more than its repressions. The shadow side develops an attitude and the attitude is transformed into a style.

And one of the responsibilities of a citizen is to break the "magic circle" that exists as a style and "feed" off any cultural manna that will yield up some richness.

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So, what are the good things of this society? Good, conscious experiments in fruitful ways of living, the energetic protests of youth, every generation, unless that generation is short-circuited by war or fear. The mixture of race, class, roles so that all possible variation is played out.

Hives broken up by pretty valleys.

And slithering concrete snakes from mountains to sea.

In America, nothing need be hidden.

It's like the infamous California life-style; to become a part of it is a kind of happy madness but to see it all, acknowledge it and accept it is the epitome of health and sanity.

May 20, 2017

MORALE

Who knows if the liberal democracy is fulfilling itself or not? All one can do is say I wish it was this, I think it is failing here and here, it's impossible there, etc. And at that point one leaves it for the generations that follow because one day the United States will be in ruins and its constitution and cities and people helpless against the forces of time. I hope it is many centuries away. And in cruising over the 20th and 21st centuries commentators may say, "that was the age of the huge nation-state like America, China, Soviet Union, Brazil, India and they all were mangled by this, this, this circumstance." Even in such an event I would want to make sure that the best of American life and values came through. A free man salutes the future! But I would not want to be the victim of the transition.

We, in this time, must develop both the spiritual and secular aspects as fully as possible. It's the one way the citizen overcomes the political rift that tends to diminish the democratic culture rather than uplift it. The secular is divided between the political activity and economic activity with free activity floating in-between those. It depends on technology, science, rationalism, free markets, specialization, etc. There is no deficit in knowing the secular aspects of life. The more the merrier as a matter of fact. Education is a part of this free activity as is popular culture. But then what is the goal of this secular world? It is a collective thing like feudalism was and passes unconsciously through people. But what is the goal for the individual? Happiness? A fulfilled family life? A rich legacy? Who knows. These are not unusual goals under any system but they are more attainable for a greater number in the modern secular society.

The secular culture's problem is that it's become its own standard. It can't compare itself with former ways on the Earth. It must improve or it fails.

Systems, problems, antics, money, performance and the like mark a secular society. Universal education and freedom of women are other marks. Problem solving is sought out; management is or can be a great positive. What is useful for me? That is what the secular person asks and addresses? And how is he or she to know that?

We ask a simple, dumb question, "what is the check against secular culture? And how do we know there isn't something better? And how could we get there without massive destruction to what already is built? There have been ideological, religious, and creative checks against it but they have all gone wanting and the thing is bigger and stronger than ever. It demands that we resolve our conflicts with it rather than it change for our sakes; for, if not our sanity our sensibility.

The spiritual is another question. It's very hard for a honest, modern type to conceptualize an actual heaven or actual Hell. But most honest, modern types admit that these are psychological states; it's rarely admitted that they are more powerful and potentially better as psychological states. Many of the modern types like to say they are merely psychological to dismiss them and suppress them in favor of the secular desires that seem much more attainable and, even, rewarding. It's no wonder you see tremendous increase in Buddhism and other alternatives to the strictly reward/punishment religions.

The key to spiritual success is that it gives solace. And solace is the first step to re-moralizing the self. No amount of facts, objects, or money can deliver authentic solace. The rewarding of a family for a wrongful death with millions of dollars doesn't re-moralize the family. Their suffering is not resolved.

And I think it's true that theology takes a beating at the hands of the modern secular world but not spirituality. Unless one says, "ah, I know the secret to the mysteries of life! I know what happens. I know how it all ends. I know all things." Live in any city and one will run into a few of these types!

So what is the true richness of both these states? That's the crucial question addressed by the citizen.

Self-rule, "pushing the envelope," resolving conflict, "being your own boss," contemplation of universe and future, knowledge folded many times in the same subject, struggling for healthy goals, are among a few I come up with.

It fails when the self is stripped of its morale. It fails when mere opinion becomes the ceiling to thought.

It fails when the mind quits its quest for the best of itself.

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I would say that the elitist in a democratic culture is the "pure democrat" who insists that he, a normal democratic person, know everything, experience everything and stand eyeball to eyeball to power and, even, envision a time when power or aspects of power are all changed. And this pure democrat going a step further and saying, "all have something to teach me, all have something to impart," therefore I must respect them and be taught. Take the attitude that democracy is an open book and the citizen a careful reader.

I think these questions are important especially considering the enormous changes the U.S. has gone through and the fact it is this huge power and has to produce legions of elite experts to sail through. It puts a damper on idealism. The idealism returns to the individual who, after all, may seed a future no one knows about. Why shouldn't the individual be the very best of himself? And why shouldn't he project that in his work? That can happen if the individual admits it's all a growth process and can admit that much of what differentiates him is ideological.

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It is very important not to get demoralized. Any number of things, real and imagined, can do the job so, certainly, the need is to keep free and resolved.

I think the crush of population adds to the natural pressures that exist in any society.

I think the way that the mind has been taken away by some force- a social force- greater than its ability to comprehend has something to do with it.

It appeared, early on, that with the growth of the state the degraded mass would take over the democratic citizen. This was an early perception and following that were questions put to the citizens: Why were they indulging in destructive behavior? Why was there such a sense of unhappiness as one went from one circle of citizens to another? Why was there such a sense of alienation when one confronted the reality of the world? Why was there such demoralization when one saw the power that wealth had over the fortunes of the society? Why did a good portion of the baby-boom generation forgo democracy for cults or for a specious "globalism"? Why were so many intellectuals in the universities willing to devalue democracy in favor of ideology? Why was the government so cynical when it came to defending non-democratic, un-democratic and out and out tyrants on the world scene? Why did the government, itself, have such a narrow definition of the world democracy? Democracy can only be defined as the ability of the citizens to choose their life and to have free access to the resources and to continually learn and think as privileged, free individuals who have about 2500 years of tradition to feed on not to mention each other as people in a "society."

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Since the nature of facts seem to be a part of the new political atmosphere I come up with these facts that democracy has to confront and has been confronting since the beginning of the Republic:

  1. The "bigness" and complexity of life that people, each generation attempts to adapt to with measures of both success and failure.
  2. The growth of "mechanisms" that intercede between reflective thought and conscience to the point that individuals are forced to react to events rather than develop the capability to anticipate events and know how to deal with them.
  3. The continual transformation of American potential to actuality bringing on the awareness of entropy. That is, crossing the threshold between available order and chaos.
  4. The transformation of agricultural/political democratic man into urban/economic mass man who is uprooted and dependent on many strings.
  5. The indistinguishable features that exist between huge nation-states so one can't tell where one ends and the other begins, added to the demoralization of idealism that brings on high degrees of alienation, the irrational in and out of politics and eventual force, even terror to support what is insupportable.

Is this the case: When the government becomes so vast and complex, with so much disparate authority unseen by the people that the citizens are demoralized until they can't think straight?

What do you have when the culture is dominated by docile consumers and technicians who determine everything? A liberal, democracy?

