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Writers Notebook
Brief Impressions At the Still Point 

By David Eide

Some Impressions of Politics

Politics is the last to know. It is at the end-point of a complex brew of populism and advocacy based on problems too large to handle by groups of interested people who, not suprisingly, want the power of state to solve the problem. Politics may begin in great love or great hatred but ends when most of the emotions have worked through the people. It's at this point when politics becomes the art and skill of manipulation.

All across the political culture is the odd dialectic that goes, "what I love, you hate; what I hate, you love." One might term it, the passion in politics. And then, after awhile, the conflict feels like an old, decaying marriage and the participants settle. But it is always with the backdrop of new passions stirring away ready for great battles.

* * * * * * * *

Hillary's strength is similar to Bin-Laden's. They hardly believe anything but their place in history. They want to be renowned like Eleanor of Aquitaine or Saladin. A person crazed with this passion will kill, lie, and cheat for certain but may, as well, do some significant things.

Obviously there is great difference between the two. Hillary exists in the context of a strong liberal democracy and bin-Laden operates outside the boundaries of everything but his nutty beliefs. Forced to choose and we would go with Hillary every time except for the primitive demonstration on bin-Laden's part that he is willing to do the physical sacrifice to prove his credibility.

It is much more likely the passion of the ambitions of these two will produce the nuttiness that undermines the leader and brings doom on his or her people. Captain Ahab is the still-standing archetype for the ambitious classes in the world. We mention those two because Hillary is winning the race for 2008 and bin-Laden is winning the "war on terrorism." We submit these as facts that may or may not frighten people but there they are. And it's highly likely their success is coming about due to the ineptness of their competitors rather than some special quality they possess on their own.

In the long tomorrow that will consume all we know, American presidents will have little play in the history videos or whatever they use. History chips perhaps. Three will be picked out as exemplary men who led America to its pinnacle of power: Mainly Washington, Lincoln, and FDR with Jefferson thrown in there as well. The rest will be obscure as medieval Scottish dukes.

And it gets more and more difficult defining what the long future may actually be. After all, short of a strike by an asteroid it is apparent that human beings will be on the planet for millions of years, not merely decades. I'm not sure that a guy six thousand years from now will be concerned with who the president was at this time. It is fairly clear to me that he will have the same relation to us, our vaunted time, as we do to fellow humans who lived 6,000 years ago. "They slept, they dreamt, they eliminated, they ate, they worked, they played, they sexed, they slept." Everything else will have been taken up and transformed many times, including the internet and jet aircraft.

And six thousand years will be a drop in the vast ocean of generations that will include beings with two different set of genitals, hair, and clear, beautfiul eyes.

Having this consciousness is the consequence of cracking into the universe and knowing it as a physical thing.

It rushes into modern consciousness and is mistaken for God or initiates a run of nihilism.

Yet, mysteriously, we must live one step-at-a-time with-whatever-we-have as resource and environment.

* * * * * * * *

Beyond mere politics is the health and instinct of the people who live in its stink. And they must be very clear what problems will harm the system of governance, their integrity as people, their livelihoods, their environment and so on. The stink of politics mingles with the health of the people to produce something; usually opposing ambitions that fight and struggle for the center of power. That's why it's disconcerting to discover the people as corrupt and conflicted as the government itself.

A distinctive hatred is always at the end of a good drilling down into the dark-soil of a political party.

The hatred for Democrats is for anything that escapes the commune, anything that does not have the orthodoxy. It's old world in that sense and easily rejected in a dynamic country like America.

The hatred for Republicans is in the form of anything different or suffering. They can't stand anything or anyone who doesn't share the exact verdict on "their" life which is usually propped up by family legacy and padded experience. Republicans remind me of little Buddha's in their father's kingdom, but instead of fleeing at the first exposure to real life they run back and hide further in the palace certain now that nearly everyone is against them.

* * * * * * * *

It's assumed that political points of view have legitimacy ipso facto because they exist out of the free people. That is true but it also reveals the true state of the free people.

And why we worry about the future.

October 30, 2007

Some Impressions of Candidates and Generations>

Were it not for their ineptness I would say the Democrats are fait accompli for 2008.

The people rightfully punish the incompetent party who put-in-place this "commander-in-chief."

But among the Democrats I don't see too much leadership ability.

And they still have the albatross of the "left" hanging around their neck. The left is stuck in an old world that has seen the dissipation of all their founding fathers and mothers and nothing to replace them with but angry feminists who citizens, now, either laugh or yawn at. Women can cut their own deals in this society far more than in most other places in the world. That work is finished. And I don't think the majority of people want to go back to the old days. .

