Friday, April 22, 2005

The divide that cuts both ways...

There are many problems with our contemporary tendencies in this country, but one that lives on both sides of the cultural divide is the tendency to try and squelch the view of those we disagree with.

The conservative half, from libertarians on out to the christian nationalists, all love to complain about the political correctness movement. "Who is going to say I can't piss people off with my ornery conservative views?" they ask. And they are right to ask this and represent a valuable part of American culture.

On the left we are terrified that the neo-christian statists are going to someday work their way around to a Kristallnacht moment and come after the gays and liberals that apparently present such an offense to their way of living.

Clearly there are good guys and bad guys on both sides of the line here. Some conservatives strongly support the right of you and I to disagree with them (and these people are rightly very upset with the direction their party is taking).

Some liberals hate to see people punished for making offensive statements; we belive that we can sort it out with conversation and that these important conversations are spurred by offensive remarks (however unfortunate they may be).

Personally, I also disagree with the part of what conservatives call the "nanny state" that makes risky behavior no longer possible. I miss having merry-go-rounds at playgrounds, and dammit if it's not lawsuits that got 'em taken out. (Of course I do like welfare and a social servicee type stuff that is also included in the right-wing thought-bomb, but that's another story.)

Which brings me to the thing that got me started on this little rant. This high school student cannot wear a button proclaiming that she loves her vagina (she went to see The Vagina Monologues.) It's really a tempest in a teapot: Winona, MN; high school in general; hot button words like vagina in a small town... But the thing that got me was this: (and for some reason this was in the print version of the article but not the internet version!) the original complaint issued against the young women wearing these buttons came from a school secretary! What the Fuck?! People are going to be expelled from high school because they use a word that refers to anatomy in medical textbooks? These are adolescents that deserve to be comfortable and proud of their maturing selves.

So where are the libertarian conservatives? Sitting on their hands, probably, letting the extremists run the show.

I guess that there has been a concerted show of support for these young women. I don't know how to get in touch with them, but if anyone has time to find out, they should post it in the comments section.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Tip

Dave Neiwert has a must read piece up regarding the coming assault upon the judiciary, its roots and place in the wider culture war.

Also, be sure to check out the Asia Times Online's usual phenomenal international analysis of geopolitics. While U.S. media is full of all-pope all the time hoopla, others are writing real analyses. Go figure.

Dear goodness, me.

You know, I was for a while all ready to write about Bendict XVI and his Nazi past. I thought, how funny it was to come from one hegemonic power with global ambitions (as a draftee) and go to another hegemonic power with global ambitions and become its supreme ruler. I thought, how interesting that the Nazi Salute was exactly that of the Roman Centurions who had helped to build the early church.

I thought, nah, let it go.

Then I read something from the Gadflyer that made all that Nazi shit seem like what it is: ancient history.

(This was published orig. by Agence Presse France, Gadflyer picked it up from truthout.org. The whole post at the Gadflyer is worth reading but this is the meat of it.)

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican theologian who was elected Pope Benedict XVI, intervened in the 2004 US election campaign ordering bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters including presidential candidate John Kerry.

In a June 2004 letter to US bishops enunciating principles of worthiness for communion recipients, Ratzinger specified that strong and open supporters of abortion should be denied the Catholic sacrament, for being guilty of a "grave sin."

He specifically mentioned "the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws," a reference widely understood to mean Democratic candidate Kerry, a Catholic who has defended abortion rights.

The letter said a priest confronted with such a person seeking communion "must refuse to distribute it."

A footnote to the letter also condemned any Catholic who votes specifically for a candidate because the candidate holds a pro-abortion position. Such a voter "would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for holy communion," the letter read.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Tip

I have bugged you all before to read billmon's blog, The Whiskey Bar. There is now a perfect example of why posted there.

A Contemplation

In the busy and messy world of the United States at the opening of the 21st Century, we often leave aside our feelings.

Sure, it is a problem we are getting better at dealing with. There is exponetially greater facility and respect with regard to feeling than there was but a few short decades ago.

The true majesty and power of feeling, though, this is still not quite reflected in our common attitudes.

If you doubt me, consider: What is the worth of a true feeling of rest and satisfaction?

an Interlude

What is death?

A haunting question, the kind of thing most people tuck out of sight and do not examine.

While my lady love and I were in the Olympic National Forest, we saw trees standing 100 ft tall, with live branches only at the top. We saw trees piled deep with moss, ferns growing out of the moss, and a few fallen leaves resting still upon the ferns. We saw trees growing out of trees that had fallen, trees growing out of trees still standing. It all blurrs together and happens so slowly- over hundreds of years time scale.

