Let’s Run for Office

Let’s suppose we run for US Congress.  Or the state legislature.

Not being the only person with the same idea, we’ll probably put together a campaign run by professionals.  We’ll have to match the budgets of many opponents during the primary and finally one well-financed opponent on Super Tuesday.

Our attorney says we have financial support from several publicly traded or privately held corporations.

The corporate lawyers have drafted a set of bills and our team is excitedly working on a synthesis of the best ideas.

We have to write our own speeches but they delivered a set of talking points to complete our case.

We’ll submit and promote the bills.  Here is a schedule list of people we will be contacting, some at elegant dinner parties, some working sessions with a university, a caucus or two, some golf, and the vote on the bill itself.

Follow the schedule in detail or next Super Tuesday they will fund only our opponent.

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The Greatest Generation

Tom Brokaw’s book is a collection of the modest stories of modest people involved with a great enterprise.  They are generally what we would call ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances and who adapted and contributed to the American effort to defeat the Axis powers in WWII.

t’s really a book of saints where common men and common women are sanctified.

It’s as if to say that we United Statesians are all great and only need to step on the stage of great events for our greatness to become apparent and be written about by some champion of journalism.

In none of the stories do any of the saint-like figures ever make even the slightest mistake, ever deviate from their determined path toward perfect modesty and honor.

No mention of the millions of civilians killed by American and British bombing raids, no mention of the war rape that gleefully accompanies all invading armies, no mention even of the selfish and deliberate ignorance of our senior government officials who allowed the war to begin in the first place, no mention of the support for Hitler among the British and American aristocracy (Joseph Kennedy and the Duke of Windsor, for example) no mention of the phony war in Europe, and the decades-long rape of Korea and China.

The book ignores far more things than it upholds.  We could find in the enemy equivalent personalities with equivalent virtues of modesty and diligence and courage and sacrifice and would say that they too belong to the greatest generation.  After all the German soldiers who tried to push through the winter to Moscow must have displayed many examples of heroic behavior and the Soviet army, with its deprivations and its enormous tasks must necessarily have produced great sacrifice.  The Soviet Union lost 30,000,000 people to WWII.

But that would be celebrating virtue in general and the book would not sell so well.  Besides, in empire, everything is about empire.  Even its revolutionaries are fascinated by its exploits, even if only to decry them.

The book is about American virtue.  It rationalizes American foreign policy and implies that we must face bravely and unconsciously the New American Century.  The most interesting things about the book are what is left out and its best-seller status.  We applaud our ignorance.

How can you think out of the box if you don’t know you’re in a box?

The Reillusionment

The hierarchal personality, bound to the land or a trade or a person, able to read the few symbols needed for the job, lived somewhere in the  more or less stable pyramid of social power.  You had someone telling you what to do and probably had someone to order around as well. 

Owned by kings, barons owned their peasants as fathers owned their wives and children.  While broadcasting benevolence and virtue, every institution was just another landowning center of power, allied or at war with other centers, which kept everyone working and paying their taxes and supplying men and materials for commerce and war.  The human biomass increased and invaded all continents. 

Knowledge was kept in books written in dead languages guarded by authorities. 

The Enlightenment freed some of humanity from the burden of authoritarian knowledge by making some privileges available to a larger group.  More people could see the books and write their own.  The discoveries in science and math were particularly portable, since so many of the experiences could be replicated and developed by anyone with a place to work.  

Universities co-evolved with learning, multiplying the channels of knowledge propagation, expanding the freedom and wealth of the victors of the expansion.  It looked like progress to some of the survivors.  Human culture accelerated its evolution. 

The individual co-evolved with the opening up of knowledge to operate and maintain the machinery of human culture, to produce, consume and trade its artifacts.  Even the aristocracy was recreated.  We became aware of the diversity of the human species and of nature too. 

