Tuesday, February 27, 2007


A previous Post (“Crime and Governance”) had discussed a very valuable book by Jon Simon entitled “Governing Through Crime”.

His thesis is that over the course of the past half-century or so “crime” has gone from being an unavoidable aspect of life that the government – with its monopoly on violence – has a responsibility to address within the framework of Constitutional praxis to being the blazing pretext upon which the police power of the government can continually expand into the lives of citizens.

Concomitantly, the ‘ideal citizen’ now is not the frontiersman or the pioneer or the farmer or the industrial worker but rather the ‘victim of crime’. And for that ‘victim’, and on behalf of that ‘victim’, the police power of the government will wage sleepless – even pre-emptive – war against perps perverse, probable, possible. The media, needless to say, find such ‘wars’ hugely telegenic and tirelessly profitable; far more than oil wells, the public’s capacity to feel fear and anxiety, the public’s capacity to seek vengeance, the public’s dark but abiding dislike of ‘others’, the public’s capacity to feel better when strong actions are taken, never run dry.

The consequences of drinking too deeply too long from such wells are only now becoming clear.

And so, Simon says, ‘crime’ becomes ‘Crime’: not an event or a pattern of acts, perpetrated by identifiable individuals and addressable by competent police action and judiciously formulated social policy – all with the Constitutional framework. Rather: a handy torch that will stampede the citizen-herd into granting (or at least acquiescing-in) the exponentially increasing authority of the government to expand the writ of its police power. Feelings are all: frighten them, outrage them, get them all worked up – just don’t let them slow down to think or to look or to ask questions.

Do whatever it takes to find perpetrators of great evil. If there aren’t enough of them, if they aren’t doing enough awful stuff, hook up with the media and create the appearance that they are.

Do not go near ‘malefactors of great wealth’. Keep it all focused on ‘perpetrators of great evil’. What is vivid and awful is best; that it might be infrequent or even rare is of no consequence. What might have happened is good enough; that it might not have happened or could not have happened is of much less consequence.

On the basis of the ‘emergency’ such awfulness creates, get citizens used to your doing things that not so long ago were considered beyond police or government authority. Keep up the pressure on the citizens through more vivid and sustained and selective focus on the worst possible crime. Don’t let anyone snow you with ‘reason’ or ‘thought’.

Label anyone who questions your authority to go after a perp as a perp himself.

Remind everyone who sees you: you are doing this for the people. Promise them that you will enforce zero-tolerance; heck, tell them you’re going to eradicate evil.

If they question your authority, tell them that you as the police are the moral guardians of society and anyone who questions what you do must be immoral.

The media will help you with all of this.

Extremism in the service of the citizens’ safety is no vice. Moderation is no virtue.


The similarity of all this to the German experience of the early-1930s cannot be gainsaid.

In that prior Post I named the type of government that would pursue such a programme as the “National Crime State”, a mode of governance based on warring-against-crime the same way that the National Security State is based on preserving “national security”.

But I don’t think that’s adequate. Grammatically, “Crime” still looks too much like "crime”. And we are all by now conditioned – and not inappropriately – to hiss and claw when we encounter the subject of crime.

I’m going to call it Krime. I define Krime as the use of criminal activity – real or imagined – or victimization by criminal activity – actual or feared – by the government as a pretext for expanding its powers within our society and our culture, by manipulating the acquiescence of the citizens through fear and/or outrage.

I am not thereby plumping for a return to the 1960s’ idea that criminals are simply misunderstood or that crime is simply activity that the police disapprove of or the French idea that crime is so crazy to begin with that a perpetrator is by definition too whacked-out to be held responsible and prosecuted.

But I am asserting that crime must be dealt with through intelligent and effective law enforcement and criminal justice praxis and social policy, after due deliberation by citizens widely and accurately informed by a responsible media, and after some consensus has been reached by the citizenry in its vital Constitutional role as The People.

And I am asserting that in consequence of the foregoing, such enforcement and praxis must conform to the traditional Western principles of Justice enshrined in the Constitution, and that the Integrity of Constitutional Process must take priority over the immediate furtherance of any tactical cause through the implementation of any programme, however well-intentioned or worthwhile.

That being said, I’d say that Krime is the greatest threat this country faces right now.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007


It’s been discussed several times on this site: not only is there a similarity between the assorted dynamics sustaining the sex-offense mania and those sustaining the Iraq War mania, but also that just as we are starting to see the consequences of those dynamics ripping our little war apart as it comes into contact with actual reality on the ground over there, so too we are starting to see this sex-offense mania starting to fray as it comes into contact with certain realities it had for so long avoided (including the reality of citizens now tolerating less unreality). And that in the face of that downturn, we could expect the sex-offense ‘advocates’ to behave pretty much as the Incumbency and its neocon and Fundamentalist cheerleaders have been behaving in the matter of Iraq.

While not wishing to beat a dead horse, it’s clear that the horse is not dead.

There is an article in “The Washington Post” for February 23rd (“Abuse Victims Demand More Than a Check From the Church”, by Alan Cooperman; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/23/AR2007022301814_pf.html).

Just when you think it’s safe to go back. But of course, this whole sex-offender mania – now nearing the quarter-century mark in one or another of its forms – is not simply an emotional shivering of the popular spine; American history is littered with record of such spasdic tremors that came and went, causing – like the occasional hurricane or tornado – its modicum of damage and destruction. No, this sex-offense mania is the demon-child of a truly unholy alliance: Revolutionaries representing feminist interests and advanced-level Advocacies seeking to keep themselves in a remunerative business (both supported by the vote-hungry Democrats) and an increasingly prosecutorial approach to national governance and a Fundamentalistic rage against society’s perceived utter-decadence (both supported by the Right and the Republicans as presently constituted, in support of the National Crime State).

We recall that the Roman Catholic Church was singled out early-on. In the mid-1980s, after the abducted-children scares of the late 1970’s (that gave us milk-carton photos of reportedly abducted children) and just after the child-day-care scares had begun to burn themselves out and as the violence against women phase of feminist law-twisting was still ramping up for its take-off roll, there were several publicized cases of Catholic priests (in the South, curiously enough) who had in some form or other (precision is almost always lacking in these things) become involved sexually with parishioners. The particular instances seemed to be grave in terms of the act(s) perpetrated, and applicable criminal process was administered.

In the early 1990s there was another spate, not among other denominations but once again against the Catholic Church: this time it was in New England and civil-litigation attorneys, with which the area is well-supplied, took increasing professional note. And after a couple of publicized criminal trials at least one accused went to prison, where he has subsequently died of illness and age. Later, an even older one in prison was murdered outright.

Much water flowed under the bridge in the nation, up to and including 9-11 and the beginning of the tectonic changes it stimulated in this county. But then in January 2002 “The Boston Globe”, purchased by “The New York Times” and under the tutelage of a satrap appointed by the oddly-unripe “Junior” Sulzberger, reported that there were vast numbers of unreported cases, involving children, and especially boys, and probably hundreds of priests, and a massive cover-up engineered by a secretive and powerful conspiracy of bishops here and in Rome.

Assisted by assorted civil-litigation lawyers who aimed for the reputed fabulous wealth of the Roman Catholic Church, and a media that quietly expanded and elasticized the definition of a targeted action and accepted without question the self-declaration of ‘victimhood’ by whomever came forward to tell their story … the whole thing had the distant but distinct ring of certain Fundamentalist tremors of earlier times, though suitably upgraded and fortified by fresh coalitions of willing interests.

The matter proceeded to fireball quickly, as courts shifted rules of evidence out of ‘sensitivity’, and the media refrained from any questioning of any claims out of ‘sensitivity’, and bishops began to be advised by counsel that to defend in this atmosphere would be highly imprudent. Despite the paucity of actual criminal convictions – and even of reported cases – compared to the numbers of ‘probable’ offenses asserted by assorted ‘experts’ and amplified in the media, huge amounts of money were acquired through a process which quickly came to assume iconic status: claims were made, often decades old, and attorneys who made themselves available for the purpose had in most cases only to contact the bishop’s office for discussions as to amount to begin.

The bishops showed themselves less than courageous in their dealing with the whole thing. But they hadn’t gotten where they were – most of them – by a path of aggressive and cut-throat assertion. They served a Church long used to the foibles of humankind and grew up in a hothouse clerical-culture that had not prepared them for the exertions of the legions.

Nor would the legions have been of much use in the situation as it hardened: media coverage was ‘simplified’ to parroting unquestioningly the claims that were announced and following such few ‘trials’ as actually took place, while amplifying the assertions of self-designated ‘experts’ whose ‘knowledge’ indicated a vast conspiracy of grossly-deformed but mysteriously powerful super-perp priests who fed on their flocks – especially children and especially boys – like vampires, which web of slavering perversion extended in Space throughout the world and in Time back “at least to” the 1940s and was abetted up the ranks of the hierarchy all the way to the Popes themselves.

In rare historical forays, a particularly enterprising reporter or tendentious researcher might note that even as far back as this or that medieval council in this or that long-vanished century the Church had made laws against this sort of thing, which proved invariably that the conspiracy was long-and-deep-rooted. That such historical realities might rather clearly indicate that the Church was consistently taking a clear stand against such acts and behaviors, as she had against so many of the sins that did and do beset human-kind, was oddly not a possibility – indeed a probability – that detained the minds of any of the ‘reporters’ or ‘scholars’.

It was enough – in the fine phrase of Robert Lewis Taylor – “to give any sane drinker pause”, contemplating the curiously but consistently skewed dynamics sustained by all involved in the ‘war’ against this infamy.

