In The Jury Box: 2023
By David Eide
* * * * * * * *
"Now we divert you with tales of a failed utopia and the people involved. Democracy is created in dreams."
THE FARM ON THE HILL
It was no utopia, it didn't give off the feelings of being a perfect place. "We head for perfection but not there yet," one had told him. The word perfection was always greeted with a shrug of the shoulders. "What the hell is perfection? A pretty picture in your brain? No, we're more experienced than to believe that. But, more important than perfection, we are tough and encouraged to believe that things continually get better because we are frustrated at the lack of perfection. So you go figure it out." Laughter was never meant to scorn but always highlighted the stupidity of trying to figure things out. "You're trying to figure it out, just let it go, let it be," was a kindly scold more than once.
"I like to think that rather than producing perfection we produce the very best out of each person, given that the creature is different in so many ways. If a person strives to be his or her best and reaches a sense that they "have never operated at such a level" they achieve happiness and can be tolerant of all other manifestations."
One thing I could not understand. The people were doing well, they were bringing some good in the world, ephemeral as it may have been, but all around them were hostile people ready to burn them out, starve them out, drive them out, ignore them and so on. The place had an upgraded look to it with fresh flower beds and new-built fences. If people could have seen the loving care that the people had for their little spot on the Earth perhaps attitudes would have changed. Maybe they would have hardened it was hard to figure out in America. "They have vigor for what they hate," Rapstuin used to say. "Their hate is a belief system all its own so we stay away. We know what we do is good, it's advanced because it's conscious living just like the philosophers say to live."
"I had a sudden realization by a lake where I'd taken a few books. I looked out at the stillness of the lake and a bird that kept circling it. Suddenly my mind felt lifted up and I was looking at the world and I saw its iniquity, its evil, its violence, its bigotry, its death and I was overwhelmed with the feeling I didn't know the world at all. I thought to myself, "then it is true, my fears of what I am about to enter..." And that was the beginning that led me up here to this place. We all had the vision and then left our old lives and refused to participate with such a corrupt world."
Everyone dreams at the beginning. That was not the task he thought. "It's seeing it through to the bitter end to see if it renews itself." In the beginning was the sharp jazz of anticipation, of the clear heart of knowing one was right and surrounded by others who were right, no matter what the world thought. It was all energy in the beginning because everyone knew the prospects were not good. There would be treachery, there would be misunderstanding, there would be jealousy of loyalties, there would be the scarcity of resources. "The ship will come in when the fog rolls out." He would say that to no one in particular and despite the fact they were many hundreds of miles from the ocean. There was an artifical lake backed against the dam and a river and all its twisting tributaries.
A question arose about who actually owned the land. Rasputin claimed he had the deed to the property but no one saw it. No one questioned him because they didn't want to get on the wrong side of the guy. They had come from an ethos of honest bargaining for the things of life rather than the market that was corrupt and rigged.
Story from the start
September 8, 2023
It was never enough to assume that democracy would roll onward
through the centuries. It depended, more than anything, on
belief. It depended on the ability of the people to snap out
of their distractions at a time when distractions were flourishing
and fully developed.
The democratic person had to move between the gargantuan federal
system emptied out from the Constitution and the micro-level where
he moved, worked and lived. Only the fullest understanding between the two
points and all the complexity between them would result in the perfect
democratic citizen; an ideal without question.
The greatest irony was that to find his true democratic self,
the hypothetical citizen had to break with all those who
presumed to define what that was. The things that were
demanded from a liberal, democratic citizen were not teachable
in any recognizable way. They had to be learned at the edge of an
abyss where the citizen saw the consequences of not learning them.
He had to learn to treasure that which others had scorned. His
idealism, for instance. Or his demand that growth and development
would be fed by an increase in knowledge and experience. Or, the
formation of that despised animal, sensibility, that they had tried
to snuff out of him from the beginning.
The citizens would tell him the precise laws
they delighted in breaking or how much taxes were extracted
from them in any given year, but could not tell him how
legislation was created or name four agencies in the
Energy Department. He became fascinated by this general
observation: They have ample time to understand the nature of
what rules them but, instead, ape its corruption's.
They acted as though they lived in a tyranny. It was nearly
a habit of thought that couldn't be broken.
He had been aware, on reflection, of the battles between
the secular and religious types for the hearts and minds
of the people. The religious types had won out and would
always win out, apparently, creating a sloppy democracy full of fantasy
and ill-will based on the difference of opinion. But the
secular types had blown it by not understanding the nature
of the culture and upholding very suspect, unworkable ideas
that they insisted people sacrifice for. "Sacrifice for your incredible
provincialism?" And, he felt, no matter how international
or global they became they were always provincials tucked
away in the privileged cubicle from which they wove magic
around 17 year old students. A few them at any rate.
Both produced ravening wolves rather than
saints. And history, struggling to produce saints and
perfection, rolled over them with impunity. The ravening wolf, secular and religious, was the dominant type in history and
always had to be subdued before they destroyed everythihg.
One central problem was that modern people had
become overwhelmed by the world they entered rather than
viewing it, as the artist did, as a raw sensation to be
understood through facts, knowledge, and sensibility. After the facts
and knowledge came imagination; a reversal necessary in
shadows of the great facts and knowledge that were like the cluster of buildings of the major cities.
The dead horses were still appearing on television but their
ratings were low.
Democracy had its pathologies. And when it was bad it
was very bad. It became an oppression that one protested
against at the risk of being cast out into the dark, scary
woods. Left to its own devices and democracy ran downward
toward the exploiters and tyrants, ever restless in the
underbelly of it. And the hypothetical citizen had experienced
the nightmare on the poor streets in the shabby cities he lived in.
But he had experienced it, too, in the pleasant nothingness of the
suburbs and backward, paranoid rural areas. He began to understand
the concept that democracy was what one made it to be; nothing more,
nothing less. If the citizen wanted the nightmare it was only a
few moments, a few choice words, a few channels away. If, however,
he wanted the splendors of a democracy he had to hunt high and low
for it, with no promise of success.
