The Blue Raccoon

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Scylla and Charibdis
Either government doesn't matter, or that's all that matters. I don't know which.

I'm really wishing I had a poster version of this fantastical, post-collapse illustration of a road trip. And I wish I could be responsible and tell you a) the artist and b) where I got it. I've had this for awhile and just slugged the title as "Road Trip2" and a search for this didn't turn up the picture. If anybody knows where or how to credit this, say so.

Should I Go To Monterrey And Watch The Whales?

About two weeks ago Amy Goodman had Ralph Nader on Democracy Now! He was also profiled by Paul Farhi for the Washington Post, because, yes, he's running for president again.

From Farhi:

"So at 74, shunned and marginalized, he's running for president for the fifth time.

"It's the rational approach," he declares. "If you're locked out of the governmental system, if you can't get a hearing, and I can't, you go to the electoral system. What's my alternative? Should I go to Monterey and watch the whales?"

Having burned so many bridges, and persuaded for decades in the righteousness of his cause, Nader insists not on harnessing his dwindling sympathizers to the current Obama Hope train but instead takes every opportunity to drub Obama about how he's really just another suit. And Nader could be right.

Obama must run as a centrist candidate--much as Doug Wilder did when running for Lieutenant Governor and Governor here in Virginia, and what he sought to do when he ran for President for 10 minutes in 1993. This is the same reason Colin Powell was bruited for one executive office or another; but frankly, I don't know if Powell--one-- has the stomach for the fol-de-rol of campaigning and, two, with the way he was trotted out to fall on his sword for a lying administration, if he wonders himself what the hell he built a career in the military fighting for. Or maybe I'm naive. The latter is the most possible.

My gullible nature notwithstanding, if Obama ran as big a liberal as he likely is, there's no way he'd turn out the votes he needs. He's got a tough enough time being black and half-white and not Muslim. Politics is politics. Nader must know that.

I once met Nader, prior to his 2000 bid that made so many people angry. He was speaking at a philanthropy conference and I had the opportunity to interview him for a publication. We were backstage at a brand spanking new performing arts center at the University of Richmond. With a straight face, the only one he owns, he worried whether the blown-in insulation above us was asbestos. I got anxious because the little table upon which I rested my notepad wiggled and that caused the small lamp on it to flutter, with an obvious electrical short. I thought better of this, and rested the pad on my knees.

I remember how in 2004 Michael Moore and Bill Maher got down on their knees to beg Ralph not to run. The former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell -- who always made the best points on the shows she was on -- makes the point that Nader changed the way people throughout the world think about power. And said then he could be out there as the gadfly mobilizing people. He could be part of a feet-to-the-fire campaign. Use a check list, and f a candidate doesn't do it he pays the price. If Nader helped somebody win, he's still a player, and has influence where influence is everything.

Nader didn't take her wise advice. He's got his own reasons.

From the Post feature:

"Todd Gitlin, a Columbia University professor and a liberal author, admits he becomes "splenetic" on the subject of Nader the candidate. "I regard him as a saboteur of the cause to which he purports to devote himself," Gitlin says. "Nobody I can think of in public life has so willfully repealed his contributions to American life with such intensity and conviction."

Eric Alterman, another liberal commentator and author, calls Nader "a megalomaniac" and "a Leninist," in the sense of Nader's belief that things must get much worse before reform can begin. "There was only one person in entire world on election eve who could have prevented Bush's election."

Nader doesn't feel a need to apologize. He doesn't worry that the first line of his obituary will describe him as the spoiler of the 2000 race. He often quips, "You can't spoil a system that's rotten to the core." To strangers who get in his face, he has another deflection: "Gore won. The election was stolen. Go after the thieves."

It wasn't his responsibility, he says, to persuade people to vote for Gore. If voters were attracted by his positions and issues, he says, then Democrats were free to take the same positions. Bottom line? "The Democrats couldn't beat a bumbling governor from Texas," Nader mocks.

Nader wasn't the only man who could have changed the election's outcome. His name was one of eight third-party candidates on the Florida ballot, all of whom attracted far more than the 538 votes Gore needed to change the outcome.

Nader thinks it's futile to keep arguing about it. He also thinks one man could stop the "scapegoating": Gore. "If he would stand up and say publicly, 'Ralph Nader wasn't responsible,' that would make a huge difference," Nader says."

