Aug 312005
 

Seems my Pompeii comment might have some merit:

According to a Washington, DC-based news network colleague who just spoke to a reporter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the death toll from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans alone may top 4000. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said “thousands” in his city may have died. Former Mayor Marc Morial said that New Orleans may have to be abandoned like Pompeii. According to the reporter in Baton Rouge, there are hundreds and hundreds of bodies that have been seen by TV news choppers floating in the streets of New Orleans and surrounding communities. Health officials also expect further casualties from disease from people drinking contaminated water. The situation in coastal Mississippi is also dire, with the death toll there also expected to rise precipitously. Another contact in Mobile reports that a number of people who attempted to evacuate New Orleans and other surrounding communities were forced to return home after they were caught in the leading edge of Katrina while stuck in long traffic jams and feared being caught in floods. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its head Michael Brown, a Bush political appointee and a partisan Republican operative from Oklahoma, have been irresponsible in planning for Katrina. Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff also bears reponsibility for not ensuring adequate planning for a major disaster that had been predicted for years.

The global warming predictions by leading scientists are coming about. George W. Bush says global warming concerns are “silly science” based on “fuzzy math.” Some five members states of the UN, low lying atolls in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, will soon become “abandoned nations.” Now, we may have our first abandoned city in the United States. Venice, the Netherlands, and the Florida Keys are next.

Aug 312005
 

You should probably read this on the actions of the Commander in Chief, and this too. Bush IS to blame for a lot of the problems they are now experiencing in New Orleans. But is he responsible for Katrina? Not according to these guys – they are blaming it on God and Gays and “divine justice”.

But the “hurricane Presdent” Bush is busy these days,

Strumming awau

what could be more important?

“The hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service,” science author Ross Gelbspan writes. “Its real name is global warming.” AP reported on a MIT analysis showing “major storms spinning in both the Atlantic and the Pacific … have increased in duration and intensity by about 50 percent” (Washington Post) since the 1970s, trends that are “closely linked to increases in the average temperatures of the ocean surface and also correspond to increases in global average atmospheric temperatures during the same period.”

One of these days, maybe, after enough death and destruction, starvation and disease, and the collapse of our entire fishing industry – just maybe global warming will be given the storyline that it deserves in the MSM. Maybe. Right now, they’re too busy ignoring the real stories to bother.

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. (Thomas Jefferson) Especially Now

Bush has got to be feeling it by now. Or so we’d like to think. We can always hope. It’s very strange that the expected “event” occurred, with a natural disaster. But was this really “it”? We simply don’t know. But it is building, rapidly. Dissent. Division. Anger. Hostility. Distrust. Lies. Rhetoric. And now Katrina. While the world does not revolve around America, you’d think by our behavior and actions that it does. Still, we are a big fish in the pond and what we do, how we act and how we behave will have an impact on the whole world.

Another crisis has struck America, while we are STILL saddled with a lame-duck President and a do-nothing Congress. So like always, we are on our own, it’ll be up to each one of us to do our part to see this through. It’s not impossible to predict our future, not when we have the past five years to consider. So plan ahead, you know it’s coming.

Aug 302005
 

Nightline had a story on last night about New Orleans (yes, I actually watched a television) and the damage done by Katrina. Late in the segment was a proposal by some geologist (I think) that New Orlean’s build a 25 foot “sea wall” around the entire city. Strangely, it never seems to occur to anyone that the city shouldn’t be rebuilt in a major flood zone. New Orleans sits below sea level and “sea surge” from high winds can swamp the levies presently used to hold back the ocean.

So they hope to compound the root problem of locating the city in a non-habitable zone by building a higher wall. Maybe. That is, if they listen this time. This proposal was over five years old and was reportedly tabled. Now a significant portion of New Orleans is ruined.

What I find strange about this 20-20 hindsight is how we do not apply logic and reason to our decisions. There was no economic reason to build the sea wall – and my guess, there won’t be after the city is rebuilt either. After all, the big one finally hit (although it wasn’t really the BIG ONE) and the odds are, it won’t hit again for a long time. Maybe. But that is what humans do – play the odds. We have been playing the odds with our environment is a similar manner for decades. We build where we shouldn’t and complain when our houses slide off into the ravines or the brush fires destroy them to cinders or earthquakes reduce them to rubble. It simply never occurs to builders, architects and city planners – and home owners, that they’ve no business building or living there in the first place.

Billions of dollars in insurance claims later, the question comes up – but nothing ever changes. Humans keep doing stupid things, like they always do, until they mess it up so badly that it’s totally unfixable – like Pompeii, enshrining stupidity for eternity. We think we control nature – but how silly this is, when evidence abounds throughout the history of the world that just the opposite is true. So we keep playing the odds, hoping against hope that it won’t happen again.

But of course it will.

The real reason this stuff keeps happening throughout the world is because of greed. Sensible construction (and location) doesn’t make cents [sic], so we don’t do it. It’s far easier to gamble the human lives involved then to build wisely. Humans always take the money road. Which makes you and I worth, oh – say about $1,000? Less? More? While I’m not sure of the actual figure, the fact is, there IS a figure that can be placed upon every human life by the architects of this life. Now, I’m digressing a little bit here, but every human decision as it relates to civilization is about money, even if it eventually costs human lives. No regard is given to non-human lives, species extinctions continue unabated.

So I think we can safely bet the odds are – no sea wall will be built as proposed. It will simply cost too much. And there is utterly no hope that the city would be relocated or built on higher ground, this is an unthinkable act.

Future civilizations, if there are any, will undoubtedly perform the same senseless decisions, unless and finally, until mankind wakes up and acknowledges that he is most definitely NOT master of his environment and thankfully, never will be.

Aug 292005
 

10 Resolutions for the World (repeat at least twice every day) –

1) Stop killing people.
2) Stop believing lies.
3) Stop supporting the system.
4) Stop tearing up the place.
5) Stop blowing up buildings, people, dogs, busses, trains.
6) Stop building. Everything.
7) Stop manufacturing. We’ve got enough.
8) Stop driving. Ride a bike. Walk.
9) Stop obeying. You’re a slave. Understand it and stop doing it.
10) Stop complaining. Do something about it.

Aug 292005
 

While contemplating the fate of the world this morning, I spend a moment reading an article in the Mother Earth News magazine.

With the price of oil above $50 a barrel, political instability in the Middle East on the rise, and little slack in the world oil economy, we need a new energy strategy. Fortunately, a new stategy is emerging using two new technologies.Gas-electric hybrid engines and advanced-design wind turbines offer a way to wean ourselves from imported oil. If over the next decade we convert the U.S. automobile fleet to gas-electric hybrids with the efficiency of today’s Toyota Prius, we could cut our gasoline use in half. No change in the number of vehicles, no change in miles driven — just doing it more efficiently.