Had he been born in a more aristocratic age, his first intimations
would have been of power, followed by experience, and then
the inevitable disillusionment. However, things had become
reversed. In a democracy, disillusionment swooped down and
captured the citizen, followed by the willfulness toward
growth and development. He sensed that precisely as he
escaped the bad conscience developed by the democratic society.
Every political commentator he had consulted, from Aristotle
to Rosseau, had recommended that a democracy not exceed 100,000
citizens. Too many people demoralized a democracy since they had to
group themselves behind powerful arrangements only interested in
one aspect of the community, one function, and the powerful arrangement
usually existed at the expense of other aspects of the community.
Not only that but the very effort to overcome the demoralizing effect of huge
populations was demoralizing itself, since the effort had to rely
on the lowest common denominator. And, before long, the lowest common
denominator came to the seat of power having convinced the citizens
that is was, indeed, the only available reality.
And the most treacherous of the democratic social graces was
the fact that one could not live with masks. Masks were stripped
off and so the knives stuck faster in the gut. To get cred you had to fight on the street level. Anyone and everyone was after you. He tried
to get over these wounds as quickly as possible.
And because even the sick had freedom he walked through vast
sickness and vast hatreds and was always in peril of becoming
the hatred that barked and paraded in front of him.
The hypothetical citizen had come up with only one certain law in
relation to democracy: Growth is very slow and that intrusions into that growth
are shadows and if one didn't find the proper nourishment he goes to wrack
and ruin in degrees.
A second law: It is very difficult to have ideals in this kind of
democracy. The machinery of things and power was not ideal.
"Ah, then I will become as practical as they are!" But the more practical he became the more emotional and irrational they became. The "Irrational citizen"
took over the core of the democracy and it resulted in disillusionment. And disillusionment landed up in
dissolution into the prime materia, out of which came a kind of light immersed in a lot of
dark. It was mostly dark when it came to political affairs.
* * * * * * * *
Oh politics---fear, hate, stupidity, myth in the negative sense dominates politics. The only
redeeming quality to it is that it changes, evolves- what was today in not tomorrow. As I said
years ago, the polarities will roll into each other during the 21st century and the question of
"race" will be moot. There may be some interesting moments before that happens but
regardless. The Democrats are more forward looking, however they are using old structures of
thought which makes the execution of the forward looking thought quite difficult if not
Impossible. Once they see that as an albatross perhaps something will change. I would not want
40% of the people feeling desperate and alienated from the ongoing culture. They will wreck it if
they can. The "coastal elites" need to develop new forms of trust in the body politic and get rid
of their arrogance, get rid of their old thinking.
* * * * * * * *
important but it is not the thing. The thing is now to push toward the fulfillment of the liberal
democracy. What is the best evidence of the free, liberal, democratic person? What resources
do we gather up in the plink of things to reveal all that it can be. Anything less renders all a mere
* * * * * * * *
The future will have to figure out how to transcend the central drivers of politics the past forty
years or so: race, gender, religion, and class. Especially now as it looks like these things are at a null point
and will cancel each other out so that nothing gets done. The future will have to retire these
drivers and formulate new ones.
There are critics of democracy to keep everything honest; a very tall order in a culture like this.
Many of the critics don't know the culture and they are aiming large and small darts into it from
some perceived wrong or perceived short-coming from the impersonal sage of History. If we are
crude 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 society itself, 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.
April 8, 2023
In his world there was no more potent word than equality. It was used
as a term to justify as well as to hope. The hypothetical citizen had always raised the question,
"equality in relation to what?" when surrounded by the sometimes acrimonious
and, even, quasi-religious feelings that danced around the word. After all, he thought, I
am not equal to many people. Are they, then, my enemies? One skill was more equal than
another skill in the marketplace so did that mean the lesser skill had to fight for
Did equality means the simple transformation of a way of life from one part of
society to another? He had found in his wanderings that there were predictable patterns
to the complaint that one suffered iniquity. Since it was universal and predictable
it meant that something was missing. That the complaint wasn't enough, there had
to be more. "It's just a standard thing like the need for food," he thought to himself.
Didn't he feel the sting of having less than others and feeling their judgements try and
determine his own destiny?
To the hypothetical citizen, in his honest assessment of some of the questions
involved, it was not equality that was needed but enrichment.
After all, political expediency would capture the desire for equality and capture the potential
for great enrichment and repress that enrichment in favor of acquiescence. For those
who wanted perfect equality it made more sense to burn the books, then read them.
What had made the question a part of his own world was the overwhelming desire on
the part of smart people to reduce
and affect a kind of equity in a vacuum that could not be reproduced in reality. At times
it broke out in an act of destruction and in his quick, furtive glance around him he had seen the
evidence of mass destruction to the potential of people and little ability to construct
a world, even a life, with any degree of competence. The mania was a fait acompli.
* * * * * * * *
The American had to learn the fine art of striving to fulfill his potential while
staying connected to his common humanity. America had crossed the threshold. It was never going back
to the old world and, in fact, had become the center of world power. The hypothetical citizen
not simply lamented the fact but it created great disturbance in him. How to develop as a free
man while staying connected to common humanity?
He had met a few whose need for power had reduced them to a set of abstractions
used to manipulate the ant-world they perceived as running below them. When all was flowing right
they felt a luminescence like glowering light through some dense, metallic collection of buildings.
"But, where is your sense of humanity? Where is the redemption?" "Don't blame me, blame
the system," would come the reply and the hypothetical citizen got a headache after that,
not wanting to oppose something as large as a system. After all, what was a system? Was
it one thing after all? Could it be wrapped up and delivered in a few fine phrases?
* * * * * * * *
The Fat Man with egregious opinions and hopeless world views was instructing
the hypothetical citizen on progress.
