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In The Jury Box: 2022

By David Eide

joblog

These are opinions of a free, liberal democratic citizen, not a scholar, not a political scientist. I see things. And report through whatever sensibility I may have; a certain knowledge base and experience base, perhaps a bit of idealism as well as realism thrown in there. I would give them a much more robust sense of self and take them lightly

POWER

Does it matter that the United States has achieved its position at the center of world power and at the center of world history? In my young days I had no doubt what the answer to the question would yield. There was nothing in my experience that could comprehend what a world power or world history was. Most of those I consulted believed it was a bad thing or would lead to bad things. "It's a question of immense controlling emotion," I was told.

I didn't want America to become like Rome or the British Empire but I didn't want it to disintegrate into the hopelessness of the old world before it. I noticed quickly that everyone possessed a calculus for predicting how long America would last. In a conversation with an African student, as we listened to the echo of congas along the quad wall, I had casually remarked that the United States was going to be the dominant power for 2-4 more centuries depending on a number of factors.

"What? Never! A country that despises itself so much will never survive the hatred of the rest of the world."

Why does it matter and is it good?

It matters because it's better to be conscious than ignorant of the land that has carried generations of your kinfolk.

It matters because the precedence has been set from the beginning of time that great powers arise for a reason. Ignorant as we are of history we appear to have our heads in the sand hoping everyone will kiss our ass in the air.

It matters because the constitutional republic won out over petty tyrannies and inherited aristocracies held over from the feudal ages.

It matters because America has achieved that rare stability that permits experiment, creativity, and building at a high level. It is only good if it believes in its abilities to create a future and does so with the same vitality it used to build the great infrastructure of roads, bridges, canals, and railways.

America has been wildly successful in many ways. It is resented everywhere in the world because no country has the combination of favorable attributes as the US: many waterways that end in coastal ports to allow for trade, huge areas for the growing of food, large areas for the mining of essentials like gas and oil, great universities, an attempt to educate the population, Constitutional Law and guarantees of freedom from the oppression of government, two great oceans for space from old world, two long borders with "friendly" countries, no country in the hemisphere that can threaten it, yet connected globally through modern transportation and communications. Self-criticism, the idea of progress making sure things don't get settled and complacent, among others. If you look at the other continents, they are broken up into national borders like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Russia is a huge land mass but most of it is frozen tundra or uninhabitable. Think of Seattle, Portland, SF, LA, and San Diego along the Russian east coast with transportation and communication from one end to the other.

One wringing of hands should be followed by two heaps of gratitude. Every man and woman finds his or her center and lives it out in the vast spaces of America. It requires growth and development. It is not automatic. It's what is worked on now that the frontier is gone, now that we don't torture nature but cultivate it.

We can't afford to be idiots.

But no problem, in a liberal democracy, was ever solved by negativity and hatred. None. Good people have to be brave enough to look at some of the problems wracking this country and bring a sober, good spirited energy to the task of solving one, two, three dilemmas. It won't be done in one fell swoop.

Despite the appalling aspects that I left in my scrawled notes, I had made this observation: The nation of my birth renews itself, remakes itself, reimagines itself with a great deal of energy. It is not pulled down by the sort of problematic conflicts that pull down other nations in the world. It does everything in its power to put the person at the center and says to that person, "do what thou wilt, be who you are destined to be." It doesn't guarantee anything.

It was an exciting prospect since many people were living like artists and continually pushing the envelope for freedom. It provided a complex variety of character and story. It's hell could become heaven on a moment's notice.And vice versa.

So on lazy days, sitting on the red porch of the apartments in Berkeley, I skimmed over the prospects of the future as though I were the rocket-eye of a science fiction movie. The fact that a future would exist and demand something from the present I counted as an excellent thing, a healthy thing. One of the most disasterous events of my time had been the wholesale disillusionment in the future that tortured several generations from the end of World War II to the end of the Cold War. Without a future, people had become wild animals rutting around in the daily addiction of the eternal present. Or else, fully under the sway of nutty beliefs as a protest against the containment of time.

For one season I grabbed whoever would listen to explain that the future existed in two places: The upper latitudes of the planet and the dark of space. I could easily see colonies of brave people starting to inhabit the northern wastelands and within a century or two become populated in connected regions filled with the co-mingling of an angst-state of utter idealism and raw opportunism. In two or three centuries the nation of my birth would represent an old world whose crimes had long become interesting brochures for tourists. This would occur over a period of a thousand years. It would be an adequate time to develop the ways and means to move into space. With that saving fantasy in hand it was easier to imagine improvements in the land of brith from top to bottom. It was much easier to see it play out a destiny I had seen in her from time to time.

I reacted against all of the European stuff early on. America, which is both a prosaic and terrifying nation, lacked the romance and imagination of Europe. It lacked any connection (America did) to a past that was cognizant and palpable and necessary. America was the place where the scum and losers of the world came to be molded by the machine. "You must not have any feeling for the past, you must not have any feeling for your family, you must not have any feeling toward objects of beauty", thus saith the machine and naked passion that terrifies the American rather than inspires him. Europe, then, was a fount. Europe of my imagination at any rate. None other existed as far as I was concerned. Asia too, in a general way, taught a grace obviously lacking in the US.

But after awhile, it became apparent to me that I had to return to the imagination of my own country.

While Europe had tremendous advantages of culture and traditions, intellectual development and so on, America had the greater advantage of being vital and new and not subject to the measuring rod of the European. America free and on the open road! This cost me time to develop, to move from the depths of a demoralizing pessimism; time the European would have spent cultivating his career. America, I thought, must discover things that are so vast and beyond the tradition and the current ability of Europeans that it boggled the mind.

I figured the worst thing to happen to an American was a lack of confidence in the face of superior cultures from abroad. This lead downward eventually.

If I was attracted to the Symbolic and mystical and aloof strain in Europe- the spirit walk of the Europeans- I also felt the need to counter with the American strength of practicality and the sense of equity that shined through everything..

Even with the driving need for more resource and enrichment, the most obnoxious poles of human nature blocked the path: Self-complacency and arrogance.

I could easily be dragged back to the past, back to a litany of chastising ghosts. A certain level of forgiveness is needed for the ghosts to let go, "go on with you and make a way in the present day you live in." I found myself in a land where necessity was defined by finding the transformative nature and continually transcending the self in successive stages of growth. The old world complexes of race, gender, class, religion became obstacles to this transformation and a politics dominated by it would always be oppressive and create a cieling two centimeters above the head and spirit of people.

Liberal democracy does offer up its own characters, especially under the pressure of being a "world power":

  • The alienated one
  • The conspiratorial one
  • The cynical one
  • The one-track mind one
  • The "hide behind power" one
  • The Ignorant one
  • The information light one
  • The information heavy/experience light one
  • The ignorant experienced one
  • The prejudiced one
  • The ambitious one
  • The legal minded one
  • The "who cares" one
  • The "I've picked out one interest and don't care about the rest" one
  • The class determined one

Among others. These come off the top of my head. The goal is the "fully imbued one".

Ultimately, the key to the future is "what is good governance?" "Who can do the things to solve and/or alleviate the problems that oppress the people? "Who governs for the totality of the community, district, state, and so on?" To get to that point you have to develop a sense of political space that brings into it the totality of the living. To simply manage the self-interest of different people is a negative because it allows the most vocal, the most monied to dominate that space. If all members of a political space knew all things going on, including those who have the authority to enact things, you'd have a better situation. I think. There are, obviously, conflicts and differences within the space.

September 5, 2022

LOYALTIES

So many loyalties split among so little time. One is certainly this: I live in a Federal system but my life takes place in a region. A careful reading of American history will reveal the conflict from the very beginning. The framers of the Constitution did not have total consent from the people. I see a lot of confusion as people struggle with this conflict.

The local, in my opinion, is more important than the "national" in terms of culture, in terms of how you do things. That's true up to the point where a local violates a civil right or a right guaranteed in the Constitution. It doesn't bother me that evangelicals dominate Alabama for instance. I can trace that back to the earliest migrations from Europe. I might not like that domination but as long as they don't violate the civil rights or other rights I have no problem with it. Now, an evangelical who is dominant in Alabama may come out to California or the Bay Area and be completely lost, lose his dominance and go up the learning curves needed to live in a more complex culture. And the liberal, multicultural Bay Area can be-as-it-is as long as the evangelical can move here, even set up his church here and have a publication to publicize his church and denomination. As long as that is the case then the norms for the area are produced by the majority. And so as you move through regions you find all kinds of differences at the local level. That presents the best case for a liberal democratic culture rather than one imposed by a national culture which would be an advertisement for corporations. I would even say that the addition of the evangelical in the area enriches the area and as he moves out into the outlying areas and finds more conducive environment it's a perfect foil for the dominance of liberalism in Bay Area culture. You want there to be some standard, some norm established but you also want a counter to that as long as it doesn't destroy the integrity of the community. And if that norm is too much, if it is not conducive to my sense of self or productivity, I can move. I can find that conducive community and move there and try it out.

I like California and the Bay Area. I wouldn't want California and the Bay Area to be imposed on Alabama. Let Alabama be Alabama. If I am happy and secure in California it's much more likely I will get curious about Alabama and read about its histories and what it's about. That's especially the case with me since my great, great grandfather was captured in Huntsville, AL in the early parts of the Civil War and put in a Confederate prison camp.

The vast differences between regions can't be creamed over by political generalization. Avoiding the temptations of political generalization is part of the learning curve for the liberal, democratic citizen. The interesting dynamic, for our time, is when that norm is challenged in the local region by changes such as immigration or demographic changes. That often produces the odd corruptions that seems second nature to power or norms that are challenged.

* * * * * * * *

One fact should not be confusing. America represents a practical democracy and can be juxtaposed next to old systems whether oligarchic, aristocratic, theocratic, etc. The significance of the liberal, practical, democratic culture of today is that it rests on the quality of the individual. Not simply that an individual exists but that the individual is filled with an active will to fulfill his or her potential. And spilling from that is the desire for the whole community to empty its potential into a collective myth called society. A living myth that exists in the heart, mind, and spirit of anyone who loves democracy.

Many democracies have a life, surrender that life, pass into history to be resurrected by odd thinkers who find their champions in conscientious opportunists as the American revolutionaries were. As all revolutionaries do they claimed a "new freedom."

A hypothetical citizen asks himself freedom in relation to what? And after a little more inquiring he realizes that this freedom was not an abstract word but a relation to the "unfree" represented by the Mother Country. It began as a negative freedom; freedom from, freedom of.

Freedom from arbitrary law, freedom from class perpetuation, freedom from the dominance of a sect, religion or political.

In relation to these things, the framers developed a particular spirit of law; a Constitution preventing the above abuses from re-occurring hoping this would inform the free citizens when they gathered formally and informally in the early days. Now, the hypothetical citizen pauses and basks in the memory of the founding idea. He realizes in himself that the Idea was freedom in relation to the unfree. "Here I will take my stand and define my confusion," he thinks. "I will be free in relation to the unfree."

He wakes from his reverie and walks the city he finds himself in. All previous feeling is driven out of him. This is a new world he has entered that ridicules his definition. The poor citizen! His confusion returns to him three-fold. He talks to people, he reads, he studies, he suddenly detects in himself a strange feeling if not premonition which he can't articulate.

He is bothered over a period of time by an insistent question, "why am I more alienated from my own country than the framers were from Mother England?" This question bothers him to the extent that he must find some reasonable answer. And perhaps he comes to a harsh realization. He states it to himself as a kind of law. "Even freedoms develop their own rigidities which in turn become the unfree." And the inevitable question arises. What freedoms have become petrified and become obstacles to new, possible freedoms?

This he can't answer so quickly and he meditates on the change that has come about. It calls into question so many things. And immediately the citizen is brought into the first perception he had: He can be a citizen of the democratic people or a citizen of the elite and how is he going to choose between them?

In the reality of things he sees a great machine supported by various rationalizations through which issue laws. And the interpretation of laws become so vast and complicated; so weighted down in jargon, so musty with intricacy that he throws up his hands and says to himself, "the hell with it. I will be as conscientious as possible and develop a trust between my own innate knowledge of good and bad and leave the law and its interpreters alone."

If the citizen is modeled, professionally or otherwise, on the same complexities, jargon et al he will be more comfortable with the established power and align his own will with it.

Loyalty to the people will develop his disillusionment and cynicism. Loyalty to the elite will develop his sense of power. Loyalty to the people will depend more and more on a mass group-mind that aligns itself behind particular interests. Loyalty to the elite will evolve into the confidence of individual judgement lined up behind the machinations of established authority.

And this sends tremors through the heart of the innocent, hypothetical citizen. He who sees the beauty of the American ideas and who wants to keep that idea firm, overflowing into new vessels, even through the contradiction of both types described. So now the hypothetical citizen must make some hard choices.

Doesn't America say, "I am an experiment and the citizen must determine which experiment has failed and which can be carried into the future." And that goes from top to bottom, from the big law honed out of the Constitution, to the smallest gesture conceivable.

And the citizen says to himself, "The tragedy of America is that it will never become America. Rather it will become a strange experiment frozen in history and inspected by a curious future. What will they ask about America? What question will they pose about this land?"

Whatever questions they ask let's hope they don't say, "America was a depository, an accumulation and too, a transformation gone wild until the mystery of nature overtook her and laid her low in the ground with a few scattered seeds for the future. America fell asleep in its own myth rather than waking up to its potential."

August 26, 2022

GUILT

Sometimes it is very difficult to know what to say. We do not want the cameras to speak for us. They bring us the first and fresh impressions and we place them in a wreath at the dead center of our mind. There is nothing to say in relation to anything other than the undying love a man has for his child. It is there, then, not in the words, not in the pictures, but in an eternal silence above the trees, the buildings even, out into an eye that is infinite.

We say nothing. It's all been said. Nothing has been said. More will be said. We hear what men and women hear before death: Silence. They are then a world we can not know, perhaps a splendid one, one filled with the laughter as it must have sounded along the Tigris River, at noon, with the last sounds of children playing next to the temple that would fall in two years in a wind storm.

It is our silence, our death, our disappearing worlds, our muted imaginations shamed, now, by its wrathful possibilities. On the otherside of the wrathful world is our silence.

Then we burst into song high above the avenues where the beloved have walked. We are a chorus of unrequited dreams.

* * * * * * * *

Ah guilt, we inherit you.

And so we imagine what it would be like if a man were free of guilt in the most enlightened way. What kind of terrible power might be unleashed in himself? What would it make obsolete and what would it introduce into the world? What new responsibilities and dreams would be generated out of it?

Americans have always been plagued by guilt. It climbs on the most innocent back and squats there nude in defiance of every protocol. Our revolution was not an exhaltant revolution. It was an extraordinary enterprise that shocks us today considering the odds against its success. Any military historian will tell you there were at least four points at which the Americans "had no hope." We take it for granted today and it's our loss because in that struggle is the archetype for all our struggles, world-wide.

The revolutionary generation was uneasy and apprehensive about their ideals and such. They realized that fully one third of the population was staying out of it and, in their own make-up, they must have had that one-third of themselves. George Washington's own mother spoke with disgust about the revolution. Throwing off orderly rule for something undiscovered, undone to that point, was not exactly the Calvinistic thing to do. They must have believed that they would be punished at any time by, if not the King, then God. If not God, then their wives or mothers. But, they crossed the threshold and when they realized it was too late to turn back, they created history. America gets to the threshold, realizes it's too late to turn back, and creates history. That is one source of the hatred people in the old world feel.

Then there was slavery. Slavery was rationalized at the time as an abomination that had been imposed on the country by European empires. It was similar to our environmental crisis. We inherit it and don't know what to do about it. It's beyond our capacity to deal with so it's passed on and denied until, finally, a civil war breaks out. For all the guilt-mongering that goes on to this day, the blood shed at the Civil War was significant blood.

Guilt, then, has its pathologies as well as its uses. A person submerged in guilt is easily manipulated and driven out of his own possessions. The greatest demonstration of that was in the 1970's when guilt-ridden young and middle-aged people, gave up everything to join cults. As long as the guilt successfully manipulates people on behalf of political power or personal power, then it will be encouraged. In fact, one of the most demanding qualities of a democratic citizen is to overcome guilt and attain a mature development where one can look boldly into facts, discuss solutions, and make decisions based on clear insight, even wisdom.

The whole problem of guilt is exacerbated by modern media and the ease in which is slips into the minds and spirits of people. We are going to be seen, in the future, as guinea pigs in a vast experiment of electronic control that makes the Church and State look pathetic. In fact, where the Church and/or State has the upperhand they always try to control the electronic media.

* * * * * * * *

The hypothetical citizen, a kind man always startled by the backfire of a passing car, was created out of a series of reactions and relations. His first reactions were not in relation to literature, art, or thought of any kind but the physical universe, looming up like a sad, frenetic clown who deep down was really making his audience feel guilty and a bit clownish themselves. And then the clown stripped off his clownsuit and revealed underneath the archetypal suit of the gangster and raised a machine gun of some kind in the air while the audience gasped, laughed, and fell silent. Does the clown have a loaded weapon? Or is it still a part of the show? Some of the audience got up to leave because the tension was too great but they found the exit blocked-ah- but there was a television in the lobby! Most of the audience remained seated transfixed by the thought that the clown was no longer a clown but a gangster and that the machine gun was not a toy but a real weapon and even after the gangster shot several people in the audience, most were still trying to decide.

His first reaction was to the physical objects of the artificial world and what they did, in a manner of speaking, to those who surrendered themselves to them.

His second reaction was to his own inner life and whatever advances or constrictions he could find there. Dreams, hells, and heavens he found.

His third reaction was to the dominant forms of thought and dominant forms of perceiving that played themselves out in what he liked to term, "the official, institutionalized world."

His fourth reaction was to the breakthrough ideas of the last part of the 19th C century and early part of the 20th C century and how they implicated themselves in the world around him.

His fifth reaction was to the failure of transmission through a mass culture.

His sixth reaction was the the joy and beauty of life in its natural forms and in the constant beating of the human heart.

