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Writers Notebook
Brief Impressions At the Still Point 

By David Eide


"It does not take a majority to prevail...but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."

Samuel Adams

Some Impressions on Challenges

When I see families ruling the political roost the first term that comes up is, "benign despotism." And while it is true that the people still make the political class accountable to them, networks of the elite's thrive win or lose. The networks are never destroyed. If a man or woman loses political office they simply slip into the side pocket, into another node of the network.

This is disturbing or funny depending on your relation to the cosmic history of things. On the one hand the democracy still has some suppleness left and is attempting to deal with a huge machinery of effects. On the other hand, the spiritual in me says that when the foundation dies all else will die on top of it, eventually. It may take a few centuries but there it is.

The foundation in this case is the belief that the gene pool for political leadership is rich and deep. And that the American people have an uncanny ability to smoke out leaders rather than annoint members of privilidged families. It's another indication that democracy is lazy and has lowered itself down into old habits, ancient as Sumer along the Tigris River.

* * * * * * * *

Watch how the consultants teach the candidates to be fragile snowballs so they can connect to the sentimentality of the people. Yet, one of those delicate snowballs will be called on to kill many innocent people.

* * * * * * * *

The danger exists that as the years go on, the good people in it will view the machinery of power in America as no different than the machinery in despotism's around the world and either drop out or sabatoge it. The good people that is. The bad people will revel in the setup and effectively take control of a lot of the institutions. As the process accelerates, the process of complete demoralization will accelerate and then you have another mighty kingdom going down.

It is only stopped by the re-moralization of the people.

And how do you re-moralize people who have acted either like the downtrodden in the middle-east, tossing their loyalty over to fanatics, or the satiated Romans of Nero's generation?

As we observe the political culture we are reminded of a kind of axiom experience has produced for us: A powerful, unprecedented world produces two types: The fearful and the nihilistic. It does not produce a fully-moralized liberal, democratic citizen.

We have more money and things, even more knowledge and experience but we lack an understanding of ourselves and the foundations that got us to this place.

Those who know usually divide, 98-2, between the will-to-power and truth-telling.

* * * * * * * *

Ideally a citizen would have both secular and spiritual streams running long and deep in him. They would know each other but would not pour over their boundaries and destroy the good of the other. The secular exists for problem-solving in the real world. It requires, if not science, technique. It requires practical experience. Leaders must know how things work, especially systems, and then have the leadership capability of collaborating with the people to get the "solution" in place.

What you have now are ambitious people who are taught the skill of appealing to a critical mass of people, connecting at every hinge of sentimentality but who have many others telling them the way things work. This seems to me to be a large failure in modern democracy. The Bush Administration is largely a failure because the President and Commander-in-Chief did not know.

And as war magnifies so raw and blatantly, "if the Commander-in-Chief does not know, no one else knows." In this case everyone knows he is an Emperor with No Clothes but no one knows what to do about Iraq.

* * * * * * * *

Historians like Toynbee point out that the future of a civilization can be predicted by the types of challenges it takes on. If it ignores the challenges it loses its resourcefulness and the challenge suddenly becomes a demonic whirlwind. The people abandon all hope and demand authoritarianism, which they get, the crisis deepens because the authoritarian nature of power corrupts so, eventually, all is lost.

We are not at that point yet.

Intuition says we will approach that point in the 21st century since we enter it the big stick in the world. And the big stick is always the center of action.

* * * * * * * *

Some Points of Order

Three things determine the nature of a good government.

  • One is self-rule
  • Two is "perfect representation"
  • Three is excellent leadership.

The people must do as much as they can for themselves. If a problem exists on a local level they have the right to band together and get their representative in city government. to deal effectively with the problem. But they also have the duty to try and rule themselves in such a way that the problem is mitigated. Therefore, buying solar cars or driving less or at a lesser speed is an example of self-rule because they have the power to solve the problem rather than shuffling it onto inefficient government.

Representation is perfect when it is a direct conduit between the people suffering a problem and the law making body that can do something about it.