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At times It feels as if we are suspended in a semi-hellish world because of two startling developments. One is that we have lost all concept of heaven and hell. These seem ridiculous when you perceive the physical planet. Yet, we know that for trillions of light years in all directions there is nothing. There is nothing but the constituent matter of space and our vast instruments and study of cosmology cannot make the fact any less cruel. Maybe we will find life, maybe not.

So, we are in a suspended state of sorts. The hardware of our brain stops the eternal flow and revolts at the thought of vast loneliness in the void of space.

There are only three (I think) things one can do about this particular dilemma. 1- renew the basis of the spiritual 2- make it a creative challenge 3- dedicate oneself to "improving society."

But how does one do these if the essential vision is that of empty black space and of the pristine planet poised on the abyss, rotating leisurely without a care of the creatures attempting to figure things out?

Perhaps one attempts all three at different stages of life. The spiritual enters when a person encounters eternity and cultivates the spiritual masters who have made that their domain. But self-interest demands that we be absorbed in our duties and our work, creative or otherwise, becomes an obsession and, finally, the American conscience catches up with it and we seek to improve the lot of society in some fashion. Or, at least, allow some of its problems to tumble through and disturb us for a bit of time.

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The great contradiction in America is that people are forced into selfishness, yet they have an inbuilt self-hatred. Through this contradiction much can be learned.

Boredom is death to the spirit and the health of this society can be measured by what the spirit conjures to revive and continue the drama of life. Most of the drama is ersatz and absurd, is created out of vain desires. There is something entertaining to this but then the seed of the boredom rears up and reveals itself and takes over the drama. This is what happened to the social and cultural movements of the 60's. It will happen to whatever is jazzing up the 20 and 30-something of today.

The alienation that results in disillusionment is difficult to overcome unless a person has a compete philosophy of history, a complete idea of the origin and purpose of life, awareness of where the present situation stands in relation to the origin and purpose of things and all of that. No self-respecting citizen will go that far so the disillusionment is fait a'compli.

Exclusive faith in human beings or exclusive faith in God is parasitical and should always be denounced as regressive.

April 10, 2017

IDENTITY

My exposure to cults, political correctness, communes, Marxism, fundamentalism, sex as savior, dope-induced vision, among other things drove me into pragmatism. It was hard to give up the idea of a utopian paradise, it didn't come easy. That pragmatism was further deepened when I wrote about renewable energy and saw how difficult it was to get "good" things done, anything as a matter of fact.

Not that what I was exposed to in innocent youth was utterly bad; good ideas, startling ideas could be churned up. There was simply no means to test the idea in any real relationship to the actual world at the birth of the idea. Many of the ideas churned up in the counter-culture came to pass because they went through a long process of due diligence. Renewable energy and holistic medicine are two examples that come off the top, if not the personal computer itself. The change in culture is often the struggle between the counter-culturists or their corollaries and the realities put there by generations and sustained by people who are not motivated to change anything. Most people inhabit the latter reality of power, security, and self-interest. But it is useless without the wild dreams that precede it. A static, changeless culture is called Soviet Union.

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I go in and out of America, the world, ALL. In and out and I'm not sure what determines that. I think experience should trump the perceptions of media. Media can introduce people to worlds they've never seen or thought about but then there is a great blockage applied as the perception is way outside the experience or the felt threat by most people. Common humanity hopefully commiserates with the innocent suffering in life. Curiosity allows the mind to take on forms and ways and means foreign to it. But ultimately life is lived in very circumscribed circumstances and the ones that aren't crumble after a time. I'm not sure about national identity. It's been attacked well enough but didn't one feel something so visceral when the towers were attacked? Didn't one cringe when he heard others boasting that America got what it deserved? It means something. And if it doesn't mean something then the person is way outside the boundaries of what can be communicated. A global identity is no substitute because if you can't identify with the nation and society you are born into, if you can't put your hands around that how can you do so with a "globe?" We can identify ourselves as human beings, with commonalities and differences and want the best for that humanity. That's good, standard practice. But, we are going to identify with the power that can tax us, jail us, kill us, offer us bounties, protect us. Obviously, the mind can range way outside the boundaries of things. But there is no guarantee what you will get in return. Nazi types, crazy, power-mad people, or good people filled with laughter and humility? Love and compassion are the difference. The will to power produces one type, truth another type.

Crudely we say, "democracy is simply the greatest good for the greatest number." If that prevails then you will have stability, growth will be coaxed by the state, a variety of groups will attempt to do "good" or what they perceive the good, people will participate on a variety of levels and that was one of the goals. Wasn't it? I think it was.

The larger question is how is democracy implied or woven into the forces of science, technology and capital? Since out of those three facts you produce huge levels and layers of complexity, bureaucracy, inequalities and so on that, from time to time, look like they put democracy to shame. Is that little Tom Jefferson I see down there in the shadows of Wall Street? Is that Jimmy Madison darting across the street between huge looming skyscrapers in downtown New York? And we know where Alex Hamilton is, fat and happy in a mansion among many mansions out where the mansions are.

It's kind of an academic question and yet goes to some of the prevailing worries about modern democracy such as atomization, alienation, loss of participation from many pluralities and so on. The source of which is complexity and corruption of, if not persons, then principles which says that in a democracy the people must have equal voice, they must input in law making and if they perceive "money" as being there first and foremost, with the greatest coercion due to the love of the office by office holders, then I would say democracy, the principles of it are damaged.

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It does not act the way we want it to act. That is a big problem for anyone, man or woman, who has a little pride.

But the effort to find community or find connection to the larger principle is not a "giving up," or a fabrication of some sort that is manipulated by the political sharpies. This is often the argument of those who would want to weaken or destroy ties to nation in favor of ties to the globe. Our nationalism in America comes in two parts. A local, regional one and a federal one.

I would prefer local autonomy, regionalism and so forth but I know that it would break down sooner than a federal state, therefore, I would spend most of my time fighting intruders from other regions instead of doing what is better for me to do. However, I believe the strength of the whole is in the intelligence of each region. And if I can know my own region deeply then I can know all regions. What I need to know is the Constitution and the federal system that grew out of it and how it connects all the dots.

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Democracy is a court room that you are required to report to in order to make public judgments. You bring whatever knowledge and experience you can to it and agree to give an honest judgment based on the facts and arguments you hear.

You may have nothing in common with the accused, the prosecutor, the judge and others of the court but you are there to do your duty. You establish credibility and allow for a contradiction in assumptions and roll things over to come to some conclusion. The assumption you have as one member of the jury is that all the other juror members are as sincere as you are. If they aren't then sound judgment can be nullified by the appeals to emotion sometimes thrown their way.

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Democracy, as I understand the term, is absolutely dependent on the development of the individual and his or her ability to come large to the stage and "know" and "understand." So, perhaps the first attribute of the good citizen is the ability to stand naked to the human universe and admit what problems exist, admit that they exist beyond his or her abilities to do anything about and begin an earnest study of the problems.

At the very least the citizen learns who has credibility and who has none. It's also true that in the life of an individual he or she experiences the desire to become an ideal individual and then backs off and substitutes a desire to connect to a community that circles around her in the form of business, school, local govt. and so on. And these shift through time as the individual plugs into this community, now this one, unplugging from former communities as she develops. In the same way most educated citizens go between secularism and spiritualism in one form or another. Freedom exists to allow the individual all this modulation with the belief that it will produce a fuller, more substantial being, therefore a better citizen.