Our movements of society and culture are like this. More like this than than they are like any environment I have ever come across. They grow out of each other, slowly dying and transforming, hard to tell when one becomes another.

If our sense of human meaning is rooted in our societal context (and indeed, for many it is often rooted in little else), then who are we to say what is more alive? Is it us or our trees?


...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

One new poem...

Do the cutthroat, bring the inside death

What we are so sure of (our neatly packaged needs)
disappoints beyond the counter,
So we stop counting.

Images, accustomed and brutal, roil us.
We quiver,
out at an arms-length, conscientious regard
of our deplorable cousins;

We trim our opulent wicks
and declare ourselves healed.

We fulminate against atrocities we are sure we would never commit
(disregard is our passkey to safety).

Our rampant demons spit on our contradictions.
Everyone knows our comforts are products of their filthy wealth.

Kill our demons! We shout, or would, but rather
we pine earnestly for negotiations, and other niceties of language.
Our demons spit on our contradictions.

We cultivate derision and grope for compassion:
There is no contradiction in this, really.

We clamber for the high road, but what is there to do
When the high road crumbles out from under us?

Aha!

In celebration of having the internet reconnected at my house, I offer you two things I had hoped to post earlier that are more-or-less appropos to the theme of recent posts.

I was debating wether to post on the new Pope. However, I will request comment from my many readers. Use the comments section: Does Benedict XVI bode well or ill for the church? Is there hope for such a hidebound institution? Is it all about numerology?

More soon!

-swift

...and one old one

Madison Avenue

Microsoft microsof, on the wall
Eat my brain or shoot us all
When do we wake up what’s for lunch

Can I cani, please have my brain back?

What strange devilry is this, practiced in our halls of power??
Why go along alittle when we can go along a lot,
Huh, , Madison Avenue?

Eat well, and live well,
Eat others, and live others lives for them.
Watch your programming now, child.

Love is a froot we all eat, some eat it messy, ,some eat it neat
Some love a game and some can’t eat.

Save my file, please.

a little deeper in...

One thing I've been wanting to get back blogging for is to get a little deeper into some of my concerns for our current situation vis-a-vis the christian right, This particualr bit is not entirely about it, and I promise to return to this topic in a less hastily written piece, but I think you will see where it fits in.

Many people have noted that there are few people today whose minds are swayed by new arguments or facts. This is a relatively recent phenomenon not in its occurence but in its intensity. Many supporters of Nixon, for example, I imagine must have been swayed by Watergate. In fact I read that this was a crushing blow to many who had held near saintly views of the Presidency. (I strongly suspect exaggeration, given what I have been able to glean of the rough edges of the "Greatest" generation, however...) The point is that had the people I knew in the eighties been exposed to something as clear cut as Abu Ghraib, many would have abandoned St. Ronnie and left him in the dust. (Iran Contra, on the other hand was not at all clear in its implications.)

My question, that I am working towards in my haphazard, unedited way, is this: Is politics dead?

The foundation of democracy is that people make decisions after weighing issues. Without that, there is only the play for dominance by one group over another. That only one group has the taste for dominance explains much of our current cultural and political morass.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A recent problem for me....

A recent problem for me has been a tendency I've been developing to disparage christians. It's almost as if the delusions of oppression harbored by the screwball rightwing christian nationalists become self fulfilling. If I could possibly oppress them, I would seriously consider it. Sort of like the Germans with Scientology.

It's a bit against the way I usually do things, but check this out. See if you don't feel the same.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Cultural Feedback

My roommate often asks, “When did the Democrats become the Fun Police?” Given that he worked with me and some mutual friends on Clinton ’96 but now regards politics as a whole with a visceral and well-reasoned cynicism, it is no idle question.

I do not know when the Democrats became the “Fun Police,” but I strongly suspect that one would have to at least discuss at length the difficulties brought about by the Yippies to address the issue in contemporary language.

In modern times the question of bridging discontinuities ‘twixt Lakoff’s nurturing frame and the wilder inclinations of the headstrong “youth” motivated by activist concerns is one that is far from being answered. When the volatile ferment that is our contemporary cultural story-play is added to the mix (and the activist-minded respond with pointed critiques of the same), there can be little hope for a beleaguered and compromised political party that can muster a spirited stand only once (for Social Security) in ten or more years.

