Friday, March 02, 2007

LEFT BEHIND THE EIGHT-BALL

Mel Seesholtz, M.D. has an article on Atlantic Free Press (www.atlanticfreepress.com/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1056) entitled “The Hypocritical Christian Right is being ‘Left Behind’”.

The upshot is that “the victims’ advocates who dogged the Roman Catholic Church over sex abuse by its clergy have now turned their attention to the Southern Baptists, accusing America’s largest Protestant denomination of also failing to root out molesters.”

This presents as good an opportunity as any to make a few things clear. This site has not been as worshipful of that advocacy as has come to be expected in our modern American reality. There is a reason for that. It is not – again, these things have to be said clearly nowadays – that this site supports or minimizes sexual acting-out by priests; nor does this site minimize the damage such acting-out can and no doubt has done. Nor is it because this site is obliquely trying to support the organizational Roman Catholic Church (famously named “the Church as It” to distinguish it from “the Church as She”) nor to provide some sort of oblique assault on advocates or victims.

This site’s concern is for truth and – what the hey? – for Truth. If it is a torturous (nowadays literally) question whether one can justifiably act violently against other human beings in a good cause, it is even more basic to demand whether one can justifiably disregard Truth in the service of a good cause. Surely there are far more people upon whom the success (so to speak) of the Nazi Reich depended than those who merely pulled the triggers. And while there were far far more Nazis and Nazi-enablers who never committed an act of violence against another human being, they did indeed commit an act of violence against Truth: they denied it. And first and foremost to themselves, within themselves.

And t-h-a-t, I think, is the core of Hannah Arendt’s very useful insight about “the banality of evil”. All of those people, even if and maybe especially if they were not required to do something as palpably violent as pull a trigger, still committed violence – upon Truth: in stilling the voice of their conscience, in using their mind to rationalize what was being done all around them (and as with us, nothing the government ever did was able to remain so utterly secret that people didn’t develop a sufficient inkling of what was going on). They pulled the moral wires out of themselves in order to avoid having to act morally in the face of (and perhaps against) a monstrous immorality.

How easy it is in a complex civilization to do it. Compartmentalizing one’s life (that’s only my day-job; I’m not at work now), minimizing (it’s not that bad, really), rationalizing (it’s for the country, it’s just my job), denial (my country couldn’t do that) … all of them far more common than the ultimate immoral ground: If my country is doing it, then it has to be right and who am I to say otherwise? At least a soldier can (or, until Nuremberg, could) say: I was only following orders. Civilians would have to face judgment (and Judgment) without even that fig leaf.

How difficult and terrible it is when the State exerts more of a pull upon its people than does God. When people are less skilled in the ways of their soul than in the ways of their world. When people are less sensitive to the vibratings of their soul than to the meat-thick and brazen solidities of this small patch we have the conceit to call ‘reality’ and ‘life’. Not for modern citizens the mastery and command of the soul, such that each trains him or herself to be attuned to the highest possible pitch of knowledgeable attention to ship and weather, of sail interacting with wind, of hull plowing or cutting the waters. Moderns are ‘passengers’, it appears, though very jealous of their rights and amenities. Mastery and command is what others are paid to provide.

But the soul is a ship that will only accept one master, an aircraft that only seats one. Nobody else can fly it for you; you’ve got to fly it for yourself.

How much violence people do to themselves when they wreak violence upon Truth. If ‘truth’ is a cub, it is the offspring of a powerful Mother, never far away when the cub cries out. If that cub is forced to cry out, there will be – as they say in the military – consequences.

So I am very concerned in all this sex-offense mania, and in all advocacies, about the violence done to truth and to Truth. As has been said many times on this site, it was the corrosive result of decades’ worth of violence against truth and Truth that a) corrupted the ability of The People to recognize Truth or to distinguish it from its unreal doppelgangers, and b) enabled – and indeed evoked – so powerful a reaction as We now see in the Fundamentalist and the Neocon whackery. And it is an awefull indictment of our times and thus of Us that so much blood could be spilled on our watch by our own troops on the basis of so much and so obvious un-Truth.

That’s why I take the last 40-plus years of ‘advocacy’ and of its Democratic supporters to task even more so – it might seem – than I do “the Right” or “The Republicans”. If We do not understand how we got into this mess, then We will never be able to People the country back from the edge of the current and close abyss. What I say here applies generally to any advocacy that passed beyond a Level I or II and moved into III and IV … but the ‘sex offense’ one has been the most recent, and the ‘priest abuse’ one the most recent and virulent subset of that.