Many people got about as much education as they could handle.  Then they got jobs and married and had children to lead through the labyrinth of the market, to point out the various objects of desire and then to take home and to consume, to empty the container so that more must be had so that they can grow up and go to school and so on.  Thus the cultural ideology reproduces itself, bootstrapping into post-modernity where everything changes, and even change can stop.  Everything is opening up, including the possibility of destroying ourselves. 

There is a great homogenization happening among humans.  More and more we are acting and dressing and talking and choosing and buying and learning and producing alike and the intimate corporate network is learning to produce and market not only their goods and services, not only their best-practices, but also their best practitioners.  We are manufacturing types of people.  We are manufacturing ourselves as educated producers and consumers of news, sport, spectacle, food, shelter, clothing, pets, health care, cosmetics, entertainment, pet supplies, gadgets, public assistance, heavy machinery and the objects of class and adornment. 

While maintaining the vocabulary of the individual, we are becoming more and more alike.  While insisting on the entire spectrum of choice from birth to death, while fiercely defending our opinions, while participating in every opportunity of democracy, we imitate our closest acquaintances, and the imitations propagate through every medium to every global corporate citizen.  The simple act of walking down the street says volumes about who you think you are.  Art writhes in cultural self-awareness, which is not necessarily beautiful but it tries to be something. 

While continuing to use the vocabulary of the individual, we are becoming increasingly identical agents of the global technical empire.  We manage protest with a best-practice.  All art is preempted and sold back to the consumers by institutions already performing that service.  If it catches your attention, it can be bought.  Our worst enemies are employed to generate news and movies so we can repeatedly identify and demonize them so to build armies and machines to hunt and kill them. 

In tandem with change, the new personality of the agile corporate citizen boldly steps forth.  Highly mobile, able to perform an intersection of job descriptions, unencumbered by felonies or significant resume-gaps, somewhat new in town, university-educated but classically illiterate, able to hit the ground running, always looking for a job, good communication skills, detail-oriented, a good match, brilliant, in short, an enthusiastic agent for hire. 

Universities are centers of power, reservoirs of teachings, and producers of the corporate citizen.  The school system is designed not to open up the tenderly curious child to the universe of experience, not to create the individual with critical thinking skills, but to train him to sit and listen, to understand and execute directions, to work alone or in small groups, to assemble and observe the spectacle, to sing together, in short, to practice the skills needed by the global technical empire. 

We are all invested in the status quo.  The current process produces (but does not necessarily distribute) food, shelter, clothing, and entertainment to 7 billion humans, a biomass rivaled by no other species on the planet. 

The empire is not a conspiracy because it’s many conspiracies.  There is no shortage of closed-door meetings, groups with privileged knowledge, proprietary documentation, patents and copyrights.  Many cancel out others.  The net motion is a vector sum of all its influences. 

The empire’s objectives are easy to read but we don’t.  Instead we publish insufferably generic mission statements and practice damage control when violating our mission.  The best practices of public relations are found to be far cheaper than doing something substantive about a problem inconveniently brought to the public attention. 

And by being technical it is not only because it uses technology but that the empire masters the best practices with and across the domains of human resources, mining, manufacturing, marketing, customer relations, enterprise resource planning, demand planning, government, education and all the dimensions of imperial opportunity.  Our governing technology is the set of evolving techniques with which we manage our enterprises. 

While the corporation has brilliant humans diligently working for it, as a whole, it is stupid.  The larger the community, the less mobile it is.  It has to reach a consensus as to what is good to eat, what’s going to eat it, what’s already been eaten to act on the world stage.  Components sometimes fail to exercise good judgment.  The merger is its equivalent to sex, which is yet another act of eating.  Mergers acquire customers. 

We are not going back to the pre-enlightenment hierarchal society with its petty autocratic personalities but moving forward into an illusion that constructs our personalities consistent with the global technical empire.  The new personalities speak the vocabulary of the individual but the meaning has aligned not with the individual but with the corporate citizen.  One is still encouraged to be an individual but to do so within the vast power structure of the universities, corporations and governments, all of which act like corporations.  One exercises choice as a producer and consumer of products and in that exercise is constructed as the corporate personality. 