Nader: Obama Is Running For "Panderer-in-Chief"

From Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, on his first day as the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Barack Obama traveled to Washington to address AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. This is some of what he had to say.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state—the Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper, but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

AMY GOODMAN: Obama later appeared to backtrack on his comments about the future status of Jerusalem as capital in a follow-up interview on CNN. He said it would be up to the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate. Ralph Nader?

RALPH NADER: Well, I think Barack Obama is in training to become panderer-in-chief. That was really a disgraceful speech. It didn’t further the peace process, the two-state solution favored by a majority of Jewish Americans, Arab Americans, a majority of Israeli and Palestinian people. He basically sided with the militaristic approach to occupying, repressing, colonizing, destroying the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. He hasn’t even spoken out against the international crime of the blockade of Gaza, one-and-a-half million people, from medicine or drinking water, fuel, electricity, food—lots of silent fatalities in Gaza because of that.

Barack Obama really now has to be examined very carefully. He has worn out the word “change.” We now want to know what change is involved. And it’s quite clear that he is a corporate candidate from A to Z. In his voting record, he voted against reform of the Mining Act of 1872, which gives away our hard rock minerals. He voted for a terrible class-action restriction law that the corporations wanted him to vote for. He, in many ways, has disappointed people who had greater hopes for him. He’s voted for reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. He refuses to even discuss—he’s vigorously against impeachment of Bush and Cheney. He won’t even support his colleague Senator Russ Feingold motion to censure the Bush administration for systemic repeated illegal wiretaps. He—you know, he’s letting the corporate-dominated city of Washington, the corporations who actually rule us now in Washington, determine his agenda. And that does not augur well.

He’s just appointed economic advisers right out of the Robert Rubin school of Citigroup and the University of Chicago. His Middle East advisers involve people who actually helped write his AIPAC speech. You know, it’s a sad thing to see, because he knows better, but he’s suppressing himself repeatedly until he becomes a different person, should he be elected president.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, I wanted to play for you two clips, one of Barack Obama and one of McCain. This is Barack Obama speaking about Iran.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA: We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything.

AMY GOODMAN: On the campaign trail, John McCain accused Obama of being naive on Iran.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: My friends, they are developing nuclear weapons. Also what is totally unsatisfactory is that the Iranians are making, are manufacturing and shipping into Iraq the most lethal explosive devices that are killing young Americans. That’s not acceptable. And Senator Obama wants to sit down without any precondition across the table and negotiate with this individual. My friends, that’s not right, and that’s naive. And that shows a lack of experience and a lack of judgment.

AMY GOODMAN: McCain’s position and then your assessment of Obama?

RALPH NADER: Well, it recalls Michael Abramowitz in the Washington Post in March and New York Times reporters a few weeks later saying that if Obama or Clinton were elected president, the foreign and military policy would not be much different than the foreign and military policy of George Bush in his second term. And that illustrates that. The military-industrial complex and the politicians like Obama and McCain who support it—$700 billion, over half of the federal government’s operating expenditure now is the military budget—are desperately looking for enemies, desperately exaggerating enemies.

Iran has not invaded anybody in 250 years. Yet it’s obviously frightened. It’s surrounded by the US military west, south, east. It’s been labeled “Axis of Evil” by Bush, who invaded Iraq after he labeled them “Axis of Evil.” We have Special Forces, according to Sy Hersh, that go in and out of Iran. What are they going to do? They talk very belligerently nationally, but they’re really scared. I mean, we supported Saddam Hussein, logistically and with materiel, in invading Iran, which took a half a million Iranian lives. They remember the shooting down of their civilian airliner years ago."

Theodor van Thulden - Sirens, Scylla and Charibdis, 17th century via, orrologion.

I admire communal and even anarchic principles and can see how they may work in small communities where the consent of the governed, or un-governed as they case may be, is easy to gauge. But with a nation of 300 millions, spread over a continent, there is little real way of maintaining a democratic relationship forever without periodic renovations of the structure. And that happens every, oh, 200 years or so.

Am I just throwing up my hands, and therefore saying; OK, you win, bring on the despot? Or am I saying: I am a concerned citizen, but I have too much going on in my life, with an accumulation of interests and a good group of friends and colleagues, to allow my precious life moments to get siphoned off in the affairs of national government that is beyond repair. On a street and even block level, this is where when I have the emotional energy spare on such matters. I mean, at this point, I don't see any other way to retain my balance.

Obama can give no speech and Olbermann can make no Special Comment that'll save us.

"Hope And Fear Chase Each Other's Tails"

I'll keep voting, though I feel that beyond the local level, it doesn't matter much.

