Archive for September, 2010

September 17, 2010

Political Independence

by nkwilczy

I want to start this post off with a short bit about our newest member of the Supreme Court. The only “dirt” that could be found on her during the confirmation process was a paper she had written on how internal divisions gutted the socialist movement in New York. It’s funny how much Supreme Court Justices spend most of their previous careers acting like they belong to a sleeper cell. Still, I think an obvious lesson can be taken from the premise of the text.

For my purposes I will divide the mass of politically aware Americans into three categories. I understand these three categories to represent oversimplifications, and I feel like I should warn people of that before I start talking about any of them. A lot of people use words like “conservative” or “liberal” as though they are all encompassing worldviews and total political ideologies, as though if you are pro-choice then you have signed a contract swearing to uphold the interests of trial lawyers or if you support gun rights then you must also support supply side economics. These broad generalizations and parodies of political ideologies work to form the basis for a sort of mild paranoia about the “other party” that reinforces loyalty and group cohesion among the two parties.

So that in the end, regardless of where you started out as a single issue voter, let’s say you are an environmental activist, in the end you will work with the teachers unions or the trial lawyers because it’s better than the “GODDAMN REPUBLICANS” or on the other hand if you work towards a smaller government then you can also end up supporting pro-life or various religious causes because again it’s better than the “GODDAMN DEMOCRATS.”

These are all people who started out as single issue voters. Many of them still are. The way that Americans have entered into political awareness for generations has been as single issue voters and it is a clear, logical system and a cornerstone of our democracy. You get into one issue, you maybe have some success with local government petitions or elections, you get that notion that you have made a productive addition to our democracy in some way and then you’re hooked. And then you start working on other issues.

I am explaining here that the connections that bring the two dominant political parties together are illusory. The perceptions reinforce the reality until the connections seem much more concrete than they actually are. We ally with the other “democrats” or “republicans” because we are told by other people that they are on our side, not because there is an actual ideological connection. If you compare it to parliamentary systems then the two political parties in America resemble coalitions more than actual political parties. Some of the most successful politicians in American history have made their reputation on that fact, “Big Tent” anyone?

I said at first that I would divide politically conscious Americans into three camps and so far I have only provided two. Democrats and Republicans. But there is a third option and I will explain it in a word: Unaffiliated.

I have personally been an Unaffiliated voter in this sense since I registered. I registered Libertarian and they lost their party status in NC a month after I registered and though they regained it I never bothered to re affiliate. In any event for our purposes here Unaffiliated voters include people who associate with every and any third party as opposed to the two dominant parties.

But Brah, you might say, then you are lumping in the Green Party with the Constitutionalists and the Libertarians with the Socialists. There are no ideological connections here, and in fact some of these groups disagree with each other on critical issues. If you say this then you clearly understand my point. In American political alliances these things do not matter.

There is a saying about managing the Democrat’s electorate, that it is like “herding cats.” You can see how this is caused by exactly the sort of factors that I’m talking about though, the lack of ideological connection between the factions. I don’t mean to understate the political diversity of the GOP, they are neither all corporate lackeys or ignorant rednecks, there is a wide variety of political tradition to their coalition. I won’t deny that the coordination and discipline of the party officials is uncanny, and when you see them mobilize every single seat they have in the Senate to block job bills or unemployment benefits for their own constituents. But I would argue that this sort of tight personnel organization does not in fact reflect any stronger of an ideological bond.

Those of us who prefer not to affiliate ourselves with either party wear our independence with pride. We are not tied to your issues. We care about what we care about and when issues that are important to us come up, and we vote erratically (in every sense that the combination of words can be understood). We make up our own minds to the extent that we are able, and this independence is a real virtue, the saving grace of the American democracy is the freethinking electorate.

But we can make our virtues into idols. And when we allow our political independence to get in our way and undermine our political goals. Because we let it divide us so that we don’t even bother going afield to find new perspectives to solve problems in other ideologies, we ignore compromises we never even know are there.

If bringing together Democrats is like herding cats then what I propose is a substantially more daunting proposition. Politically conscious Unaffiliated Americans are like snapping turtles. Many of them are involved in proselytizing people at any opportunity. They want to bring in new voters to the system, hoping for protest votes from people who would usually protest the system by abstaining, or if you openly disagree with them on fundamental issues (as independent minded people are wont to do) then they will even go so far as to argue with you. What I propose is that snapping turtles should put their differences aside and try to find common ground.

Why? What do they have to gain? What do we have to gain?

