Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Goodbye Cruel World

Occasional visitors here will by now have noticed a certain format to the postings, one which may be a little jarring, de-focused, or hard to categorize. It's intentional: as an adult, I've been described as "intense," and fully indulging that tendency would make this blog one ongoing predictive contrarian rant about what I've known would happen to the country and world, how the shifting obliquities of the ecliptic relate to the Mayan calendar, to the reversal of the earth's polarity as foretold by mnemoic devices found in Viking sagas, I Told You I Was Sick, etc. Which it very much is. So what I do is intersperse a mix of snark, cool little things, fluffy kitties, technology, the smell of diesel fumes mingling with hot-fresh baguettes at dawn in Paris as contrasted to what I wake to now, the traces of Irish mists lingering in my son's hair. Arguably more faithful to how life unfolds.

In baseball, pitchers set up batters with change of pace, and I try to nibble at the edges of the strike zone with off-speed stuff, setting you up for the chest-high fastballs that could come all day. Besides, the nibbling is really good for me, it's challenging, makes me stretch, makes me have fun, and I hope for you, too. Having done so for a string of posts, I'm entitled to throw heat for a few days, days which will assuredly shake the world like an old Mustang convertible crashing through East River pot-holes on bald tires, way, way too much engine and busted springs. In the drag-race to the United States presidential election, I'm being deluged with information, as we all are, we can all feel it building, and if I re-published every top-notch story I received in email (especially the past week), well...that would take all day, every day. Which I don't have.

What you take in, comes out, and thank you all for sending those stories. I read them, and fortunately the insurgent mosh pit in the culture war we're winning turns up some lasting stuff, like a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist's take on the meta-questions. My wife passed on a post by Jane Smiley (A Thousand Acres, 1992), a disciplined, scalpel-sharp writer and journalist who cuts away nuance and leaves essence, sharing glimpses of a possible, likely, necessary future, the basic qualities of its tenor and tone. It's not an easy future, rather, in a way, it is the reverse. But at least it will be aware:
"...the right wing experiences the world as cruel and arbitrary, they have no inhibitions about enhancing that cruelty -- as in "Hurricane Katrina", as in "Iraq War", and in "Abu Ghraib".

This is the world we have been living in for the past thirty years.

In a week, we have a chance to leave this world behind. If we look at our two candidates, the differences between them are stark. John McCain, who was raised by and accepts the authoritarian model, is evidently never at peace. He is hot-headed, erratic, and has been remarkably cruel. He claims to have principles, but his principles change every time he loses his cool. The more he is pushed, the more it becomes evident that he lives by his own selfish desires -- for money, for power, for women. He's is a classic avoider, who can't even answer the simplest question -- if something "unpleasant" comes up, he changes the subject.

Barack Obama rarely changes the subject, because he is fully capable of looking at an issue and considering it. He seems to have been reared in a non-authoritarian household, by a loving mother and loving grandparents. He thinks that the world is a rational place that can be understood and modified. His own family seems happy and loving. Right wingers think he is shallow, but he isn't shallow -- he's well-adjusted. And we've had two whole years to poke him and prod him and discover this. Obama has grown through campaigning because he has learned from it. McCain gets ever smaller and more weird as he campaigns because he doesn't understand what is happening to him.

When we choose between these two men, we are choosing between two worlds -- the world of ignorance, fear, manipulation, and cruelty, and the world of rational investigation, weighing of options, and planning. This world is a world where sexual preference is not such a big deal, salvation is not an eternal mystery, and life goes on. It's a world where bad things happen, but there is no malign Godly intention behind them. It is world that understands the temptations of human nature and attempts to deal with them rationally and systematically. Some of these attempts will fail, but on balance, not as many as have failed in the last twenty-five years."
Observations like these, insights into the hearts which makes systems beat, are why we're increasingly subjected to barrages of lies and misdirections from the Mercenary Media every day.
For the other side, screaming is now the normal mode of communication. For our side, our alien mediators have decided that it's ok for us to have hope. Resilient, rational, respirating, resourceful Hope.


isabelita said...

