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."
Some Impressions on Political Candidates
I listened to the Democratic debate on CNN and came away genuinely impressed
by the row of candidates. They know their stuff because each one of them is intimately
connected with the running of the government., either as Senators or ex-Ambassadors and
Only one person on that stage had the indefinable quality that says "leadership"
rather than "just-another-ambitious-politician." And that person was Obama who is either a leader or
a kind of glass figurine. And by some of the looks Hillary gave him, I think she sees him as fragile
and can't wait to sweep him to the floor where he will shatter.
My personal view is that the largest figure in the field wasn't at the debate and is waiting
for the fatigue that will set in during the summer as Hillary sounds slicker than her
husband and someone-who-is-nameless pushes Barack off the table to the bitter floor
That guy, of course, is Al Gore. And I still peg him as the front-runner for any number
of reasons. One is because of the pure sense of justice that he won the election in 2000 and it was taken
unfairly from him and he was a man about it. Two, is the mythic sense of the "parallel universe."
We will get a chance to see what would have happened had the election gone the other way.
It will be a kind of alternating current version of history rather than direct current. Third, he can come
on stage as a hero-figure who has dismissed politics and involved himself in a cause and demonstrated
great leadership ability outside the realm of official politics. He can become the Cinncinatus of modern American
politics, which is closer to the Reagan model than anything the Republicans can put up there.
Oh, by the way, he is vastly experienced in politics. And yet is not seen as political. He
hasn't been tainted by the last eight years of Bushism and Democratic stupidism. So it's all
set up. He'll wait until Hillary and Obama dip a bit, their campaigns tired. He will send
a great electrical surge through the Democrats and have an excellent shot at the nomination.
Knowing how shoddy the people treat prophets I'll keep my views to myself.
* * * * * * * *
It's appalling when candidates try and convince voters that "government
and the states they represent can be moral." I suppose there is a "the-states-obligation-to-moral-
decisions" sort of philosophy but it is a mere fragment, a shadow of "the states-obligation-
to-its-self-interest (ie. the majority of people)" sort of philosophy.
You could go to any number of states in the world and find in the government all kinds of men and women
who uphold moral principles while sending many people to their deaths or poverty.
All of the candidates need to say this: "We (Americans) are in the tragic phase of our development. We can't
go back and pretend we are not the center of world power, nay, the center of world history at this
point. If we go back to more naive and provincial days we will simply go down, go down mighty
to the long river of death as far as nation-states. If we decide the world is too nasty, too chaotic
for our moral taste and retreat and lick our own wounds we could do so for a generation.
But, eventually, the vacuum created by the withdrawal of America would see a rush to the
center, a grand fight for that center and the emergence of a power that would be a deadly
threat to the United States. So our isolation would simply inflict on a future generation a horrific
war of survival. But if we persist in the Bush idealistic-stupidity we'll turn into a rogue nation despite
all the good and decent people in it." Our candidate pauses and see's if his words have made any
impact on the throng of citizens. No. He brings out plan B.
"Here, my dear American constituents, are some facts:
* * * * * * * *
- We will be hated by much of the world for the rest of our days as a nation-state. Much of
this hatred will be fomented by dictators as a way to rally people and deflect criticism from the
dictators own abuse of power. Don't listen to it. Listen only to constructive criticism.
- Get off your asses and study what Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, Spain, England, Moslems,
Chinese among others did when they reached the pinnacle of world power. These are your
lessons. We don't need to follow their dead paths but the whole psychological state of a
people changes, its culture changes, at this lofty place. And when it goes down it never comes back.
- The future will be decided by the health of the people. It will be decided by the collaboration
between the people and the leaders they elect. It is the people who need to think about where
America is, how it is orientated to the rest of the world, what it's self-interest is, who challenges
that self-interest, and what imperils us as a people. A lot of that debate is underway now with the
focus being terrorism.
- What does it mean to be a "wise and prudent" nation-state in a world more dysfunctional
now than at any time in history? Of course one could argue that every living, existential moment
is a dysfunctional and dangerous one but each is crazy in its own way. Our dilemma is so profound
it's almost painful to write down. Let's just say 19 crazy men were able to stop the globe in its tracks
for a few days and leave it like that."