Although the article was slightly dated, what really got my goat was the author’s barely concealed glee that we can keep charging ahead on this same course. Why in hell would we want to do that?

The solution isn’t to maintain the present status-quo, by simply replacing oil or using something else. The problem is the status-quo. It’s our way of life, how we live, what we “expect” and the demands we make upon our environment and each other — that’s the problem with the status-quo, and it needs to be replaced.

I see no point at all in continuing our present way of life, which such minor course corrections as gas-electric hybrids, only so we can perpetuate this existence we call “civilization”. I’m feeling rather pessimistic these days, so bear with me.

Yesterday, I went for a long walk off into the woods, and sat down to contemplate the future. My summation remains the same as it was last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. It’s simply not getting any better, anywhere. If fact, it’s a hell of a lot worse, year by year. I won’t bother pointing out the specifics why this is true (this time), any half-decent observation of the world will validate my point.

The only bright spot yesterday was when a buck whitetail deer wandered right past me, not even noticing my intrusion into his environment. But as I looked around at the devastation surrounding me (the loggers had left one hell of a mess), I wondered about the fate of mankind – and the deer. What I was seeing before me was the story-line of our common dilemma – a wasted world, with the present day survivors, non-human and human, picking our way through the debris, seeking sustenance, shelter and day-to-day existence.

The loggers hadn’t left much forage for the deer, as you can imagine. The forest floor was badly torn up and slash was everywhere. The buck was picking his way through this mess, looking for edible things to eat. It was an old logging site, having been like this for the seven years I’ve been here. But not much new growth was coming up through the slash. You could still see the evidence of the heavy equipment where it had torn up the ground into mounds of dirt and brush, the heavy tracks in the ground still not completely washed away.

What I don’t understand is how people can be persuaded “it’ll get better”, when it clearly isn’t getting better anywhere you look The example of the deer is parallel to the rest of our planet and our species. The world as a place to live is getting progressively worse year by year. Slash piles of human disturbances are everywhere, all performed in the name of progress and “advancement”. Yet there are a great many people who still deny this. How goddamned dumb can you be?

Human civilization and all that it means, is the root of the problem(s), and no minor adjustments are going to possibly fix it. While gas-hybrids will be questionably helpful, perpetuating this status-quo of civilization is a damned mistake in my opinion. Whatever for? So we can strip-mine the planets later? We’ve yet to learn to live with each other, what makes us think we can do it anyplace else?

I am not anti-technology as it may appear, but I am very much against perpetuating this present-day “civilization” – there is nothing the least bit civilized about it. It is based on greed, corruption, excess, injustice, indifference and slavery. Is this really the best we can do?

What I don’t understand is why we continue on this preset course, when we know it is planetary and cultural suicide. What makes us do it? Are we so dumbed-down that we cannot see where it is going? Or is it that we simply do not care?

Whatever it is, I’m not joining in. I feel just like that buck deer, picking my way through the debris and refuse of human civilization, watching year by year (and now day by day), the encroaching power of civilization destroying everything in its path. And I don’t like it. Not one bit. Because I can see where it is all going and where we are all going to wind up. Unfortunately, there is no ‘opt-out” button anywhere I can find (believe me, I’ve looked). I wish there was. I’m not much interested in joining the (major) part of the human race hell-bent on self-destruction, so don’t expect me to politely support your resource wars or your stupid slavery laws or your idiotic proposals. I’ll be too busy picking my way through the debris you created.

Aug 272005
 

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs . . I have a full life.”

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”

And after that?” asked the Mexican.

“With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.

You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? Well my Friend, That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” said the Mexican.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”

And the moral is: Know where you’re going in life… you may already be there.

junk

When is enough actually “enough”? When do we stop accumulating useless junk and gaudy baubles for the empty promises of satisfaction and meaning? Everything truly worthy of its price has an associated cost. But are we accurately counting the true cost of “our way of life”? You hear this term all the time, used rather flippantly as we justify the killing of other people and the plundering of the earths resources. But what does that really mean? What exactly IS our way of life that we are so concerned about?

Most people, particularly Americans spend their whole lives “accumulating”. Houses, land, cars, toys, i.e., “stuff”, which to them is very important. They feel that their alleged ownership gives them meaning and purpose to life – a reason for their existence. How did this happen?

“He who dies with the most toys wins” – absolutely nothing. In reality, his accumulation has purchased him long hours at the slave tables, heart disease, ill health, wayward children, broken marriages, envious neighbors, estranged relatives, mounting debt, high taxes, killer stress and a drastically shortened life span – to say nothing of a lower quality of life.

Our “stuff” obstructs us from the real participation in this world. Surrounded by artificial creations, we are removed from the experience of life itself. We don’t walk, we drive, everywhere, insulated against the breeze, the sounds, the sights and the smells of where we truly live, planet Earth. We live in artificial buildings of wood, glass and steel, Formica and polyester, raw materials expropriated from the earth and reassembled into toxic chemicals and combinations, cocooned from light, sound, smell and the interaction of the world around us. We block out the sun and the air, filter and condition what we breathe and drink, blocking out the natural sounds of our environment and replace it with manufactured noise made by humans. And we pay our masters with religious fervor for this so-called privilege…always demanding more of this synthesized consciousness.

It simply never occurs to us to count the true cost – and meaning of this mediocre existence.

Our lives have become sound bites, shortened, edited versions of desperation. We don’t interact with meaning, we “report” with deadened senses and dulled hearts. The news at 11:00 reflects the quality of our lives, cut, canned, condensed, artificial, interspersed with conndsumermercials and insipid meaningless. What we could have experienced lies on the cutting room floor of life, trampled, ignored, overlooked, glossed over in this fools quest for ‘purpose’, usually paraphrased into more “stuff”, more power, more money, more privilege and more position, all considered a fair exchange for a less real life and less meaning.

We reflect all of that when we remain mute and deadened to the daily barrage and assault, the manifold atrocities going on around us throughout the world, remaining insensitive, indifferent and ineffective, utterly dead inside with no emotion and no concern. Like the well-programmed machines that we are, we go about our assigned tasks with great precision and efficiency, buying and consuming whatever our corporate masters provide for us, blinders firmly affixed, dead eyes straight ahead, numbed with despair and designer drugs to combat the growing terror within. Our plight is firmly established and we dare not think about it lest we go perfectly insane.

We prefer our worsening slavery to the executives of life, whose mission is to churn out more and more packaged and processed sanitized junk wrested from the earth’s dwindling resources and polluted lands. When through, we cast aside our now-useless debris into cavernous landfills – and like the good consumers we are, we head back to buy more, completing the cycle of depletion, waste and stupidity. We don’t mind the enforced slavery, the staggering debt, the class division, the expanding pollution and the wasted resources, the crowded suburbia with the little housing plots and cubicles of mediocrity and mundane existence. Our conditioning to our circumstances is habitual, extremely pervasive – the real world must be kept at bay at any cost and we willingly exchange our birthright and natural heritage for the proverbial pot of porridge, never once counting the true cost, which is the condemnation of all future generations – and even ourselves.

