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It's My Ball Now, and I'm Not Giving It Back!

When BushCo won the election (5-4) I knew that Caesar had crossed the Rubicon. And once Caesar crosses the Rubicon he doesn’t cross back. The American experiment in democracy officially ended the day the Supremes handed down their infamous, partisan, and treasonous decision. (Oddly enough, this day happened to coincide with the day I decided to move to another country; when a window eventually opened for me to go to Canada I jumped through it.)

I remember during the Florida recount fiasco James Baker, the Bush family attack dog leading the legal charge, saying at one point regarding some decision soon to be handed down, that, to paraphrase (since I don’t remember the exact quote), “If they find in our favor then their decision will be fair and impartial; if they find against us it would be a gross injustice and a proof of their partisanship.” Right then I had an inkling that BushCo was playing for keeps, and that they were using a new rulebook.

But I was unable to adequately express just how I knew this. It’s one thing to have a gut feeling based on my understanding of personality and history; it’s another to give voice to that feeling with critical thought.

When Paul Krugman’s book The Great Unraveling came out it got a lot of deserved press. I read an extended excerpt of it and had to read more. Krugman’s remarkable introduction gave me the theoretically underpinning I needed to help me understand that gut feeling. Apparently he had the same experience when reading Kissinger’s doctoral thesis. Here’s an extended excerpt:

Back in 1957, Henry Kissinger — then a brilliant, iconoclastic young Harvard scholar, with his eventual career as cynical political manipulator and, later, as crony capitalist still far in the future — published his doctoral dissertation, A World Restored. One wouldn’t think that a book about the diplomatic efforts of Metternich and Castlereagh is relevant to U.S. politics in the twenty-first century. But the first three pages of Kissinger’s book sent chills down my spine, because they seem all too relevant to current events.

In those first few pages, Kissinger describes the problems confronting a heretofore stable diplomatic system when it is faced with a “revolutionary power”— a power that does not accept that system’s legitimacy. Since the book is about the reconstruction of Europe after the battle of Waterloo, the revolutionary power he had in mind was the France of Robespierre and Napolean, though he clearly if implicitly drew parallels with the failure of diplomacy to effectively confront totalitarian regimes in the 1930s. (Note: drawing parallels does not mean claiming moral equivalence.) It seems clear to me that one should regard America’s right-wing movement — which now in effect controls the administration, both houses of Congress, much of the judiciary, and a good slice of the media — as a revolutionary power in Kissinger’s sense. That is, it is a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system.

There’s even some question about whether the people running the country accept the idea that legitimacy flows from the democratic process. Paul Gigot of the The Wall Street Journal famously praised the “bourgeois riot” in which violent protestors shut down a vote recount in Miami. (The rioters, it was later revealed, weren’t angry citizens; they were paid political operatives.) Meanwhile, according to his close friend Don Evans, now the secretary of commerce, George W. Bush believes that he was called by God to lead the nation. Perhaps this explains why the disputed election of 2000 didn’t seem to inspire any caution or humility on the part of the victors. Consider Justice Antonin Scalia’s response to a student who asked how he felt making the Supreme Court decision that threw the election to Bush. Was it agonizing? Did Scalia worry about the consequences? No: “It was a wonderful feeling,” he declared.

Suppose, for a moment, that you took the picture I have just painted seriously. You would conclude that the people now in charge don’t like America as it is. If you combine their apparent agendas [which Krugman discussed earlier], the goal would seem to be something like this: a country that basically has no social safety net at home, which relies mainly on military force to enforce its will abroad, in which schools don’t teach evolution but do teach religion and — possibly — in which elections are only a formality.

Back to Kissinger. His description of the baffled response of established powers in the face of a revolutionary challenge works equally well as an account of how the American political and media establishment has responded to the radicalism of the Bush administration over the past two years:

Lulled by a period of stability which had seemed permanent, they find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertion of the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing framework. The defenders of the status quo therefore tend to begin by treating the revolutionary power as if its protestations were merely tactical; as if it really accepted the existing legitimacy but overstated its case for bargaining purposes; as if it were motivated by specific grievances to be assuaged by limited concessions. Those who warn against the danger in time are considered alarmists; those who counsel adaptation to circumstance are considered balanced and sane….But it is the essence of a revolutionary power that it possesses the courage of its convictions, that it is willing, indeed eager, to push its principles to their ultimate conclusion.

As I said, this passage sent chills down my spine, because it explains so well the otherwise baffling process by which the administration has been able to push radical policies through, with remarkably little scrutiny or effective opposition.

Reading this sent chills down my spine as reading Kissinger’s did for Krugman. “A movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system.” After reading this I knew intuitively that Krugman got it absolutely right. It confirmed my initial impression that America had entered a new period, one with a different rulebook; and it gave voice to that gut feeling I had and confirmed its accuracy.

BushCo is not like any phenomenon the US has seen before. They do not play by the rules people are accustomed to. People still think BushCo is playing with America’s traditional rulebook, and thus cannot entertain notions that once BushCo ascended to power they've switched rulebooks. The BushCo rulebook is very simple. In fact, it can be summed up in one sentence: Heads I Win — Tails You Lose.

Krugman provides a solid defense of his thesis which I won’t repeat here. (Though I do heartily suggest interested people find a copy and read the entire introduction themselves.) He then concludes with some advice as to how to deconstruct BushCo’s message, which he calls Rules for Reporting. These are the Rules (which he discusses in detail within the Introduction):

1. Don’t assume that policy proposals make sense in terms of their stated goals
2. Do some homework to discover the real goals.
3. Don’t assume that the usual rules of politics apply.
4. Expect a revolutionary power to respond to criticism by attacking.
5. Don’t think there’s a limit to a revolutionary power’s objectives.

Ultimately, BushCo has no respect for democracy. Democracy is an impediment to them. They go through the motions because they have to. But as John Dean (yes, the John Dean of Watergate infamy) so conclusively proves in his recent book Worse than Watergate their entire modus operandi is contrary to the democractic requirements of openness and accountability. He even gives voice to a fear that democracy in America may be over. Here’s another extended quote:

It is difficult to trust a co-presidency [meaning Cheney’s very active role in determining policy] hell-bent on enhancing its powers through secrecy, demanding that it be held unaccountable, and willing to mislead the nation into a war (as part of a hidden agenda for America’s world domination). It appears that Bush and Cheney will keep Americans in the dark about dilemmas facing democracy in times of catastrophic crisis; they will dumb the nation down through their official silence. So when the moment comes and terrorists surprise America with an even greater spirit-shattering attack than 9/11, Bush and Cheney will simply push aside the Constitution they have sworn to uphold, inflame public passions with tough talk to rally support (as television news runs endless loops of whatever the disaster, as if no one has seen it, while sensationalizing the event with the 24/7 coverage that the terrorists so crave), and take this country to a place it has been only once. For eleven weeks during the outset of the Civil War, President Lincoln became what scholars have euphemistically called a constitutional dictator. But with terrorism it will likely not be so brief. Bush once quipped, “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.” George Bush, however, is no Abraham Lincoln.