His seventh reaction was to his relation to other people.

All other reactions are related to the relation of others. He turned toward what is majestic, dramatic, round and beautiful. He fought all the impediments of the desiring self which takes what is given to it and splits it as many ways as possible so that it can conquer and possess at least one aspect of the complete desire. It was attention to dreams- night and day- and to the changes in nature which occurs in contact with what is outside of it.

It loses itself and yet regains itself. It can never be lost though it is hidden quite often. He tried to articulate some of the lines of force. It is really a matter of faith and nothing else. He found one thing; that it feeds and grows on the manipulative powers of the world at large and in the end renders them useless in relation to the center.

When he was most arrogant, most apt to desire himself a position out of proportion to the desires of the living universe, the center was lost and he was cast out into the periphery like a rogue elephant which must feed on the few kernels of seed existing on the periphery. It was at those times that he consulted the classics and epics of the imaginative spirit. Only in the most humble frame of mind could he come to the center. Everything opened from the center and had a particular form which will continue to enact itself in the light of day.

History is harsh to those who obey it; history is harshest to those who most deny it.

The hypothetical citizen liked to say that nothing existed until he had sanctified it with a complete thought. Despite the arrogant sound of it he felt courage was the operative word.

He climbed as far as he could through the new physical theories until he realized he lacked that one language that would save him and give him power: Mathematics. The modern world had a Pythagorean faith in the ability of numbers to describe states that exist, including his own. A destiny could be framed in the question, "does one create a state or discover a state already existing?"

In the center were the various complexes where identity is built, where communication with one's fellows is built, where relation is built, on outward to the more abstract light-wave of feeling/thought.

"Citizen," they said, "how much of your reading merely flattered your vanity?"

How much can one know of the world? And one has to ask, "through what sources has one found out?" There is a geopsychological area of physical experience, in a body, in a small circle that occasionally extends outward followed by what one experiences artificially through images (television, cinema, radio and all the modern parenephalia). Like the geological and psychological these have a source that can be known for the purpose of asserting a right relation to any value.

There are also the scientific 'sensors' that do the work for the human senses, from the laser microscopes to telescopes put out into space. My own feeling is that while these instruments have been enormously useful and their power is undeniable, despite all the good they do, unless the individual, and the individuals who make up groups, are able to mediate this new information-enigma, the production of technology has the potential of breaking the human spirit and reducing life to a state unbearable and horrendous in its implications. It has the potential to do this; a fact that is cruelly experienced by those who have no technology. Take note that much of the hatred toward the modern world has been created by one simple thing: from any tradition it appears that the machines have all the life, value, freedom, beauty even, while the human beings keep getting worse. This is a powerful distortion but indicates what a cutting edge we live on. The three protests against the modern world are connected: Fascism, Communism, Fundementalism. In the face of a machine world the human being returns to the brazen, half-crazed heroism of the ancient world.

The problem for the hypothetical citizen, in a wealthy culture, is how can he tap his potentials and lead them out into the light of day if he, too, has no knowledge of the world enacting relentlessly around him? Is not ignorance a contradiction of potential?

He discovered this as a central problem. America had crossed a threshold and was creating a new history. Yes, he burned to fulfill his potentials in ways that honored all that was human.

Politically, the answer is in the efficacy of sovereign states to bring the machines to the people so they can partake of some of the platforms of the modern world.

For the hypothetical citizen it is the greater development of his experience and knowledge so that no part of the world he knows and inhabits is alienated from him.

It's not a simple case of the individual competing against computers or vast new advances in genetics, pitting human ingenuity against the things we make, like John Henry against the railroad.

No. It's something else.

August 7, 2022

PROGRESS

The hypothetical citizen had heard the rumor that progress was now a contaminated word. Progress was designed to disguise massive experiments conducted on people on behalf of mad scientists and social planners. "They are testing us to see what qualities still remain. To see the ones that have failed. They will force us to admit that the failure is absolute, that it can't be redeemed any longer or covered over in ornamentation. They will clear this muck and see what seeds lay scattered about ready for the bloom."

Conversations with the paranoid had alarmed the hypothetical citizen. His reading of wisdom, while profound, was still untested. "Without a true and real relation with existence they will have a free and real relation to anti-life. But it will not be a "relation"; it will be a wave sweeping him up in all the vigor of evil."

That was his impression.

He liked to prepare himself before the paranoid, to gather himself up, clear his throat, look to see if there was easy egress, and then say in a mock, professorial tone, "There is something of a true nature to get to after picking through the artificiality's. The mind so captured says, "yes, what is outside of me has come from inside of me." Heaven help us when we see the mind devoid of spirit; either wrenched free of it and homeless among the artifacts or simply a vacuum of waking despair. A vacuum that sucks up all the pompous, facile,innocuous briberies of the sprit; all the empty rationalizations that have stolen wisdom out of the electrified air."

Then, following the meeting, down the street, the hypothetical citizen would say, nearly outloud, Ah, they have their wretched perceptions! And does freedom emerge from them?

* * * * * * * *

The hypothetical citizen was in a pensive mood. He had been in the city on a day when it feels everything is off kilter; he could see it in the eyes of those driving past him. Do they remember anything, he wondered. Later, sitting on a cast-iron bench around an old lake,looking sad and worn, he reflected that when one enters a democracy one enters a dizzy play of forces; innumerable personalities and roles which reflect the state of power and general state of the union. These relations determined, to a large extent, relations to life itself. He, at the very least, tried to understand his peculiar struggle for clarity. An aspect of himself was thoroughly optimistic, another aspect thoroughly pessimistic. The 'social atmosphere' brought out and developed one aspect; he worked hard to struggle and manifest the latent aspect.

The greatest evil came through the demoralization of power. That is, when it became aloof machinery set apart, even against, the people.

* * * * * * * *

On a day of utter optimism, when the juices of optimism were running free and wild through him, he would sing to himself, What simple joy to move among the democratic people! All upbringings, attitudes, political orientations, colors, religions, beliefs, developments. There exists in the democratic culture all forms that need to become actual; that lay dormant under the scrutiny of machines. And what a light would vanish from the world if the democratic person were never allowed to develop, differentiate, and burst forth with its indwelling destiny.

After joy, came shadows.

Its delusions, its obsession for conformity, its stale creative life, its ability to grow fine, trimmed hedgerows but no redwoods, its utter demand to serve mediocrity, the predictability of so much of its life, the wretched guilt's that develop when all responsibility is thrown on the individual. It's spite and greedy nature, its absurd cliques and 'stopped up flow of knowledge and information' between contending groups; all of this and more was the price of freedom struggling to know itself through masses of human beings.

* * * * * * * *

The hypothetical citizen looked at himself at a moment when the headlines looked particularly noxious. 'Am I wealthy? No? Hmm-am I going to produce wealth that generates jobs....perhaps but unlikely. Therefore, I am free to choose a value that is not dependent on wealth and the love of money...ah, excellent! I am free and not predictable like the wealthy fools who have left abundant trails in history!'

It was the poet who revived his sense of dignity. He explained to the hypothetical citizen, "The literary imagination has one concern above all else. How goes the dreaming state these days? How goes the ability to get on the otherside of the real world and think as if things matter?"

August 3, 2022

Idle Musings of the Hypothetical Citizen

The hypothetical citizen had just met with virtuous, kind, seeking types who had prompted their good natures out of the shell it has to crack to see the light of day. He felt wonderful around them as though everything was right in the world and nothing would disturb the pleasantness, not even a sudden earthquake.

It was an enormous relief after his experience with another group who he characterized as scurrilous, brutal, violent even, without a desire in their bones to change or even admit there is such a thing as a nature of light proper to the human being

These chance meetings had taken place within a few weeks of each other and had pointed out to him, as life often did in surprising ways, a profound dilemma he was having.

In his leisurely days he had written off the persistence of class as a lingering effect in people not yet in the core of some dynamic experience. Classes were left for scientists and their investigations of the dead.

Democracy required a paradox that went something like this: People are becoming and yet they are 'being' as well; and they can't leave 'being' for 'becoming' without a few jolts to their nervous systems. Up to a point the mass of people were striving to become something but then they ended up locked into a psychological or ideological being and the greatest effort was made to break open either the becoming or the being; two paradoxes politics fought over.

When he walked down a street and saw the ambiguous flowing mass of men, women, and children, animals, machines, buildings and what not before his eyes, he realized that separated and looked on singularly there was an addition of various values, attitudes, perceptions dominated by a tone or atmosphere that squirmed its way from out of all the activity of the massive scene. The dominance of this he called "society." It all flowed in and out of him like a string of pearls giving him an infinite supply of information.

In a simple street scene it was, with a little bit of effort, fairly easy to overcome the dominance of the environment. First he had to learn how to transform all the information of the environment back into the unconscious of himself and discover where the seeds came blooming darkly from and how, eventually, they made their way to the environment. But as he got into higher realms of observation he was suddenly awakened to the fact that the social environment of the street scene has become the personal environment of those in power. He had no answer why but he understood the fury of the time he lived in.

The time wanted to deconstruct government. "But", he thought, "isn't this deconstruction dependent on the increase' of the citizens themselves; i.e. their improvement as citizens?" That is the only way the 'deconstruction of government' would be successful. Otherwise it would simply be the farmers with pitchforks and axes rushing up the hill to burn the castle. Yes, the castle is burned but so is their support system and, so, where are they? The farmers had to learn what it was the castle did and learn to do it better, And to spread that in greater and greater circles until they were in vast communities of open-ended, resourceful, peace-loving, goodwilled types.

For the hypothetical citizen it was convenient to see the government as

  1. a group of empty buildings
  2. populated by individual people
  3. as a growing relation between the individual people
  4. as a perpetuation of what each generation leaves behind
  5. then, the legal and administrative framework
  6. then, the problems, the crisis, the politics of it etc.

Now, there is a cumulative effect to this world; an atmosphere, a certain set of attentions that one needs to be aware of.

The moment it was nothing but empty buildings then a great passage would have taken place. When it was nothing but the problems and crisis then the people would go crazed looking for salvation.

Political rhetoric is one window, however grimy, that one can see through.

The ideology of his youth was quite dead. He was not unhappy about it. He paid obeisance to the power of time to bring down even the grandest of hoaxes and hypnotism's. For a brief moment he thought that the next political move was this one: The left, liberal joining the libertarians to split the conservative movement in two, dividing it from the pious inquisitors who ruled the movement. That way the left, liberals could escape the stinking dead body of Marx and, yet, have active play in the political life of the society. The class struggle had to be abandoned; a much more dynamic relation to life and society had to be developed.

Politics selected its revolutions carefully and would hide in itself as a bear, conserving its energy for when it needed it. All of the top-down policies loaded up on the system the past 30 years were being taken down or, at least, re- assessed. Politics stalks the lowest common denominator. It was interested in the bottom line and that meant, taxes, safety, security from foreign foe, protection from that which would interfere with the working out of the citizen's destiny.

* * * * * * * *

The hypothetical citizen ran into his old dyspeptic pal, Mr. Barebones, who lived with mean, stinky parrots and complained that NASA had fabricated the moon landing to make people believe in science.

For Mr. Barebones, the institutions of human society were developed and fixed by the wrong attitude. "Several hundred years ago the assumption was that the rational in man could perfect itself, first in personal cultivation then through social cultivation and this perfection would be reflected in the institutions that mediate between human desire and human need." He went on to tell the hypothetical citizen that this was so fixed in the minds and hearts of men that they began to adjust their lives to the institution and call that adaptation perfection! "So obviously, as the institutions reflect themselves outward to men one can't help but believe in the illusion of perfection." So, this perfection spilled over into pure arrogance exemplified by imperialism, missionary activity, cultural exclusion and the rest- which had reached its height in the SuperModernState and its auxiliaries in education, finance , entertainment and the rest. Mr. Barebones detested it all.

"Now, my friend, comes great doubt! That's the great theme of the age. It's a germ reaching from the center of the individual through relationship, into the active circles of power!" The germ of this effects all activity- it is the attraction and repulsion of all activity. It is, unfortunately, the foundation on which most people secure their lives so that all activity seen outside of their eyes is a measurement of their own doubt.

"Yes," the hypothetical citizen mused, "doubt is always with us." Socrates doubts the gods, Epicurus doubts the active play of gods, masses of people doubt the light, individuals doubt other individuals. However, it was Descartes that made doubt an Idea that could be transformed into power since doubt could reduce everything down into its constituent parts and from this platform the intellect could wreak its designs without the limitation of a troubled conscience. That is, at least, one side of the equation.

On some side of doubt, hanging on to its edge, was myth. Myths were beautiful and, while extraordinary, did have the ability to make one senseless and to accept what shouldn't be accepted and to resist changing what should be changed. Myths, he concluded, were the province of the poet and only the poet knew how to handle them. To walk in the mythically unconscious society was to be in a dead society. That is, a society immersed in the organic nature of the mind out of which came all kinds of rationalizations to mask the intent.

The intellect ranged over the environment it had raised to itself and saw so many complements to organic ways of life.

In crisis it felt real. But, in times of normalcy, the citizens were confused by their own roots. It was a curse.

In the long run, confidence was given over only to the machines which were abundant. All the failure of history had been built into them. All the inherent contradictions were in machines and in the mentality that would give over to machines some arbitrary power. The business civilization had staked itself on the machine and wanted its citizens to adapt themselves to machines. The machine life has become a form of addiction that quickly tired of itself.

What had thrown its sins onto machines as scapegoats while also incurring the wrath of remorse and guilt? It was, no doubt, scapegoats who stayed around to flaunt the community so to speak.

Every move the individual citizen could make was checkmated by the powers-at-large, even if that final move was obscured by a row of pawns.

* * * * * * * *

The happiest moment for the hypothetical citizen was when he realized that politics was not a profound enough activity to submerge everything to it.

It was all a story about delivering the goods.

His interest in politics was an aspect of the spirit; in another time, a more fortuitous time, when the population was less a burden, when the mixture of the elements that go into making a body politic was far less abstract, when, even, 'enemies' could sit across each other and divert themselves from the questions of the day; when it was expected that the citizen would be more than his function and role then he would involve himself more fully. What was the practice? It look liked a huge empire of various power centers that cultivated and disciplined one type of individual.

As a good political animal he had quickly sized up the four quadrants of power.

1) Actual power that is elected or appointed or exerted through influence by wealthy individuals. There was a kind of parody of power as individuals march to its hidden secrets; a pattern that is followed with particular characteristics until the goal of power was reached; at which time their individuality is a farce used to exploit the ignorance of the people.

2) Organized groups; where a mass of powerless people suddenly find a group identity and work to become a collective institution whose goal is to increase the sheer numbers of the group.

3) The individual taking more and more control over his own life; depending less on the experts, technicians, and bureaucrats and more on his own resourcefulness. This is a vital strain, yet, and the only one still in touch with the inspired instinct of democracy whose goal is the fullest development of the individual. No doubt the development of the individual is conditioned by the first two attitudes.

4) This is extra legal or the underground. The so-called 'revolutionary activity' usually filled with losers and misanthropes but always led by a person who had inherited wealth and thirsted for glory. The mask they wore was in the form of propaganda in the service of revolutionary purposes; where power is abstracted from reality and projected into a future and the members faith established there, in the future. A future they never see and rarely believe in past the age of thirty-five.

The quadrants competed with each other, sometimes in the the spirit of play, other times in the spirit of a violence that verged on a kind of civil war. To enter one of the quadrants, the prospective type had to be cleansed of the other three. Each quadrant had its own initiations.

Of the multiple selves the American had at his beck and call, often the hypothetical citizen called on those genes connected to the provincial, small-town mentality. It was finely supine to the grand mythologies. It was where the integrity of the individual was stronger, edging over into the moralist and absolutist as times. It was nourished by hard work and simple dreams. The hypothetical citizen was brought up and raised in a small town that had access to cities. He had early experiences in cities. The leap from his grandfather to his father was a large one.

The genes of the genuine American were set against the teeming world now digitized at every station; vast and meaningful information and events were no longer transmitted through inheritance, through a carefully contrived hierarchy but were accessible to everyone for good or ill.

Among his acquaintances, the hypothetical citizen knew personalities that suffered when so much was brought to it unannounced. Array's of human experience, faces, forms of community etal all went toward changing the personality. The unfortunates would be plunged in one of two directions; either the past or the future. The past to recapture alienation created by this kind of thing; i.e. transposing the form of that experience into historical forms that are equal in focus, cosmopolitan or closed-in cities. It made others recognize the utter necessity of a conception of future. And both understood that the basic relations (male-female, mother-father) must gain a reality since the present became awfully abstract, even a bit unreal. That was a great source of confusion and misunderstanding. It revealed paltriness from time to time. The relation between past and present were relations in every mind; strengthened and nourished by thought, other like-minded individuals etc. But the present was nourished only by relation. There was, no doubt, a fight between various forms of relation. Sometimes the knowledge of past and future were a defense against the pressure of the present; sometimes the ability to 'spiritualize' the present and thus give the other a kind of sanctity was a defense.

The centers of power were worlds unto themselves in that they absorbed the 'whole' person in their activities. Each demanded complete attention to the detail of its bureaucracy. Each articulated its own self-interest. Each made claims about its relation to the whole of society. Each adapted what it could use from the other sphere. Each was an organism, not complete but assuming they were complete. This sense of 'completeness' grew around them so they became impervious. Internal changes did occur. Depending on the strength of the generation the change was either to bulwark the self- completeness of the institution or to adapt it to some new idea or form generated elsewhere.

The problem with political rhetoric was that one always assumed there was more at the bottom of it; some fundament of political wisdom that overwhelmingly does not exist. Usually, political rhetoric was the art of communicating the abstract fears of the society. The whole art of leadership, as it had developed, had been to absorb the abstract and real fear of the majority into consciousness and then develop a speaking manner assuring and confident so that the fear magically disappeared. The intra-communication in this sphere is quite different. And, in periods of crisis, the problem asserted itself. as nothing but itself.