As always happens in this sort of thing, matters reach a point of diminishing returns. The well runs dry, or the wells: money, public interest, media attention. As the emotional frenzy subsides, however, there grows the increasing danger that more rational minds and tempers might actually start to examine the claims and the assertions, and even take stock of the damage caused by the stampede. As the neocons are discovering to their great dismay in the foreign policy area, so too we might expect the assorted sex-mania participants to fear: their binge being over, there might be consequences. This, in theory, would create among those who batten on such stampedes a distinctive self-protective reaction: further claims will have to be put forth to keep the ball rolling. If the ball stops then popular opinion slows down to a speed where it can look carefully and think about what’s going on. And it may well not be amused.

We had seen a test-balloon along these lines several months ago: the “New York Times”, in support of its subsidiary’s need for reinforcement, suddenly ran out of the blue an editorial on “rogue priests”. This was, at first glance, confusing; in our current usage “rogue” applied to nations, and very nasty and dangerous ones at that – if the Bush administration was to be believed. The editors of the “Times”, however, had expanded the meaning of “rogue”, while simultaneously borrowing its cachet as a term of fear-and-opprobrium in order to deploy against a target of their own choosing.

That target turned out to be: priests. No, not the ones a) declared by criminal process (such as it is nowadays in these matters) to be guilty; and not b) the ones whose bishops simply decided (prudently, all things considered) to pay a whole bunch of civil claims at once and not to take the astronomically expensive path of trying to defend each civil lawsuit individually (as has been noted above, criminal cases are – in light of the purported numbers of “horrific” crimes that must be out there – very very very infrequent).

No, the priests in the sights of the “Times” at this point were not formally accused. They are men who have, under the general miasmic cloud of this thing, left the active ministry – not thrown out, not defrocked, but simply resigned and taken other paths. These, bray the editors ominously, constitute a huge and unseen danger. They have ‘escaped’ supervision; that they were never found guilty or in need of it is a relevant point that is (not surprisingly) left un-raised. The clear and present danger is that these unseen monsters are loose among us now, and utterly unrestrained by the very ‘experts’ whose ‘knowledge’ assures us that they are/must be guilty of … something.

So in addition to increasingly expansive definitions of ‘sex offense’ (that now don’t even require one’s physical presence at the offending incident), and the assurance that ten or a hundred more times the number of offenses exist than are ever reported, and the fact that anyone who bothers to make a claim is automatically designated for publicity purposes as a ‘victim’, and the skewing of the justice system and the laws to make it almost impossible n-o-t to be ‘guilty’, the “Times” now seeks to increase the target-pool by going after priests who have not been discovered to have been guilty at all.

As is the case in so many of these Advocacy-gambits, you can keep yourself in business ad infinitum this way. The feminist advocacy’s demand for same-gender units in the military, by demanding a totally risk-free environment, and then placing its ‘victims’ in a situation where the very laws of nature guarantee there will not be totally risk-free environment, virtually guarantees ‘incidents’ from now until the end of Time or the human species, whichever comes first; it’s an entrepreneur’s wettest dream come true.

So too with this priest-abuse advocacy: by constantly expanding the definition of ‘abuse’ and ‘molest’, and removing the due-process and evidentiary obstructions to accusatory and inferential stampedes, and guaranteeing any claimant that no claim will be seriously examined or even questioned, and producing ‘experts’ to claim that there is a ‘silent majority’ of these crimes – vaster by quantum factors than the reported ones – that are unreported (and how indeed verify that claim?) … well, this is a cottage-industry that can take its business plan and make an IPO.

The hugely toxic and dangerous legal premise underlying this whole thing is: yeah, well just because we can’t really ‘know’ and just because we can’t really ‘prove’ it one way or the other, that doesn’t mean that we can’t criminally process and punish people for it. This stuns. The entire Constitutional praxis, and it goes back to England’s long fight against arbitrary government power, is that a citizen cannot be subjected to the police/criminal power of the government unless very clear process is carefully followed. So to say that an allegation cannot be proven one way or the other but let’s do this anyway … this renders any due process moot; it's like slathering butter and sour cream lathered onto a rotted potato.

And if such due process is applied when it is understood clearly that the gravamen of the charge cannot be reached no matter how carefully the process is applied, then such cynical and fraudulent deployment of the government power betrays the fundaments of the Republic itself and corrupts the administration and the administrators of its Law. And that is not a good thing, no matter how many shorter-term objectives might be served. And over the long haul, consequences will intensify and amplify exponentially, throughout our culture and our society and our civilization and the very structures of our government.

And it didn’t start with this priest-abuse thing. The priest-abuse mania is only a sub-mutation of the original feminist (of whichever Wave, perhaps now disowned) strategy: if we want to weaken the position of ‘men’, and open space for women, in this society, then we are in for a long haul and we need a weapon that a) can jumpstart this whole thing and also b) can last long enough so that we won’t have to worry about not having anything to beat on them with. And the winner was … sex. Who can be surprised? It was a shrewd, kinda obvious, choice. Given the undeniable male proclivity for sex – that seems clearly to be a product not of patriarchal Western culture but of Nature itself – then it can provide eternal fuel for the Cause the way atomic reactors provide eternal fuel for aircraft carriers. And so – as at Santa Anita – they were off.

Thus to this article by Mr. Cooperman. As is the practice nowadays, the article (“report” almost seems too generous) starts with a sad story, yet with an uplifting ending. A pair of parents, now long dead, were spared a great pain and allowed a great victory this month when the body of a priest that had lain only 20 feet from their own graves was dug up and moved to a cemetery 5 miles away; the priest had reportedly “serially molested” their three sons over the course of several “horrific” years back in the 1950s and it is only now that these three children – in their 50s and 60s themselves – had, as part of a three-quarter-million dollar settlement with the diocese – demanded that exhumation would be necessary for their “healing”. This, opines a law school professor, “validates that it happened and it wasn’t their fault”. So the priest, whose remains had been in the grave since his death in 1960, was dug up and trucked away. The reporter fades out with the scene of the three elderly men, with their wives, standing at the graves of their parents (Mom died in 1976, Dad in 1988) “for the first time in many years”, proclaiming that “it was a joyous occasion”. The parents had never been told and had never known.

It’s hard to know what to do with something like this. Certainly, if a priest had committed serial rape, especially of three brothers over the course of four or five years, and had hidden the matter and warned them not to talk about it because it would violate the seal of the confessional, then it is heinous sin and crime.

That the priest has been dead for half-a-century and this is only now coming to light prevents us or the criminal trial – specifically designed for the purpose – from making a determination of what actually did happen. That none of three boys told their parents (Dad was head of the parish council and great friends with the priest) at any time in the ensuing 20 or 30 years although it is cast as a happy, all-American family seems odd. That the parents never noticed anything amiss though their sons were apparently being serially raped one after the other seems odd. That these dedicated children hadn’t been to the cemetery to visit their parents’ graves in years is odd. That they just happen to do so when the reporter is there is not odd – it exudes a whiff of calculation.

That the bishop agreed to a settlement is not surprising: clearly, even the attempt to defend oneself or one’s deceased predecessors or colleagues or one’s Church is – under the present arrangements – itself an admission of guilt and even of complicity; but, far more telegenically, even the merest skepticism of a claim constitutes ‘re-victimization’ of a (self-proclaimed) victim all over again. The very fact that ‘victim’ status is available for the claiming without any effort at verification bodes ill for anyone trying to get at the truth. Nor are bishops selected for their feistiness and chutzpah these days.

That the ‘claims’ are factually impossible to verify yet emotionally impossible to deny is one of the shrewder achievements of the Advocacy in this whole now professionally-directed mania: abetted by ‘experts’ with their ‘knowledge’, any doubt as to the factuality of the claim is squelched (not answered) through the peculiar ‘mystery’ and ‘horror’ of sexual experience and ‘violation’; it is a bit of circular argument and flummery worthy of the best 19th-century American hucksterism and the most advanced totalitarian jurisprudential praxis. A horrible thing – so bad that you don’t need proof – so bad that you shouldn’t ask – so mysterious that you can’t ask anyway because you can never know – so bad that to ask about it would simply hurt the claimant all over again – so bad that to doubt the claimant would itself be almost a crime … none of this proves that a claim did or did not happen, but it sure as hell gives you pause. And it sounds sooooo very much like the same play that was run by Us as the Iraq invasion was ramping up. Remember WMD? Imminently deployable?

Of course, the fact that the money is running out, and the public is growing more skeptical of ‘claims’ that cannot-be-refuted-because-it’s-an-emergency cannot be ignored. One could make the case that in order to keep the ball rolling, the professional PR folks who constitute the advanced-level Advocacy industry have advised going for non-cash awards: it keeps the ball rolling and – now that folks aren’t so gullible – it will look better. And you can get an awful lot of mileage out of horror-stories that cannot be tested or even doubted.

Will all that help these three claimants? What actually happened decades ago and in the intervening decades in the lives of these particular claimants? What seems certain is that we are going to see a lot more of this sort of thing now. And on an ominous level this sort of thing represents a toxic synergy between a for-profit advocacy industry, a media happy with less ‘reporting’ and more emoting, and a government seeking to smooth its path to increased police power through scaring and frightening people with the horrors and emergencies of ‘Crime’. On this level those elements of the feminist revolution who helped start this sex-crime mania and the many victims – actual and not – have been made into pawns, to be trotted out – as Bush trotted out a brassy-blue background of any available cops and firemen for post-9/11 photo ops – when opportune.

But I just finished reading Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style In American Politics”, and there’s even more oddness. He describes the vision and characterizations of themselves, their situation, their projects and their opponents that were common to those right-wing elements that – from the late-‘40s and to the mid-‘60s - were considered the looney fringe of the Republican Party. I’ll Post more on his political insights in the near future, but in reading this sex-offense story I couldn’t help but note some striking similarities.

Hofstadter notes that the paranoid style was primarily to be found among American Protestants, and not in the mainstream denominations of Protestantism but in the less-organized, more fundamentalistic small churches, more rurally located.