This is not some tinfoil-hat-wearing paranoid crank. This is a down-to-earth political insider very well acquainted with the inner workings of American government, a Republican who worked in the Nixon administration.

Krugman and Dean still hold some hope that America can somehow get rid of BushCo before it’s too late. I think they are clinging to a false hope. I think they are both too afraid to admit the probability of what will most likely happen because they cannot relinquish a belief that America’s democratic tradition will somehow save the day.

I cannot think of any historical instance in which autocrats (or, to use Krugman’s phrase, revolutionary power), after seizing power, willingly cede it. And certainly not by anything as trivial and lowly as an election. Remember, as Krugman says, BushCo is “a power that does not accept that system's legitimacy”. So why would they accept the voice of a people for whom they have nothing but disdain? Can one imagine Stalin or Hitler or Napolean or Caesar or Mussolini or Hussein, etc., allowing themselves to be voted out of office? The notion is laughable.

It's hard for me, because it seems so wrong, to put BushCo's name alongside these infamous historical personages, if only because they all seem to be in a much different league than Bush: namely, they’re not Bush league. BushCo is nothing more than a bunch of megalomaniacal, mean-spirited, small-minded religious kooks, crooked businessmen, and perversely power-hungry idiots constituting one of the worst kakistocracies the world has ever seen. They have cleverly finagled their way into power via the brilliant and bitter machiavellian strategies of Karl Rove, who took advantage of a debased political system, an uneducated citizenry, and a servile corporate media to bully their way into power. BushCo is Nero or Hitler rendered as America’s Main Street Babbitt— small, petty and willfully ignorant; self-righteous and self-important; little corrupt businessmen who desire nothing greater than to improve their portfolio with an eternal supply of cash (after all an Orwellian "War without End", as Cheney calls the War on Terror, is very profitable if you're a war profiteer — the Iraqi quagmire and al-Qaeda recruitment is actually all going according to plan (well, plan B at least)); and little cultish churchgoers who dream of hastening The Rapture (and doing a surprisingly good job of it, too). And they are possessed with a monomaniacal assurance of their moral clarity and their historical calling, masking from themselves their sociopathic lack of conscience and empathy.

Things, naturally, are starting to fall apart for BushCo. It was only a matter of time before things would start to spiral out of control, given the complete lack of imagination, foresight and planning involved in their schemes. As Barnum said "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Sooner or later their mind-boggling lack of competence and imagination were going to catch up to them so that even their initial supporters are starting to wonder what the fuck is going on.

But they don't care. They are zealots trapped in a crystalline cloud of manichean groupthink, their beautiful minds incapable of entertaining notions contrary to their hermetic worldview, incapable of admitting doubt or error or empathy. They are perfect in all they do. After all, God Himself called BushCo to power, and by God they're going to bring about The Rapture so they can sit on a cloud by His right hand and watch from front row seats as He smites the infidels in a global Armageddon. (How I wish I was exaggerating!) And if The Rapture doesn't happen as planned at least they'll increase their bank accounts via insider investments that profit from human suffering as the world devolves into blistering chaos.

And now that things are starting to unravel they're going to start to panic. They're being forced to contend with realities contrary to their groupthink. And that's when they're going to start to become really dangerous — soon we'll see what these guys are really made of. As Reinhold Niebuhr astutely said "men insist most vehemently upon their certainties when their hold upon them has been shaken." They will shut their minds down even further to shut out doubt. And like a cornered dog they're going to lash out with a relentless fury. You can be sure that they're busily planning how they will come out on top, as winning is the only rule in their rulebook. So they are right now wondering how to create a crisis that gives them the cellophane-thin cover they need to solidify their hold on power. Killing Nick Berg didn't have the desired effect. So they're going to ratchet it up a notch. They're already at work inciting yet more fear with their prognostications of the next terrorist attack — just in time for the holidays, of course! (when was the last time America had a holiday without some warmer color in the background?) — distributing their list of the 11 most wanted evil people with darker skins and foreign names.

One scintilla of hope is that these guys are so monumentally incompetent, bedazzled as they are by their own radiant hubris, it's entirely possible they will commit some tragic blunder (in the Shakespearean sense) and just fizzle out of office. After all, they have made some serious and consequential enemies within the CIA and the Pentagon; the corporate media is making tentative tugs at the curtain hiding the wizard; and they are losing allies and friends faster than a zombie leper with the plague.

But an incompetent gangster with a gun is just as dangerous as a competent one — perhaps even moreso. And like motivated kidnappers entering a siege as they watch John Law assembling around them they are not going to just quietly surrender — they will seek a way out by any means necessary, and if that entails taking out whole towns with them then they will do so without compunction.

And it will most likely work. People will cower with fear and look to their leaders to protect them, little suspecting who was behind the debacle (whether directly or indirectly); and they will gladly hand over their dignity and their freedoms to their sociopathic kidnappers as they duct-tape themselves inside their domiciles to imbibe yet more fear from the glass teat.

When I suggest that there won't be an election in America in 2004 I'm greeted with a variety of reactions that fall along the spectrum from complete agreement and understanding to angry and disgusted claims that I am detached from reality. The vast majority fall somewhere in the middle of polite bemusement, like when your Aunt pats you on the head for saying something entertainingly ridiculous.

I understand each reaction. It's hard for people to accept an idea so far outside their customary experience of personality, politics and history. After all, it's America! It's still a democracy, no matter how bad it looks! Bush may be bad — really bad — but it's still America, and America has elections!