So, the hypothetical citizen was curious just how the foundations were formed. There were the histories of political parties, histories of problems, developments in philosophy and so forth. There was the personal experience of the society in which people met with problems, obstacles, limitations etc. to form political alliances. There was the psychology of groups; psychology of political allegiances; in-fighting of groups and how they naturally divided themselves between types of personality. Regionalism became important. And then the transition from regionalism to the new quasi-sophisticated thought brought in by technology and affluence.

The end of the day was depressing for the hypothetical citizen. Just as he had collected all evidence for all decisions that made up the political world he realized it would take several lifetimes to fathom all of this; to exhaust it.

And by that time a new order would, no doubt, be in place.

July 22, 2022

THE INTELLECTUAL CLASS

The idea-men have failed miserably and should put on sackcloth, get begging bowls, and go throughout the land listening to the people, listening to the world, humbly asking forgiveness for past sins, and re-learn the world on its own terms.

As I read through progressive publications like the Nation and progressive writers I feel sadness. I feel nostalgia for a time that is no more. Why hasn't the angle of attack changed in 40 years?

The central dilemma of the intellectual left is this: They never learned the simple lesson that in a liberal, democratic culture the idea is to make allies and not enemies. Make profound enemies of the middle- class property holders, for instance, and those enemies will stop every single idea that emerges from the source of their opponents. The intellectuals got stuffed into universities where they could affect a world-weary aloofness from the crazy people and their illiterate, superstitious ways. From a literary point of view this is understandable but from a political point of view it is disasterous. And does it matter if the elites are white or black, men or women, straight or gay? No. But it's the Democratic Party that suffers because it has to own everything cooked up in the elite universities. There is, at least, some stirring about, some rebellion taking place in the Democratic Party.

A liberal democratic culture is made up of pluralities that co-operate for their mutual gain. Lesson: don't get a plurality pissed off at you. Where you find an enemy, make an ally. If progressive politics fails in this way then it has no chance in our lifetime of exerting any sort of political agenda.

So, what can be done? What can political conscience do? As with anything else when it seems impossible, the impossible is calling out from some dim horizon to change the angle of attack.

Sometimes the change of an angle of attack will change the heart and mind of people.

And we are the last to claim that the people are appealing with all their passive victimhood, their lack of vision, their addictions and violence. And events in America and abroad have proven a terrible fact: You can not ram "liberal democracy" down the throats of unwilling people. If they want their tyrants they will get their tyrants.

The people, however, are diverse.

What information and knowledge would one need to be a full, complete, free liberal democratic citizen? First, one would have to know how things got here, physically and otherwise, without reaching for the easy conclusion. One would have to know the "infrastructure of civilization." That is, the systems, how they were built, what goes into maintaining them, what goes into improving them. And knowing the fact that it is built to be improved because we know there is no perfection. The economic and political systems are the more important systems to know. How do they work, how were they were built, how did they grew, how can they be improved, how can they be degraded, and on and on. One would have to know everything that influenced him in his or her formative years: culture, family, neighborhood, mobility among other things. One would have to know all the significant things that have happened, when she is a conscious human being. One would have to know the history of peoples who live in the same society and, by extension, the history of the world since the world's people live in the US. One would have to know the legacy of his profession whether a lawyer, engineer, teacher, writer, etc. One would have to know the forces of change: science, technology, capital, and some form of democratic republic. One would have to find the will to want better, to see better despite the grime, vulgarity, stupidity, evil, smoke and mirrors of the present world. If the citizen gets demoralized by it then all learning and experience is superfluous. You therefore have to find the agent that re-moralizes the self and transforms hells into heavens or, at least, lesser hells.

America is the accretion of many layers of experience beginning with nature, the native experience, colonization and/or the Revolution. Every generation puts down a layer. To be a full citizen you need to be rooted to those layers. It's not all good. It is not a caricature. It is not a color or gender. It belongs to every free man or woman, no matter how that freedom came about. Society is more than a dysfunctional family but it is certainly that. All the parts believe they are the center and so try to change all the other parts. Nothing but stupid judgment and "advice to be better" ergo misunderstandings so one can hardly stand being in the damn thing. Its eccentric, idealistic or naive, cynical, faithless, hopeless and bizarre at turns, all at once. So tribes form to protect them from the sense that they are terribly flawed, the more deeply wounded especially. Those who don't have a positive view of themselves, no question. Any attempt at liberal democracy is met with by derision by these types.

Hopefully the individual will strive for his or her best; best nature, best energy, best vision etc. But collectively there is need for upward mobility, a need to stream the poor into the middle class so they can start buying houses, save money, pass assets to their kids. That's for policy makers and the private sector, the political system to figure out. Those two movements are not contradictory, they don't cancel each other out. That produces a healthier culture than you currently have, one that has a large core of middle-class values. A liberal, democratic citizen makes that observation not an economist.

A free, liberal democratic culture is dependent on personal character. No one is perfect. Mistakes are made. Growth and development is a necessity. Are these in place here? Impossible to know. I've seen evidence of it being here. I've seen evidence for its not being here.

The Present and the Future

In the present you have to look through all the objects that have been around for a long time and all the arguments that have been around many times. Look through magnificence as though you see it for the first time. Conscious that it all goes away we still revel in the privileged space we occupy to see many things in the state they exist in. You say America is this. I say I don't know. I've experienced America differently at different times. However much effort I put into building up a government, a complete government for my head, it still misses the mark as far as telling me what America is. The ideological frame works in youth because anything that has a sharp focus that includes both intellect and emotion "works". The sooner youth outgrows this state the better but, still, something exists on the other side of the ideology. The same goes toward worshipping its military battles or its economic success. And can we love what we find? Can we love the abstraction we make it into? Can we love a portion of it and hate the rest? Is it the laws that are passed? The decisions that come from the Supreme Court? I may not know what it is but I know it will be quite different once the Constitution is no longer at the center of it. It's hard to embrace with all the gun violence, homelessness, and poverty in it. But it is something other than those negatives as well. Is it purely what we know and experience as individuals, what we know through our experience of other individuals and communities?

The same question could be asked of "the world". What do they mean when they speak of the world as this or that? Where have they received their impressions? And do they understand the full dimension of those impressions? I'm skeptical that one can know the world the way they say they do. I am skeptical of final conclusions about the world. The different attitudes are usually developed on the basis of whether one is "inside" the system of power or "outside" the system of power. What they seem to be to themselves at any rate. Since we all pay a tax we can say, "who taxes us is our system of power and we are inside of it because we pay our taxes." A better measure is how "effective" a person is. He may pay taxes but feel absolutely powerless in his life and experiences none of the benefits of the society. Or, at least, less the benefits that another person in the society. Who establishes that fault line? Why? Is the fault line developed through accusation? Or is it developed through a mixture of compare and contrast between two persons? And who is to say that the one is more or less happier than the other? Is there some absolute measurement to these things?

A thing well made is not a "tradition", it is contemporary. It's far easier to find things in the modern, contemporary world that are far more evidence of "tradition", even if the maker of the thing has not a clue, than something that builds off of traditions but is fully exposed to the contemporary. In fact, the more built up tradition the better! And America, if nothing else, is made up of the world. We may be the dregs of the world who have gotten dizzy by affluence and power but we are becoming more conscious of ourselves as made from the world's peoples, the world's cultures and epochs. It must move through what we have distinctively been and then the envelopment of the past fifty years or twenty years, whatever contemporary means. Even the American barbarism so evident in the political extremes has something valuable in its raw energy. Just don't let it dominate everything.

One thing the Internet has done: It has implicated everyone in the basic form of modern life that has created havoc and alienation for as long as I can remember. Most of life has been lived in scarcity, in little bundles of economy, slow, where the great drama in life was war and defending against aggression. Since the Industrial Revolution the modern world is characterized by surplus and the 'red shift' among the intentions of societies and individuals. Life is living in an expanding universe that doesn't know it's own borders, a life where abyss's are created with a wink and a nod. This expansion in the forms of life have created a great sense of emptiness. That's one reason you see a dangerous upsurge in the primitive brain all through this century. Civilized life is too out of range for the common, normal mind. It must resort to magic and sheer power to deal with it. The Internet puts the mind in the center as well as periphery of a world that is no longer anonymous.

July 10, 2022

MADE AND UNMADE

Success is its own worst enemy. This invariably is the case because once successful a nation, a person, a company stops doing what made them successful in the first place and starts to act as though its success is a law of nature. A nation needs difficult times to shake out the rotten tree. So do companies fat in success and plotting the ways it will remain in its position, thus turning the learning curve into a deadly weapon against all comers.

A writer may believe in only a few precious things but certainly one of them is "democracy as the only way." When human beings evolve to another level of responsibility and freedom perhaps they will be ready to propose a new type of political arrangement and, really, relationship. And with this in mind it's necessary to record the evolving process of one's own thinking about these things. The health of the political system is a difficult thing to "comprehend." Does the individual citizen trust all of the thousands and, even, millions of people running the various levels of government?

If belief builds the character of a person so much the better. In this sense the secular world creates the structure and the nature of problem-solving while belief gives substance to what the individual confronts in the temporal world; a world that can extract many pains. But when religion says that its belief can solve the problems and create the structure then one smells a rat. It is an ancient rat, no better and no worse than the other infamous rats of history. In that sense the religious fervor of the past fifteen years is parasitical. The religious types active today could not, through their own beliefs, create the society as it exists today or as it has existed. The success of their ferocity depends on the many layers of history and institution-building, scientific thought, and loss of life in battle that makes the history of the United States what it is. The religious types of today would never, out of themselves, create a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, an Emancipation Proclamation, and so forth.

A "people" are rarely made into a people without a felt danger experienced by the majority of them. i think of 9/11 where the fear was palatable and did bring people together. It's always peace that slowly but surely seperates them until you have today's situation. The brief dash of danger makes people realize how fortunate they are even if they are poor and not so fortunate. During peace people start to get jealous and resentful of others, backed up by statistics and anecdotes. And of course, if they fear each other it's only a matter ot time before they start to hate each other and you have a perverse situation.

Fear can get viral in a democracy like this one. The 60's proved that what all the elevated, ideal thought in the world does is instigate tremendous fear and resistance.

When enemies are created from exposure to elevated, ideal thought then you have a clue as to what kind of society you live in. If it rejected ideal thought but then took practical problems on earnestly and honestly it wouldn't matter one way or the other. Ideal thought is only useful when the culture is dry as a very dead bone. It has to find its way back to aspiration. Aspiration is led up and out toward the unrealized goal. Hearts and minds are shifted in the direction of the goal.

* * * * * * * *

The unfortunate fact to confront the conscientious citizens is that the United States is a world power and that politics is shaped, to a large degree, on that fact. Therefore, pure national interest replaces any sentimentality the citizen may feel about democracy. The citizen tries to attain integrity and finds himself living in two provinces; the province of the nation and the province of the region he lives in. The state looks out to the large world and its menacing conflicts. The region is the exact spot a citizen happens to live in. So, on a regional basis authentic citizenship and deep feeling for democracy can take place. But, beyond that are the power elite's of the world entangled in ways that have nothing to do with democracy. The citizen is reduced to that intangible quality of trust that must exist between him or herself and leadership.

Ideally you want a region strong at the center but open to the flows of energy from the four cardinal directions.

There is always the possibility of creating forms of community through the air and cables of the technological universe. First it was usenet, then e-mail, then Facebook, now Twitter and social media. Yet, don't the messages that flow through air and cable have to, finally, come back down to earth, to some specific spot, through some specific brain?

It could very well be that corporate culture has absorbed the center of polity and, essentially, left everything else to the fierce true believers of specific, provincial interests whether they are on the ground or in the air. That is the anecdotal evidence of the free, liberal democratic citisen at any rate. And it assumes that socieites do have a core and they do have periperies. It has a familiar symmetry to it. It's only real if a free liberal, democratic citzen can say, "I've been at the core and I have been at the periphery. Here is my experience, here are the results that imprinted on my democratic sensibliity."

There is a drunken joy in the democratic people that heralds the possibility of new, propitious forms where new freedoms can enter. It is always dreaded by the ideologue and the pious. It always dies down and sleeps again but between the intoxication and sleep a lot gets done.

It leaps from the Sargasso Sea of weirdness, noise, and image worship.

* * * * * * * *

The danger is that one day the center of power within the democratic citizen will form an allegiance with the cold hysteria of some evil institution. You see some of that in the cult of Trump who reminds me of Rev. Jim Jones in his ability to sway and lead true believers to Hell, thinking they are on the edge of Heaven.

We assume that democracy is a way of life. It assumes, paradoxically, that I am at the center and the periphery of existence. I can be at the center because I can experience the center of myself as well as Joe Biden can. But I move out into spaces that taken together, are all my own.

The citizen is assaulted by corruption in government, power brokering by the unelected-at-large, crisis, disillusionment and yet, is forever being called on to renew the principles of tolerance, justice, growth, meaning, etc.

As a way of life it isn't dependent on any particular style. It's not dependent on technology, capital, and wealth. In fact, when those factors come into play they tend to obscure the democracy as a way of life since they introduce the venom that accumulates under other systems that democracy putatively overthrew.

The key to democracy is that it's always moving, always in transition, transforming material and ideas so that they lose their point of origin and are cast up in the air for anyone...

There is a quiet and personal side of democracy as well as a raucous one.

Alienation drives the principle motivation, the organizing energies in a democracy. It is felt as a reality by individuals that impacts every move they make. It is not an irrational fear of the social order collapsing or feeling of entering some final judgment. It is the consciousness of how unfair the world is, how one is always behind the 8 ball. It produces tragic passivitiy one generation and heroic, vital upward mobility the next. People become hungry for the next level. And no matter how crude or cruel it sounds it can work.

July 1,2022

VALUES

Madison Federalist No 39: "If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republican, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic."

America will someday be not-America. I think it is way down the line. People who read history have a natural distortion in that centuries breeze by in the brain in a manner of seconds or, if the person is studious, minutes. It is tempting to project that on the real time of now and "because this evolved into that" ispo facto it will be so. I think when the Constitution is no longer a real document and you have regions fighting over the center until there is no center and then many years of fighting and surviving in regions with possible invasions, depredations and so on, then you could say America is over. It would not shock me if that turns out to be the case. I would not take that lightly. Or rather, I would add up all the positive value now contained in the beast and carry that forward, including the value of "constructive criticism". Not "subversion" but constructive criticism. That is, the core of value is implicit in the criticism and the criticism is not trying to undermine the foundation or paint the foundation, or, even the history with broad and useless strokes only useful to the maniac in faith, in politics.

Estates of racial groups fighting for power is not going to strengthen America as a great power going through the 21st century. Somewhere between utopianism of equal results and "white supremacy" the true center will be spotted. The old Confederacy needs to go through one more transformation to mix up the population and get more vital politics, not simply from the Democrats but the Republicans. The old Union and West Coast needs to get off its high horse and begin to reintegrate the white working class back into its midst. If that is at the expense of"progressives" so be it. And there has to be a consensus that America is a nation-state, a world power, who is made strong by the constant upward mobility of the lower into the middle, the middle having enough atoms knocked out of their orbits to go do interesting, creative things, and wealth with a modicum of consciousness on "what makes America strong."

Race, ethnicity, religion, gender etal don't define America. The liberation from those things define America better. It is defined by assorted struggles in its past, some of which belong to the Empires the first colonists belonged to. The struggle to survive as colonists, the struggle to fight against the British military, the struggle to produce a workable Constitution acceptable to all the colonies, the struggle to build West into Native land, the struggle of slaves to survive, the struggle of native americans to keep their land, food supply etc, the struggle to free the slaves in the civil war, the struggle to adapt to the industrial revolution, the struggle every year to maintain a workable republic and a spirit of democracy, the struggle to emerge into world power economically and militarily, the struggles through financial collapses and depressions/recessions, the struggles through the confrontation with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the struggles against communist soviet Union, the struggles against racism and sexism, the struggles against violent hatreds, on and on. The authentic struggle will produce value and that value is taken up and added to all the values. That is America, it's learning curve.

* * * * * * * *

People who spend enormous time and energy trying to transform history through the present will always end up doing that and nothing else. Therefore they will need a nice safe privileged place like a classroom to do it. They can't do it anywhere else.

I was always impressed by the foreign students I met in Berkeley, many of whom were pursuing PhD programs at Cal. "You guys don't know how good you have it here," referring to Americans and America. Complaining about levels of privilege is a privilege itself. And that's not to underestimate the appalling problems in America. So there is clash and polarization. Excellent. That defines the lines of attack and it permits savvy political types to exercise one of the great strengths of liberal democracy, that is, "make allies out of enemies." Don't make more enemies for gods sake. That's old time politics. The level of danger to the democracy is measured by the level of gunfire and artillery used between barricaded groups who are tying to kill each other, along with cops and national guardsmen that you get in failed states. That's one level of concern. Perhaps the highest level of concern are CNN or iPhone videos showing a group speaking with excited, foreign voices as they rampage the Presidential bedroom and whirl the first lady's undies around with triumphant whoops. On that day one can say "it's a bad day for America."

Americans for all their love and hate for their country or what they think their country is forget or ignore how blessed they are; for the waterways, the great plains and lush valleys, for the friendly borders, for the vast oceans that separate them from the old, nasty world, for the wilds that have been preserved- it was constructed to succeed. It has to have the character to fend off the resentment and hatred of that success and yet always improve, always help, always be compassionate. It is transitioning into a new vitality, a cleaning up, a laying of new tracks. A remoralization of liberal democratic values. In this transformation, shadows will appear and threaten it. That will be a test. It can't afford perfection or utopianism because it is a world power and the world is changing rapidly. The world assumes the US will not be the player it was in the past sixty years or so. Pockets and fissures of opportunity appear in regions that usually result in conflict. I think the US will resist rushing in until the reconfiguration of the world is a bit more clear.

* * * * * * * *

I don't know of any problem describable as propositions, that don't have resources that are very dedicated to solving the problem. "There is too much carbon put into the atmosphere that will cause climate change." "There are too many gaps between wealth and well-being and not-wealth, not-well-being." To take two examples. It still takes political will which calls on political intelligence in being able to push through policies that work both in solving problems and allowing opponents to surrender gracefully to the policy-solution.

