Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hey. Are we paying attention?

Rarely do I discuss politics. I think I stopped believing in the power of politics to solve problems my freshman year in college, when I engaged in a heated hour-long debate with Marc Salomon on the West Mall. (He was a militant gay anarchic Marxist, or something like that, and I was a Young Republican, if you can believe it.) I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and the next week when I ran into him, I smiled and said hello. He acted like I didn't exist. It suddenly occurred to me that he was taking our political differences personally, and that he actually thought I was a sub-human for disagreeing with him. The fun stopped there, for me.

So I keep a weather ear cocked for the political situation, and I vote, and think about things, and listen. But I don't blog about politics, I don't get into political arguments, and I try not to get pessimistic and despairing.

But people, it's looking to me like WWIII is about to happen. I don't want to get into excrutiating detail, because I'm not a Middle East scholar, but look--Hezbollah is shooting Syrian missiles from Lebanon into Israel. Israel is hitting back. Hezbollah and Hamas are virtually the same--terrorists, that is--and Hamas is now the freakin' Palestinian Government. Iran is building nuclear weapons, and making long flowery speeches about how the U.S.'s support of Israel is bad, bad, bad. Our president is a fascist who has embroiled us in a sinkhole of an unwinnable war in Iraq, alienated most of our allies, plunged the country into abysmal debt and eroded our civil liberties.

To put it bluntly: the U.S. is in a weak position, with a belligerent, self-righteous and narrow-minded leader, who has a habit of making very bad tactical decisions. We've pissed a lot of people off; those people have pissed our allies off. Peace Through Strength is becoming less viable by the second.

When I defend myself, I am attacked.
--Course in Miracles, Lesson 135

A problem cannot be solved on the same level which it was created.
--Albert Einstein

When I read 'liberal' blogs, they're generally full of a lot of hand-wringing about how War Is Bad and our president is a fascist lunatic and people are suffering and dying and gay people can't get married and oh, oh, oh. When I read 'conservative' blogs, they're generally full of ex-Marines discussing weaponry and tactics, and making prayer requests for their sons who are shipping out on Tuesday, intermingled with anti-Islamic diatribes and anti-gay-marriage diatribes and oh, our president is a fascist lunatic.

Did I mention that our president is a fascist lunatic? And if everyone can agree on this one issue, why is he still our president?

But anyway, that's not my point. My point is that maybe we artists and literati need to be paying more attention, not because we can do much about it at this point, but just because we need to pay attention. Because maybe we're living in Interesting Times. Maybe 'political art' isn't going to be about making obvious statements about War being Bad in some slick gallery, but about actually binding up people's bleeding wounds in Central Park, or seriously stepping in front of a Syrian missile and getting blown to smithereens.

And my deeper point is that for me, making a gargantuan effort to regard the world from a transcendent perspective is very serious business. Because I genuinely don't believe that what's happening now, what will happen, and what's happened in the past can be 'solved' or 'fixed' at a political level. I don't have any delusions that anti-war protests, elections, or charging into the Middle East and saying "Why can't we all just get along?" is going to do any good. Neither do I think that weaponry and tactics are any of my business--I'll leave that in the capable hands of those who know about such things, and care.

Because, people, this is going to keep happening forever and ever Amen, until each and every one of us understands the notion that our neighbor IS ourself, that what goes around comes around, that Love may not be the Answer, but Hatred IS the Problem. I have no control over what my neighbor thinks; I have no control over what he does. I only have control over myself.

So my task is to eliminate hatred, in myself. That's it. That's all.


danonymous said...

First....oooooooooh...that last mandala does not need words....but....certainlt emanates a sense of peace and a sense that its home is good a place....Or am I just reading in too much?
This war stuff, republican, bush stuff is a real mess.....but there seems to be intent behind all the actions anyway. I think Putin said that Israel's goal is much greater than just getting the soldiers back who were kidnapped. He mau be right. I would not be surprised if the Group of 8, not just the US and Britain are using ISrael as a proxy way to eliminate Iran's Nuclear capability. The first reason to start off that dialogue was to allow the Iranian missile to hobble the ISraeli ship and sink two other merchant ship. Syria should be getting hit soon, for which Iran will react and then consequently get whacked. Probably, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and a couple of the other moderate arab states are waiting for this to hapopen as well since Iran and Syria are very much de-stabilizing the position built up by the moderates to lean to the west for a change.
But as you say, this has been history, this is history, this will be history for a long time into the future.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, but at the same time, we are making very slow evolutionary progress.
Now HATE and having the us-them feelings.....who knows if that will ever change. That may be a human thing forever. But I may be wrong

Tracy said...

Hi Serena, You've written a good post about this situation. My husband and I were up talking about it last night and we were both feeling dejected about the future as we fell asleep. It's just so hard to understand all of this hatred and violence.

painterdog said...

Young republican, would never had guess.

I heard Newt Gingrich on tv say just that yesterday.

By the way Iranians are Persians and not Arabs, so I think we all need to understand that difference.
Also they are shiite muslims and the Syrians are mostly Sunni which puts them at odds with the Iranians due to what is happeneing in Iraq.

