Terrorism Works because You are Stupid

Extremists, Trump, and Putin all depend on your Western sense of middle-class privilege to move their goals forward

 

A child dies from malnutrition.  A child dies from a gun accident in the home.  A child dies from living on the streets with an insane person.  A child dies from a curable disease.  A child dies from drinking dirty water.  A child dies in a shanty town from parental abuse.  A child dies from a drunk’s car crash.  A child dies from abandonment.  A child dies from suicide.  A child dies by police.  A child dies because no-one cares for him.  A child dies because no-one cares about her.  A child dies at the hands of a Christian extremist.  A child dies at the hands of a Muslim extremist.

No-one cares about the child who dies of malnutrition.  No-one cares that an unsecured gun took the child’s life in someone’s home.  No-one knows that a lunatic killed the homeless child.  Nobody is concerned about the diseases of the poor; there’s no money in it.  The child’s brothers and sisters keep drinking the dirty water because they have no other water to drink.  The abusive parents go on abusing.  Auto accidents happen all the time.    Another child will be abandoned to take the dead child’s place.   The child dead from her own hands is just a statistic.  No punishment is meted out to the murderous police.  No-one will be there to care for, or about, the next child either.  No-one will blame Christ or Christianity for their extremists’ brutal act.

But every headline, every newscast, every blog, every sermon, every politician’s speech, every great leader’s pontification, every slogan, every soapbox, every curling lip, every radio call-in, every weak mind, every small brain, every quivering backbone, every hard heart, every gelatin spleen, every tight sphincter, every tongue, every ear, every second of every minute of every hour of every day until the next extremist who happens to be Muslim commits a mindless cruelty will be filled to overflowing with venomous cowardice, with the same thought, with the same words –

Islamic Terrorism!

Terrorists!  Fear them!  Hate them!  Hunt them down and kill them before they kill again!  Rights be damned!  Sanity is for wimps!  Bomb their countrymen!  Bomb them more!  Bomb them harder!  Ban them!  Suspect them of all evil things!  Keep them off the plane!  Watch them on the streets!  Only more police in more places with more weapons will help!  If you’re not willing to join us all in our PANIC! PANIC! PANIC! then you must sympathize with the Terrorists!  And so, death to you, too!

This doesn’t make us any safer, of course.  It makes us less safe – because it helps nobody, advances no interests, saves nobody, rewards nobody except the extremists.  And the gun makers and bomb makers and what is referred to as the Security Porn Industry: None of it helps at all, but it makes you feel all tingly.  They are helped immensely, of course – a gigantic transfer of both wealth and backbone from the insipid, pampered, unthinking masses to the lunatic fringe and the Military-Industrial Complex.  Your backbone.  Their wallets.  Like a straw sucking our culture dry; the Courage Vampire.

There’s no reason for it.  No excuse.  None.  Death is death.  All deaths should be prevented where they can be.  No death is made better or worse by its cause, no death more excusable than another.  Every child’s death is equally evil.  Killing is evil, is absolutely evil.  It’s not made more or less excusable by comparing this killer’s reason with that killer’s reason.  The reason anyone kills doesn’t enter into it at all.  Yes, I understand that you think it does –

But that’s inexcusable.  It’s cowardice.  If a death can be prevented, it should be prevented.  To carry on as if this child dying is acceptable as the way things are and that child’s death requires OH MY GOD STOP THE WORLD YELL SCREAM PANIC BELLOW ARREST WATCH BOMB SHOOT KILL BAN HATE HATE HATE AAAAAAH!!!!!!!! is exactly why they do it.  Why they’ll do it again.  You keep freaking out, so they keep doing it to make you freak out, so you keep freaking out, so they keep . . .

Why do you reward this behavior?  Why do you support them?  Why do you underwrite their hatred, their cruel acts?  Why do you make them stronger?  Why do you give them the sustained applause they so desire?  Why do you keep ensuring they will strike again?  Why does that one death mean All Things to you and the many poor children’s deaths, the brown child’s death, the homeless child’s death, the many many deaths happening all the time, the many deaths that can be prevented, mean nothing at all to you?  Have you ever, will you ever see hours and hours of endless news coverage for days and days when a poor child dies from his poverty?  Why?

Because you’re stupid and you’re a coward.  The pampered millions in their McMuffin world living in their McMansions driving their McSUV’s to their McWorkouts and their McJobs watching their McPolice Procedurals on their McTelevisions and in their McMovies going to McChurch on McSunday talking about their favorite McFootball team over their McMug of McBeer and McBelching have become used to the idea that Bad Things should Never Happen to Them.  Poor people, sure; homeless, absolutely; other people in other places with other lives than theirs, of course.  No reason to disturb their white world.  Bad things that happen to these others, these less valuable, don’t cause a single blip on their McRadar.  But to them!  No!

Your mindless, privileged, entitled lives should never be disturbed, your small ideas never expanded to include the Other, the Foreign, the Different.  You know which God is the One True God; and if someone with a different god – hell, since Allah is simply The Lord in Arabic, and since the God of Abraham is the same God to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, make that a different name for the same God, spoken in a different language in a different house of worship – if some follower of that different name for the same God commits some mindless act of cruelty that causes the Tightey Whiteys any loss, everything must come to a halt while we puke all over each other.

The War on Terror is an absurd nightmare that dreams itself, a feedback loop that increases its own mayhem and death and a militarist’s ejaculation, a bad smell that fills our brain-dead culture with the stench of cowardice – and you’re the asshole that farts it.

 

And I really hope it pisses you off that I’ve said so, because something has to jar you out of this cycle of death and destruction your spinelessness begets.  Terrorism is a criminal act.  The appropriate response is bravery, to be found in calm thought and our Justice system.  Our Criminal Justice system.  This cowardly panic, this War on Courage, only helps the extremists and the very wealthy.  Knock it off.

 

 

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Here We Are, at the End of All Things

Say Goodbye to Democracy and Hello to Dictatorship – which we all have worked so hard to bring about

In a previous post, the warning was issued that there would be an act of terrorism that allowed the Trascists to take full command of the government, with the Right as willing co-conspirators and the Left supine before it.  But who could have predicted it would be at a baseball game?

Today’s events at the GOP practice field, where an insane former Bernie supporter opened fire on Congressmen, staff and (of course they would be there) lobbyists, is exactly what the Rabid Right has been waiting for.  This will be Trumped up into their justification for the last steps in their coup d’etat.

They have been preparing for decades; the Gingrich Revolution of no-holds-barred politics introduced the idea that political norms should be swept aside as inconvenient to the True Believer, with formerly sacrosanct concepts like Impeachment being a last resort for cases of clear crimes against the Constitution being repealed in favor of simple political expedience – is there a human alive who could survive five years of endless examination for any flaw? – and open threats of violence used to shut down legal voting procedures in Florida to steal an election.

The second failed Bush administration used an easily-detectable terror plot, which succeeded only because the FBI had been filled at its highest levels with inept political hacks, to revoke the Fourth, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth Amendments – the impeachment articles against Clinton having made the Fifth useless.  Then on to the very first day of the Obama administration, when the Chief Turtle of the Senate declared that more than two centuries of respect for Congressional practice of a loyal opposition would be jettisoned for politically advantageous unlimited obstruction.  This Holy Turtle then tried, and succeeded at, a complete abandonment of even pretended Senatorial tradition by holding open a Supreme Court seat for an entire year – and didn’t even bother to offer a defense; ‘we’re doing it because we’re doing it.’

And then came the rigged ‘election’ of Donald Trump.  On January 20th of this year, our system of checks and balances ended; the almost five months since then have been the slow, painful exposing of the New American Order.  One-fifth of the economy and the health and even survival of millions of Americans is being decided by the One Party, behind closed doors and in secret.  Justice Department and intelligence functionaries of this new Fascist administration have told their rightful Congressional overseers that they ‘feel’ no obligation to answer any questions they don’t want to, with no justification offered.  Indeed, the new reality is that only the One Party’s officers, at any level, will have any questions even accepted, far from answered, by this Administration.  A disgusting proclamation of Dear Leader fealty and fawning by the Cabinet has occurred in plain sight  with hardly a shade of objection, timed clearly to be hidden by events at the non-testimony of the head of the Justice Department at the (wrong) Senate panel – a fawning that every member willingly drooled except for one lone Pentagon hold-out, who will soon enough be replaced.

No press questions will be answered.  The People no longer have a right to know anything at all about their government – because it isn’t theirs any more.  Make no mistake – Trump and his facilitators in what was once a Grand party will brook no inspection: one FBI head has rolled, and it’s clear that the current head of the independent investigation into the collusion of the Trump campaign with Russian interference will soon join him in the basket at the foot of the guillotine.  All the ‘opposition’ Party can summon up as they watch is to knit and rock and uselessly cackle.

We can expect the obvious wolf at the door to take off even the few shreds of grandma’s clothing so poorly disguising it.  The waited-for, yearned-for excuse has been made – a stupid, pointless, lone actor at a baseball practice with his evil act will be blown up into all the excuse needed.  The Republican Party will, from now, openly declare itself the Only Party, which is, at this point, only a small, a very small, step.

