Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The annoyingly correct Dennis Kucinich

Dennis Kucinich is never so annoying as when he's gloating. This is a particularly long and pointed gloat, looking back to his career-stalling battle with the banks in a battle to privatize Cleveland's public power system. It's worth a read, but in a sense it merely underlines the two first paragraphs.

t r u t h o u t | My Battle With the Banks: "Once they were as gods, but the deities of the American banking system are now in ruins, plunged from their pedestals into the maw of taxpayer largesse. Congress voted to give the banks $700 billion, lifting them temporarily out of their sepulcher of debt, while revealing a deep truth about the condition of America's financial powers:

They never had the money they said they had as they constructed their debt-based monetary system which now lies in ruins. Their decisions on behalf of depositors, shareholders and investors were lacking in basic integrity and common sense. Green gods bailing out with their golden parachutes."
To me, the moral of the story is not Dennis' ultimate vindication, or the obvious other lesson - that had he behaved as his political contemporaries of the day on the Cleveland City Council, he would probably now be much better known. But he was unable to pay the price required to avoid the fate of a time in the political wilderness. Moreover, he knew that "the worst that could happen" was not as bad as those on the other side of the table thought.

Sometimes there are more important things at stake than an illusion of prosperity, success or influence, particularly if that illusion is bought with a betrayal of trust. And in this one instance, Dennis' narcissic tendency does serve us; Dennis found himself at a crossroads where he had to choose between an illusion in which "everyone who mattered" would think well of him and the ability to look in the mirror and see the man he wished to be.

Narcissic traits are not bad or good - it's a place, a way of being. It's how you behave in order to fulfill those needs that matter. Dennis likes to think well of himself - but is unwilling to delude himself about the face in the mirror.

An annoying, shrill little man with a track record of being correct on the facts and on the principles. Annoying enough to be shot at. Annoying enough to have made powerful enemies - and tasteless enough to do a public war dance upon their fiscal graves. Oh fortunate sin! It makes him human enough to be tolerable. Otherwise we'd have to found a religion around him.

At the end of the day, when the pennies are counted upon the kitchen tables of the world, money - even the hard money that Ron Paul and his followers swear by as the antidote for the current mess - is simply a symbol for value; of honest effort and honest reward. It is nothing more than a system of notation, and if that system has been corrupted, then the sensible thing to do is to stop using it. The collapse of a system does not mean that real value has evaporated; whatever that was real will still be real, and the people who make real things and do things of real value will still be making and doing.

Belive me; the US dollar is not the only means of accounting. Gold works. Man hours work. Kilowatt-hours work. Pork bellies, diamonds and Euros work. And - whatever we may think of it - bricks of opium, bales of tobacco, barrels of whiskey and kilos of cocaine are all commidies of enduring value; always have been, most likely always will be.

But the most fundamental currency of all is a handshake and the iron-clad-determination to live up to it. All things of real value derive from that, all artificial means of accounting for value are simply a means of allowing the arms to stretch further than they otherwise could.

That is the purpose to money and at the root of it, the reason why we have civilizations and laws and cultures and religions - to enhance, expand and enforce a network of trust. Those who hold power have the responsiblity and the duty to be especially trustworthy; not because of any higher calling, but because that is what the job is all about, and it is such an essential duty that humanity cannot long do without it.

When people start behaving as if they have an inherent right to power and have the inherent right to use it, defend it and expand it at the expense of those who donated it, it is inevitable that they will be replaced, because they become too expensive to be useful. They cost more than they are worth. Loyalty is withdrawn, alliegance evaporates, illusions vanish in the cold light of personal circumstances.

Now, hierarchical structures exist for the primary purpose of keeping the marks in line; keeping those on the bottom fed just enough to to work, without feeding them enough that they can afford the capacity to thin; to keep the donors donating whether they wish to or not, and of course to keep every level of the pyramid below the top bamboozled and ignorant in service to that end.

But that ship - all moral compasses aside for the moment - has sailed into the harbor and sunk with all hands. The genteel conspiracy between the great powers of media, religion, business and government has been exposed as a conscious fraud and a conspicuous failure.

Right or wrong, for good or for evil; they are doomed simply because ...oh, I hate to use such a term, but English is so limited ... because the "global consciousness" has evolved to a point where their tools and techniques can no longer work, and competing tools and techniques offer far more advantage to the vast majority of individuals who would never once be considered for membership in the "power structure." It's not just that they are corrupt failures - although that's the case here in North America - but that even if they were icons of integrety, they are still trying to do things in a way that is out of touch with the needs and capacities of the times.

That evolution is as much technological as spiritual, as much pragmatism as principle; it's certainly not driven by particularly enlightened motives - but as always, the cold laws of ethics define what will work and what will not work over time, regardless of how enthusiatically we wave our flags and incence.

