Archive for October, 2015

Riposte

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

My best friend called my last paragraph a ‘rant.’ I was surprised. I started thinking about thinking – how I sort and construct the ideas I use; how my thinking so often sets people off.

I’ve long been bemused by normal political conversation; people energetically promote unfounded explanations, and doggedly stick to impractical proposals. I’ve come to believe we’re not primarily interested in understanding the world, but in protecting our own interpretation of it.

So, my friend thinks criticizing liberals’ commitment to republican democracy simply constitutes a screed – yet our obviously non-democratic power structures are enthusiastically defended by the same folks who once stood staunchly behind labor unions. My sense is, they just might not believe in the efficacy of their representational system; they’ve put faith in the incomprehensible mechanics of global techno-capitalism (complete with its rejection of the significance of nation states).

But nobody actually thinks in language like this. Instead, we’re suspicious of any but the simplest sentences, and believe only what we’ve always thought to be true.

The thing is, promoting our story because it’s old and warm-hearted doesn’t amount to a meaningful position – it’s just self-reassurance. Fine, as ironic chatter at a dinner party with friends. Useless, as a way of understanding what’s coming now.

Of course, I’m christian, so I believe world change comes through individual changes of heart in eight billion people – and sure, I believe this will happen. But I don’t see it yet.

What I do see is a bunch of affluent do-gooders making the occasional squawk, but with their votes and minds transferring all power to the super rich – because to disturb the rich is to threaten the eternal rise of the stock market.

Intellectual room is pretty limited, here. How small a space can I fit myself into?

The stock market’s only been around a couple hundred years – and I’m to expect it’ll go up forever?

Another friend recoils when I say things like that; derides my idea we individuals are merely expressions of the grand events. I’m blamed for depriving us of our peculiar specificity – of ignoring we can ‘treat’ the stock market like it’ll go up forever; we can’t concretely imagine it doing anything else.

It’s true, there’s a tiny space we can crawl into called ‘searching for happiness’ (or ‘finding inner peace,’ or whatever). It can be a wonderful space, evoking impressions of eternal joy in a universal oneness, etc.. It’s just that nobody sitting around ‘peacefully’ (not Jesus himself) ever helped another human being. Indeed, many are honest enough to observe it’s not their point.

So the doe-eyed affluent liberals are living their dreams, paying attention to themselves, and flexing their various empathies through checks written to charity. They feel deep outrage and soulful indignation when a man walks into school and shoots somebody else’s kid in the head – but what can they do?

What I do is imagine the world is bigger than myself; that my job is more than seeking self-fulfilment on the trip to the nursing facility. I go farther, and believe I’m a word spoken by a voice of which I’m just the tiniest sound – that the contradictions within me are but the big picture drawn small.

I believe Jesus is right: if you’re trying to prove yourself, you’ll have to sell all your worldly possessions and distribute them to the poor. Otherwise, well – you ain’t gonna live forever.

Just like me.

 

Politics, markets, revisited

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

A friend outside the country asked how ‘you Americans’ remain so comfortable with our regular on-campus mass student shootings.

I remembered the day right after the World Trade Center bombings. My East Coast liberal friends were shaken, and saying – actually saying – things like, “I have to believe the people who are really in charge – I mean, you know, the people really in charge – those people understand this and they’re doing the right things to protect us.”

Money has been declared protected legal speech, and it’s embraced as a proxy for personal action. The received faith is we’re operated by private professionals, and politicians are proxies for monopoly interests (which we are sure are our own).

Perhaps the only society which can offer the opportunity and dynamism liberals prefer is one without elected officials. Perhaps we’re not, in fact, comfortable with our mass shootings – we really can’t do anything about them.