We can expect, very soon, that any other Republican Right label behind which this slow coup has been achieved – the Tea-Baggers, the Neo-Conservatives, the Freedom Caucus – will be jettisoned in favor of an open acknowledgement of what it in fact is –

Fascism.  No, not an invective; a descriptive term for a system of governance in which all parts of government, the One Party, the One Religion, and that Wealth that backs it and profits from it are equally, boundlessly and exclusively open to the followers of the Great Leader, and no-one else; and in which any policy at all is usefull as long as it serves the purpose of maintaining Party control of that nation suffering it.  We will soon see that label, fascist, used with pride by the Trump Party; I’m guessing they’ll even abandon all uses of the words Conservative and Republican.

 

And what of the Opposition Party?  What will the Democrats do?

They’ll go on knitting and cackling.  They’ll continue to pretend that our nation’s long-held democratic norms are of any further value, or use.  They’ll console themselves with thoughts of an election some sixteen months in the future.  There will be no such election.  They’ll talk of demonstrations in the street.  Those demonstrations will be met with violent repression from both Trumpist police and openly fascist Trump supporters – and, who knows, Russian troops?  Letters will be written.  Emails will be sent.  Protestations both in Congress and by the frightened Public will be made.  Decent Administration holdovers, and those few Trump appointees with backbones (I can find no names to suggest) will resign in glorious empty gesture.  Government function will grind to a halt – the very Brier Patch that this Br’er Rabid, this egomaniacal monster, most desires.  In short – nothing.  Nothing of any use to anyone at all.

Maya Angelou, herself quoting what she heard in her youth, said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”  Trump showed the feckless Democrats exactly who he is.  They completely failed to believe him.  The majority of the Press, thankful for the money Trump brought them in increased, and increasingly shocked, readership, failed to believe him.  You.  You failed to believe him.  He showed you precisely who he is, and even with the repeated histories of fascist movements throughout the Twentieth Century and on every continent to inform and remind you, you failed to believe him.

 

For more than forty years I have argued with Progressives that though their goal of a just, decent society that cares for the poor and weak is not merely a good thing but the only way our society will survive its challenges and continue to thrive – but that forcing that good and necessary end by the use of Law, of imposed ordering, will bring about its opposite and destroy our democracy.  I guess its my fault, then; no-one believed, no-one heard, I have shouted into the wind.  No Progressive anywhere, it seems, is able to believe that the means does not justify the end, that simply being right about what you’re telling others to do does not make the telling permissible, that those who oppose you aren’t simply wrong and thus unworthy of consideration.  I warned that it’s not the rightness but the imposition that will matter, that will empower the madness of the Right, that will feed the same Evil that tore Hitler’s Germany apart and plunged the World into war and death and destruction.  I said ‘Hubris, people!  Heed the lessons of the first Democracy!’ at the top of my lungs.

 

I guess I have weak lungs.  We wait now only for the tanks to roll.

 

 

 

 

A Letter to my Representative: Impeach Now!

Here’s a copy of an email I just sent to my Representative in Congress

I received your blanket response to my previous attempt to encourage you to get ready now to impeach this dangerous man-child. Your argument was reasoned, reasonable, and tragically wrong; and the events in Manchester illumine that.

This administration has once again endangered an important ally by exposing intelligence and encouraging the thought that we cannot be trusted as a partner in combating terrorism. Cui bono? Easily answered: Trump’s best friend, Vlad the Impaler.

Here’s what I think you miss about that, and about his previous exposing of intelligence to Russia: We need the trust of foreign intelligence services to protect our citizens, and those services need us. When that relationship is weakened, it benefits our enemies. The benefit of that to Putin is obvious; the benefit to Trump is less so, but unarguable – that the increase in successful terror attacks, even those on foreign soil, helps Trump, who depends more than anything else on Trumped-up fear to attain his, and Buddy Vlad’s, goal of turning our democracy into a dictatorship.

Make no mistake – there will be a successful attack here. Trump’s continued dissolution of democratic norms depends on it. Wittingly or not, his interests, Putin’s, and terrorists of all stripes (including especially those on the right, who have been and remain the greatest threat and most active) align. There will be a successful attack here, and Trump will use that, and the mindless fear that pampered Americans are always so close to, to sweep away all opposition.

You have some power, right now, to resist. That will end the very second that whatever horror some lunatic is now planning goes through. That’s the race we’re in now. The fuse has been lit; whatever and wherever its end might be, the foolish, mindless fear that will result will give Trump all the power and force he needs to take complete control. We have so little time left in which to expose and end the massive plot against our system that Putin is planning and Trump is blundering along with.

Your reasoned resistance to the growing calls for impeachment would be the right course to take in normal times, and I would be commending you on it. The times are not normal – far from it. My blog was undertaken to express the view that the observations of complexity theory are central to understanding these times, and so I cannot be said to be on either ‘side’ of our foolish politics.

But all politics are peripheral to today’s events. The clock is ticking down on our experiment in self-governance, and Trump is now exposed as working with Putin in ending all such governments. The time is too short, the fuse too close to whatever explosion might come, and there’s too, too little time left for actions.

I beg you to stop thinking of this or that political consideration that might, in reasonable times, be the wise course to take. We see the Republicans putting Party above Country; but when you waste time and energy with thoughts about process, about taking this step and that to a considered goal, you are only helping move the democracy-ending plot along – to put your own concept of Party ahead of the dire needs of our threatened nation. This plot can only succeed if the forces allied against it continue to delude themselves into thinking that times are normal, and that normal processes must therefore be indulged in, normal, considered steps carefully taken, political advantage illuminating political acts, processes taken one-by-one.

This delusion endangers us all. The time to act is now. The time to start impeachment is now. You allow your surroundings, the trappings of your exalted position, the appearance of a false normality to seduce you into thinking that what has always been must always be.

We are already so much farther along the path to destruction than your environment can reveal to you. By weakening so many of the constructs that protect us, Putin’s plans to destroy the West are so very, very much closer to realization than you know. The time is short. The time to begin impeachment, our only hope for survival, is now. You must move forward now, with all possible speed, setting aside as an indulgence any thoughts about how hopeless such a process might be in a House controlled by Putin’s willing stooges.

Yes, we all know that the R’s will not now allow a bill of particulars to advance. But by the time they are ready to permit such a discussion, will there be any point to it? Will any opposition from the Legislature, even with Republican help, be of any use once a terror attack has been allowed to happen and troops are in the street? No. The answer to that question is clear: No. The time for you to act, to put politics aside, is now. Right now. Now. It will be impossible to act at all, even should the opposition Party find their backbones, once that fuse has reached whatever end it is burning towards.

Now. You must act now. There is no time for your wise, true reasons to hold back action. Act now. Impeach. Act now to move impeachment as far along as you can, with faith that Trump will continue to provide you with argument. If you wait for those arguments to shape themselves, for the case against him to be perfected, some horrible act somewhere will have put into his small hands all the power he needs to sweep away all argument.

Act. Act now. Act now, move forward now, get as far along that path as you can now. Once the terror starts, all hope will be gone. Wait no more. Act. Act now. Act, though the cause right now seems hopeless. Act, because you must, no matter what your political wisdom says. You – we – have so little, little time.

Stay Focused on Trump’s Ego Deficits

Terms used that you are encouraged to look up:
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Dissociative Episode

Learn about Personality Disorders; it shows who he is, and what gets to him

It becomes more urgent daily for the Resistance to understand Trump and how his mind works.  His mind doesn’t really work; his Personality Disorder dominates all he is, or can be.  If you also feel a duty to our Nation to resist the coming Republican dictatorship, or want to understand him better, learning about Personality Disorders is vital.

I am not an expert, but have studied the matter as deeply as I could, driven by a friend’s bizarre behavior.  I beg that you will educate yourself as much as you can on the subject, as it enlightens so much that is bewildering about the small-handed sex offender.

He behaves in significant ways as an automaton, in patterns you really should teach yourself about.  That is to say, almost always he’s doing things driven by his damaged personality, damage generally considered ‘ego deficits.’  I can get just a bit more descriptive without pretending to more expertise than I have: The dominant explanation is that the child suffers psychic trauma, which interrupts the development of a healthy, functional sense of self, preventing an important development that happens normally at about the age of 18 months.  A lack of nurturing, the likelihood of abuse, and often a genetic predisposition, prevent forming a firm, solid sense of who the sufferer is; instead of forming an independent, self-contained sense of self, this deformed ego desperately depends on adopting behaviors in specific, compelled patterns that stand in for a fully-formed, flexible personality.  These patterns vary in ways that professional practice has grouped into several ‘kinds’ of personality disorders; what is shared is a desperate, constant, highly energetic scanning of the environment for threat, for how the p.d. is perceived by those around him, and a testing of how the sufferer can best use ‘objects’ like words or actions to keep and shape the attention of those around him.

Deeper than that, I would urge you to seek a description of personality disorders, and more particularly the specific type applicable to the Orange One, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  I don’t feel comfortable giving links; I don’t want to shape your findings to fit my definitions.  Prepare, though, to encounter many different views – and hear described a world of often bizarre behaviors and weird motivations, referred to as a ‘trip through Oz’.

It’s reasonable to start, if you wish, with Wikipedia or the intrusive mess that starts with ‘g’ and rhymes with ‘oogle’,  or you may find divergent descriptions of the same deficits under some theories of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which makes sense.  A professional tome abbreviated DSM-IV, or DSM-V, helps (those two editions differ somewhat on this subject.)  Any way you take it, you should understand, as much as you have time for, the ways in which Trump’s personality is compelled by those deficits. Support groups for friends and family of the Personality Disordered abound.