Instead, we look at the choices made in our names by those who are wielding our power and, given the opportunity, start talking to one another about the matter, replicating on the Internet the exact same process that happened in Europe during the Enlightenment in coffee houses and taverns over pipes of "sauced" tobacco.

People are comparing notes. Ordinary people of ordinary means are capable of fact checking statements made today by their leaders against statements made last week and graphing in real time the return on investment of their donated power. Anyone who wants to can fire up a spreadsheet and plug in the numbers. And like all investors, they have every right to expect a positive return on investment. More to the point, right or wrong, wise or foolish - all of them do.

Alas, "western civilization" shows every sign of being a vast Ponzi scheme in the process of disintegration; and not just the one pillar of it - the construct we refer to as "money," but also the false Christianity it depends on to keep the sheep from reading their financial statements, the false politics that is arranged to prevent any real, meaningful positive change for individuals and the false culture created by a corrupt media that depends on very carefully not telling the most important stories of the day.

All these great powers have lost the trust of anyone who has honestly examined the available evidence - and the ability to disciver and evaluate has become pervasive. Increasingly, everyone that can has or will soon. What will happen then? Well, I cannot say for sure. But what I can say is that the consequences will be of far less importance to most people than the doom-sayers invested in the current "pyramid power" scheme would suggest.

Increasingly, the question of whether one should "go along to get along" will become more and more of an obvious choice; aside from the moral dimension, aside from the question of eventual ethical consequence compared with immediate necessity; the point is that there is now a vast array of real choices emerging for real people in real situations in the real world. The false illusion - "Maya," if you will - is falling away to reveal something that is not so much higher and more spiritual, though there is that aspect to it, but to reveal fundamentals.

"Before Enlightenment; hew wood, draw water. After Enlightenment, hew wood, draw water."

The hewers of wood and the drawers of water are those from whom all power flows and who ultimately support all that is civilization. They are the ones who buy the party boats and the Manhattan penthouses. They are the ones who create the real wealth. And they are the ones who can and increasingly will decide with whom and under what terms they will share it.

Our current system depends upon the vast majority of us toiling in some form of slavery; physical, mental, economic. We are held at gunpoint, by guilt, by ignorance, and all of this is due to the fact that our lords and masters are not very good at their jobs; know they are not, and know that if anyone drew aside the curtain to see the Great and Terrible Oz - they would be honestly unimpressed.

Certainly there's not much evidence that the current crop of Oz-wielders are very good at pressing buttons, much less understanding what those buttons actually do, unlike the fictional Great and Terrible Oz who was a master of using the art of humbug to inspire practical ends.

But in fact, whatever we think of those people who currently hold power, and whatever changes this new perception brings, there is something to remember here; we are all human beings, nothing much has changed on that end of things and nothing much can change. We hope we can become better human beings, but we won't become better people by trying to amputate or deny aspects of our humanity for "the greater good," or for any other reason. If there's any lesson to be taken from the last several millenia - I'm looking at YOU, "saints" Paul and Timothy - it's that.

If you are gay, you are gay. As far as I'm concerned, it's simply no longer reasonable to think of homosexual orientation as being a "choice." The only choices come in light of accepting one's orientation as a fact and then acting upon that fact in a way that allows one to sleep at night in good conscience. This is a particular example of a general principle; we all have various pediclictions with potential ethical consequences. If you need power to make your nipples hard, you are in exactly the same situation.

These orientations are basic, and they are either curses or blessings depending on what we do in order to get our needs met. Morality aside - because if our morality gets in the way of doing the right thing, much less understanding that we are doing viscerally wrong things - it must and it will be put aside.

What we need is an understanding that our lusts and needs must be informed; for those who's lusts are either frustrated or unfettered become monsters and parasites.

Our basic neurology defines us in unavoidable ways. Some of us are social. Some of us relate better to abstracts, others to the concrete. Some of us can grow things, others would starve in a garden. We all have sexual preferences - and these preferences vary far more than "conventional wisdom" would prefer. Some of us need power and authority, others of us cannot function without someone without someone capable of creating a context that makes our work meaningful and valuable.

Society is a matrix of trust and while it's possible to lie and cheat, to take advantage of power and position to gain benefits that are disproportionate, unearned and undeserved, there is no free lunch. Ultimately, such people undermine the trust their entire scam depends on and that leads to a general, cyclic housecleaning.

Yes. This has happened before. It will probably happen again. It's happening right now - and that's the important thing to remember here. The people who want to stampede you into supporting their schemes and dreams of staving off their personal disasters do not deserve your support. Nor is this a moral, political, conservative, liberal statement. It's a statement of fact.