Hatred distorts the ability to be rational so why would hateful opinions projected against hateful objects of scorn have any credibility? And hate is hate, it has no color or gender.

* * * * * * * *

Something compelled me to think about politics. There's nothing honorable about it even though honorable men and women do struggle with oppressive and imponderable situations. Taken as a whole politics looks like the least appealing of pursuits. For one thing it rejects the 98% of the people who don't have the hundreds of thousands and, even, millions of dollars to run for office. "What", the citizen asks, "only 2% of the people have enough quality and intelligence to run for office?" The citizen is then confined to his role as citizen and stews with indifference. But if the citizens ignore politics doesn't the hero become the oppressor? Doesn't power become the imponderable act?

Somewhere between the ideal efficiency of the government and the energy of conflict in politics, is the maw of the bureaucracy. It represents neither the ideal nor the society but becomes a thing itself. It is an animal which absorbs its own effects and becomes something else again. For the citizen it represents a massive obstruction to the future. He stands mute before it and shrugs his shoulders.

Given these facts what does the citizen become?

When a citizen stands before the general scope of his country, its great projects, achievements, the jagged cities with a will of their own, he may become secure about the identity of himself and his culture. "Yes, what a great and successful nation this is!" But if he were to look closer he may be a bit less sure. He may say to himself, "it isn't the greatness of the nation but the enormous organization of people who stand on the shoulders of the past. And they stand in ruts well wheeled by the efforts of many who had their own particular reasons for doing so. What has the nation done in and through itself, through its own genius? What has it done through the ideas, if not ideals, seeded at the Constitution? What has it done through the ideas rooted to the rich earth that contains all ideas and dreams, even the most obscure of them?

He might believe that he and his fellow citizens have entered a brazen world utterly transformed from the intentions of its founders. The citizen has, then, the right to ask, "What is my relation to the new facts of the world?"

This hypothetical citizen would acknowledge the complexity of life that bears down on his conscience every waking moment. He would acknowledge the power of technology to intercede between his reflective thought and conscience so he is forced to react to events rather than have any sort of input into them. He might acknowledge the transformation of potential into actuality and so initiate a period of thinking about entropy and the thresholds between available order and chaos. He would acknowledge the transformation of agricultural/political democratic citizen into urban/economic one; a citizen uprooted and dependent on a thousand contingencies. And finally, he would acknowledge the indistinguishable features that exist between huge nation-states. He might come to this conclusion, "Once idealism is used up it can no longer be used as a rationalization to support the psychological foundations of a nation. It precipitates the irrational and, in the end, may bring on the irrational of politics, that is, force and terror, to support the insupportable.

So he wanders out into the real society to find good opinion in the citizens. "Ah citizens", he thinks, "where are you? Are you merely fiction these days? Have you become so banal and passive that you are active only in front of the stimulation's of TV and social media? Aren't you required to develop a method of investigating and acquiring facts and knowledge using your own precious experience? Without doing so you become homogenized and subdued like conquered people." And it's interesting to note that a conquered people develop, after a time, the most eccentric aspects of their identity under the pressure of occupation until their own identity becomes absurd to them and they throw it off in disgust and embarrassment.

June 21, 2022

FEDERALIST PAPERS

I'm re-reading the Federalist Papers since so much has been made of the threat of Trump to the Constitution. I've just started. This statement in the introduction should be repeated whenever possible, "that whenever the dissolution of the union arrives, America will have reason to exclaim, in the words of the poet: "FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL TO ALL MY GREATNESS." Hamilton's take on it at any rate.

That dissolution could only take place with a full and total disgust of the people toward the government that would be exploited by powerful forces. It has my loyalty because my life is lived in a particular region but I understand fully the advantage and necessity to live in this union. Some of my political views are sharpened along those lines and feeling out what brings together and what cracks apart.

It's in the minds of people but I'm not sure the projection of fantasy can do a reasonably good job at depicting everything involved. I think my region could sustain itself for quite a while as long as a global market existed. The biggest challenge would be all the immigrants from other regions seeking to get past the borders. It would take some time adapting to the change. It would survive as a region as many other regions would survive the dire scenario but they would be on a different vector. They would have to fight off the predations of other regions and other foreign powers.

A broken up America would become the plaything for the two or three dominant powers in the old world. Cheap labor and exploitation of natural resources would be a long term effect. It is difficult at times to recognize how important it is to face the world as a whole. How it permits much more economic activity and personal freedom.

It's great internal problem is two fold: enormous power and wealth and a democratic conscience in relation to doing what needs to happen to maintain the world power.

Foreign: China and Pacific, NATO and Putin, autocrats and democrats, cooperation about global warming, terrorism, crime, cyber stuff etc Domestic: Rebuilding the middle class through infrastructure, race integration, human capital resources to areas of need

Those are some things to keep in mind going further down the next decade.

Federalist #11: "Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness! Let the thirteen States, bound together in a strict and indissoluble Union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old and the new world!" Archetypal American pride. Not Europe but something from herself, as herself, up and out. With consciousness of Europe and all other civilizations thrown in for good measure. Whatever it takes.

I did one thing right at least. At any early age I distinguished between "Republic" and "democracy"--- they are connected but each has a will of their own. The Republic is focused on a few projects whereas, hopefully, the democracy goes out to many projects, as much variety as is possible, more, more , and more.

The primitive, immature view of the Republic? "It must look like me."

What you want is a common sense knowledge of what makes the Republic do well, what sort of leadership is necessary and so on. People should flourish even if the Republic looks the opposite of them. That's an ideal state, one particular to America because of the rich mixture of peoples and activities.

Does the "Republic" reflect the fundament "democracy?" If it is rooted there you'd think there'd be much more connection. If there is a significant break then you have problems. Do the protests of today, for instance, represent a problem or evidence that it is connected? That's an nteresting question because when you look at it closely very few, a tiny percentage of people protesting or not, actually want a revolutionary change in the sense that the US would go from a republic/capitalist system to a democratic socialist/-quasi-capitalist system. It's not that it doesn't have socialism. It's that the benetis of social policy and the benefit of capital are not equal. I doubt that will change. So protest is more evidence of the health of the system than it is recognizing something wrong or flawed or imbalanced and a correction has to be made. Most of the reforms I see from the left are rather mild and will eventually take hold. It is worrisome that a relatively low percentage of people actually vote but as long as they "stay out of the way" and otherwise obey laws and pay taxes I don't see a great problem. One key is the management of systems and how effective or efficient that is without violating democratic norms.

I think Trump was a stress test for democracy. When you look at the country, a society, is it better defined by what opposes it or what rationalizes it? Haven't the last twenty years in America been defined by the war of terrorism and China rather than some celebration of its greatness?

Nothing guarantees it passes the stress test. But I do think a lot of complacency has been knocked out of her. She is far more alert now than in 2016.

From Federalist #22- "The possibility of a question of this nature proves the necessity of laying the foundations of our national government deeper than in the mere sanction of delegated authority. The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority." Hamilton on how states are corrupted by foreign operators or from within, between institutions if they are loosely connected confederacies. As per the question above about "republic" and "democracy."

It begs the question, "were the people, then, better than they are now? If so what was the cause of their betterment?" Hamilton puts tremendous trust in the people that their instincts are right on target. That's a dicey area because people by nature want to be superior, "more than," and so that solid basis is either in the process of being manipulated or differentiated in ways that don't allow for pure consent. The central problem is education and the ability of the democratic mind to expand past its own thing, its own image, its own self-interest.

Do the people know the actual workings of government? Most don't.

Do the people have lives that engage the society at every level and transaction possible? Most do.

Do the people know where to find out about "what the society is thinking and what it perceives its issues are?" Many do.

"Are the people able to take those issues and break them down and look at them, not simply as solutions but with unintended consequences?" Few do.

Do the people know how to construct letters and emails to their representatives that detail what they consent to, in terms of policy? Some do no question.

Can they comprehend American power, raw and uncensored? Maybe a few.

Can they know the amount of wealth that passes through the government and where it goes? Surprisingly more than you think.

Do they assign different characteristics necessary for the Representative, the Senator, and the President? A few do, perhaps. Do the people find out everything that can wreck a government up to and not including state secrets? A few do, mostly in journalism.

Are the people conscious of history to the point that they can see and think rationally about the empires and powers that have populated the Earth? A very few perhaps.

Do the people associate the decline of the people with the decline of the republic and the decline of the society as we know it? Many do.

Do they understand that if the people decline there is no or little ability to revive the republic, where if the republic declines the people can rebuild it?

The elites, media and otherwise, are fools if they think the Trump crowd is just going away. They represent 30-33% of the electorate which is a huge chunk, a monstrous iceberg floating out there in the ocean ready to sink anything that comes close to it. And they are not going back to the shanties and tittie bars quite yet. They helped create Trump as much as the media and will find someone else to "listen to us." What the Democrats and left have to worry about is keeping the coalition together, not when they are out of power, cohesive with hate for Trump, but when, as they are now, with Biden. That coalition can not stay together because there isn't enough political resource to serve all their needs and wants. There has been a quasi-honeymoon but then the shit will hit the fan before 2022 is over.

Trump will be marginal but still keep his crowd together through media and personal appearances. So much of the media lost credibility because of their obsession with Trump which was a cheap ratings gimmick since Trump was something weird and novel for the bored masses. They each played protagonist and antagonist to keep conflict going, to create drama, to create interest. So much of "destroying democracy" and "destroying the Constitution" was generated in the false drama between Trump and media. And after Trump what is the media going to do? People won't care. I hope they don't bring the bugger back.

The different peoples will have to learn to live with each other and, even, develop some mutual respect. They will have to engage in normal, natural transactions with people who do not look like them. They will have to forge a consensus about general goals. They will have to develop similar ideas about the characteristics needed to govern. The cohesive effect will be the overall success of the society to solve problems and engage in upward mobility, create a strong middle-class, and encourage the aspirations of all. Wealth is permitted its freedom and decadence as long as it contributes largely to that goal. This only occurs in a dynamic culture that believes in itself and is moving forward.

* * * * * * * *

The radicalism of my youth looks like a plaything now. There is a tremendous amount of intellectual con going on in this culture that will, I suppose, go on for a long time, as long as people are treated like suckers. Going after the 17 year old crowd is not exactly an honorable thing to do. I remember how enthralled I was with Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman in college, age 19 or 20. Oh my goodness, I loved the idea of those people and the fact they existed created a new track of reality in myself. I remember reading they had lived in SF, near the Embarcadero one year and wanted to go try and find the address. The whole socialist project was exciting and credible to me. I remember reading about the Wobblies, the labor wars and so on. Somehow I cleared all that out and can say without question I'd rather live in this sort of culture than the socialist utopia. Perhaps it's related to my family's involvement in utopian spiritual communities back in the early 1800's. The radical mind gets stuck in a part of the brain that loops back and over again and again. The most severe criticism of socialism is that it must totally subdue the population to generate itself through time. It has no real dynamic, all its drama is of the stupendous overthrow of capitalism and bourgeois culture. That happens once and only once.

Of course, people can be anything they want to be. Ideas are churned up but they are only useful in a dynamic liberal democracy like this that vets ideas and tests them out and consents to them rather than having them rammed down the throat.

The political/social man or woman needs to get to that point, be delivered of youthful folly and stand straight and mature among all the evils and temptations of the real life. They need to reflect on their own evils and susceptibilities for sure. The youthful radical begins to grow up when he or she realizes the depth at which she is treated as a fool, "ah, the fool is playing out her role as I knew she would, thus confirming my idea of the reality of society! Has she delivered on any ideas that will be of use to us?" And so it goes. It becomes part of the growth and development so necessary in a free, liberal democratic society.

It was plain to me, as well, that the real radicalism in the country was coming from the right wing. It was far more effective because it emerged "organically" from the people's fears and prejudices rather than ideas that had formed in earlier Europe. Now the question is, how much is that right wing radicalism can be blamed on the direct assault of the radical left on the society in the past 40 years or so? If radicalism means "getting to the root and digging out the disease thereof," and that root is religious, family, history of a people then there is no question a reaction will set in, especially among people who have little sophistication in ideas and experience the depth of a threat to the root, rather than a desire to get rid of the root. One thing is very clear to me. Neither the radical nor the reactionary should have any power.

I think it's far more legitimate to renounce the culture and go live your truest values out as an act of faith in human nature or God. That I regard with respect but the kinds of things I see on campus, for instance, are old and rather decrepit and are without courage.

Repair of the root is more a spiritual and literary concern. It's not a political program. After all, it's much more effective to clear out the poison for one man or woman rather than to change the whole machinery of society and government. A person whose root is poisoned, once he or she is clear of the poison, has a better chance of seeing the learning curves that society and government have gone up and the ones still to go.

I saw all this in Berkeley which is an excellent lab for looking at the extremes. It's a tragic/comedy in so many ways.

Of course in my day it wasn't "capitalism" or "materialism" that were the threats. Neither was it "communism" or "socialism". The threats were the so-called existential ones of nuclear proliferation and environmental destruction. That threw the gauntlet down to every act and thought imaginable. How can you change one thing without changing them all? How can you insist good behavior from one and not all? And "all" was outside the control of anyone. It finally came down to "how to live as a free, liberal democratic citizen in a crazy world like this?" Or could you? That was the question, that was the challenge. What kind of meaning can be extracted from this world, living this life?

June 15, 2022

ELITES

Reading some 19th century essays on democracy my conclusion is that the ideal has always been the singular person, fully engaged in his best nature, contributing to a group of similar types. Somewhere between the extremities of the singular person and the oppressions of the group is an answer. Maybe not the answer but some semblance of what democracy can actually do. Marx, the Chartists, Jacobins all failed to produce their ideals. Of all the writers in the 19th century, when the conflict with the old monarchies and aristocracies was highest, the only one I can relate to is America is a representative democracy. During the furious days and the 60's the call was for "direct democracy" and, in fact, the personal computer was called out as a possible way to that form of governance. I think representative democracy requires a bit more action on the citizen which is its great failing. Not only does a citizen have to be conscious of his self-interest and assume that his self-interest is also the collective interest but he must be conscious of the processes that make up the republic, including the counter to your self-interest. Many have reduced that to money and leave it at that but I think it's more complicated. The problem is that as the culture becomes more and more successful it is easy to stay the course and not want anything to change. But underneath that success is great stress and anxiety that leads invariably to social disruption. The system can't afford to collapse but it can't afford to be ignorant of problems. When it stops solving the problems of huge groups of people it will be easier to attack. Yet, common sense says that no problem can be solved completely. Poverty will never disappear. Human activity will always be altering the natural world in some way. Crime is not going to disappear soon. However, the problems that can be subdued to an extent are things like income stagnation, rising costs of housing and food, homelessness, wide=spread anomie, etc. The relation between the success and failure of the culture goes way beyond class, race conflict or simple Darwinianism. It's up to the free people to come up with the new forms of politics that bind these things up and makes it easier for the success of one to aid the failure of the other in such a way that each are liberated in the act.

I don't want to rationalize what already exists. I don't want to tear down what exists. I don't want to accept so many of the generalizations and stereotypes that fly through the air like angry bugs. But I'm also skeptical that things can move in the direction I want them to. I see some movement.

The cult is organized around the idea that the "larger world" will thwart, destroy or otherwise block their progress as human beings. The world is kept out, the cult protects itself and the people live through the leader and the emotional ties the leader is able to effect. And many people do relatively well in the cult. They do feel protected and grow and develop as people. However, one thing is very clear. The cult never becomes "better" or "enriching" as the culture it rejects. It doesn't have the dynamic to do it. The more you know the less you know but the more you care.

I would take American history out of the hands of cults. It is mangled early on and used as a prop for political purposes but it does utterly no good to try and make any history a "moral story." It is not a myth-lesson. It is a reality, just as our experiences in the city is a reality. It's a vast impression at first, then starts to differntiate as we draw attention to a few items of interest. But we know it is vaster than what we have learned so we take chances and try to explore it more. It is always a sollid things that presents us with more options. These realities are not "good and evil" but complexity. Good and evil is contained within the self and the need to differentiate between good energy and bad energy is paramount. To project that into reality is false but to understand it as a reality within the self is true. And after the great separation comes complexity. And we accept complexity because our fierce devotion to the spirit that divides the good from the bad is real. It's on us. It's our burden.

I saw a clutch of 1%'ers the other day on TV. I had a hollow but familiar feeling that the democracy is a sham. It is and it is not. It's clear that we are "ruled" by the elites and that our participation in the running of things is minimal; that is, the other 99% who are reduced to deciding which tribe of elites has brought the most persuasive techniques to the media. And the same universities that train the elite financiers and politicians, train the media types who are taught the valuable techniques of subtle persuasion, even propaganda that can be tried out on the masses of people. And between myself as a citizen and the point of decision making are layers and layers of sub-elites who fill up all the bureaucracies and form the core of interest groups, advocates, non-governmental agencies etc. The elites don't consult with me. I want to be able to go to my representative, articulate a problem and hav it mean something. I have only one vote, nothimg more.

The real relation between the elites and the others, such as myself, is a simple one: "do you trust these bastards?" Off the top of my head I would say no. And here we reach into a more speculative area because an honest mind must say this: "I don't want the country (whatever it is) to spoil and disintegrate and get picked over by those who have an eye to pick it over." That frankly, the country is too big to fail but rather than fail will be completely taken over by the 1% who see themselves as a freshly minted "founding father generation" who must save democracy from the riff raff that make it up. All those tattoos, freaky music, and fast food fatties. All those dopey video addicts who could care less. Having said that there is nothing baring me from entering the fray. There is nothing stopping me from showing my displeasure or disappointment. It is duly noted and the mind passes forward.

When does democracy becomes simply, "earnest futility?" Yet, things are moving, people are living. It is the moving, living people that count. And they will move and live even as the nation collapses or declines.