Democracy is also the meaningful demonstration of freedom. The two exist as the same coin with two faces. In other words, growth and development towards a path of meaning.

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We deal with as much surplus and glut as pure want. It's not a new condition but it is new in its own way. New for a people that have, in the past, been frugal, repressed, and denied with large doses of deferral of gratification. Even wealth did not have the glut of things and diversions available now to the average person.

Democracy has never had to produce "citizens" out of this sort of condition. You rarely see political feeling generated by a thirst for freedom these days. It is a thirst for things, more things, more things shaped around a few old ideas or identities. A democratic culture becomes determined by the disillusionment of people in things, not getting the things they want, not becoming the people they want to become and so on. This produces a surliness in the people, a meanness, a sharpness to them because they are never satisfied. And these dissatisfactions are made real by the people by idolizing those with "perfect lives" or "having what can't be attained." The culture then is held together through self-hypnotism and/or egregious manipulation. And yet it produces far more opportunity than in the past, far many more chances to improve itself. It requires acute discrimination between what is really good and not very good for a person, something that can't be imposed at all. Self-rule means just that doesn't it?

I don't think it can fully exist unless the citizens know what surrounds them and what type of world they are in.

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We know the political class is corruptible, often incompetent and has bought an office to up-sell to those who want its influence. It is the citizen, then, that has to establish the nature of problem-solving, the criteria for credibility, the vision to cross boundaries to solve problems and so on. The politician is not going to do this on behalf of the people. Just as the people have to pump their own gas these days, they have to be their own best leaders.

But to do this they have to drive upward and not devolve as they seem to be doing. They, in the main, distrust such aspiration and dive down into the murk and take as many along with them as they can.

If democracy was a machine with implications only for those who want to get power or hang onto it then I suppose democracy would not be a valued thing. It would have its own fate and there would be little one could do about it. The people would be irrelevant. Their only need would be to know their job as well as possible. It is obvious though that for a vigorous democracy to work there has to be an understanding of the system of governance itself by people who have the spirit of democratic men and women fired up in them.

Trump represents the aspirations of a devolving people. They will not be "successful" even if in the short run it appears that way. In the long run they will have to rebuild everything and will have neither the knowledge or the temperament to do so.

That's the first criterion: Does he or she understand the system of governance? What could it evolve into? What could it devolve into?

A society that doesn't understand itself can hardly be a democracy. It will be a patchwork of petty fiefdoms usually ruled by the spirit of some obscure tyranny rather than liberal democracy. "Obscure" in that it is created out of completely modern causes and not historical in any way shape or form.

March 11, 2017

The Constituent Level

It is all too much to know. The more you know the less you know. You know enough to feel connected. Critical enough not to be fooled. Experience, too, is only so much as long as you experience the main, foundational things to be experienced in this life. Beyond that are the choices free people make to feel decent about things.

I did feel, maybe still feel, that the US was at a tipping point between fulfilling its aspirations as a liberal democracy and/or being the big stick in the world. I'm not sure it's an either/or but the conflict was presented as an either/or. I did feel, in confronting the US as a young guy, that as a liberal democracy it was utterly dependent on the constituent level; that self-rule meant something, it was historic and the legacy of the US rose and fell on whether self-rule was a success or not. Several things begin to creep in: one was the discrepancy between the obligations of a large world power and democratic conscience, another was the immense role money played in determining leadership which meant you wouldn't have this rich mixture in the constituent level and you'd turn that constituent level into passive/aggressive people, cut away and alienated from the flows of power. Another red flag was the dominance of families in political leadership tending toward the benign monarchy model rather than the liberal, democratic one. It indicated a paucity of imagination in the liberal democracy and the presence of big money.

That the culture had to build from the constituent level up and out rather than from the institutional level on down. That complexity had put all the power in the institutions who had the resources to deal with vast problems; problems that would break down the constituent into forms of addiction, alienation, or simply accepting the powers of institutions and go the play and savor route.

I understand "modern alienation." It comes about because people are naturally passive to a world they perceive as much stronger than they are. It dives into them and the sense of an authentic self is lost. In moments of reflection a man or woman wonders if something hasn't been missed. "No", he says, "many others feel the same way so it must be a part of the human condition and, after all, we are all part of the human condition so why worry about it." The brief moment closes and is rarely opened again.

A better place to be is one where perfection is glanced at, the full substance of life is experienced and lost, the self understands how powerful and rich life is before being drawn through peculiar hell worlds and still pushes things back to get that glimpse, to feel that substance again, to know that reality and push things back as far as possible and continue to fight doing that. An alienated self doesn't fight.

No matter how much one sees in the mind, the feet, eyeballs, and hands all determine the substance of experience.

The world itself has a strange incoherent order to it. Human beings and societies are continually proving their limitations by living them out with wild celebration. It can be a beautiful thing because human nature can be quite wonderful. Perhaps it is laying the groundwork for something profound as when the mind begins to build from the infinite database being created at this moment in time.

On one level, for myself, it was a family saga, on another a grand refusal, and on a third the search for meaning. Underneath it ran the comedies and tragedies of the everyday life. Some personal matters were comedy without a doubt. Each level had its burdens and joys.

The "refusal" could be boiled down to several things. It didn't appear the individual mattered anymore and yet the existence of the society depended on not simply an individual but a citizen. It did not look as if the acquisitive, aggressive nature of human beings would forestall a nuclear Armageddon so if human nature would not change in the face of that threat, what was the purpose of things in general? And it was apparent that most good and great things in human culture had come from sacrifice, creativity, intellection and so on. If these qualities were trivialized by the acquisitive nature then where would the good and great things come from? If things are divided between mere scientific atheism and primitive fundamentalism, where is enlightened liberal democracy? If one is caught in these questions can he simply abide by the "way things are?"

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A Political Animal

The political animal was resolved in this fashion: there exists immense problems in the world like nuclear proliferation. A young mind goes out and tries to capture that problem in its entirety in order to solve it. It leads that mind out and through many channels, many resources, many communities that the young mind didn't know existed. He comes to a final desperate act of giving up the possibility of solving the dilemma himself like Don Quiote because he has run into many, including institutions, that have taken the problem on. Thus, youth ends. Trusting little the sincerity of some of those involved he backs away from taking on the problem by himself and begins to break the problem down into constituent parts. At that moment he realizes that no problem in the secular realm will be solved by wishes or fantastic ideas that turn, eventually, into ideology. That problems are solved by understanding how aspects of the society collide to solve the problem or to hinder the solution to the problem. And since the young mind has taken other huge problems like environmental distress and resource depletion he finds that all roads lead to the practical. Therefore, the secular will to power must demonstrate an understanding of the problem and its complexities, how things get done, have some resume of success and so on. Every candidate, every policy goes through that filter. As a result the paramount thing is the health of the system of governance to allow this process to take place.

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The political idea will emerge as a result of free people experiencing some problem and wanting to lift it off themselves by use of the political platform. It's not fait a'compli because they have to prove to other disinterested pluralities that their problem is important and should find a solution.