Jim Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation isn't the place to go for cheerful news, usually, but I do on occasion run into somebody who has written thoughts I harbor but haven't articulated. As in here, with Djinn:

"All this talk about the presidential election, and candidates and their stated policies, underlines an emerging situation that people have yet to get their heads around: IMHO politics and the political structure in the US have already proved themselves ideologically and intellectually irrelevant, and I think they are about to become manifestly irrelevant.

Government is structured in such a way that sound and sensible policy decisions are politically impossible. Besides that, not that many of the problems we face can be addressed using the political machinery, even if there was any will to address them. We are looking down the barrel of something that government simply can't do anything about. We can be sure that government will perform its customary function of implementing policies so misguided as to assure that the coming catastrophe is as catastrophic as possible."

No Hope In Hope

Djinn also gave an extensive excerpt from activist Derrick Jensen, author of A Language Older Than Words and The Culture of Make Believe. This piece came from Endgame, published in June 2006 by Seven Stories Press, and is about how Jensen gave up on hope. Things are bad, and getting worse, and hoping something will intervene is, well, he says, folly. I've truncated it, but you can see it all here.

"Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they’re getting worse. Rapidly.....We’ve all been taught that hope in some future condition—like hope in some future heaven—is and must be our refuge in current sorrow.

...I’m sure you remember the story of Pandora. She was given a tightly sealed box and was told never to open it. But, being curious, she did, and out flew plagues, sorrow, and mischief, probably not in that order. Too late she clamped down the lid. Only one thing remained in the box: hope. Hope, the story goes, was the only good the casket held among many evils, and it remains to this day mankind’s sole comfort in misfortune.

The more I understand hope, the more I realize that all along it deserved to be in the box with the plagues, sorrow, and mischief; that it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.

Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails,” not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is.


PEOPLE SOMETIMES ASK ME, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just kill yourself?” The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.

Many people are afraid to feel despair. They fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate our situation really is, they must then be perpetually miserable. They forget that it is possible to feel many things at once. They also forget that despair is an entirely appropriate response to a desperate situation. Many people probably also fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate things are, they may be forced to do something about it.

Another question people sometimes ask me is, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just party?” Well, the first answer is that I don’t really like to party. The second is that I’m already having a great deal of fun. I love my life. I love life. This is true for most activists I know. We are doing what we love, fighting for what (and whom) we love."

One of the aspects I enjoy about this image is the dynamic between these women.
They've stopped to discuss how best to proceed. Should they continue on, or will they be able to make it to the distant and ruinous city (seen in the larger example at the top of this post) before nightfall? Should they even try? What's the best way to proceed? Those cute rucksacks don't appear to be large or lumpy enough to have bedding materials inside--but maybe, if stowed in a neat fashion. Maybe this is a short reconnoitering hike to see what's Beyond The Next Hill before returning to their outpost.

The former highway's surface is cracked and on the verge of getting reclaimed by nature. A busted car is just ahead, crooked jersey barriers, a discarded tire. This is not quite the Yellow brick Road. And, I admit my bias, I have a thing for women in shorts and hiking boots. And I also like that neither of the women appear to have weapons (though I suppose you could smite somebody with that walking stick).

I'd like to read the story about these intrepid women.

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At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been recommending a book called "My Stroke of Insight - a Brain Scientist's Personal Journey" by Jill Bolte Taylor and also a TEDTalk Dr. Taylor gave on the TED dot com site. And you don't have to take my word for it - Dr. Taylor was named Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People, the New York Times wrote about her and her book is a NYTimes Bestseller), and Oprah did not 4 interviews with her.

At 6:31 AM, Blogger HEK said...


Thanks for stopping by this short sidetrack in the Interwebs.

I read about Dr. Taylor's experience in the New York Times a few days ago.

I found her insights compelling, but I also wonder about trying to figure out the brain, because we can't do self-diagnostics. We can study the brain, but the brain can't study itself, if that makes sense.

Her description of unity, and of feeling connected to everything, reminds me of....certain experiences I may have had in my past. I was fortunate in that I didn't need to have a stroke.

There's the issue of if you're connected to everything, you're responsible for everything, and absent permanent omniscience and omnipotence, this is an impossible, fearful drag.

Experiencing the realization is quite powerful, but kind of like an orgasm, the human body and its psychology, doesn't allow for that experience to become all-consuming. Otherwise, we'd never do anything.

All that said, I do want to read the book, and I'll go to the Ted dot com site.

Thanks again.



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