It fits a characteristic of Narcissistic PDs that he is not motivated ever by feelings of guilt – so it never will bother him to be found to have lied, or cheated, or stolen, or collaborated with Russia.  However, he is exquisitely sensitive to shame and public humiliation, like all small-handed bald men.  His predecessor, the only president of my lifetime who didn’t make me feel nervous, demonstrated this at dinner one night.  Thus we see one way to compel irrational behavior is by shaming him.  Talking to you, Alec Baldwin.  Adding public mocking to demonstrations might be nice.  (No violence.  This is not a joke.  No.)

According to his own broken personality structure, he has never lied.  This is usually true of the extremely personality damaged, through a mechanism sometimes called ‘infantile objectification’.  An infant deals with all inputs as ‘objects’, and only once the central ego structures are created can he deal with their deeper meanings and associations; in the absence of this ego structure, all things remain detached objects.  His behaviors are those of an infant even if they seem adult.  He is subject to childish attempts to dominate by tantrum, or ‘infantile omnipotence’.

If he says something, that, too is an object without external associations or internal meaning; that is, for him anything he says or thinks has only a purpose, not an interior logic.

He can literally tell one lie and, two minutes later, tell a different and diametrically-opposed lie:  Because of his unformed ego structure, any ‘object’ is the same to his mind, ‘boob’ or ‘bomb’ or ‘the wall’, with a purpose other than to give information, and it doesn’t have a dimension for “True” or “False”.  All objects are about him; if they do their job – to control your reaction, usually so that you will like him, as would an infant holding a toy up to you for approval – if they do their job, then they are true in the only sense he can comprehend.  And if he holds up a different word-salad object a few seconds later it also is for your approval, or failing that, some other reaction that also centers on him and, preferentially, he controls; again, it also is ‘true’ as it’s an object, and the contents don’t enter into it.  So in the deepest conceptual way, he has not told any lies.  He has no choice in these things.  I think you ought to learn about his disorder, from, I hope, a dependable source.

The most important thing, though: He has to work so hard to charm, and control, and is so terrified of losing centrality, that he’s exceedingly good at being charming, and has considerable ability to find what most pleases and compliments anyone in his orbit – as you would be if you were frightened out of your senses – really – of losing everyone’s attention, again because of his unformed ego.  This is essential: if nobody is there to focus on, he’s quite literally not sure he’s there, or who he is.  Think how terrified you would be if that were true of you; the personality disordered are a tortured lot, deserving our pity, our help, our understanding.  He deserves pity, but not the Presidency.  His disability makes him a clear and present danger to our Republic.

That danger exists because this skill at charming and controlling is a mile wide and an inch deep, and is easily overwhelmed by uncontrolled events or too-clearly-shown inadequacy and the resultant shame.  It’s an important part of why he puts furious energy into maintaining centrality in all situations; without that control, expected to behave as a ‘normal’ personality when he no longer controls the script, his mind loses reference quickly, and he becomes traumatized into a mental ‘fugue’ wherein he becomes dysfunctional.  We seem to see a shadow of this whenever reporters say “Michael Flynn” at him; he forgets what he’s doing and rapidly gets away from that object.  See his signing ceremony of March 31st, where a question about Flynn chases him from the room with the executive order unsigned.

That’s not a good thing.  It’s actually a very dangerous thing.  Educate yourself.  Keyword for this most dangerous possibility if he’s confronted by those sudden, uncontrollable events like, oh, say, any Tuesday is ‘dissociative episode‘.  Not a good thing.  Seen it happen bigly to a loved one long before I knew what it was.  Not good.  ‘Nobody home now, you call back later’ degrees of not good.

Under stress, that ‘button’ that starts the Very Large Boom is the same thing as a lie is:

An object.

With no reason not to use either, as far as he can see.

 

 

 

Trump Was Predictable; How, and Why

Having written that extremists taking over both sides was inevitable, here’s when and how

This is a rant that’s been planned since the start of this blog – though, you know what?  Having written about Slug Control, maybe this should be called a ‘blug’ – Since I started this blug, but wanted first to find the article that spelled it out so clearly, so it could be referred to.  That’s been given up, though, as a lost cause.  The article existed, but I don’t know enough about how to do research of this sort to find it.  It was an op-ed by one of the big names of the 1970’s that appeared in a Sunday edition of the Grey Lady, and you would think that would be easy for even the clunkiest to find; but apparently my clunkitude knows no bounds.  Hell, it was only two posts ago I was all giddy at figuring out how to include a link!

Nevertheless, as one of John Cleese’s Monty Python characters said, ‘adapt, adopt and improve’.

To begin with, a barbershop my dad took me to at around age five or so, in the middle ’50s, in a middle-sized town in the middle of the Middle West.  I was struck by the barber telling me that guys should get their hair cut every three weeks, and then the world, he said, would be a better place.  That was when I first realized that people adopt a philosophy that is primarily informed by their own self-interest.  And no, I’m not saying that I would have put it that way at the age of five.  I’m sure I said nothing more brilliant than:

“Gee!”

Still, it stuck with me, and I thought about it a lot growing up, not that I have – old, yes, but not up; and I kept hearing different versions of the same self-informed wisdom from Really Old People (you know, old people, like teenagers and even older!) constantly – that a person’s thinking starts and ends with what makes their own life better, or, as I would have put it as a kid:

“Boy, adults sure are dumb.”  Not sure I didn’t go so far as to add, “… as dirt!”

(It was a different time: The Lone Ranger and Davey Crockett didn’t swear, so we didn’t, either.  Not saying a better time, just different; my first swear word came out of my mouth at age 19.  It was “Hell.”  It was, interestingly (or not), in the Green Room of the Fir Acres Theater at Lewis and Clark College, and Markie Post, of ‘Night Court’ fame, was but one of the hearers who were shocked, not at the word, certainly, but that I said it.  We were playing a card game called Sargeant Major, and . . .  But I digress.)

Then a few years after that, a deeper aspect of the same thing became apparent: Our brains work in ways very different than it seems to us they do.  Much of our intelligence is aimed at inventing justifications for the things we want to do – it’s pretty clear that this, and little else, separates us from the other apes – and which I dubbed, some time around the age of eight or nine, the ‘Yellow Light Syndrome’.  It’s the way people tended to think, a kind of automatic self-excuse-making habit that applies in so much that people do, noticed as a passenger in my parents’ car, back in the uninformed Neolithic, when kids could sit in the front seat of an automobile.

The driver gets close to an intersection when the light turns yellow, and steps on the gas rather than the brake; and, when I give them the fish-eye (I never did have much patience with adults, who I thought of as hopelessly silly, which is at least one of the reasons why, even after more than six decades, I still refuse to become one) they said, more to themselves than to me, “I was too far into the intersection to stop.”

No, you weren’t, you clunk; you just didn’t want to stop.  When I started to drive, this same process happened in me the first time I came to a suddenly-yellow light; but I wanted to be a good driver, so I absolutely refused to go along with this dangerous foolishness, and learned to react by braking, and so never once have run a red light.  Still, it meant a lot to me that I could feel, could sense when this excuse-making process started up within my own brain in any situation, and tried to become instantly distrustful of it.  That started a lifetime process of questioning any impulse, in myself or others, that seemed to be compelled by emotion.

So that’s by way of pointing up my own prejudices.  Other observations that have contributed: The moment in the Kennedy administration at a meeting of church members held to express opinions about the growing conflict in Southeast Asia, with Old People standing up and ranting about ‘godless Comm’nism!’, when I first realized that communism, a clearly failed system, was never going to find support within the United States, but fascism could easily be adopted as a result of mindless fear; the moment when, with bowed head, I first heard the Presbyterian pastor of our lovely Mid-Century Modern church slip into our prayers to a merciful God that He bless and aid our brave soldiers in Killing Commies for Christ; the description in civics classes from the fifth grade on of our system as ‘a voluntary society’; Republicans telling the lie that the War on Poverty was a failure, despite all the studies and statistics that showed the opposite, because they had to lie about its unquestionable success; and, of course, the entire Nixon administration.

That’s the end of the intro – what Walt Kelley’s Howland Owl would have termed ‘the poor parlors.’  For some reason, the pretty skunk lady Miz Ma’m’selle Hepzibah, though French, never corrected him.  Say la vee, Pogo.

It was after the Nixon nightmare ended, in the administration of the first of what now has become a tradition of Republican Presidents not winning election, and a man who was actually much more athletic and graceful than Chevy Chase portrayed him as – by the by, did you know Chevy’s actual first name was Cornelius?  No, I didn’t, either – it was during the administration of Gerald Ford that a Sunday editorial appeared in the New York Times stating the staggering idea that, at least in terms of policy, the long competition between Liberal and Conservative concepts of governance was over, with Liberalism winning hands down; that though the debate would go on in words, the political struggle continue, yet at least as a theory of how actually to govern, Conservatism was DOA, and all government structures from now on would be quietly Liberal in construction.  It was tightly reasoned and very persuasive; the Great Society, as proposed and passed by LBJ and as perfected in its application by Richard Nixon – as mentally deformed as he was, and as inept at war-making, he was, it will surprise you to learn, a very capable administrator who made the Great Society work – had made great strides at reducing poverty, and at advancing equality and opportunity, and so had laid the groundwork for moving bravely into the future, sweeping all opposition before it on a tide of magnificent success and increasing wealth.  There would still be political parties, still Right and Left, but for the most part, Conservative and Liberal would be labels rather than descriptions; behind the scenes, Liberal policy, which had worked so well, would continue to work for the foreseeable future.