Leadership artfully deals with the inevitable conflict when problem-solutions are advanced in the public forum.

* * * * * * * *

In the hive of complexity self-rule is practically impossible. The more complexity exists, the less self-rule there is. This speaks to the chronic problem of a successful organization. The more complexity, the less self-rule, the less efficient the solutions, the more chance there is of corruption until there is exhaustion in the political life of the people. That seems to be the way of all things until a shot of adrenaline is applied at the right time, in the right spot.

* * * * * * * *

The environmental/resource problem(s) seem to be one such challenge ahead of this civilization. And it's amazing how much resistance, how many insults, how many egregious lies and rationalizations meet up with this challenge. But those who resist the challenge are in the same boat as those who did not believe slavery to be a problem and resisted its abolishing at every turn until it was settled by a bloody Civil War. Those who stood in the way were on the wrong side of history. They are now shunned and forgotten by the culture and viewed as enemies to the greatness of America.

In much the same way those who ignore this, those who dismiss it with a word or two, those who sneer and lie to keep themselves from having to go find facts on their own are doomed to the same fate. And not simply because it is a problem but because they refused to take on a great challenge and spur the thousand and one great innovations, ideas, changes of habit and other wonderful saviors of civilizations.

The problem will not be solved through politics or rock concerts. It will be solved by encouraging the best and brightest to go out and do the million and one simple and complex things that lead to change. A change of habit, a change of value, a change in the expectation of people and so forth. The people must do this. The political class can't do it for them. The ridiculous ranters and ravers on TV won't solve it. Big money won't solve it. It is the people themselves who must solve this in every way, shape, and form. When they do take on some responsibility for a challenge all kinds of wonderful unintended consequences pop up.

It will be solved when the challenge is made into a value that is transmitted across generations by the sacrifice of the current generation.

* * * * * * * *

INSIGHT: The omelet is not made by the eggs yelling at each from different sides of the pan, accusing the other of heinous crimes.

* * * * * * * *

It appears the people are addicted to gambling and media. Gambling is understandable and takes some effort on the part of the addicted. But the media is a passive liquid that drives between the eyes and makes people participate with it on weird and insidious levels. Aren't they sick unto death of it? The media is a dope and you know what happens to a brain on dope.

These may be slight addictions but each is magnified when what is needed now is not simply sacrifice but a sense of the future, a sense of progress among the satiated American people.

I think, immediately, about changing the fuel system but there are others. I think of the fuel system because the cheap oil is drying up and the effects of fossil fuel on the living systems are well documented. Not to mention that much of the cheaper oil lays under the most treacherous ground today.

America must maintain itself as leader by showing the way to a world not dependent on fossil fuels. And it will require a great challenge and require the collaboration of financial, regulatory, engineering/scientific, community, and education regimes.

People should think of the use of energy not by what brings pleasure to the moment but what effects it will have on the mid-late 21st century.

If we could take out this burden it would help usher in some new possibilities in themselves.

Some challenges off the bat:

  • Senators in key fossil fuel states that can bog down any initiative.
  • Getting the people excited about taking on a challenge like that.
  • Getting the technology to the point where financial regimes say, "if I invest in this it will appreciate and I will make money."

Two other great challenges for the 21st century:

  • Getting the America student up to speed for the 21st century.
  • Getting the American citizen up to speed for the 21st century.

August 14, 2007

Some Impressions on Things

Things come and go; issues and players come and go. Two, three, four passages flow through a citizen in one lifetime. The passages are either defined by con-men or sincere men and women.

Now we have President Bush, the candidates for '08 and continuing issues like Iraq, illegal immigration, health-care and so on. These will pass through the body politic, into the bowels and move out at some unsuspected moment.

A citizen not only needs orientation, he demands it. If a citizen doesn't orientate toward the political system, toward the world he lives in, then what does he orientate toward?

* * * * * * * *

I read an interesting poll of people in the streets of Baghdad. Two things are evident to me: One is that those on the receiving end of bombs usually know more about the situation than those dropping the bombs. And second that Iraq is likely to be taken over, again, by a strong-arm military guy. In other words, another Hussein who will be championed by the people and stop the sectarian violence through his own military/political brand of violence.