If a culture protects itself against its own fury perhaps a few have a shot at doing something really well. Too big to fail, too big, too complex for the citizen to grapple with meaningfully, an object of fear or loathing, vast corruption in the culture at large, meaningless, puerile cultism among other things. It can't help but be run by elites but the more the people are removed from the hard shape of government the more likely they will kiss it off as the Romans did as the Russians did under the Soviets. It has a will of its own now. As long as the people feel they have a will of their own things can move forward a bit. But at some point the two wills will collide and be shocked how they have damaged if not destroyed the other.

Laughter may be the best way to confront a mature, powerful republic as an innocent free liberal democratic citizen. After, of course, a few years of brilliant study. And in the end it is the development of the individual human being that counts. And it is the sense of justice and rightness developed in the individual human being that counts.

June 7, 2022

A COUP

Call me an incurable romantic but the Constitution remains central to my political thinking. Once it becomes bankrupt, once it no longer holds the loyalty of people, once it loses its status as the centerpiece of American democracy, the populated land mass now called the United States will become something other. It will devolve into strong armed ambitions fighting for loyalty. It will be embroiled in conflicts that could last decades. It will most certainly be subject to foreign interventions. All of this will make for a bad future, one that will not seek, as the Constitution seeks, a balance between wealth creation and the flourishing/well-being of the people. At the far end of that process you might have a more interesting creation than the United States but getting there would not be a happy event. There would be diminishment along every longitude and latitude of activity. The generations that follow would fall into a death spiral. They would know nothing more than their diminishment and experience it as "the only way." Historic fate would destroy the ability to think outside the parameters of the diminishment. Perhaps that's a reason I connect myself to the physical region where I have my life and experience, that to a certain extent conditions and nourishes me. I have tried to demark that region as the northern half of California. So those two things are central to my idea and feeling for America. And a hedge against her loss of identity. Whether I think that will happen is another question. I like to say that it is either the end or the beginning, let us always choose a beginning.

Perhaps strong resourceful states, like California, would be able to stave off the disintegration of the federal government, at least for a while. Then again, why wouldn't the powers eroding the federal government erode state governments? We capture the fear to make sure it doesn't run away from us and gain a life of its own.

It seems threatened today. Or is that the fear getting way out in front of us like wild Mustangs in a Nevada desert? It's very disturbing to me that after the attack on January 6th, 2021 there was not a call to renew the spirit of the Constitution or liberal democracy. The event, itself, seems not to have produced a transcendent feeling as 9/11 did 20 years ago. That's a red flag for me. Trumpism is to be blamed. But what is Trumpism but the ability to thumb the nose at "authority?" It is the ability to nullify common sense. It's no coincidence that Trump was a wealthy celebrity that had cred in the modern American culture that values both qualities. It gave him the authority to signal, if not an attack, a revulsion at the nature of things.

I have a feeling that the January 6th moment is the last bolt from that side of things. Except for vague polls I don't find any great move to disunion or to switch loyalties from the Constitution to another entity. I see a lax country responding to the manipulations of media who are deft in the arts of entertainment. Conflict is at the core of every entertainment. The media understands this and plays it up in competition with itself. Conflict emerges from gradients of pressure that are felt differently among different people. Learn that and you can manipulate emotions pretty well. I don't underestimate, either, the ability of foreign players to manipulate media to encourage conflicts.

It leads to a question. "can fascism happen here?" Can the US host this particular evil? I would have said no up until the last few years. And one understands that anything can happen anywhere at any time. So that "eternal vigilance" is a necessity. Trump represented this huge portion of people who simply don't trust the ways and means of democracy, the habits of democracy, the value of law over men and so on. They've always been there and I don't know if they are growing or have shot their wad January 6th. Americans respond when their "way of life" is threatened. But fascism doesn't necessarily challenge the way of life of people. It's that the people, safe and contented, give up their ability to discern and be critical, to autocrats like Trump. It's been said many times but it's important to clarify where one is on all of this. It arises in a growing climate of fear and hate. It arises in a loss of civic life, the loss of rational thinking, the loss of a sense of growth and development, learning curves and all those emotional and psychological factors that go into transforming masses into citizens. Democratic people should never allow themselves to be played a fool.

And reading about how close we were to a coup in 2021 with the storming of the Capitol reminds us that it was only the head of a long body of bad actors and bad actions taken by the Republicans. That's the liberal view at any rate. While I agree this area needs a lot of scrutiny I have faith in the system. The key is the fact that Congress and the Supreme Court are independent of the Executive, no matter how much they overlap in certain responsibilities that require them to cooperate. The moment Trump instigated his coup Congress would move not simply to remove him but delegitimize him to the point that no one would obey his orders. If he had a cult like following in the government that would try and install the coup much more opposition would rise up, even violently, and go arrest Trump or otherwise stop him. The FBI and other police agencies would be involved. It would be something we'd never want to see. The problem, as Rome proved, is that if the animus against the government is long and lasts several generations, punctuated by a few dramatic events, then you might weaken it to the point where a critical mass of people wouldn't move against a coup or other displacement of the liberal democracy. In fact, more than a few might welcome a benign despotism. That tells me that what is needed is a renewal, if not renovation of liberal democracy and its spirit.

American politics in the 20's: Crazy schemes and generalizations meet their vicious resistance. Why has the liberal democracy "enlightened" core crumbled to the point where the crazy wings are determining the political imagination? If, indeed, that is the case. The media plays it as if it is the case but then the media is in the entertainment business. It is a powerful industry. And doesn't democracy in a large complex society work in this fashion? That is, outrageous things thrown up out of the left or right, visceral response by the opposite, a few kernels are conserved in the body politic and the "system" takes over. The system being the Repubilic that palms itself off as the rational agent as against the irrationalities of the people. But we see that the Republic is often a reflection of the people and their irrationality. What happens if this conflict, this fight gets out of control because more and more of the middle feel compelled to one side or the other? And what is being fought over? "American identity?" Or is the irrational fight over the effectiveness or non-effectiveness in being able to ameliorate the living conditions of various pluralities?

Fascism, like war, needs a lot of collaboration in the total culture and I don't think that is there. Mere support for Trump is not collaboration. If educational institutions, police, military, non-profits gave support for a future Trump regime perhaps you'd have that possibility. What check would there be on a Trump if he decided to "take over"? Congress, courts, and states all come to mind. A free press. The people themselves can strike or protest. Another thing to think about: the two most authoritarian Presidents we've ever had were Lincoln and FDR, rated in the top 3 of all-time. They inherited a crisis and were given extraordinary powers but not without resistance.

And it depends on whether the crisis is real and felt real by a mass of people or is a fabrication by one party or the other to scare up votes.

* * * * * * * *

Who has credibility when it comes to political ideas? Not policy because that is argued by lawyers or professionals. But the animating ideas that create the ability for policy to succeed or not comes from somewhere. University intellectuals? Churches, synagogues, temples? Think tanks? Popular culture? Bloggers or columnists on national media? What medium do they come through? TV, internet, lectures, books, magazines? Political parties? Do they arise in a vacuum or are they contended with from the beginning? Can they be led back to the human source of ambition, power, truth, love, etc etc? Have the ideas played out before, do they have a history in some other guise?

Delusive wine conjures an implausible belief that a society will have "progress" when at the heart of the political culture is hate and anger. To have progress you have to have a level of mutual respect and trust. All the aggressiveness of Trumpism and all the generalizations of the left produce hate and anger and leave the center rather bankrupt. One side may win but will later lose and it will roll on into eternity. Or exhaustion.

What do we suggest to improve the thing? An expansion of experience along with a broader knowledge base plus playful sympathy for other points of view and the levels of pressure different people experience. A commitment by the society to give space to the learning curves necessary for individuals to go up in order to become complete citizens. Not a sentimental history nor a weapon wielded by ideologists but enough complexity to teach the citizens of the present that problems are not easy to solve but they are solvable.

We do not live as those in the past lived, including the American past. We hardly recognize them and, in fact, only recognize them through extensive study of the persons, art and literature, economy and politics of the times. You can only extract a few nuggets of worth from any period and happily make those your own. We are better for the fact of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and so on despite the fact they had their blind spots. Not all of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton but only that which represented the best in themselves which came under the pressure of fighting the British and then forming a new government. The fact that many persons, many arts and literatures, economies and politics followed and added to the layers of experience is also true and fastened into the culture we navigate today.

May 29, 2022

CHANGIMG OF THE GUARD

It's a young culture, it always is. That's it's strength and weakness. So I look at it with the eyes of my 26 year old youth and can actually relate to it somewhat. But then, I'm here with this experience and knowledge and I know that the world doesn't end at 26. Age has taught me that we live in splendid fabrications but the work of life is to transcend them and from that moment, create new spaces and options. That's the modern way or was going to be. Not that the fabrications are to be dismissed with contempt but more that they fill up with our meanings until they can't be contained any more.

I don't think the country can "survive" in the present political set up. It has to break down the current political energies and make something more liberal and democratic out of it. I don't see the deep divisions able, of themselves, to heal themselves. It will result in a weakness in decision making, problem solving that will have long term consequences.

The assumptions of the past 50 years are crumbling as the baby boom generation leaves the scene. When I hear arguments or tropes from those eras I wince and ignore them. The baby boomers led a very progressive era in which there was advancement in civil rights, women rights, environmental, consumer, gay and the whole litany. There was a backlash led by Reagan and the evangelicals. It will be up to the, emerging generations to cherry pick which values and issues are important and which are not. What new ones to adopt, what is impossible and what is possible. This is still being formulated, leadership is being discovered. We are really between these tectonic shifts but by the end of this decade there should be a much clearer picture. One sign: the conservatives are easily deflecting the critiques of the liberal left and making them moot. It is incumbent on the liberal left to come up with new angles of attack, new forms of politics. My kindest advice has always been to ditch the neo-marxism that controlled civil rights and feminism at the theoretical level. Get some creativity in your ideas. They won't emerge out of automatic, bankrupt responses to the conservatives.

Both parties have false narratives because each does what it can't possibly do which is to develop a "national identity." The tell for that are the useless words each uses to try and smear the other. "Socialists" "racists" "white supremist" "cultural elites", none of which explains anything about the actual lives and systems that make up the US. These words and others that have created the present political era will also destroy it. At this moment they zero each out except in specific states and cities where one has clear domination.

* * * * * * * *

I do think that the black protests over the past few years are a very healthy expression of democracy. Some have taken advantage of the fact but the overall necessity of the protests don't change. I have no solutions. I step back and listen to those who are deeply involved. I don't think anything good will come out of demonizing the cops. Are these cops who shoot blacks racist or poorly trained? Maybe a combination of both.

I think back to my experiences in cultures of diversity in Alameda county, even Sacramento. To live in areas like that requires, over time, a lot of transactions between different faces, races, genders, beliefs, ideologies. It's a learning curve. It takes you out of your comfort zone. You must respect others and their struggles. That was the prime lesson. If you allow some curiosity percolate in you start to learn about others, their backgrounds, etc etc. This was especially the case in Berkeley since so many students came from around the world. It makes a difference. We must still allow ourselves to be moved by suffering. That's a skill in itself.

Changing the system, economic and political, will only change a few surface things. The key is change in the hearts of men and women. And be clear: A democracy does not want to be a tribal, caste society piled one on top of the other and privilege then cascading down from top to bottom. It must be centered in the "Republic" and around the Republic must dance the many peoples of the democracy who are fulfilling their potentials in a life they have chosen. It must return to the middle-class culture that was eviscerated by wealth and celebrity that made the middle-class into chumps. You have to return to a middle class political/cultural value system and drive the right and left back to the margins.

* * * * * * * *

Democracy is an experiment so they say. It's always looking for the right combination that will unlock the "perfect situation". That is, wealth being created, the people, as a whole flourishing, the middle strong enough to make wealth work for the Republic rather than the other way around. Race, gender, class don't mean as much as success in unlocking the treasure trove of possibilities.

One thing the Democrats underestimate: how discredited the academic left is to the majority of people, even Democrats. Trump used this with some effectiveness by posing Biden as a "trojan horse" that will allow the neo-marxist/feminists radicals to enter the corridors of power. You assault people head-on, you force them to accept the "truth" of their history, their country, etc at tremendous peril to your political idea. This seems to me to be a chronic condition of the American polity for a while. I saw it in the 70's and it is repeating itself in the 20's.

The left will have to reform itself. It will have to get rid of its identity politics and admit all identity is good and to embrace all identities. That the attempt to create a new proletariat from minorities and women has failed and will shrink more and more as you progress through this decade. The Democrats have to go and embrace those that is has despised. It has to focus on middle class values and middle class interests.

We can safely say, "at some point in the future the United States will not be as it is today," and go from there. Two hundred years from now they may be writing about the "era of huge nation-states" lasted through the 21st century before new forms of sovereignty began to stir out of the ruins of failed nation-states. I hope not. I would be truly alarmed. I want liberal democracy, I want a sovereign nation, a federal system with very strong regions in it. So, the dangers to these entities have to be admitted, while the strength of these entities is emphasized in ways that are beyond formal, political statements by well-to-do politicians. It either is or it ain't.

May 20, 2022

THE PLAY OF OPPOSITES

Politics is a ceaseless struggle of opposites that inches things up a bit but does not perform what the extremist wants which is total transformation. Bit by bit the thing is transformed by intelligent, patient people. That is the difference between the mature democracies and the struggling ones.

Democracy depends on the intelligence of the people and the trust between the people and the institutions. Whether that describes America or not it's too late to quibble. The hour is getting late.

One interested in these democracies at this stage should pay attention to the quality of the infrastructure of governance. And that would go from the federal level, the state level, the county and city/town level. Wherever there is law and administration of law there should be a modicum of interest. How healthy is it? How corrupt is it? Where do the money trails lead? Does it rid itself of the corruption or is it brought low by it? What is the quality of leadership? What is the quality of the people? I can see where pessimism gets the upper hand but these questions are beyond pessimism and optimism. It's way beyond that time. Both are political postures of no good to anyone.

A stable freedom will produce variety while, at the same time, strengthen the foundations on which a good structure is built. One thing implies the other. Since those two elements are what we are looking for some of life is spent in creating variety, enhancing it and so on and some of it is spent on the foundations. I've been both places. One is not enough, especially as you mature. Variety is the delight of poets. Foundations are the things philosophers support and build.

* * * * * * * *

When young, "all is permissible, everything matters, nothing matters." Hopefully a young person is humbled or, even, humiliated away from this notion that allows him or her to fall into some bad dead ends.

"Your generation, your parents, your society, your heroes even won't take away the sins of youth."

So it was the hairy beast with a thousand eyes and millions of parasites running freely inside of her, whooping as the beast bucked up and down, left and right. It was the upright who said they would tame her, left now in the road in a heap. Something shined in each eye, sometimes a reflection of good and sometimes a reflection of bad. It would find any root, any buried bone and dig it up so the sound and debris frightened off the children.

Suspended animation? I doubt it. "To do that which can't be done anywhere else." To avoid the crowd. To avoid the temptation of throwing everything over for an addiction.

But then, the next move? The strike in what direction? Where is the supportive community?

There are no solutions without understanding the complexity of what is to be solved. Even if the solution is simple it must travel through an ungodly complexity. This is why I ignore the simple emotions of people who are passionate about a subject. Have they broken the problem down and admitted its devilishness? Have they accounted for the objects the solution must pass through? Have they attempted to make allies from enemies? Have they explained why the solution will benefit those who have political and financial capital? Or are they out to avenge an idea? And sometimes the description of an authentic problem begins with an innocent plea.

The key is to make allies rather than enemies and nothing makes enemies more than self-righteousness.

The greatest temptation for the American is to wrap himself up and around the enormous size and power of his country and feel that nothing more needs to be done, that all is right and happiness is not something earned but a right which, after all, one would defend more fiercely than the nation.

Ah but to make the effort to wrap oneself up and around the great size and power of the nation!

Not the whole of it but the whole that you, a mind, can hold with confidence. Then, confidence and knowledge of your own ignorance and the ability to learn and develop until there is no more growth possible.

That applies top to bottom.

* * * * * * * *

I go through what America has produced, what it has tried to produce or trying and what it may be in the future. That is, produce for my cultural/spiritual nourishment as well as utility. When I read that Jefferson was steeped in Europe gives me an opportunity to do as well. Knowing that Jefferson despised a lot of Europe informs me a good deal. Has technology made us uber democrats? No but they have permitted things to happen that wouldn't have happened in a non-technical set up. The fact that Lincoln was a ravenous country bumkin who learned to fly by the seat of his pants permits me to do the same thing, in fact, demands it in a sense. The fact that many Americans have opened many pathways obligates me to check them out at the very least. I am delighted every moment by new expressions of human freedom I never knew existed.

The down side is that human nature, including the sort Americans carry around, tend to conform. Now it could be conforming to some wild idea but conforming it is. There is a rigidity of pathways which gives an American some orientation at the very least. It is always saying to the person, "Chaos waits on the otherside." Rather than, "have such confidence in your own way that you delight in the ways of others." And the conforming is motivated quite clearly, by the desire for wealth and power. Therefore, wealth and power have long stilted, withered lines behind it trying to conform to what started as inventive paths. The pressure is to conform, not to open new pathways. That is the sad conclusion, not absolute but persistent as one wanders through the American scene. The least interesting part of America is the vast conforming society that can be predicted at the beginning of any new generation.

It begins as soon as you have permanent classes that "can not move," from where they started because the country is too deeply involved in the intrigues of the world and simply can't afford the types of renovation that would be needed to prevent more and more decay.

That said, the living must deal with America as a "whole", as a federal system with both awful complexity and opportunities. A question arises, "is America too big to fail?" And does that fact give leverage to very conservative elements that need to move forward?