The idea that an election may be cancelled in America is so far outside people's everyday reality that you might as well tell them the earth is round and that it rotates around the sun, or that we are descended from apes, or that we’ll someday fly to the moon (notions, of course, that were once ridiculed but are now blindly accepted as fact). (Note — the parallel illustrates the cognitive difficulty people have with paradigm shifts, nothing more.) People are not ready to conceive of such a paradigm shift occurring in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But the meme that the 2004 election may be pre-empted or cancelled has entered the mental space. As Maureen Farrel shows in her article the right-wing attack dogs have already begun the process of getting people to accept the possibility that the election may be called off should the attack happen close to it, especially after seeing how it affected the Spanish election. Another meme is out there about the October Surprise that will occur shortly before the election, as Ben Tripp discusses. (Many scenarios are discussed in the comments section.) Kurt Nimmo discusses one such plausible scenario in some detail.

It seems that anyone who's paying attention just naturally assumes that there will be some kind of October Surprise. The only unknown is exactly what form this will take. And it’s only logical that people are broaching the topic now, from both the left and the right, given the great confluence of inter-connected factors pointing to the same conclusion. It seems that the October Surprise is historically overdetermined, and everyone senses it. But perhaps the most fascinating thing about the speculations are that the left and the right are saying the same thing, but for very different reasons: the brown-shirts want to get people accustomed to the idea of suspending the constitution so that when the time comes they’ll have an easier time accepting it; and the lefties want to educate people to the exact same thing, but so as to motivate them to prevent it.

Whether or not an election transpires it seems BushCo, in their nefarious, reptilian cleverness, has covered their bases, from fixing a potential election with Diebold’s black box voting machines, to abrogating the constitution after an attack shortly before the election. People need to reckon with the fact that BushCo is playing hardball for keeps because they are absolutely convinced that they deserve to be in office (especially seeing how God ordained it), and because they do not see democracy as a legitimate political construct. They will do absolutely anything they can to hold onto power. They are not going to let go.

If their polling is high enough there might indeed be an election to give cover to their power grab. (They like cover when they can get it — think UN. But they’ll do without it if they want to — think UN again.) If their polling numbers are low — which they most likely will be (though it’s doubtful it'll drop too far below the 40% guaranteed by their fundamentalist constituents) — there will definitely be an October Surprise of some sort that will either boost their polling numbers, or, should that fail, provide an excuse to delay or cancel the election, maybe even going so far as to suspend the constitution. (It's also instructive to recall that Hitler and the Nazis never had more than 37% support from the German public.)

On the one hand, from the elite power broker’s point of view, there's so little policy difference between Kerry and BushCo that it doesn't matter to their paymasters who wins. Thus the pretense of an election will still be taken seriously by the media and their buyers. The one place where there is a difference is decisive: Kerry is a spineless windsock; BushCo are rabid and fanatical zealots. It’s pretty clear who would win such a fight, seeing how rabid fanatical zealots will probably not just shrug their shoulders and give up their house should an election politely ask them to pack up and move.

Of course history isn't written in stone. I could be dead wrong about this. And I deeply hope I am. But history and psychology have their structural patterns, and when circumstances are right those patterns play themselves out. America is in one such pattern: democracies and republics have a historical tendency to devolve into imperiums and autocracies if the conditions are right. And they are: America has zealous leaders convinced of their historical importance and rightness (many of them serious and dangerous believers of their God-given role in helping to bring about The Rapture); they control a huge and mighty power, without peer, and seek to expand its hegemony; they have untold wealth and riches filling their coffers, which are rapidly depleting as they pay for wasteful and costly expenditures from the pockets of generations to come. There are enormous class differences, with their concomitant social injustices. There are enormous and deep cultural divisions that are only getting wider and deeper. The political system is so debased and so detached from the everyday worries and concerns of its citizens that they have removed themselves from the political arena because they don't see any hope of changing things. This same citizenry is willfully ignorant and deluded, wanting nothing more than bread and circuses as they pull the wool further over their own eyes; and because their skills at critical thinking are so lacking (for a variety of reasons) they are susceptible to increasingly rabid demagogues filling their heads with lies and hate, and all too readily believe the dissembling prevarications of their leaders because they have to, because they need to cling to their assailed belief systems and institutions. The society lives in increasing fear and instability as their country foments enemies actively intent on causing great damage, thus setting in motion a spiral of increasing police powers at the cost of decreasing civil rights. Elections are empty and dead rituals where money rules, as power is for sale to the one who looks best onscreen and tells the most attractive lies. The legislative body is comprised of representatives without intelligence or imagination or integrity, who pass laws only with the consideration of how it will affect their electability next time ("a politician is an arse upon/which everyone has sat except a man" e e cummings); the judiciary is increasingly packed with stern and tendentious antebellum throwbacks for whom civilization stopped in 1776; and, finally, the executive branch is filled with groupthink Manichean power hungry autocrats whose greatest desire is to fulfill God’s will while lining their pockets. All the ingredients are there, and there is little to stop the momentum.

In all honesty I cannot imagine any scenario in which BushCo willingly leaves office. I'm not a praying man, but I pray that I'm wrong. I would love it if someone would come to me the day after the 2004 election and say that I was indeed detached from reality and didn't need to move to Canada after all. I just ask that they wait until that day to say it.

Once again, history isn't written in stone. There is no certainty, no fatalism, no inevitability when it comes to something in which innumerable factors contribute a cause to an effect. Who knows what could happen? Maybe Smirky McClusterfuck will be born yet again when he bumps his head during an intense prayer session and an iota of conscience bewilders him and he gets to thinking that maybe he isn't interpreting his favorite philosopher's Sermon on the Mount correctly. Or maybe Penis Cheney’s hummingbird heart will grow a few sizes because the People down in Whoville sing a song of love and peace that touches his soul.

Or maybe the public will awaken from its fear-laden trance and will see what’s happened to their beloved country. They’ll proclaim "Enough!" and refuse to bow to the fear tactics of BushCo and their brown-shirt attack dogs. They’ll pull aside the curtain to reveal the emperor-wizard and see that he has no clothes. They’ll toss the Diebold Bush-voting boxes into the trash heap and demand that their votes be submitted by hand on paper. They’ll turn off Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, Savage, FOX — in fact, all TV — and start avidly learning the truth for themselves as they hunger to discover how such a great country could have fallen so hard and so fast. And they’ll be angry when they see what’s been lost, and they will brook no deviation from the law of the land should BushCo attempt it.

But I have almost no hope for this scenario. When the majority of Americans still believe that Hussein had a hand in 9/11, and that America had the support of the world when it attacked Iraq I hold little hope that Americans will cast off their illusions. They don’t want to. As Ward Churchill says

Having been conditioned your entire lives, the way we are all conditioned our entire lives, to receive sound-bite answers to questions we have never had the critical ability to form in our minds, forecloses our ability to interrogate reality and draw conclusions from it. That is the function of the media. That is the function of the educational system you understand. It's not to teach you to think critically, which is educational in value. It's to teach you what to think. That's indoctrination.