One does not create oneself: those days are rapidly drawing to a close.  Nor do the universities, corporations or governments construct you.  You become constructed dynamically in the relationship.  In this way, you can move from corporation to university to government, believing in a disparate set of paradigms, being a different person in different environments while bearing the illusion of personal integrity.  Integrity is becoming ever more convenient, as it is the reward for participation and its language is common to the disparate industries. 

The product of universities is not disembodied knowledge but particular kinds of people.  The product of news shows is not the news but the legions of television watchers.  The product of corporations is only partially their products: it is also the workers.  The product of governments is not just the administration of its domain but its creatively obedient subjects.  Thus we are created. 

Thus the agile personality finds its place, once again, within its social network.  The person is now a set of masks and costumes hiding the embarrassment of emptiness within.  The emptiness is critical to the global empire because of its vacuity, which must be filled with the newest objects of desire, which must be purchased with money that is earned, which is produced by the job for which you are trained, which depends on the global market for goods and services. 

Art, science, history, mathematics, public policy and individual freedom must all bow to the increasingly globalized and homogenized livelihoods of their human constituents.  The larger components of the global technological corporations (the universities, corporations and governments) have discovered that identical techniques should be used in the administration of the disparate components.  These techniques of administration include human resources, general accounting, marketing, supply chain, treasury management, customer relations management, public relations and infrastructure improvement. 

On the lower level, it’s a better employee-fit if the candidate has experience in the technique and the industry, but on the higher levels of senior management the industry is less important.  The mastering of the techniques is of prime importance.  Business school teaches the set of techniques independent of the particular industry.  Agile employees hop from corporation to university to government, climbing up a step in terms of salary and responsibility with each move. 

The post-modern power structures do not open in the same way that the component corporations, universities and governments opened during the Enlightenment, which opened a window on the universe of knowledge that was expanding in size and detail and that increasingly welcomed your participation. 

Today, the universe of knowledge continues to expand but for the employee the opening is always within the corporate techniques and in their perfection, adaptation, and implementation. 

The employee has the illusion of participating in an open field by contributing original solutions to the component in compliance with component policy.  Awards, recognitions, and promotions are generously distributed.  We are encouraged to think outside the box but always in service to the particular component that employs us. 

Genuine original thinking is labeled quirky if only slightly distracting and grounds for disastrous dismissal when questioning fundamentals.  Many contracts with employees specify that the employee can be dismissed if found to be acting against the company’s interests, even outside of working hours and off site.  Whistle-blowers are always punished.  Think courageously outside of one box but meekly within another. 

Dissent among citizens is handled informally in several cunning ways. 

Many people refuse to debate politics because of the controversy it engenders. 

Secondly, the debates never recognize that opinions are deeply held.  In fact, opinions are at the very core of the constructed person and are not changed by information.  To change someone’s mind is to change who they are.  Opinion is not a matter of fact but a matter of existence.  And not only would you have to change your interlocutor, you would also have to get him to change all of his interlocutors, as like people tend to band together and radicals are clearly labeled and driven out. 

Thirdly, debates tend to homogenize as someone holding radical opinions can be ostracized and boycotted.  Even if tolerated, the toleration becomes a way for the group to label and marginalize the radical. 

Fourthly, participation in larger groups, such as universities, corporations, and government agencies is subject to a filtering process that tends to eliminate people who express strange ideas.  If you have your own opinion at variance with an expected norm, keep quiet about it.  Cheer the mission of the organization sincerely. 

The pattern of continuous improvement of technique governs post-modern civilization and necessarily leads to the great global homogenization.  Everything is mass-produced, including goods and services and their consumers and producers.  And it feeds and clothes the world, providing not only the objects of desire but the objects of need and the means by which we can obtain them. 