It was all so clear, so unarguable, so persuasive.  And I could see instantly that, though correct as far as it went, it was so frighteningly inadequate.

I was staggered.  It was a moment I still recall, sitting in our simple, knock-together dining room with the paper spread before me, reading this opinion piece as it was carried in our Oregonian.  I could see the future unfolding so clearly, as if the clouds had rolled away revealing in frightening detail the gradually appearing expanse of a horrifying vista.

First, I saw that, to the degree the debate really was over, it meant that good people on both sides would leave politics.  With little more than the details of surrender to be worked out, decent, hard-working, dedicated people who dominated in both parties at that time, the giants of legislative and administrative brilliance, would slowly leave Politics for other fields; after all, brilliant minds want to do brilliant work, and if the job was done, why hang around?  This would leave a vacuum for lesser minds to fill, opening both parties to extremists of Right and Left, and clearing governance of all pretense to respect for my beloved Voluntary Society and the Jeffersonian ideal of liberty.  And so it rapidly evolved, with haters and racists coming to dominate the Right and prim, humorless control freaks the Left, which further drove talent and wisdom from both parties.

I could foresee that the Republican Party would rapidly become enslaved to reactionaries – and, as I argue in a moment, inevitably to fascists.  They would first work to weaken public education and the liberal national news media – because a well-educated, well-informed populace tends toward liberalism, and thus would be a threat to their control.  An urge to control the population would become an inevitable goal of the Republican party; nature abhors a vacuum, and if good men and women of fine character and honest, sincere personality left for other fields now that The War Was Over, the power that Republicans – and, from different impulses, Democrats – still held would now be used for other, more self-informed goals.

And it was clear what those goals would be: Service to the Rich, advancing the power of the Powerful.  That very day in the mid-Seventies when, with horror, I read that opinion piece, was the first time – but far from the last – I saw what would increasingly become the clear purpose of the Republican Party, and many Democrats as well:

Comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.

The Democrats too would suffer a slow but steady exodus of talented, dedicated Liberals who desired only to make ours a better Republic based on the free marketplace of ideas, to be replaced with others who wanted only to feather their own nests and strive for power without purpose, and those of such limited vision and so filled with hubris that they really imagined themselves singularly blessed by such wisdom that they could tell the rest of us what to do, in humorless, remorseless detail, sneering at and shaming any so foolish as to imagine themselves fit to decide for themselves the right and the good.  Those talented few who actually wanted to help people would avoid politics and instead just go out and do it, and they did, starting many very successful non-governmental organizations, leaving those who want power only as an end in itself; and without any larger reason behind them, those Democrats still attracted to politics would be purchasable by that same wealth that would purchase the Right.  The barber’s dedication to a philosophy that every man’s hair should be regularly cut would become the politician’s belief that the rich should support their political career for the greater good, no matter their party or political persuasion.

Please note this point: The barber of my childhood really did believe in haircuts; the politician really does believe in what he’s doing, no matter how conveniently self-informed his actions or his dedication to fund-raising from the rich, no matter how transparently useful to those rich his legislation might be.  Self-excusing behavior is part of the very essence of what it means to be human; it was a necessary development of the Mind arising from the Brain, the cause of the rapid evolution of bigger brains that occurred between 800,000 and 200,000 years ago – and all this magnificence you see around you, the powerful culture we’ve developed, our technological brilliance, is but a side-effect of that self-excusing mechanism so vital to that brain growth, central to how ‘mind’ self-arose from the increasing chaos of ‘brain’.  You do this.  I do this.  How then do we criticize this tendency in others or ourselves?  How do we move forward when everyone is so blind to their own emotion-centered thoughts that justify instantly even the most inhuman, brutal, vicious acts?  How can we keep from repeating the horrors of the past, of man’s inhumanity to man?

Jefferson showed us the way: that my rights end at the tip of your nose.  But even he did not rule that way as President.  How then for any of us?  Yet that is our only hope – and a fascist dictatorship of the Right, or a progressive one of the Left, is the inevitable result of abandoning Jefferson’s pledge to grant each other the rights to ‘Life, Liberty, and the Purfuit of Happineff’.  (It’s not my fault his ‘s’s looked like ‘f’s.)

That’s the frightening future I saw so clearly unfolding, now some forty-plus years ago.  And so it has turned out to be.  We are awash in Governance by Command, whether the hob-nailed, steel-jacketed, spike-encrusted Bible held high by the goose-stepping Right, all the better to club us into Holy Obedience, or the shaming, limiting, fettering, three-foot-high speed-bump- and ‘guardrail around the guardrail around the guardrail’-installing Left, both the belt-to-the-butt Daddy Government Rightists and the opposition-shaming Mommy State Left, both doing everything they can to display their usefulness to the One Percent – oh, but their One Percent, their own side’s approved-of and party-financing wealthy – with the rest of us running first to one side and then to the other for relief from the dictation of the opposite parent.

And as for Fascism: First, understand that fascism isn’t a swear-word, but a too-common organizing principal, not a dirty word but a descriptive political term.  Think of it that way, or else become part of what makes it so easy to establish.  Think of traditional monarchy, with the King as leader of government, of party, and of religion, controlling the entire society and granting monopolies that determine commercial success; and then add that the King anoints himself.  That’s fascism – a monarchy without nobility.  It’s important to honestly understand the word as description, because it is, in complexity terms, a random attractor; the fall-back organizing principal of humanity, the vortex self-government may always stray too close to and fall in, the monster always waiting for any civilization that clings like the cowards we tend to be to the Strongman whenever bravery simply costs us too much to display, or is thought rude.

And then understand the impulse to fascism, which is simplicity itself; the thought, including your thought, that if everyone would just shut up and do what I say – or what you say, or Trump says, or God says, or anybody – then we would be safe.  That first impulse that, if indulged, will lead to fascism if unresisted is nothing more than thinking ‘what we need to do about this is, we all must . . .” followed by any words, Hitler’s words, Trump’s words, Jesus’ words, Mohammed’s words, your words, my words.  It really is as simple, as common, and as dangerous as that.  There’s a problem; and ‘we all must’ get behind the solution.  The danger is never that there is a problem – there are always problems.  The danger is never that there is a solution – there are always solutions.

The danger comes in that simple belief – the ‘we all must’.

If I could impart to you any one message, it would be this: Complexity and variety gives life; only The Grave is uniform, only Death is normative, the only thing ‘we all must’ do.  And, yes, even that message, when imposed on others, is deadly.  None of this is easy, but that’s life.

In late grade school and through high school, I was so horrified by my parents’ generation’s World War, with our nation’s noble though late-to-the-dance fight against Hitler and the unspeakable, unendurable revelation of the Holocaust – my mom admitted to me, with shame, that, yes, they knew, that Americans paying attention knew about the camps from the beginning – that I was determined to read all I could about how this thing could have happened, and in one of the most advanced, in many ways one of the most progressive, of all nations.  It’s not the simple, self-glorifying story that Hollywood likes to tell and Americans prefer to believe, of a people gone mad at the Siren call of a hypnotic character, that it could all be blamed on Hitler.  It is, in fact, a natural progression that all political systems are subject to whenever any people becomes too weary, too frightened or too lazy to maintain respect for the rights of their neighbors, even their ‘right to be wrong’ as long as they are only wrong for themselves.

It starts in rural areas, and Religion is important right from the beginning; Religion and Fear.  And a mouthpiece – right away, you have to have a mouthpiece; in early-20th-century Germany, to buy small, local newspapers, the advanced technology of Hitler’s time.  You need to start right off telling lies, and in small rural markets, it’s pretty easy to buy yourself some liars, and plenty of poorly-informed braggarts and bigots.  It doesn’t matter to them what you are selling, as long as there is the opportunity for thugs to enjoy strutting and threatening, and for grievance.

In rural areas, it’s easy to find, and inflate, this sense of often-justified grievance, against the City, against the better educated, against the banker and the lawyer, and the foreigner, the ‘other’.  It’s easy to lie to such people, inflating real grievances – life in the country, on the farm, far from the easy ways of urbanites, is often enough a hard life, where a high interest rate is as frequently crop-destroying as bad weather or locust plague, and that makes it fertile ground to plant imagined complaints.  Always there must be a grain of truth to the complaint, but it need only be a tiny one, no more than a mustard seed.

And what is the mustard seed of our time?  The goodness and decency of the Progressive, which grinds all things exceeding small.  The good and just hearts, refusing to accept that hunger and want should be allowed in the planet’s wealthiest nation, just as they shouldn’t – and then the natural next step, the ‘we all must’.  That simple, decent, good-hearted step is all it takes to push a liberal respect for the Public Good into ‘Hey, I know what you should do!’ do-goodery that does one thing more than any:

Irritate.

Add governance and you get – yes, often, successful answers to real problems.  But for good or ill, it irritates.  It irritates, then pisses off, then infuriates, and more often doesn’t work, a result which the furious drive to do good blinds the really committed Romper Room DoBee to.  And that, in turn, propels conservatism, a respectable approach to governance (even if not one I could ever take) into first reactionary and then fascistic response.  There you are, far away from the world these eggheads live in, hardly a pot to piss in, ‘they’re telling us what kinda pot to piss in?’  It irritates. ‘Why would I feel any identity with this association of scolds you call a culture?’  Thus arise feelings of detachment from the mainstream that provides the fuel for evil people to use, and inflated grievance thus becomes an extractive industry.