* * * * * * * *

Life, whether in Iraq or America, is a difficult thing and allows for a kind of certainty that is useful in a world rapidly racing in all directions. The fact it is racing away from us should make us humble and learn a few things.

As a citizen I either have renunciation or acceptance. If I accept the system then I need to know it as well as I know myself. I need orientation on the local level, on up to the federal level, out into the sinister geopolitics; each level different and posing different problems.

The best antidote to "alienation" is the study of the systems that flow through the alienated.

Study them until you run into the experts, know the experts, move on until the influence of the systems has passed through you. Report. Meditate. Recover, etc.

  • Social system
  • Political system
  • Economic system
  • Natural system
That makes up the big four.
  • Educational system
  • Water system
  • Electrical power system
  • Transportation system
  • Communication system and more should be studied.

Why am I interested in all of this? If America were preparing for a revolution I'd be interested in the revolution. If America were on the verge of a civil war I would focus my attention on civil war. If the frontier were being settled I would be riveted in the frontier. If industrialism were sweeping through the cities and countryside I would concentrate on industrialism. If America were in a depression I would be scouting out the depression. If we were fighting nazi's I would be there fighting nazi's.

Now it is fighting both terrorists and its own complexity, a barrier to its better self.

I came from an era where America fought communism. I did go through a period of crisis in the 60's, a very disruptive and dynamic period which a person who experienced it must try to come to terms with.

But now we are here, after two decades of relative calm and security. We are here, at the pinnacle of world power, on a real Earth both amazed and congratulating ourselves on a fine place to be and yet inexperienced and rather overwhelmed by it all.

Not yet toughened enough to laugh at those who hate us.

The tragic phase of our development.

What else is happening but this phase of our development?

The rest of the world is, if not in complete chaos, trying to ape the success of America and is both sad and predictable.

Sometimes the best thing is just to stare out into the universe hoping to spot that one wink from intelligent life to let us know we inhabit more than a mound of serious jokes.

July 27, 2007

Some Impressions on Political Wars

Politics is a war most people survive and are better for the experience. At least that is true in America. When politics fails, the killing begins. Witness many of the squares of longitude and latitude on the Earth.

But when it is healthy the war is on and a citizen discovers for him or herself how this war is to be conducted and what part they will play in it.

(And killing is bad because from the beginning of time there is nothing more ferocious or memorable for people than "blood feuds." Go ask your favorite Shiite or Sunni.)

After the war, in a land of good politics, the losers are embedded in the winning army and must be consulted for the victors to be successful.

Most citizens are foot soldiers and follow the order of the lieutenants, colonels, admirals, generals and other Pooh-Bahs of the political party who wave their different flags exactly the same way.

The writers are usually on the mountain observing the ways and means of combat. They have no other substantial role. Most of their observation is pure entertainment.

* * * * * * * *

The war is waged to produce "leaders." In the old days they would fight each other with swords. Now it is with two-bit words that have been lost in the second or third bout of disillusionment among the people.

Seven years of very poor leadership will produce that state of demoralization. The people are feeling it and, according to the polls, see the country moving in the wrong direction.

What is a leader?

More importantly, what is a leader in the early part of the 21st century of a huge liberal, democratic nation-state? We know the leader can not bully and coerce the people. Our guess is that the next authentic leader will be one who connects with the people and begins a happy collaboration toward something richer and more productive than the past seven years, maybe the past 25.

New vision, new competency, new direction.

But, collaboration is the key word.

* * * * * * * *

In this war the people give themselves the orders.

We call democracy, "self-rule." And what is self-rule but knowledge that combines with full- mindedness? And what are these things but miracles in the middle of a kind of awful eternity we are never prepared for? Manipulation of information is not full-mindedness. Neither is dumbing down. Neither is the passionate hatred of anything that gets in our way.