That's a rather different thing, to be indoctrinated than to be educated. We have this problem here in this population called "ignorance." And some of this population actually is. But when you say the word "ignorant" it's supposed to mean you didn't have the information: "I didn't know about it. I was ignorant of it." No, that's to be uninformed. And truly, there are a lot of people uninformed about a lot of things here. Uninformed is one thing. Ignorance is another.

We've got an ignorant leadership. We've got an ignorant intelligentsia. Ignorant means to have the information right there in front of you and ignore it. To draw conclusions in the face of the evidence; to pretend that the evidence does not exist — clear evidence of genocide and war crimes — to pretend it's something else. That's ignorance. That's close to being a synonym for duplicity. That is something very different than being uninformed. You have an obligation to become informed. Once informed, a person has an obligation to act upon the information, not to become an ignorant individual as a result.

That Americans choose to remain uninformed, that they choose to remain willfully ignorant of the culpability of their country’s role that led to the situation in which it finds itself — despite overwhelming and conclusive evidence — has always been America’s greatest threat. BushCo is this essence made manifest. A democracy can only survive with an educated and informed citizenry. When a citizenry embraces ignorance and removes itself from the political arena then it creates a power vacuum that is filled by those with ambition who simply grab it. Ultimately it’s not BushCo that is America’s greatest threat to itself and the world — it is the refusal of its citizens to look clearly and honestly at themselves in the mirror, their unwillingness to shed their complacent and willful ignorance. Ward Churchill’s book On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality is an excellent mirror for those with the balls to look in it with honest intent.

Actually, I can imagine one scenario in which BushCo leaves office before dragging America through a nightmarish hot war. The only possibility I see involves, ironically enough, those governmental agencies customarily employed by the cabal in power to fend off their usual perceived threats in the name of "national security." BushCo has irreperably damaged its relations with the CIA and with the Pentagon. They have pissed off some serious and powerful people in these agencies. I have no idea what they could do, or how they would do it, but the CIA has successfully overthrown democracies for the US throughout the world. Perhaps they'll do the same for their own country.


Gore Found His Balls!

And they're really big! Wow!


The One-Hundred Per Cent Mentality

"One can trace in Sunday [Billy Sunday, a popular evangelist in early 20th century America] the emergence of what I would call the one-hundred per cent mentality -- a mind totally committed to the full range of the dominant popular fatuities and determined that no one shall have the right to challenge them. This type of mentality is a relatively recent synthesis of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist Americanism, very often with a heavy overlay of severe fundamentalist morality. The one-hundred percenter, who will tolerate no ambiguities, no equivocations, no reservations, and no criticism, considers his kind of committedness an evidence of toughness and masculinity."
"By the end of the century it was painfully clear to fundamentalists that they were losing much of their influence and respectability. One can now discern among them the emergence of a religious style shaped by a desire to strike back against everything modern -- the higher criticism, evolutionism, the social gospel, rational criticism of any kind. In this union of social and theological reaction, the foundation was laid for the one hundred per cent mentality."
"Presumably, the fundamentalists themselves were afflicted on occassion by nagging doubts about the adequacy of their faith, which was now being questioned everywhere. As Reinhold Neibuhr has remarked: 'Extreme orthodoxy betrays by its very frenzy that the poison of skepticism has entered the soul of the church; for men insist most vehemently upon their certainties when their hold upon them has been shaken. Frantic orthodoxy is a method for obscuring doubt.'

The feeling that rationalism and modernism could no longer be answered in debate led to frantic efforts to overwhelm them by sheer violence of rhetoric and finally by efforts at suppression and intimidation...The time had come, as Sunday himself asserted in a sermon of that decade [1920s], when 'America is not a country for a dissenter to live in.'"

Richard Hofstadter: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. (Vintage 1963, repr 2004; pp 118-119, 121, 122-123)
[cf: Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition for a more clinical summary of this psychological phenomenon]

This "100% Mentality" seems like a fountainhead for fascism. Hofstadter's remarkable book should be required reading for anyone wanting to understand the cultural and sociological influences behind what's happening in America right now. There will be much more to say about this later...

Keeping this "100% Mentality" in mind also provides great insight when reading Roger Morris's beautiful and impassioned plea asking American diplomats to resign, and Joe Bageant's fascinating analysis of Bush's Rapturous constituents.

I am so glad I'm in Canada now!


The Wraiths of iPod

One day recently, while walking through downtown Toronto towards the TTC (Toronto's subway), I'm suddenly confronted by an enormous graphic -- several stories tall -- on the side of a building: against a saturated blue background a void-black silhouette, frozen in mid-dance-trance ecstasy, holds aloft an oddly ethereal little white box from which white wires snake to the silhouette's ears.

It's an enormous ad for iPod, Apple's trendy way to store hours worth of entertainment data in a high-tech king-sized cigarette box.

Then I see that there are other similarly oversized, highly saturated, enormous building-sized ads strewn throughout this section of the city -- surprisingly unobtrusive given their size as they meld into the urban landscape. Once I was aware of one others seemed to appear everywhere; it was NLP in action (ie eg, think the word "red" and suddenly the color red appears everywhere.)

And then I thought of the shadows of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I felt like I was seeing the consumer version of the neutron bomb: shadows where there were once people, their last moment frozen as a dark blotch on the city's landscape after being evaporated in an instant, their personal entertainment device -- gloriously unaffected by the blast -- still transmitting some driving house beat.

If ever proof was needed of the product superseding the expendable person who exists by (and through) consuming it, this ad campaign is it. The product, especially in this instance, is an ideal, an absolute; the consumer is merely some ephemeral cog, a "thing" that buys. In a glorious, stark reversal the product and the consumer switch places: the consumer is the product being sold to the iPod -- just fill yourself in the ecstatic blank.

These ads are beautiful, defined either aesthetically or functionally. As a graphic they are compelling -- the intense saturated color with the void-black cut-out creates a fascinating and vibrant figure-ground ambiguity that attracts the eye. And as an ad they are compelling -- they grab your attention, they seduce you to want to experience it. These ads are the perfect symbolic apotheosis of late capitalism's cultivation of the solipsism of product fetishism: they offer the consumer a way towards (artificial) transcendence via some device that has magical properties -- you only need plug yourself in.