Then there is the vital importance to such a movement of the Scandal – but it must be understood that invented scandal is far more important than any real one can possibly be.  In some real story, some complaint with a basis in fact, the story belongs to whoever wants to tell it, to expose it, easier for the well-connected, well-research Big City media to tell than the small, home-town sheet.  The important lesson for the Murdochs of this world: You can’t use a scandal you don’t control.

Invented scandal can be bent, shaped, controlled, exposed just as you want, to the end that best serves your goals, and most importantly can be blamed on anyone you want – best, of course, on those who can least defend themselves.  (Cowardice is as vital a part of far-right political movements as sneering condescension is to the Left, then as now; never pick on anyone who can fight back, never risk yourself being hurt.)  And there’s a tremendous benefit to the building of a wholly-owned media empire, which is so important to any fascist movement, a flack-filled, insincere propaganda arm without which this disease cannot be spread; if a scandal is real, serious journalism will investigate it, but when scandal is invented, the mainstream won’t even notice it – and then your propaganda machine can claim conspiracy, accuse serious journalists of being in service to all those who the growing mass of aggrieved distrust, greatly strengthening the propagandists’ claim to being the only trustable source of news.  Thus does the fake news become the only news the aggrieved ‘true Germans’ (or true Americans) believe or are ever exposed to.  Whether the Nazi press of those ugly times or Fox News today, the same vital message: Listen only to us, hear only us, everyone else lies.

This was, after all, the most powerful tool the Nazi (or the more recent Republican) propaganda machine had.  Yes, there was the power of the Big Lie, made up, then as now, of many smaller lies, repeated over and over, never admitting they are lies no matter how much the ‘lame-stream’ media proves them to be lies, simply repeating them any time you are confronted with the truth.  And yes, the projection; if you are planning on rigging an election, as Nazis did (and Diebold’s modern voting machines do), then the first step, before the rigging, is to accuse the other side of, horrors, rigging! so that when true accounts of Nazi-stuffed ballots (or Republican votes being consistently four or five percent higher in electronic balloting) arise, the press can cling to their favorite, convenient, comforting meme that ‘everyone does it.’

So, yes, the Big Lie and aggressive projection; but the most important, most effective lie is the wholly-owned scandal.  Nazi propaganda accused every opposing politician of scandal after scandal after scandal, repeating each one endlessly, blocking out any refutation, rolling over anyone trying to truth-test them – and completely bewildering serious journalists, who often didn’t hear of these ‘scandals’ until the gullible were up in arms about them.  Thus the effectiveness of the trap – to the already suckered, it’s more proof that only the fascist news sources can be believed, that the fix is in, that the conspiracy of the existing power structure would never allow the ‘scandal’ to be ‘honestly’ examined.  After all, how do serious people investigate a thing that never happened?

Such ‘scandals’ thus don’t have to make any sense at all.  Better if they don’t.  That’s how the popular, widely-supported and elected President Paul von Hindenburg was forced to appoint Hitler as Chancellor; ridiculous scandal after ridiculous scandal was accused of von Hindenburg, until even the big city papers started to call his a ‘scandal-plagued administration’ though each ‘scandal’ was clearly a lie, and then, as is inevitable – for all have sinned, and have feet of clay – one scandal has just enough truth in it to be believed by the many, fatigued and bewildered by the endless accusations.  Thus of the Clintons, as slick as any modern politician must be to appeal to our lazy, ill-informed populus but not more or less honest than we ever allow a politician to be.  As Winston Churchill so presciently said, ‘A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.’  That’s the practical use of the wholly invented scandal told to those anxious to believe it.

Bill Clinton, who deserved well enough his moniker of ‘slick Willie’, was put to this wholly-made-up scandal-mongery when he had been President less than two weeks.  He made a trip to Los Angeles, and while there, he held up LAX for hours – on a Friday, at five o’clock! – while he was getting a haircut from a celebrity hairdresser.  If you were alive at the time and remember those days, you are familiar with this, only the first of many Clinton Presidential scandals, proof of his detachment from the concerns of the common folk, showing his corrupt nature.

Only a few problems with this; even as this story was being repeated on all the news shows and reported on by every newspaper, reporters started noticing, and writing about, oddities in where the story started, and in what travelers actually experienced.  The very first alerts to this ‘scandal’ came out of the California Republican Party offices, three hours before it was supposed to have happened; reporters who were already at LAX, as well as every traveler interviewed, said there were no such delays; Air Force One was parked well off any runway, in a secure area out of anyone’s way, nor was it itself delayed – it was actually waiting, as planned, to pick up a sick child who needed to get to a hospital in the East (which melodramatic touch is actually commonplace, as it was, until Trump, a common practice as old as Presidential air travel); the haircut was also planned as a way to save time, and was being contributed gratis.

But did any of these facts get reported on?  Well, yes – if you read the entire first-day article and the next-day reporting that showed this well-researched ‘scandal’ to be entirely phony.  But in Hitler’s day and ours, the popular press is a money-making venture, and boring old Truth is never as cash-generating as exciting lies. Big-name journalists want to keep being invited to all the wild parties, want to keep their celebrity, and only a few fail to value their reputations for even-handedness more than they value Truth, and thus must cling to any evidence they can find, or invent, that ‘both sides do’ whatever sins are displayed.  Hitler and his backers knew this, as did the Republicans of President Clinton’s time, as does Rupert Murdoch, as have Hillary Clinton’s many silly-scandal-inventors; it really doesn’t matter how absurd the made-up scandal is.  Just repeat and repeat and repeat, and depend on the laziness of reporters, the greed of the owners of media and the gullibility of humanity.

Thus also with Hillary.  A foundation that has done astounding work worldwide to ease the way for charities to become effective, to cut through bureaucratic inertia, to help millions on every continent, became ‘scandal’.  A terrible situation in Libya, caused more than anything by Republican refusal to pay to increase security, a situation a Secretary of State had nothing to do with, became ‘scandal’.  A desire, out of the exhaustion and defensiveness to repeated false accusation, to secure email from assault became ‘scandal’.  Scandal after scandal, all of them invented, all of them absurd, all of them successful; you know that Hillary is corrupt.  You know this, don’t you?  Screw reality – you just know she’s corrupt.  Why wait for Truth to put its pants on?

Works every time.  Worked for Hitler.  Worked for Billo, and Rush, and Rupert.  Works for Trump.  Works.  Every.  Time.

Does that mean that Democracy is doomed?  If the garbage that Rupert et al has been using for decades to destroy America for the sake of enriching themselves, put to no purpose beyond saving the Very Wealthy from paying back into our culture a reasonable fraction of the vast wealth our culture has provided them with, has worked, and always works, then what hope do we have?  Is this always the way Democracy dies?  After all, it died in its birthplace, ancient Greece.  Is this always the way a Republic dies?  After all, it died in its birthplace, ancient Rome.

Yes, it is.  This is the way self-government always dies.

That’s why our Fondling Fathers gave us this tinkered-together, clattering, messy hybrid, a Democratic Republic, with each part checked and balanced by another.  For example, we think of the Supreme Court as being the final arbiter, but it isn’t; if the Supremes decide something is true that sticks enough in the American craw, even they can be overruled by a Constitutional amendment, though such a thing is very difficult – on purpose.  And then the Supremes get to say what that new amendment means, while the President decides what it does, and on and on.  Every part is checked by another.

But that doesn’t make it proof against fascism.  If one Party decides its own rule is more important than the Nation, and can fool enough fools into foolishness, then such a Party can rule all parts; and if We the People stop caring, and don’t stop them, then there is no hope.  If one Party, through the time-tested sales techniques of the Big Lie, the Invented Scandal, the Propaganda Machine and the Frightened Public, takes over control of the Administration, the Judiciary and both houses of the Legislature, then the Constitution and its highly theoretical limits on the reach of governance become useless paper, fit only for the rich and powerful to wipe their asses on.

That’s fascism.  Not a dirty word.  Not the unacceptable term, never to be uttered in Polite Society.  A system of political organization where one Party controls every part of the State, where there are no boundaries between State, the approved Religion, the Judiciary, and those commercial and wealth interests approved of by and financing that Party, where allegiance is not to the country but to the Great Leader.  It always starts the same way, when the population of the republic becomes so frightened that they willingly give up their rights for the illusion of security; and if the thing they fear is invented or inflated and the security thus imaginary, it elevates and strengthens the very worst of that people, and those least qualified to lead so much as a funeral procession become Pallbearers in Chief.

That there are such people is a given; there will always be vultures.  The trick is not to give them a body to feed upon.  The Jeffersonian idea, which even he was not faithful to, was that a limited State would leave each of us free to decide for ourselves what happiness was and how to pursue it, as long as our pursuit did not limit the rights of anyone else to define and to pursue.  This turns out to be harder than it might seem – telling others what their happiness should be, and how they should pursue it, is just too tempting, and our brains just too good at excusing us for the telling.  We know we’re right.  And then we know we’re right.  And then we know we’re right.  And then we know we’re right.  And finally we KNOW we’re right.

And the most dangerous, this: When we’re right about being right.  That’s when we stop listening to the whimpers, the pleas, the cries of the people we’re crushing with our rightness.  That’s fascism.

