Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I was wrong about that.

* Arthur:
"So let me tell you something. If this paralysis and inaction continues, and if the Bush administration does order an attack on Iran, I don't want to hear one goddamned word from a single goddamned Democrat about how terrible and calamitous it is. They've been able to take action for months, and they can take action now. They do nothing.

And for all those goddamned bloggers who have done and continue to do nothing: if an attack should come, don't say a goddamned word about how monstrous it is. You had your chance. You blew it. You didn't give a shit."

* athenae, in full:


I am moving increasingly to the position that pundits' refusals to get on board the train of let's get the hell out of Iraq has less to do with their desire for us to actually win than it has to do with their desire not to be wrong, continuing on the theme of who's the fairest of them all which I tried to address yesterday.

I really don't think it's about anything other than being shown up. We're talking about people who for years have worshipped a particularly belligerent form of campaigning and governing on the part of the modern Republican Party, in which whoever says the meanest thing is the most fascinating person of the moment, and backing down is for pussies, and apologies are things girls do.

Combine this with a lethal distaste for taking anything so seriously as to get upset about it and what you have is, well, a sociopath, actually, but what you really have is the uncomfortable inability to admit humanity and engagement with the world around you, to admit consequences, to admit that, as much as you like to pretend you're above the fray in your columnist's or commentator's tower, you also want to have the power to move people, and in order not to be terrified of that power you have to believe you're right. Not just right, but also in the right, and on the side of the angels, and doing noble work. God's work, as stupid Timmeh would say.

So you've got this idea of yourself, and you've been walking around for years with it, taunting your liberal sister-in-law at the dinner table and mocking your younger brother over beer. You've been calling everybody out, everybody who disagrees with you, as dumb or distasteful or both. And not only is that what you do, it's who you are. It's your personality. Your moments of jackassery, you've made them your whole identity, and more than that, you've made sure everybody knows all about it. You've worn your dickheadedness on your sleeve.


You can't just back down, is the thing. You're not just admitting to a mistake at work. You're admitting to a mistake in who you've made yourself to be. That's huge. That's a brick-wall moment not a lot of people actually manage to face down. Half of the world's assholes are the way they are because they can't pick their own stories apart and see how much of what they think is about their own needs and how much really is about what happened to and by and around them. Half the world's misery is not figuring out what is necessity and what is self-aggrandizement, and don't think I'm letting myself off the hook here, I've had to do this recently and it's fucking hard.

It's not that I don't have a certain amount of sympathy. Were this just about your theories about the latest Harry Potter book, or Greek food, or something, I would sympathize with how rough it is to say you're sorry, and maybe it's just better you never eat in that restaurant anymore or talk to your sister. I get running away from conflict. I get not putting yourself in situations where you have to be the bigger person, because it sucks. There's a reason they call this shit character-building in self-help books.

But what these people are basically asking is that other people die so that they don't have to say oops. So that they don't have to do that which is psychically uncomfortable but physically peril-less, in reconsidering their worldview. So they don't have to look at their sister-in-laws across the dinner table and say, "You remember that time I called you a commie fuckwit who probably wanted the terrorists to win? I was wrong about that."

They're asking other people to die in order that they not face up to that.

And that's repellent.



«—U®Anu§—» said...

Arthur Silber is an interesting person. He can examine an aspect of psychology down to its smallest possible component in a rare and refreshing way. I just spent a couple hours reading some of his stuff. These two excerpted paragraphs belie his ability to clearly analyze. Democrats and bloggers deserve some of that criticism, but in my opinion not much. The Bush administration has had millions and millions of voices at home and abroad demanding and begging that it not engage in military adventurism; but the Bush administration has not heard them. I've signed endless petitions and written a mountain of letters, more than I ever thought I would, in an attempt to influence opinion and add my voice. I felt silly doing it, but I did it anyway. For Arthur to issue a call to action by insisting other people and I did nothing at all, because we "didn't give a shit," is just not true. We did give a shit, and we did more than we should have had to do. Washington didn't hear us, and still doesn't. That's why I told you guys early when I started writing to you that we are far past the time when extraordinary measures are needed. I'm closer to Washington than Luke, but I'm still 2,000 miles away. What would Arthur want me to do? Go there and camp out on the street? It wouldn't matter! If I could get one or two million other people to join me, that might be different, but I have my doubts even that would matter. Meanwhile, we're being set up for the next big terror moment. Arthur, that isn't my fault, either. GOP presidential candidates are making the tour through my state. Should I ambush one of them? That makes a better statement than all the petitions and letters I've written--but it's suicide, and dumb suicide at that. I'm fighting my own war, right here. That's what I'm supposed to do. I swear, if I had a million bucks, I'd go to D.C. and attempt to build that gallows on the mall. And the police would run me off over and over, and I'd go back, and draw a pretty big crowd.