He notes that there had been a history of violent American Protestant outbursts against ‘others’ perceived to be threats, and that among these were Freemasons, immigrants, racial ‘others’ and – my, my – Catholics. Sex – in any and all imaginable combinations of illicitness – was frequently a factor in the charges they leveled against those ‘others’.

The classic scenario went like this: There is a vast and secret conspiracy / this enemy is powerful and monolithic and surrounds us and has infiltrated us and can strike at any time / it is bent upon doing evil to us / its perpetrators are horribly depraved yet very skilled and powerful and exert mysterious forces over us / we are fighting a war / it is an all-or-nothing war where we will either completely triumph or be totally destroyed / our very existence is at stake / there is not much time / one is either totally with us or is against us and with ‘them’ / there can be no middle-ground / anything less than immediate action with all our energy is treason and disloyalty / thinking and discussing and seeking ‘consensus’ is treason / doubt is a failure of faith and courage and is treason.

And of course, as it was so succinctly put by Barry Goldwater in 1964: “Moderation in the defense of liberty is no virtue; extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

A couple of things jump out here: First is that this ‘paranoid’ style is easily transferable from the hyper-religious Fundamentalist to the hyper-secular revolutionary and 'advocate'. And thus in a climate a half-century after Goldwater where the ‘fundamentalist fringe’ became the Ascendant power in the Republican Party and in national politics, and where the assorted revolutions of the Identities were seeking to ram through their agendas, using this or that ‘emergency’ to justify their on-going ‘struggle’ against this or that group, it can only seem a very unsurprising coincidence that the Catholic Church has been continually put upon.

Add to this that it was the Catholic Church in the early-1980s that stood against Reagan’s nuclear policies and his support of authoritarian governments in Central and South America, and one can see why a US government bent on pre-emptive war based on false pretenses and indentured to its fundamentalist base while seeking to ground the dual blessings of the imperial and the prosecutorial state … why a government thus configured would find itself not unreconciled to the distraction and diminution of the Catholic Church’s political influence.

Add to this, as John Gray notes in his book “Heresies” that it is Christianity – far more than Theory or the revolutions or secularism or even ‘humanism’ – that has a realistic vision and praxis toward “homo rapiens”. As with the neocons and the Incumbency in their plunge into Iraq, so too with the sex-manianistas and their plunge against men: the idea that ‘they’ will ‘only understand force’ was more a sop to one’s own defects and limitations than it was an accurate assessment of the actual state of affairs, and thus the whole expedition has been undertaken on awesomely wrong and thus ineffective and thus consequence-generating premises. The neocons have not been greeted as liberators; it may well be as the facts become clear that the revolutionistas will be similarly disappointed.

Not surprisingly, as skepticism increases, efforts to push the 'agenda' become more obvious. A play recently opened entitled "Doubt". It does a masterful job of complicating the matter of deciding if a sturdy nun's suspicion's of an otherwise effective priest's activities with young males of the congregation are or are not ... y'know ... t-h-a-t. The core genius of the play (and it's a sad commentary on the times that the exposition of such a once-common insight is now not illegitimately termed 'genius') is that not only is it difficult to decide about a particular action, but that it is notoriously difficult to tote up the good and bad in a man so as to decide whether his life is or is not the current American version of a life-not-deserving-of life. It goes without saying that such decisions are almost always best left to God, for the simple reason that as humans and especially when we're particularly agitated "our power to add or detract" is - famously - "poor".

One Margery Egan, resident feminista at a tabloid in Boston, allowed as how it's a very well-made play, and even allows that it is "a very unsettling place to be", this being in-doubt. Alas how true. And at this point in time - after all that's happened, bloodshed under government auspices not excluded - it's most damned well surely an unsettling place for a mania-nista to be: we're getting to that point in the movie where, having burned the town down in their night-frenzy, the erstwhile 'saviors' of the town are looking around at the smoking wreckage at dawn in awe that gives way to shock and then apprehension.

But her closing upset, as she retreats to the 'settling' security of familiar ground, is that the play is not socially redeeming because it might induce people who have given up believing in their Church to doubt the wisdom of that gambit - and that, she is sure, is counterproductive. Which, to the revolutionary agenda, it most certainly would be. She sniffs, en fin, that the play "has no clear conclusion". Ah yes, and as such it would get no staging in Moscow or Peking or Pyongyang. The essence of Socialist Realism, as it serves the revolutionary agenda, is to lead most clearly and vividly and loudly to a clear conclusion - indeed, to the only clear conclusion.

Comrade Egan is not amused. Have she and her pals made so long a march and put so many against the nearest wall thus now to be bethumped with intimations of uncertainty and its attendant humility? Not likely. I'd say, however, that folks might want to re-visit their religious attachments, and their entire attitude toward life's complexities (of which the Church has always been notoriously patient). They might even want to approach the revolution and kick some serious tire.

Second is that this style of thinking results not in a certain type of politics but rather in an anti-politics. It is radically inimical to the American tradition and to the democratic process, and thus to The People as well as to the vision embodied in the Constitution. That this type of anti-politics – with and without its religious trappings – has been the stock-in-trade of the Left and of the Right for decades must alert us that large and grave consequences must have already taken hold in the citizenry as well as in the structures and operating dynamics of the government. The role and dedication of the media, the role and skills of The People in their capacity as the Ground of the government as well as in their lives as individual citizens and persons … all these are harmed by the toxic corrosion of ‘paranoid’ thinking, a paranoid-thinking which makes ‘wars’ and ‘emergencies’ inevitable, which makes them indispensable to the governing of the country whether they actually are justified or not.

Third, as much damage may have already been done in the name of the ‘emergencies’ of the several domestic revolutions as has been done in the waging of foreign, pre-emptive wars of choice.

Fourth, the consequences of all that will come back to bethump Us. It can be no surprise that those States that went whole-hog for incarceration starting in the anti-drug ‘war’ 20 years ago are now shocked to find themselves facing the return to society of not-really-bad folks who have been locked up in a state prison for 20 years and return to society with some decidedly mixed feelings and hugely diminished social skills. The sex-mania’s solution to its own incarcerees has been to try to intimidate them through Registration and – if at all possible – preventive confinement in mental hospitals. The expense, as California has discovered, will be insupportable. As from the cakewalk in Iraq, our own troops return to us grievously wounded, many more in spirit and maturity than those awefully broken in body.

Fifth, go to Dan Froomkin’s fine article about “How the press can prevent another Iraq”(http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=00156). Wherever advice is given about dealing with a governmental entity (e.g. the Administration, the Pentagon, unofficial government sources) substitute Advocacy. So, for example: “You can’t be too skeptical of authority” becomes “You can’t be too skeptical of Advocacy”. I know: they’re only trying to help, whereas ‘government’ is baaad. Nope. Help or no help, if untruth – especially to the point of anti-truth – is being pumped into Our world, it’s got to be stopped, no matter how well-intentioned it might be. And let’s not forget that by this time there are no low-level mom&pop advocacy issues left … the little people are just fronts and pawns for professional, industrial-strength Advocacy that has an eye not on truth but on an Agenda and on the bottom-line). As this gets worse, and it all will, We will need to muster and sustain a seriousness that can be imparted to our national elected officials (currently debauched) and our government (currently addicted to the paranoid stylings of the Left and the Right).

Meanwhile, modernity staggers on, secure in the delusion that it is advancing. That this might not actually be the case is intimated by the fact that among many other habits of mind and thought that we have recently plucked from more primitive times, the sex-offense advocates have taken to digging up the dead in order to make examples of them; this charming blend of theatre and an almost pagan insistence on the merely human elements of what is a much Larger existence, was last seen when Catholics (themselves!) dug up the corpses of - among others - former Popes to try them for a heresy which the perpetrator had been adjudged to have harbored in life and for which he had 'escaped' punishment by shrewdly dying.

And it is not only the actual digging up, jaw-dropping a primitivism as it is. We have heard far too often in regard to a deceased and 'accused' priest the plaint of a claimant that the guy had now 'escaped' punishment. Which, not least among other things, bespeaks a Flatness far worse than any 'molesting' could ever inflict or maintain.

Molesters - real and manufactured - and claimants - legitimate and not - will come and go, will have their time, as so many frissons and individual lives do in this world. Flatness abides, lethal but hidden, a dark gravitational pull that chokes and deforms all that spirit seeks to make of humans and of our lives and of our world. Against that awesome, awefull plague, that veil, that fog, that miasm - we must wage the primary struggle, as individuals and as a society and as a civilization.

This is not the message of the advocacies and their flaks. To keep matters stuffed in the Flatness renders people far less capable of dealing with such experiences as they face, renders them far more dependent on the professional advocacies and - so dangerously - the gummint, and all their pomps and all their works. This is not the path of wisdom. It will bear evil fruit.

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In “The New York Review of Books” J.M. Coetzee reviews Norman Mailer’s imaginative biography of Hitler, “The Castle in the Forest” (www.nybooks.com/articles/19851).

Coetzee quickly raises the question: Is it possible that some humans are born evil? Or if not at birth, then when do certain individuals ‘turn’ evil? How?

These are philosophical questions, and as such they are far too rare these days in the West. That’s so because the current and only acceptable mode of our societal discourse is not at all equipped to handle such complex and fundamental inquiry. Keep it ‘simple’ and keep it on the surface: this has been the gameplan of the revolutionaries of the Left as it has been of the manipulators from the Right. Keep it simple and on the surface, and let those acceptable emotions (shock, outrage, in-your-face, etc.) roll!

The natural ‘subject’ of the National Crime State is ‘the victim’, and the ‘natural’ and now obligatory discourse of ‘the victim’ is comprised solely of retelling the cause of the pain (with or without proof) and then limning one’s feelings about what has happened to one. On the basis of this discourse, huge chunks of the foundational supports of Western, Constitutional, democratic society and culture have been ripped away; rescuing people from the Horror can be rather destructive work, as we now know from the Iraq adventure.