 

The lungs of all social mammals contain within them a family of bacteria, just a few of the many symbiotic life forms that we depend upon for our existence.  Only this family isn’t there to help us live.  It’s there to help us die.

It’s something that came about because sometimes evolution happens on the level of the herd at the cost of the individual, and because lungs are, by their nature, dangerous.  We take the outside environment into ourselves, in and out, in and out, several times a minute.  We have many protections against the infectious life forms, toxins and other pollutants in that air; but when those protections fail, those lungs can, again, by their very nature, become a threat to those of our species we socialize with, who are, after all, likely to be our own family, our own genetic inheritance, breathing in the air we breathe out.  Therefore it can become an evolutionary benefit, even to our own gene pool, if we as an individual are removed, should we become a threat; and coughing up dangerous bacteria and toxins that have blossomed within our lungs makes us a threat to our own genes being successful through others.

Of course, that’s where predators come in, and why every species needs its predators to keep the species strong by removing the sick and the weak.  But if predation fails in one particular herd to take out one particular vector of disease, the whole herd can fail.  Evolution is remorseless; predation isn’t perfect, and without some fail-safe, having lungs can be just too dangerous.

That’s where this family of bacteria comes in.  The vast majority of lung-equipped individuals will live out their whole lives, and their progeny theirs, and these symbiotic life forms we carry will continue on as usual, reproducing at a very slow rate, never a danger.  But if our lungs become too damaged for too long, these bacteria start to reproduce rapidly and produce toxins so dangerous that we die.  Quickly.  It’s evolution remorselessly acting on the level of the group at the cost of the individual.

And that’s what fascism is to the body politic of all democracies, all republics, and our Republican Democracy.  When the checks don’t check, when the balances get out of balance, fascism is always there, a background, low-level infection that starts reproducing rapidly as indifference and fear and stupidity sicken us, weaken us so much that we die so that Freedom doesn’t.  I’ve said this before in this blug –

We need Freedom. Freedom doesn’t need us.

Another, better Republic will arise from the ashes, to make their own mistakes, to have their own prejudices, to steep in their own fears.

Freedom, then slavery, then freedom, then slavery, an endless cycle that continues on until either we develop a cultural solution to this automatic impulse to self-justification or until our technology becomes so powerful that, in falling, we end the species.  And then the planet will see if the cockroach can evolve a better intelligence.  Ecce homo.

 

 


How to Get Environmental Science Wrong

A Longread article proves little more than how bad us non-scientists are at Science

I’m still pretty new at this WordPress stuff; at this point I ought to include a link to an article that attracted my attention when I signed on today.  The tagline to it, under the heading ‘Longreads’, was entitled “In 1975, Newsweek Predicted a New Ice Age, We’re Still Living with the Consequences.”  I apologize for not knowing how to do the doubtless simple act of including a link to it.

(Ooo!  I just figured it out!  Wow!  Rampant delusions of adequacy flood my puny brain!  Here it is:  https://longreads.com/2017/04/13/in-1975-newsweek-predicted-a-new-ice-age-were-still-living-with-the-consequences/   I’m so proud.  Party like it’s 1999!)

The article, allow me to suggest, shows more than anything else how very much harder than one might imagine it is to get a grasp on reality; the Real World, if any, is dominated by a complexity that constantly fools us.  The article referred to is about how, some forty years ago, some environmental scientists ‘mistook’ some incoming data to suggest that we were heading into a new ‘little ice age’, how later evidence showed they were wrong, and how the climate deniers used this mistake to further cast doubt on global warming, helping to set back needed actions to solve this ever-increasing threat.

Fortunately – fortunately?  Really? – almost all of this gets the science wrong.

First, some basic concepts.

When scientists hear ‘global warming’, they picture the increasing energizing of the planet’s atmosphere by the overproduction of carbon in the atmosphere – they hear ‘global energizing.’  It’s a much better way of thinking about what is unarguably going on on our good Earth.  It confuses many when we keep having severely cold winter weather; if our planet is warming, how can we continue to have such extreme blizzards here in the Northern Hemisphere?  Answer; as the atmosphere gets more energetic, the polar jet stream that normally (remembering that ‘normal’ is itself a fairly useless concept over time) keeps cold air over the Arctic begins to wobble.  Thus the ever-more-common ‘polar vortex’, when a lobe of the polar jet stream extends far south of its usual course – bringing very cold air to temperate zones and allowing warm air to flood the pole.  Thus the snowball the Longread article alludes to having been brought into Congress proved the exact opposite of what it was intended to show.

Also – The popular idea that the Ice Age ended some ten thousand years ago is not reflected in scientific nomenclature.  We are still in an Ice Age, and have been for some two-and-a-half million years; the warm period we are now in is, in scientific thought, an ‘interglacial’ period – that is, a time when the norm of extensive glacial growth and low sea levels is reversed.

Also – Another relatively popular idea, that we live in our star’s Goldilocks Zone, is partly true, but inadequate.  Yes, our planet is a distance from Sol that is neither too hot, like Mercury and Venus, nor too cold, like Mars.  But – and this part is very important – we live at the far outside edge of that zone, and slowly are moving out of it.  For this reason, we are gradually having longer ice ages with briefer and less frequent interglacial periods.

Please don’t think simply about this.  Our planet’s path around the Sun varies slightly every year; we might generally be farther away, or closer, and yet for one or a few orbits be the opposite.  Thus ‘little ice ages’ during interglacials, or brief warm spells during periods of extensive glacial advance, and these can be years, decades or even centuries long.  But these are no longer surprises, because they can be predicted.  We know, with limited confidence, when the interglacial – the warm period – we are now in will gradually end.  It will slowly end in –

Minus 250 years.

That’s right.  This is known.  It is an amazing fact of our amazing life on our amazing blue gem of a planet: At about the same time as the Industrial Revolution was beginning to pump an excess of carbon into the atmosphere, between two- and three-hundred years ago, we were moving, on average, a bit farther from the Sun, which caused – or should have – a return to the frigid norm.  For stupid, selfish, poorly-informed reasons, out of ignorance and greed, we were, quite accidentally, doing just the right wrong things to halt, and then reverse, a period that should have been marked by the growth of the polar ice sheets, the lengthening of winters, the slow fall of sea levels and has instead been marked by the opposite.  So the researchers who, in 1975, predicted a coming return to a colder environment were not wrong – or shouldn’t have been.

Being human, you will want to think simply about this; being human, with the tendency of brains to see as determinative and linear, black-or-white, things that actually are complex, non-linear, random – chaotic.  This isn’t a weakness or a fault; since it seems to be a universal tendency, there is doubtless some hidden, non-linear reason this must be so.  Still, I am certainly aware that many readers (again with the jokes, like I have ‘many’ readers) will choose to see this as more evidence that Global Warming Is A Hoax.  As I will comment at the end of my diatribe, I’m okay with that.

Yet I am bound to say that this expectation of simplicity is weak-minded.  The fact that stupidity and cupidity saved us from the Freezer Compartment of Life is neither a ‘good’ nor a ‘bad’ thing.  It is a thing; like all of reality, it exists in its own space, quite independent of what we want to believe about it. Not to be too Hamletish about it, but ‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’  For now, let’s not worry too much that the guys the Danish Prince said that to didn’t make it alive to the end of the play.  After all, neither did Hamlet.

Yet it is, this non-spiritualist must admit, one of those staggering coincidences that make one doubt whether anything is truly coincidental.  So very strange.  It’s like a voice rang out at the end of what is colloquially considered ‘the last ice age’ telling this single, intelligent (or at least intelligent-lite) species that we had only ten thousand years to develop our civilization before the Ice returned to crush it – and we crushed Nature instead, in absolutely the nick of time!  And not by our intelligence, but by mindless bumbling and greed!  You couldn’t write so unbelievable a storyline, even in hyper-gullible Hollywood!  A starter’s gun fires ten millenia ago and we cross the finish line just in time almost to the year!

Those researchers who, according to the Longreads article I’m picking on, ‘got it wrong’ should have been right!  In a planet like ours that hadn’t so badly fouled its atmosphere, so wildly interfered with its carbon cycle, winters would, on average, be longer; ice caps would extend farther south; and though it’s impossible to predict how far these effects would have gone – it’s the problem of knowing the unknowable, knowing when the tipping point is going to be reached where a slow trend would suddenly gather speed and flip us into the next period of runaway glaciation – our civilizations’ fate would be sealed.  Should have been sealed.  From Stone Age Man to Globe Changing Species in a relatively few years.

In other words – we screwed it up just right.  Amazing.  Another Thornton Wilder moment – surviving by the skin of our teeth.

What does all this mean for our future, assuming we have one?  Clearly, we overshot; and even given that, there are problems that using the overproduction of atmospheric carbon to prevent the returning ice would lead to in any event.  Even had we found just the right balance of carbonizing the air, there would still be very dangerous threats, such as the acidification of rain and oceans, wild gyrations of weather patterns, threats to other species and the like.  What it does show, though, is that our tendency to depend on centralized control mechanisms is foolish and unwarranted.

Complexity theory suggests at least one vital, powerful idea.  Solutions to big problems must – must – exist on the level of granularity upon which those problems are created.  Though governments do affect challenges like global atmospheric energizing, and have a role to play, the level of granularity upon which atmospheric energizing happens is the individual human and his choices and actions.  Your actions.  Your choices.  The decisions you make in the environment you live in, multiplied by seven billion other actors and their actions, choices and decisions.

