November 15, 2004
(Swans - November 15, 2004)
Again I am plunged into acute awareness that the nature of actuality
remains paradox. Talking heads and pundits, I am sure, are having field
days as never before. Thoughts are running rampant, jumbling and
tumbling over and through each other searching for way, for path, for
Kurt Vonnegut, he of now bushy, disheveled hair and graven face, a Mark Twain of the early 21st century, in an October 15th 2004 note, "Requiem for a Dreamer," speaks well. "The overwhelming popularity of President Bush, in spite of everything, shows us what the American people, whom we have so sentimentalized for so long, a la Norman Rockwell, really are, thanks to TV and purposely lousy public schools: ignorant. Count on it!"
As a prisoner of war in 1944-45 Dresden, Germany, Vonnegut lived through the saturation bombings and fire storms which consumed that ancient city heretofore spared the systematic destruction of abject terror rained from above. Pulled from their deep cellar prison, Vonnegut and his fellow P.O.W.s scrabbled through debris to pull aside bricks to find body parts. The experiences of that time are yet etched in Vonnegut's writings. Compare the horrors of Dresden to those of the out of sight, back wards of mental hospitals -- another dark side of America's kill-from-a-distance technique. Pull out One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and read in today's terms.
Yet, can I find ignorance as reason for a second term? Teams of people well-educated, successful and skilled at their trades marched proudly to the Bush drummers. Karl Rove, Bush's elections strategist, no matter how cynical pundits may label his strategies, found the pulse of millions to gain a significant plurality for his man. He dove for bottom to dredge up prejudices and fanatical rages needed to overcome reason, if reason remains a valid word.
Here I can plumb my Buddhist leanings and find suffering, or, as I prefer, ignorance to be the root feeding human existence on this planet. The Buddhist ways out of ignorance are eightfold. All eight paths out begin with the word "right" as "right thinking" and "right living." I am confronted with so many millions for whom, in my view, ignorance is preferable, right is fright, fright is right.
I am, however, grateful for a kind of clarity, a puncturing of wishful thinking, a shattering of hope for the human condition. Hannah Arendt commands rereading as does Wilhelm Reich's 1932 work, The Mass Psychology of Fascism.
What may be most difficult to deal with is an overwhelming sense of loss. Not loss of an election, but loss in a once strongly held belief that, underneath and when confronted, the American people will choose well. And, I can say that the 55,000,000 who may have chosen well were overwhelmed concretely by those for whom Bill McKibben was right in saying it is too late, too late.
Early on in this four year orgiastic process, I evoked Robert Heinlein's prophecy of theocracy for this time. My intuitive sense, called upon too frequently, was to caution those hopeful of a non-Bush president that the great heartland of continental America housed a radically different breed of human being.
For them, what to me would be despair comes to cloak vestiges of reason and to displace feeling into rages against themselves. To dispassionate observers, these forms of polymorphous perversity manifest as self-destructive. A child engulfed in a double-bind life will strike out rashly in hopes of punishment as reward.
What I haven't wanted to know or to acknowledge is that there are more than my pessimistic side would countenance, face up to.
Knowingly, I can say that Leopold Kohr's insights about appropriate size exceeded leading to implosion seems ever more accurate. My recent ventures into the Hawaii state election system can find "system impossible." I can now extend "system impossible" to the society as a whole.
Bill McKibben, writing now more than eight years ago, was concrete in his judgment that the collective "we" had simply gone too far in decimating earth and corrupting mind. There was no correction, reform or return any longer possible. We are a Band-Aid® society attempting to cover our cancers.
Many traditions will tell us that change begins within. Shall I now look at the hand stabbing me in the back to know it is mine? Should I now look within before again looking out?
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