The Democrats don't have the leadership to stand up and tell the left to go change, transform and develop new ideas and new angles of attack to old problems. That would infuse a good deal of stimulation into the docile intellectuals of today. And what does it say that the clowns and comedians are at the center of debate and commentary, not the intellectuals?

* * * * * * * *

Hillary has some good qualities but trust is not one of them.

* * * * * * * *

Leadership is the ability for a powerful person to say, "we are at A and I want us to go to D and I will take you through B and C." And the people are inspired to go, are thoughtful about it, and changes take place. You can do that with some resistance. You can't do it with very vigorous and angry resistance. .

It begs the question, "how come a decent, intelligent, well-spoken, humble, good man like Jimmy Carter failed and a half-empty, sentimentalist like Reagan succeeded?"

It is a mystery but it is also a fact that one failed and the other succeeded in moving the people in the direction he wanted them to go. And it had to do with the nature of resistance among the critical mass of people.

Hillary could operate well in a time where government is "top-down," where it has won over the loyalty of the people and is allowed to operate as an inside job. She would be very effective. But this is a time of populism and demands collaboration between leaders and the led. It may be faked for awhile but is ultimately found out at the core of things.

And if you fake the collaboration you will lose everything within a year or two of the election.

The key will be the roll her husband plays in the campaign. When Hillary gets exhausted, retires from the campaign for awhile, and Bill bounds up on the stage to keep the energy going how will the people respond? That will tell a great deal about how the people take to this potential experiment in leadership.

And I believe a lot of the criticism of Hillary has been unfair over the years. There is something good and positive about her. And if the people put her in office the people should be fair-minded and let her work out her leadership style.

I think it is very healthy for a strong woman to run for President.

* * * * * * * *

Barack Obama is one election cycle from being a serious candidate. And that time will come and he will be a very serious contender in 2012. Looking at the last debate the energy has gone out, he knows it and is looking for an exit strategy.

Biden comes close as a credible leader but there is something disagreeable about the man. There's something angry about him that is always ready to leap out and people don't like that in their leaders.

Edwards has affected a "I'm-goofy-just-like-the-regular-folks" demeanor and can't pull it off I believe. He does stand to gain more than Obama from a Hillary demise.

Richardson and Dodd have some good qualities but they hardly believe in themselves. And, in the case of Richardson, it seems like he's afraid something is going to come out about him.

We read all kinds of things into the people who want to be commander-in-chief because we are free, experienced, liberal democratic people. And now we know what happens with poor leadership. And so the bar is raised. If we simply read clever things into transparent people so what? We need to discover what a man or woman will do when thousands of lives are at stake. Except for McCain I don't see where any of the training of the spate of candidates prepares them for command decisions. And whoever is elected is going to be TESTED in their first year. And if they don't pass the TEST heaven help us.

* * * * * * * *

Hillary is the summing up of decades of feminism but it comes just at a time when America is getting hard again.

* * * * * * * *

Who is going to absorb the world of meaningful events, objects, and personalities and make out of it what is good for America? The candidates are shallow and inexperienced in everything but politics. They are rooted only in their will-to-power no matter how many sentimental tales they drag out from their childhood. I don't see anyone, for instance, who sizes up the real danger in the middle-east. And it is more than the failure of George Bush. We are committed to protecting the flow of cheap oil from the middle-east. When we leave Iraq that may become a real target and we will be forced back in on a very large scale.

What candidate will do it?

And they will have to do it to "save the global economy" since the American economy and the global economy are embedded in each other.

Leadership is learned in life and death situations where people's lives or jobs are won or lost. Leadership stands its ground when pressured not to and changes when the facts demand it. Leadership learns the subtle art of collaboration that gives people the feeling it is they, themselves, that are making the decisions. This was the magic of Reagan and no one in the race today comes close to it. The Clintons have always been about the Clintons. They use people and the public ruthlessly for their own ends. But then the public has always been about "a sucker born every minute."

And one can never underestimate the yearnings of the female to shatter the glass ceiling. I'm not at all convinced that will happen if Hillary is elected. The women will have to take on the responsibilities of being a world power and deal with evil in ways they haven't traditionally done. They will have to countenance most of the things they've decried about the very society! The contradiction will be heavy in irony. What is the difference between a man or a woman ordering the death of thousands of people on behalf of American security?

Through history women have proven their abilities as leaders. Elizabeth I comes to mind. And note the roles of women during these ye olde England days and how vastly different the modern world is for women, at least in the United States.