Rightio. Time to throw out the fucking barbarians. And I am not joking around.
Obama and his crew will not have an easy time, but maybe, just maybe, some kind of humane order will be put into place.

Vincent said...

The rally of McCain supporters on that video clip was very frightening.

I take consolation in the certainty that sooner or later, economic and ecological disasters will impose some sort of national unity.

Now I begin to understand better what you were saying in a previous post about civil war.

there is such an enormous gulf between US and UK - or indeed US and Europe. Or you could say US and the rest of the world. It seems to be the same distinction as between a lunatic asylum and the outside. You get crazy people in both situations, but in only one of them is the craziness so concentrated and institutionalized as to feed upon itself.

Jane Smiley in your quote identifies the characteristic of arbitrary cruelty. Looking back on history, I see how cruel the British have been, whilst thinking themselves the great wise civilised race.

But the violence has gone: gone with the end of Empire and two world wars, and various genocides observed with horror. Guns and religion went out. They are just minority hobbies now.

I don't say this in any spirit of "Britain is better": don't have that kind of patriotism at all. But just look sadly on a time of crisis in our American cousins' present time in history.

MarcLord said...


We need a very cool hand at the controls to have a frigging chance of keeping the country together. Rome went through this, btw, and because it started to choose emperors through a form of ad-hoc meritocracy, it held together for 300 years longer than it deserved to. Also, there wasn't a compelling alternative order, for politics, economy, entertainment, technology, which could replace it.

MarcLord said...


reporters have literally been assaulted here for perceptions of being pro-Obama. Interestingly, the crowds in the video exhibit an almost 1:1 spectrum of behaviors associated with anti-abortion demonstrators, nearly indistinguishable. All that ignorance, fear and hate coming out. Combine that with cops who have been trained and encouraged to shoot people at the drop of a hat, plus terrorism paranoia, and you've got the ingredients for violence. It's not a hard equation.

Re: the UK and de-escalation of violence, I was at the so-called Head Tax Riots in London. A couple million people protesting, and I in my grey flannel suit walked through it, past 10 Downing, on my way to a yacht to watch the Henley Regatta. It could've been a picnic, and it was one of my fondest memories, and whenever I think of my deep admiration for the British people, I remember how effectively they expressed their displeasure, how confident they were in the weight of their opinion.

Not that kind of maturity or solidarity here. In Seattle, there have been several occasions in this past decade where a few hundred people have spilled out on the street partying on a Saturday night, and the police shot some people dead. I was at the WTO "Riots", and the only people I ever saw rioting were cops.

Vincent said...

Head Tax? Poll Tax!

MarcLord said...

Ah, vincent, that was my translation of the proper English into American. (We really would call it a Head Tax.)

Anonymous said...

I have been letting my brain run free and I came across a very disturbing thought that I can't seem to shake. What if, by virtue of the bailout, the government becomes a part owner of the banks. Preferred stock acts differently than common stock, and it could grant all types of "opportunities" that may not be available to common stockholders. As a "preferred owner", would it be illegal to monitor the purchases, financial transfers, or income levels of their clients? I mean to ensure the stability of its investments -- not to, I would never suggest, that an owner would ever use that data for nefarious purposes. Our government would never do that. I mean, why use the preferred shareholder route when you have FISA?

Can you help me stop thinking these conspiracy thoughts?

MarcLord said...


Umm, no.

Anonymous said...

For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.

The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.

Happy Halloween. This was the best way I had to scare you today!

PS, I love the Psalms of Camus in the mid afternoon when the struggle is in desperately silent.

Naj said...

Little gift from the kanuques ;)

Anonymous said...

WTF MarcoLordo? Where is your next post? Oct 29? The eve of the most important election of our lives thus far...and you are AWOL. I hope you have a good excuse like voting early and voting often.

MarcLord said...

Naj--thank you!

dead last--look upthread. ;-)