The human race is in severe danger of becoming anesthetized to life, while actively engaged in destroying the very foundations of life on earth. Modern techno-marvels of engineering and mastery have created artificial barriers between man and the world he lives in. This race against life and existence is what fuels the corporate machine and creates armies of the metamorphosed moronic individuals into a consuming robotrons, the brain dead and dying, hollow human shells enveloped by total indifference to the destruction at their feet.

The high strangeness of all this is hardly anybody notices! The disconnect from reality is so pervasive and so complete that these words will escape our notice as we head off into the manufactured oblivion we have made.

When one of us rises up from our somnolent state and demands meaningful change, most of us look upon them with sullen eyes and cowering horror. How can they be so stupid to stand up and be noticed? How can they be so irresponsible to believe that there is any other way to live in this world of deadened senses and indifference to the destruction going on around us? Our collective response it to turn our back on them, as we have done to all of their kind before and plod along in obeisance to our unknown and unseeing corporate gods of consumerism, knowing that the weight of the world will ultimately drag them down like us, beating them senseless into conformity and compliance. Or the corporate machines will simply kill them. Genocide is a common practice among the “masters”. We don’t care. We don’t dare.

Well, we should.

Christ himself isn’t going to welcome you at the pearly gates and say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant” while we stood like fatted calves at the slaughter and watch the modern martyrs of justice be squashed and swept away repeatedly by the demonized legions of corporate corrupters. Having squandered our inheritance, we think nothing of protecting those who are still fighting for theirs. No, Christ isn’t going to welcome any of you. You are more likely to hear “Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you” because you embraced greed, death, injustice, excessiveness, pollution, wastefulness and silence. In your apathy to the death of all life on earth, your condemnation will be greatest for your dim-witted indifference and acquiescence to the evil that overshadows the earth. You will join the rest of humanity in the ‘lake of fire and death’, an earthly disconsolate existence simmering with misery and meaningless mediocrity.

And you will drag us down with you because you are deeply envious and without an inkling of understanding what we are trying to do.

Which is why we have come to loathe you, despising the way you exist and your callous indifference to the true meaning and purpose of life. You have forcibly made us one of you, miserable and dejected, stained and scourged with your “enforcement” and your rules and regulations that dictate every facet of our lives, asphyxiating all hope in a stranglehold on living. You have made us the outcast, we who seek a better world and a better way with a more meaningful existence. We would tread lightly upon this earth but you have made it illegal, a “crime” of no victims and no accusers with whom we can confront and attempt to persuade with reason, logic and absolute facts.

We marvel and wonder at your incredible stupidity and your greed that drives you to our mutual destruction. Some of us pity you, others of us despise you, for you are not human, not alive, not living, but empty and baseless hollow shells where truth has no harbor. You are artificial constructs, appendages of a collective mind-set that permeates the earth in its quest for total domination and subjugation. We hope you will wake up from your apathy and indifference and irresponsibility, very soon, because you are killing us all.

All we wanted was a life worth living – and to pass this heritage on to the next generation. But you’re too damned busy to even notice – or care.

Aug 232005
 

There is an insidious danger lurking in the world today that is hell bent on a path of destruction and death.

The religious right of the twenty-first century America is anti-American, inherently violent, and a cruel, tyrannical, punitive, force of death and destruction. In its mindset, adult human lives do not matter because the human condition itself is inherently evil resulting in eternal and everlasting punishment in hell unless its members are redeemed in a prescribed manner by the fundamentalist God/man/savior, Jesus Christ. Moreover, with an embarrassingly adolescent flamboyance, Dominionists shamelessly rape, pillage, and desecrate the earth because in the first place, their Bible has given them authority over all things human and in the second place, their “imminent” apocalyptic rapture, transporting them from the human “veil of tears” to live happily ever after in heaven, entitles them to do so. – The Religious Right – An Anti-American Terrorist Movement by Carolyn Baker

To a great many Christians, the world is a place to be conquered, allegedly for Christ, although you wouldn’t know it from their behavior.

Their latest foray in the world of global politics has given us all an example of this conquering spirit at any cost. Among them, is Pat Robertson, who is now calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Robertson believes that such action by the United States is both timely and necessary, somehow the divine right of the “Christian” United States. Never mind that Chavez is not guilty of anything towards the United States, but Venezuela does just happen to be sitting on a large reserve of oil (they are the fourth largest exporter to the United States).

With Chavez killed by US forces, then the way to “democracy” can be paved in this South American country – at the point of a gun (which, if you’re paying any attention at all, is how the United States always does it). For two thousand years, the world has suffered under this exact same mentality, which has caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

What is so sickening about this attitude of Robertson’s, is that it is also held by a great many Christians who believe it is their divine right to dictate to the world national policy – by force. They utterly fail to realize the complete hypocrisy of their position. Unfortunately for America, this view is also held by the Bush Administration. Democracy need be forced upon sovereign nations – or else. It’s also good for business (many of these wackos are involved in the defense industry). It’s also quite helpful if these nations are rich in resources which can be later plundered to benefit the conquering. A blind eye is not-so-politely turned when genocide occurs within nations ruled by brutal dictators which don’t happen to have abundant resources.

The hypocrisy of the Christian Right and the fundamentalist coalition within the Bush Administration cannot be ignored any longer. They envision a scorched earth, cleansed of unbelievers and heretics, prepared for Christ’s imminent return (a promise that is somehow always being postponed). Muslims, Hindus and non-believers alike are second-class citizens, worthy of less compassion, less understanding and less tolerance then their so-called brethren. They are simply taking up space and valuable resources. Yet even amongst their own Christian “flock”, the number of cases of incest, rape, murder, theft, spousal abuse, drug addictions, runaways, and other social ills is consistent with the rest of the unwashed heathen. The moral high ground with which they so sanctimoniously claim is strangely absent.

Robertson’s tirade against Chavez has hardly gone unnoticed, although Chavez himself claims he has never heard of the man. I wish I hadn’t. A little research demonstrates that Robertson is a grandstanding fool of a man who will say anything and do anything to gain an audience. His rhetoric aside, he has incited what has been simmering in this country ever since the Bush junta stole the Presidency – a religious jihad against “all enemies of Christ”. When asked about the teachings of their Christ (it’s not the Christ teachings I know), adherents to the religious superiority of the fundamentalist position retreat to accusations and finger pointing. Their defense is the ills of the world are to be blamed upon the heathen “non-believers”, thus avoiding all personal responsibility and accountability for their own actions (or inaction as the case may be). After all, it is easier to attack the messenger then defend their message, especially when their message is so demonstrably wrong.