I suppose the American people need to re-moralize themselves, understand what is at stake
and how important it is that they leap beyond what they are, learn to sacrifice for the future,
and to extend their ability to learn and comprehend the experience of the world and of the United
States, the putative land that they love. We are privileged because we've been able to develop as we please in a womb-like
comfort and security that makes all people envious. And we need to take that privilege and
transform it into something startling new that the world has never seen.
Unfortunately, Americans always seem to slip back, in their habit of thinking, into
the inferior history our founders, at least, tried
to propel us out of.
June 14, 2007
Some Impressions on Ugly Words
We too have our Victorian age. If, back then, a man had said another man didn't
have "balls," there would have been a scandal. If a magazine had talked about "tits
and asses," it would have been shut down due to outrage. We laugh now but we are as
immersed in language-scrubbing as they were.
It's astounding to me how the shadow of one generation becomes
the light of the next. The good of the generation is buried and the shadow carried up and out
of the corpse of youth. The shadow gets credibility in the marketplace, eventually in politics
and then the whole thing shudders into a nightmare. That is one impression snatched
from the last forty years or so. The light of the present generation is equality and
environmental enlightenment. It's shadow is resentment and ignorance. And I will be curious
to see how the next era takes resentment and ignorance and turns them into light.
Bigotry is serious business in our time as sex was serious business back in the Victorian
Age. It was a cartoonish attempt to make human beings more "divine" and less "animal."
One can at least give them the credit for
trying to live exemplary lives. Bigotry is serious business to us because we are aware of
how wrongfully people have been turned against themselves in this society. In an era-to-be
there may be a generation that says, "wait a minute that was in some distant past. We are
all equal now or all the same and we despise each other just as much." A bad-word bloodbath
We know that the Victorian Age lost its raison d'et for any number of reasons. Sex was active. Sexual talk was
driven underground and a large porn industry existed for gentleman of leisure. The succeeding
era has made it a kind of healthy plaything of no meaning or consequence, heightening the social
tension since there is so much anticipation and resentment/sexual jealousy right under the skin.
Go ask your favorite dark age if sex and violence fit hand-in-glove.
Oh, our judges in the future may say, "a sex-driven
culture that celebrates itself with explicit sex and seeks to unleash every bit of sexual energy
is one that will not sacrifice for the future. Thus they delivered us a screwed up era, thus
we have returned to wearing black, full-length clothing."
It's also fascinating that a rapier word in one era is a flabby joke the next.
And a word can be twisted at the foundations by what can only be described as human
silliness. For instance, asking about the supply of hoes down at the hardware store
is going to take on a whole different texture of meaning.
Obviously we are trying to do exactly what the Victorians tried to do: Live up
to some ideal that is simply fodder for a new age that comes behind it and says, "your
civil society is a lie."
The fact we repress some words but openly flout others makes us fairly transparent,
especially for the novelist or social critic who wants to put the era to bed.
* * * * * * * *
Saying wrong things is often an excuse for irrational politics to leap into the
hot vacuum to declare its piousness and to say that word destroys
the integrity of our nation. The Right swam its way into power on that muck.
It raises the disturbing question, "with all the thought-police out in force for the past thirty years
on both the left and right, how come the culture hasn't improved one iota?"
Where has all the language
scrubbing got us?
And one could make
an excellent case that the culture is worse off; cruder, coarser, with less redeeming quality than
any other "great" culture ever produced. A society where people are afraid of each other.
A culture where there is less equity than in the Victorian Age. A culture exhausted of dreams and wondering
why it is so pessimistic.
* * * * * * * *
The most powerful antidote to the stupidity of Imus is the poise and beauty of the women he
insulted. No more need be said about it.
For awhile the thought-police of many persuasions will be out in force, with cadres of bloggers
showing the way, inspecting every sentence, every word uttered in public. It won't matter
left or right. It won't matter black or white. The American culture is more susceptible to pandemonium
in these matters than one cares to think about.
Or is it merely an entertainment to pass the day because life has become awfully boring and meaningless?
* * * * * * * *
Two types emerge out of a culture like this. One exploits the situation, the other understands
the situation and searches in all the manure to find at least one seed worth recovering and then
moves on and leaves the mess to itself.
May 8, 2007
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