profmarcus said...

interesting... i've often felt like uranus describes, wondering what ELSE i could do as my own small part in helping to halt this greased slide into fascism... could i walk the 2500 miles across country to washington with nothing but the clothes on my back and a sign calling for bush and cheney to resign...? could i camp in front of the local federal building and refuse to eat...? i've been entreated to work for the democratic party, canvassing, stumping for one candidate or another, but, quite honestly, i don't see enough difference between the dems and the r's to warrant putting my principles and values in service of those who seek to continue enriching themselves at the expense of the poor and the working stiffs of the world...

i totally agree, we are long past the time when extraordinary measures are needed, but it is only extraordinary measures that can save us... but what are they...? my discovery yesterday of the proposed intellectual property protection act, one of the most draconian pieces of legislation i have ever seen, coupled with the martial law provision of section 1076 of the defense authorization act of last year, and the more recent national security and homeland security presidential directive, all set the stage very well for our next "terror moment, which will be foisted on us sooner than we think if we cannot figure out some way to get those criminals out of office... so what do we do...? i've chosen to keep on blogging, to keep on signing petitions, to keep on writing letters, to keep on sending faxes, to keep on making phone calls... without stirring up the wrath of david horowitz, i bring principles, values and light to the graduate students to whom i am honored to teach about leadership and i see how hungry they are for it... beyond that...?

steven andresen said...

This came up,

"...You can't just back down, is the thing. You're not just admitting to a mistake at work. You're admitting to a mistake in who you've made yourself to be. That's huge. That's a brick-wall moment not a lot of people actually manage to face down..."

I think, for these people, this is where your commitments lead you... to a place where you have to decide to either admit you've made a mistake, and change somehow, or not, and thereafter suffer the consequences. I've thought this is where the language, "being born again" comes up and is most appropriate. You have to stop being who you are, and living the life of those commitments, and start living another life with better thought out ones.

It's like going along thinking that one has to be a thug in order to survive, and then deciding that there has to be a better way. And then, giving up the violence and lying, and so on, in order to get away from the consequences of that commitment.

One problem for the Bushies, or the Nazis for that matter, is that it seems difficult to see that one is, in fact, a thug. Not very many of the Bushies see themselves as in the wrong, making a mistake, or being thuggish. They see themselves as having God, or natural laws on their side,(because for them, mostly, a universal morality may not exist).

What can we do about the situation that's more effective than marching in the streets or more extreme militancy? One answer is to make better arguments that being a thug is a bad thing and that doing x, y, z is thuggish.

Kax said...

I am so thoroughly disgusted with the Dems' lack of fire in the belly over these blatant floutings of our Constitution and the Dems LAMENESS, I swear, the next time they ask me for a conbtribution, I am going to mail them a barf bag because they make me sick, literally.

I am so broken-hearted about their big cave-in, I feel nauseous. Do they make barf bags in yellow? I think that's the appropriate color.

Fuuuuuuuck!Right now, I think they deserve a damned good bitch slapping.

«—U®Anu§—» said...

Thanks for those good comments. The problem, and Bush and Cheney know it, is the country hasn't faced this kind of challenge, ever. So, there's no history to draw upon for creative solutions. I've come to realize most all we've been doing hasn't accomplished much if anything; so, we should do something completely different. (I learned that backing semi trucks into tight docks.)

There is much resignation and news-weariness. Instead, we must think outside the loop. Be proactive. And think about what the authors of the Declaration of Independence had in mind. If they could be here today, what would they recommend? I genuinely feel they'd envision a crowd in Washington adequate to physically drag the proper people out of their offices, and deal with them in an appropriate way. I believe nothing short of that brutishness will work.

steven andresen said...