It is disturbing to realize that many of these fundamentalists actively support the war and approve of using nuclear weapons (unprovoked) against further targets, such as Iran. This brand of Christian love is quite dangerous to the human race and the stability of the world. If left in power, the fundamentalist movement will undoubtedly seek to broaden the so-called war on terror to encompass even more people who happen to disagree with them here in America. It is already a “terrorist act” to speak out against the war, how long will it be before it is decreed a terrorist act to speak out against the fundamentalist and their holy jihad? Are Christian gulag’s for the unbelievers far behind? Will they too employ torture and rape, all in the name of Christ? According to reports out of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prison, this has already occurred, with Christians claiming that they are performing their torture “in the name of God”.

It’s not as far-fetched as some may think, the crusade that Bush speaks of is nothing less than a Christian right at war with the entire world. The support that George Bush has received has largely come from this gullible group, which sees nothing wrong with invasion, torture, lying and deception in order to achieve their objectives, the subjugation of everything. After all, anything in the name of God is permissible, right? You’d have to think so, after witnessing the last few years of America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and the latest plan by Cheney to attack Iran with nuclear weapons. This asinine plan is okay with most fundamentalist, because preachers like Robertson are telling them that they are the only true rightful inheritors of the earth – or what’s to be left of it. Killing millions of people and destroying the environment is utterly meaningless to them.

This is why, in part, that these fundamentalist pose such a danger to the entire human race. They do not believe they have any sort of responsibility or accountability for their actions. Whatever they do, it is sanctioned by God himself, who is on their side and theirs alone. Their God is a god of war, death and destruction, wiping out all disagreeable life forms and poisoning the atmosphere and the soil for tens of thousands of years to come.

This irresponsibility stems from one primary source (although fostered by many secondary sources) and that is the bible itself and its gross misinterpretations and outright fabrications of its teachings. Because they are “not of the world” and are “not to love the things of this world” (usually quite widely ignored), they do not believe that they should even care for the world or the things within this world. With their heads in the clouds and their feet planted on the ground, they stumble about seeking the will of God causing great havoc and destruction wheresoever they go. This has been going on now for nearly two thousand years and countless millions of lives destroyed, all in the “name of Christ”. Christ would be appalled at the callousness of our modern Christians today.

But wait – there’s more! If this doesn’t work out “as planned”, they have a Plan B, which is the ultimate backup plan which they all know will be implemented – supposedly any day now. This plan includes a miraculous rescue from above, the “Rapture” of the believers and hell-fire and brimstone for those ungodly heathen left behind, who will then suffer through a terrible time of tribulation of death and destruction and ultimately, the death of all life on earth (literally every living thing). They gleefully admit this as being the fate of all mankind. Once again, they hope to force” their views on the unbelievers – or else.

This is the source of their views with everything that goes on in this earth. They believe that they and they alone, understand the plan for mankind, which ultimately will reject the “will of God” and will be forced to submission, humility and defeat and the death of quite literally billions of people and every other living thing. They themselves will be “rescued from above”, in a twinkling of an eye, when the fullness of time comes, because man will have finally reached the end of his journey and will then be forced (there it is again) to meet his maker and give an accounting for his every action.

Strangely, the fundamentalist doesn’t seem to fit into this final accounting scheme very well. To hear them tell it, they will give an account for their “testimony to Christ” – but be exempt from the brutal killings, mass murder and global destruction which they supported, funded and actively participated in.

Sound far-fetched? I know exactly what I’m talking about – as I used to teach this very same doctrine for over 20 years. It wasn’t until I finally figured out that Christians (including me) have been lied to and misled (deliberately) did I figure out what was going on. A great deal more research showed me just how very far off the mark that this all was – including the so-called “last days” teaching and the rapture. I utterly reject such meaningless dribble and lies, knowing that these deceptions are being used today to mislead and deceive millions of people. I won’t even call them “well-meaning”, because most of them are not. Many Christians support torture, death and destruction if it promotes their cause, utterly forgetting the commandments of God, or claiming their beliefs and actions are somehow exempt. I don’t buy it – not for one second.

What I see happening right now within America I perceive to be exceedingly dangerous and deceptive. A deliberate series of lies and deceptions has been foisted by the Christian right, who believe it is their solemn duty to protect and serve the President and Israel – at all costs. Because Israel figures so prominently within the bible, fundamentalists believe that anything that Israel does (including the World Trade Center attacks) is okay by them, because God holds a special place for Israel in his heart. Dominionists, Millenniumist and Messianic believers alike believe that whatever the governments of these two nations do – it’s God-ordained and sanctioned by the Almighty Himself – therefore it must be okay.

Somehow, even though this is still being taught, they forget that a great deception is to be foisted upon the world in the “last days”, deceiving even the very elect. It simply never occurs to them that the deception would only be meaningful in the context of the bible, to be upon the believers, since the rest of the world is already condemned. Why deceive those who are already bound for hell?

A present day example of this deception is already occurring, with the blood thirst quest for global dominion by Christian fundamentalists and the corresponding deaths of uncountable millions. Forgetting the teachings of Christ, they seek to exert themselves by any means necessary and establish their own kingdom on earth. After all, if Christ hasn’t come (yet), then they will do the job “for Him”, perhaps “softening up the world” for His arrival.

At the heart of this attitude, is a god-like complex whereas these believers believe they can become like God, or to hear them put it, kings (or priests). Lording and ruling over their “subjects” are part of the package (it’s in the book, check it out). Building their kingdom upon the bones literally) of the unbelievers is their divine right and with God on their side, how can they lose? Subjugation and a formal dictatorship is their mantra, which is why they support Bush and the Neo-cons – they fit exactly into the plans of the fundamentalists.

But who’s playing who here? There is evidence that the Bush junta (and Israel) is deliberately
trying to bring about Armageddon by following the loose outline found in the bible.

Unfortunately, it may not work out the way that they have planned (it won’t, at least not according to the way they have interpreted their bibles). From a “prophetic” standpoint, it’s provable (but they won’t hear it, so skip this part if you are already in disagreement) that their interpretation is dead wrong. Moreover, it is also provable that the Bush junta is losing steam and the backlash to the Republican right and the Christian fundamentalists will be severe indeed, although it is quite possible that yet another election will be stolen.

While I do not know what will happen, I do know that what they are expecting certainly won’t happen. That may sound confusing, but the future isn’t going to be what they are expecting. Quite simply put, there will be no rapture, i.e.., no rescue from above (I wonder how the Bush administration will explain that one), nor will they establish dominion over the earth. It ain’t going to happen Sally. In fact, their entire scheme is already falling apart and more and more people are slowly catching on to the fact that everything isn’t right in Disneyland. This is both good and bad news, because when a people lose their moral compass (even if it is pointing in the wrong direction), then the corresponding vacuum and displacement that occurs can be even more frightening then before.

The years ahead will be fraught with danger and even more death and destruction as the desperation of the fundamentalist movement and the Christian right seek to establish their frightening vision for the world. But the world will not tolerate much more of this (and rightfully so) and the backlash will be horrible indeed – for all of us.