And just as in any other highly complex system, you don’t need any universal rules and regulations, any absolute demands applied to all.  It isn’t necessary, or possible, that all parts of the system adopt solutions.  You need a tipping point – enough better choices, enough wiser decisions.  Not ‘We Must All.’  More ‘I will.’

The danger is that centralized, command-and-control, “We all gotta just shut up and (fill in the blank)” thinking is too often simply the way in which the good-hearted are fooled into thinking that something has been done to address a problem by the passing of legislation, the compelling of behavior.  It’s just too hard to do these hard things ourselves, make those hard choices, those sacrifices of our own comfort and ease if we imagine that we have succeeded in demanding, commanding, limiting the choices others make.  We marched; we wrote our Congresspimples; we passed the laws, made the programs, spent the taxes.  Now we can go back to our lives, turn up the heat, drive our massive SUVs to Starbucks.

That way lies madness, death, destruction.

And what is preventing this madness?  What is keeping us from the delusion of thinking we’ve solved anything by commanding not our own behaviors but those of others?

The doubters.  The idiots.  The deniers.  The poorly informed, the greedy, the foolish.  The extractive industries, and those that support them.  The moron who brings a global-warming-proving snowball into Congress and imagines himself to have been clever.  The moron who thinks it’s all a Chinese plot.  Those who so muddy the legislative process that we can’t pass those useless laws we want to pretend solve anything so that we can keep in our driveway the four-wheel-drive off-roader that never has, and never will, go off road.  Because of the idiots who doubt the problem, the wise must change themselves – not because they are wise, but because they are scared.

It’s all so friggin’ weird.

You are John Galt

Ayn Rand’s failure to achieve objectivity doomed her philosophy, and infests both Republicans and Libertarians with lunacy

For readers whose lives have been blessed by a complete absence of awareness of Ayn Rand’s writings – for Lack of God’s sake, don’t read them! – a brief ‘splanation is in order.  (Thus a running joke I keep telling; that I can be brief about anything.)  Ayn Rand was a Russian-born American writer of repellent romance novels in which she indulged in entirely emotional political observations disguised as ‘objectivity’ that brought the action to a halt while we are expected to stand in awe of her brilliance.  She believed, over her long, tedious life and with consuming passion, in the inalienable right of every man, woman and child on the planet to be completely free to completely agree with every single thought Ayn Rand ever had.  And that pretty much sums up her philosophy; all the rest is merely her personal history warped into small-minded political theory.

She grew up under the domination of an emotionally distant and autocratic father (boy, there’s a rare thing upon our Earth) who she loved with her whole mind and soul.  This love shaped her thinking in ways she entirely failed to understand or appreciate.  Her philosophy of selfishness became a worship of the rich and powerful over every other consideration.

She was a stunningly bad writer.  I was attracted to Libertarian philosophy as a teen, based on things I’d read, and so came to her novels with an already-forming appreciation for the importance of liberty, and of the ‘voluntary society’ as I’d heard described in Civics classes since the fifth grade.  After high school, when I had become friends with several students at an upscale Liberal Arts college near the lower-middle-class neighborhood we lived in, I read ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’ to understand her ideas at the same time my friends were encountering – well, to be more honest, forced to read – her novels in their Literature classes.

We all had pretty much the same reaction to her thick, foggy, unreal characters with their bizarre motivations and twisted sexuality – never two people making love, always a man taking a woman by force with the woman resisting until she became Overwhelmed by His Masculinity and willingly Gave In to His Domination.  What decent human being would want to be either part of this ugly kind of – well, you can’t really call it ‘love’, can you?  Fine for those warped souls who are into Dominance and Submission, but not much there for human beings.

We all thought this was yucky and not believable at all, so much so that it became a running joke with us.  “I love you, Pamela!  You are my heart, my soul.  You consume my mind.  You are everything to me!  And so I must leave you, and become your mortal enemy!  I must spend my life destroying everything you stand for, until you lie before me, bereft of all that you have achieved!  Because I love you!”  “I hate you, Theodore!  I despise you and everything you stand for.  Therefore I will marry you, and make our lives together an endless chain of worthless accomplishment until we grow to be empty shells of once-human wreckage, until your love for me turns to hate!”  I promise you, if you read her muck – please don’t – you’ll see this mocking is accurate.

I had a lot of trouble finishing Fountainhead – I’m not sure I ever did – because of this very unattractive vision of inhuman human relationships, but more than that, because I had no sympathy for the central character’s motivations.  I had known since an early age that I wanted to be an artist, and had already formed ideas that I have kept all these long years since; that nobody’s concepts had any importance at all except mine in what I should make, what it should ‘mean’, how I would work or what vision I should create – up until I was done, until I had presented it to the world, at which point I had had my chance to speak, and had to shut up.  My artwork would be about me and only about me; but once I’d finished, it had to stand on its own, and then only other people’s ideas mattered.  If one person thought it was wonderful, then it was wonderful; if another thought it was garbage, then it was garbage.  I’d had my chance to speak; if I’d failed to say what was in my mind and heart, so much for me.  Art is a deeply personal experience, belonging entirely to the person having it, and at that point, to hell with the artist.

That might seem, to anyone who has encountered this thick, ugly book, to be pretty much what the architect at the center of the hopeless BDSM apologia that is ‘The Fountainhead’ believes.  Here’s the thing:  He’s an architect!  He imagined that the tall apartment tower he’d designed was his and his alone, and when the people who paid for it to be built had the gall to add balconies to his design, he had the right to burn it down.

This repelled me.  If he wanted, like me, to be the only one whose ideas mattered, he would have been, like me, a sculptor, an individual working alone; or a writer, or painter.  But there simply are some artistic fields that are – that must be, by their very nature – collaborative.  Even writers and composers have publishers, editors, musicians, conductors, people who make contributions to the end result, people who the artist cannot create without depending upon.  The great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who some say was the inspiration for Rand’s Howard Roark, was the kind of arrogant goober that she admired, and he created buildings whose designs will stand forever as monuments to inspired creativity, to the brilliance of his mind – but his buildings won’t, because he didn’t listen to his contractors and builders, and so his roofs leak, his beams sag, his foundations crack and shift.  Richard Wagner was also this kind of dismissive, selfish composer, and wrote some of the greatest music ever heard – but he over-estimated its worth, especially in his endless, moronic Ring cycle, where half an hour of greatness is stretched into nine hours of butt-numbing tedium.

So I was repelled just where I ought to have sympathized.  So much for The Fountainhead; mindless dribble.  So much worse was ‘Atlas Shrugged’.  In it, a man named – well, crap, folks, if you’ve read the thing, you know what happens, and if you haven’t, there’s only one thing I can say, one word of advice –

Don’t.

It’s Ayn Rand at her power-worshiping, dominance-dependent, father-adoring worst.  Hopeless.  But in a strange way, not really her fault.

Rand simply couldn’t understand the basis for her own ideas, for two regrettable but inevitable reasons.  First, she was so lost in her own endless worship of her father, and for any emotionally distant, dominating, abusive male figure, that she was unable to see how deeply it affected her philosophy.  Can you say that you truly understand how your own philosophy has been shaped by emotional need?  I’ve tried; I’ve been aware since childhood that my own deep rejection of authority, as much as I might justify it with logic and reasonable argument, is a reflection of an emotional reaction to anyone who tries to tell me what to do, say, or believe.  There’s no way around it – so admit it, right up front, don’t lie or deny, either to the audience or to yourself.  I try – but if you conclude that the philosophy herein described is merely an outgrowth of that resistance, can I argue?

Ayn Rand didn’t even get that far.  Her father, who must have been a repellent sumbitch, shows up in all her characters; her heroes are like him, her villains his opposite.  As much as she wished to state her philosophy in her works, her message was hopelessly clouded by these sods she couldn’t help but write about.  Thus did they creep into her ideas of the Ideal Community, where men – in her mind, always men – of great wealth and power, Titans of Industry all, should dominate, and where the rest of us should willingly submit to them.  Thus her ideas of ‘liberty’ – that each one of us should be free to find, and kowtow to, our own Dominant Father of wealth, our own John Galt.

Even among her own followers of ‘libertarian’ thinkers, called, snarkily, ‘The Collective’, she maintained this mad exclusivity of the right to think, bizarre in a philosophy that is supposed to be about the importance of the individual.  Members could belong as long as they kept agreeing, as long as they always parroted every word, every thought Rand uttered; challenge her on any idea, even slightly, take a position that was one degree away from hers, and you were out on your ass.  She never could see this was true, never could account for her own sick emotionally-distant-hero-worship and its effect on her thinking.  She was trapped, and so made a hollow, unsuccessful advocate of anything that could remotely be called ‘liberty’.

Even sadder, even more important to understanding Rand’s complete failure to create any useful philosophy out of her rejection of what she called ‘collectivist thinking’ (a rejection I share) and the second of the two important reasons she couldn’t understand her own concepts of libertarianism, was simply that she was born too soon – just a bit too soon.  If she’d been at all open to developments in science that were taking place in the 1950’s, by which time she knew everything she was ever going to know and had completely closed herself off to further introspection, she might have seen the growth of a field of mathematics that explains what she was trying to find in her search for an ideal of society that might have been worth fighting for.

