Friday, July 15, 2005

Hullo Clouds, Hullo Sky

Some while ago, Lance Mannion put up a wonderfully insightful pair of posts in which he lamented the divide between the "wonks" and the "writers," (his words) in Leftovia. His immediate text was the dearth of links to women bloggers from the Wonk Contingent -- the Editorialists, the Reporters -- but Lance arrived at his wonk/writer dichotomy when he opened the excluded category to the male bloggers who tend not to get the High Numbers either, because they don't dwell obsessively on politics or sex.

I was of course very flattered to be listed on Lance's Writers team, but it did bring to my mind the question of why I mostly tend to leave the political stuff up to the hypertensive set and content myself to rooting around, oinking gently, in the leaf-mulch of life and finding the occasional truffle.

I think that if you read me fairly closely, you'll find that actually I am pretty pinko. But I mostly assume, since you are here and reading, that you agree with me on that stuff. That's just a starting point: Given that we are both firmly convinced that George Bush is a smirking fratboy cipher surrounded by evil swine, that our country is sliding slowly into fascism, that our shared culture has been dunked into a vat of molten Saran-Wrap, and that young men and women are dying in a misguided, manufactured war the transparent purpose of which is to control a major source of oil while posing as a War on a Paramilitary Tactic ... what else can we find to talk about?

In other words, I don't think there's anything I can say that's going to improve your understanding of that stuff, and anything I do say on the matter will only add to the cacophanous background dissonance against which it becomes increasingly difficult to discern a coherent truth.

I finally got around to finishing "The Home Front: A Soldier’s Father Wrestles with the Ambiguities of Iraq" by George Packer in the July 4 issue of the New Yorker, in which he does an excellent job of laying out -- as if it needed to be done yet one more time -- the spectacular serial incompetences of the Bushites in Iraq. But in the course of this evisceration, one thing he said reached out and grabbed me by the throat:
Whereas the street fights of the late nineteen-sixties were the consequence of Vietnam, the word fights of this decade were not the consequence of Iraq—if anything, it was the other way around. It was the first blogged war, and the characteristic features of the form—instant response, ad-hominem attack, remoteness from life, the echo chamber of friends and enemies—helped define the tone of the debate about Iraq.
Yeah. That sounds about right. Instant response, ad-hominem attack, remoteness from life. Echo chamber. Yeah.

But especially that remoteness from life.

Lance is really on target when he says that Liberal culture's advantage is that it's by definition open. While the Opposite Camp lectures and hectors and demands Adherence to Universal Principles, "Liberalism," says Lance, "does not have a doctrine," and he's quite right. The effect here is that it frees us up to make heretical connections -- joining up the dots! -- with a dispatch and guiltlessness that you won't find in the Frother Mind.

That, I would like to think, is the Jingo Principle. While the Wonks of both wings racket on at each other with wordwordswordswordswordswords, I'm free to sit in my little tree, hullo clouds, hullo sky....

I think, if I really boil it down, I'm trying to show (prove? hint? suggest?) that there's another way.

Ken Kesey, I think, was onto the Jingo Principle when, in 1965 at a huge antiwar rally at Berkeley he lampooned the militant crowd: "Holding rallies and having marches," he said, between blowing "Home on the Range" on his harmonica, "you're playing their game.... There's only one thing to do.... And that's everybody just look at it, look at the war, and turn your back and say... 'fuck it.' "

Now, I'm not suggesting that we drop a bunch of acid and drive off in a silly painted bus, but I do want to suggest this:

Acting like Them makes you, well, act like Them.

The Right waves around this Culture of Life crap, and we've forgotten how to wave our own Culture of Life back at them: We're alive.

We breathe. We love. We fuck. We sing. We eat. We drink.

With joy.

Yes, of course, goddammit, the world is in pain, people are dying in agony, injustice & bad faith & ugliness & intolerance & the whole fucking depressing batshit insane ball of ear wax. I know. I know, all right?

But let me ask you, if I started racketing along with all the rest of them, shrieking indignantly about whatever passes for the fuckin' Latest Outrage of the Last Ten Minutes...

Would that change anything a single goddamned iota? Would that Push the Pendulum even one tiny degree back into True? Would it save one starving kid, one soldier in Iraq, convince one crazed, bulging-eyed monotheist to put down his Bible or Qu'ran and just relax for a second?

I put it to you that it would not.

So instead I turn my back on it and say fuck it. Instead of contributing more noise, more howling, more indignant huffing, I try instead to celebrate in my own quiet way those little joys that a true Culture of Life would hold dear.

That's what I do.

Fuck it.


The Viscount LaCarte said...

I know what you mean Neddie.

This is rather disquieting. said...

That is why you're on my bookmarks list.Polemics is as cheap and significant as magnetic patriotic ribbons at this point in our history. Thinking is hard work that only can lead to more hard work.Think I'll watch some reality TV...NOT.Keep it up, you have an audience

Neddie said...

Viscount: but-but-but-but... That guy's just an idiot!

This is what I mean by "separation from life": we shriek at each other through these keyboards, and we have no idea that there's somebody on the other end of the shrieks. And there's no excuse in saying "Yeah, well, they started it"; I don't let my twelve-year-old get away with that.

Somebody's gotta be the grownup.