 

Aug 222005
 

I’m busy today, so here’s a good read, shameless posted from another site.

QUITTING THE PAINT FACTORY

On the virtues of idleness

By Mark Slouka – Harper’s Magazine ? November 2004 issue

Love yields to business. If you seek a way out of love, be busy; you’ll be safe, then.

-Ovid, Remedia Amoris

I distrust the perpetually busy; always have. The frenetic ones spinning in tight little circles like poisoned rats. The slower ones, grinding away their fourscore and ten in righteousness and pain. They are the soul-eaters.

When I was young, my parents read me Aesop’s fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” wherein, as everyone knows, the grasshopper spends the summer making music in the sun while the ant toils with his fellow formicidae. Inevitably, winter comes, as winters will, and the grasshopper, who hasn’t planned ahead and who doesn’t know what a 401K is, has run out of luck. When he shows up at the ants’ door, carrying his fiddle, the ant asks him what he was doing all year: “I was singing, if you please,” the grasshopper replies, or something to that effect. “You were singing?” says the ant. “Well, then, go and sing.” And perhaps because I sensed, even then, that fate would someday find me holding a violin or a manuscript at the door of the ants, my antennae frozen and my bills overdue, I confounded both Aesop and my well-meaning parents, and bore away the wrong moral. That summer, many a windblown grasshopper was saved from the pond, and many an anthill inundated under the golden rain of my pee.

I was right.

In the lifetime that has passed since Calvin Coolidge gave his speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in which he famously proclaimed that “the chief business of the American people is business,” the dominion of the ants has grown enormously. Look about: The business of business is everywhere and inescapable; the song of the buyers and the sellers never stops; the term “workaholic” has been folded up and put away. We have no time for our friends or our families, no time to think or to make a meal. We’re moving product, while the soul drowns like a cat in a well. [“I think that there is far too much work done in the world,” Bertrand Russell observed in his famous 1932 essay “In Praise of Idleness,” adding that he hoped to “start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing.” He failed. A year later, National Socialism, with its cult of work (think of all those bronzed young men in Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will throwing cordwood to each other in the sun), flared in Germany.]

A resuscitated orthodoxy, so pervasive as to be nearly invisible, rules the land. Like any religion worth its salt, it shapes our world in its image, demonizing if necessary, absorbing when possible. Thus has the great sovereign territory of what Nabokov called “unreal estate,” the continent of invisible possessions from time to talent to contentment, been either infantilized, rendered unclean, or translated into the grammar of dollars and cents. Thus has the great wilderness of the inner life been compressed into a median strip by the demands of the “real world,” which of course is anything but. Thus have we succeeded in transforming even ourselves into bipedal products, paying richly for seminars that teach us how to market the self so it may be sold to the highest bidder. Or perhaps “down the river” is the phrase.

Ah, but here’s the rub: Idleness is not just a psychological necessity, requisite to the construction of a complete human being; it constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space as necessary to the workings of an actual democracy as, say, a free press. How does it do this? By allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it. By giving the inner life (in whose precincts we are most ourselves) its due. Which is precisely what makes idleness dangerous. All manner of things can grow out of that fallow soil. Not for nothing did our mothers grow suspicious when we had “too much time on our hands.” They knew we might be up to something. And not for nothing did we whisper to each other, when we were up to something, “Quick, look busy.”

Mother knew instinctively what the keepers of the castles have always known: that trouble – the kind that might threaten the symmetry of a well-ordered garden – needs time to take root. Take away the time, therefore, and you choke off the problem before it begins. Obedience reigns, the plow stays in the furrow; things proceed as they must. Which raises an uncomfortable question: Could the Church of Work – which today has Americans aspiring to sleep deprivation the way they once aspired to a personal knowledge of God – be, at base, an anti-democratic force? Well, yes. James Russell Lowell, that nineteenth-century workhorse, summed it all up quite neatly: “There is no better ballast for keeping the mind steady on its keel, and saving it from all risk of crankiness, than business.”

Quite so. The mind, however, particularly the mind of a citizen in a democratic society, is not a boat. Ballast is not what it needs, and steadiness, alas, can be a synonym for stupidity, as our current administration has so amply demonstrated. No, what the democratic mind requires, above all, is time; time to consider its options. Time to develop the democratic virtues of independence, orneriness, objectivity, and fairness. Time, perhaps (to sail along with Lowell’s leaky metaphor for a moment), to ponder the course our unelected captains have so generously set for us, and to consider mutiny when the iceberg looms.

Which is precisely why we need to be kept busy. If we have no time to think, to mull, if we have no time to piece together the sudden associations and unexpected, mid-shower insights that are the stuff of independent opinion, then we are less citizens than cursors, easily manipulated, vulnerable to the currents of power.

But I have to be careful here. Having worked all of my adult life, I recognize that work of one sort or another is as essential to survival as protein, and that much of it, in today’s highly bureaucratized, economically diversified societies, will of necessity be neither pleasant nor challenging nor particularly meaningful. I have compassion for those making the most of their commute and their cubicle; I just wish they could be a little less cheerful about it. In short, this isn’t about us so much as it is about the Zeitgeist we live and labor in, which, like a cuckoo taking over a thrush’s nest, has systematically shoved all the other eggs of our life, one by one, onto the pavement. It’s about illuminating the losses.

We’re enthralled. I want to disenchant us a bit; draw a mustache on the boss.

INFINITE BUSTLE

I’m a student of the narrowing margins. And their victim, to some extent, though my capacity for sloth, my belief in it, may yet save me, Like some stubborn heretic in fifth-century Rome, still offering gifts to the spirit of the fields even as the priests sniff about the tempa for sin, I daily sacrifice my bit of time. The pagan gods may yet return. Constantine and Theodosius may die. But the prospects are bad.

In Riverside Park in New York City, where I walk these days, the legions of “weekend nannies” are growing, setting up a play date for a ten-year-old requires a feat of near-Olympic coordination, and the few, vestigial, late-afternoon parents one sees, dragging their wailing progeny by the hand or frantically kicking a soccer ball in the fading light, have a gleam in their eyes I find frightening. No outstretched legs crossed at the ankles, no arms draped over the back of the bench. No lovers. No be-hatted old men, arguing. Between the slide and the sandbox, a very fit young man in his early thirties is talking on his cell phone while a two-year-old with a trail of snot running from his nose tugs on the seam of his corduroy pants. “There’s no way I can pick it up. Because we’re still at the park. Because we just got here, that’s why.”