"Progress is a subtle thing. Some things that seem to progress
might be the antithesis of it. Might by its very existence lead to the most disastrous consequences. We even have the
cruel sense that progress can be so good that it obliterates the desire
for progress. Doesn't progress require great attention and wisdom? Take education
now. It is progress to educate the citizens of a society but, what happens
when that education encourages prejudice, obedience, and mindlessness as can happen when an
educational system breaks down? Where is the progress?
The Fat Man had broken down the circle of power with such precision it appeared
a kind of cosmology or mandala a native mind would construct to explain order to
a young brave.
"But, isn't it true that we've progressed about civil rights and
"The story isn't over yet. Everything that progresses, regresses
at a particular point. It takes ten years to push a world to progress and
a few minutes to undo everything. It only works when everyone is the same
and no longer dissatisfied with his lot. Ah, but he always gets dissatisfied!
And so, civil rights and the environment become objects of his dissatisfaction in
ways that undermine the very value of these things."
What the Fat Man had not understood, however, was the progress, if authentic,
became a value and became part of the living body of citizens. The particulars
of a progressive era were erected and torn down but the value created at the center
of them was not. That, to the mind of the hypothetical citizen, was the whole point
and he marveled at the flow of value through his own culture.
The hypothetical citizen was hoping the night signs that blazed until 2am while
he walked the streets would define the light and shadow side of this peculiar consciousness.
If it is an idea, it must progress and discover its profound weakness. It must, too, find
its great strength and re-orientate itself to high ideals. If it fails to do that democracy, as a form of consciousness, would dissolve
into forms of conflicts that would demand the autocrats once again. That's what the crowds
said to him running toward the games in the twilight hours. "There is danger living in a
live democracy, however obscure it may seem.
Loss! Into the machinery of freedom.
Well, he thought, does the thinker and poet type have any stake in the idea of
democracy? One of them certainly does. The last thing he wanted was to rationalize things
as they were since there were plenty around willing and able to do it. No, it was a matter
of understanding his own mind of which the arrangements of democracy played a large part.
* * * * * * * *
There is no national culture. There are temporary cultures built up and destroyed every so often. Everything changes does it not? What is up today, tomorrow may be down. The grandest success may turn out to be a fraud, while the seed can bloom into a thousand new freedoms. America is so difficult because it should have been many states fighting and clawing with each other, all developing their own language, coinage, personality and so on. Instead it is regions connected together by a federal system, anchored in the Constitution. Can the mind take on the vast complexity of the whole to make conscious opinions about it? I doubt it. It can cobble together something out of many minds contemplating it perhaps. And then heave up a standard set of emotions against power or seeking protection of power.
I think it is better when it is "progressing", when it is filled with upward mobility, when it is eagerly learning, when it is compassionate and aspirational, when it sees the future as better than but ignores utopias. Perhaps it takes utopian belief to initiate things but it has to be lost along the way somewhere without losing the impetus for progress.
Things change, they change back again, they change once more, then change back once more. Increments define the coming and the going. That seems to be an optimum state for a maturing world power. Therefore what changes back and changes forth are dependent on each other for identity and eventually merge into each other. That doesn't clarify each vote, each administration of power but it does define the mature stance of the citizen who sees great flaws in both the change forward and change backward. And has no loyalty to each. "Let it play itself out the way it will, an almost comical and predictable folly through several generations."d Yet, the loyal citizen gets the privilege of leaping up on it fresh and with utterly new, profound eyes. Enough of these types of citizens will produce a whole new round of conflict to define the culture.
March 23, 2023
It's impossible to be involved with politics at this moment. The furies have been unleashed. If you chastise both sides you are attacked from both sides. If you pick one side over the other you are lying to yourself and listening to political mythology. You hope both polarities burn themselves out and then decent types step forward. I think the attention, rightfully, is on the dangers of the right-wing. Their ferocity latent in the left but the left is muted at his point. The difference between the left and right is that between men with guns and paper tigers in universities. The ferocity under any guise, will threaten the democracy and the Constitution. I fear the ferocity of power that Trump represents. That's the immediate concern.
* * * * * * * *
It was sobering to read and listen to media of foreign countries weigh in on the debacle of January 6, 2021. "Go clean your own house before you criticize our house," is the basic sentiment. What they and others fail to realize is that the federal system is only one system of governance. There are also the state governments, the county and local city governments. The framers made is very clear that one was to support and make stronger the other through both competition and co-operation of powers. The economy of the local is far stronger than the dysfunction of the federal. This goes to the strength of local and state governance. Obviously, the federal dysfunction has to be tended to and resolved. It is the vitality or lack of it in the local that is the surest sign of whether things are operating ok. In my local and state it is that way but regardless. Do the free people act like it? Are they curious? Are they wanting to know and do and experience more? Are they unafraid? Answer those questions and you get a better idea of the state of the democracy.
The Republic is going through a changing of the guard, a transition from one generation to another. The old boomers are going to have to leave the stage. It will smooth itself out over time. It's the people that matter. It's always about the quality of the people. Is the younger generation producing quality in the people?
Where there is no knowledge there is no quality. Where there is no freedom, of mind, body, and spirit, there is no quality. Where the resources are diminished there is no quality. Where even the professors can sound like raving lunatics you have the impossibility of quality. When the mad descend on the buildings to destroy them you have no quality. Where there is no pride in achievement there is no quality. When there is lust to destroy the foundations there is no quality.
It could be that the US returns to its' pre WWII status as an economic power but not a global political power, until it's survival is threatened by a global force that develops more resources as the country moves from one stage of development to another. It must take on the challenge of itself and of its own survival.
So now they brought out the infamous scandal of 50 years ago and the
insiders laughed about it and relished the thought of another scandal.
A good scandal could turn a mediocre personality into a star. A scandal
was a good market maker the way it shook everything up.
Anyone listening to them felt a jab through his innards. "They
laugh at the destruction of the democratic spirit; the destruction of what belongs
to the people is a game to them." As it had been fifty years ago with the scandal that defined an era. They laughed and
rationalized it away because they didn't have the guts or the decency to become democratic
people themselves but were the eternal Tories that destroyed every democracy they laid their
hands on. Buchanan and Liddy hed been the two biggest frauds around, making
money off the scandal. It was a game. They had lost in the game and yet reaped rewards that would say, "you are successful."