The empire is remarkably stable, wars and recessions notwithstanding.  Corporations are designed to insulate themselves from disaster, mainly through adaptive means.  When they experience a downturn they lay off employees.  They change their public relations easily and are always looking for new markets.  Their officers are insulated from liability.  They employ teams of lawyers to protect themselves.  Stock markets tend to minimize difference between price and value.  Corporations employ governments to help them penetrate domestic and foreign markets.  They insure each other against disaster.  Governments bail out corporations.  Laws are passed that favor one corporation over another or one industry over another or one government over another.  Not only do the components of empire share techniques and personnel but corporations, through lobbying groups, write legislation.  With the continued globalization of corporations, the effort at stability is becoming increasingly international.  Governments, corporations and universities cooperate on many levels to ensure their stability. 

When our species finally settles on a maximum population, hopefully non-catastrophically, the size of markets will slowly stop changing.  They will only open to small changes in demographics.  There will be already a best-practice in place that can be improved only incrementally.  And the improvements are quickly noticed and acquired by the competition. 

The questions are not: Is this the best way?  The right way?  What other directions can we take?  But Can we change our direction at all?  The consumer economy and its constituent personalities are really the ordering of personal self-interest, bluntly, the orchestration of greed.  Other than the way it is currently changing, because of the alignment of personality and corporation, fundamental change is improbable.  Humanity is achieving the practical union of person and community on a global scale and reinventing the human personality as part of the process.  

 

The Future is Unacceptable

We invade the future and the past and the present with our ideals.  In this way, we demonstrate our control.

We come to be when we drive our ideas like a conquering army toward the poorly-defended.

We come to be as a mutually-supported tribe, driven closer still by the identification of an enemy to be invaded.

We conflate ‘is’ with ‘should’ but there is no ‘is’ on the ground and ‘should’ (being a wish) can’t be on the ground either.

For the thinking being, the object is dependent on agile perception, value, and investment.

Thus the material is in the grasp of the immaterial.

Single Carrot

The day is coming when a single carrot freshly observed will set off a revolution.  Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

The quote became the motto of Single Carrot Theater in Baltimore, Maryland, started by some college kids who knew each other in school and went shopping for a city to create their own radically beautiful work. 

The content of Cezanne’s quote is a beautiful bit of idealism pulled out of the painter’s ever-changing view of nature.  Cezanne painted dozens of versions of Mont Sainte-Victoire, suggesting that there were an endless variety of interpretations with which we could approach our world. 

Was he only talking about art or about us in general?  The many who quote him are applying the principle widely. 

He said ‘the day is coming’ because we are not yet at the point when fresh observation will cause a wide, social revolution.  I suppose that we can have modest revolutions when we freshly observe our world. 

I suppose that in an empire, no revolution can succeed.  Spartacus started a slave revolt with thousands of resourceful and committed stakeholders knowing that failure meant death.  They won some ground but the Romans eventually analyzed the situation, organized its resources, hired the best commanders of the best legions around, executed the plans, captured and hung the rebels bodies by the thousands on crosses along the Via Appia as a lesson to all those who would dare to have an original idea that did not further the ominous creep of empire.  An empire is that which survives revolutions. 

Of course, empires eventually crumble away and something must patiently chip away to make them go away.  The quote strikes me sympathetically.  Fresh observances are exhilarating and revolutions can be wonderful for their survivors. When in Baltimore, check out Single Carrot.  http://singlecarrot.com/

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This I Believe

I believe that humans live in a constructed world composed of myths, propaganda, lies, half-truths, ideas, social relationships, and the individual itself. 

I believe that I will disappear without a trace.  I suppose I might leave some ashes but ashes get discarded and monuments eventually are reused for their stone.

Perhaps I’ll leave behind some art.  But paintings, sculpture, and literature are mostly thrown away.

I’d like to be exceptional but given the few famous historical figures and their works that come to my mind compared to all who have ever been, the odds on fame are low.  I will be one of 9 billion contemporaries, at least some of whom are very creative and interesting people.  None of them know me and I really don’t know any of them except through the news, which generates myth.