It’s been one hundred and forty years since Thoreau, who itched a full century before everyone else began to scratch, complained that the world was increasingly just “a place of business. What an infinite bustle!” he groused. “I am awaked almost every night by the panting of the locomotive. It interrupts my dreams. There is no Sabbath. It would be glorious to see mankind at leisure for once. It is nothing but work, work, work.” Little did he know. Today the roads of commerce, paved and smoothed, reach into every nook and cranny of the republic; there is no place apart, no place where we would be shut of the drone of that damnable traffic. Today we, quite literally, live to work. And it hardly matters what kind of work we do; the process justifies the ends. Indeed, at times it seems there is hardly an occupation, however useless or humiliating or downright despicable, that cannot at least in part be redeemed by our obsessive dedication to it: “Yes, Ted sold shoulder-held Stingers to folks with no surname, but he worked so hard!”

Not long ago, at the kind of dinner party I rarely attend, I made the mistake of admitting that I not only liked to sleep but liked to get at least eight hours a night whenever possible, and that nine would be better still. The reaction – a ‘complex Pinot Noir of nervous laughter displaced by expressions of disbelief and condescension – suggested that my transgression had been, on some level, a political one. I was reminded of the time I’d confessed to Roger Angell that I did not much care for baseball.

My comment was immediately rebutted by testimonials to sleeplessness: two of the nine guests confessed to being insomniacs; a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters claimed indignantly that she couldn’t remember when she had ever gotten eight hours of sleep; two other guests declared themselves grateful for five or six. It mattered little that I’d arranged my life differently, and accepted the sacrifices that arrangement entailed. Eight hours! There was something willful about it. Arrogant, even. Suitably chastened, I held my tongue, and escaped alone to tell Thee.

Increasingly, it seems to me, our world is dividing into two kinds of things: those that aid work, or at least represent a path to it, and those that don’t Things in the first category are good and noble; things in the second aren’t. Thus, for example, education is good (as long as we don’t have to listen to any of that “end in itself” nonsense) because it will presumably lead to work. Thus playing the piano or swimming the 100-yard backstroke are good things for a fifteen-year-old to do not because they might give her some pleasure but because rumor has it that Princeton is interested in students who can play Chopin or swim quickly on their backs (and a degree from Princeton, as any fool knows, can be readily converted to work).

Point the beam anywhere, and there’s the God of Work, busily trampling out the vintage. Blizzards are bemoaned because they keep us from getting to work. Hobbies are seen as either ridiculous or self-indulgent because they interfere with work. Longer school days are all the rage (even as our children grow demonstrably stupider), not because they make educational or psychological or any other kind of sense but because keeping kids in school longer makes it easier for us to work. Meanwhile, the time grows short, the margin narrows; the white spaces on our calendars have been inked in for months. We’re angry about this, upset about that, but who has the time to do anything anymore? There are those reports to report on, memos to remember, emails to deflect or delete. They bury us like snow.

The alarm rings and we’re off, running so hard that by the time we stop we’re too tired to do much of anything except nod in front of the TV, which, like virtually all the other voices in our culture, endorses our exhaustion, fetishizes and romanticizes it and, by daily adding its little trowelful of lies and omissions, helps cement the conviction that not only is this how our three score and ten must be spent but that the transaction is both noble and necessary.

KA-CHINK!

Time may be money (though I’ve always resisted that loathsome platitude, the alchemy by which the very gold of our lives is transformed into the base lead of commerce), but one thing seems certain: Money eats time. Forget the visions of sanctioned leisure: the view from the deck in St. Moritz, the wafer-thin TV. Consider the price.

Sometimes, I want to say, money costs too much. And at the beginning of the millennium, in this country, the cost of money is well on the way to bankrupting us. We’re impoverishing ourselves, our families, our communities ? and yet we can’t stop ourselves. Worse, we don’t want to.

Seen from the right vantage point, there’s something wonderfully animistic about it. The god must be fed; he’s hungry for our hours, craves our days and years. And we oblige. Every morning (unlike the good citizens of Tenochtiïtlan, who at least had the good sense to sacrifice others on the slab) we rush up the steps of the ziggurat to lay ourselves down. It’s not a pretty sight.

Then again, we’ve been well trained. And the training never stops. In a recent ad in The New York Times Magazine, paid for by an outfit named Wealth and Tax Advisory Services, Inc., an attractive young woman in a dark business suit is shown working at her desk. (She may be at home, though these days the distinction is moot.) On the desk is a cup, a cell phone, and an adding machine. Above her right shoulder, just over the blurred sofa and the blurred landscape on the wall, are the words, “Successful entrepreneurs work continuously.” The text below explains: “The challenge to building wealth is that your finances grow in complexity as your time demands increase.?

The ad is worth disarticulating, it seems to me, if only because some version of it is beamed into our cerebral cortex a thousand times a day. What’s interesting about it is not only what it says but what it so blithely assumes. What it says, crudely enough, is that in order to be successful, we must not only work but work continuously; what it assumes is that time is inversely proportional to wealth: our time demands will increase the harder we work and the more successful we become. It’s an organic thing; a law, almost. Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, you gotta work like a dog till you die.

Am I suggesting then that Wealth and Tax Advisory Services, Inc. spend $60,000 for a full-page ad in The New York Times Magazine to show us a young woman at her desk writing poetry? Or playing with her kids? Or sharing a glass of wine with a friend, attractively thumbing her nose at the acquisition of wealth? No. For one thing, the folks at Wealth and Tax, etc. are simply doing what’s in their best interest. For another, it would hardly matter if they did show the woman writing poetry, or laughing with her children, because these things, by virtue of their placement in the ad, would immediately take on the color of their host; they would simply be the rewards of working almost continuously.

What I am suggesting is that just as the marketplace has co-opted rebellion by subordinating politics to fashion, by making anger chic, so it has quietly underwritten the idea of leisure, in part by separating it from idleness. Open almost any magazine in America today and there they are: The ubiquitous tanned-and-toned twenty-somethings driving the $70,000 fruits of their labor; the moneyed-looking men and women in their healthy sixties (to give the young something to aspire to) tossing Frisbees to Irish setters or tying on flies in midstream or watching sunsets from their Adirondack chairs.

Leisure is permissible, we understand, because it costs money; idleness is not, because it doesn’t. Leisure is focused; whatever thinking it requires is absorbed by a certain task: sinking that putt, making that cast, watching that flat-screen TV. Idleness is unconstrained, anarchic. Leisure ? particularly if it involves some kind of high-priced technology ? is as American as a Fourth of July barbecue. Idleness, on the other hand, has a bad attitude. It doesn’t shave; it’s not a member of the team; it doesn’t play well with others. It thinks too much, as my high school coach used to say. So it has to be ostracized.

[Or put to good use. The wilderness of association we enter when we read, for example, is one of the world’s great domains of imaginative diversity: a seedbed of individualism.

What better reason to pave it then, to make it an accessory, like a personal organizer, a sure-fire way of raising your SAT score, or improving your communication skills for that next interview. You say you like to read? Then don’t waste your time; put it to work. Order Shakespeare in Charge: The Bard’s Guide to Leading and Succeeding on the Business Stage, with its picture of the bard in a business suit on the cover.]