It seemed particularly American. "A reason that the good turns against it," said the old patriot who had actually fought on behalf of the democracy. A direct line could be developed between Watergate and January 6th. The common link being, "men who believe and act as though they are above law have to be lassoed like the runaway steer.".
They did not understand, they could not fathom the danger of the scandal and of
those years because they knew that democracy was a useless phrase. "Calm down people, the democracy
does not belong to you," they seemed to say as they squinted into the camera lens.
The decent citizen was depressed and discouraged. The soul of democracy had been destroyed
and if it wasn't resurrected, if it wasn't revived, before long the vaunted structure
of the whole would collapse as assuredly as the Towers.
Power kills what opposes it. It doesn't matter if it's in a democracy or in a tyranny. As long as there is respect for the law there is accountability.
* * * * * * * *
Build from the bottom-up. Put the idea of the individual
up and above, attainable but ever evolving. Connect with resource. Don't give away power
to groups that promise all and deliver nothing. A quick inspection of all the popular movements of
the day saw the people on whose behalf the movement was created, with no more rights or well-being than they had before. This meant that the transformation promised by
the movement was a carefully crafted cheat and it would be more useful to empty the coffers of the largess and give it to the members of the movement. Outside of the corruption of national politics this was the bitterest pill to swallw.
The old professor who prattled on that the individual was a fiction was,
in his turn, a fiction and it was not shocking to hear that the
old professor had leapt from the Golden Gate Bridge on a bright, sunny day.
* * * * * * * *
The key element in the liberal, democratic society was providing mutual aid without
disintegrating into a commune.
In my idle moments I had sliced American history into
20-year increments beginning with the election of the younger Bush and going all
the way back to the first inklings of colonial discontent in the 1760's. I saw the
significant things. Each phase of time had themes and balanced itself against
the previous phase. A major shift had loyalties going from the public to private sectors
during the Reagan years.
But the one change that was apparent and crucial was the passage from a nation
of shortages, scarcity, and fixed roles to one of surplus and abundance so the growth of
the individual was conditioned by boundless expectation and boundless frustration.
There were no well-defined roles in such a universe, only imagination.
"Ah good", I thought to myself, while sharing a pipe with my old friend, the judge.
The people intuitively understood that when America
transformed into a world power (and much of the conflict in those 40 years was a
conflict over that fact) it would hardly change through time. Change would be a personal
matter, a micro-matter, but on the macro-level little if anything would change expect the force and vector of the inhuman until,
finally, the people would be exhausted of carrying their burden and give up the ghost.
The democratic spirit desired to drive upward toward the type of transcendence that would
free it of old and crippling habits, conflicts, and demons of the past. At that moment
it would be delivered to freedom. What enrichment would keep
that spirit alive? What knowledge would permit passage from one state to another?
Through the beads of sweat on the foreheads of the corrupt class
of wealth; through the virgins they threw into the volcano as
sacrifice for their sins, even through his own disgust, the free, liberal democratic citizen could see a graceful
resurrection of the democratic spirit.
March 13, 2023
DEMOCRACY IS A WAY OF LIFE
The man is a citizen and views democracy as the only way. When human beings evolve to
another level of responsibility and freedom perhaps they will
be ready to propose a new type of political thought. And with this in
mind it's necessary to record the evolving process of one's own
thinking about these things. The health of the political system
is a difficult thing to "comprehend." Does the individual citizen
trust all of the thousands and, even, millions of people running
the national, state, local government?
In the last fifteen years or so there has been a great
influx of religion or what passes as religion in the political
realms. Or, at least, an aspect of religion views itself as a
special-interest and claims the same moral superiority that
all special-interest claim.
If belief builds the character of a person so much the better. In
this sense the secular world creates the structure and the nature of
problem-solving while belief gives substance to what the individual
confronts in the temporal world; a world that can extract many
pains. But when religion says that its belief can solve the problems
and create the structure then one smells a rat. It is an ancient
rat, no better and no worse than the other infamous rats of history.
In that sense the religious fervor of the past fifteen years is
parasitical. The religious types active today could not, through
their own beliefs, create the society as it exists today or as it
has existed. The success of their ferocity depends on the many layers of
history and institution-building, scientific thought, and loss of
life in battle that makes the history of the United States what
it is. The religious types of today would never, out of
themselves, create a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, an Emancipation
Proclamation, and so forth. Not to mention all the critical thinking, engineering, rational thought that goes into building, maintaining, and improving a culture like this.
Without a strong, many-headed liberal democracy, fear will eventually rule a culture such as this one. It's an anecdotal feeling rather than established fact but it seems to arise when trust and respect collapse. The 60's proved to myself at any rate,
that what all the elevated, ideal thought in the world does is instigate
When enemies are created from exposure to
elevated, ideal thought then you have a clue as to what kind of society
you live in. The American lives in contradictions. The ideal with the Real. The Spiritual with the Secular. Not to mention all the contradictory identities.
That constitutes one of the challenges of living in a big democracy such as this. The learning curves are many and steep. The ability to keep the secular and spiritual apart within the same self is always threatened by the conflict between them in the public realm.
The unfortunate fact to confront the citizens, whatever contradictions he lives among, is that the United
States is a world power and politics is shaped, to a large degree,
on that fact. Therefore, pure national interest replaces
sentimentality that the citizen may feel about the Republic and democracy. Politics then
operates on descending levels, from the shaping influence to the state and local area and these exert
an integrity all their own. The citizen tries to gain integrity only to
find himself living in two provinces;
the province of the nation and the province of the state. The state
looks out to the larger world and its menacing conflicts and problems. The nation
is the exact spot a citizen happens to live in and whatever associations he develops from that spot.
So, on a regional basis authentic citizenship and deep feeling for
democracy can take place. But, beyond that are the power elite's
of the world entangled in ways that have nothing to do with democracy.