Whatever I believe about myself and the world will disappear when I disappear.

Perhaps science will save me, make me live longer, but sooner or later fatal accidents happen.  If I’m careful, I’ll die of boredom.

Even if I have a genius for life, who I am now is not likely to be who I am a thousand years from now any more than I now resemble myself as a baby.

I suppose I might make some anonymous contribution to my culture but cultures come and go, leaving crumbling ruins and undecipherable scripts.  Most folks now don’t care much about the past.  History will dissolve me.

Even the earth, that cracked crust covering a ball of molten rock, even that will disappear as the sun grows.

Even in some science-fiction imagination whereby future generations carry my name etched in golden plates beyond the death of the sun, beyond the heat-death of the universe, even if they were so incredibly devoted to my memory of my reputation, I couldn’t possibly know any of that now.  And after all, how could they possibly get it right?

Perhaps I’m wrong about the gods; I don’t think I’m right about very much.  But even so, why would a god of all of space and time and matter and energy care about me or us or even our own plain little corner of the universe?

That’s what I believe but that’s not how I live.

I believe I am stuck in the present with dreams of the future and nightmares of the past.

I live in a world of beliefs, expectations, words, ideas, dreams, plans, conversations, memories, fantasies, histories, scientific theories, nightmares, moon rises, parties, families, phobias, injuries, pleasures, musicians, paintings, movies, enemies, jokes, and paradoxes that evolve too fast to be analyzed.  My life contains beliefs and is not contained by them.

A belief is one of the many props of personality, one of the weapons with which the person defends the emptiness of the inner being hungering for dominance over the Other.

 

The End of the Enlightenment

If I want to get to the bottom of things, I have to ask a good question and here it is…

How did we let President Cheney bamboozle us into the murderous war on Iraqi civilians?  

How he pulled off the war is clear enough.  Bill Moyer’s The Selling of the War provides some answers.  Any newspaper article or TV news program provides more.  But how did we let him mislead us into the war?  Are they brilliant?  Are we stupid?  

Here is my solution.  

The unconscious is suspicious, fearful, aggressive, impulsive, ignorant, inarticulate, and domineering.  It hungers for its object and thus is the source of our distinction.  It drives us to recognize the Other as friend or foe.  It cannot be seen or controlled.  It can only be interpreted.  

Driven by paranoid fear and sadistic aggressiveness, our inarticulate unconscious breathes through the mask of personality, which forms words and sentences.  In the encounter with the Other, personality is created and recreated in the moment. The personality is formed socially by alliance and enmity.  

The social identification of the Other as a foe harmonizes with the paranoid unconscious and creates the personality.  We don’t need to know anything about the enemy, only that it is the enemy.  The enemy of our enemy is our friend.  The friend of our enemy is our enemy.  The social identification of the enemy creates our personality.  We become who we are in war.  We recognize each other in combat.  

The mob is the common hatred of the Other, making a closed, familiar system.  The Other is included in our circle.  We could not exist without the Other.  It’s not possible to destroy the Other.  

There is no essential person beneath the mask.  The idea of oneself is yet another utterance breathed through the mask.  You can only see yourself socially.  Integrity is an utterance that insists on wearing one mask, a single face.  Meditation is an effort at integrity.  

There is no logic or reason beneath the mask.  There is only the will to dominate, to order things.  

Cultures cannot learn.  Only the mask, that which gives shape to our primal howl of fear and rage, can learn.  We are neither the unconscious nor the mask.  We are only the thinnest of membranes sufficient to keep the inside from the outside.  

The unconscious will to dominate encounters opposition and cooperation.  A social action is the vector sum of all its wills.  

Warriors and anti-warriors are exactly alike in their differences.  

Thus warrior and anti-warrior, the slayers and the slain, join up and do the dance of death, the music of empire.