The fact is, of course, that our activist hotbed of passion is anything but uniform, in age or anything else. There is also the noteworthy fact that there is a strong contingent of activists whose attitude towards cultural hegemony is easily twisted to sexist stereotypes of feminism (when in fact the fringe who would “emasculate” pop-culture given a chance is quite small).

The bottom line, regardless, is very simple. There will be no movement other than mach schnell, more faster.

The rules of cybernetic systems apply here. There is no response without feedback. In this case there is a positive feedback loop created by sales, advertising money, manufacturing money, manufactured consent and political power. There are no checks on this system. There is no existing way any checks may be imposed. The only vector by which checks on this dynamic could have been introduced, namely the mainstream media, have abdicated en masse or been purged and are now mortally complicit.

The naysayers of culture, James Dobson, Joe Lieberman, unbathed EarthFirst!ers or middle-of-the-road concerned parents are all impotent to change the sex and violence soaked ways of late-stage American Culture.

Culturally this places us at an endgame. Feedback loops of this sort are profoundly incompatible with the long-term sustainability of a system. Our culture, then, will increase steadily in its themes and tendencies until there is some kind of discontinuity.

At this juncture, it seems overwhelmingly likely that figures feeding on the eschatological energies of the Christian “flock” are consciously profiting enormously from a continued exacerbation of these trends and tensions. When death anxiety is publicly stoked (a la Terri Schiavo), the sheep willingly respond.

(The big danger of the current situation, the atavistic passions of mob mentality stirred up by such agitations, is yet mitigated by such governors as I outlined here.)

For us today, the point is that we need to strategically plan on the undeniable fact of these dynamics rather than futz about distractedly. Why try to figure out what to do “about” this when the only answer is to adapt and move on.

To put it more ironically: Why is it that the creationists are, for the moment, better at evolving to meet the situation?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Vacation ended....

...but I guess I was unable to post at all. Do not think I do not love you, gentle reader, think only that I had, erm, ah, other things to do.

Big trees, cool ducks and jays to spot, siblings. Must've been a good time. Fastest week in the West.

You've all forgetten me, anyhow, all three of you, I am sure. But I will write more soon, anyway! In all honesty, though, probably not tonight.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Leaving for Vacation

Ah the sweet Pacific Northwest, here I come.

The rainforest, the family joys... in any case, bloggin will be light for the next week or so.

Cheers all.


-swift

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Updated links

For all you net junkies!

Check it, only the best live here.

Go Dayton, Ohio! Yeah!

Huzzah!!

The City Of Dayton Goes Wireless

You can now surf the Internet for free in Downtown Dayton.

Your wireless computer, P.D.A., or cell phone can now surf the Internet for free if it's Wi-Fi equipped.

The free service is available within one square mile around downtown.

The city will pay about $5,000 a year for it, but most of the cost is paid for by the advertisers.

If you have any questions about Wi-Fi, you can call the City of Dayton at 333-3333.

...via Pandagon. Follow the link and read the comments to see my two bits.

Actually, two other things instead.

Again tangenting off of Digby. Digby writes here about an article in the American Prospect that basically disses political activism vis-a-vis taking to the streets, etc.

Both pieces are longish. The one in the American Prospect is worth skimming so you can see what Digby's up about, and his, then, is worth reading.

Between the two of them I had a couple worthwhile thoughts: 1) We are seeing the development of a new sort of protest movement from the contemporary right; 2) There is a huge difference (from left to right) in the very nature of organizing in the United States.

First the new protest culture of the right.

Consider, the culture of the right is on the side of authority, but urging for the exercise of greater authority. The culture of the right is based in a context that assumes a certain degree of freedom from material wants, has a higher level of assumed commodification, if you will.

These points are specific to certain sub-groups on the right, of course. For instance I am leaving out the Patriot movement and the poorer groups within the extremist Christian circles that I know nothing about but assume exist.

I am talking about the suburban, "middle class" (probably closer to wealthy by most reckonings) agitators that one finds at abortion clinics and modern political theater events like the Schiavo brouhaha.

This is a different group. They are here to get in the way and be seen, but not to cause trouble. They go home and go to the mall. If they do drugs, it's Zoloft and Welbutrin. In the sense of the status and situation of thier own lives, it is not clear what they are protesting.

Protest they do, however, and consider this: They are likely to become more and more the public face of a political crusade in this country.

A few things occur to me regarding this group. First, that the idea of protest, and the personal catharsis that the naysayer from the American Prospect talks about, these are very powerful creatures in people's lives. Once they've been engaged they tend to grow towards a recapitulation of form at a greater level of magnitude. In short, it is possible that at some juncture these protesters may start showing up to cause trouble as well.