You want a region strong at the center but open to the flows of
energy from the four cardinal directions.
There is always the possibility of creating forms of community
through the air and cables of the technological universe. Yet,
don't the messages that flow through air and cable have to,
finally, come back down to earth, to some specific spot, through
some specific brain?
It could very well be that corporate culture has absorbed the center of
polity and, essentially, left the rest to the fierce
true believers of specific, provincial interests.
At times there seems a faint note that grows stronger that
heralds the possibility of new, propitious forms where new freedoms can enter.
Get the individual, the family, and the community straight and
healthy and a wonderful polity can emerge. Otherwise it becomes
as dysfunctional as the most dysfunctional individual, family,
or community. That's an opinion and depends on how "straight and healthy" are defined. I think it's more "I know it when I see it." And even so we know appearances can be very deceptive.
I assume that democracy is a way of life. It assumes, paradoxically, that I am at the
center and the periphery of existence. Each change positions in relation to events.
The danger is that one day the center of power within the democratic citizen
will form an allegiance with the cold hysteria of some evil institution.
The citizen is assaulted by corruption in government, power
brokering by the unelected-at-large, crisis, disillusionment and yet, is forever being called
on to renew the principles of tolerance, justice, growth, meaning, etc. That is a natural conundrum created out of a huge and complex entity like the national government. But the people finally determine whether the democracy lives or dies. It is their system, they are the source of power. Does this require more intelligent citizens? More experienced ones? Or more sharply attuned to what works and doesn't work?
There is a quiet and personal side of democracy as well as a raucous one.
The key to democracy is that it's always moving, always in transition, transforming material and
ideas so that they lose their point of origin and are cast up in the air for anyone to use or refuse.
As a way of life it isn't dependent on any particular style. It's not dependent on technology, capital,
or the variety of systems. In fact, when those factors come into play they tend to obscure the
democracy as a way of life, since they introduce the venom that accumulates under other systems
that democracy putatively overthrew or rejected. Class resentment, aloofness of the rich and powerful, oppression of the marginalized, corruption as people try to gain power or hold onto it. These are products of undemocratic forms of governing..
* * * * * * * *
The effort to provoke guilt for America, "stealing the native lands" or "enslaving Blacks" is an attempt to disabuse persons of the nationalism that was always the enemy of the left. That was the reason 40-50 years ago and it is the same now. The emotional connection with the soil of ones birth is seen as an obstacle to organizing people through the conflicting classes through which the left tries to gain power. It shouldn't be either/or but the extremes always portray things that way. The thing is to make sure the historical imagination includes progress and protects the genuine good the culture contains in itself. Since we come from everywhere it is harder to "be rooted to the land." In the future there might be the sort of rootedness you see in Europe, Asia and Africa. We went from "conquering" it to one of "husbandry" of it. We went from "scarcity" to "abundance" therefore, a philosophy of fulfillment rather than deferral of gratification and sacrifice. We went from an isolated economic engine to a central world power in line with all other world powers in history. We are, without a doubt, too abstract, too uprooted, too complacent and nonchalant.
No doubt we are in the formation of a new era. The Kennedy era from 1960-1980 is long over but holds a lot of excellent memories for myself and other boomers. Nothing remains of the politics, of the pop culture, of the world for that matter. It was replaced by the Reagan era from 1980-2000, again, memories and gone days, gone personalities, gone politics. We are completing a third era, the 9/11 era from 2001-2020 still very much a part of us but is being separated out by the new era defined by: Trump, Covid-19, Black protests, weakened economy. It too will present new figures onto the public stage and will be with us quite a while, my lifetime at any rate. Environmental concerns too- a much more intense attention on global warming. China as rival will be another. The culture will be a mish mosh of politics, styles, claims, vanities and the rest of it. Let it stimulate but don't let it move you one way or the other.
Here's the thing: you'll never get any answers going back to the age of slavery or Jim Crow, or even capital crimes against Blacks. You have to start in the 1950's and move through the last 70 years to find the keys to successful integration of society or, at least, why the attempt failed. And there have been a lot of successes. The left again drags the culture down to era's that have been resolved by history.
I think it's "good" that the political regime looks more "the way America looks." I think, however contrived it may be, it is necessary. It's contrived because the level of participation by different peoples was limited in the past. I think America is ready to leap, go up some learning curves, learn how to govern "all" and not simply your tribe and show the world a future. Some in the world don't want that future. America has to prove them wrong, knit together greater unity and flourish in the 21st century. It only comes with trust and respect. Those two words are mightier than all the bank accounts in the world.
I'm the first to admit I get stymied trying to understand the grand economy of things. It is one billiard ball hitting a group of them and scattering everything on the table. You can follow a few of the balls but not all of them. And you certainly can't predict what will happen. I am certain though, that the dollar as the reserve currency is greatly advantageous to the US and when that disappears look out. I was always under the impression that debt was about the worst thing to carry. Now, apparently, it's a wonderful thing to have and is treated very cavalierly. What are billions and billions next to several trillions? Certainly more than the $120 I have in my wallet at this time. And what about the billions, if not trillions stored up in savings in corporations? When do they start spending that on job creation and research/innovation? And when they do will there be the dreaded inflation? And if a nation can spend a trillion to buy its own debt why can't it spend a trillion on improving the lives of people? Naive questions I suppose.
* * * * * * * *
Federalist No. 68 by Hamilton seems very appropriate for today. "Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption." Followed by appropriate remarks about the incursion of foreign powers on the chief executive. "The process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications." How could Trump fall through the cracks unless there was something self-mutilating about the electorate? It wants to end, perhaps of the system, maybe in some perverse way to fight for or against something they believe in. I don't know.
What the framers and others interested in democracy would say to the American people is, "take democracy seriously, you don't understand how good you have it here and will only end it with your own complacency and entitlement." You don't have to agree with everyone but you need to respect ways of life that aren't your own. The more confident you are and self-respecting you are the more likely you'll extend that to others and, even, learn from them. Frankly I've seen the two losers of the last two elections act pretty much the same, not quite but along the lines of "it's not my country and the election was illegitimate, stolen etc." The burden of the loser is to get humble and go up several learning curves, the burden of the winner is to exhibit class and absorb the best of the loser.