Gender politics is a corollary to fundamentalist politics. They are very skewered and unsophisticated world views. They each contain a seed of necessary response to the society but then get fat on their sense of entitlement and decay into an ocean of innane complaints that have nothing to do with the health of the whole culture.

It's the people who have sunk down to these levels. They are the ones who pay the price when a George Bush or the Clinton's lead them. And why do the people sink down into these puerile areas when the future of the country is looking problematical? That is the question a curious citizen needs to address at this point. Where is the authentic new direction that will compel a new philosophy of politics?

* * * * * * * *

Guliani is the Clinton's without the extraordinary craft.


With the spate of WWII memory entering the scene one reflects on the generations. And those were great young men who took on the responsibility of that war. I think of the conflict between themselves and the boomers. I think of the limitations of each generation.

My father's generation was overwhelmed by its experience in the war. Nothing was ever "as good," in the sense of energizing the self and sacrificing for the common good, for the good of all humanity.

The boomer generation was overwhelmed by its experience in the 60's and 70's. These were the breaking-out of minorities and women from subservient status to equal status, the care and concern over the environment among them. These experiences came about because (1) it was obvious that blacks were treated unfairly (2) an educated generation knew that the "freedom of women" was a mark of a strong, powerful civilization and subservience of women was a mark of a backward, barbaric society, (3) the threat of nuclear war alerted the mind of that generation that the world was more than border identities, and (4) the voyage to the moon put cameras in space to highlight and juxtapose the Earth to the infinite and hostile darkness it was embedded in.

It was the awareness that surrounding the shimmering light of Earth was an infinite space absolutely hostile to anything with life and that the only protection the Earth had was the shimmering atmosphere. These were reducible to actual facts. And facts are the drivers of the modern world.

The negative of these generations came out of some of the prime experiences of each. The men who fought WWII had tremendous camaraderie and had it well after the war. So, when minorities, women, environmentalists, anti-war types started to fight for something in the society that generation went into a war-time mode and linked together thinking they were fighting a terrible foe. They lacked the ability to see the facts. The Nixon paranoia was emblematic of the time.

The generation of "sex, drugs, and rock and roll," led to a tremendous dumbing down, addicted population exemplified in the popular culture. It made cynicism a reality that surrounded the generation as assuredly as the space around the Earth. It destroyed sensibility and made for fanatical types without a touch of the sublime to them. It was very destructive.

* * * * * * * *

It's more interesting to note the difference between the boomers and x'ers. The boomers experienced an excruciating political time in the late 60's and throughout the 70's. In the post-Vietnam/Watergate era there was a wholesale collapse in the "system of authority," and so thoughtful people were standing naked out in the cold world trying to solve huge problems. They did not rely on the discredited "system of authority," they had no confidence that problems could be solved there, and so tried to take on everything themselves.

But the problems of nuclear proliferation, environmental destruction, resource depletion among others was way too much to take on for people who did not trust the system of authority.

The core of the citizen collapsed into a dark, deep hole that produced cynicism and the escape valve of addiction or cults. Bill Clinton, an average president at best, and George W. Bush, a bad president without doubt are the result.

The X'ers lived in Camelot where populist leaders had two-terms to calm everything down.

  • There was economic growth.
  • Peace for the most part.
  • Very little internal dissension.
  • And the political system and other institutions of authority were "under repair," rather than collapsing.

If the X'ers became cynical it was the influence of the boomers in classrooms and media. But, their essential experience has been far healthier, far more trustworthy than the boomers. The problem is they were dumbed-down as soon as education was identified as part of the "system of authority" and became a political football.

October 4, 2007

Some Impressions by Shoeshine Men

My old pal Jude showed up the other day. I hadn't seen him in twenty-five years. He had disappeared during the Reagan years. I heard from a mutual friend he had hid out in the bowels of an awful city working a shoeshine stand at the BART station. "Yes," he said, he'd been doing that. "I've been reading in the libraries around town. God have they gone downhill, that is, until they put computer and internet access in there."

I wanted to re-acquaint myself with Jude and asked him for a shoeshine on the only pair of shoes I own that requires a shine.

"Absolutely, good friend! But as my hands and cloth touch your toes you must listen to me. Listen to a pent-up shoeshine man break-out after years of silence!"

I agreed and sat in what appeared to be a chair one would find in an old library with hard, curved plastic back and aluminum legs. He settled with a great display of odd rituals at my feet and began to prepare for the shine.

"A splendid house of cards can be made from wealth and power."

