Brief Observations At the Still Point
It is the poorest political era in my recollection. It is rich in largesse
and the representatives are deep into conspicuous consumption. But the spirit of politics is a beggar on a street with no name.
I went through the 60's and 70's
period. The politics was exciting because everything was up in the air. There was possibility everywhere. The 80's and 90's
settled everything down as emphasis shifted to the private sector. But now, this thing, whatever it may be has turned into the most toxic, foul
era of politics in my lifetime. Why?
Part of the blame goes to the dumbed-down American people who are under the strange belief
that they need not do anything but make money, birth babies, and vote every couple of years. In between all of this is the drama of petty lives, petty affairs,
and petty office politics. Some of the blame goes to the intellectual class who became mindless power-mongers
and still think they deserve to gain
the center-ring even after thirty years of rule by the fundamentalists; their doppelgangers! And the fundamentalists are the scariest crowd of people
ever to arise in American liberal democracy to actually take power. And the people don't seem to be moved one way or the other. Therefore, there is a seeming break-down
in whatever passes as a cultural system even as the infrastructure goes about its daily business.
"If the people don't care, why should I care?" This is a crucial question a bit-player on the scene asks
himself. If the people don't care, are easily manipulated, are cut away from the sources of power, are ignorant and so on then why should people who actually
care about things, that tiny minority of pissants, stand in there?
"Tear it down. Destroy it. Absolutely eviscerate it." It is merely a scary voice in the literary
imagination, perhaps an old-framer reaching through time, at the moment he realizes the people are disconnected from the promise.
No, no, no cranky old ghost! Do not go out and tear it down or throw negative thoughts against it. Simply inspire
them to obey that quintessential American political myth of "make it new but know all that has happened previously." Try it.
"Your ignorance is a giant fist hammering at the heart of the liberal democracy."
The American people believe they are complete and all they need be.
The reality is they are some of the worst batches of people produced in this liberal, democratic culture.
No where else in American history do you find two generations of people so removed from the sources of
the liberal democracy; so certain of themselves in ignorance. So without shame and guilt
that they represent a full-fall of America in the 21st century. The only ones close to having a shot of doing anything are the X'ers now traversing their perilous thirties. Many of the boomers
are lost dogs. Not lost sheep because boomers were never sheep. But lost dogs can find packs of other lost dogs and become rather dangerous. The one's coming up after the X'ers don't
look very remarkable and will be controlled by a celebrity culture until, finally, a cartoon character will be elected to high office.
It doesn't bode well for the future. "People," the philosopher would warn, "perception does not equal
knowledge!" But, even the philosopher would give up after a period of time. And if those who love the idea, love the acts that occurred are not concerned then they are simply under
the hypnotic eye of something they can't not name. Help me here, I don't wish to be buried in this awful pessimism.
If each citizen has the naive belief his
values and interests are sustainable simply because they exist in him,
the disillusionment of this will drive him into the protective womb of some group. The more this occurs, the more groups gain power, the more dependent the citizen is on groups of interest, the greater is
the separation between himself, as a citizen, and the organizing principles. As this occurs there is less loyalty to those principles, more ignorance about how the thing got there in the first place, the more
easily duped the people become, the harder the fall when they discover the truth, and the resulting
splatter does not change anything except add to the unique ways power has of avoiding the mess.
The Democrats do gather much of the mess and tuck it away in their soft pouches. But, for the most part, the mess is absorbed into that stink-pot called society and
dissipates through time.
Of course money, organization, and rhetoric are all necessary parts of a living world. If I want to help people the best thing I can do
is raise money, gather an organization together, and then advertise the cause to build both money and organization up. I can't do it by pure reason alone. The problem is the effect of this "total perception;"
that it is nothing but money and special-interests that believe in themselves.
This is where disillusionment begins and ends.
It begins for people who have ambition. It ends for people who have ideas
or ideals. From that simple, singular fork-in-the-road all the cancerous growth comes from.
The body politic, hopefully not a big, passive blubbery thing but one that wants to stay alive,
checks this perception by keeping politics local and personable.
Sometimes that's enough to keep the essential functions of the body going.
* * * * * * * *
The pure democrat is always
lectured as a child by those who believe in reality. "This is not a pure democracy
but a republic, a representative democracy--may the best representation win!"
This view is true but it's also filled with consequence. For instance, if the citizen is crushed under the rolling wheels of
systems greater than he or she how can the citizen build anything like a "republic." And it's quite evident that the republic needs to build itself every
generation. How can the citizen be anything other than a piece of moss stuffed away in cities and suburbs watching life roll furiously above him? How is this
beneficial for a liberal democracy?
Even the strongest citizen is whisked away into the intermediation of a huge nation-state, molded, and then spit out when
he is no longer useful to power, clueless as to how much damage has been done to the spirit of democracy.
May 31, 2006
So, where is your loyalty?" This was asked of me by someone who read an article I wrote
criticizing the Bush policy in Iraq. "That's an interesting question. It's a fundamental question in a liberal democracy filled with millions of self-interested
people and institutions. And I will answer you this way: First, and foremost, as a writer I am loyal to the most articulate, precise,
intelligent, imaginative use of language. It's my belief that an articulate culture can rule itself better than a dumb one. And a dumb one would be filled with
the wrack of images spewed out by propaganda mills rather than words, sharp as swords, cutting through to the truth. A dumb culture is delusional when it calls itself
I am loyal to the Constitution because I've learned over the years how it was built. And anything built well has my loyalty.
Since what has been built
is the foundation of the government, it is one of the primary objects of loyalty.
I am loyal to the few in history who have articulated a perfect system of belief.
I am loyal to the idea of the progress of human beings; if not all-together than one-at-a-time.
I will tell you what I'm not loyal to: Those who do not pay attention.
April 29, 2006
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