February 9, 2023
The hypothetical citizen thought it might seem a little late to discover the essentials of
the democratic person but he always believed in new horizons and new beginnings. He had
felt himself asleep in order to integrate the new conditions he found himself in. It was not the
paradise of his forefathers dreams, not the absolute hell of religious nightmares but a
kind of purgatory where there was always something shaking under his feet.
He had made some simple observations based on the fact that he was an educated man
and knew, generally, the history of political states. And he was convinced that if a person only saw himself as a single vote
and a few ill-informed opinions they would be passed by, lost in the welter
of the machine.
He ticked off on one hand the new responsibilities of the citizen.
"To overcome his provincial conditioning. To take up into him and herself the best
out of that provincialism and leave the dross."
"To study the structure of relations rather than simple personality or simple
"To root themselves in the intelligence of the land, the first great foundation."
"To come to some conclusion as to where the threshold point is past which the state loses
its legitimacy as power."
The citizen, he was explaining to Seibold, a futurist at an obscure think tank,
"let the heat of the underground overwhelm them so that the worst in their nature is made manifest and is at the center."
When the corporate scandals began to emerge, after the ripening the previous 20 years,
he reflected on his experiences working in corporations. He had learned two distinctive things:
1- The corporation is like the old church and operates through a fastidious system of
reward and punishment. For
the hypothetical citizen to live a free life he would have to avoid the corporation at all costs.
2- Power, while eternal, is made up a transitory forms that exist today but
do not exist tomorrow.
This question had disturbed him: With the great traditions, the great extensions of imagination, of thought, why had
things developed this particular way? He had come to the awful conclusion that
only fear makes the arrangement a sacrament.
And if fear was at the foundation, soon, there would be no foundation.
He had known many who had worked in the corporations. They were never the
problem. They, like he, were easily converted to the
scandalous destruction of their own potential. No, when one entered the corporation, everything became determined
within the shrunken view of existence and that fact determined a quite a bit outside of it.
It struck him that ancient people had projected their imaginations into
gods, goddesses, fens, sprites, and demons of every sort while modern people projected
them into machines. There were moments when he believed the physical appearance of
machines populated the Earth like an old army that had come down the hills
at night while the farmers were asleep. They moved all around. They were
not passive and a variety of values were assigned to them. They created wealth
and great wealth was invested in them. They were useful. Great organizations
were formed around them.
"Well," he mused, "they are phenomena, no doubt about it."
One thing the machine had done was to make civilization a vast experiment,
testing the limits of human sensibility. There was always a sense of
demoralization since people were aware of problems that could never
be solved and took it out on themselves. As he watched people line up
for blocks to see the movie he understood their precise need to do so. He had come to
one deft conclusion: The unsophisticated types go to primitive, irrational
religion and the sophisticated go to shrinks. At different moments he had
had loyalty to the one and then the other. Neither, ultimately, were reliable
in their opinions but he respected their experience.
There was a band of persons who hung in mid-air feeling the pressure
of the nihilists on top and the desperate from below. They fought, surrendered,
escaped in imaginative ways and, sometimes, inspired the hypothetical
citizen with the freedom, courage, and opportunity it opened up.
"If I were a seed," he mused, "I would grow for the next several
hundred years and see how it all turns out. I would watch it through
the many seasons, the ups and downs, the reversals, the dark and
bright days. Perhaps it would not be fully understood in the end
but it would be perceived."
* * * * * * * *
Come, wishes, myths, heroism, comedies and appear before the
* * * * * * * *
He knew wild, intelligent people in it. He knew their fears
and aspirations. He knew their secrets. He knew their transactions.
One of the most imposing persons he knew lived in a nondescript
apartment, along a row of houses built in the early 20th Century.
Once in a great while he would hear arguments and what he thought
sounded like the speaking of tongues coming from one of the houses.
His friend would laugh nervously during their talks and take
fleeting glances at the small TV while changing the channel with a remote.
He claimed to know several of the personalities on the TV
and would make all kinds of comments about their private lives to
show that he knew them well. Their faces would appear and disappear
like a happy dream. "You study politics this way friend," he said,
as dancers filled the little screen selling shoes. "You ask a
series of questions:
What is the relation between the inside and outside?
What is the most power a liberal, democratic culture can permit
itself to any one person?
What is the difference between a liberal democracy and a mass
What is the best relation between capital and political power?
What is the relation between the poorest man and the richest man?
What are the characteristics of the mature citizen?
"Ask these questions and you'll understand things a bit better."d
* * * * * * * *
What is the relation between wisdom and politics? Outside of the principles of self-rule I would say the ability to create allies out of enemies. That takes political imagination and patience. It takes the sort of patience necessary for the maintenance of liberal democracies.
So much of modern life is learning curves, many learning curves that always requires some form of dedication before you enter into them. (And thank god you didn't know all that would happen through the learning process.)
I have concerns as I outlined them above, as most citizens do. I am still dedicated to my region and the federal system centered in Constitutional Law. I think the parts benefit from the whole and contribute to the whole. Whether it survives in this form is another question. So I try to make explicit the things that need to survive like due process, law as supreme and all respecting the law, tolerance, inventiveness, good energy, etc "America" has made distinctive impressions at different times and I've tried to record some of that. There are other interests however.
America is only moving forward when it is aspirational. To destroy the root function of aspiration would be to destroy the society or, at least, attempt to destroy it. To try and convert non-aspiration to aspiration is an aspiration in itself.
The citizen has the heavy load of knowing the federal, even state, systems, knowing the origins and yet living with an infinite array of options for living a life.
I think it is fascinating and an indication of cultural progress that when we look back to the antebellum years, we are fascinated and curious about the slaves and their persistence, their heroism in the face of oppression, the Harriet Tubmans, and not a jot of interest in the plantation owners, the slave holders who believed they were bringing a new aristocracy into being. And who have been obliterated from history, forgotten and unloved.