And what is self-rule in the middle of wild-like-nature technology? That is a central question. And what is self-rule as it watches the passing through of trillions of dollars? In other words, can the morale of self-rule be sustained despite the assault by the huge world-of-effects? There are no clear cut answers but as we noted, the framer generation was closer in experience to the ancient world than to our own.

Self-rule depends on the ability of the full-minded citizen to connect with the system of governance and, if nothing else, plug into the organizing principle and protect it. Self- rule permits that full development of a value or idea and expects that to be met with its opposite, believing as ferociously as I believe. Both warring parties protect the the system of governance.

After all, even though many disagree with Bush and the current administration there is not a great deal of violence over the fact. There isn't murder taking place because of it. There aren't huge crowds of people rioting about it. And we hope self-respect has more to do with it than disinterest or meekness.

We know for certain that the Bush Administration has been violent in every nuance of the word.

* * * * * * * *

I'm not sure it is an iron-clad relationship but "good economy" is inferred by "good government." And good government is made up of many things, esp. the good energy of the people. That includes a people who know what is at stake, understands the slow processes of government and doesn't get discouraged by them, a people who have an excellent knowledge base, a people who "know" the ten or so people they need to know. Every citizen has one president, two senators, one representative, one governor, an assemblyman, a state senator, a mayor, a representative on city council, and a representative in the county board of supervisors. It may be different in different regions but those are the primary people a citizen needs to know. Then a citizen needs to know the "structure of government," beginning with the Constitution and ending up with the latest Federal Manual. Then the citizen needs to know who covers and reports on this Gargantuan better than anyone else. Then the citizen needs to know whose commentary and opinion is informed by the same characteristics of self-rule.

Some energy goes to understanding the history of it, some to the maintenance of it, and some to "how it can get better." Those seem to me to be the bottom-line responsibilities of the citizen; at least those citizens who understand that the "good life" is connected to "good governance." Sometimes it takes a scandal, grievous incompetence, or disastrous failure to wake them up to the fact.

The condition of the army

And it is nothing but the people. It is not President Bush, the Supreme Court, the Congress, the billions and trillions, the nuclear arsenals, the wheels and deals up in the ruling stratosphere. It is the people. Without self-rule what is democracy but a farce inching itself toward new forms of modern tyranny?

When the people break down it's only a matter of time before the infrastructure of governance breaks down. Look at the people! Then you can gauge the quality of the political system. Of course politics and government can reduce people, make them worse, rob resource from them, and slap them in the face with stupidity and corruption. That is all true. But then, isn't it themselves doing the rotten deed?

The optimum for a wise liberal democracy would be this. The people knowing everything that goes on, how things work, perfect identity with their living region, etc etc. A more perfect wisdom would include the knowledge of nature, the universe and everything not- America.

Power operates through valves of fear and intimidation. It doesn't matter whether it is a tyrant in the middle-east or the modern American government. It is far more obvious in a tyranny since one guy carries the tools of intimidation. In a democracy this is spread over the vast landscape of government. Fears check each other. The democrats fear big corporations and wealth, republicans fear change. The government, as an institution, always fears for its future.

The antidote for the citizen is knowledge and possession of the government as "his or her own." The idea of ownership of government is extraordinarily important.

The people could take back possession of the idea of government if:

  1. They knew how it was made to begin with.
  2. Were able to discover its full history from 1787 to the present.
  3. Developed a knowledge of the full spectrum of human nature, esp. that nature that has power or wants it.
  4. Acted as if a public wound was a personal wound.

Intimidation in the face of power would make the citizen cynical, withdrawn, or angrily throwing irrationalities of every sort at the beast.

The intimidating beast is what all citizens need to face down. Bush has proven that bad government does not produce good people or good results. He has proven that bad government is tantamount to dripping poison into the clear and deep reservoir feeding the heart and soul of the people.

We wait that fundamental shift when the people realize that dumping on the government in irrational rage or as a token of proving who runs what is not enough. It takes a commitment to self-rule and that means courage and sacrifice.

That's usually what wins wars.

July 12, 2007

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