With idleness safely on the reservation, the notion that leisure is necessarily a function of money is free to grow into a truism. “Money isn’t the goal. Your goals, that’s the goal,” reads a recent ad for Citibank. At first glance, there’s something appealingly subversive about it. Apply a little skepticism though, and the implicit message floats to the surface: And how else are you going to reach those goals than by investing wisely with us? Which suggests that, um, money is the goal, after all.

THE CHURCH OF WORK

There’s something un-American about singing the virtues of idleness. It is a form of blasphemy, a secular sin. More precisely, it is a kind of latter-day antinomianism, as much a threat to the orthodoxy of our day as Anne Hutchinson’s desire 350 years ago to circumvent the Puritan ministers and dial God direct. Hutchinson, we recall, got into trouble because she accused the Puritan elders of backsliding from the rigors of their theology and giving in to a Covenant of Works, whereby the individual could earn his all-expenses-paid trip to the pearly gates through the labor of his hands rather than solely through the grace of God. Think of it as a kind of frequent-flier plan for the soul.

The analogy to today is instructive. Like the New England clergy, the Religion of Business ? literalized, painfully, in books like Jesus, C.E.O. ? holds a monopoly on interpretation; it sets the terms, dictates value.

[In this new lexicon, for example, “work” is defined as the means to wealth; “success,” as a synonym for it.]

Although today’s version of the Covenant of Works has substituted a host of secular pleasures for the idea of heaven, it too seeks to corner the market on what we most desire, to suggest that the work of our hands will save us. And we believe. We believe across all the boundaries of class and race and ethnicity that normally divide us; we believe in numbers that dwarf those of the more conventionally faithful. We repeat the daily catechism, we sing in the choir. And we tithe, and keep on tithing, until we are spent.

It is this willingness to hand over our lives that fascinates and appalls me. There’s such a lovely perversity to it; it’s so wonderfully counterintuitive, so very Christian: You must empty your pockets, turn them inside out, and spill out your wife and your son, the pets you hardly knew, and the days you simply missed altogether watching the sunlight fade on the bricks across the way. You must hand over the rainy afternoons, the light on the grass, the moments of play and of simply being. You must give it up, all of it, and by your example teach your children to do the same, and then ? because even this is not enough ? you must train yourself to believe that this outsourcing of your life is both natural and good. But even so, your soul will not be saved.

The young, for a time, know better. They balk at the harness. They do not go easy. For a time they are able to see the utter sadness of subordinating all that matters to all that doesn’t. Eventually, of course, sitting in their cubicle lined with New Yorker cartoons, selling whatever it is they’ve been asked to sell, most come to see the advantage of enthusiasm. They join the choir and are duly forgiven for their illusions. It’s a rite of passage we are all familiar with. The generations before us clear the path; Augustine stands to the left, Freud to the right. We are born into death, and die into life, they murmur; civilization will have its discontents. The sign in front of the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Work confirms it. And we believe.

– – – – – – – – – – –

All of which leaves only the task of explaining away those few miscreants who out of some inner weakness or perversity either refuse to convert or who go along and then, in their thirty-sixth year in the choir, say, abruptly abandon the faith. Those in the first category are relatively easy to contend with; they are simply losers. Those in the second are a bit more difficult; their apostasy requires something more ?.. dramatic. They are considered mad.

In one of my favorite anecdotes from American literary history (which my children know by heart, and which in turn bodes poorly for their futures as captains of industry), the writer Sherwood Anderson found himself, at the age of thirty-six, the chief owner and general manager of a paint factory in Elyria, Ohio. Having made something of a reputation for himself as a copywriter in a Chicago advertising agency, he’d moved up a rung. He was on his way, as they say, a businessman in the making, perhaps even a tycoon in embryo. There was only one problem: he couldn’t seem to shake the notion that the work he was doing (writing circulars extolling the virtues of his line of paints) was patently absurd, undignified; that it amounted to a kind of prison sentence. Lacking the rationalizing gene, incapable of numbing himself sufficiently to make the days and the years pass without pain, he suffered and flailed. Eventually he snapped.

It was a scene he would revisit time and again in his memoirs and fiction. On November 27, 1912, in the middle of dictating a letter to his secretary (“The goods about which you have inquired are the best of their kind made in the…”), he simply stopped. According to the story, the two supposedly stared at each other for a long time, after which Anderson said: “I have been wading in a long river and my feet are wet,” and walked out. Outside the building he turned east toward Cleveland and kept going. Four days later he was recognized and taken to a hospital suffering from exhaustion.

Anderson claimed afterward that he had encouraged the impression that he might be cracking up in order to facilitate his exit, to make it comprehensible. “The thought occurred to me that if men thought me a little insane they would forgive me if I lit out,” he wrote, and though we will never know for sure if he suffered a nervous breakdown that day or only pretended to one (his biographers have concluded that he did), the point of the anecdote is elsewhere: Real or imagined, nothing short of madness would do for an excuse.

Anderson himself, of course, was smart enough to recognize the absurdity in all this, and to use it for his own ends; over the years that followed, he worked his escape from the paint factory into a kind of parable of liberation, an exemplar for the young men of his age. It became the cornerstone of his critique of the emerging business culture: To stay was to suffocate, slowly; to escape was to take a stab at “aliveness.” What America needed, Anderson argued, was a new class of individuals who “at any physical cost to themselves and others” would “agree to quit working, to loaf, to refuse to be hurried or try to get on in the world.”

“To refuse to be hurried or try to get on in the world.” It sounds quite mad. What would we do if we followed that advice? And who would we be? No, better to pull down the blinds, finish that sentence. We’re all in the paint factory now.

CLEARING BRUSH

At times you can almost see it, this flypaper we’re attached to, this mechanism we labor in, this delusion we inhabit. A thing of such magnitude can be hard to make out, of course, but you can rough out its shape and mark its progress, like Lon Chaney’s Invisible Man, by its effects: by the things it renders quaint or obsolete, by the trail of discarded notions it leaves behind. What we’re leaving behind today, at record pace, is whatever belief we might once have had in the value of unstructured time: in the privilege of contemplating our lives before they are gone, in the importance of uninterrupted conversation, in the beauty of play. In the thing in itself ? unmediated, leading nowhere. In the present moment.

Admittedly, the present ? in its ontological, rather than consumerist, sense ? has never been too popular on this side of the Atlantic; we’ve always been a finger-drumming, restless bunch, suspicious of jawboning, less likely to sit at the table than to grab a quick one at the bar. Whitman might have exhorted us to loaf and invite our souls, but that was not an invitation we cared to extend, not unless the soul played poker, ha, ha. No sir, a Frenchman might invite his soul. One expected such things. But an American? An American would be out the swinging doors and halfway to tomorrow before his silver dollar had stopped ringing on the counter.