If nothing else democracy is about the moralization of the people. The morale of the people. People feel demoralized when they are cut away from power. Most of history demonstrates that a few had the tools to be moralized by the culture they were in since they were connected to the core of it. What was cut away was demoralized even though the people could be very resilient and imaginative. Democracy demands that the people, themselves, the majority are moralized and connected to the sources of power. They may not possess the power but they are connected and know it.

Certainly, in a real sense, politics is for the majority. That simply means that politics must address itself to the mass of people and so cannot be counted on to provide anything illuminating for the mind. The politician who merely represents the elites is quickly gone in this country. At the very least, like Reagan, he postures to the masses and cultivate gestures that please them. About all I've learned in 15 years is the difference, the gappage, between ideality and reality. In its ideality nothing is greater, nothing is more supreme than the gallant idea that the state belongs to all and that the powers are shared to lessen the natural abuse of power. There seemed nothing so fantastic in scope than the non-alienated, non-alienable individual able to fully and freely use the bountiful resources of the culture to contribute to the whole. That is how I felt, even after Watergate and Vietnam and, probably, equally because of them I felt a crisis was upon the land. I felt we were in the process of wrecking the legacy of Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and so forth. I saw my own generation go through an appalling alienation which they have never recovered from and which has turned them into inarticulate, superstitious types who cover up the profound deficiencies with cynicism and a fetish for when they were young.

I always raised the question or was bothered by the fact that so many citizens turned me off to the possibilities of democracy. They were cheats, corrupt, mean-spirited, and prejudiced and so on. If democracy did not produce a better people, then what was the point? It got me thinking that the democracy was founded in the middle of ugly human nature full of murderers, cheats, scoundrels, slave owners, petty tyrants and so on. A lot of bad nature. So, how did democracy survive that? Certainly the framers (some of them cheats, scoundrels, slave owners and the rest) recognized the darkness of human nature and out of that realization formed a working government that would not be taken down by that worst nature. That was the best they could do. It was up to the free citizens to figure out how to live with each other, flourish and so on. That's the experiment that keeps on going.

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Locality

The local is infinite through the core of space which expresses each object horizontally, in both directions.

A locality is expressed through words of astonishment and familiarity. There is astonishment- this is what we must return to from time to time.

This, rather than one's ideas that are held out of a sense of protection, out of a fear that even now forces are organizing against us with their ideas. So it is.

A bridge and, even, the city are expressions of this infinity. So is the old Indian on the mat selling tarnished silver buckles along Telegraph Avenue.

To me that is one of the great challenge to America. That is, the ambiguity because of its size and because it wants, desperately at times, to become something else perhaps like its lost brothers and sisters of Europe and Asia. The mind, at times, laughs at how America presents itself. It sees and experiences itself as a vulgarity and it is essentially correct in its assessment.

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The Politician

What is the political dilemma? It is universal and exists no matter what system is in place. And that is that after a period of time the system becomes tired and resource less, people begin to breed within it who think that they are bigger than the principle involved and will look on the political system as a way to enrich themselves. It is when the political actors begin to see their primary goal as that of enriching themselves, of maintaining themselves in high style at the expense of the political work in front of item.

This, too, has always bothered me. That with the substantial resources developed in the past 40 years to keep the politics on top of things do they do a less coherent and satisfactory job now than in 1889 or, even, 1789?

The politician is a student of aggregates. He groups the aggregates of his constituency and sees which are the most powerful, which are for him and which are against him. It is the fiber of opinion running through the aggregates that tells the politician how he is going to deal with any specific issue.

We will not introduce the painful conclusion that it is all class determined and so forth. We will let that lay since it is never the intention of a critic in these things to revolutionize society. Nevertheless, when the society becomes as indolent as this one it needs a swift kick to the backside to remind it that its politicians are its servants, not its masters.

Is there, perhaps, a difference between the politician and the statesman? Perhaps the statesman is a politician who has been in a good bookstore.

The politician in exalted in his mind only. That is, he surrounds himself with sycophants and college idolaters, with women sniffing power and, of course, the trappings of power. That is, the limousines, the jets, the media clamor, the culture of the infamous Beltway which, it turns out, exists primarily to be scorned. It is scorned because it assumes that it is the true America. That it is the real thing and that emerging out of the Beltway is some historical fragment hardly worth notice except when there's a disturbing event going on.

The politician, as in antiquity, needs the affirmation of the masses. He must constantly feel that he is loved by them. He perceives, now, that the masses love good looking people so he becomes good-looking. In other times they love smooth, alliterative speech and so politicians, even ugly ones, cultivate this.

My uncle, who was at D-Day and served in the government for many years, had the best idea. Put everyone's name in a computer and pick out several hundred every so often, send them a letter and ask if they want to serve the country for two years. Send them plane fare, a stipend, set them up in crude barracks off of Pennsylvania Avenue. Keep the offices modern. Keep the infrastructure modern and cozy but, (1) don't let the citizen (who has taken on, temporally, the role of politician) enrich himself one iota at the job, (2) keep out the lobbyists and special interest professionals. All lawyers will be kept out, kept to the side to help advise on the writing of legislation. The citizen/politician will eat together at long tables conversing about the dozen or so issues afoot.

Well, at this stage of things the only alternative, the only solace for the citizen, outside of the fact that he lives in the best country in the world, is the scorn and bitterness he can conjure in relation to the figure of the politician who is seen as the usurper, the clot in the system. After all, it is the Constitution, the office, the few good people and gestures that create the glory, such as it is, of the political state. No politician or politics is larger than the system itself.

"Does the politician have a sense of nation above and beyond the self-interest of his own private aspiration?"

How can he when he is drawn and quartered by the pressures and special-interests inside the Beltway? What about the President? "Is the President a politician?" Presidents that have had authentic vision have been rare. Presidents are not poets. Presidents have had a resilient imagination and intellect that pulls them through the horrendous pressure of terrible times, such as the civil war.

The President certainly presents a different case than the mere politician. The President is a collective effort and is determined by the nature of the people and the times. Teddy Roosevelt for the turn of the century, Wilson for WWI, FDR for the depression/world war, Eisenhower for the 50's, Kennedy for the 60's. Reagan for the 80's. These presidents are identified with the times, are produced by the times and linger on for a while until ugly times extinguish their legacy.

February 17, 2017

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TRUMP

Americans are going through one of these proudless moments.

There is the state, the government and then everything else, the nation, the society which is made up of many regions, peoples, beliefs and so forth. Questions are even raised about whether we can stay together as one nation. It won't be the first time and it won't be the last for this discussion because the mind cannot grasp the full dimensions of a real world, only the emotional response to it. And even there it is very unreasonable to assume that if you stopped a person and queried about their emotional response that they would be able to tell the inquirer why, exactly, they have that profound emotional response to things. Ergo the necessity for intermediating institutions. Yet, if those institutions get too strong and stifle the development of the people then another sort of emotional response, an institutional one that is far more dangerous than merely personal responses from people. So the balance of these things helps determine the health of a liberal democracy but how one develops some sort of metric for this is hard to see. So much of democracy is intimate and personal.