There is a need in this country for a serious national dialogue. There is a need for new ideas and new approaches to the problems that face 21st Century America. Internet Piracy has created a world where we will have to re-evaluate in a serious way the existing copyright system and it’s enforcement. The demand driven consumer capitalist post-industrial economy is showing serious signs that it may not in fact be a self-perpetuating model, and there is an obvious need to deal with the massive trade deficit that ensues. There is a need to reform much of our corporate model, where there is high regard for executives who add little actual value to the products and have frequently over the past decade offered little in the way of leadership. There is global warming. There are on top of this all sorts of real and obvious problems with a petrified two party political system that has failed to address even the most basic of these issues. We are talking about a political system that only in the last year managed to pass the sort of basic healthcare reform that Richard Nixon proposed our nation could use.

I don’t want to tell you that these things will mean the end of the American Era. I don’t mean to say that it is the end of the world. We can’t have that sort of freaked out mentality about these problems if we want to solve them. These problems are not bigger than life, they are life sized.

But it will require serious discussion of these problems. We will have to break down the barriers that keep us from talking to the people who disagree with us if we want to have those conversations. We can all agree on one thing, the two party system is not solving America’s problems. Start finding places to agree.

But then again we are snapping turtles…

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September 15, 2010

Something Cheery

by nkwilczy

To break this up.

It was very sunny and the weather was delightful in my state today. I got a lot accomplished.

There you are. I didn’t want to keep with the 9/11 top. I wanted to review the last issue of Fear of Monkeys, but since it’s all short stories and poems maybe you should just investigate yourself. There is a nifty little poem there and I think you should read more than just Exceptionalism.

But Exceptionalism is now up on that site.

September 10, 2010

September 11th

by nkwilczy

  This is a sad anniversary.

It starts with the loss of life on 9/11/2001. The events of that day are in and of themselves tragic, and really depressing from a number of angles.

But it gets worse than that, because you can’t look at 9/11 as an isolated event. It had serious consequences for most of the last decade. Look at the way we as a nation reacted to them. We went to open ended war with everyone. Afghanistan, Iraq TERROR. Now we have been fighting abstract concepts with bullets for decades with the war on drugs and that’s one thing. One incredibly expensive unsuccessful thing. The war on terror, though, in the last decade also incorporated a strange element of thoughtcrime. See, getting high might be an abstract concept, but it enjoys corporeal manifestations where you would think if you could stop the flow of coke/opium/hash you’d be able to stop the getting high. But Terror is a wholly abstract concept, and much more open ended than the war on drugs. We’re talking about people who are using box cutters, lighting their shoes with matches, or filling their underwear with fireworks. Throwing any rock they can get their hands on at the edifice of what they perceive as Babylon.

So in this environment the primary enemy is “thoughts of opposition to the American hegemony,” and among the various things that fell under this category were the “loyal opposition.” The people who would have said “You know going to war in Iraq is a terrible idea,” were unAmerican. Let alone the poor Truthers.

This gets to another part of this anniversary, the Truther movement. It is another sad consequence of the attacks that when calculated into the final equation, has made us less as a nation. Yeah, I said it.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking into the evidence and have determined with conclusive finality that even if George Bush, or shadowy cartels embedded into our government, conspired to kill Americans nine years ago, that they will not be brought to justice for it. As far as I am concerned that is the final word on the subject. I won’t get into the evidence because the truther movement has plenty of good questions to ask and plenty of good evidence for their claims. What I’m trying to say is that maybe they are right, but if they are right then their tactics are counterproductive. Not just to finding or illuminating the “truth,” but their tactics also are divisive and paranoid, rarely compiled into factual or coherent arguments. They are uninterested in redemocritizing our government, which is what is necessary if their claims are true, they are uninterested n any constructive work to fix the problems that they instead lock themselves up and worry about.

The problem is that we have proven conclusively that sheer evidence is not enough to convict anyone in the previous administration. If we were gonna prosecute for 9/11 we should have prosecuted their Geneva convention violations that we blared the evidence of on network news for weeks after the inauguration. This is yet another event where the Truthers were out tilting at windmills instead of seeking real justice as well.

And while they were tilting at those windmills what happened? Afghanistan is the longest war we’ve ever been in. We invaded Iraq and wasted billions of dollars building foreign infrastructure while our own infrastructure literally crumbles beneath our feet. If the membership of the truther movement wanted battles to fight then there were battles to fight in spades, but they were all caught up in the 9/11 phenomenon.

We still hear the echoes of 9/11 here and from what I’ve seen the Truthers are out in force this year. It’s a real shame.