If they have the support of the Federal Government against local authorities (or, say a circuit court decision), how does that play out?

Just asking, of course. I don't see that as too near on the horizon. The passions for this crew are artificially levelled, remember, and their hair should not be mussed. But all the same.

---

Second, some of the basic differences between organizing on the left and the right.

(This will be but an introductory glimpse; at some point I would like to write a much longer-form piece that explores this. Tonight, however, it's on my mind and related to the piece in the Prospect, so I'll tumble out a few main points.)

On the left, in general, (today in the U.S. etc.) the basic underlying thrust of our argument is that we would like to be able to devote our lives to meaningful things that there are few remunerative opportunities for. Or that the offense occuring out in the wider world is great but should still be balanced by a rich and fulfilling personal life. (Again, these are broad generalizations, but I think you can see what I'm getting at.)

The right wing activist, however, tends to be, on one side, an activist as an extension of white-collar career opportunities and per se and etc. On the other hand the activist on the right is a married woman with a church community and social hierarchies and per se and etc. Or else the right wing activist is a very well paid professional enforcer.

In any of these cases there is a positive feedback loop twixt accomplishment and activism. Continuation of the activists work is reinforced by an increase in status and, often enough, material well being.

For the left wing activist, success in activism usually means that other goals have been put aside. IF there is a sufficient degree of success, the left wing activist is fairly likely to feel relieved that she or he can go back to their normal life, or move on to something better.

Like I said, there is a lot more to get into here. The motivations for the two groups are almost certainly significantly different as well, for instance. I will, however, have to devote more thought to those differences before I can present them here in a meaningful way.

Any thoughts?? Please comment.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Blgging from work- will be brief!

But I wanted to get this in.


The conversation going on over at Digby's (see links on sidebar) about the enforceability of the culture of life, via the theocrats, etc. misses a critical point.

This point is often forgotten, and is one of the few Q.E.D's in contemporary political moralism. Very simply I can take my own life. Given this, why is it not granted that I can extend this power to others?

Personally I believe in a fairly radical personal sovereignty. Drug use, self mutilation, whatever, by the right of adulthood, go for it.

The question I like to look at (and will, here, before I sleep tonight) is why this is so hard to address today in a reasonable manner...

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Fuck the New York Times

Whenever I get into an argument with a well-meaning liberal about the New York Times (about once every two or three months, lately) the one thing they always hold up as a sort of trump card is the coverage of foreign events.

"Sure they're not all that great on domestic issues," goes the argument, "but they're the best we've got, and the coverage of foriegn events is great. Nobody else comes close."

Well, maybe not in this country, but hey, what could possibly be left out that's all that important, right?

Coming Soon: Something a little less nasty, I promise!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Grossly Impolitic

It is, I know, grossly impolitic to point out on the eve of the Pope's death, but the Catholic Church has really gone a long way in the wrong direction.

For some time now people have been tiptoeing around the issues surrounding a bitter old man's misogyny (ok, except for the "Virgin," but isn't that the same thing?). Put this together with the widespread acceptance of a culture of abuse, the absurd reticence to allow women priests, or priests to marry, or prophylactics anywhere and a sad, sad story emerges.

There are a few good things JPII did, it's true, and not all the idiocy is his fault, but the Catholic Church is a very intensely personal organizations in its absolute hierarchy. One cannot go from Vatican II to today without a strong leader.

Ater all, the absurd claim of the Vatican that the Portland, Oregon Archdiocese is an independent finanial unit that can declare bankruptcy while the Church in Rome sits on billions of dollars in liquid assets provided a distateful backdrop for the canonization of the founder of Opus Dei.

I have roots in the Church, as many of you know, and there is a certain bitterness on my part that is also very personal. Over the years, however, it seems more and more to me that my teenage observation sitting in the St. Paul (MN) Cathedral holds very true today: This is an organization that misses Imperial Rome and the dark ages. Given our wider, contemporary swing back towards politics apropos of such uncouth times and the prominence of such extremist Catholics as Antonin Scalia, it is hard for me to not see at least some wider correlation.

---

I do of course have other ideas about the wider context of these shifts in politics, etc.

I could not, for instance, write my post on earthquakes and turn around and point a finger straight at the Catholic Church, of all places.

This remains a blog, however; and if I am put off by collective wailing and moaning over legitimate tragedies, I can be outright hostile when a rosy picture is painted of a complex man some of whose acts contributed significantly to the misery of the world.