How does justice win out without the welfare state? It is apparent to me that resources should be shifted to where the greatest need is but that the greatest need can not get dependent on the shift of resources. That seems to be extremely difficult to manage in a huge nation-state like the U.S.
The status quo should be challenged rather than supported with state power.
The ultimate cultural value is the full development of the individuals who make up the democracy.
The "civilization" is utterly dependent on the well-being of the infrastructure of governance.
Self-rule meets gargantuan temptation in the form of modern materialism. Does democracy survive the conflict?
February 2, 2023
DREAMS ARE THE SEEDS OF TOMORROW
The key, after all, was whether the liberal democracies had any dreams left.
It literally didn't matter one iota how shiny and advanced the machines were
or how sophisticated the weapons and intelligence was: Without its soul, a liberal,
democratic culture would die. It was never going to outstrip the natural law of
entropy that drove all energy downward into chaos and dissipation.
It has had many dreams, including equity, a progressively better life for all,
liberation of the self, exploration of space, among others. Most of these dreams
came out of the seeds of individual minds and found a wonderful open field to grow
in. The hypothetical citizen, not part of the collective political life or,
while studying problems and the character of those who wanted
responsibility, was led finally to the land of dreams. Where are the seeds? He thought
it would be a thorough renovation of the energy system that would go toward solving
resource and enivonmental problems. He wasn't sure about it. Good people kept that
What dreams existed outside the framework of human vanity and greed?
He mused idly because the future would be found in no other place.
Perhaps busyness without substance was a greater danger than one imagined. The busyness tended to separate and isolate individuals from the currents that bind each other. In that space a primitive aggression took place that pitted one and all and destroyed every point of nourishment that needed to grow and come into its own.
"One must be prepared," he thought, "for the day when the effects seed the general population with the desire to change everything."
Reaction was expressed by the weakest link in the population.
There was a paradox in a large democracy. As institutions and individuals became images of the political process they were swept into political life against their will and without the proper tools or knowledge necessary to effectively approach political problems. Politics then became a cry of anguish, of personal debility, of social eccentricity that the politicians could deftly exploit.
And what form of government was secure and , like a perpetual machine, ran on and on?
The first legitimate question that he asked himself was, "is power authentic or not?" This was the crucial question since it was his consent that kept authority in its place.
On entering the question he was met by several problems. Reality seemed to defeat him at every turn. It leered at him and convinced him that neither his consent or non-consent is relevant. Sobered by this experience he quietly learned that all that was required of him was his vote and a few acceptable opinions to prove to everyone that he thought about his responsibilities.
It was no wonder, then, that criminal types, thugs, mediocre power hungry types rose to power and commanded the resources of the culture.
The worst division he could think of in a democratic society was a passive citizenry and an aggressive power hungry political class.
* * * * * * * *
There was a kind of understanding of the world that reduced it in scope.
There was a moment when the world opened into splendid curiosity and discovery. At that
moment, there was excellent potential for the types of people necessary for liberal, democracy.
Love and disinterest allowed the mind of a citizen to move from the region, among
individuals and small groups, outward to the globe as a whole. A thousand and one activities, large
and small, loose confederations of interest, some which seed the future, others that bloom and fade away. "Do not organize yourself so well and so quickly," the mind says on a sunny day when the world is a floating paradise of clouds. Huge projects managing huge projects makes for lousy democracies.
"Are your natural perceptions attached to the 'concerns of power?' and resolve in a variety of personalities, words, organizations, and a particular way of doing things?"
"Do you have a sense of perfection provided by the powers that be? So that you abolish what is imperfect in yourself while being re-shaped by the perfection of power?"
"Isn't it the imperative of the democratic citizen to become more knowledgeable than those who lead him or her? Politically, there are three forms of knowledge. Of the local, of the regional, of the national. The local could be called the family, the regional could be called the "gathering of interests", the national could be called the corporate."
* * * * * * * *
The left has an enormous problem because no one buys into "utopia" any longer. "No such thing in a big, complex world," says the realist. They've been reduced to investigate the shadows of American life and history. It is seen by most as an academic affair and not worth much. Most Americans, even educated ones, ignore what comes out of academia because they don't see any competition to the main orthodoxy.
Who is challenging the orthodoxy in academia? Because there is none, it loses its credibility where tough-mindedness, if not truth, arises with its opposite. It's the same arguments, the same ideas, the same people often. They raise some good points. I want a full, free inclusive liberal democracy where all people feel that they can move from the place they find themselves in to a better one. When groups are stuck there needs to be a collective intervention. Show me who is stuck, why they are stuck and propose several ways to unstick them. And do that without harming the society that is successful, that makes money, that creates and invents. "Oh, you hate society, hate American culture, hate the successful culture. Oh I see. Ok. I've seen the hate, it is a commonplace hate, a hate that can do nothing but hate and wonder why the society doesn't transform on behalf of the hatred. I think this is the perception people have of academia and why they ignore it. It lacks the credibility
to move anyone. It is scorned in some places.
If you have no or little respect for your opponents in politics then the thing starts to break down, it becomes an infection and toxic, nothing really changes and when that happens the culture itself has to be much more vital than the politics. That's the great saving grace in a liberal democracy. Vitality away from the infection known as politics. That is the difference between a free society and a totalitarian one. And the politics are very toxic, the thinking classes are toxic and can't think themselves out of the box that the virus has forced them into. Perhaps a new generation comes along and rolls it all over and something new appears on the other side. But the vitality has to keep going, the freedom has to keep manifesting and making.
So much easier for the "revolution" to give up the illusion and merge with the "reform" than the other way around. At least in a liberal democracy.
I think I tried to get to a non-alienated state. That to me was one of the goals of liberal democracy. A state where one was fully who one was going to be, one who had been tested by the modern world and had come out better than when he went in. Perhaps one falls way short but the attempt reveals many things.