In response to such questions as the nature of evil in the world and the source of individuals’ bad acts, a mere recitation of one’s own alleged experiences of being badded-against and one’s consequent feelings about it are very largely ineffectual. But in reality one must, like the sturdy sea-dogs of the Age of Sail, engage the threat resolutely and efficiently and – one hopes – victoriously; so one has to face ‘evil’ and come to grips with it: where it comes from, how it works, how best to deal with it. But then, ‘sturdy sea-dogs’ are not what the National Security State, or the National Nanny State, or the National Imperial State, or the National Corporate State, or the National Crime State really want: those ‘states’ want obedient, stable, steady and unquestioning herbivores, ungulants that will eagerly swallow whatever their shepherds see fit to push their way.

And of course, if it’s hard enough to figure out what to do with any individual’s evil(s), what do we do with a government’s ‘bad’ acts? It seems that governments have arrogated to themselves in the moral realm the prerogative they enjoy in the economic realm: just as they control the money so they can’t be held to the usual budgetary responsibilities that individual citizens are, so too they can’t be held to the same moral standards that individuals are. And it seems that a lot of citizens are no longer well-prepared to perceive or to explain (even to themselves) just what it is that is wrong with that gambit.

But judging the morality or immorality, the ‘good’ or the ‘evil’ that a government does, is hard enough; courage of a special sort is required to speak Truth to Power. What happens if your culture no longer accepts that ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are acceptable categories of judgment? Or that ‘judgment’ is not an acceptable activity? Or that such abstractions as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ – let alone ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ – don’t really exist anyway? What happens then to the already-quivering flame of Courage? And if there is no Courage to defend it, what happens to Truth? And if there is no Courage to oppose it, what will limit Power’s voracious, predatory hunt to find whom it may devour?

These are all great questions, says Coetzee, but not ones that biographers are happy to face: after all, how much can we really ‘know’ about another human being? Which is a very modest and wise question to pose. But in the long and multifarious rush to raise up an enemy or a ‘perp’ about whom we may enjoy ‘simple and pure clarity’, haven’t both Left and Right, secularist and fundamentalist, immodestly barreled right on through the flashing roadblocks? What did one need to know about ‘men’ except that they were all rapists, only that some haven’t been found out yet. What did one need to know about Muslims or Iraqis, except that they were … well, it turns out they weren’t so simply and purely construed after all. We simplified our own picture of them, but – perversely – they actually didn’t take the trouble to conform to the picture we had in our collective mind. Imagine our surprise when we actually came into their presence and …

This false ‘simplicity’, this ‘clarity’has not been achieved by the long twilight struggle of sustained effort to understand enough so as to formulate the most useful questions, and then to start the process of answering the questions. It has been achieved by the childish gambit of sweeping the troublesome pieces of the board, conceptually, and then – addict-like – surfing the ‘high’ that such a skipping-homework tactic temporarily provides.

The media, ‘journalists’, ‘the press’ have pandered to this as business and bottom-line concerns: they have turned The People into audiences and into ‘consumers’ who have to be kept happy. And this is a genuine, if untrumpeted, disaster for Us and for the Republic. And, as stated in several of the recent “Moyers” Posts here, the media started to slide in the decades of the Democrats’ desperate and blank-check pandering to the Identities and the Advocacies, resulting in ‘advocacy journalism’, which is the erection of professional imbecility into a plan: the role of the media in the Republic is not to make the case for this or that still-unsettled agenda (let alone a dozen serially); it is to report the facts and the truth as very best the reporter can discern them, and let the People deliberate. But such is not the method of revolutions, and the media had their fun surfing those waves, abandoning Truth and the Republic for fun ‘on the cutting edge’ of ‘elite’ thought.

Yet even a decade before all that, as Glenn Garvin points out in the March 2007 issue of “Reason”, Herbert Matthews of “The New York Times” declared that a reporter’s “passion” was as important as his objectivity, and on that basis, romanticized an almost powerless and isolated young Fidel Castro into a public-relations sensation back there in the very late 1950s. It is a sign of Matthews’ Bushian stubbornness (or would we want to say his manliness and persistence?) that up until his death in 1977 Matthews insisted that Castro wasn’t a Communist and that he was bringing only good to the Cuban people, even after Castro admitted candidly that he most certainly was a Communist and had lashed his steadfastly blood-thirsty regime to Moscow.

Mailer isn’t actually doing a biography here, in the accepted sense of the word. He is doing a sort of ‘imaginative’ biography; to him, the ‘truth’ reached poetically has never been inferior to the ‘truth’ reached through the observation and determination of this or that fact. Artistic license in the service of truth is a verrry potent but also potentially explosive mix: only people who really know what they’re doing should be doing it. In order to achieve a ‘truthful’ result, you have to be dedicated and long-practiced – indeed a participant in – the stream of Truth that like the jetstream itself barrels along Up there, invisible to the earthbound and the horizontally-confined. Otherwise, there is a very strong tendency to simply use ‘poetic license’ as an excuse for whatever you want to do, rather than in order to describe whatever it is that you somehow sense that Truth is doing.

And once you’ve yawed off down that path, there’s no telling where you’ll end up: if you want to be seen as a winner and so claim Unitary authority to declare major hostilities ended – say – but you really don’t know what the Truth of the hostilities might be … you could wind up spending a long long time trying to force Truth into the little box you’ve made for it, the one you want it to fit in, and wind up just making a box for yourself. Or – if you’re big enough – a whole bunch of boxes for the little people who tried to follow your path to ‘truth’ because you told them to.

Hitler, Coetzee thinks Mailer is going for, was deeply attracted to the ‘great man theory of history’. That theory – which may seem alien, and is perhaps unknown, to many nowadays – presumed that the real ‘history’, the great deeds that set the course of large events, was made by this or that ‘great man’, not by the majority, the common people, the ordinary and mediocre people, just trudging through their days. Whether Hitler was weak and trying to compensate by identifying with a ‘Great Theory’ (which would make him a sorta ‘great man’ by osmosis) or whether he was somehow ‘evil’ and his so-called ‘great’-ness was merely the morally demented power of someone serving true evil … who can tell? We can ask the same questions about the neocons, so recently seen trying to pose in Great Man (and that goes for the woman among them) poses for “Vanity Fair”. Are they cocky weaklings or evil servants of the demimonde?

But much to our enrichment, Coetzee brings up “two drifters on the fringes”: Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and Stavrogin in Tolstoy’s “The Possessed”. In each of these two characters his respective author was trying to come to grips with those human beings “who think they can take a shortcut to great-man status by divorcing goodness from greatness and committing what they fancy to be great crimes”.

How long has it been since Americans even realized that these were the stakes and possible moves in the game? What generations of Americans can look at the sentence and even discern the issues, let alone work toward an answer? Is there a difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’? What would make ‘good’ distinct from and different from ‘great’? What would the ‘long way’ around to ‘great-man status’ be? Is it possible to “shortcut” the way? Or ‘a’ way – is there more than one way to take the shortcut? If you can be ‘great’ even if you commit a crime … what does that say about the desirability of ‘greatness’? Can you be ‘good’ even if you commit a crime? If your intentions are ‘good’? Is that even possible? Or if there’s more to you than the part of you that commits the crime? Is that possible? Even if it’s possible, is it important enough to matter? To whom?

Closely related to that gravid binary, is the Romantic conception of ‘genius’ as being a free agent, indentured neither to ‘good’ nor to ‘evil’, but existing in a realm beyond good and evil. Does such a realm exist? Can anything exist free of the ‘judgment’ of good or evil? Can any human being exist ‘there’, wherever one is free of the judgment of being ‘good’ or ‘evil’, or at least of having one’s acts thus adjudged? If all it takes to ‘achieve’ the status of ‘moral genius’ or ‘moral superman’ is to commit a crime so great that it will prove its perpetrator to be above such mediocre matters as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ … then what is the value of being such a genius or superman? Is submission to the judgment of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ a sign of mediocrity? Is the ability to function beyond ‘good’ and ‘evil’ a sign of greatness and genius? If not in a person, could it be in a government? Can governments even ‘be’ immoral? ‘Evil’? ‘Good’? Or can only people be? Why?

There was a time when the questions could as least be raised, and searching for an answer – even a provisional one – was considered a worthwhile investment of one’s time and effort. If such is no longer the case, how did it come about thus? Is it a desirable state of affairs that it has come to this? If it isn’t, how might we try to recover what has been lost?

Coetzee notes that “Hitler was obsessed with his place in history”. More tellingly, Hitler tells Speer “For me there are two possibilities: to succeed with my plans entirely, or to fail. If I succeed I will be one of the greatest men in history – if I fail, I will be condemned, rejected, damned.” I think that here we can see a hugely dangerous and toxic synergy brewing: A) Rather than focusing on the substantive challenge of mastering his own self in the present Moment in Time that he inhabited, Hitler escapes such ‘presence’ to himself by investing his energies in the (largely irrelevant) matter of how he would be judged in the (ephemeral) opinion of future generations. B) In order to prove his ‘greatness’ he sets himself a problem that is admittedly ‘great’, the better to ‘prove’ his own greatness. C) He effectively avoids the actual and classically hard work of working through the ‘great’ problem he has thus set himself – that of climbing the Ladder of Perfection toward Goodness and Greatness – by not only cutting out Goodness but by embracing the far more quick-burning and accessible primality in the human (and his own) personality: crime and evil can be just as legitimate a demonstration of ‘greatness’ as any achievement of morality and ‘Goodness’.