"The house of cards stands as long as everyone agrees that it is necessary and not to disturb the foundations. Those absolutely dependent on the house of cards look at each other to make sure they all agree that the house of cards is necessary. Arms, legs, and brains are stretched along the ridges that connect the house of cards."

"In a non-dynamic society like the old Soviet Union everything is dependent on the hypnotizing power of the house of cards and it's ability to punish that which is not hypnotized. In a dynamic culture as in the U.S. the house of cards is permitted to fall so a new one can be made."

"The most energetic Americans are either pulling down the old house of cards or putting up a new one. The dullards just go get hypnotized."

"Money is our great hypnotizing snake and it always has a fatal bite to it. It is too late to tell the dullards this of course. They cling to the house of cards without the energy to pull it down or make a new one."

"Ten years of no-money would teach Americans wonderful things about their potentials."

"I don't wish it on them."

"The two-edge sword is that anything hypnotizing will kill you in the end, after it has had its way. The key to a free, liberal democratic culture is to de-hypnotize from what is coercive and find out facts, truth, the good, the resourceful on one's own. That's the challenge of freedom today."

"The dullards rush into the mouth of the snake and are seen, later down the line, addicted and threatening to leap from the bridge. Or, they become hard as Attila the Hun ready to butcher any innocence that makes an appearance on the scene. "Take the head of the innocent!" says the new-bred American tribe. That includes the hard young one's who are too inexperienced to realize that they are removing their own head and placing it on a silver platter for con-men and criminals. The future. They are the future."

He spat like a character actor in an old movie and asked me to look down.

* * * * * * * *

We are in that peculiar space where the American people are learning what and what not to despise. Despise those who have played you for a fool. Despise those who would ruin the future of your children for their own aggrandizement. Despise those who worship actors and ignore wounded vets. Despise those who lie in your face, through the camera lens.

The writer's dilemma meets him very early on. The writer is one who reads history for some orientation in an age he neither likes or trusts. It acts itself all around him and he finally tires of it and goes to history to find some things out. And he discovers that most civilizations are ruled in two parts: The people who cling to a central myth or belief and the ruling types who believe in their own pleasure and/or power and scorn the central myth of the people. They know not to expose that scorn but their actions are full of it.

When the writer confronts this he is shocked by the veracity of the cynical and questions most of what he believes. And he sees this working out, this conflict, in ways that are uncanny. And so he is in the dilemma of one who either has loyalty to those who believe in the central myth (in our time it being democracy) or those who have the wealth and power and will reward those who kiss the end of their alimentary canal.

This is the central dilemma for the writer. Machiavelli goes for the patronage of wealth and power; Dante takes up the central belief and gives it morale.

* * * * * * * *

A writer will go back and forth on this. At times he hates the powerful but then he despises the people for their backwardness. At least the powerful read decent books! And the people were given the terrible burden of a myth that said "everything is subservient to you, the democratic people," and so they developed a very lazy and, shockingly old noble habit of being waited on by those who came to them on bended knee to serve them whatever gruel they could sell as gold.

This was, then, a matter of conscience pure and simple. And I put my loyalty with the people and democracy because hope only rests with them. The powerful are eternal and act exactly the same every generation. They act within the boundaries of their era and within that boundary do exactly as they please and define democracy through themselves. Whereas the people can actually grow and develop from this place, now, into something much better.

Change is possible with the people; improvement occurs with the people.

* * * * * * * *

September 21, 2007

Some Brief Snapshots of Hillary

There's no question that Hillary Clinton is the strongest candidate in the field. That goes without saying and there is a better than 50/50 chance that she will be the first woman President. It will take many men and a few women a few years to recover but they will.

Those of us in California remember the run that Kathleen Brown made for the governership. She was the front runner, she was the most attractive candidate in every way, shape, and form. She led the polls and was thought fait a'compli until the day of the actual election. She lost and was never heard from again. Did the people lie to the pollsters? Did they have a sudden change of heart while in the booth? I'm sure both played a large role.

Whether this happens in Hillary's case or not is hard to say. I think some of the support for her is pretty soft.

* * * * * * * *

As I mentioned before, politics is a war and war is a profound irrationality and if you want to win you need to be crazier, in a bright way, than the other guy. And that goes all the way down the line to the "commentators," etc. You must argue as if the other guy does not exist and get on top of him when he is wounded. This was the Republican strategy in 1980 and it worked and conservatives ruled the day for many years.

And Hillary is going after the "right-wing nuts." They will be the new vodoo doll to replace the "liberal" doll that is so tattered it's not even recognizable anymore.