May 5, 2022

INHUMAN

I have conflict with modern politics because I am against the inhuman. How can I love and create in the face of the inhuman? How can I objectify it to the point where I know it is inhuman and yet don't get demoralized by it? You can only fight the inhuman with abstractions. And abstractions can make people crazed with the inhuman. Democracy is supposed to produce free people who understand their freedom can be done in by the irrational and so they evolve out of the irrational in their political lives. Hopefully there's a path to do this. But even the most rational system, if it is big enough, becomes inhuman to my own delicate self and is out of reach of my delicate liberal democratic feelings. Yet, history teaches me that if these systems collapse the wrong people suffer. If the systems fail so much value is lost. So it's a bit of a dilemma.

"How should the systems change to effect this, this, and that?" It's very problematic. Crisis is probably easier to deal with than "on the verge of crisis". There are outcomes you want and then the elimination of possibilities for the systems, for the people to change attitudes, etc. Every citizen should go through this process. I know the populism now in place in the US will not end well but that concerned citizens should roll with the punches and think a decade or so ahead. The populism will burn itself out. Such is my opinion at any rate.

When I think over things there were two major swings that closed one era and started another. One was 1980 and the election of Reagan. The other was 2001 and 9/11 and the war on terrorism. Whether that means another swing is upon us is another question. Looking over the year I would guess it is. 2020 will be a significant number to a great number of people going into the mid 21st century. Realignments, readjustments, rebalancing for much of this decade.

The 1980 to 2001 period was, overall, very good. The economy came storming back, the demise of Soviet Union and end of the paralyzing cold war. The computer and internet stimulated culture and economy. The 2001 to 2020 period was, overall, very troubling. The terrorist attack, the difficulties in Iraq and middle-east, Katrina, the financial collapse at end of first decade, finished off with pandemic and economic problems. And, apparently, the shaking apart of the post WWII liberal order that was established by the US and allies. The election of Trump.

Of course those are general impressions because a lot of things happen to many different people, good, bad, and ugly. I don't count it a "good time" when I got cancer, reminding me that millions had some form of the disease no matter if it was happy times or down times in the USA. Or when I saw homeless behind the motel I was staying at, reminding me of the flow of homeless I saw in the streets of San Francisco. There is a lot of stupidity, cruelty, evil as well as their opposites that occur in any period of time.

The eternal new and old are there.

The mind fully knowing the past is confident in the present and future. That's a truism.

The trick is to dehypnotize from the eyes of power, avoid hatred of power, avoid merging the self to power without the critical mind, that is, one that can objectify power. You have to build up an intelligent understanding of the sources of power, the distribution of power and how a citizen is connected to power and what they can do. The system needs fresh streams flowing through it as well as stable forces, even resistance to those fresh flowing streams.

* * * * * * * *

Trying to read political commentary is a strain. I think the political burnout is authentic. I've set out my minimum for political belief: strengthen the middle class, upward mobility, monitor wealth and create a middle class culture that aspires for middle class values. Quit giving money to cynics and nihilists. What you want in a liberal democracy are grounded, well informed, experienced people in families who feel connected to the Constitution. Very simple. The Constitution was written for the people. Go read Madison. It was not written for well funded think tanks or Ivy League lawyers. There is no other way except to destroy liberal democracy through fascism or communism. And get religion back to the local and out of the public realm.

Reading back some Events from 15 years ago. "Man, time is a blink of an eye," says that trickster. I have to admit I had some cleverness in me back in the day. But what has happened since the '04 election? One was the failure of Bush's second term, ending in the financial collapse. Obama did yeoman work in stabilizing the society even if he had to bail out banks and car companies rather than homeowners and workers. Then there was the rise of China, very rapid and rather disastrous for a lot of workers in this culture. China became the unknown rival who people projected against but something is there. Then you had these color revolutions and Arab Spring and a lot of American leadership could be questioned in relation to those, ie. Egypt, Libya, even Syria. And throughout this decade there have been books and articles from foreign policy experts about the collapse of the American consensus, the liberal post WWII order, that created the world order, along with the Warsaw Pact which disintegrated decades ago. And that consensus is breaking down or apart and that is never a good sign for any world at any time. So that came into focus. And as the economy healed it also revealed disparities, inequalities and produced the Wall Street protest and then Black Lives Matter protests. And of course, the pandemic, economic distress, more chaos. The media made a mistake with its fixation on Trump. They should have promoted the idea that the democracy is larger and more powerful than Trump. It should have promoted the strength of liberal democratic values and habits. But anyway. It should have chided the elites and experts to reinvigorate their credibility and make themselves accessible to the people. Trust, all around, needs to be restored.

Americans have become, of late, crazy dogs. They've been bitten by the mad virus of destructive vision.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that America, laying on a map for instance, is like a computer motherboard. It is more a function or circuit that knows all other functions and circuits and carries the whole motherboard in its one circuit, its one function. It has access then to all of what it is. It takes extraordinary intuition and rational mindfulness to get to that point. It inspires a moment of responsibility.

It is One, then widens, then stretches back to the best semblance of One. It is ragged but the effort is rewarded.

* * * * * * * *

I don't hate power or those who want it. I am skeptical of it, wary of fake emotions and idealisms that seem to disappear at the first opportunity to use other people's money. I am not part of the inside crowd, I'm not part of the power elite.'

I'm a literary character out on the coast somewhere. Critique has its place. Too much from one angle of attack spoils the critique but the market is large. What is needed are effusive, creative objects driven by the love of life, love of freedom and that possess all the complexity that reality itself has.

I count it as progress that we, in this place, have more interest, more fascination for the slaves and persons like Sojourner Truth then for the old slave masters and plantation owners, many of who worked hard to perpetuate their legacies and to resemble ancient aristocrats of Rome or Greece. They are dust and nothing to history now. His slave has succeeded beyond both the slave and the master's dreams. Life lives in such wonderful irony!

* * * * * * * *

Two people choose radically different paths, even contradictory paths but they are connected to the same system of governance. That system says, "live as you please (within the law), respect the other, even try to understand the other. No harm in that. The problem arises if each of the two people see the other as "mortal enemies," as is the case, apparently, today and has been in the past. People have been shot and killed for their political beliefs. Or caned in Congress. Or ripped apart in editorials, dehumanized by educated editors. All of that is true enough.

What is apparent to me is that what society is now will not be society tomorrow. This is a perpetual feature since people are relatively free to experiment with ideas and life styles and enter new forms of development that opens into new pathways. It's the constant, vital movement and change in society that is so good about it although it takes time to get used to. That's why the attention of citizens shouldn't be on how people live, even their beliefs but on the health of the system of governance. How can opinions and ideas stay the same when everything changes?

* * * * * * * *

April 2, 2022

TOXIC AND FRAGILE

The toxic politics of today have little credibility except in the negative sense that all decisions and non-decisions have consequence. Better to lay out some general foundations for future politics based on a credible reading of the present time.

Toxic and fragile are apt descriptions of national politics. I stick with the identity I have in my physical region and all that goes on in it. It is diverse, it is challenging, it is full of the good, bad, and ugly. It is filled with constitutional values and liberal democratic ones. Freedom is a creed, a responsibility. It is connected, not simply to the rest of America, but to Latin America and Asia.

Who can define or even articulate whether this is a democracy or not? It is a republic form of democracy, a representative democracy. It's important to admit that when a group of citizens become enemies then the republic is in the state of impending failure. And then you begin to wonder about it's future. It could devolve into an imperial state and be run by a few who get all the benefits of freedom and abundance. It could break apart under pressure from a world that wants to reclaim it in some bizarre way. It could get better and make astounding leaps into a state no one can imagine. The only answer is to try and figure out why large groups of people are so alienated and treat it like a disease, that is, a piece of information you need to begin healing the patient.

The idea of having a "liberal democracy" is to have a strong mediating center to keep the extremes from ripping everything apart. It is up to that liberal democracy center, then, to lift out of the hate and craziness of the extremes the conditions that create such hate and craziness, whether it is the plight of the rural poor or the plight of the urban poor. Both manifest in stark and dramatic ways, both are dangerous left to themselves, they are usually led by people who won't solve the problems so the liberal democracy must take on these problems----I have faith that will happen.

Political imagination would figure out how to benefit both the rural poor and the urban poor simultaneously.

A question to ask is, "if all "people of color" were removed from America would a Trump still arise?" I think he would have because I think the "spiritual" question is the lack of experience and knowledge in large swaths of the country which certainly exacerbates a racial problem andg most social problems that exist in the country. Trump was a result of people protesting their economic and cultural status. Minorities and immigrants were convenient scapegoats but those scapegoats would have been found if this was a purely white nation. The fact that they were often scapegoats makes a difference obviously. And the pressure on the political class is to create a more "united" states. Whatever has been used to this point has failed to do so.

The conservatives don't want the government to guarantee outcomes. The liberals have to better articulate "jump starting" upward mobility and get rid of identity politics or leave it behind when they graduate from college. The asinine generalizations of both ends of the spectrum need to be pulled down and new angles of attack, new attitudes developed toward the society-as-it-is.

Both the "ascension to power" and the "conservation of power" are corrupting processes as the framers knew. All they had to do was look at themselves to figure that out. This is why skepticism is a key component of democracy, the critical mind, and some understanding of "how much corruption can be tolerated," assuming that all who seek power and all who have power are corrupt. There is no "hero class" of people who will start off pure and undefiled and come out the other end the same. Assuming that you have to continually assert different ambitions, different types and keep them all on their toes, competing with each other until they gain respect. The system is dependent on people who are less corrupt than the classes of power. Once the people ape the corruptions of those classes of power then a generation, perhaps the democracy itself is lost. Populism has a light and shadow and has to remember that even a populist leader comes under the same law of power and corruption. Who grows up? Who takes on the burden of responsibility for the democracy? I saw a lot of good and heartening things this election.

Several comments on elections:

  • Make allies out of enemies.
  • Grievance is the central characteristic of democracy.
  • Instill learning curves among all the angry people.
  • You win some, you lose some get used to it.
  • No one wants to be fodder for the numbers crunchers.
  • The campus has as much credibility right now as pollsters.

It should become a more integrated society. Ironically "identity politics" is a separator, a fracture rather than a unifying idea. Another instance of Marxism killing everything it touches. The integration of society is pretty much in place in urban areas. Most people are not happy where they are, however it is they orientate themselves. The restlessness is a good thing. The government can do some good. The best thing it can do is to provide the infrastructure and support the private projects that will build down into the 21st century. Identity politics was a political check against the prevelance of white supremecy rather than a positive value that could be carried past its dependence on white dominance. At some point political identity has to emerge from personal experience and knowledge that has the sort of complex social experience that transcends any single identity. It demands tolerance and the full embodiment of liberal democratic values rather than allegiance to whatever-you-are-born-as.

You need a broad economic policy that covers both urban and rural areas and that avoids the words "black" and "white". Infrastructure projects no question. Biden is hamstrung like Obama was in coming into a situation that needs repair, both with the virus and economy. There will be pressure for racial justice, focused first on police. There is no substitute for knowing things and building lives based on knowing things.

You can not have a radical change in systems without a lot of violence. Violence would threaten the nature of Constitutional law and make the liberal democracy moot or not credible. Therefore the violence would have to play itself out to the bitter end as the defenders of the Constitution engaged in violence as well. And if it got too much perhaps a third party would come in to clean up the mess. This is the fear I have of the toxic wings. And it doesn't matter whether it is the passive, "wolves in sheep clothing" professors who cultivate the undermining that would lead to violence or the crazy, aggressive proud boys type. If you believe the foundations are rotten and must be changed right now you are calling for the destruction of those foundations and everything that it supports. Where if you replace this rotten plank here, and cracked brick there, over time you can renovate the whole over a long period of time. Political parties, ideas are no different than any other organization. They must establish trust. They must establish their credibility. They must establish their fidelity to the values and ways/means that has brought so much good and success to this point.

The threat of violence is far greater on the right wing at this time. And despite what is said about it the polarization that is depicted is not leading to a civil war. For one thing too much benefit is delivered even to those who are discontented. Most political violence is subdued by local law enforcement and it doesn't get out of hand.

* * * * * * * *

March 9, 2022

QUESTIONS

Thinking over things on a lazy winter day, bright and cold, some questions appeared to me.

What if freedom fails? What if a free people, free institutions, documents that are dedicated to freedom, the resources to ensure various types of freedom fails? What will that say to the future? That would be a central question for generations among thinking types I would guess as they muddled through a classic "small group controls everything" set up in the US.

Another problematic question when looking at liberal democracy and the necessity of the individual liberal democratic citizen: Can it operate as a liberal democracy if there is an exponential amount of information available to any generation and yet the individual, even groups of individuals can only gain a small fragment of that information? How then is "freedom" defined?

Who would not defend liberal democratic values? That is, due process, free association among the fully energized people. Creativity, innovation, checks and balances, many more. If these do not survive in America but survive in Antarctica then I am loyal to Antarctica. If you don't defend these values then why should I have any trust or loyalty to you?

What is the imaginative, intellectual, creative life of the people? How multitudinous is it? After all, liberal democracy either justifies itself as the constituent level or is just another huge, bureaucratic state. A blooming culture creates the republic. Democracy justifies itself when it successfully develops new ideas, new forms of doing things, new beauties, new facts, etc etc. A person so inclined to justify democracy must focus and work hard to get to this point of view. Despite all the talk there is hardly any encouragement at all.

What is the check on "populism" if it is a "power" and subject to the precept that "power corrupts," esp. if that power is connected to unshakeable belief? Where is the check then? If all the checks are discredited then what prevents the "populism" from becoming a storm that corrupts and becomes an asteroid as well as a storm; a huge earthquake as well as an asteroid and storm?

What are the paths out from a given such as the pressure gradient created between ideality and reality? What are the paths? One was "to the past," since the present obliterates it so blithely. Second was tos "God," because faith is a tough sell. And third was to "self-rule" because the largeness and complexity of the republic and democracy seemed to make self-rule moot. And certainly "to one's own work," which seemed to attract pressures of every sort. Those were mine, there are any number of others. It is a personal thing, as democracy is.

* * * * * * * *

I don't know what the state of the union is. It's too big for anyone to properly understand or comprehend. You have to go ask the 300 million plus people who make it up. On balance I would say the majority would say the state of the union is ok. That means, for them, life works fairly well, they've learned to ameliorate their frustrations and outgrown their hates and resentments. The systems could use some sprucing up but they still do their job. The president is an embarrassment at times but at least a live body is in the White House and he's saying the nostrums we love to hear. Next year will occur. And if the asteroid hits it was never meant to be --- life on the planet at any rate. Ah, the entertainment is superb. It alleviates some knawing questions when I really think on things. We have one rival in the world, namely China, and it is good to have a rival because we love competition.

There are many who would say otherwise.

Today reminds me of the 60's-70's period. A disillusionment of the establishment because of bad war, wide-spread corruption and demands made on the systems from all directions. The difference is that the essential protest is in the form of Trump, a one-time President, and his followers. And the protest is against a lot of the assumptions that have been carried from those previous times. A certain dissolution of the center takes place and the polarities fight for the future. It appears to be a fight to the death, especially since you have very interested bystanders such as China, Europe, and Russia trying to find ways to take advantage of the situation. It's not dire yet.

You have a nearly impossible political situation in that the two sides of the great divide are rooted to very emotional responses to "reality." Such that any fact put before them can be sliced and diced on behalf of the emotional response and does not change the nature of the emotional response. One side is rooted in religious soil, provincial values and the other rooted in racial and gender identity---any attempt to develop an idea that transcends these emotional responses is hewn down before it is able to mature. This zero sum gameness will go on and on until new generations appear and America faces an existential crisis that shakes it to the core and demands a rebalancing between wealth, middle-class, and poor such that the middle-class is at the center with the ability to determine political and cultural values.

It's a crazy, nonsensical political atmosphere today. It is utopians versus realists of a sort, neither side very original or compelling. So the eternal fight and results no one is satisfied with and some unanticipated shock that sends everyone under cover. The good live their lives as honestly as possible. They understand that they will outlast the incompetent and impossible views of those who want to change everything or change nothing. It absorbs the tar from the souls of people and makes with it a terrible design.

You don't pet sick dogs or play stick games. You don't act as if anything is not wrong with the poor animal.

I subscribe to this notion of government that I saw expressed by John Adams. Almost all conflict in history is between landed property that becomes wealthy and unlanded persons who have to labor for their survival. The problem of government was to try and keep wealth from oppressing the people and the people from destroying the society as it went after wealth. The solution was to create a republic where wealth was represented in the Senate and the people represented in the House and an executive who would mediate the two and make sure, especially, that wealth did not oppress the people. They were sensitive to that because that's the class they were from and they knew wealth and power corrupted through time. The reason to have a stable government and society was so wealth could be created and the people could flourish in freedom, using a multitude of resources developed for that purpose. Insofar as that is the result you have a successful society.

* * * * * * * *

The idea that there was a time of "no conflict" in the US is rather preposterous. It had enormous conflicts from the very start; religious, regional, ethnic, pro vs anti-slave, "Anglophiles vs Francophiles", Whigs vs democrats on and on it went. The wounds of the Civil War healed over many decades. The wounds of the "60's" are still open. Conflict is there because people fight for their sense of rightness. And "ambition fights ambition." And I see no independent armies being formed or Congress being locked down by the evil dictator etc. The people are free to engage or not engage and, frankly, many good ones are chased away by the stinkpile that is modern politics. Or is that a shithole.

The pursuit of our self-interest is always cleaner than the politics we observe.

* * * * * * * *

The Kennedy era and Reagan era are now "historical" in that very objective analysis can take place. Some things leak through from those eras and they will be synthesized by the emerging generations, those from 20-50 years old who are confronting some major problems: rivalry with China, "income disparity", degraded infrastructure, "war on terrorism" --- among others.

Politics is hardly solvable at this point. Better to turn to truth and beauty as it was in the beginning. The expression of beauty which is some sort of felt symmetry in the mind. Or, some new juxtaposition that works because the artist knows the world. They are states of meditation without a doubt.

The political situation is very poor in this day and age. It must be that the foundation of our politics, up and down the spectrum is false. I always felt hate and fear were the foundations of the majority parties. Perhaps but it could be something else. The rationalizations of the liberal democrats and radical republicans are transparent because their "world" described by their politics is impossible. This is why there is such a ferocious attempt to efface and wipe out the opponent. What is missing is the solid, free, liberal democratic citizen who is able to marginalize the radical wings and not get effaced as has happened. There is no center. There's no center because every effort was made to destroy the middle-class from which a center is built.