Thus you get to remain a moral adolescent while claiming the mantle of a long-struggling adult whose maturity has been achieved through the hard, sustained soul-work of years. This is a gambit that is hardly unique to Hitler (Dostoevsky and Tolstoy saw it, and they weren’t the first); it is also a gambit that quite obviously did not die with Hitler. It is a gambit to which American culture is particularly susceptible. As we are now beginning to realize. It is deeply similar to the immature and unripe fundamentalist psyche; it is hell and gone from the patient and persistent soul-shaping that has always been the ideal of the Kathlik vision.

And in a display of adolescent-mentation masquerading as adult strength, Hitler insists to Speer that A) there are only two possibilities and B) those are that either he utterly succeeds or he utterly fails. There is no nuance, no middle-ground, no room for the long, slow, torturous Climb that is humanity’s effort at its best. Instead there is the either-or, white-black, yes-no oversimplification that is indicative of maturational incompletion and unripeness; predictable in an adolescent, of concern in a chronologically older person; downright dangerous in chronologically older persons who have rigidly retained that incompletion and who have yet (American culture – business, military, political – enables them) attained great power: socially, financially, militarily, politically.

Hitler, Coetzee observes, surfs the Romantic notion that ‘genius’ raises one above the common herd, freeing someone thus gifted from the constraints of ‘ordinary’ life. Of course, it is one thing – and a desiderandum – to so shape one’s spirit that it can more easily respond to the invitations of Grace; like a sea captain who keeps his hull clean of barnacles, his rigging and sail in good order, and carefully steers so as to take full advantage of the wind. But – and here Romanticism ceased to work for our good – it is very much another thing to presume that a person who might thus enjoy a more vivid and palpable sense of Life’s fundamental Vitality – “Grace” as them Kathliks would say – is thereby free of all the moral restraints which classically define humanity at its best.

‘Classical’ and ‘perennial’ don’t mean ‘ordinary’ and ‘ordinary’ is not the same as ‘mediocre’ (another mistake the adolescent Boomers made when free-love was considered ‘cutting edge’ and they were young enough to make that hay while that sun was shining; but then, let’s not forget the teen generation of the 1920s). The Flatness of the postmodern world-view is now pervasive in our culture and our education through the awefull synergistic workings of the past four decades of Theory and the strategic pressures of the National Consumer State and the National Security State and the National Crime State.

Hannah Arendt famously described a phenomenon she called “the banality of evil”. Eichmann was or was not ‘ordinary’, but he was certainly a moral mediocrity: issues of Good and Evil did not seem to make an impression upon him or affect him; we might posit that he had found his ‘god’ – for all practical purposes – in an ‘organization’, and all that was then required was for him to stay within the lines set down by the organization and seek – as best he might – to advance along the course set down by the lines. So far so … typical; large numbers of human beings in complicated (not to say ‘advanced’) civilizations have instinctively sought this option as newborn creatures instinctively seek the mother’s teat. That the organization to which he attached himself was the Nazi extermination apparatus was already an issue beyond his imagination, a complication not necessary to introduce into his simplified, clarified life-plan. He would be reliable, constant, loyal – and that was more than many people could ever claim as employees and functionaries.

And therein lay the “banality”, I think. It was not Evil that was banal, nor the particular evils that he himself organized. It was Eichmann himself who was banal, morally banal. As his Fuhrer sought to avoid his own feared personal insufficiencies by seeking ‘greatness’ in ‘great things’, Eichmann sought to do so, and to impose some shape on his life and perhaps his own self, by seeking Order in a highly-organized, highly-circumscribed vision of what was and was not necessary in life; what was and was not necessary to ‘full’ humanity, human-ness, adulthood, manhood. Huge swaths of what we would call ‘human-ness’ were walled off and away in the service of a ‘life’ that he could manage. Perhaps also a ‘self’ that he could manage. Once therein ensconced, ‘the job’ – the ‘mission’ – was all that mattered. If he did that well, he would be happy enough.

That was the stuff of his banality, the locus of his mediocrity: his vision of human-hood and of his own self and (of course therefore) of other humans. The grasping of this point over the decades has been somewhat blunted by its contextual connection to the Holocaust. Otherwise it might more widely have been grasped, and early on, that many, many people in our civilization have chosen – functionally at least, although perhaps larded with religiosity or humanist sentimentality – this path, this vision, this shape for their life and their self. “Just doing my job” is surely one of the paving blocks to a certain hell, for oneself – ultimately – even as for others upon whom one’s action impose it. Indeed, “just focused on the mission” is a comment we are encouraged to hear when voiced by our soldiery. Yet as far back as the Nuremberg Principles it was clearly stated – and by a senior American jurist – that individual soldiers are indeed responsible for judging the essential legality of their orders, their ‘mission’. Even today this is being played out before our eyes in this country in the Watada court-martial case.

But if this banality is ever a threat in a highly organized and institutionalized civilization – and in a military without a doubt, then how much more toxic is this infection to a citizenry whose ‘immune system’ of a well-formed and well-informed mind and heart and character is largely compromised? What happens then?

We cannot afford mediocrity in this matter, even as we cannot afford the type of faux-‘greatness’ that refuses all harness, all trellising … and runs wild. Them Kathliks was always aware that wildness, in no matter how ‘good’ or ‘great’ a cause, was certain to bring disaster, to soul and to body, to mind and to spirit. The fetishization of wildness – stretching back in the Modern period to the Romantics and up into the Boomers and their ‘free love’ – has led to a pervasive and fundamental moral mediocrity as toxic as the Fundamentalist ‘greatness’ rantings so eerily similar to the floundering young failed artist in Vienna a century ago. And into such a vacuum far worse demons will most surely be drawn in to take up a late-ostrogothic residence in what is left of the life of the Republic. We may yet find ourselves mostly skipping the Caesars and going straight from Cicero to the edge of the Dark Ages.

It is Marxism, Coetzee notes, that doubts the ability of any individual human to impose his will on History. But then Stalin came along and changed all that, efficiently sawing off Communism’s ‘head’ and replacing it with his own; his cult of personality remains with us today in the North Korean polity, and bears a close familiar resemblance to the fundamentalistic attraction to the person of the Incumbent (is the President, in the fundy vision, like the Pope in the Kathlik vision: the designated representative of God on earth?).

Because, Coetzee sees, “the verdict of history, in Stalin’s eyes, pivoted on who wrote the history books”. Nor is that an insight that originated with Stalin, or died with him. Many individuals and – woe to us – nations, have figured that such a gambit would ensure their success, regardless of their actual record “on the ground”. Indeed, the Incumbency in those now distant salad-days of 2002 and early 2003 (as distant now as 1938 was to Berlin of 1944), asserted with prideful confidence that it ‘made’ history, and the rest of the world – ordinary and mediocre – would just have to deal with that (and accept its assigned place in the scheme of things).

“Hitler disdained manual labor because he thought it incompatible with his status”. Hitler’s status was the one he had assigned himself, as ‘genius’. One thinks of a certain more recent silver-spooned but unripe scion who disdained not only manual labor but any sort of self-exertion, any effort at self-extension whatsoever, seeking instead to surf a diaphanous wave of boozy bonhomie and of the appearance of character and competence. If you’re born rich, then you’ll write the history book, and anyway, there’s no such thing as Truth anyway, or Character, or Virtue (he had only to listen to ‘cutting edge’ Left and Democratic and Advocacy theory to pick up that particularly convenient bit of wisdom). And one could always draw into one’s life such ‘brains’ as were required: they could be hired by the family money or they might seek admission to one’s inner circle the better to admire one’s rump-ish gestalt. Hey, whatever.

Coetzee then follows that thought through (in a way Hitler himself probably never did, not being given to introspection – and perhaps wisely so). Hitler, realizing by his early twenties that he would not easily be a success as an artist, opposed socialism because he himself, raised in the status-conscious world of the Austrian and German middle-classes, feared “being sucked into a lumpen proletariat of workless rural migrants streaming into” his world.

But this also ties into Chris Hedges’ concerns about American Fundamentalists: not really ready for the hard field-work of ripening, they have declared themselves ‘saved’ (‘maturity’ being as incorrect and repugnant to their world-view as it is to the revolutionaries of the Left). On the basis of this (self-declared) ‘status’ they already seek to ‘leave behind’ all of those of whatever economic class who do not truckle to their vivid, violent, faux-‘vital’ religious illuminations. And as if that weren’t problem enough for us today, any significant economic downturn – and it is hardly inconceivable – will further threaten their self-image and their sense of status and place in this materialist American society, the Flatness of which is not effectively expanded by their signature adolescently violent fantasies that are passed off – even to themselves - as a ‘religion’ capable of ‘saving’ them a-n-d (shades of the Puritans and the Calvinists!) rewarding them in this life. The ‘ugly American’ whose face was shown to the so-called ‘developing world’ half-a-century ago is now showing its face to its fellow citizens, and if the economy tanks, then ‘ugly’ is going to be the least of the problems the fundamentalistics will pose for our society and our polity.

And on top of it all, Hitler – seeking somehow to define himself and preserve his self-image and status – determined that he would succeed “at all costs”. This phrase is also one that did not die with him. We’ve heard it not so much from the unripe macho-boyos (it’s a tad too grammatically taxing) but from the equally unripe but far-better read neocons. “At all costs” is a mind-set far too dangerous to be set loose among the give-and-take of a democracy, too antithetical to the patient, never-fully-achieved slog up the Ladder of Perfection that is the Kathlik ideal. No wonder that it has flourished as the evil-twin of the already-morally dubious Revolutionaries of the Identities, reinforcing images of imperial decisiveness and resolve and the total-dedication of the committed religious fundamentalist.

