Thursday, April 28, 2011

μὴ μου τοὺς κύκλους τάραττε: The Inner Circle

This spring I have been slowly realizing that I am well on my way to losing my faith in the ability of my country as a nation, and my fellow Americans as citizens, to act intelligently, decently, with honesty, and with humanity.

I am developing the attitude that my government and the classes that run it are thoroughly mortgaged to the wealthy and powerful, that it cannot be relied upon to act in any interests but theirs. That they are addicted to the adrenaline of foreign wars. That they are blinded by their own hubris and self-love into willful blindness to their own cruelty, venality, and mendacity. That they are becoming baleful actors abroad, and a vile, moronic - wait! Did you hear that? Someone just praised Donald Fucking Trump as a potential Presidential candidate! Fuck me sideways! - pottage of scum and villany at home. That We the People, the putative rulers of this decrepit state, have become so inured to the toxic combination of elite malfeasance, public indifference, corporate greed, the idiocy of the Cheney Right, and the mewling, puking unwillingness of all and sundry to stand up and question where we're going and what we're doing in the handbasket that the chances of changing direction or destination at this point is somewhere between unlikely and impossible.

In other words, we're well and truly fucked.'s the thing. I don't think we here in the U.S. are actively worse than any other nation in the world. And better than some; we're certainly no North Korea or Zimbabwe. And we are certainly better off than the two other Great Powers, kleptocratic Russia and gerontocratic China. We're not actively evil; we don't intend to do wrong.

But if there is somewhere an Eternal Verity, a commandment lit up in baby spotlights and neon it is this; intentions don't matter. Acts, and results, do.

My country is and has been behaving foolishly, and oftimes badly. And it has made itself so oligarchic that a private citizen such as myself without access to wealth, influence, or power, without favors to give or bribes to bestow cannot budge the tiller of the ship of state so much as a millimeter. I thought that I had helped, two years ago this autumn, in electing a so-called Democrat.

But the system has clearly been so damaged that the most "liberal" person electable cannot change the heading of the ship of state from its heading towards increasing oligarchy and overstretch.

And this small loudspeaker of a blog...well, doesn't speak very loud. Because otherwise why do people like Krauthammer and Brooks and the loathsome Limbaugh continue to pollute the air years after I wrote:
"I get the feeling that we're all talked out here.

We all know what’s happening: we can see the iceberg. It's huge, it's gouging its way deep into the hull, and we've spent the last two to three years pounding the helmsman on the back of the skull, shouting "Turn, you idiot! You're ramming a fucking iceberg!" only to have him slew around and stare at us with that skeevy grin and babble some inanity about "staying the course" and "no substitute for victory".

We know that the water is going to be cold, and the bottom is a freezing blackness that we will never feel at the end of that long, spiraling drop into the abyss.

And we know, because we can hear the clink of glasses and the bray of the band that on the saloon deck that many of our fellow passengers are still gobbling their meals and charging their glasses to the soothing sound of the stagefront crooner. Nothing we've said has touched them. No scolding, no pleading, no explaining will make them tear the lunatic helmsman from the wheel. The fear may be hidden in their hearts, but they won't stand up and act, won't admit that the damage is already done, that the black water is already pouring in, the ship is already doomed, and that whatever illusions of "victory" they have will end when the icy sea closes over our heads."
That was written about Iraq. But it could have been written about the levees of New Orleans or the bridges over the Mississippi. Written about the S&L bubble or the dot-com bubble or the mortgage bubble. Written about the Deepwater Horizon or, hell, about any number of goddamn obviously fucked up incompetences that we've watched over the past twenty years or so.

We know the problems are out there.

We either don't want to hear about them. Or we don't want to deal with them. Or we lack the power to change them.

So I while don't think we're falling into some bottomless well of wrongdoing like Stalin's Soviet or Mao's China or Hitler's Germany and I don't fear that we will reap a whirlwind of revenge from other nations, I am less and less inclined to involve myself in or sacrifice myself and my own for them.

It seems to me that we're going the way of 18th Century Spain, or Great Britain in the last century; a slow, steady slide into desuetude. Inconsequence for our grandees, relative poverty for peasants like me and mine. Ever more encounters with the niggling irritants of decline; things that don't work, business undone, carelessness, problems that might be mistakes or that might be deliberate. The top and bottom will continue to drift apart; the top spume will float off in frivolous excess, the heavy bottom mass subside into whipped indifference.

All set to the blaring inanities of advertising jingles.

This is how our world ends; not with a bang, but with a Levitra commercial.

So, you ask; what now?

Well, as luck would have it, I currently live in a good part of the world. The Pacific Northwest has long been blessed by a mild climate and a spectacular coincidence of land and water. Our soils - when we stop paving them over - are marvelously fertile, our forests - when we can resist clearcutting them - wellsprings of life.

Oregon is a verdant mixture of city and farm, forest and desert, mountain and valley.

Although we have backcountry full of goobers, birthers, and inbreds, we have a surprisingly communal pack of freebooters and innovators here.

If there is anyplace in the U.S. I have hope for it is here. We need to club our Teatards, and yes, we have them, like the rabid weasels they are. We need to quit sucking up to our malefactors of great wealth. But here, at least, is a place I have hope that I can make a difference.

And within this circle are even smaller ones that I can hope to keep the good and effect to change the wrong; my community of St. Johns, my children's school, my city of Portland.

I don't pretend that I can shelter all of these inner circles from the storms that rage outside. We have more than our share of fools that are raptured by the foolery on the Big Stage; we cannot cut off the television or the radio and still the voices of the infotainment buffoonery that we've embraced as a nation.

But we can reply with our own brand of commonsense. We - I - can hope to make here some sort of sane alternative to the ignorance and fatuity of the nation at large. In my children I can hope to instill some degree of sense as well, enough, I hope, that they will see the world and its lunacies with the eyes of compassion...but of clarity, as well, and of unsparing honesty.

So while I have the wisdom to know what I cannot change, I hope I have the strength to change what I can, here, within the shadow of my own fir tree and the sun that shines down upon my home.


Ael said...

I think a good part of the secret is to be well away from the center of Empire!

Here in Canada, a lot of our overly ambitious scalywags head south to the "big leagues" to make their mark.

This natural venting allows us back-country hicks to have fairly decent, if unambitious, lives.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the curse part of the "interesting times" hoary comment.

Pluto said...

I'm completely in agreement with you, Chief. I've been working the local angle (as opposed to the national angle) for the last 6 years or so and am generally pleased with the results.

I've also been looking at the long-term sustainability issues of our local economy and am mostly pleased. We've got access to oil courtesy of AEL's hometown. Our forests and mines are reasonably well managed. We're getting more sensible all the time about our extensive agriculture sector (but still have a ways to go).

I've really only got two major concerns: the first is that schools are slipping in quality because our educational system is too expensive and not results-oriented enough. The second is that our infrastructure is REALLY falling apart under the pressure of heavy usage and our challenging weather.

I can't exactly say that we're in good shape regarding the next 50 years but the trendlines, at least at the moment, are mostly heading in the right direction.

If push comes to shove, I may have to relocate to a better part of the world and yours looks pretty good.

Lisa said...

"We either don't want to hear about them. Or we don't want to deal with them. Or we lack the power to change them"

Perhaps most people suffer this ostrich-like tendency. Hunkering down, defense-offense comes naturally b/c, well, the barbarians are outside the gates (actually, we may be the barbarians, too.)

You would make such a fabulous representative, but you are too honest ... and that thought makes me sad. The best we can do is help our little corner flourish, and I do believe any good we contribute helps tip the universal scales to the right side.