The conservatives are the descredited ones now and are going to get a taste of their own medicine. Nothing they say will have any credibility. Their arguments will sour in the wind. They will appear as cranky-nut types no matter how many facts and reasoned arguments they bring out.

It's a turning.

Not that the Democrats are trust-worthy but any good political animal can smell the blood in the barnyard.

And the Clinton's are the savviest of political animals.

Some Impressions on Liberty

The "blessings of liberty" are a reality and a good. The immense variety of life in America speaks loudly to that. It can improve and it can get worse. That is the essence of the political battles fought today. What will improve the blessings of liberty and what will draw it down and make it less than what it once was?

A writer will naturally say, extend imagination, intellect, fullness of emotion and you will have more liberty. Shrink these things and you will have less.

* * * * * * * *

It feels like we are in for another round of rich-hating, an emotional pogrom that doesn't make sense but seems to alter the landscape. It's a case of there being no checks and balances against wealth other than revulsion.

Somewhere along the way, around the time of Reaganism, the middle-class switched from their hated of the wealthy to a hatred of the poor. That accounts for most of the politics of the past 25 years.

But experience teaches one a valuable lesson: Hatred destroys itself, never the object of the hatred. That seems built into a strong democracy and we count it as a good. Hatred, eventually, must heal itself. That is a key to a free society. "Hatred, heal!" Then offer me your solutions if any are left.

Rich-hating won't change much of anything. Neither will jew-hating, black-hating, white-hating, men-hating, women-hating and much of what passes as "political opinion" these days.

Hatred and cynicism are cries from the bottom and the distance it travels and the echo it makes tells something about the society. If these are laughed at the society is strong. If these qualities are feared then you have a weak society. Hatred joining hatred joining hatred in a viral chain is the most dangerous thing to happen to a society.

* * * * * * * *

Nothing in politics or the Constitution tells me what I should be or how I should live my life. In fact the range of freedom to figure that out is quite large and healthy. It also has flexibility so that if I want to be a doctor but change and decide, no, I want to be a writer that can happen. It won't happen by itself. And there is no guarantee of anything. And the culture requires some investment on the part of the individual into his or her development. The culture, then, is relatively sane and happy when people are pursuing their aspirations or best selves.

I focus on the "people" because big corporations, big insurance companies, big multinationals, big media, big govt. for that matter are beyond help. They do what they do to survive and have wonderful rationalizations for it. It is the way of nature. The framers of the Constitution realized that and why they wanted to pit ambitions against ambitions. And why at various points the Supreme Court has knocked down monopolies and collusion and so forth. Everything big and successful is connected to everything small and failing in that all the people rationalize why it is so.

Big things in America are beyond redemption; it is only the people who can make the necessary changes. And if the people are not prepared, not alert, not savvy, not active, not connected in common purpose, then by fiat they simply let the big take over and it does and it justifies itself fairly easily.

Reforms begin in seeds. Seeds have to survive the germination process. The plant of reform needs to find a good healthy sun until a threshold is crossed and the reform is a wild fire.

* * * * * * * *

Some objective views of history as it pertains to the American future:

  1. When a nation gets to the center of power, wars seems to appear in its midst. The wars are fought, eventually, at the center of power.
  2. If 19 crazy, dedicated men can stop the world for a day or two, what could a million crazy, dedicated people do who possessed both crude and sophisticated weapons of mass destruction?
  3. Every century has a period of disintegration where the "order" is vanquished by aggression and its response. That scenario still sits out there in the 21st century. In 1900 Europe who could have predicted by 1945, just 45 years after, Europe would be in ruins and lose its stature of the center of world power and center of world history?
  4. There is no guarantee of victory when the "order" disintegrates.

When contemplating these dire thoughts the writer understands how crucial it is for the free people to connect their wonderful freedoms to a hinge that understands how and why that freedom has arisen. It is disgraceful that a free people, privileged beyond scope, are ignorant and won't fight for that freedom. If nothing else was exhibited by the failed war in Iraq it was the inability of Bush to rally the free people to go fight the war.

When the burden is put on a particular group of people to fight and die for a cause and yet the wealth and power go to a completely different group what is one to think?

First of all, I would totally distrust that class of wealth and power because they have no sense of responsibility or obligation, therefore, are dangerous to the very idea of a democracy.

And the further they are unhinged to that which makes the democracy strong and free, the more they come to be a leeching, parasitical group who can buy political favor.

In that sense the "democracy" has merely exchanged one form of aristocracy for another form of it; a modern one where the wealthy throw in a few chips to help the poor get Internet access but then float sub-prime loans to them as well to get the money back.....with interest.

September 4, 2007

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