National shame comes because the people always feel responsible in a democracy and when things don't work they blame the opposition first and then, finally, when denial is no longer an option, they blame themselves.

One thing becomes very evident: When one group dominates whether liberal or conservative they eventually dribble and drool to nothing while the defeated but rested group gathers steam in act and word.

A dysfunctional society is one where it is impossible to do anything. That seems hardly the case in America where Mars is being explored, people are travelling the world, work gets done every day, people make plans and carry them out. That is part of the beauty of a free society. But a free one can become dysfunctional as history reveals. And where you look for signs is in the bowels of the infrastructure: the fuel system, the educational system, the morale of citizens, the solvency of local, state, and federal government, the quality of people, the excitement of new things, new ideas and so on.

As a society turns and rolls it reveals. Ah, a computer sticks up from the mud! Now an internet. Now a landing on Mars and there, an electric car and good food grown from our own efforts and on and on it goes. This vision produces a proud eye.

Evil, as we've experienced it, consists in the devaluation of a person to such a degree that he or she becomes the opposite of what they were capable of becoming; he is stripped of all sense of worth, all sense that he can build something of value in this life. Our life is often shaped by how we fight evil, how we extricate it from ourselves and it's usually because, during some portion of life, we have been an instrument for evil and have devalued and forced the issue on a person we hardly paid any mind to. That lesson, as well, is a part of democracy.

But doesn't "democracy" need more growth and development than that which has preceded it? Doesn't that mean that the people must excel beyond the old aristocracies and theocracies in terms of learning, experience, responsibility for the power that is theirs, etc? If that isn't the case then democracy is simply another form of oppression and the oppressors are the people, themselves, rather than the institutions. I don't know if that's the case but it stands to reason it would be the case unless the "democracy" could blast through its own limitations and try to attain higher states of being.

Mass culture is a kind of measurement of the health or decay of the "people," or, at least, a critical mass of them. The freer one is, the more interesting life becomes, the more profound is the relation to profound things, the less the pop culture influences one.

And yet, from an objective view popular culture is fairly benign. This conflict is a vestige of youth when one struggles with loyalties. More than a few things in pop culture have entertained me. My loyalty, finally, is with those who build inspired things. You have to take responsibility for everything in life that you can, including your relations to aspects of society and world. At least we have the ability to do so.

There is a difference between "mass culture" and people; the people who work, the people who take care of families, the people who enjoy life and try to make it good. I do have loyalty, generally, to the people since I am one myself. But here is a question: Why should a person be punished for knowing what happened in the past? Or who brings the past into himself for his own building requirements? Or, uses the past to get a perspective on present that doesn't know itself very well and is filled with piss and vinegar it mistakes for "truth"? Why should that be a punishment? I did not think the "past was dead," That's what I grew up understanding, that is the popular image of it. But I understood fairly quickly that, 1- the past had to be rescued 2- there was not enough real resource in the present to do anything but loop around in a vicious cycle that depended not on free people but very controlled and manipulated people. The past became a very extraordinary refuge from the present; a meaningful one and I happily lived in it for as long as I could.

Ultimately you are tossed out of any easy paradise and made to face all you hated in the present. It's healthy to do because the past often contains its own spirits who will use the innocent for its own agenda. It's better simply to find that which helps the sense of building and leave everything else to its own devices. And history is still written and collected. It was purely a means to deepen the sense of meaning and creativity. To regain the respect for life that is lost in the stupidities and vacuum the present can often appear to be.

History certainly moves through the present. Not much will remain as it rolls through our own swail. I think technology will be a central thing. The fate of democracy will be a central thing. The modern nation-state will be a central thing. Globalization will be a central thing. Baseball, football, movies, rock concerts will be forms without meaningful content but will identify something in our time to the future. Of course, our present will be depicted. Do you want to find out about the Vietnam War? Just watch it as it was recorded. You want to see what a nuclear weapon could do? Just watch and see. Want to know about the rise and fall of the United States? Here's a two-hour summation on tape. "Ah, and what about the people who built this fabulous thing we now study, class?"

"Well, they operated on the principle of freedom and yet were entangled at every step by their own nature or the unfree nature of others. The wealthier they became the more delusional they became which meant, in the long run, they really didn't believe their life on earth was real and had no use for the future. Their exhaustion and collapse was predictable at a certain stage and lonely prophet types tried to warn them but the warnings went unheeded. They exhausted their dreams and before long no generation could afford to dream since everything was reduced to the single Moment they lived in. It took several generations for this to kick in but it did and they perished as people; as people animating the fascinations of history that is. In certain forms they still existed and used the buildings and infrastructure that remained from more vital days. A certain percentage of the people saw this tragedy unfold and tried to do something about it, even scheming to ensure that the responsibilities of power kept in their hands. Unfortunately, they forgot that no democracy could be run without the full consent and participation of the people. If the people went bad, power went bad. The badness became a value and was imposed on new innocent generations."

Who knows how it will be depicted? At least we of the present know that the quality of the citizens is everything. We control only one citizen; therefore, that explains a few things.

The time is too rich and complex to be pessimistic. Pessimism is a form of emotion; perhaps a warning to watch out for a few things but never the done deal. A writer writes in the pessimistic mode simply to awaken a kind of archetype that needs to be awaken if it merely sleeps under the pressure of stupid optimism. It is the delicate balance between the barbaric urge to vanquish the past and neuter it so that "we may be our own greatness," and the stuffed up culture that is so overladen with the past that it can't do anything new, unique, startling, in its own setting. That is the balance the American citizen seeks out. However, we are not the innocent any longer. We are in the tragic phase of our development since we cannot go backwards. We either get better, keep growing and developing or die off in a nasty future up ahead. Therefore, a kind of responsibility kicks in that wasn't there in the past.

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America has always been a difficult beast to wrestle with. On the one hand it desperately needs connection with the past and on the other hand it is spaced so far out, so clear of the past that it is in a frightening place.

There is a little solace but the unrelenting energy pushed through all activities available. In one way it is magnificently free and in another way it is caught on the burden of self-created myths that are only temporary stays against immense loneliness and meaninglessness.

The one redeeming quality to America is that it is still in the process of being made. Many generations stretch before it. It is rarely at the end of anything.

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The commitment to democracy must be real. One aware of recent history understands this fully. And democracy is not only procedures and processes but an active creative will as well.It is a substantial being whose proportions are real. I would prefer a democracy that was strong from the citizen, out but sometimes it's necessary for it to be strong from the institutions, out. The troubling thing is that everything is determined by the economic. Recent history, too, has shown that it is nearly impossible to get around the economic necessity. The utopian views are discredited. Young people experiment with them occasionally and good things are learned. But, they wither and pass on as the pressure to individuate comes to dominate. And once the democratic citizen is captured in the cycle of economic determinism what choice does he have? The citizen is always acutely aware of these things.

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Democracy as an idea does not thrive in these complex modern states. It is a kind of habit that helps keep things in bounds but doesn't look as if it could expand. What expands is the very nature that would destroy democracy. Jefferson, among others, understood this would happen if the democracy became mercantile and urban. In other words, the self-ruling citizens would get lost in a maze of experts and snake oil salesmen trying to negotiate a system they didn't understand or connect with.

