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Writers Notebook
In The Jury Box;

By David Eide


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



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.

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

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.

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

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, 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. So 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 carnival that is a powerful nation-state. It almost literally doesn't matter what anyone says or thinks. 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?

Well, the Chinese and Indians have the same problem. The Europeans have started thinking like Europeans probably too late, who knows. Whether our behemoth makes it out of the 21st century is certainly grist for the mill. People like to kick America and deride it, partly because it needs to be stimulated. These emerging nations need no such stimulation. There are portions of America that could be stimulated if they truly believed it was possible to live out the "American dream."

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

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, despises others. It's 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.

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

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


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. In every sense of the word – in every dimension of the proposition. 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?

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

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 is invariably an interplay between the rational and irrational. Pure rationalism itself and, then, is threatened by every nod by the irrational. Volatile irrationality sees every act of the rational is 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 of this 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,"?

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." 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.

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

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.

I have little faith in the politics of "social conflict." 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 geological, 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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Democracy is the shell around the seed of freedom, necessary to keep it going in a world that would destroy it. Much as a church or religion is the necessary husk around the prime insight and teaching. If the shell or husk kills off the essence, then it is corrupt.

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.

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

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 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.

This is why you can never “take your cue” from the state, 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.

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

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 and how demoralizing it can be. 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. All its secret hearts manifested and played out in the light of day. No cowering, no turning back, no turning against the great experiment.

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


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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It’s true that in a democratic culture elites are otiose. Elites are frozen in their own misbelief about themselves and then take their shadow out on the defenseless ones. It’s also true that democracy does not mean, “I am ignorant, backward, narrow, and violent, therefore you shall be or you shall be proven an elitist!” 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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Isn’t there a shadow side to America that we are waking to and won’t it be its test to see whether it overcomes and integrates that shadow side? The more it represses the shadow the more control it will have and the more it will manifest itself and finally take over the identity of the country and that will be that. The subterranean politics in Latin America and Africa will become the general domestic polices administered to a very passive citizenry as a matter of course. A great fear that is contradicted by many positive things in the society but nonetheless. What is Trump but the manifestation of the shadow?

It’s easy to become self-conscious of a nation’s shadowy nature; conscience trumps creativity. I could literally spend a year labeling, detailing every person, object, opinion which I either despise or which causes me a pain somewhere and after that effort where would I be? I would be empty of my energy and prostrate to everything I criticized. The better way is to enact the most positive value in the face of the shadow and let things even out. That takes more spiritual energy than secular.

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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Every generation is now the result of a revolution; four major world transforming revolutions (American, French, Russian, Chinese) in the last two hundred years to say nothing of the social, technological, scientific revolutions. On their ideals or their vaunted programs and promises of paradise come huge unwieldly oppressive, terror-drenched bureaucratic systems.

And yet, in each generation are the same seeds planted for a renewal. As well, the same seeds that develop into the great catastrophes. Why, if all the desires are legitimate and programs generally sound does so much lead to the oppression of the spirit?

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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


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.

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

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.

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

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. And so on and so forth. 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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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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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, 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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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 Mt.s 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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