You want to read some hilarious Amazon reviews, try Jesus' General's.

Mark: Thank you very much for your kind words. Hope you stick around!

The Viscount LaCarte said...

Oh, I know it is pointless to shriek at idiots. It is just so damn disheartening to *know* of their numbers. To see them everywhere we look and then have to examine our own consciences, and feel guilty in our own conceits, wavering between tolerance and intolerance, compassion and hatred. I remember an article I read a few years ago, perhaps 6 months after 9/11, where the writer said, "I hate them for making me hate them."

Which is why we come to the conclusion of turning our backs, and saying, "Fuck it!" because there is nothing left to do.

Then we remember the Edmund Burke quote about how evil triumphs when good men do nothing.

Maybe it is time for another Beatle song?

Neddie said...


I'm not advocating doing nothing! I'm all about the something! Run for local office, serve on the school board, volunteer in a homeless shelter, do anything you can to connect.

What I want us to turn our backs on is acting like THEM. That was Kesey's point: In seeking power through militancy, we become no better than them, and, dammit, we ARE better. With logic and love -- not the volume of our shouting -- we'll have power enough to raise consciousness up and for lifting humanity higher! Higher! (Baroque piccolo trumpet solo.)

I just don't think Burke had "eating your liver over pissy little ad-hominem insults in little-read blogs" on his list of "the things good men can do in the face of evil."

Blogging provides a tempting illusion of power. It's nothing of the sort.

My "fuck it" is not a "fuck it" of cynicism or defeatism. My "fuck it" is a "fuck it" of "I won't be drawn into their game because it is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I know better. I've known better since I was eight years old."

Neddie said...

Let me amend something: Not "blogging provides an illusion of power." Wrong.

"Blogging provides a tempting illusion of activism."

Back at the moment of the Big Repudiation in November of last year, there was a topic making the rounds about the illusory nature of political blogging, where your expectations are cruelly distorted by having yelled for months into a big echo chamber that sent back nothing but validation of your own beliefs. This is why Kerry's defeat came as such a gut-wrench -- we'd been doing nothing but convincing each other of the rightness of our convictions.

Illusion, illusion, illusion.

The Buddha had trenchant things to say.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

Yeah, I'm down with this on just about every level. And th' replies.

The only thing we have to remember is They've proven themselves so ruthless and resilient, willing to let their numbers rack up until they can effect their crappy shit. And it sometimes feels like we're the royal british army in the colonies during the revolution and we're being all honorable (well, not me) in battle and they're guerrilla-ing all over our asses. And kicking them summarily.

I know- we can split up into thinker ants and soldier ants and some of us can extoll clouds and sky and some can match their barrage mortar for mortar. Just to keep them busy while a contingent finesses their way in and Retrieves The Holy Foreskin of Cobarubbias.

handdrummer said...

Neddie, right the eff on!

I've been ridin' through a bad bout of blognosis myself. And I've decided, just as you have, that I'm not letting the bastards take my life away from me by only playing their snarly games of fear and hatred.

I DO have a pretty decent life and part of what makes it so is the chance to write about that fact.

We pinko bloggers need to remember that mindfulness should include what's right in our world, not just what wrong.

Hell yes, pay attention, but pay attention to everything.

Linkmeister said...

Take some comfort in the fact that according to Amazon's ranking of reviewers, that dude mentioned by the Viscount is #465,535 or something close to it.

I don't quite say Fuck it, but I usually figure that my side already has enough folks raising hell about the topic of the day (Rove, this week) that I needn't bother. I'll just go off on my own tangent or cosine or whatever.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

I agree with you. I'm really arguing against my own feelings of futility. As "hand" said, "I do have a pretty decent life."

But I have a few problems:

1) It is hard to keep expectations low. Who among all of us here doesn't secretly hope that Rove is going to get busted, and the house of cards will collapse? Every time there is some new revelation, (Powell being quoted in early '01 that Sadaam was no threat, the film of Bush continuing to read to those toddlers after being informed of the attacks, the Saudi nationals were quietly escorted from the country, yellowcake, evidence of voter tampering, no weapons, films of the weasel joking about "no weapons" while his compassionate conservative friends guffaw over drinks and the soldiers are being blown to bits, and on and on ...) and the house doesn't falter. I have to accept that *so many* people are *never* going to get it. When I ask myself, "What is it going to take to get these people to SEE?" my answer is, "If Whistleass went on the air and admitted everything, apologized and resigned, these people still wouldn't budge!" And there are millions of 'em!

2) I think we *are* sliding toward fascism, and while none of us want to "stoop to their level" I do think that as individuals we need to speak up. I'm not advocating "playing their game," and I think your "logic and love" piccolo reference is spot on. When someone at the office (or wherever) says something stupid, and the 4 or 5 others stand there in silence, I still attempt a reasonable measured response, and often, later on *one* of them will tell me privately that they agree.

And that is what I am doing.

Bob Dwire said...

Ned, I so agree with you. I felt the same way after the London bombings, when all around seemed to be glued to the latest news, comments, and dingy photos from phones, and I couldn't begin to see how that would help one to comprehend.

And if you remember Ken Key, you maybe also remember Country Joe telling people that, "if you want to stop war, you got to sing LOUD".