And it also the one that best demonstrates what can happen to this sort of thing in the country nowadays. The priest-sex-offense mania was the result of a successful synergy among many interests: ‘victims’ – actual and otherwise – seeking something; advocates – volunteer or salaried – who derive happiness but also no little profit from their work; the media as they exist after the ‘reform’ of 1996, eager to market titillation to the public rather than do the hard work of reporting; a government seeking to increase its writ of power and get its citizens used to hugely expanded and dubious methods of achieving that goal; academic and clinical professionals (almost too widely defined) who are seeking some way of furthering status or career; prosecutors and police ditto; attorneys ditto; politicians pandering for votes and desperate to look like they are taking some – any – sort of ‘action’ to earn their keep; assorted large cultural and political players (feminists, Fundamentalists, change-seeking Catholics either conservative or liberal) whose interests would be served by a lessening of the cultural and political influence of the Catholic Church.

This is not to say that each of the foregoing didn’t have some very good intentions; this is not to say that things were perpetrated by some priests; this is not to say that the organization of the Church did not in some cases hash things up. This is not to say that advocates, academics, clinicians, media types, police, prosecutors, and civil attorneys do not have good and legitimate interests in enforcing laws and standing up for people who have been wronged.

But the synergy that developed here through various violences perpetrated against Truth created a firestorm that grew beyond all proportion to the actualities of what was and what was not done by priests and bishops.

This violation of Truth was and is bad enough in itself. But it then greased the skids for un-Truth being deployed in the foreign – rather than the domestic – realm. The dangers to the civil nature of this Republic – so unimaginable in the mid-1990s – densened in the moist dark of public ignorance and throve on the bright warmth of shock and outrage.

And then those dangers surfaced in the far more familiar form of foreign war, which for a time cloaked them equally as well. Passions and habit of mind long-familiar welled up to carry not only Our troops but all of Us into the maelstrom of war and the responsibility for war.

Far too many citizens were no longer accustomed to scan the events of their world for the Truth, no longer sensitive to Truth’s presence or absence – in that world or in themselves.

And the tactics and strategies and gambits honed in the still-rumbling sex-offense realm were deployed against the foreign enemy. But as always, We The People were also targets, as well as targeters. Untruth is as dangerous in the recoil as it is in the projectile, and with every use of such tactics and strategies our spiritual eardrum became a little more coarsened, our moral tissue a little less responsive to the intimations of … can we call it Truth? And beyond Truth … the Beyond? I know that at best, our current usage cannot confidently advance much further than some simulacrum of ‘our own highest aspirations as human beings’. But is that all there is Out there? Up there? In there?

Whether such aspirations are ‘enough’ to ground our moral being in the face of the monstrous forces arrayed against it is an excellent question. Whether – having abandoned the high ground of the Beyond as well as of the individual Vertical and even the individual Interior – as a matter of political strategy, the Democrats can now find any solid and common ground upon which to base their efforts to lever the affairs of this Republic and this People back into an upright position … that is a huge question. The ‘revolutionary’ and the secular presumption that the affairs of this world can be massively wrought merely from within this world itself is tantamount to thinking that one can lift a ship by means of a lever placed on a rowboat. The functional idolatry of fundamentalisms is equally a part of the very world it seeks to move, and such efforts will come to the same end.

A competent and functional grounding on Ground higher than the surfaces of this world, on Ground more solid than the fluid surfaces of this world, is desperately needed and widely (but perhaps not deeply) lacking.

Revolutionaries of the Left and Governmentaries of the Right must acknowledge in Truth and humility that no lasting force can be exerted on the affairs of this world unless anchored in Truth, and that Truth is not a creature of this world.

Will the sex-offense tornado now move on to afflict a Protestant denomination? Wouldn’t that break up the grouping that was just described? To which I respond: it was a ‘synergy’, not an ‘alliance’ and not an ‘axis’ and certainly not a ‘conspiracy’. It was a flowing together of assorted streams of purpose and goal toward a common result that would be of palpable and large benefit to each ‘stream’.

But at least one stream is mortally threatened: sex-offense advocacy could be in trouble if the ‘advocacy’ runs out of ‘stories’ or ‘targets’. Not only will it lose momentum, but the slower things get and the more things cool down, the more carefully folks will look at what has been done, on what grounds it has all been done, and start asking questions. They might question the ‘knowledge’ asserted to underlie (and justify) the mania, the ‘facts’ of particular cases, the methods of operating and proceeding against ‘targets’. As is now happening in the matter of the Iraq war and its run-up, folks might start to take umbrage at being stampeded into approving – even clamoring for - such dangerous measures.