One response to the problems we face is this,

"...I genuinely feel they'd envision a crowd in Washington adequate to physically drag the proper people out of their offices, and deal with them in an appropriate way. I believe nothing short of that brutishness will work."

I have sympathy for this. I imagine myself charging through government office buildings, grabbing guilty government stooges, tying ropes around their necks in pairs and throwing them out separate windows.

Sometimes disgust at what our government has been doing to the poor, helpless, old, and sick makes me want them to get back what they have been giving out. I know they make people suffer on purpose.

However, my initial and untempered reaction to what I take to be the great injustice of our country cannot be what we should do to correct these problems.

One should be suspicious, in fact, of what our unreasoning emotions make us think to do. I am suspicious because the powerful study how to control mobs and manipulate emotions.

There is even an argument, from the Republicans and the Libertarians, for example, that government is no good, that it's helping people to find a job, or to educate them, or to protect them from the carelessness and greed of business, and it actually harms them. We are supposed to believe that feeding a hungry kid is going to harm that kid because the kid will not learn to feed himself. If you give the kid a fish, he won't learn to fish for himself.

As a principle, this is too convenient for rich and powerful people who have money that should help the weak and the poor.

No, we should be suspicious of the emotion driven urge to string up bureaucrats.

And yes, I understand that the problem isn't so much with the pencil pushers, but with the planners and the politicians who decide to let the people starve so the rich can live better. I'm saying we should hold back our urge to take them out back and guillitine the lot.

I'm saying our target isn't so much the messengers and planners of greed murder and fear as the rationalizations that they depend on. Our target must be the moral compass that they look to that tells them to rob from the poor to give to the rich. I'm saying don't string up the messengers, as vile and deluded as they may be, our job should be to expose and denounce and refute the message. Dig the thing up by its roots and make even the messengers see why that supposed "compass" is not worthy to lead them to do anything.

It's one's focus on the messenger that leads one to think violence, secrecy, or deceitfulness would do any good at all. Or that stringing them up is going to help.

I'm saying, you fight a bad idea with a good argument.

«—U®Anu§—» said...

"...you fight a bad idea with a good argument." Thanks, Steve, I'd say you grasp the concept. I've been threatening to write about my struggle with the cat population explosion here, and threatening to write a book about how cat rescue is an artform, not to make people all lovey-dovey about cats, but to make the bigger point that promoting and supporting life is a better approach than thinking of the existence of live things as a problem requiring euthanasia. Additionally, so much of what we think and do comes down to bad habits. Meanness and hate which lead to conflict, war and death could be derailed by simply breaking the hate habit. I've been a part of a lot of ineffective advocacy. I've used the words "hang them" in full knowledge it won't happen. These characters like to keep reminding everybody "all options are on the table" with no recognition of the fact that's very much a two-edged sword. I do more to promote peace, kindness and tolerance in the actual global world by rescuing a few companion animals from animal shelter death than by all the political advocacy I've done, or could do.

Of course, that has nothing to do with politics or the military industrial complex. But, it does have everything to do with people's basic concepts and the habits of thinking they follow, with no effort at self-examination or thought of reform. So often the real solution to a problem is left-handed and simple, and has nothing to do with the actual problem. Or does it?

Kax said...

A big crowd descending on D.C. is the reason they gave Halliburton that big contract to build more detention centers, ostensibly for illegal aliens, but in the fine print, for whoever fits their vague definition of an enemey combatant.

On what happens to people who do take over offices, in the early 1970's AIM took over Alcatraz and the BIA offices in D.C. and held them for weeks. One of the AIM leaders, John Trudell, Sioux, was punished by his home being set afire, killing his wife, kids and mother-in-law. I've known more than one person killed in a fluke car accident when they became too effective, including a UN Special Advisor who went to Namibia to observe the elections after the fall of appartheid. This advisor was working diligently to bring the UN to the US, D.C. and some Indian Reservations to teach them their International Human Rights, something the US under Bush Daddy did not want. I know of others who died in fires and accidents too.