And yet, finally, as interesting and confounding as Hitler’s psyche is, the man himself would have remained only an unripe and feral oddling, never affecting the lives of more than a few equally unbalanced, certainly far-weaker personalities. But then the German economy – which had been doing a splendid turn in the mid-‘20s – tanked utterly in the Great Depression. The widespread economic destruction of most of the German middle-class, the bourgeoisie, the burghers, the well-to-do farmers, the craftspeople and the steadily-employed industrial workers … the vacuum created by the loss of the middle class and its ethos, sucked Hitler up and into the center of German politics, and with that turn of the wind – canny sea-captain – he cooperated to the fullest extent of his energy, nor did he deny himself the Romantic, great-man advantages of being freed from any concern for morality or the rights of others or loyalty or humility or subjection to any law or Law. After all, he would write the history books that would last for the next thousand years.

He lasted just twelve years, once he got into power. History will never forget him. But the question for Us today is: have we? Already?

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Over on Alternet Lorelei Kelly, former Hill staffer, has a piece entitled “Mercenaries are in the military to stay: Get Used To It!” (http://www.alternet.org/story/48241/). Lord, X-wave feminist style hasn’t helped matters at all, even when they’re serious.

The article has a serious chunk to offer. The military – apparently – has been presiding over its own privatization for “years”. This IS interesting. We had sorta gotten used to the idea that they now had civilan cooks and bottlewashers over there in Bosnia, and even that ‘some’ private-security folks were tromping around Baghdad, presumably privately engaged by this or that Iraqi bigwig to man his motorcades and take the kids to school. But now it appears that there are “100,000 contractors … including 25,000 private security contractors”. That’s a lot of motorcades and the school parking lots must look like marshaling yards for an entire Panzer division. And if it’s like that in Baghdad, where our glorious forces are establishing the world’s strongest embassy … ach. As the BBC series “The World At War” pithily put it: “In 1943 in Berlin it was better listening to music than to news.” Cue the Beethoven; hold Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”.

She calls it “a virtual army of largely unregulated individuals working on behalf of U.S. national interests”. I’m not about to grant that. As employees, they are wherever they are in behalf of the interests of whatever entity hired them and pays them. If the interests of the US government happen to coincide, fine and dandy; if not … what then? And if we are talking about the companies providing bad water and bad food to the troops, well then we’re looking at the type of business that was last done on this scale in the Civil War when the early corporations provided rotten tinned meat to the boys in blue at Gettysburg and there was so much paper in the uniforms that they literally dissolved off a soldier’s body in the first rain. Lack of Humvee armor and ineffective body-armor wouldn’t be any surprise to Grant’s and Sherman’s boys. But many of them died, and the corporations that sold the junk to the Union Army went on to long, cash-fat, respectable lives, as did the desk-riding colonels and generals who approved the contracts.

“They are all legitimate businesses” she points out. Welllll … slavery was legitimate for quite a while, of course; it only takes a law to make something ‘legitimate’ and now they’ve got one that has legitimized torture and even one for making legitimate what was feloniously illegitimate when it was committed. The wonders of modern legislation! More recently we have seen more than enough to induce us to consider any private contractor with its jaws clamped tightly into the cash-fat corpus of the Pentagon as ‘suspicious’.

“The military”, she asserts, “has been colonized by corporations.” Willy Tango Foxtrot? The Pentagon isn’t like some remote, fortified Pacific island where the corporations could land like Marines and take the place over after some serious gunplay. If the corporations are in the fort, somebody had to open the gate – from the inside. And if it’s been going on for so long and it’s an established fact, then a lot of generals and admirals must have known about it. So why no alarm? Were they bought off by the corporations? Were they willing to have all these corporations and their mercenaries come in?
Those are unhappy roads, either of them. Save money on troops that you can then quietly divert to buy weapons-systems that can outclass the latest Soviet stuff? Give out contracts so that you can get hired as a consultant after you retire with a DSM? Hold your tongue so you don’t endanger your next promotion or your next assignment? To read Ms. Kelly you get the idea the Pentagon was invaded and taken over. You don’t just go over an “colonize” the Pentagon. Except in the movies. And there is a difference. Still. Isn’t there?

And yet she wants us to just accept this ‘colonization’ as a fact, regardless of how it happened (and she has nothing to say about how it happened). Even if “the billions of dollars disappeared by contractors in Iraq make Abramoff look like Little Bo Peep”. Now that has to be a lot of money; Washington City for the period of the Twelve Years has resembled nothing so much as Rome at its decadent worst. To do worse than the best of the K-Street scummies is to do very bad indeed. And yet we are to accept as a given that these players are somehow now at the table and that’s that? In the matter of national defense, in the matter of turning civilian nationals loose with powerful weapons in a foreign country and in a war zone … we are supposed to just ‘Get used to it’ …? Or to ‘Get over it’ … ? Like this was just some campus dust-up over a woman president or gays on the football squad? And if we keep asking questions, are we simply to be dismissed because we “just don’t get it” … ?

The turkeys of symbolic politics played to the pretensions of a peanut gallery are coming home to roost with a vengeance. The same gummy pudding that passed for ‘serious’ in the dorm cafeteria is supposed to determine how we conduct the matter of lethal violence waged against other peoples on the responsibility of the American government and the American People.

And the bloody tip of this problem is precisely that: lethal force and the responsibility for authorizing it. We can’t even control our uniformed troops as well as we’d like to think (Abu Graib, some of these incidents out in the field) and we are going to let a bunch of mercenaries loose with even bigger and better guns? And they will certainly be taken by the locals as acting with the authority of the United States. With Our authority as The People. Is this what we want? Can a nation even do that? Should it? Is it at all wise?

We apparently have not only mercenary cooks and bottlewashers and vehicle-gassers and barracks-cleaners (and guys to work porta-potty trucks … imagine if one of those takes a direct hit). We also have mercenary combat personnel (and not just guys sitting in limos next to the Client). Is this true? And the Pentagoons are good with this?

So Ms. Kelly reports that a lot of these mercenaries are well-trained (ex-military, many of them, no doubt) and well-intentioned and patriotic. But … they got out. But now they’re back. Pay’s better – no doubt. Still, she’s glad that they’ve been brought under the authority of military justice now (apparently neither she nor they are very familiar with the sausage machine within whose kill zone they have now been chained).

And she urges that this whole thing should really be discussed. Well, no – actually she wants Congress to exercise better oversight. But ‘oversight’ assumes that the mercenaries are there and that their being there is a done deal, may be even a good thing. Maybe.

So the mercenaries are now ‘facts on the ground’ and we just have to ‘deal with it’. Well, we do have to deal with this thing. Whether we have to accept it is another question. We most certainly have to think the thing through from the get-go and take nothing for granted. Maybe we will decide that private security companies are indeed n-o-t “here to stay”. We can do that. It would be ‘legitimate’. We are, after all, The People, and that still counts for something.

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The last of the Moyers articles that caught my eye appears in “The Nation”, entitled “A New Story for America”, appearing in the issue of January 22 (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070122/moyers)

He quotes Ronald Reagan who in his 1980 speech to the Republican National Convention said “The major issue of this campaign is the direct political, personal and moral responsibility of Democratic Party leadership – in the White House and in Congress – for this unprecedented calamity which has befallen us.”

You’ve got to hand it to the Great Communicator. If he picked up anything from his days in Hollywood studios – and he picked up quite a bit – it was the requirement that a script get right to the point and that the character doesn’t wind up burning up viewers’ time (and precious film) rambling.

We can certainly entertain the assertions that he oversimplified and that he damn well meant to. He did both. It was his metier. But he also put into clear, simple language something fundamental that was hidden deep down the American spirit of his age, and something that – though hidden (as much by political correctness as by inattention) – was very very real.

In their sustained, deconstructive, revolutionary frenzy to rip open space for their assorted programmes and agendas, the revolutionaries of the Left had each ripped out major chunks of the American ‘story’. In fact, whether they knew it or not, or whether they thought it was worth thinking about or not, they wound up deconstructing the American ‘Story’ – the deep vision, however inchoately held – that sustained the identity of the American people.

Human beings need a Story. Call it a spiritual need or don’t, insist that some form of organized religion is essential to maintaining such a Story or don’t, but all human beings have an abiding need for a Story if they are to sustain with their lives a common culture and a civilization. Whether that Story gives the people less (the Egyptian) or more (the classic Western) authority, that Story still provides the unseen ground that anchors and gives Shape to and makes sense of all of their efforts and of their very lives. And those ‘lives’ extend both forward and backward in Time – encompassing forebears and descendants, and to greater or lesser extent horizontally – encompassing others of their society or their culture. Almost always, that Story also extends Beyond Time: not simply beyond the appearances and the surfaces of daily life to the deeper fonts of vital energy that well up from the roots of human being and doing, but also Beyond those humans and beyond human-being itself.

In their urgent haste to actualize their particular bit of the envisioned future ‘now’ if not ‘yesterday’, the assorted Revolutions could not only ill-afford the time necessary for wide public deliberation, but they could not afford the ‘judgment’ that any established ‘Beyond’ might pass – in the popular opinion – against their particular agenda. Thus it was that Theory sought to deconstruct any possible rivals or judges; not only was doubt derided as merely ‘backlash’ but doubt was amputated from any Larger authority. A perfectly understandable and hardly novel revolutionary tactic. And one that was reinforced by the stunning hubris of many of the revolutionaries who saw themselves as a vanguard, socially-redeeming elite waging ‘total war’ on benighted sheep-like masses of oppression who ‘just didn’t get it’ and who needed to be force-fed ‘it’ for their own and everybody else’s good. In the long-run of History they were certain, they would be judged as liberators.

And so the vital human and national edifice of Story came directly under sustained deconstructive attack. American society since almost its inception had been criticized – from within as well as without – for failing the ideals of its own Story, and that criticism became even more intense as the original appearances and structures of the Founders’ world changed in the 19th century and into the 20th. But in the mid-20th, precisely on the heels of the Glorious ‘65’s achievement in civil rights, enthusiasts adopted Theory to utterly delegitimize Story itself.