There's always been something disconcerting to me watching people walk down the streets wired into their own personal listening experience: they are not sharing the reality of those immediately around them. (Of course it's assumed that everyone's experience is, by definition, unique, and thus not partaking of the reality of those around them to begin with. And yet it is nevertheless a shared reality, even though everyone's experience of it differs. At least their difference comes from a shared experience.) The few times I've tried walking around the city hooked into a walkman I found the experience very disorienting and disembodying. It was as if the protective bubble-sanctuary one feels in one's car was being mainlined into my consciousness, rendering the very world in which I walked into something too much outside myself. My immediate reality became something to be observed, some kind of show, accompanied by some weird soundtrack in my brain. There was such a discontinuity between what I heard and what I saw that I felt there was a disconnect between my inner and outer reality.

Similarly, how many times do we now witness someone talking to himself on the street, only to discover they're on a cellphone? With people insulating themselves in this way the public sphere is further compartmentalized into floating islands of ego, of drifting consciousnesses technologically connected to someplace else, some place other than their own immediate environment (the "there and now" superseding the "here and now"), manouvering the city streets as if on auto-pilot, extending and transfering the phenomenological shell we feel while driving in our cars directly into the consciousness of the pedestrian. Community is thus something "out-there", unrelated to us as we move about it as a visitor rather than a participant.

Such experiences negate the public sphere by wrapping us in solipsistic shells. And, of course, capitalism thrives when individuals are separated from each other. The myth of individualism (as opposed to individuality) is transposed into a fatal myth of community. In this way we go further into ourselves to create our own world as the hope and desire for real community fades away. And to help us create that world we need to buy stuff that helps us define ourselves in our own little vaccuum. Community becomes re-defined as a demographic experience rather than a shared communality: we identify with others who share our same commodity fetish, our same demographic; shared experience is reduced to acknowledging that "Hey, they're listening to an iPod too!"

It's really a glorious ad campaign, perfect in capturing late capitalism's zeitgeist of the negative, seductive ecstasy of complete individualistic self-absorption, the nihilistic, technological sublime of egocentric egolessness. When I see these ads now I can't help imagining these disembodied wraiths plugged into their own little white instruments of torture masquerading as eternal fun. I momentarily see a fade-in as the wraiths become the people they once were, their faces frozen in a look of ecstasy that could be mistaken for agony, their contorted mouths agape in a joyless joy they wish would stop, their frozen dance of bliss a freeze-frame of a spastic waltz with St. Vitus.


Requiescat in Pace Tony Randall

I just learned that Tony Randall died peacefully in his sleep last night.

I'm very sad to learn this. (Obviously I'm referring to his death; I'm glad he died peacefully.) He's someone who has meant a great deal to me. I would sometimes find myself wishing he was my uncle, or even my dad.

But though I'm sad, I reflect on his long and happy life, and on the happiness he's brought to so many people -- myself very much included -- and I'm a little cheered because his was truly a life well lived.

He was a man of many talents. Selfless in his enthusiasm. A great lover and promoter of culture and the arts. Generous and altruistic; loving and caring. And a brilliant comedic actor.

He's remembered chiefly as the fussy Felix Unger on the TV show The Odd Couple, or as the third wheel in the DorisDay/Rock Hunter romantic comedies of the early 60s. However the work of his that means the most to me was his only top-billing film Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? It is one of the great comic masterpieces of American filmmaking, and is mandatory viewing for anyone who loves comedy.

The world has lost a very decent and beautiful man today. Through his life and through his talent he has made the world a richer, happier place -- for me and countless others.

Thank you, Tony. Rest in Peace.


The Perpendicular View

I watched The Parallax View again over the weekend. Movies from the early 70s constitute for me the greatest age of American Filmmaking, and this film falls squarely in that pantheon. In terms of political sophistication it's up there with The Manchurian Candidate, though Parallax is deliberately colder and offputting and cerebral in its filmmaking, employing touches of modernist technique to keep us off our guard. It also challenges the viewer to keep critically engaged if s/he's to make any sense of the subtle plot mechanics. Imagine, a Hollywood movie for adults that challenges one to think, while carrying a deeply subversive message, while repudiating the film-by-committee connect-the-dots emotional manipulation of escapist fare!

In fact, these two films could be historico-cultural bookends delimiting the 60s. The Manchurian Candidate was released a year before JFK's assassination, and The Parallax View was released a year after Watergate.

The plot of The Parallax View, simply put: a reporter comes to the realization that a corporation specializing in political assassinations is behind a string of them. One of their operating techniques is to create plausible denial by setting up patsies to take the fall.

The film suggests, in its coldly subversive way, that the string of assassinations in 1960s America of its most socially relevant heroes were not done by lone gunmen, but were rather carried out in a systematic manner by secret organizations.

If it were made now the assassin would be caught on video claiming "I didn't do it!" while smoke still roils from his gun barrel. He'd accuse the left-wing media of slander and treason, and be hailed as a hero by right-wing attack dogs. Any government inquiry would be railroaded by partisan hacks and promptly forgotten and ignored. Same for the next time he does it, and the next, and the next...


The Loss of Authority's Face and the Coming Hot War

I'm not trained to do forensics, either video or medical. I have no idea who killed the unfortunate Nick Berg, and there is little doubt we will probably never know for certain.

However there are obvious problems with the official explanation.

When a country's reputation sinks so low that it becomes credible to consider that it may have been behind the grisly execution of one of its own citizens, and merely for political gain, there are serious problems with its image and reputation. That Murka's image and reputation has sunk so low speaks volumes about the state of the state in Murka.

BushCo seems very attuned to Nazi tactics. It's hard to believe they've studied them, given their preference for recess over study-hall. But maybe they have. Maybe, instead, such things are intuitive to a certain fascistic mindset. I don't know. But they've adopted Goebbels propaganda lessons brilliantly (the big lie; stay on message; start wars and smear anti-war people for lack of patriotism; etc). Maybe now they've started adopting the Gestapo method of shooting one of their own to deflect attention and inflame the home team.

But Murka has lost face. It is completely exposed as a shameless hypocrite in the eyes of the world (except, seemingly, to its own citizens).