The key for a citizen who finds himself in a democracy is to get to the organizing principles quickly, connect, don't let anyone interfere, and develop resources that strengthen those principles. Everything else is conformity and of the worst sort. And conformity is repression.

The moral question is this, "do you plan for a future you know will disintegrate and become something else after the deluge? Or, do you build as much value into the present knowing that it is leading to some inevitable disintegration?"

While there is disintegration every century there is also renewal.

Then again, why fear disintegration when there are new worlds to build?

I think for the humble human being you build as much value as you can, while you have a breath, whatever the consequences. That sort of energy should be personified as a matter of fact,

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I think the liberal democracy has declined, yes indeed. A mass culture and liberal democracy are antinomies. A liberal democracy is defined by the development of the people in ways that aren't possible without a deep connection to the fundamental principles and activities of the culture as a whole.

It's not fait a'compli, it could be any number of things. It could be the fact that I'm in middle-age and things seem to decline as you get older. It could be that America is going through a vast transition, historic and beyond the ability of consciousness to deal with it.

Some of the factors would be: sudden upsurge in population, the enormous development of technology that transform raw into cooked in rapid fashion, the gargantuan that is the modern world, mind not capable of responding to it except through crude mythology, usually political in nature, or some irrationality that breaks out. The critical mass of people having old habits rather than learning new, creative habits based on the foundations of the great legacies of the culture; therefore, depression among the people, cynicism and death. Decline in education, "success in economy" actually bloating everything up so it can't or won't change even though "everything" is dependent on cheap crude oil that is disappearing by the minute. Up surging populations in the rest of world sucking more and more capital out of the US which will, eventually, damage the nation's ability to respond militarily around the world. The thrall to violence and crudity and pornography and gambling. "Life" not simply good enough and honored as itself but jazzed and stimulated to some hyper adrenalin state until addiction does the people in.

In other words, a total loss of resource within the people that now expects technology or TV or internet to do it for them and so passive/aggressive types that are either stealing or destroying and certainly not developing the habits of patience so that good things can be built.

The citizens congratulate themselves because they resemble the Assyrians.

But, not dark yet. Quite yet.

The citizen absorbs in youth, discriminates in middle-age. And that discrimination must be adamant!. It must be a value.

Personal Values

Overall I don't give up on what values I've learned in a liberal democracy: tolerance, patience, constructive and disciplined approaches to life, continual education and expansion of fascination, good tidings to people, a solid base in the reality that gives one meaning.

A Quick Personal Look at What a Citizen Goes Through

Another "60's" period will happen. As I've noted, they are necessary in a nation-state system. The U.S. went through it, western Europe went through it, it was traumatic and those entities survived. When it tried to get going in the Soviet Union it was repressed, the Soviet Union kept to the status quo and disintegrated. It will probably happen again when the U.S. suddenly feels it's being outpaced by different regions of the world. It's hard to predict. The thing is when these periods of adrenalin occur they get a life of their own. Unless you have a historical perspective it's likely you get swooped up into the red hot vacuum and never heard from again like so many from that era.

What pulled me out of that whole era was the energy of the computer nerds that started in 74-75 or so. They were the only ones with vitality and after a while I admired their entrepreneurship and the fact that they had imagined something, were devoted to it, expressed it in a hard form and carried it through despite the fact there was no call-out by the market. That taught me a good deal and I credit that period for a lot of adrenaline I experienced.

And then when the nuclear blast of Silicon Valley went off in the early 80's I started to take seriously the idea that "computers will be connected together to create a communications revolution." And I started to think how that would change writing and publishing. So I was confident that if I ignored the print publishing system, that was constructed like a corporation and demanded writers go up the ladder, I could leap on a new publishing system. It reanimated, for me, one of the founding myths of America itself; from the Empire, a leap into a New World.

Besides, the Reagan Era and the conservative movement did not make me feel very good toward the political/social life. There was healing in that period and good quiet, no question. But it did not excite, the adrenaline was quite put out and I didn't feel too much connection to the larger picture.

I recognized some very good things that happened during that time like the end of the cold war. I felt the culture had settled down and was much more "together." Clinton did not excite me but then the internet did. It was the internet that was the next big adrenaline and I rode it as well as I could. That lasted to the Bush administration where I had more resource to deal with things. The last six or seven years have been quite different because I felt ground down by the internet and not meeting money or publishing goals and going through disappointment after disappointment. Not to mention the terrorist attack, the wars, the downturn in dot.com/economy, the crude and lousy political culture, the triumph of celebrityism, the slip of America in ways that can be depressing to see.

The internet is something one integrates because no one masters it. You let it in and give it a large room and begin to move in it and get familiar with it knowing that it can shrink or expand at any moment and you never know who will come into the room and make themselves an acquaintance.

The internet made me a better liberal, democratic citizen because I had to treat everyone who came into my little space with respect no matter what their background. I had to find the common language to deal with a diversity of people, not only from the US but from around the world. The internet also permitted me to access information and knowledge that bridged some gaps in my understanding of things that ended a kind of frustration; the sort of frustration that makes people cynical. I always considered the screen as a free space until someone proved to me that they weren't worthy of it. And that didn't happen all that much.

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America can look, from time to time, like a vast jewel. That happens when you are deeply rooted to your region. And as soon as you try to pluck that jewel mud and shit swirl through and buries everything and you are tested to see whether you go on or not. It's awfully easy to get caught in the mud and shit. It is a tricky jewel because consciousness that believes it has known her fully is about to fall into an abyss and knows only stereotype, only that which the politicians know so they can manipulate the poor puppies. America, a jewel, is revealed here and there and the citizen trains himself to be ready when the thing opens up.

To trust a democracy can be an arduous affair, depending of what kind of democracy and what kind of time you enter. To trust it because someone says to is one thing. To trust it because you have experience of the greatest distrust is quite another. In essence you finally trust a democracy when you see it is constructed to counter a trend of having one religion, one type, one party, one ideology dominate and in so doing many options open up for the people and as they participate in those options buy into the structure of governance that guarantees nothing but that ambition will be set against ambition as Madison put it.

On the one hand, the system of governance is dependent on one person, the citizen, and on the other many people who are conducting the affairs of government on a daily basis, along with non-profits and media who try to watch them.

It's dependent on the quality of the people who make up the society, along with the types of ambitions fighting other ambitions.

It's dependent on "what a people wants to happen," at any given time; whether it wants the private sector or public sector to dominate along with the nature of problems it wants to give itself to.

The strange and ironic thing in a democracy is that you must trust it but you must be completely vigilant for the system to work half-way decently. Therefore the loyalty is with the health of the system of governance rather than any particular opinion or point of view.

For the massive system it is I would give it relatively high marks. But I would be very cautious going further into the 21st century where there are enormous pitfalls, including the economic one. And a declining nation usually produces much more corruption and therefore, a weakening of the system of governance. The crisis in journalism doesn't help matters any.

Those are concerns rather than facts; strong worries about emerging facts.