Reagan the trouper sensed this abyssal loss that so profoundly agitated so many people. Untutored in policy and Great Things, he was yet a man professionally and personally familiar with operations conducted on the vital if unseen ground of Story; the man and the hour, so to speak, met – and the man knew it. Here was the handle by which he could grasp the Presidency and the level by which he might move the people. Ensconced in the White House in the latter years of the 20th century (and of Communism, as it turned out), this ‘actor’ – this long-trained dealer in Story – was at home. And got right to work.

Unfortunately, but hardly uncharacteristically for an American, he was only on a nodding acquaintance with the Beyond, except as that Beyond revealed itself in the nation itself, in its history and its citizens and its fantasies. But in best American style he rolled up his sleeves and made do. It was almost enough. Not that he didn’t try.

A Story differs from a ‘story’ in that the Story is connected to some Beyond. This is what gives the Story its staying power, its teflon quality – if you will. It survives the slings and arrows of mere historical, ‘real’ developments because it exists in a realm Beyond them. People know that no matter what happens, the Story represents something more ‘real’ than the very palpable slings and arrows bethumping them. And thus fortified, they endure. And maybe even prevail.

Alas for the Democrats. In adopting the Identities and bringing them in from their assorted cold, dark nights, they wound up inviting the vampire of Theory in as well. And thus the Beyond had to go. And thus the Story had to go.

And that loss was instantly, if only viscerally, felt throughout the population. And Reagan sensed that with his tingly actor’s whiskers. Sure, a lot of lesser-motived folks also realized it: political operatives, corporate honchos, assorted fantasists, and all sorts of folk who made their daily bread by manipulating other folks, for their own or somebody else’s good. But for the our purposes here we’ll focus on Reagan. He was a canary in the mine – a very big and not altogether incapable canary. We didn’t notice the feathers because of all the flags or all the ‘politically correct’ opprobrium, although those occasional brown suits certainly prompted fleeting and uncomfortable thoughts of the animal kingdom.

Whatever went on around him – and some very baaaad stuff went on, either around him or through him – yet in his grasp on the profound human need for Story he was spot on. And the Democrats found that they weren’t; or – more accurately – couldn’t be. No one Story would hold all those teeming and squalling Identities together, and given the revolutionary agendas of their Outcome-oriented advocates, nothing so intangible as Story was desired from the Democratic pols anyway.

The People unStoried is not a pretty sight. Just as a child who grew up without Story is faced with a shrunken ‘world’ and consequently develops a shrunken ‘self’ (trapped in a Horizontal, without a Vertical and without an Interior) so too a People without a Story begin to lose Shape as if a trellis is suddenly removed from a large vine. And after a while, that People’s government begins to assume assorted deformed shapes as well.

This is no plea for a restoration of the Reagan-era nor of the Twelve Years recently ended but still so inescapably battened upon Us. But it is a sober realization that Story has been seriously damaged during the revolutionary renovations of the past three or four decades, and that the mere fact of their returning to majority status doesn’t mean that the Democrats are going to be able to adequately address this crucial lack. Not hardly.

To the right of Us, the far-too-large role of a hypertrophied government power and a mythic ‘Unitary Executive’; to the left of Us, a shrunken revolutionary agenda, still toxic in its tatters. All around us the twin spectres of Terrorism and Crime seeking to stampede us deeper into the market-basket of that government power and its corporate masters. But nowhere to be found is a Story that grounds us as a society and a civilization and as a People, nor as The People specifically raised up for this Republic by this Constitution and esteemed (until recently) as such by so many of the world’s peoples.

And far too many forces are quite used to working with (or around) a People thus enfeebled, thank you. A People that is on its way to becoming a ‘bunch’ or a ‘herd’ or a collection of ‘herds’ on a still-large ranch.

We have Us a world-class problem here. Ben Cartwright is not only gone, but he never actually existed in the first place. We cannot look to “the valley ranchers” to sort things out. Better it be realized that WE are the valley ranchers, and start holding meetings.

Time’s a-wastin’. Winter’s a-comin’. The neocon dudes and Fundy snake-oil sellers have set up their tables in the town hall, fronted by a bunch of cocky man-boys who never did a lick of honest work in their life. And if We don’t want the Army to run this town then We’d best attend to matters right quick. Or else this Story is going to have a very unhappy ending.
It ain’t much, but this is morning in America now. Then again, for persons modest enough to appreciate the Gifts of a Beyond, any day you can get up is a good day. Good enough anyhow.

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The second Moyers article is an address he gave to the National Conference for Media in Memphis, entitled “Life on the Plantation” (www.truthout.org/docs_2006/011807B.shtml).

He quotes something long ascribed to Ben Franklin, that pithy public observer: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner: Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting that vote”.

In that image we can see the motivations of the Founders, eager to protect the nascent United States from the shrewdly ravenous appetites of kings and empires, and the necessarily lamb-like People from the inborn darker proclivities of the government power. And we can see the motivations of Abraham Lincoln, resolutely determined to deploy the government power to protect the United States from the inborn proclivity of all federations to spin themselves apart over time. And we can see the motivations of Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt who realized that the government power when properly wielded is a powerful weapon with which to defend the People from the darker inborn proclivities of entrenched Property and corporate power and wealth.

But – typically American – the ‘well-armed’ has been seen as something material, something tangible, whether an actual firearm or a statutorily-erected ‘right’ enforced by the government power on behalf – ideally – of The People. And since we are a nation of laws, then laws and their vigilant enforcement constitute an indispensable weapon in Our defense against Power, which most surely and ceaselessly does go about, seeking whom it may devour.

But law is not Our first line-of-defense, not Our fundamental weapon. For Us to be well-armed we each must be well-matured – in spirit and in the ‘higher skills’ that constitute the human birth-right, the human nature, the human gift to the vast Life of which humanity is so marvelous a part. Without being so armed, We will be incapable of ‘guarding our guards themselves’, incapable of Peopling the intricate and monstrously powerful engines that our civilization has erected and switched-on.

One of those ‘engines’ so surely designed to work almost directly for Us is the media, once known as ‘the press’. If We are not adequately and accurately informed of what is being done in the myriad nooks and crannies of our intricate and vast civilization, then We will not know what actions need to be taken. We collectively are the captain of the vessel (Yes, I’ve said it – the President is Commander-in-Chief of the military, not of the country and not of The People). The captain needs to know everything so as to be able to devise and decide the best course. We are collectively ‘the captain’. We must guard Our vital prerogative to be kept informed, and preferably as early on as possible.

Thus the vital role of the media – truly Our media. And in that regard, Moyers very rightly pinpoints the disastrous Telecommunications Act of 1996 as a fateful turning-point in the history of this Republic.

We have to stop and really give some thought to this. It’s understandable – but hardly justifiable – that We cannot be fully alive to doings that took place long decades and centuries ago in the history of the Republic. But 1996 was a mere 11 years ago; the ‘90s themselves were the decade immediately preceding the present decade. So much was done then. The pandering to corporations, so stereotypically the preferred prostitution of the Right, was matched by a hugely ill-considered (perhaps more accurately unconsidered) pandering to the Left. To mollify the demands of this or that Advocacy, to surf the waves of this or that ‘panic’ or ‘mania’ huge gaps were hacked out of Constitutional protections.

The media, which had already compromised themselves in the decades-old relinquishment of the search for Truth and even accuracy and truth, in order to ‘help’ and to ‘advocate’ (not their task in the vital engineering scheme of the Republic), were so compromised by the mid-90s that it is no surprise that they were seen no longer as a vital ‘institution’ of the Republic but simply as a commercial, cash-flow producing opportunity, much akin to entertainment, but enjoying the huge advantage of not being considered ‘fiction’ the way Hollywood movies and TV shows were.

If the robustly talented manipulations of a Rupert Murdoch could essentially create ‘shows’ that were endowed with the status of ‘news’, the media had done almost as much to themselves in the preceding decades, helping to enforce the ‘political correctness’ that stifled Our deliberations as to the assorted gambits – many not clearly desirable or workable – of the assorted Revolutions.

Moyers sees this 1996 Act as contributing to a “plantation mentality”, surely toxic to any Republic. In the scheme of the plantation, The People were reduced to status of the field-hands (May I respectfully not adhere strictly to the analogy by calling them ‘slaves’? It is too freighted a term to use here.) The ‘masters’ would be the corporate biggies, faithfully abetted by a national political class that had given up on the idea of ‘uniting’ the now-Balkanized citizenry and instead settled for pandering to and distracting the various sub-sets of citizens while accepting ‘contributions’ from the ever-reliable corporate deep-pockets; a time-honored form of non-sexual prostitution that the Framers had done everything they could think of to prevent.

And the media, impartial servants of Truth’s flame, already weakened in spirit for decades as aforesaid, were formally put on the auction-block, marketed to the highest bidder (the afore-mentioned corporate deep-pockets). Historians will one day point to this as a gravely dangerous milestone on the road that led down and away from 1776.

Moyers asserts that there are “two basic pillars of American society – shared economic prosperity and a public sector capable of serving the common good”. He’s right. And to see that the sustained economic prosperity of the post-1945 period is no longer ‘operational’ is the beginning of American wisdom. And to consider that Supreme Court Justices and the White House are cheer-leading the torture-happy, boyo-swaggering blood-blasting of a show such as “24” is to sense the tremors triggered by a profound rot.
But if those are two pillars, then the foundation is The People. It is The People who – through the working of the Constitution – ground the three Branches. An educated and an informed People is the indispensable foundation of the whole thing. No longer informed by the media, insufficiently educated so as to be able to process what information might be received, The People cannot anchor the whole apparatus. Its still-tremendous power begins to fly off in increasingly wild gyrations, domestically and in foreign-adventures. To Our great detriment. And to the detriment of all the world’s peoples, whose hope in the American ideal is bitterly dashed even as weapons rain upon them.