The key is to steer between the clashing rocks of nihilism and petrification. Between the rocks and the sirens is the happy hunting grounds of the creative spirit.

Of course if there is a thin crust of very corrupt powers that control or attempt to control life, inaccessible to the checks and balances in a democracy then most everything is superfluous. Why then would it matter if you had a liberal democracy or a theocracy? Why would it matter if you had communism or fascism? The outcome would be completely predictable, that is, complete exhaustion of the society, a collapse in the belief or trust in the systems and the decay that would follow. That is always a danger for a liberal democracy. My feeling, after going through a variety of cycles of these sort of beliefs, is that you need to press your values and express the way you think the world ought to work for, if nothing else, the aftermath when chaos has successfully brought the culture low. Show me the facts. Prove your stories of corruption at that level to me. It is completely possible to have that level of corruption, it has occurred throughout history at that level and we now have a much more profoundly complex political culture and a new set of tempting technological advances that allow for the control of many in fewer hands. If I was convinced of such a thing I would more likely fold in out of sheer impossibility and try to eke out whatever satisfaction I could in life. The thing as a whole would become a black door I would never enter and so you would havek more withdrawal of attention, less criticism, and the sort of state you see in Russia under Putin, the kleptocrocy. It is very tempting to think on huge scales like that. But, I've heard many things in the past fifty years! And some of the rumors and murmurs underground have proven true. Another indication to me that the free liberal, democratic citizen has to fulfill itself.

Corruption is one of the prime experiences of the liberal democratic citizen. It occurs because ambition is encouraged both in economic and political pursuits. It's understood that the ambition operates under guardrails and laws that keep it or try to keep it in bounds. The pursuit of ambition usually creates grades of corruption if of nothing else one's ideals. It can be a shock no matter what belief system you may have or inherit. But then, even the moralists have ambition.

* * * * * * * *

At this stage of things, as I gravitate toward deep maturity, as I am sucked into the inscrutable vortex of time, I look at the fate of the nation-state. I am assaulted all the time by demands from different groups, most of which are legitimate or have some legitimacy. I usually have no answers because most of the conflicts will not be solved especially if the nation devolves to the kind of identity conflicts that I see. I see nothing but infinite conflict so that little progresses. Too much hide bound nationalism on one side and too flimsy connection with the fate of the nation-state on the other. Somewhere between the nationalism and globalism is the medium you need for a healthy society. Globalism only if most of the nation benefits, an acknowledgement of what does not benefit and then some safety net there. Globalism by itself will blunder into a kind of state capitalism as you have developing in China with a resulting loss of liberal democracy. On the other hand the kind of extreme nationalism I see will sweep away liberal democracy in the mistaken belief that its systems must survive whether those systems have evolved out of any semblance of liberal and democratic or not.

It is amazing to me that so called smart people encourage the sort of conflicts be they ethnic, racial, gender, class, geographical knowing that these conflicts are thousands of years old, lead to wars, are never really solved. They might get exhausted for a time but are fired up again down the line. Whereas, the promise of liberal democracy is that the democratic mind will come up with new forms of political imagination that overcome the nature of the identity. The nature of these conflicts is such that an honest mind begs off and leaps up and out to protect the nature of the governance, its health and well-being as the country tries to survive through the 21st century as a world leader. And loss of that leadership and loss of the integrity of the US, loss of its productivity, loss of its powers would not bode well for the future. After all, we could become the greatest globalists around, neglect our own nation, while China, India, a united Europe all play the nationalist game very severely. And yet, more income growth, more sound infrastructure, more profound husbandry, more development in marginal areas, better education from the ground up all add to the strength of the nation-state. Something is just missing in the political conflict I see going on today.

Their eye runs down a narrow but deep channel. Life does not work well. The resentments are simmering. "The Media is our Inspector General."

* * * * * * * *

March 3, 2022

IS IT GOOD? REALLY?

Perhaps we make a judgement at some point that the "civilization" is good but is that enough? It's a curious question the modern type asks because the level of affluence and education has freed people from obsessive identification with the civilization. Often it is seen as nuisance and held in contempt. I can't believe no one has wrangled with that question seeing how we perceive little else but the thing built around us, the thing that contains us, the thing that determines us, the thing that we pass through. Hopefully a curious person has a chance to study or become familiar with civilizations different than ones own. Just don't make too fast a conclusion!

A person assumes if he or she is pushing him or herself to the good, then that which organizes him or her is as well. At least they get acutely aware when they are striving for the good and the civilization is heading for the bad. Not that there is an absolute marking for these things. How many Romans knew what would happen to vaunted Rome, as it was happening? Some knew without question but plenty did not know anything but whether they were eating that day.

I assume that the free, liberal democratic citizen is only that when he or she attains as full a consciousness as he or she can, given some innate limitations of the mind and world at any given time. That a democracy is better with a critical mass of that type of population then a critical mass of ignorant, superstitious, fearful, inexperienced types.

A society obsessed by its own imperfections is a neurotic one rather than a progressive one. A progressive one would convert some of the dissatisfaction with imperfection into productive, surprising, creative ends. In fact, living a free life, a moral life, a productive life is the chief protest against all the forces of chaos ready to destroy everything, whether it is a weapon, masses of people, or a disease.

Democracy is under girded with trust and honesty. Without those qualities the system falls through its own dark nature and lord knows what's on the other side. It's not that everyone must be perfect but that public transactions have to have the fiber of trust in them to be effective. That's one thing that has left the citizen in a moral quandary. Is there trust and honesty in the public realm any longer? And, if not, what can be done about it? The citizen is rather defenseless. "Well, I will operate in my own zone and cut away any real relation to the rest of it even though I know one thing implicates many other things."

Massiveness, speed, money all tend to undermine the need and/or desire for trust and honesty. And this is why it appears the culture is "something other" than what it was supposed to be. "But people are happy and the economy sustains jobs and people live well."

* * * * * * * *

Viewed as a statistic America doesn't look so good. It leads in incarceration, gun violence, it's not great on equity etc etc. It is not a paradise. It is always producing vitality and exciting things and always producing decay and decline. It's not a monoculture. I don't think there is a national culture. There is a corporate culture that uses mass media to cast its net. Either your region is good or bad, on the downside. And even the bad ones have some redeeming quality. It forces one to act, to take on your own cross and find a way. It's aggressive this way. It is less and less a "society" and more loose regions that have their share of delights and problems. There are countries that would be a lot more comfortable to live in. I think of Canada. But Canada has no aspiration. America has aspiration which makes it weird with energy and off kilter. If you connected with the organizing principles you are better off than if you are alienated from those principles. Even so the alienated can enjoy freedom and have forms of expression that can be energetic. It's not for the faint-hearted, the passive. Identify with region, dig into region and know it at every level. Study the federal level but understand how uprooted it is from the society that gave it birth. Use freedom well.

If democracy is only protest then what do you have besides a people who are expert at protesting? You need builders. You need people who get things done. You need explorers and innovators. Democracy itself, in its structure is a protest against stasis and mediocrity. It's baked into everything. But only political or social protest will undermine the society's will to do anything as the protestors insist everyone either be for them or against them. The society has to have the instinct that says, "ok, your protest is nice and we get it, now start developing policies that we all can look at, criticize, subject to questions, and eventually vote on." An experienced protestor would know this. Inexperienced protestors spoil everything by making it about the protest itself and the protestor him or herself.

* * * * * * * *

A lot of attention on the "breaking up of old liberal order," set up by US after World War II. Some are worried and horrified, some are fatalistic, some think it's a natural process. Good arguments can be heard on all sides. I would not fear the future, I would be wary of it. Liberal democracies need to double down on what makes them so to begin with: free, fair elections, transparency through unfettered press, due process, checks and balances, universal education, the dissolution of barriers to entry into the upward, productive path. They need to form solid alliances, especially to block the designs of Russia and China who are trying to take advantage of the "breakdown" of liberal world order. It seems crazy to loosen the ties with western Europe. India and Japan/Korea would be other places I would focus on.

Points: China pushing out American influence in that region. I think long-term the Belt and Road project is the initial steps to encircle the US just as it has been encircled. It may seem paranoid at this point but I do believe that is in their long-term plans.

Some other points:

  • India-US protection of Indo-Pacific ocean area
  • Putin's attempt to undo NATO and turn US and EU against each other
  • Border between US and Mexico
  • Environmental cooperation
  • Fighting drugs and organized crime and corruption at the nexus between these activities and public institutions
  • The future of space

It would seem to me that foreign policy has two goals: avoid costly wars, increase trade to keep employment up, revenues coming in, incomes rising etc. The ability of government to discipline itself. Rebuilding of the diplomatic corp.

Domestic policy has a few more goals: Ensure the safety and freedom of the citizens. Account for all citizens who suffer and struggle. Increasing the ability to invent, innovate, practice productive efficiency, Upward mobility, especially among those who have been caught underneath the systems. Ensure that wealth contributes fully to the center of culture.

* * * * * * * *

Every generation has a certain level of sincerity and certain level of "this is our best and we are pressing it up against the obstacles." Then a falling away as the next generation sees the holes, see where they missed and with the same sincerity begins to fill in and make better until exhaustion. On and on it goes. Things improve but there are always problems to be solved.

What does it say about the strength of democracy when statements like this are made: "Trump is destroying democracy." If democracy is that fragile it doesn't have a chance against worse enemies and phenomena than Trump. Democracy is not febrile. It's true that Trump was a bad president, shouldn't have been there, and hopefully will not re-emerge in 2024. But it's also true that the President is not an Emperor whose divine genius contains the fate of the Empire. Besides, if the people had read the Federalist Papers or read a decent account of the destruction of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, they could easily have spotted Trump as the scorned, sybarite Senator buying his office or the English aristocrat entitled and diseased and ruinous. The whole purpose of the system was to prevent Trump from emerging!

Are you free? Can you move on that freedom? That's the central question. Or, a central one. And, after all, what is freedom? What if it's something we've merely glanced at from time to time and have yet to find the tools to truly express it in any way, shape, or form? "Oh but we are free in relation to the unfree." That simply proves that a rat may not be a hyena but neither are a full developed Redwood tree that dominates certain landscapes.

The growth and development of anything, large or small, is the thing to grasp, the thing to know. "We are free because we don't have slavery." "We are free because we don't have many diseases that plagued people in the past." "We are free of the grinding hard work that wore so many people out." "We are better educated." "We travel more and have more mobility." "We engage our minds more." No doubt in self-reflection we admit our limitations, our own shadows and say, "now, learn our lesson and don't go down this road." We don't want the lakes and rivers polluted. We don't want large groups of people isolated and demeaned by their isolation from the mainstream. We don't want the people to destroy themselves because they think they have not met expectations. And we certainly recognize that life for many is grinding work, not so well educated, susceptible to modern diseases, and less mobile.

Many of the abstractions that have captured modern Americans are embarrassing. It appears to be the turnip truck flying through a cloud of obfuscating words.

March 2, 2022

PASSAGE

I've seen some attempts to explain the past 40 years, with the turning during the 70's toward Reagan. That's partly true. Here's what I think happened. An "idealistic" generation went through a profound disillusionment of Vietnam and Watergate, primarily, and swore off politics. That was noted at the time as a "going inward" that swelled up the new age movement, cults and other manifestations of political alienation. As that happened the private sector went through a long process of "reform", some directly related to the new age philosophies or practices. So, a more "humane", a more "compassionate" corporation came into vogue and was taken up by the explosive computer revolution. Reagan convinced the middle-class to abandon government and give its loyalty to the private sector. That began the long process of stock market appreciation and subsequent asset appreciation that favored upper middle class professionals. It's true that Reagan put in policies that attracted foreign investments and there was the stimulation of the computer revolution. Add that to a breaking of the labor union and a turning against the welfare state. These definitely occurred. Throw in race animosity without question.

Most of it had to do with taxes and stagnant wages and the middle-class distrust of labor unions. It was evident however, in a real change in the people themselves. It was also evident that the suburbs gained much more political power than cities.

Those who liked the trajectory of the reform period could feel this turn very acutely and were rather shocked by it. It became very clear that the conservatives had a lot more energy because they had not been a part of the reform fights on the previous several decades. The activists and reformers I knew in Berkeley were very burned out and lacked any vitality to resist Reaganism, especially as the nation swelled in pride and capital during the 80's.

Capital started to be seen as the solution to problems rather than activism. It became a truism that "affluence was better than poverty", that, at least with affluence you could solve some of the problems that had been front and center in the previous decades. The problem was that there was a separation in the generation between those who pursued their private goals and a lesser group that adhered to the reform spirit. Don't underestimate how stimulating the computer revolution was in the 80's and then the internet in the 90's. And, of course, tremendous sums of money poured through those revolutions.

By the time Clinton left the White House that generation was at its peak, entering middle-age. It did not return to the idealism of its youth. It had set as its goal the "enriched, unique life and approach to life." A member of the boomer generation could say, in the late 90's, "this country has never been stronger than it is now!" And considering that the Soviet Union was gone and America was the sole "super power" and the economy was booming it couldn't be argued. The reform movement, including civil rights, retreated to the academy to conserve its ideas but had little or no reach into the larger society.

The last 20 years has produced a different period beginning with the 9/11 attacks and the war on terrorism. There were also scandals in the corporate world and a feeling, very distinctive in the early 00's that while the market was doing well, the real economy of men and women was stagnant at best. Katrina revealed a deep underclass, mostly black, that hadn't improved for decades and every city had its equivalent New Orleans. It was becoming more and move evident as well, that the entrance of China into the global market, the release of former communist countries into the global economy, the advent of computer/internet, and the development of "globalism" as a way to move capital rapidly around the world seeking appreciation had devastated parts of the American economy. The rust-belt especially lost jobs with no back up for workers. Corporate consolidation and focus on short term profits that could be made in the market, replaced investment in growth and development, new technology, and new infrastructure. That led to the collapse of the financial markets in the later part of the decade because of the mortgage crisis.

When Obama became President he spent all his time building back the economy. Whether he had to or not he did bail out the money and not the people. So, while the economy was saved the condition of the people did not change all that much. The money companies were in tech and didn't need as many workers to produce fantastic profits. All this led up to the election of 2016.

Before that a vigorous but amorphous protest, Occupy Wall Stree, had gone for a few months but it was the anger of the middle, lower middle class that determined the election. It's difficult to know how well the economy performed under Trump and how you determined what is good and what is bad. Health care was a significant area of economy. Obama care tried to correct some of that but Trump undid a lot. Trump passed a tax bill that put more money in very rich hands rather than middle and working class people.

The question of "inequality" became a major concern for scholars, thinking types, and political types across the board so there was more focus on inequality, what it meant and what were the possible solutions. And currently, a sudden collapse due to the COVID, the loss of jobs because life stopped, that added to the lack of revenue for various institutions, a condition that worsened as the pandemic moved forward.

Then came the massive protests of people not simply on behalf of blacks but in protest to the inequalities, generally felt by people of color and poor whites. All of that has given rise to new energy in the progressive political area, mostly young and urban. However, they have yet to show much creative response to the problems and have fallen back to old discredited socialism. The other new condition is that China is now felt to be a legitimate threat to American economic, if not political and military power. It's not viewed as an abstract threat.

Some things have changed. For one, wealth does not feel secure at this point. It now has a bad reputation and is being shamed every which way. Second, there will be an attempt to rebuild the economy on a sounder basis, an economy of making things rather than on capital appreciation, more focused on the middle-class with support for upward mobility by the poor and working class. This has to be done without sacrificing some of the very dynamic parts of the system like entrepreneurship, invention, and innovation.

You hear and read crazy things in a period like this. I long ago rejected direct threats to the Constitution in the form of revolution. And that was on the table back in the fabled times. Revolution was "romantic" because it promised instant transformation from the bad to the good, "if only..." But on studying history for a while it was clear revolutions can't be fabricated. It exists because of a tremendous failure in the society itself, one that is usually fixable before the revolution. America had gone through the disruptions of a "revolution" in the form of a civil war, one that was not going to overthrow a particular government, one that was going to establish a separate government. But that would have left the US government weak and subject to forces disruptive and destructive to Constitutional values.

Revolutions are "romantic" because there has to be a structure in place to administer laws and keep the society from killing itself. The arduous attempt to make it look like the system is "rigged" is not compelling enough to see the whole collapse in a heap. If you truly believe the whole thing is rigged then it must be destroyed and pulled down. But all the persons who benefit are going to defend the system and so violent revolution is implied every time I hear the "system is rigged" either by "Jews" or by "white supremacists" or "intelligent lizards." "Wealth" comes closest to the truth. And is the classic reason governments are destroyed.

Yet, wealth creation is a necessity and baked into the system so what is needed is oversight, reform, regulation of wealth and the protection of the system of governance from the predations of wealth. That's where the not-wealth parts of the society need to organize and rally behind.

* * * * * * * *

Paused a bit to watch a program on the Nazi's of 30's. It was very sobering, more so than other times when I've reviewed that period of time. It was so awful, so degraded, and anti-life, a democracy should always review this history once a year, at least. It does make one grateful on the one hand, then very wary. It can happen. You can descend slowly but surely into the anti-democratic state. You won't necessarily have a holocaust or all out total war against your neighbors but, without a doubt, you can lose the preciousness of the democratic experiment. Listen to the warnings! Trump may not be a Hitler but he is a warning, a canary bird in the mineshaft that public anger can produce a leader like Trump. More tolerance, more compassion, more freedom. Whenever I see a film like that I wish for those qualities.

You need brave freedom, bold people, unafraid persons. Lots of checks and balances, strong liberal democratic institutions, parties that vet their own in dynamic ways, a thorough understanding that state power should always comes under scrutiny. The left has totalitarian tendencies, anti-democratic types, nihilists and cynics but the right wing is far more dangerous at this point. My dad used to tell me, "you don't know, can 't imagine how that period of time was." He wasn't in the European theater but I accept his admonition. And now that generation is almost all gone. What we have now is the remnants of the Vietnam era and "wars" fought by professional soldiers, usually against far weaker countries.