There is a kind of rhythm to things: it struggles from the bottom, up with the eternal verities, there is a surge in the middle-class that has learned good habits painfully at the bottom. It keeps the government as its watchdog because it is not yet on firm footing. Over time zeal and distraction lards the government with every program under the sun. People don't notice or care much because they are living better than ever. Then come the things that were experienced in the 70's; energy shocks, inflation, low growth rates, high interest rates, demoralizing loss of war and profound scandal and suddenly the pyramid is shifted from the public sector and there's a loosening of wealth from constraint. Money is plentiful, the markets surge, the middle-class expands, the few danger signs are ignored, a few stock market corrections are duly noted, several mild recessions kick in but finally the society is filled with "phony wealth" that starts to generate it's own expectations, criminal minds find a way in, the government in disgrace or marginalized is bought off, and then it all comes tumbling down to the bottom again. And in these great heaving motions come computers, higher standards of living, more productivity and so forth. Not to extol the virtue of unlimited private sector or the nanny state as its cure but it just seems to be the way of nature. You can not permit a "steady-state," in a free liberal, democracy. It is what it is at any given moment. The key is in teaching the people to orientate themselves and remind them that their role is to keep the system of governance somewhat healthy.

There is a reason why the government goes from something reasonable to something resemembling the nanny state. There is a reason why government loses its credibility and so is no longer a mover or shaker in the real life of the people. As many have remarked, it is a cycle.

January 29, 2017

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THE 2016 ELECTION

When I started this column a few days before the election this was my opening line. "I hear the huge sigh of relief throughout the world." I suppose I should take out "sigh of relief" and put in "utter panic".

There are some significant points: Trump's victory was razor-thin and he lost the popular vote. Perhaps the key to his victory was the entrance of Jill Stein into the campaign who took enough votes away from Clinton in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin especially to throw the election Trump's way. The post-election has revealed the polarities that will continue for the next four years at least. This was, in essense, an anti-immigrant, anti-globalization vote. But the pro-immigrant, pro-globalization position is still very strong. I hope someone in his "inner circle" reminds Trump that high tariffs, trade restriction and eventually "trade wars," resulted in the last Great Depression. I have my doubts. How many in his cadre of counselors have felt the sting of that Depression? My parents felt the sting of it but I doubt if Trump's parents did.

It's also true that the Millenials have moved into the center as the Baby-Boomers slow and go.

I would ignore most of the things said at this juncture. People feel extreme loss on one hand and extreme empowerment on the other. This is a reversal of polarity we saw with Reagan in 1980. I think the Trump Era, if that's what it is, will be quite different even though the 'ages' are similar.

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It's imperative that people who believe their values are being assaulted double-down and strengthen those values be they civil rights, women's rights, environmentalism, etc. This will be one side of the polarity, necessary but limited in its ability to come up with new forms of democracy, new forms of political imagination.

I don't believe Trump is an American version of Hitler but I do believe he's going to produce a more authoritarian regime than we are used to. Most of Trump, to this point, smells of fakery writ large. However, like most reasonable people I'm burnt out by this election cycle and need two months to repair.

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Some brief points based on the public Trump who has been around for many decades:

How long will it take before large groups of people who voted for Trump ardently wish they could turn the clock back and put Hillary in the White House?

How long will it take before Trump acts on his "enemies list" or it's discovered he's siphoning public money into his private business?

How long will it take before he gets weary of this job and wants to quit or destroy it and go home?

How long will it take before the Republican Congress seizes effective power because the decisions are too complex, too fast in coming for Trump and his team?

How long will it take before he embarrasses himself, the office of President, and America itself?

To be fair we ask these questions:

How long will it be before he shocks everyone with his ability as a leader?

How long will it be before the economy begins to boom again as it did in the 80's and 90's?

How long will it be before ISIS is thrown back against itself by aggressive force by the US and allies?

These aren't predictions so much as impressions coming off what Trump has revealed of himself the past thirty years. He has proven to be a con man but he has proven that he can get things done as well. Is he ready for the natural resistances that will come his way? Everything he says and does says no.

He appears to be a hard worker. He appears to inspire loyalty from people and is loyal to others. His sense of "perfection" makes him very fragile.

He is way over his head. That puts all the pressure on those who he has beside him. Are they competant and knowledgable? Are they experienced? At this point it's too early to tell. The signs don't look that optimistic. But, the key will be how Trump governs. How does he take the advice from the extreme right and moderate conservative and make decisions based on his own judgement? And will his judgement be able to filter out the prejudices of those around him?

Trump hasn't established his credibility. He hasn't proven anything to anyone. No one knows how he will govern. Perhaps even he doesn't know how he'll govern. People should be skeptical but they shouldn't be frightened. Fright is exactly what power wants. Free people don't get frightened. They get smart and adaptable.

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At this point it's difficult to know whether Trump will be another Reagan or a Citizen Kane type figure. Reagan, too, said things that worried people. He spoke to his base but operated from the pragmatic center. On the other hand, Trump is known to go rogue. We just don't know at this point. He may get very timid once he makes his first mistake. He could get bored and wander way off while letting his surrogates do all the decision-making. He could respond reasonably well to some problems. One thing that Reagan was attacked for was the presumption that he couldn't deal with complex issues. He didn't have the sublime about him that allowed for many shades of grey in policy decisions. What Reagan did was lead which is what people want now. Whether Trump is up for that is impossible to know. I'm skeptical because I doubt he can get everything done that he says he's going to get done. He also lies and exaggerates like a spoiled child and after a while people are going to stop listening to him.

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The most significant political acts were the destruction of the House of Bush and House of Clinton. This permits new blood to come rushing in based either on the surge of Trump or the surge of resistance he is going to encounter. A lot of things will go down in the next few years. To maintain the status quo, especially in elite institutions is going to be hazardous. The only thing that will settle the country down is an infusion of upward mobility, esp. with African-Americans and these "working class whites."

I don't think Trump appreciates yet how conforming and restrictive the Presidency is if we are to believe the testimony of the few who have been in the Oval Office. He will have to discipline his wild energies that were evident on the campaign trail and be a "president." Trump is comfortable with power, that's his milieu. He is used to making decisions. But he lacks a great deal of the self-discipline necessary to govern successfully. Putting his personal business on par with being President is equal to Bill Clinton's putting sex (of a sort) equal to his Presidency. Both are classic ways the self sabatoges it's ability to "govern."

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It's stupid to try and destroy his legitimacy as I've heard among liberal commentators or, even, the protests before he's inaugurated. For one thing, people are absolutely wrought out and sick of politics and they will take a breather for two months. It's much more effective to wait until Trump starts to govern to make any protest. The hyperbolic response to Trump doesn't help one bit and will blunt the real resistance that should take place after he's sworn in.

Obviously if Trump goons start roaming the streets with baseball bats looking for Muslims then we know we're in for a long ride and will have to intervene. I don't think it will get that bad but you never know.

We know there is a law of "unintended consequences." Trump could be seen, eventually, as the best thing to happen to liberal movements.

One unintended consequence that I see, immediately, is that the nation has been put on alert. No one is taking anything for granted. There is enough energy to have populist resistance, in the healthy democratic sense, to thresholds that Trump might cross. Had Hillary been elected complacency would have kicked in sooner than later. She would have thrown enough bits of meat out to the people to keep them quiet and satisfied.