And if, beyond being un-informed by the media, The People are mis-informed, if The People are doused not simply with misinformation but with untruths so complexly interwoven as to constitute a sort of anti-information, then the rot is greatly advanced.

I wrestle with Moyers’ characterization of the media as being “sitting ducks”, set up by the plantation mentality. As indicated above, I think that the turn from ‘accuracy journalism’ to ‘advocacy journalism’ was a lethal self-inflicted wound, decades old by the mid-90s. The Fundamentalistic-neocon Ascendancy is not simply a disease but an opportunistic disease; it made use of what it found, of the weakened no-longer-robust condition of the media’s character and dedication to its original and first principles as they were presumed in the schematic of the Republic.

But he knows – without a doubt – still many journalists who are seeking to fulfill their calling and to discharge their large and ancient (in American terms) responsibilities. It is on that remnant that Our hopes must be pinned.

And perhaps that the infamous Act might, among so many other more recent infamous Acts, be repealed or at least greatly repaired.

We must indeed be an inquiring People. We need to know. We must want to know. Not only does the buck stop with Us, but it is our buck (trillions of them) to begin with. Virgins or not – and We are now too deeply enmeshed in the recent doings of our government power to claim that status – We must be wise, robustly and vigorously and authoritatively and unsleepingly wise.

“Soldiers”, famously, “are citizens of death’s grey land; they draw no dividends from Time’s tomorrows”. If We have sent many of our young on that vividly somber journey, and We have, then We must do all that We can to arrange matters so that they might still have cause to hope in ‘tomorrow’, that they and all of our young may live lives forelit by the possibility of just dividends that will enable them to bear the dark battles that must be borne today. It is Our responsibility to ensure that they do not return to a plantation life, facing the life of field-hands then even as they now bear the burdens common to all soldiers sent on missions such as this errand into the wilderness to which We have presently committed them.

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A trio of articles by Bill Moyers have gotten my attention. I’ll Post a bit on each of them.

He’s got “Discovering What Democracy Means” on Tom Paine (www.truthout.org/docs_2006/021307A.shtml).

He is as valuable for his apt quotations as for his thoughts; and he draws upon a wide knowledge. Martha Nussbaum is brought in with her gravid insight that the Greek dramatists had no “message” except “simply the revelation of life as seen through the sufferer”. But this is hardly a small thought. To be able to develop a wide and widely-informed empathy is a significant achievement in maturity. It is vastly seen in its absence in present-day Washington City, even more than one would usually expect in those precincts; and the consequences of a failure of empathy for – and of knowledge of – other human beings are now bearing their awefull fruit on the Eastern front.

I think I’ll take this opportunity to point one thing out. It’s a major concern of this site that what are here called the Revolutions of the Identities have borne some very damaging consequences of their own, greatly corroding democratic praxis, jurisprudence, the structure of the Republic, and the weakening of the Peopling skills of the citizenry. This is not at all intended to be some coded understatement to the effect that we should bring the 1950s back again. It is not first and foremost the substance of the Revolutions (although some of the claims are surely questionable enough to have deserved far more public deliberation); rather it is the method of proceeding – the revolutionary method – that has created the most serious damage.

It is true what was obvious even to contemporaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: that once Jim Crow was established in the South no normal democratic process was going to be able to reverse it. But once the great march to the Glorious ’65 was successfully completed, then the more-revolutionary and less-democratic methodology should have been set aside in favor of the longer, more complex and frustrating process of grounding public consensus through wide public deliberation.

Instead, the advocates’ resort to increasing Federal involvement in ever-deepening and ever-more-specific aspects of public and private life – especially in the deployment of criminal law and prosecution – was fraught with dangers that are now bearing their poisoned fruit. And of course, this dangerous dynamic was only intensified as subsequent Revolutions of further newly-hatched Identities sought to jump-start themselves and quickly create their own beach-head of ‘facts on the ground’.

That all of this took place in incessant waves was bad enough. That it took place just as the United States had passed the zenith of its postwar position that sustained its stupendous economic growth and predominance was a profound irony whose significance and consequences are still not fully realized.

Little can be reversed now and I am not proposing such a bootless undertaking. But We must realize just what damage was sustained in the journey to our present situation so that We can take corrective action even as We pursue the course that has been set. Surely, the inherent nobility and humaneness of trying to see events from the point of view of the sufferer is a desirable and an indispensable trait of the character of the People who engaged in or at least permitted such revolutionary activity on a vast and pervasive scale.

But the methods of revolution are inherently inimical to the skills and virtues of a democracy. And empathy is neither the equivalent of nor the substitute for carefully and widely considered policy and law. That the Right (hardly to be called ‘conservative’ in its present incarnation) is the current wielder of Jacobin power is obvious to all; that the Left (hardly to be called ‘Liberal’ in the classic sense) wielded it to Our great detriment for decades and indeed created the vacuums that evoked and enabled the Right must be seen far more clearly than heretofore.

Moyers continues his quotation of Nussbaum: it is greatly valuable to see “the complexity that’s there, and seeing it honestly, and without flinching, and without reducing it to some excessively simple theory”. The ability to appreciate and tolerate complexity is another hallmark of maturity. And again: if such maturity is brutally absent among the Unitary Incumbency’s minions, it had also been ruthlessly – if more ‘tastefully – absent among the advocates of the assorted revolutions. And if the utterly fatuous ‘theories’ that underlay the strutting neocons’ dreams of invasion are now revealed for the bankrupt lunacies they have always been, the utterly corrosive consequences of Theory as it has been propounded domestically by our elites for decades must also be recognized.

Moyers proposes that we might nurture “the higher affections of our intuition – what has been called our ‘inner tutor’”. I think that he demonstrates for us here the newly-recovered strength and the long-entrenched weakness of the Left – and the Liberal – agenda. He introduces again the use of a Vertical dimension to the individual, and that Vertical presupposes an individual’s Interiority as well. Both dimensions have been unforgivably de-emphasized in Theory’s decades-long occupation of our cultural and societal discourse.

Generations of children, many now adult, have grown up with a working conception of Life in which these two dimensions of being and acting have been largely absent. Verticality implied ‘judgment’ and the imposition of ‘values’ and the truly sensitive and enlightened did not do that. Interiority led to a certain social ‘passivity’ and ‘withdrawal’ that did not sufficiently get out and force societal change; one’s status as either victim or victimizer and one’s actions as one or the other (not even, as most often happens among us humans, as both) were the only significant aspects of living (one’s robust consumption of material goods always being taken as a given). Thus Our selves and thus our lives – as individuals and as a society) were much shrunken, and even desiccated.

But that other vast and wondrous and utterly indispensable dimension of life and Life, of being and existence – the Beyond, the Meta – is still almost unspeakable. We have an “inner tutor”. This is as ‘spiritual’ as even Moyers dares to be in his article. We could say that this does not even rise to the level of the spiritual, but is simply ‘non-material’, which is hardly sufficient to meet the voracious – indeed the constituent – hunger of the human spirit. And if we must contemplate in muted shock the ‘enlightenment’ that demands the willful ignoring of the human spirit – shades of Lenin – then we must also reflect ruefully that it was precisely the creation of this abyss that sparked and sucked into awefull life the violent derangement of Fundamentalism and rammed open its path to the pinnacle of our ‘polis’. All to Our great detriment.

So carefully that I can’t figure whether he is treading carefully or isn’t quite aware of it himself, Moyers then quotes Thomas Jefferson’s reprehension of the “bastard muses”, those special-pleadings for specific causes that calculatedly mask themselves as a comprehensive and undeniable ‘wisdom’ and insight into the heart of ‘reality’. Truth is lost; the ability to perceive Truth shrivels. While we might take some heart that such pernicious folly as it was evinced among the neocons and Fundamentalists and even the ‘realistic’ Macher of Washington City is now betraying those who so cockily and arrogantly tried to ‘hire’ it, we must also accept with a justifiable fright that such inability to seek and apprehend Truth is now pervasive among Us.

He quotes – but valuably – Leo Strauss, who had noted that “vulgarity”, the coarseness and crudeness which is a hallmark of boyo and macho and Fundamentalistic hubris, rises from an “apeirokalia”, “the lack of experience in things beautiful”. “Beauty”, like Truth, is not congenial to the profoundly immature, the ‘unripe’ – and we are all born more or less unripe. Beauty and Truth are also irrelevant to revolutionaries, whose harsh discipline of Outcome requires them to focus on lesser, more immediate things. In that sense, of course, ‘business’ and ‘revolution’ are sisters under the skin. Thus visions of both the Right and the Left share a common poisonous root.

And he goes on then that today “we are all institutionalized”. Yes, and it is not so much that Our civilization has reached a complexity that erects numerous ‘institutions’ as that Our civilization has ignored the human-ness – in all its marvelous heights – that would enable Us to remain the masters of those institutions. And We are also – he omits to say – “balkanized”, divided and sub-divided into numerous squabbling Identities as well as shrunken into the hot or cold, hard surfaces of surfaces and Appearances.

Thus has the government power – through the National Security State and the National Corporate State and the National Crime State, artfully wooing the macho and the ‘sensitive’, the ruthless and the socially ‘concerned’ – taken advantage of our weakened and divided condition – as individuals and as a society – to raise itself up as our Primary Protector and Provider, roles previously ascribed to the Beyond – however conceived. The reliance upon the government power as that Primary Protector and Provider quickly shades into a functional idolatry, a functional paganism. All to Our great detriment.

Are we as a People now become merely “a fiction”? Are we become a shadow? A wraith? A shade? For Us as for that tortured princeling of Denmark the urgent question remains: To be or not to be?

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