I was put in mind of all this last June while sitting on a bench in London’s Hampstead Heath. My bench, like many others, was almost entirely hidden; well off the path, delightfully overgrown, it sat at the top of a long-grassed meadow. It had a view. There was whimsy in its placement, and joy. It was thoroughly impractical. It had clearly been placed there to encourage one thing ? solitary contemplation.

And sitting there, listening to the summer drone of the bees, I suddenly imagined George W. Bush on my bench. I can’t tell you why this happened, or what in particular brought the image to my mind. Possibly it was the sheer incongruity of it that appealed to me, the turtle-on-a-lamppost illogic of it; earlier that summer, intrigued by images of Kafka’s face on posters advertising the Prague Marathon, I’d entertained myself with pictures of Franz looking fit for the big race. In any case, my vision of Dubya sitting on a bench, reading a book on his lap ? smiling or nodding in agreement, wetting a finger to turn a page ? was so discordant, so absurd, that I realized I’d accidentally stumbled upon one of those visual oxymorons that, by its very dissonance, illuminates something essential.

What the picture of George W. Bush flushed into the open for me was the classically American and increasingly Republican cult of movement, of busy-ness; of doing, not thinking. One could imagine Kennedy reading on that bench in Hampstead Heath. Or Carter, maybe. Or even Clinton (though given the bucolic setting, one could also imagine him in other, more Dionysian scenarios). But Bush? Bush would be clearing brush. He’d be stomping it into submission with his pointy boots. He’d be making the world a better place.

Now, something about all that brush clearing had always bothered me. It wasn’t the work itself, though I’d never fully understood where all that brush was being cleared from, or why, or how it was possible that there was any brush still left between Dallas and Austin. No, it was the frenetic, anti-thinking element of it I disliked. This wasn’t simply outdoor work, which I had done my share of and knew well. This was brush clearing as a statement, a gesture of impatience. It captured the man, his disdain for the inner life, for the virtues of slowness and contemplation. This was movement as an answer to all those equivocating intellectuals and Gallic pontificators who would rather talk than do, think than act. Who could always be counted on to complicate what was simple with long-winded discussions of complexity and consequences. Who were weak.

And then I had it, the thing I’d been trying to place, the thing that had always made me bristle ? instinctively ? whenever I saw our fidgety, unelected President in action. I recalled reading about an Italian art movement called Futurism, which had flourished in the first decades of the twentieth century. Its practitioners had advocated a cult of restlessness, of speed, of dynamism; had rejected the past in all its forms; had glorified business and war and patriotism. They had also, at least in theory, supported the growth of fascism.

The link seemed tenuous at best, even facile. Was I seriously linking Bush ? his shallowness, his bustle, his obvious suspicion of nuance ? to the spirit of fascism? As much as I loathed the man, it made me uneasy. I’d always argued with people who applied the word carelessly. Having been called a fascist myself for suggesting that an ill-tempered rottweiler be put on a leash, I had no wish to align myself with those who had downgraded the word to a kind of generalized epithet, roughly synonymous with “ass-hole,” to be applied to whoever disagreed with them. I had too much respect for the real thing. And yet there was no getting around it; what I’d been picking up like a bad smell whenever I observed the Bush team in action was the faint but unmistakable whiff of fascism; a democratically diluted fascism, true, and masked by the perfume of down-home cookin’, but fascism nonetheless.

Still, it was not until I’d returned to the States and had forced myself to wade through the reams of Futurist manifestos ? a form that obviously spoke to their hearts ? that the details of the connection began to come clear. The linkage had nothing to do with the Futurists’ art, which was notable only for its sustained mediocrity, nor with their writing, which at times achieved an almost sublime level of badness. It had to do, rather, with their ant-like energy, their busy-ness, their utter disdain of all the manifestations of the inner life, and with the way these traits seemed so organically linked in their thinking to aggression and war. “We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia,” wrote Filippo Marinetti, perhaps the Futurists’ most breathless spokesman. “We will glorify war ? the world’s only hygiene ? militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers?.. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind?.. We will sing of great crowds excited by work.”

“Militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers,” “a feverish insomnia,” “great crowds excited by work” … I knew that song. And yet still, almost perversely, I resisted the recognition. It was too easy, somehow. Wasn’t much of the Futurist rant (“Take up your pickaxes, your axes and hammers and wreck, wreck the venerable cities, pitilessly”) simply a gesture of adolescent rebellion, a FUCK YOU scrawled on Dad’s garage door? I had just about decided to scrap the whole thing when I came across Marinetti’s later and more extended version of the Futurist creed. And this time the connection was impossible to deny.

In the piece, published in June of 1913 (roughly six months after Anderson walked out of the paint factory), Marinetti explained that Futurism was about the “acceleration of life to today’s swift pace.” It was about the “dread of the old and the known… of quiet living.” The new age, he wrote, would require the “negation of distances and nostalgic solitudes.” It would “ridicule . . . the ‘holy green silence’ and the ineffable landscape.” It would be, instead, an age enamored of “the passion, art, and idealism of Business.”

This shift from slowness to speed, from the solitary individual to the crowd excited by work, would in turn force other adjustments. The worship of speed and business would require a new patriotism, “a heroic idealization of the commercial, industrial, and artistic solidarity of a people”; it would require “a modification in the idea of war,” in order to make it “the necessary and bloody test of a people’s force.”

As if this weren’t enough, as if the parallel were not yet sufficiently clear, there was this: The new man, Marinetti wrote – and this deserves my italics – would communicate by “brutally destroying the syntax of his speech. He wastes no time in building sentences. Punctuation and the right adjectives will mean nothing to him. He will despise subtleties and nuances of language.” All of his thinking, moreover, would be marked by a “dread of slowness, pettiness, analysis, and detailed explanations. Love of speed, abbreviation, and the summary. ‘Quick, give me the whole thing in two words!'”

Short of telling us that he would have a ranch in Crawford, Texas, and be given to clearing brush, nothing Marinetti wrote could have made the resemblance clearer. From his notorious mangling of the English language to his well-documented impatience with detail and analysis to his chuckling disregard for human life (which enabled him to crack jokes about Aileen Wuornos’s execution as well as mug for the cameras minutes before announcing that the nation was going to war), Dubya was Marinetti’s “New Man”: impatient, almost pathologically unreflective, unburdened by the past. A man untroubled by the imagination, or by an awareness of human frailty. A leader wonderfully attuned (though one doubted he could ever articulate it) to “today’s swift pace”; to the necessity of forging a new patriotism; to the idea of war as “the necessary and bloody test of a people’s force”; to the all-conquering beauty of Business.

~

Mark Slouka is the author, most recently, of the novel God’s Fool. He teaches in
Columbia University’s School of the Arts. His last essay for Harper’s Magazine,
“Arrow and Wound,” appeared in the May 2003 issue.