So we may indeed see – in its desperation – this broad but diffusely-composed synergy start to break up. The sex-offense advocacy may now – as a matter of self-preservation – turn upon the fundamentalistics who happily made common hay in taking them Kathliks down a couple-three pegs. I could see it: where the shock and outrage at the Kathliks was aimed at a sinister, world-wide, super-rich and super-secret organization that hid this secret and monstrous evil and its slavering perpetrators, now in the case of the far more diffuse and much less formally organized fundamentalistics (it’s started with the Southern Baptists, so at least there’s some sort of organizational target to aim at) the shock and outrage will be at the unsupervised, under-trained ‘clergy’ that can pretty much freelance a living through hypocritical bible-thumping while rapaciously deflowering male and female congregants. I could even see the media, seeking ‘by any means necessary’ to recover from its pandering to the Fundamentalists during the Twelve Years, salvaging its creds while maintaining its cash flow by starting in on this fresh mob-rush.

It would be a sight, indeed: the suitably ‘informed’ villagers with their torches and pitchforks now abruptly changing their course, heading away from the parish church and making for the billboard-signed Fundy gathering-place, and ‘authentic’ ‘spontaneous’ placards hastily being re-scrawled to read ‘Fundies’ instead of ‘Kathliks’. Such is life in the world of advocacy and marketing strategies; this is what it takes to manipulate crowds. It’s a living.

Over on Salon today, the Broadsheet blog mentions some of the present laws that local and State legislators are considering (“A scarlet letter for sex offenders?”, Katherine Mieszlowski, www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/2006/11/06/shirt/print.html). Wearing gaudily-colored tee-shirts proclaiming one is a sex offender, having to drive a car with ditto-colored license plates, and some town called Algoma barring sex offenders (never further defined – did one pee in the park at night or serially rape victims?) from living near – among other things – “walking trails”. The Great State of Ohio, of course, allows anybody to demand that a person be put on the Sex-Offender Registry list without any trial and even without any charges being brought. And the Great State of New York, following The Great State of Kansas and others, joins the rush to adopt the old Soviet and (still operational) Chinese Communist scam: claiming that certain criminals are also mentally incompetent and dangerous, thus locking them in a State mental-hospital … after, conveniently, they’ve served long sentences in a State prison.

The author suggests literarily that these are all versions of Hawthorne’s and the Puritans’ “scarlet letter”. True enough, sad to say. Historically, however, I’d call this ‘new’ ‘reformed’ law to be a huge regression to primitivisms precisely ignored by the Framers. What has happened to Us, that our ‘cutting edge’ and ‘elite’ opinion is now that of the torch-and-pitchfork wielding mobbery of Central European peasant-villagers in the Middle Ages? We are falling back and down through Time, gathering by the clutchy handful clumps of Communist and peasant praxis from which earlier generations of Americans considered themselves thankfully liberated. What has happened to Us? What is happening to Us?

Eisenhower wasn’t kidding when he said “But so much remains to be done”. We are losing ground, now not only as a world-power militarily and economically, but as a culture and a civilization – and as the culture and civilization envisioned by the Framers and the founding generations. We are falling back, sliding back – and Our fall is furthered by the security-crazed ‘soccer moms’ (and dads) just as quickly as the Apocalypse-crazed Fundamentalists.

Up in Boston the aircraft carrier “Kennedy” is making a last visit to Kennedy-country before being decommissioned later this month. She will be a museum ship, perhaps. When she was commissioned 40 years ago she was the magnificent and awesome spear-tip of our Weltmacht, symbol of a country flush with the ripened postwar fruits of absolute victory and robustly unquenchable vitality; a country that was not only the world’s economic and military colossus (yeah, well there was that other bunch … but somehow their uniform hats were too big and they wore way too many medals; thus did they protest too much), but also had just caught up with a century of its own unfinished business, completing the great unfinished work of the Civil War in that Glorious 1965.

Now the ship is denuded of her weaponry and aircraft, and a skeleton crew will nurse her down to Florida for retirement. Her successors – as we speak – are jammed like huge fish in a barrel in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, marshaled to shock and awe adversarial ‘natives’ hastily promoted to the status of the genuine Nazi and Soviet monstrosities of yore. We are slipping back. What is happening to Us? What then is to be done?

How we answer these questions will affect – even effect – the future not only of our own children and their progeny, but of the West and Democracy and – not inconceivably – the species itself. We are facing a new Frontier – a new wilderness – that Kennedy and Eisenhower could only have imagined in their worst dreams. But it is coming to that now. Our responsibilities are grave. Are We up to the task?

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1 Comments:

Blogger Davidco said...

Here in Florida, prosecutors were recently foiled in their attempt to 'civilly commit' a former sex offender for driving while intoxicated. The offender's 'sex crime' was decades past.

The Florida civil commitment program is a shambles which spends little more per inmate than it takes for simple incarceration. Actuarial tables used to commit have no predictive value in individual cases. Treatment and assessment tools for the 'mental abnormality' of paedophilia are primitive at best. This is a lock 'em up and throw away the key gambit.

10:53 AM  

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