9/11 also represented a turning point in social organization. Not that it was alone in doing it, but the fact is that some of the most effective organizations in the twenty-first century are not states or mutinational institutions like NATO or the Warsaw Pact or the UN. On 9/11 it was clear that the real people with power were the ones who organize themselves across national boundaries and put themselves above the rules. Organizations like Al Qaeda and Wal Mart had spent the last decade building in force until it was clear at that point that they had more control over the economy than the government and that they could also make war like governments. Only without any restraints, since these organizations place themselves above the law, and were organized tightly and across national boundaries and they could lure the mightiest nation in the world to spend billions of dollars not to mention thousands of American lives, chasing people from cave to cave in the desert.

This seems to me, to be a scarier world than, say, the Cold War. Let alone the post-historical decade of the nineties.

And then there’s the Islamaphobia, I don’t mean that irrational hatred of Islam didn’t exist in America before 9/11, but the ensuing decade has seen it become trendy. Burning Korans? Telling people where they are allowed to worship?

On the whole I feel like the experience has left us less strong as a nation. It has frightened us into submission or incited paranoia. It has divided us and we have turned on each other with unnerving quickness. We have all chased specters, we have sent our brothers and sisters abroad to chase specters. It has all been counterproductive.

So I say, let’s move on. That seems to me our only option. Let there be mosques wherever they want, this is America goddammit, don’t burn Korans or yell at Truthers or yell truth at the ignorant. Let’s just figure out how to solve this decade’s very real problems. The truth is that for democracy to work you have to love and trust your neighbors. That’s the important truth, fuck the Pentagon tapes.

So in the light of all the paranoia it’s stirred up, let’s maybe give somebody the benefit of the doubt this year.

September 1, 2010

God Exists

by nkwilczy

  God exists.

C.S. Lewis was fond of pointing to shared human moral values. He would argue that cruelty exists, which is nothing extraordinary, but he insisted that our awareness of it was something higher, and pointed to the influence of the divine. Augustine used math, something he saw as self evident and universal just like Lewis saw morality, Aquinas believed that logic was the universal railing from which any man could see God. It is often tempting to attempt to make arguments based on world origins but these arguments tend only to end only in open disagreement. Either matter and the universe have always existed in some form or another or they didn’t, people will argue both ways and it never goes anywhere.

Ultimately all of these are useless, the fact is that anything that can be limited to human understanding would fall short of our conception of God. To be God such a thing must be beyond our understanding and it is truly pointless to argue. There is no universal truth, not math or morality or logic that will permit all men to see God and there should not be. There should be no equation or cookie cutter formula for finding divinity. It should and must be a personal journey or it isn’t one worth taking, such a thing would not help you understand yourself or your place and purpose.

Because people seek the idea of God to find something that is at once very personal but at the same time connects them to their neighbors and helps them tie themselves into the world around them. To find your place and to feel purposeful in action is significant. And in their actions that go beyond logic or moral obligation people prove their devotion to the idea that something is greater than themselves, something that should be aspired to, these people show divinity in themselves. And if even flashes of such can be seen, if we can even reach into our own hearts and pull them out when we help the troubled or the needy or aspire to be more than human, to defy our limitations and reach for something more. If we can see something more than merely human there, if we can see God, then what more do we want?

September 1, 2010

God Does Not Exist

by nkwilczy

 God does not exist.

Cruelty and amorality, unjust and illogical things, problems or revisions in Biblical text, none of these are satisfying proofs to the nonexistence of God. Biblical arguments are inherently flawed in so many ways that they are never worth pursuing, they start out by placing themselves firmly in territory where their advocates are rarely as experienced as actual Bible reading Christians. And even if such arguments do succeed to any degree, even in rhetoric, they can at most argue against the existence of Hebrew mythological figures, at its heart the whole prospect is nothing more than tilting at windmills, and as far as convincing anyone about anything it is doomed to failure.

What concerns me is the idea that pervades that we are as a whole being watched very, very carefully and judged according to our merits and worth. This is the sort of God many people believe exists. What also concerns me is a simultaneous, compassionate and caring God that occupies the thoughts of many others and even simultaneously in the minds of many of the first sort of judgment oriented Deists. The point I intend to make is that your God is malleable. If parts of him can be changed and altered in one’s mind, if there is no concise understanding even to what “God” means even within one’s own head then how can anyone hope to prove that “God” exists? Ultimately no one can broach a universal argument that will make, to borrow a phrase, all knees bow because “God” is a personal understanding of the universe, not a universal or literal creator and overseer.

The truth is that while someone might argue for or against the existence of God, the more important argument that should be made pertains to the qualities of such a being. If the qualities of God cannot be agreed upon, If the moral code that governs such a being and which we all should ascribe to cannot even be determined, then the existence of God is a moot point. God, ultimately, exists only as a spokesman for whatever you believe in and his characteristics as you perceive them are as general and arbitrary as they are to anyone else.

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