There seems to be a universal crisis of authority in Murkan society, at all levels. Traditional social institutions are being redefined by serious challenges to long-held cherished beliefs. The church has lost face with its child abuse scandals. Socially sanctified heterosexual monogamy -- aka marriage -- is under attack by gays demanding comparable legal status. The definition of what constitutes a family has become fluid. One corporate scandal after another has eroded respect for business to the core. Scientists create new life forms in the lab which are patented and proprietary. The media is seen as either completely liberal by the right-wing, or as the corporate mouthpiece they are; in either case no one trusts them. And certainly no one trusts the government anymore, whether blaming Clinton for anything that's ever gone wrong since the Big Bang, or BushCo for helping to hasten The Rapture.

Social institutions are falling apart all around. The cultural divide is widening and deepening. There is no civility, no commonality, no possibility for dialogue across the divide; debate has been reduced to finger pointing and barking; there is no intelligence, no thought, just reflexive bickering.

I can't help but wonder if this is what society felt like shortly before the Civil War as the slavery issue deeply divided the society and reached incendiary levels of acrimony.

And I blame the right-wing attack dogs for it. They see all their revered institutions falling apart, and they are upset and pissed because, for whatever psychological reasons, they need them, they need the comfort of certainty such institutions provide. They're scared and worried. And so they seek to defend by attack, with their incessant beating of the drum of hate, their inability to listen to counter-arguments or reason or simple facts with any kind of civility, their constant blaming and scapegoating of anyone who disagrees with them: they have created an environment in which civil dialogue is not possible.

It's a common bit of tao wisdom that the more you push something the more it will resist. When you attack something you compel it to defend itself. Then, when it's finally pushed far enough it will either attack back, at which point communication has been completely debased as the attacker has succeeded in bringing the defender down to his level, or the attacker steamrolls over the opponent. It's a no-win situation for the defender, and win-win for the attacker. And they know this. Bullies understand attrition.

Eventually all this heated exchange will move from the verbal and mental sphere to the corporeal one. A hot war is heading to America. It's only a matter of time. 2007 is my guess.


Efficient Butt Spelunking

I had a colonoscopy earlier today. It was my first experience with socialized medicine — thanks to my OHIP card (Ontario Health Insurance Plan). I'd be lying if I said it was a good experience — the butt spelunking, that is. The socialized medicine was fine. But I did notice some significant, if subtle, differences between healthcare here and in the states.

First thing I noticed was that I just hand over my OHIP card to the receptionist, and that’s it. No more paperwork — other than what’s required for the doctor to review the case. No filling out countless and confusing insurance forms. No co-pay — I didn’t have to pay any out-of-pocket cash. (I said out-of-pocket — I’m not talking about taxes, which I’ll get to later.)

People’s attitudes were different: patients, support staff, administrators, and the doctors themselves. Everyone seemed…more relaxed about everything. The medical personnel were there to do their job, and everyone was very professional, courteous, no-nonsense and organized. Some even seemed to have fun, especially the doctor who, when he came into the room, was so easy and unkempt (in his own way) that I thought he was a technician of some sort. He said that when starting in the colo-rectal field he had done 20 colonoscopies a day, that some days were all just a blur to him. I bet. My wife asked him if he had strange dreams during that time. He said he did. And that he still does.

I suppose where I went today, the Rudd Clinic, is a famous clinic in Canada, if not the world. They do upwards of 180 patients a day there. Canada takes cancer very seriously, and they work hard to promote prevention, including early check-ups. Canada seems to accept that the social and financial costs of preventing cancer are preferable to the costs of curing it.

They asked if I wanted sedation. I assured them I did. Lots of it. The doc gave me a shot that made me instantly tipsy. The procedure was less than fun, and I could have used a lot more sedation. A whole lot more. In fact, I was begging him to stop. But he was efficient, and it didn’t take too long.

My wife was watching the action on the monitor. She was impressed with how “pretty” and pink and clean and smooth it all was in there. All good signs.

When it was over the doc took me to a lounge filled with recliners & hassocks. Several of the seats were already occupied. This was to allow time for patients to relax and recover from the sedation before moving on. The doctor offered me water and cookies, then asked the other patients if they wanted more. Everytime a doctor or nurse came to drop off a new patient they made sure to ask if anyone wanted more water and cookies.

At one point a doctor came into the room and discussed a patient's polyps with him. He was told that they’re shrinking. I was taken aback by this: this kind of conversation was supposed to be private, behind closed doors. But somehow, in this environment, it didn’t seem to matter — in fact it seemed ok. Because — and this is the biggest difference I felt — everyone in there seemed to somehow understand that we were all just shared a similar experience, that it was in some way communal. All of us in that room had just had some plumbing snaking through our large intestine, and there was no shame, nothing to hide.

And I liked this feeling. In some small way I felt like I was a part of my greater community. And I thought about how wonderful it was that my tax dollars were being used to benefit every person in that room. And that, too, made me feel like part of the greater community.

Medical care in the states is good — very good. Very professional. I have no complaints about the medical care I received there, and am grateful for all that I have received. But after my experience today I can see that it felt less communal, that whatever care I received was strictly for me and was not a shared experience. Medicine in America, to me, in comparison, feels isolating. Which is, perhaps, one of America's phenomenological realities: the myth of rugged individualism has become so internalized in Murkan society it pemeates every activity, every institution. Isolationism is not just built into the fabric of America, it is the fabric from which America is fashioned.

I won’t get into the issue of socialized versus privatized medicine. All I’ll say is that I’m glad to know that my taxes in Canada are used to provide health care for everybody, and not just those with jobs or wealth.

The healthcare system in Canada seems very efficient, unlike the hulking top-heavy mess in the states. Judging from this experience I’d say that healthcare in Canada rocks.


Thanks for a Little Push

I was having a difficult time submitting my first blog. But once I knew that even just one person was expecting me to write something I had to live up to that expectation.

A heartfelt Thank You! to one of my favorite bloggers who gave me the nudge I needed to get going. I may have started the car, but you helped me get it into gear.

I feel like now I might be able to start cruising...

On Blaming a Shark

Clear Consciences & Criminality

A jackal doesn't understand remorse.
Lions and lice don't waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they're right?

I'd never heard of the Nobel Prize winning poet Wislawa Szmborska until recently. I came across an excerpt of her poem "In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself" and had to read it in its entirety. The poem is profound, and if it's representative of her ouvre then she is definitely a poet to read. She deals in a deep, intuitive, and truthful way with the deepest questions of existence, meaning, and morality.

