The world can certainly do better than this. Here's why.

Thursday, March 22

Occulting Aesop

The Bald Man And The Fly by Aesop

A FLY bit the bare head of a Bald Man who, endeavoring to destroy it, gave himself a heavy slap. Escaping, the Fly said mockingly, "You who have wished to revenge, even with death, the Prick of a tiny insect, see what you have done to yourself to add insult to injury?' The Bald Man replied, "I can easily make peace with myself, because I know there was no intention to hurt. But you, an ill-favored and contemptible insect who delights in sucking human blood, I wish that I could have killed you even if I had incurred a heavier penalty."

America and Dissent

America, certainly the bald man, has given itself a heavy slap in the swatting of Afghanistan, in the invasion of Iraq, in the neglect of New Orleans, and in its disastrous foreign policy. Instead of destroying terrorism, or undermining dissent, or restoring faith in America - thus striking fear into the heart of the fly who represents any dissenting party to US policy - the spectre of terror has only shifted escaping to touch down on the America yet again. It is they who dissent –- Hezbollah, hackers, Al-Qaeda, artists, Palestinans, and peace-mongers –- that bellow in the direction of America, “You who have wished to revenge, even with death, the Prick of a tiny insect [!]” What is the impact of any violation against the belligerent machine that is the World? Naught can derail this machine and, certainly, there are few that guide its conduct. And, certainly, the many of us reside within it. The unfortunate mass, for the most part, are cast out -- clinging to it for life. Some tiny niches remain; wherein, a lucky few reside.

Bald America’s reply, with awesome ferocity: “I can easily make peace with myself [.]” Peace within is the imposed guideline. There is naught but internal harmony, harmony among those who are accepted; thus, only people that have accepted America and are accepted by America can live in peace. Further, “because I know there was no intention to hurt.” Does America, or any dominion, not intend the harm it irresponsibly and inevitably causes? Does America swat so ferociously because it realizes it chases only the irritation, not the root cause within? America is irritated because they cannot accept what they cannot understand. America is irritated by difference.

Still further, “[b]ut you, an ill-favored and contemptible insect who delights in sucking human blood,” can refer to the bloodletting of terrorist attacks and of economic and resource diversions. The bald man rails against anything taken from him like a spoiled child. The problem is that the bald man does not realize the extremity to which there is imbalance. To have a fly suck a little blood is nothing in comparison to the utter destruction of the fly, should he – the bald man – connect with accuracy. Certainly, the fabled bald man does not seek little bloodletting from the fly. Nor will he suck the blood of his quarry in return; there can be no reaction that is in parity with the incident act. He seeks the obliteration of an annoyance. Furthermore, the bald man makes many vice-laden distinctions; the fly is “ill-favored,” unlike man who is favored; “contemptible,” unlike the man who is without contempt; “an… insect,” therefore worthy of destruction; “delights in” what man finds inconceivable, “sucking human blood” – though, as proven by his action, bloodshed in response is acceptable.

The fly can be naught but a fly; its nature is fixed at birth. Man, however, is capable of thought otherwise. There are those men who would not injure a fly, regarding its life as valuable as that of man himself. Acting as such is more of a bother, less convenient, and requires much more understanding. The fact remains that the only species that kills insects without eating them is Homo sapiens. Some humans delight in bloodletting. The relationship between those above and those below the force of the swat are rarely any different, especially where humans kill one another. It is their methods that differ.

It is this that is the key difference: “I wish that I could have killed you even if I had incurred a heavier penalty [italics added]." The belligerence and self-righteousness of the bald man must be tempered. The heavier penalty is being incurred in megadeaths, even now, in Iraq. The heavier penalty is being incurred in parts per million, even now, in environmental devastation. The heavier penalty is being levied in social irresponsibility, even now, in New Orleans. The heavier penalty is being incurred on a reputation abroad, even now, at the UN, within the EU, and in the nations of the Middle East and Asia. It is also being incurred against the developing nations of the world. Wherever flies “an insect,” the man that would slap himself to destroy this quarry, saying “I wish that I could have killed you even if I had incurred a heavier penalty [italics added]" is engaged in dangerous enterprise; both belligerent and, in the end, self-destructive.

Wednesday, March 14

Tipping Point II

This is a response I got from a reader on the message board.

"...I don't think that this will necessarily create a dystopian world, at least right away. The problem is that we are equipped to handle things physically, now more than ever, just not mentally...

"... our generation and the ones after it seems, will have nothing to fight for- and what I mean by that is that we have absolutely nothing animalistic, in America that needs to be obtained. ... we search and search and we begin to find more and more problems with the mind, with our spiritual selves, with the soul. And the worst part is, is that there is no real spiritual guidance to turn to. ... God, in some way has become dead. Other things have taken His place....money, fame, glory, etc. ... we know that something is missing and we need some sort of guidance, even though that guidance is dangerous. We need a hero.