Now of course all bets are off when dealing with Isreal.

There has been 3 or 4 Arab Isrealy wars, things calm down and they go back to hating each other with sporadic violence.

The Nuclear capability of Iran is years away, try 8 to 10.
So they are not going to set off any bombs right now.

I don't know what Isreal is doing, its not good, and it could trip Lebanon back into a civil war which would be a bad thing.

Our government which is really being run more by the VP Dick Cheney and who is a real scarey sob.

WW3, I don't think so, its economic suicide and corporate interest will not tolarate that much destabilization. But you never know with global politics, haven't even mentioned North Korea, and they have a bomb.

Oh I don't recommend standing in front of a missle there is no statement in being blown to pieces.

painterdog said...
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painterdog said...

I lost my thought on Dick Cheney.
This guy is trying to take your rights away. All of them. He was in the Nixon white house during watergate and has always thought that the presidental office lost its power after that.

Funny he has never said that he thought that Nixon did anything wrong. That's scary.

The republicans are kind of scary to me, it seems we are in danger of becoming a theocracy with all the influences of the religous right.

There is of course plenty of blame to go around for the politicans who are ruining our country right now, and that includes the democrats, who just site there like pissed of kitty cats.
With all thats going on they have the nerve to debate same sex marrage and flag burning.

Its a disgrace, and now we are
seeing the results.

This link is to a very good Frank Rich article about this very subject.

serena said...

Now HATE and having the us-them feelings.....who knows if that will ever change. That may be a human thing forever.

It could be; it doesn't have to be. Mystics over the ages have written step-by-step instructions for how to get out of this circle; the question is first believing that it is possible, and second, having the motivation to attempt it. Motivation generally comes in the form of intense pain, of which we are generating no lack.

The republicans are kind of scary to me, it seems we are in danger of becoming a theocracy with all the influences of the religous right.

No, we're not. Bush may think that's what he's doing, but he isn't and he won't be able to. Believe it or not, the religious right is just as pissed off at him as the left is.

What's happening is even scarier; the administration is overriding the Constitution willy-nilly, without even any deeper spiritual wisdom to act as a compass. Christians who actually understand Christianity would be infinitely preferable, as theocrats, to what we have now.

Chris Rywalt said...

Robert Anton Wilson wrote once about karma. Karma's not some magical force out there in the universe. Karma's real and it's between you and me. And karma doesn't necessarily come back to smack the person who did the bad thing in the first place; karma just comes around. I punch you, and you go home and punch your kid, and your kid grows up and punches some guy in a bar. That's karma, that's the wheel of karma.

And the only way to stop the wheel of karma is to stop it inside yourself. Choose to take the bad things and let them go. Don't pass them on. Let the bad things evaporate.

That's exactly what you're saying here, Serena.

painterdog said...

I could get intot all the reason why a Christian based govenrment would be very bad for this country, but the main reason is its un-constitutional.

Now as or Mr.Bush and company you are very right in how they are moving very close to the edge of facisim.

John Dean was on the NPR program today(On Point)talking about this very subject. What he was saying is that people in the white house are worried about the administration and how they seem to be slidding down to a fascist mentality.

serena said...

Yes, Chris, it IS exactly what I'm saying. I'm not saying it's easy; I'm just saying it.


Painterdog, don't get into the reasons, we all know them already. What I'm saying is that very few people who call themselves Christians actually understand Christianity. I don't believe that any form of government can truly solve all our problems, but a government that actually put into practice the basic tenets of Christianity would not be such a bad thing.

serena said...

US and Britain are using ISrael as a proxy way to eliminate Iran's Nuclear capability

This sort of passive-aggressive shuffling of agendas is ALWAYS a bad idea. It's like that joke about the guy searching for his car keys under the street lamp:'I lost them in the other block, but there's more light over here.'

WhatsAPundit said...

serena, though it pains me to be in any sort of conflict with you, I have to point out that starting from the assumption that bush is a fascist probably isn't a good first step to finding personal peace within the current political environment.

"And if everyone can agree on this one issue, why is he still our president?"

the obvious answer is that not everyone can agree on that one issue. (for what it's worth, if hounding every republican out of office would bring world peace, i'd be the first to say "bring it on". i don't think this has a high likelihood of success, however.)

back into what i think is the theme of your post. the one way to ensure there are demons is to create them; i think in this post you're feeding something that is very bad for all of us, and that is the desire -- within all the little political plots we claim -- to demonize those not within our little fences.

the problem, of course, is that evil objectively exists. the people on the trains of mumbai and london and madrid, the clubbers in bali, and the nine-to-fivers in nyc were slaughtered in its service. hizballah and hamas are fellow-travelers with the real monsters who planned and executed those attacks. anyone who is their friend is an enemy of mine, and i'm very content with that state of being.

now we can argue constructively about the best way to deal with the cancer in our world that produces the 9/11s and all the rest. it's very possible our strategies and tactics have been bad. it's also quite possible for fundamentally decent people to make bad decisions. but frankly, in this post you just lumped me in with fascists, (i support the president and most of what i perceive to be his strategies and tactics -- and no, i'm not going to go into details here, now or later) and while i don't mind being called stupid, i do mind being called evil.

shan't bring my politics over here again. just wanted to point out a potential source of frisson.