I found the poem in an article by Joyce Marcel, which is also worth reading. However, I take issue with an assertion of hers: "No matter how much we may dislike the Bush Administration and their policies, they aren't criminals. They're doing what they believe is best for their country, wrong-minded as they may be." I vehemently disagree with this. They are indeed criminals in any sense of the word. To give a simple example, one of their first activites in International Relations was to blackmail allies to exonerate Americans from the jurisdiction of the ICC(International Criminal Court) by threatening to end military assistance to countries that fail to sign illegal exemption treaties. A law was even passed to invade Holland — referred to as the "Hague Invasion Act" — should a Murkan be held by the court. They also had plans to invade Iraq before the 2000 election even took place. Since 1+1 = 2, just add their desire to invade Iraq with their blackmailing allies to sign treaties protecting Murkans from the ICC's jurisdiction, and you get a crystal clear sign that the Iraq attack was a pre-meditated war crime.

Nor do they in any way believe what they are doing is best for the country. Their loyalty is strictly to the handful of religious kooks, monopolist cronies, anti-intellectual brown-shirts, and wealthy parasites who put them into power. They do what is best for themselves and their cronies, fuck anyone else. All they care about is lining the pockets of oil and war profiteers (ie, their own pockets), no matter how many lies they have to tell nor how many innocents they have to kill.

But I digress. The important question the article brings up is the relationship between blameworthiness and conscious intent. To put it more simply, as Szmborska's remarkable poem illustrates, can one blame something merely for being itself?

The poem ends by equating a clear conscience with beastliness. That is a fascinating and volatile comparison! Perhaps that's one of the reasons we fear nature so much — nature does not have a conscience. Nature is amoral. Nature cannot make ethical assessments, does not have conscious intents, has no notion of criminality. Something amoral is always more frightening than something immoral because there is no conscience to appeal to: mercy is precluded. (This explains our fear of intelligent machines, a la The Terminator. Hence the necessity to instill in them a sense of morality (cf Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics)).

Part of the power of natural ferocity — whether by beast or natural destructive force — is that it is primal. There is no underlying psychic presence — it's all just a purity of cause and effect that we can attempt to understand, but cannot sway. And that's part of the sublimity and awe and fear we feel in its presence. And it makes the development of religion understandable as we seek some kind of mediation in its effects on our daily lives.

Animals function by biological imperative — they do not have a sense of right and wrong. Right and wrong is reserved for us creatures who possess ratiocination — the ability to think and reason through something. Hence a person almost by definition cannot be amoral for there is always some kind of self-awareness in a person's actions against some kind of cultural measure. But someone who lacks an ability to sympathize or empathize, someone who seeks only their own aggrandizement regardless of the methods and consequences is sociopathic.

So how does blame fit into this? I can "blame" an earthquake for destroying my home, but what purpose does that serve? I can't hold the earthquake accountable. I can mourn it, but any kind of retribution I want to exact — for ultimately this is what blame desires — is not only futile, it's absurd.

So where does the human fit into this? Criminality is based upon factors pertaining to conscious intent and ethical assessments. (Perhaps this is what Marcel is thinking when she asserts that we can't consider BushCo criminals — for surely their consciences seem all too clear as they commit one atrocity after another. (Their psychopathic inability to apologize, or admit mistakes, except as politically expedient to do so, clearly indicates this.)) Criminality is dialectically connected with some sort of morality — no morality, no criminality. Thus, when evaluating the seemingly sociopathic amorality of BushCo can one hold them to any kind of blameworthiness? Can we blame them for doing what are ultimately manifestations of their inherent nature? Perhaps this is what Marcel is implying in her article by means of quoting Szmborsk's poem.

But BushCo does have a morality. It is the morality of the strong, of might makes right, of the id claiming its rapacious right to take whatever it wants. It is the morality of Mr. Hyde. We may not agree with it or like it, in fact we should rightly abhor it, but it is a defensible ethical stance.

Blame, Understanding & Punishment

This issue of blameworthiness is one I've long struggled with. And apparently I'm not the only one, as this issue brings up fundamental legal issues of criminal culpability. For instance, the entire insanity defense is based upon the notion that one cannot be blamed for criminal acts if they are not cognizant of their criminal actions while committing them. Should a person be punished for such a thing? The implication is that if one understands that the crime was not done with conscious intent — that it was the result of "insane" thinking that shut-off "normal" thought processes in properly assessing right from wrong — then surely, so the reasoning goes, the person would not have committed the crime. Thus it comes down to a question of conscious intent. And to make such a determination requires that one understand the cause(s) behind the effect(s). There is a strange calculus between blame, understanding, and punishment.

The metaphor I use to illustrate the problem is simple: can one blame a shark for biting off one's leg? Yes and no. Yes — obviously and literally — because the shark bit it off. No — not so obviously — because the shark is just doing what comes naturally to it without either malicious intent or ethical awareness. Blaming the shark for wanting to eat tasty meat would be like blaming rain for being wet: while technically accurate, what's the point? Retribution — as blame implies — yields nothing except a purely human, if loathsome, desire for revenge. Yet being angry at the shark for simply being itself is only natural in such a circumstance. But it feels strange to blame a shark for doing what is instinctual to it because blame, rightly or wrongly, suggests intent.

But what about a more ambiguous, everyday situation. Parenting doesn't come naturally to most people, even though most people have the urge, for whatever reason, to be parents. Yet because the vast majority of people have never learned to think for themselves — it's far easier to accept one's cultural assumptions than to challenge them (and can people be blamed for that?), especially when the tools for learning how to think critically are often either not culturally available (in less developed cultures), or suppressed for reasons of social control (in more industrially advanced ones) — most parents are mediocre at best and have little inkling on how to raise children to be authentic, open-minded and filled with positive self-esteem. (Of course by saying this I'm exhibiting my bias that these are positive character traits.) Parents mostly raise children to be as emotionally and mentally stunted as themselves, as many studies have shown. (For an excellent introduction to this — especially as child rearing pertains to political authoritarianism — check out The Politics of Denial by Michael A Milburn and Sheree D. Conrad.) The question is: can one blame one's parents for fucking up one's life, even though the parents did the best they could?

For certainly parents do the best they can when raising their children. And yet, as the poet Philip Larkin says in his famous poem (here in its entirety)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

So can one blame one's parents for fucking them up? Is there even a point to blaming something? Isn't that the easy way out — to blame others for one's own problems?

The Cell

Which brings to mind the movie The Cell. Whoda thunk that a Hollywood horror movie reveals some profound moral and psychological truths? And yet it does.