* * * * * * * *

Democracy is a court room that you are required to report to in order to make public judgments. You bring whatever knowledge and experience you can to it and agree to give an honest judgment based on the facts and arguments you hear.

You may have nothing in common with the accused, the prosecutor, the judge and others of the court but you are there to do your duty. You establish credibility and allow for a contradiction in assumptions and roll things over to come to some conclusion. The assumption you have as one member of the jury is that all the other juror members are as sincere as you are. If they aren't then sound judgment can be nullified by the appeals to emotion sometimes thrown their way.

Democracy, as I understand the term, is absolutely dependent on the development of the individual and his or her ability to come large to the stage and know and understand. So, the first attribute of the good citizen is the ability to stand naked to the human universe and admit what problems exist, admit that they exist beyond his or her abilities to do anything about and begin an earnest study of the problems. At the very least the citizen learns who has credibility and who has none. And those who lack it are shut up and ignored.

Democracy is also the meaningful demonstration of freedom. The two exist as the same coin with two faces.

We know the political class is corruptible, often incompetent and has bought an office to up sell to those who want its influence. It is the citizen, then, that has to establish the nature of problem-solving, the criteria for credibility, the vision to cross boundaries to solve problems and so on. The politician is not going to do this on behalf of the people. Just as the people have to pump their own gas these days, they have to be their own best leaders.

The human frame contains beauty and the discovery of the spirit in a man; the protection and flourishing of each. That is one of the functions of being a free man and it is dependent on, if not good governance then non-catastrophic governance. In other words, the obligation of vigilance on the part of the free citizen.

February 1, 2022

GUESSING THE FUTURE

To a collective grouping of people, political or otherwise, one should ask a simple question, "through yourselves could you have produced the Constitutional government?" Or, "Could you have fought and won a Revolution? A Civil War? A World War II?" I have severe doubts up and down the line. If they can't why would I give my consent to their will to power? And if they don't want my consent and just bully their way into power doesn't that tell you who they truly are? The right and left fail these tests. So, who are they? "Could you have produced a labor movement or civil rights movement out of yourselves?" Or, rather, do they simply want to live on the legacy of these things?

If America becomes a total failure, implodes, disintegrates or just goes lax the future will say, "see, men and women can't tolerate freedom. All the growth and development of a free man or woman, all the protections, all the diverse activity and opinion led to ash." I don't think that would be a good outcome for humanity. Somewhere between overweening pride and abject demoralization the free man and woman needs to find themselves and stand up straight and learn to build things, learn to dream big, learn the arts of self-rule. It's not a given.

America could go through many permutations in the next few centuries that can't be predicted. At the end of that process I would want to have those qualities but nothing is assured. It begs the question, "who would save America were it to fall into totalitarian hands?" A purely academic question, one that would be asked during the stalled life in the pandemic.

The truth is there is always vitality and always decay in this country. It is always ascending and descending, progressing and regressing.

The non liberal democratic elements got hold of politics for a lot of reasons. Some books I've read of late have pointed those out. I would suggest it all started in my youth when the new left drove out classic liberalism from the university and began to teach "identities" as the source and goal of political power. It was the reverse image of the fascist, nazi racial superior identity in that everything would become, ipso facto, "superior". But that put "fascism" as the norm, as the default, again, an idea fostered by the neo-left. This was then met by a rise in fundamentalism and "white backlash" that has ignited the irrationalities of the right wing. Note: Neither politics is rooted In the strength of the American experiment which is liberal and democratic. Tolerant and confident. There was a loss of rational thinking or, worse, the belief that the first strong idea in the brain is the Truth and to be defended to the max. There was no cultivation of knowledge, no outreach to new sources of knowledge and experience but the ideas of idiots driven by primitive emotions. This is what the media and many of the people thirsted for because conflict can never be sustained within individual people, it must find its way out into the collective public. This makes the scene very unappetizing and nearly impossible to do anything about but take the liberal democratic values and have a lot of patience as these political wings burn themselves out.

The poor distribution of national income is another source, perhaps the ultimate historic source. And, frankly, the US is a huge nation-state with many regions, with various problems that are not shared by other regions. These conflate with national political will. Strip away all the excess this country has piled up in government and then see what things are needed for maintenance and growth of all the regions. I, for one, am tired of the southern Baptist cultures determining the national will.

And news plays up conflict and the politics is seen as a vast drama between good and evil. It's not. And the drama of it just obscures the fact that it is a grinding, procedural, system of trade-offs that depends on the trust and mutual respect between the representatives. Of course the drama isn't for the representative, it is for the drama starved, deracinated citizens with no foundations of common culture who want an instant fix to everything or else.

I see some pretty good ideas, especially on the progressive side, but with the lack of trust and mutual respect it's all gas and is simply a point of manipulation by all sides. The ferocious ones can't see this, never figure it out and belong to that long history of "masses" that fills up the nightmare known has "history." And yes, the framers were concerned about it. Just as they knew Trump's existed from their experience of inherited power and how a lot of that inherited power was crazy. A decent reading of the Federalist Papers will bring you to that conclusion.

Will America become better or worse? This is an impossible question because it is too large and complex to make simple judgements or predictions. I know that if America declines through the 21st century it will be a messy one, a ragged and painful one. It will result in the loss of Constitutional law, the federal system and, eventually, be open to invasion and conflict between regions. The wealthy regions would sustain themselves for a bit but eventually, because they would depend on stronger regions or nations for protection, their wealth would be siphoned off. There would be a decline in infrastructure, a far sharper division between economic classes. Some good features of the old United States would remain. There would be a cataclysmic event that would precipitate this decline but within a generation or two it would appear as if, "this has always been this way," and people would judge society by their own self-interest and experience in the moment. So, that would create a new history for the US that would be centuries in the making. Perhaps it is inevitable but I wouldn't want to be a part of it. I would not want to be a part of America that did not try to be the United States where all the resources were available to the people even if it didn't think of itself as a complete whole.

Trump was the product of the corruption of American culture; the idea that there are no consequences for what you say or do and that the ends justify the means. That is, how could you possibly be flawed or corrupt if you end up with a jet, beautiful women, golf courses and hotels? And in that perfect storm he's landed in the one place where character trumps all. And all of his riches, all of his jets and beautiful women, all of his golf courses can't help him one iota. He stands shorn of everything but what he has been in life, what he has avoided and palmed off onto other people. A con man, a liar, a thug, a bully, a potentate and now a man with absolutely no credibility. The man who cried wolf too many times and will be devoured by the times as a result. As with the Clinton's he's a fantastic literary character who has somehow conned his way into this powerful position mainly because a good many people can be conned. Perhaps the jolting realization that they've been royally had will do some good. I doubt it but you never know. America is a sad place. We've violated every decency and thought we could get away with it. We've torn down every barrier to our greed and refused to look at the consequences. So, now we're this. An appalling spectre on the world stage.

Trump was really a culmination of the past sixteen years or so, since 9/11 or the suspect election of 2000. It's the "war on terrorism," and the "war of the wealthy on the rest of us," "war of destroyers against the Earth".

What can one say but that this period of time will be scrutinized in a negative sense for why and how it produced a Trump Presidency. And it will always come down to fear and loathing among the democratic people.

* * * * * * * *

Trump represented the triumph of a section of the American electorate that has been in the shadows for decades. They now have a provisional role in governing and are tasked with helping things move forward whether they are in or out of power. It's too early to make judgments. If the contentious political culture succeeds maybe the smart guys learn something. If it fails it will be buried for a good generation or two and something much more sensible will emerge. It looks like failure to me. It looks bumbling and incompetent, goofy is the word I think. But it is too early to tell. He and his followers were tasked with solving the problems which exist whether they wanted them to be or not. It seems a large part of that electorate is fatigued by all the problematicsf offered up daily and want them out of their lives. It is the part of the electorate that can't tolerate complexity because they've never crossed the threshold of knowing how to deal with it so it only appears as a threat someone, somewhere is to blame for. Will that part of the electorate "grow up" if and when Trump is no longer in the picture? A free society has a strange way of making these sort of adjustments in both over simplifying and over analyzing problems.

Ultimately a period of time dominated by the irrational can not be trusted. That doesn't mean it doesn't have its seductions.

When a man or woman awakens to the shadow of humanity a shockwave goes through them. But that is only the first step in a long path of understanding the totality of humanity, the light of humanity. And as I have noted in some of these journals, in a moment of illumination, "understand the shadow but don't become the shadow."

Americans fail when they don't allow themselves to entertain their contradictions. The urban secular types of the coasts should study the spiritual founders like Christ and Buddha and figure out why they are so significant and learn from them. And the middle of the country should study science, read Erasmus and Camus among others and understand why a secular society is necessary. If they don't do these things they become awfully predictable and that which can be predicted can be controlled. Freedom emerges when the contradiction is conscious of itself and meets itself in some agonal process.

CHALLENGE

One key to democracy is the type of challenges it takes on. So, as I look out into the present and future what challenges do I see? The environmental/fossil fuel challenge is large, something that can engage the energies of the people. It is to stimulate, to vitalize, to defy---these are the hallmarks of a healthy society. Income disparity/lack of opportunity/special emphasis on black poverty would be another immense challenge the culture should take on. Politics would exploit these things, democracy would take the challenge on face up. Improving the infrastructure--- another huge challenge. Improving the educational system. Improving the ways and means of electing people, the sources of leadership etc. Obviously no one can do everything, even big and significant things. But, you look at the society in that manner. Not wealth, not achievement in sports, not political power. That's where leadership comes in, something woefully lacking today.

Democracy needs stimulus. It needs challenge. It needs to be able to connect as a society. It needs to return to trust and mutual respect. That is what drives things forward. This country is standing still and is sick because of it. It is motionless with fear and ignorance. When it leaps productively into the dark it comes out, usually, changed but more productive and sane. Standing pat at this point would be self-killing.

The dynamic and free society escapes a lot of intellectual analysis because Marxism is dead. It can not go forward into the future and yet the university holds onto it and refuses to see anything different. I assume the academic world is on the cusp of a huge sweep of reform in the coming decade. I suppose it's been said over and over again. It's the least of our problems.

I have two social/political identities. One is "organic" and comes from the physical experience I've had living in the northern half of California. It has enough richness and complexity so that I'm grounded in the real, so much so that richness and complexity from any other source outside the region is absorbed and used. But then I live in a federal system, a source of governance that is rooted in the Constitution and its history of interpretations and requires certain principles: self-rule, due process, due diligence, tolerance, separation of powers, freedom, imagination, intellect among others. Freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religious belief, freedom to redress grievance and on on. Governance deals with very basic items: solution to problems in community, making sure the people don't tear each other apart, making sure that other powers outside the borders don't tear the country apart. Economy, justice, infrastructure are some of the sources of problems the governance takes on. I adhere to these things because I believe them, because in my experience they are true.

* * * * * * * *

SELF-EXAMINATION

I had gone through a long idealism and its disillusionment but I don't think I was prepared for the types of negativity that I met with as a young guy. It was only when it looked like liberal democracy was being challenged at the very root that I became interested in studying it or giving politics some thought. I believed the end of liberal democracy would spell the end of most things good and leave the door open to either fascism, communism, or fundamentalism of one stripe or another. It was the age of disillusionment after Watergate/Vietnam, that contributed without a doubt. The struggle with the novel opened up the need to express the meaningful---- the relation to power being one foundation. Even if power, itself, is meaningless, our relation to it may be very meaningful. I thought it was a personal thing because it fully implicated the nature of the human being.

I found it difficult to accommodate anything expressed that did not bring me to my finest, best self. If that was elitist so be it. I was exposed to a much greater spectrum. Politically I have my doubts about the left but find myself there more often than not. I am not for "socialism" but I am for the government to stimulate growth where it needs it. I think such a thing needs a lot of due diligence. I do not believe that pitting classes, races, genders against each other furthers the democratic way. Extending rights for some does not mean reducing rights for others. I think being "prudent and wise" is the way to go in geopolitics. "America first" while emotionally satisfying doesn t work, is a losing proposition. Democracy is a thinking man and woman system because thought has to cut through so much that is inherited by the old reptile brain. We are, by nature, un-free. We have to find the agency of our liberation. The spiritual is the most authentic path although it has proven to be a pitfall in the past. By nature, human beings are organized by strong willed people who may not, in the long run, have the best interests of the people in mind. Democratic people need to find leaders out of their struggle to liberate themselves from their oppressive natures. And then surround the process with due process, due diligence, freedom to investigate independent of authority, freedom to associate, etc. It seems absurd to repeat these things but perhaps they need to be repeated every generation.

I don't regret it but like every other endeavor I discovered all kinds of experts and people who had a greater grasp on the subject than myself. I tried to get a foundation on American liberal democracy and then used myself as a way to understand the growth and development of the citizen and his relationship to power; from the profound outside to the knowing inside for instance. That the quality of the individual was paramount and so the questions of "quality" and "individual" had to be addressed. Vision was necessary and I projected a lot of vision on behalf of America in lieu of projecting it through a novel. On the one hand you don't want to be so crimped down in the present you can't see the rising waters around you. You don't want to be so comfortable and complacent that you don't see the danger signs. But on the other you don't want to look so cosmically that a decade or even a century is a mere instance of your ability to predict the next one and so life is unreal and has little meaning. Perhaps that is why I had myself implicated in the question, myself and my own writing life that I had always viewed as transcendent to politics. It was always grounded by the fact I was a citizen in a putative liberal democracy. A liberal democracy where I did not have any significant power.

When I was going to Sacramento State I used to go to the state capitol and sit in on legislative meetings, committee meetings and so on. That was always interesting to me. The transcendent moments of the times, mainly the exploration to the moon and viewing the Earth from a distance, as a whole and the proliferation of nukes along with a classic bind in geopolitics added to a hot, irrational war in Vietnam were very crucial. The attack on materialism by the counter-culture was very effective with me. It generated a connection with the poverty roots of my family. The uprisings of minorities and women were very stimulating because they shook out the complacency about freedom and the nature of democracy.

I came out of the extremes of Abysmal nothingness and highly defined idealism. The gap that created! And the climbing from one to the other determines a great deal. Facts had replaced myths but facts had created "instant annihilation" and "habitation of universe" among other things both of which did what old myth did which was pull the mind beyond the mundane daily and into something terrifying and exhilarating.

Liberal democracy assumes that when men and women are free they are the most constructive force in the universe. This is generally true, at least in my experience. That freedom demands a kind of controlled irrationality that needs to be guided to productive ends. So you need both the structure, say in the infrastructure of governance and the will to power ignited by freedom. Sometimes it gets rather perverse. Sometimes it get rather destructive. In the end it is superior to the repression of people.

The world is always problematic. It must be balanced by beauty and pleasure.

* * * * * * * *

Politics is about the management of power. It's been that way from the beginning of time. That management is guided by the founding document but changes with the times. The struggle today is between complexity and simplicity. The shadows of each are usually prominent in the political culture. Unless you experience problems as complex things to be solved and deal with them as complex entities; as, in other words, exactly as those who are called on to solve the problems experience them you will not develop the trust necessary to have a flawless sort of management of power.

Yet sometimes, simplicity is precisely what is needed. Learned simplicity that cuts through the dense complexity because one knows it so well.

The structure of power, the founding document, doesn't tell anyone how to live. It is the not-power that is the significant thing in the society. How does freedom and resource express itself today? Power is there to ensure the on-going prospect of fully developing freedom and resource.

The operation of a society like this should be fairly simple: a strong middle-class imposes its values on both the political state and the marketplace and is able to bend wealth to its essential centrality in the society while not interfering in the perks of wealth making. A strong middle-class then can develop the types of structures that pull the poor up and into the middle class to further strengthen it and fulfill the obligation of the society to provide opportunity for all, happily induced by upward mobility. The creative, progressive, inventive part of the culture comes from oblique angles no one can predict. Politics that demonstrates its fidelity to this process has my loyalty. I haven't found it yet.

Democracy is not complicated but it is a thinking person's system. And it's always assumed that the most democratic principle exists as you get closer to the center of power. At least the rhetoric of democracy is more prevalent. But if it's only groups of highly educated people running huge agencies cut away from the heart of the people then maybe you'd better call it something else. And not that it can't be successful in that configuration. In fact, it may start rationalizing that it is the only way the system as a whole can be successful. And my point of view was that of the jury member who comes into a highly professionalized system guarded over by insiders and who is called on to make ultimate questions using his or her common sense, experience, and knowledge. The system at this stage of things is "too big to fail," and no one person, even party can correct it. But it still needs the jury member to validate it. And the jury member is an individual and is not beholden to the system so much as is knowledgeable about it and wants to be proud of it and wants some wisdom applied when it comes to its workings.

The cultural aspects of liberal democracy are crucial. It needs the lines of force that collect and move people every generation, moving them to do the same things with some adjustments. And it needs the disruptions that bring on the necessity for the adjustments.

"Culture" is meaningless if the society that rushes around one is unknown. Culture produced from ignorance and acclaimed by the ignorant damages a society because no one is encouraged to know the whole of it. There is no culture beyond the youth threshold ---- youth thinks it knows everything, knowing nothing. Advertisers and politicians revel in this fact.

The polity is viewed as "broken up" into three or four parts; it depends on who is benefiting from the marketplace, how provincial people are, and the ability to facilitate a variety of views in the same brain, among other attributes. Ever hear of any political unity among 330 million people? The "divide" of people is really a part of checks and balances.

There is always room for improvement. The "culture" may embarrass us but we know time will move it along. The knowledge of that is absolute and a great solace. The politics may be rotten so we say what we would like politics to be and the future can decide. What space do they want to occupy? The machines are scary or can be, we admit our fright and concern and maybe the future takes up our cause. At least they see the puzzle, the game that consciousness can play with even the most dreadful aspects of society.

January 19, 2022


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