Well, America is America what can I say? It's either a nightmare or a resource. It can trap you or liberate you with the right resources in hand. The more you try to control or think you have control the farther you are from actual power. For all but the destitute it's practically a mind game.
FABRICATORS VS ORGANICS
The conflict in the US can be characterized as the "fabricators" versus the "organics". "Fabricators" have allowed for the complexity of the world and try to bring whatever tools exist to deal with it; to deal with problems if not the wholesale identity of a people or nation. It requires a large group of people who experience the same growth and development, ie. confronting the overwhelmingness of an urban environment that penetrates whatever protection is there from family or college and starts to reorganize the self or engage the self in a massive agon for self-identity, etc. The self compromises by admitting the complexity and finds the strongest ideas he or she can to deal with it. The "organics" are rooted in one place and are sensory-- they do not experience the world as complexity and diversity but as a struggle between good and evil. This becomes very pronounced when the "fabricators" fail and continues until a new fabrication is confidently put forth. It is conceded, in the long run, that the "fabricators" need to make decisions in the midst of complexity but that the burden is on them to make right decisions and to solve problems and make the whole better for everyone. If not then power shifts to the "organic" that flattens the culture until the new fabrications are in place.
* * * * * * * *
For the Democrats to win a national election they need more Yang. Yin dominates them and softens them and makes them look ridiculous from time to time.
Often political ideas are erector sets that interfere with the actual solution to a problem because what else is involved in a political idea but the ego of those who create it?
* * * * * * * *
Simple, practical politics with a very creative, dynamic culture that is on the same page about problems and celebrates the dynamics of itself.
* * * * * * * *
"What am I," he leisurely pondered, "if I am nothing
to the others?" He felt himself stripped down to nothing in the middle of contentious arguments about the nature of things, much of which seemed wrong-headed. "Every citizen,"
he thought, "is the preparation for powerful office. Therefore, his range of knowledge and experience has to be great and deep and include the ways and means of living that the people exhibit. For instance, he noticed that many people worked in the tall, corporate buildings downtown and so the hypothetical citizen made it a point to, as well, work in one of the tall, albeit modest, buildings to join himself with the others. "After all, when I ride with them in silence, up the elevator, I can feel their lonely thoughts. If I were to gain power I would know better how to govern them for the duration of my stay in office."
* * * * * * * *
He noticed that a guru from another nation had come to his own country and gained followers. There was a scandal. It was apparent to him, immediately, that the big guru was seeking revenge on those who had once colonized his country. "What a bizarre, wondrous nation this is! So much vulnerability! It's legs open to any type of penetration."
It was wrong to have the wrong kind of hatreds. To have, that is, general hatreds for all kinds of reasons. That created a mind drain. It bled ones strength. The hatreds belonged to the lower order of things. But, as he took a glance around he was left with the impression that it was nothing but hate, fear, stupidity, and greed. He read the papers, watched TV news and it all started to sound the same; the conscience gone crazed. The people crazed and ironic sports of nature.
The more manipulative TV became, the more important newspapers and good magazines became. The frightening thing, to the hypothetical citizen, was just how much TV had "taught" the passive viewer that he was nothing but a satchel of opinions and prejudices dancing feebly around frightening images and complex events. "They are passively manipulated all through their lives until nothing is left but a vague desire to go away somewhere and die."
"This sadness," he said to his friend in the park, "this unopposed sadness. I get into a place where my insight turns against myself. Utterly no support from any quarter."
"Friend," he said, "you need to get fascinated, again, by a woman."
"No, I stare too long into the facts of death; death has wheels, sound, and velocity today. It's an overwhelming aspect. I have stared into the single aspect. It's like an evil eye"
Break up the boredom! Fill up the spiritual vacuum! An American could, no doubt, emerge from the attempt. It was amazing to him , alarming at times, how there was such a close correspondence between the unconscious mind and the world-as-it-is. It looked as if they were truly moving out of an old disposition; the devices were many but, perhaps, the devices were, themselves, only symptoms. They went through a deep, profound disillusionment of old memories, after which the memories were turned into legend and fable.
To the good American, the experience of doom was the final stage of disillusionment as men and women attempted a necessary climb out of an old skin and into a new one.
In wistful moments, the hypothetical citizen always imagined himself speaking to a collection of students, especially those now falling back into some dead zone of acquiescence. And he saw himself sitting there explaining to them that they are being foolish. "There's a de jure and de facto form of tyranny. There's the type where the natural rights of men and women are kept out of the circle of power by law because, 'there's nothing they have to know,' whereas the other form is self-alienation from their natural capabilities that, in effect, give over to the state a nearly tyrannical face."
His own culture had always needed an enemy. First was nature, then the competitive struggle between people, and now the struggle on the global scene. Nothing had prepared his dear culture for any of these struggles.
But then, wasn't modern existence lived as a protection from corruption and shame? Corruption, that exhaustion of mind; that obese, sad-eyed sybarite he had respected in youth speaking on subjects he knew nothing about. Perhaps to have a sense of corruption and shame one had to have a sense of community, even tribalism. And where were the tribes of technological societies but in dreams and dim intimations? And in those aspects of mind not yet annihilated by the machine: Family, Sport, and the purest of all dreams.
And it had been the hypothetical citizens experience that machines engendered shame because they destroyed and re-created like the gods of old. It was
an initiation of sorts into the modern world. If a person "did something" that made him ashamed he was able to repress that shame and substitute experience in its place. He was able to, like the
robber barons of Enron, drive away from the source of shame and plunge into activity that filled him with the feeling that he was with it; that he was on top of things.
It was, perhaps,the prime experience on which he made his organizations. It explained why people had worlds in them that they hardly experienced; that even the simplest person had a complicated system of judging and evaluating based on the avoidance of shame and the protection against corruption. And why the direct sense of shame was experienced by those who cast themselves outside of the society. It either destroyed them or they fashioned it into a weapon or created an object of beauty.
Shame was always seen as a great obstacle to power.
January 4, 2023
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