The plot: via some high-tech ingenuity a person is able to enter another person's psyche. We have a psycho-killer, a psychiatrist, and a cop. The killer is found but in a coma. The killer's next victim needs to be found before she's automatically killed via some plot device. The psychiatrist enters the killer's mind and comes to understand how he came to be a psycho-killer. The cop has no desire to understand how the killer came to be one, and merely blames the killer and wants to punish him.

Amidst all the ingenious eye-candy art direction is a profound metaphorical exploration of the calculus between understanding, blame, and punishment. The psychiatrist comes to understand the killer and, because she's able to empathize so well with him, comes to be his accomplice. It's a remarkably astute metaphor for the fear people have of trying to understand the reasons behind something abhorrent: that understanding invites the possibility of sympathy, then empathy, then justification, and, ultimately, condoning, if not colluding with, the abhorrent. It reveals just how dangerous the ramifications of understanding the abhorrent could be, and really gave me some insight into the phenomenon.

Yet, on the other hand, the cop, who only wants to punish the killer, increases the resistance of the killer and thus sets up battle lines that only strengthen each in their resolve to triumph. Blame builds only defensive walls that prevent communication, protects egos, and nurtures a cycle of retribution that feeds intolerance and hatred; it guarantees that not only will things not improve, they will deteriorate. In seeking retribution without understanding the cop forestalls progress in finding the killer's next victim.

Ultimately the psychiatrist realizes that understanding requires some sort of ethical mooring: after all, what the killer did may be understandable (given what we learn of his upbringing), but it cannot be excused because it is so wrong. The killer must be held accountable.

Terrorism, Murka & BushCo

Which brings us to Murka. One of the problems that America has with even asking the question "Why do they hate us?" (or, more accurately,"Why did they crash airplanes into those buildings?") is that Murkans fear understanding per se because of its implications: that it will lead to sympathy, possibly even empathy. That perhaps, most dreadful of all, the terrorists may even have been justified in their hatred towards Murka. For if one understands something heinous doesn't that mean one becomes, by some sort of definition, sympathetic towards it? If I understand why a man beats his kids, doesn't that somehow mean that I am finding him less blameworthy?

However, the point of understanding is not to exonerate culpable behavior. It is to discover and evaluate causes so that we can determine ways to prevent, or lessen, negative effects. Without understanding one is doomed to do the wrong thing because once one imposes their own will on a situation they are demanding reality bend to their will by edict — and reality does not obey projections of ego, no matter how much force and illusion (in the sense of self-deception) is brought to the task. In a situation where no attempt is made to understand a foe, for example, it is a guarantee of defeat because a willful refusal to understand an opponent’s motivations can seriously undervalue the opponents resolve and tactics. (Can anyone say "Iraq" or “Vietnam”?) Lack of understanding is a guarantee of continued conflict. Lack of even a desire to understand is a guarantee of disaster.

It's a lot easier to blame than to understand. Blame is a simple knee-jerk reaction that demands retribution. Understanding requires an active attempt to exercise our mental and emotional faculties to help us come to terms with something that may be completely alien and hurtful to us.

Murka is a retributive society. It would far rather punish than prevent. Simple example: the drug war, which has ruined countless lives with draconian punishments for harmless recreational drug use. Another example: the incessant and heated attempts by philistines to deny sex education to adolescents (and stupidly advocating abstinence until marriage as a valid substitute), to prevent adolescents from having access to birth-control, then forbidding abortion when some girl finds herself unwittingly pregnant, then stigmatizing her for birthing an unwanted child and being an unwed mother. This entire scenario is intended to channel people into the social institution of heterosexual monogamy — otherwise known as marriage — by severely punishing deviations from this path. After all, for some reason in Murkan society it’s far easier to blame and stigmatize a girl for getting pregnant than it is to understand and accept that children have enormous natural sexual drives. Yet, ironically enough, it's far easier, and far less of a burden on society, to help a child understand her sexual drives, and how to practice sex safely and responsibly, than it is to pay the great social and personal costs that result when blame, ignorance and stigmatization ruin her life by keeping her in the dark about her own biological drives as a means of social control.

So one can simply blame 17 people for flying airplanes into national landmarks and seek some kind of retribution. Or one can try to come to an understanding of how this came to pass and seek ways to prevent it from happening again. But to even preclude the possibility of understanding with such stupid homilies as "they hate our freedoms" or "you're with us or you're with the terrorists" is a guarantee that a retributive cycle is in the works.

So what about BushCo? Are they blameworthy? Their actions certainly indicate a moral sense, if only because their words are diametrically opposed to their actions. They always know just what to say to soothe the public after some hideous public betrayal. They know when they do wrong because they are masters at lying and dissembling to hide their actions. Why lie and dissemble if you have a clear conscience? Because at some level there is a moral sense — they are all too aware of what they are doing. It's just that their moral sense is very unlike the common moral sense of the great majority of our civilization. (Or, perhaps, it is only too like it — could they be the Mr. Hyde behind capitalism's Dr. Jekyll? the realization of capitalism’s true essence unleashed?) Yes, they are certainly culpable.

Working in Concert

Blame and understanding are not opposites — they need to work in concert if there's to be hope of progress. Understanding without blame makes us passively complicit in misbehavior by not taking a stand against it. And blame without understanding is a guarantee that a problem will not be ameliorated — that it will, indeed, probably become exacerbated by entering a cycle of retribution. (Think Israel and Palestine, IRA & England, Hutu & Tutsi, Russia & Chechnya, Hatfields & McCoys, etc etc etc.)

So yes, one can blame a shark for biting off one's leg. But understanding why it did so is a good way to prevent it from happening again, and helps us to come to terms with it so we can move on with our life.

One final note: if one understands something, and one can blame something, but punishment is impossible or impracticable because this something cannot be held accountable, and one cannot prevent this bad thing from happening again, or cannot even protect oneself from it, then one has a few options: one can resolve oneself to it and accept things as they are; one can fight it, knowing that they will lose while refusing to submit; or one can remove oneself from it by changing their context. I have chosen the last option, and have left Murka. There will be much to say about this last option in this blog.


A Brick down a Well

And so I enter the blogosphere, my own little patch of ephemeral eternity...

It's a scary prospect putting one's voice out into the world. So why do it? Does vanity drive the desire? Or is it the desire to assert one's reality, perhaps as a way to claim one's life? Do I wish to communicate? or merely to monologue? Are my thoughts worth anything to anyone besides myself?

Do I even want answers to these questions?

Best to charge ahead and see what comes...