They have fucked up. They are asking you to permit them to fuck up at your expense a little longer. They are saying that it's better, somehow, for them to fuck up in known ways rather than to risk the prospect of fucking up in different and potentially more informative ways. Most importantly, they wish to prevent anyone else having a chance to prove they might fuck up less at a lower price - in the face of overwhelming evidence that almost any randomly selected person could achieve that very minimal standard.

You are being asked to send good money after bad - and in every single aspect of our culture and economy; you are being asked to support a social system that has no problem with what happened to ordinary people (who happened to be black) in the aftermath of Katrina. You are being asked to support a petroleum economy that can no longer sustain itself or even replace it's rotting infrastructure. You are being asked to incur unsupportable debt in order to prop up a literally bankrupt monetary system. And you are being asked not to even ask why, much less what possible benefit might come to you or your family.

In terms of faith and religion, in terms of the dominant cultural themes, it's all Gays and Abortion, all the time, and not a damn thing about how, where and by what means spirituality might inform and improve the lives of people outside of the big boxes filled with rotting mutton.

From a pragmatic, moral perspective, I have come to the point where I wonder aloud if it would be such a bad thing if everyone who professes the sort of faith on display at such places as the Wasillia Assembly of God were to disappear. Let us take it as a thought experiment - let us ask ourselves if, were The Rapture they devoutly pray for to occur, would those who remain be better or worse off?

The answer is obvious to me; any religon that is founded on the idea that there are vast swaths of humanity they are doctrinally permitted to visualize writhing in the flames of a fictional hell, encouraged to visualize and celebrate pissing upon sinners from a great height would neither be recognized nor particularly missed by anyone trying to live as Jesus taught.

Anyone who would squander monies donated to a church to do good works upon such a mean-spirited and dishonest exercise as California's Proposition Eight is in no sense qualified to be a worthy steward of God in any way I can bring myself to accept. Any such religion asking for your support, much less demanding it, any leader of such a religion who will not accept the reality that their actions and choices are violations of some of the most basic principles upon which all religions have in common is undeserving of your support.

Religions have a place. They serve, when they serve at all, to inform people as to how to live better than they could on their own; they exist "in order to make good men better."

Should they instead decide to exist to excuse bad acts and encourage fools to act in concerted folly, they will pay a price. If you continue to be part of that group, you will be part of the pool from which that price is extracted.

Ask any Hugonaut. Or for that matter, any member of the Catholic Hierarchy in Quebec old enough to have lived though the Quiet Revolution. Ask them what happens when it becomes clear to the majority of people that they are actually better of seeking advice, guidance and and leadership from others who are more willing to accept the value of tolerance and the virtue of trying to be virtuous instead of merely asserting it while wearing a funny hat.

The thing to understand here is that there are inherent differences between human beings; our different needs and variations in ambitions are the things that make a society work, and wherever society starts to see such differences as a threat, making it impossible for certain sorts of people to live openly, honestly and ethically, to that extent that society will suffer. They will suffer the lack of their honest potential as well as paying the price of them meeting their needs in the way that circumstances demand.

Ultimately, if we meet our needs to the benefit of other people around us, we will be known as good people; if our existence is at the expense of the people around us, well, the "why" of it matters little. You see, there are times when society can tolerate a high parasite load. There are other times in which it cannot. And there are times when society realizes that it's time to shave themselves bald and burn the bedding.

This is a bad time in human history - from the perspective of bedbugs and crab lice. From the average human perspective, though, we can do without crab lice a lot better than crab lice can do without us.

A functioning civil society requires a functional morality that informs and empowers positive moral choices. There are several sorts of people that are particularly valuable and paradoxically, particularly dangerous to society. When society is about to collapse, you have only to look at your political and moral standard-bearers to discern why this has occurred and adjust your own understandings of what sorts of belief structures are ultimately cancerous to you and the people to whom you owe consideration and due regard.

And this brings us back to Dennis Kucinich. Dennis plays the "everyman" in our little morality play; the everyman placed in a position of authority, facing threats by those who think themselves more powerful and more deserving. Dennis is a person who grew up in hardscrabble circumstances; who knows poverty - and who thereby knows that being broke is nothing particularly to fear. Money is simply a means to an end, and if you allow the means to get in the way of the end - maintaining the essential social, family and economic relationships that make for a just, open and functional society, you will have failed.

And you will know that. You see, that's the ultimate price.

Knowing - in the moments of sobriety, between jolts of power, whiskey and religion - that your choices have led you to deep into the Place of Decision, and you, arrayed in all your pomp and your power are on the wrong side. That you have the starring role in your own personal production of Faust. That this IS hell, nor will you ever be allowed out of it. Not, at least, with the trappings and trinkets that dragged you to such depths of foolishness in the first place.

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