"... Where did the focus on these things stem from?" (L.E. Thomas; "1984 And Other Dystopian Fiction," Facebook Discussion Group; 8 February, 2007)

This is my response to her:

I worry about the impact of an extraordinarily slippery slope, though it is a problematic position to argue from, that once things start to go bad it will become -- overnight -- unmanageable, uncontrollable, unpredictable. Much of human "progress" has been footed in the capacity to create MORE predictable outcomes. The culmination of all of this predictability and simplification has led us to become, as Lauren states, ill prepared mentally to overcome the unpredictable.

I would contest Lauren, going so far as to say that, with the broadening problems of childhood and adult obesity in industrialized nations in concert with the malnutrition and broadening poverty in less-industrialized and impoverished nations, that humanity is becoming less capable of physical responses to unpredictable changes.

The lack of direction that is exhibited here by Lauren, felt by myself and many others of my generation and generations to follow is a product of this alienation. As soft comfort -- in true dystopian fashion -- media outlets, corporate identities, and powerful organizations of all shapes fill the void with a slough of ideas grandfathered from the past.


If anyone still believes that the Global War on Terror bears any justice, take a look at the century-long "War on Drugs." The Cold War, a "War against Communism" only collapsed as the economies of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union fell to the manipulations of Western nations and their economic superiority. There was no moral victory in the Cold War, the warriors could no longer be fed the lies. Fighting a war against peoples individual ideas and/or actions is as silly now as it was then. Terrorism, though a serious threat in Europe throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, was essentially undone in the 1990s with open, honest dialogues (Looking specifically at the conflict between Britain and Northern Ireland, here, and the progress that had been made in Sri Lanka before the tsunami). Terrorism became the most important battle in America's history just as the rest of the world had just about put that baby to bed. Now that the rules and enemies have shifted, the rules are being re-written. Warfare is approaching that fearsome state of "Constant Emergency" predicted by Orwell.


I appreciate Lauren's points about the waning spirituality of we, the inhabitants of the Industrial World. Certainly, the greatest "religious" movements among us may have been socialism in the form of organizations, worker's unions, the IWW. The common beliefs of the supreme importance of the little guy, the worker, the labourer, the ones who lack power, sought to shake all of the beliefs of past centuries. This is the fear of the powerful, of corporations, of governments. The Cold War was a war of ideas; the targets were not only communist nations, but any sense of socialist ideals that may emerge within the corporatist ranks. The rise of the religious Right is not co-incidentally linked with the end of the Cold War. American Neo-Conservative ideals exploited the lack of direction left in the wake of the Vietnam conflict and the profound public outcry against Uncle Sam's abuse of power. 1968 or 1975 could have culminated in another American Revolution, but, each political movement was scripted and spun to achieve specific objectives. Once Reagan -- an actor! -- assumed the Presidency, the Neo-Cons had perfected their means of maintaining control. People, true BELIEVERS all, were willing to return to being exploited; supreme importance returned, finally to the seats of power in all corporate entities. The 1980s, the "Me Decade," trumped spirituality with greed. What, then, is to be said of the children growing up at this time? More desperately, the children of today -- being spoon-fed Disney, Dora, and American Idol -- false idols that reinforce the established order.


There has been no greater misuse of the term "freedom" than when it is "on the march." The brand of freedom that is presented by power does not admit that people have the capacity to overcome their betters. Stability demands that the mob be kept in check. It is this battle that is currently being fought; the front-lines are in the living rooms of America, of other industrialized nations. In the minds of the subjects of occupation in Baghdad, Gaza, and Kabul. In the minds of the opposition to global power in Tehran, Beijing, P'yong Yang, and Havana. In the policies of the non-aligned nations, in Caracas, in Tripoli, in Mumbai. What is freedom? To what extent am I willing to go to achieve freedom?

One World

Furthermore, a more global perspective is needed. America, as Lauren states, has "nothing to fight for... nothing animalistic, in America that needs to be obtained." Northern North America (the US and Canada), generally, rest in the good graces of the sociopolitical and economic scales. However, no nation, no corporation, no individual can alienate oneself from the rest of the world. The differences between nations do not exalt or celebrate the similarities between people. We are all human, we all require food, clothing, and shelter. We all pray for security, for success, for providence. We all will die. Still, apparently, this is not enough to understand one another.

As long as we believe ourselves -- each individually -- to be on the TRUE path, though we have no idea where it is leading, there will be conflict with the rest of the world.

There is something to be fought for, certainly, but that fight is averted at all costs. The struggle to know ourselves, to master ourselves, to make a more complete world for ourselves. The struggle to deny the necessity of subservience, selling our efforts for dollars, for rupees, for bhat, for yuan, for pesos.

In the old world, one could submit oneself to a discipline, usually in a monastery or convent, sharing in the efforts of all to achieve a higher purpose bound by common beliefs. Across the world, the beliefs were of many forms and took many shapes. Here, now, in this Brave New World, the only common beliefs are currency and power. How far are we from being singularly controlled? What more must come to pass before all people willingly relinquish all freedom for security? Alternatively, unable to cope with change, what will come to pass before anarchy reigns?