She grew up in a time of determinism, a time when science was the investigation of how this clockwork universe ticked.  Science assumed that there was a way that all things worked, nested simple machines under all of nature, linear mechanisms hidden from our view, and that once these linear processes were understood in detail, we could control all things and perfect our world.  This was Science as she was taught to understand it.  I’ve always found Firesign Theatre’s statement of this inevitably flawed concept the most compelling, in Fudd’s First Law – ‘If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.’  Thus the trap she could not avoid; she truly thought that, if only everyone would learn the joy she felt at giving in to the strong male, society could be perfected, a simple mechanistic world greased by wealth, an orgy of selfishness – with self-interest assumed to mean a slavish worship of the kind of unfeeling masculinity that made her knees weak.

Thus the Atlas who, in her fevered imagination, held up the world; the Captain of Industry who she imagined was responsible for creating the ever-increasing wealth and power of America and the West.  She simply didn’t know enough about those Captains and their weaknesses, accepting as she did the propaganda that surrounded them: Henry Ford displayed his wisdom about industrial processes while hiding his abusive dismissal of the rights of the human beings who made his wealth, and whose inventiveness at every level added greatly to it; the inventive genius of Thomas Edison, who hid so well the actual inventors who really made his breakthroughs that few were aware that it wasn’t really him who ‘learned 88 things that didn’t work’ when trying to find the right filament for ‘his’ light bulb; the cruelty and ruthlessness behind the monopolists who made vast fortunes in railway, steel and oil – these users of other’s creativity, who made great wealth from the blood of others and left them crushed and impoverished, she imagined to be themselves the creative force of human accomplishment – the determiners of her deterministic world.

If she had been more open to new ideas, she might have learned and grown in her thinking – but she never did.  It’s the application to politics, to cultures, of this new understanding of how rare and how common is randomness, how the smallest things shape the largest systems – the science of complexity – that I try, and doubtless fail, to apply in what I call ‘organic politics’, and in my Three Laws of Advanced Civilizations (You can’t tell people what to do; you can’t tell people what to do, even if you are right; you can’t tell people what to do, especially if you are right.)  The linear science of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the deterministic processes she was taught were the basis for all things, whose precise understanding must lead to human greatness, fooled her into thinking too simplistically about the nature of cultures, and the motivations upon which people act within them, the vital complexity of human experience.

‘Atlas Shrugged’ portrayed just such a deterministic world as she grew up in, in which the source of human creativity was imagined to be a small number of powerful men – again, in her world, it was always men – who the rest of us unworthies depended upon for all things, and who we, in our petty delusions of importance, oppressed with our imagined equality; and just as a clock depends on its mainspring, if only we had the insight to yield to and be controlled by these Great Men, ours would be a better world.  In her thick novel, saturated with sickening domination sexuality, a man named John Galt conspires to remove from society all these ‘mainsprings’ upon whom Rand, in her own confused deterministic thinking and bondage-fantasy imaginings, pictures as being vital to the workings of our world.  By taking away these all-important men, Rand’s Galt would prove their necessity, which would – well, I don’t know, result in all of us worshiping them as she does?

I’m not sure where she was going, because I threw the book down at the end of John Galts’s endless rant, a swamp of foggy thinking in an opaque mess of a speech at a party of VIP’s that Galt visited, theoretically to explain why more of these movers and shakers should follow him into exile, but actually to give Rand an opportunity to lecture the rest of us peons on our failure to get all moist at beholding these Gods, as she did.

It was a tangle of weak argument and improbability.  These titans of industry were supposed to be standing around this big room at a party of vast wealth and privilege, dumbstruck by the magnificence of this speech, overawed by the stunning philosophy displayed.  I’ve known some of these powerful; there’s not one chance in hell they’d have let this clod rant on for more than about a minute and a half.  Movers and Shakers aren’t interested in what you or I or the Lord Gawd Awmighty might think or say about anything.  As I read through this clotted glob of speech, I couldn’t for an instant suspend my disbelief; I kept thinking that about now, one of the Rich and Mighty would clock the twerp.  A friend, as an exercise for a sophomore speech class at this college I hung out at, gave a dramatic reading of the speech; it took more than an hour, and not the most impassioned intonation could make what was being said clear.  Oh, yeah, sure; the Powerful Elite is going to stand for that.

As my own writings constantly betray, if you can’t say something succinctly and clearly, if you can’t express your ideas understandably, and have to keep backing up and running at it again and again, it is because you yourself don’t really understand what you are saying.  It’s not that all ideas must be simple ones to be good – far from it; but if you have to keep hacking at them again and again, adding more and more words instead of clarity, then you should give it up as a loss and rethink your message.  We lecture ourselves inside our own brains about what we wish others would understand, and are too willing an audience, too easily persuaded by our own arguments; but if you can’t make a sensible presentation of your ideas in writing, it’s because you’ve too easily skipped over some vital bit of logic, just as she did.  I got to the end of his great speech, this distillation of Randian Objectivism, and threw the book across the room, never to pick it up again – not out of rejection of her argument, but because I was aware that I’d just encountered her most important exposition of her reasoning and yet hadn’t an idea in hell what it was.

The true creators of our world are the poor, the used up, the weird, the desperate.  The rich who control all things are seldom of any creative importance; invariably they are users of other people’s creative genius – though I would at the same time insist that the using is itself an ability of great value.

Consider Microsoft’s Bill Gates; his entire fortune was based on his theft of the operating system known as CP/M (after all these years, I had to look up where that name came from; it stood for ‘Control Program/Monitor.’)  My first programming in personal computers, on the brilliant Eagle II business desktop that I learned to build batch files and a few machine-language programs on, ran on CP/M, and for many years – and wouldn’t I give a lung to still have these! – I had both CP/M and a very early, pre-commercial-release copy of MS-DOS on the old 8-inch floppies, which were very floppy indeed, and knew how to look at their hidden machine language code that both showed the same ‘boilerplate’ that gave credit to the designers of CP/M.

Thus the Gates fortune was based, unarguably, on the stolen work of others; and from there, by practices that John D. Rockefeller would have recognized and admired, he bought out, stole or forced into submission or bankruptcy the efforts of thousands of creative people, holding back rather than moving forward the progress of computing by many years by imposing on us a broken, weak operating system.  It is for these very reasons, as the unavoidable result of just these piratical activities by a man who hardly deserves his reputation, that Windows is today such a mess, so leaky of privacy, so open to viruses.  From the influence of his manipulistic nature, the Internet developed practices so abusive that the user has become the used, the product to be consumed rather than the consumer of the product.

And yet, might it not have to be so?  Since this story is repeated over and over in the development of our advancing technology, might it not have to be that the ability to create is a different skill set than the ability to generate wealth out of that creativity?  Might it be that those two abilities – creativity and business acumen – might be, at least in most individuals, mutually exclusive?  I think about whether I could get up every day and go to work knowing that the jobs of thousands of people, the interests of thousands of stockholders, the continued existence of a world-wide corporation depended on my ability to make the right decisions.  No, I couldn’t; could you?  Doing so depends, I think, on a focus of mind and a domination of personality that cannot exist in a brain that allows itself to wander about and see strange, often illogical connections – and that’s the essence of creativity, to ‘believe six impossible things before breakfast.’

And so our politics is haunted by Rand’s flawed reasoning, the unreal wanderings of a sexually deviant mind (not that I have anything against deviancy, mind) who didn’t know enough about complexity to guide her own thinking about political systems.  We are plagued by her legacy and the warped thinking it has led to, of the wealth-worshiping Republican Party, of the Speaker of the House who cannot see beyond his sycophantic obedience to obscene wealth to even imagine that the poor, the sick, the unfortunate might have any contribution to make that could possibly compare to that of the Kochs, the Rex Tillersons, the Rupert Murdochs of this world.  To his small mind, all these huddled masses with their plebeian yearnings are clogging up the system, and he’s here to scrape them off, to get them out of the way of the John Galts of this world.

The Republican Party may or may not be able to get rid of the ACA, to defund Planned Parenthood, to end government welfare, NPR, regulation of the stock market, to overwhelm resistance to oil pipelines, to allow corporations – ‘people’ in their minds – to foul the air and water, enslave workers, remove any trace of power from the lower classes – and they might actually not give a damn if they do; but certainly, they will reduce the taxes of the rich.  That, they can be depended upon to do.  Your Republican Party; comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.

So who is John Galt?  What is the creative force we so desperately depend upon to keep us from drowning in a sea of the waste-product of our technologically advanced, extractive-industry-dependent culture?  It isn’t the rich and powerful; being rich is almost never the result of creativity but rather of knowing how to use the creativity of others to advantage.

No, the rich are not, are never, the force that moves us forward, never Atlas holding up the world; they can shrug all they want, and only their own privilege will suffer, nothing else.  You are John Galt.  So is everyone who solves problems, works to improve lives, educates themselves or others, volunteers, gives, contributes to a food bank, drops their coins in the little box that sits next to the machine that gives change.  Every act of decency, every bit of creativity applied to any thing you do, whether done selfishly or selflessly, each thing done to make your life or someone else’s better, easier, healthier –

That’s how John Galt acts in this world.   You are Atlas, and if you shrug, the world falls.

In ways Ayn Rand could never imagine, every small act of creativity in this non-linear world we live in – these are the things that make our world work, in ways far beyond anything that can be done by the wealthy elite that Ayn Rand, and today’s make-believe Conservatives, could ever imagine.  Be John Galt.  We all depend on it.