Because Trump is a "populist" he will be attentive to the populist reaction to what he does. That will provide one check against any outrage.

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Trump, for better or worse, has created an "existential moment," one that will be invented and reinvented more than a few times as he tries to grapple with a world much larger, much more complex and intelligent than he is. It's a scary thought but it's one that has a few opportunities.

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Of course, elites are made to be pulled down. In fact, if a generation is not successful in pulling down the elite they are considered a failure. The baby-boomers were successful in pulling down the elites created out of the experience of WWII. They have created an elite in their turn and it has reached its apex with this election. The elites of the baby-boomers took the reasonable values of their day such as civil rights, women's rights, environmentalism and institutionalized them. The Democratic party became dependent on the institutions which became more and more corrupt and, as is widely reported, didn't pay attention to significant portions of the culture, some of whom were in the infamous "white working class." The lack of attention, intentional or not, has finally erupted and created the conditions for a new reckoning almost literally overnight. The elites kept that hierarchy going because they successfully put silo's around a variety of human attributes like race, gender, class, region, religion. These could be the victims of the last twenty-four hours.

Generations pull down elites because they have an aversion toward aristocracy.

It reminds me that most of this election was a referendum on the baby-boom generation, perhaps its apex, it's final stamp in the post-60's world. I'm sure you had a similar effect after the Civil War into the 20th century. Trump, Hillary, and Sanders all represented flows from that period of time, from that particular generation.

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The Trump line was either going to inherit wealth or had a typical nihilistic party-now edge to it, doing the wild things that were done at that time, not particularly concerned about Vietnam or civil rights, rebelling against their inheritance by mixing it up with the proles while having the security of that inheritance in the back of their minds. The ones I knew were charming and always had the good looking women. But, when you scratched the surface you usually found some petty crime, some unbelievable and adolescent action like shop lifting or selling pot. These guys eventually went into the establishment, parlayed the inheritance and spent the rest of their lives trying to live a meaningful, happy life. Many failed.

Hillary represents that part of the generation that took on and supported the three dominant social forms of the time: civil rights for blacks and other minorities, freedom for women, protection of the environment. These were the political/social imperatives of the baby-boom generation. The first resistance came with Reagan as the Trump types combined with the older generation (who had been quite shocked by the 60's) to produce Reagan. However, the social values were still carried by a great number of those baby-boom generation who were now in the middle-class, were professionals and so on.

Bernie Sanders represented that part of the generation that went back to the university or held out in college towns like Berkeley and Madison and wanted a wholesale change in the structure of corporate America and American capitalism. For that group, the culture that emerged out of capitalism was not a valid one, only a pretense to make sure the status quo in power kept their power. These three trends meandered through the 80's, 90's, and first dozen or so years of this century. Their final articulate moment is this election. The Hillary side, the ideal side lost out. That's what I saw in their faces election night: loss. It's an interesting, sad process to observe.

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A large culture filled with people who constantly have to fight for their freedom, for their beliefs, is always in ferment. Perhaps Trump signals that a new liberal democratic center needs to be built to prevent the extremes from pulling everything down or exhausting the culture. The shifting demographics, the new disruptive technologies, the new sorts of migration create vitality, create necessary energy for a huge nation-state like this. And even if I don't create the change I benefit because I can hit off the vitality created, I can make that my own. So culture is vital in that sense but the structure of governance is much more conservative and so any elite that arises must conform to the structure or lose its status as an elite.

To be effective the ferment needs to be creative and fresh. I don't see any evidence of that among the fermented today. It puts an old man to sleep. A lot of it is a result of the fabricated identities that proliferate today; the identity silos that have been effective in the past but sound a pretty dull note now.

To have a successful society you need the critical mass in it to have a comprehensive view. That is, the ability to know the whole as it actually is, as it lives its daily life, as it is oppressed by problems, in every region, in city, suburb, and rural. Both the citizens and the representatives who emerge from the citizens should have this view. In the absence of this view you have partisan experts and advocacy groups who are hardly reliable and are easily manipulated for political reasons. If I can see that pain exists in both the urban African-American community and the lower middle-class, working white community then I need to comprehend both and design policies that help inject vitality in those areas. Vitality that translates into upward mobility. And it is stasis that creates most of the social problems today including the fetishes of race, gender, ethnicity, fanaticism, cultism and the rest.

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You can't make a big circle around a group of people and make them the scapegoats for everything bad in your history. Academics, media, politicians even stripped the poorer whites of their humanity, intellectually, and said in effect, "we will let history roll over you."

An acquaintance of mine spent time in prison. He told me he was recruited by a white power group and had friendly relations with a Hispanic gang. "I was told by a guard not to get between these groups or something bad would happen. Prison is divided between black, brown, and white and they fight all the time." People are reduced by powerlessness to these ancient identities and if this is now the model for American culture then we are going to live in a nightmare. Affluence and upward mobility changes people, usually for the better and this is the decisive fact.

What is needed is a new form of politics that emerges out of a fully comprehensive view of the nation, from coast to inland, from suburb, urban, to rural, through all the ethnic identities, the genders, all the generational cohorts. And, as well, a fresh notion of common humanity. To get such a view would be a huge expansion of the knowledge base and a widening of experience. Without that view we are doomed to silo's of predetermined identities in a zero sum game that will collapse democracy on itself.

The culture has "failed." The political culture has failed to produce a better citizen, failed to produce a culture of beauty and intelligence. Failed to produce a politics that works. And the blame has to be at the feet of the academic, media, entertainment, half the political and some of the business elites. Fifty years is a very long time to hold on to a set of assumptions and simply pit people against each other and drive vicious hatred into groups and use them as scapegoats. And both the left and right have done this and should be punished for it by removing their privileges as elites.

What is a free, liberal democratic citizen? What is America? Open question. But it does include a great deal of "growth and development" towards a more comprehensive view and experience of the nation-state.

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Trump has at least done three positive things: he took down the House of Bush, the House of Clinton and he has created enormous political energy. There is now a positive and negative pole in this nation and many will play their roles on either side of the polarity. But those who will create the future will be running between the poles and creating the energy necessary to build something new.

There is an office. It is large. If Trump goes into that office and let's himself grow out, humbly, into its spaces then the spirits of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Kennedy will concur and you may have a decent shot of a decent run. If, however, Trump goes into that office and shrinks it down to the size of his enlarged head then those same spirits will leave him to his own diminution and everyone will suffer.

The old polarities all play their roles expertly. The new will come from perceptive types who can intelligently pass through the polarities and generate new forms of political energy and imagination. We look for these and only these.

It's very telling that the Clinton support came overwhelmingly along the strips of east and west coast, east of the Appalachian Mts and west of the Sierra/Cascade range. Two things are immediately obvious. The coasts benefit from globalization because they are open to the trading routes from the Pacific Rim and Mediterranean region. While both thin strips along east and west coast have some rich agricultural areas both are dominated by urban centers from Seattle to San Diego along the west and from Boston to Savannah in the east. It is a pattern that is reminiscent of China's "deep divide" between the coastal regions and the interior of that country.

November 12, 2016

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