-- Mark Poling

Chris Rywalt said...

Agreeing with Mark, to some extent: I do believe that most people, most of the time, are doing what they think is best. The trouble is no one can really agree on what's best, and no one has all the information.

Bringing up Robert Anton Wilson again, he writes a lot about the SNAFU Principle, the short version of which is that true communication is only possible between equals. As soon as one person has power over another, the weaker person stops telling the truth, and starts saying whatever will keep the person in power happy.

So I don't think George W. Bush is willfully doing bad things. He's got lousy information because he's always being lied to.

And of course a lot of people define "what's best for the world" as being very similar to "what's best for me," two things which aren't always compatible.

serena said...

Mark, Mark, Mark. Repeat after me; 'The use of hyperbole for literary affect.' This is not a political blog, as I stated right up front. It is a messy and sketchy work of Art, intended to stimulate discussion, and to allow me to explore lines of reasoning that may be faulty or incomplete, not a strict record of my committed opinions.

Be that as it is, if you read the NYT editorial to which I have linked my cheery accusation of fascism, you will see that it is about the systematic overriding of our Constitutional rights, and governmental checks and balances, by the Bush administration. A grab for absolute power by the few, in fact. In other words, fascism.

As a libertarian, I am sure that you take this issue as seriously as I do. We may disagree in our interpretation of certain Bush administration tactics, but the results of those tactics have an extremely ugly tendency.

Evil does objectively exist. I have no quarrel with that. I am sure you understand that in no way did I intend to lump you in with the 'evil' people; nor do I include Bush in this category. He is, in my opinion, simply simple, spiritually immature, horrendously narrow-minded and a very bad listener. This does not make him evil. It just makes him a bad leader.

I also think that a certain core group of terrorists can be classified as 'evil,' although since I don't have accurate insight into their psyches, and don't know their true motivations, I can't be sure of this.

However, many people may choose to follow evil people for reasons that are not evil, in and of themselves. They may have suffered extremely and are looking for some resolution; they may be looking simply for leadership in a vacuum. This world is a confusing and chaotic place, and confusion and chaos are breeding grounds for Bad Decisions of all kinds.

Our task, then, is to fight evil in such a way as to avoid so much collateral damage that we inadvertantly stoke the fires that feed it. This is very tricky. I can easily forgive Bush for making honest mistakes; what I have a harder time with is his repeated failure to even try to understand a perspective different from his own.

painterdog said...
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painterdog said...

Serena I agree with you on the karma thing.

I have to disagree with on GW and company though. Their agenda in Iraq was already in place before 9/11.
The mistake they made is in not being honest with the people.

Everything this administration has done has been calculated and done for a reason. They are more into comming up with the right marketing plan than really running the country.

If they were serious about running the country than the Gulf cost would not still be the disaster that it is, its shameful.

Bush and Cheney and their cardre got it wrong period.

As this is not a political blog I will make it short, but these people are scary and bad for the country(tax cuts to the rich, Katrinia, Homeland (In)Security)

but a government that actually put into practice the basic tenets of Christianity would not be such a bad thing.

We already have the basic tenets, Its called the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Now if the people in power would only adhere to them...

There’s a persistent myth, perpetuated by economists who should know better — like Edward Lazear, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers — that rising inequality in the United States is mainly a matter of a rising gap between those with a lot of education and those without. But census data show that the real earnings of the typical college graduate actually fell in 2004.

In short, it’s a great economy if you’re a high-level corporate executive or someone who owns a lot of stock. For most other Americans, economic growth is a spectator sport.

an excerpt from Paul Krugman's piece on the economy.

serena said...

painterdog, I agree that it does appear that the administration had plans to invade Iraq before 9/11. Regardless of this, I think the primary mistake they have made (aside from all that pesky civil liberties violation thing, and the Katrina incompetence thing, and the war tactics incompetence thing) is in making the assumption that people from a radically different culture, background, religion and general outlook will have an intuitive understanding of the concepts of 'freedom' and 'democracy' that is the same as ours.

It's clear that they don't. These concepts have to arise from an internal maturation process, and cannot be imposed from outside.

painterdog said...

Amen to that.
If anyone in the white house read any history they would have got that one.

The British tried and failed in Iraq after WW1(which is when it was created, most of the middle east as we know it today was drawn up by the Balfour Agreement after WW1)

I dnon't think 'freedom' and 'democracy' was really there aim.

It was just to over through Saddam Hussein, and then ope for the best.
Which we can see is not a good plan when dealing with world politics.

To be blunt who knows what they where thinking.

Right now it looks like the middle east is about to explode, and if Iran comes into the breech, God help us.

$5 a gallon for gas will be the least of ouro troubles.