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"We are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed." -- Thomas Fuller
Thomas Fuller is one of those wonderful, unremembered fellows who made some wonderfully nasty comments at the end of the seventeenth century, when England was starting to get as partisan (after being merely bloody handed) as we are now. Today, people just say, "Sh*t happens, and then you die." Fuller's is, "Sh|t happens, and then you die, and you never got what you wanted on your birthday."

As seriously divided as the English were in 1689, we are worse, because they were united in trying to be nice. We are in a partisan world in a way that, blithe newsmen be damned, has not been seen since the 1850's. This is new. Back in the days of the fire eaters, people summed up each others' whole world views in a single party affiliation, because the parties had positioned themselves to such psychological poles. It wasn't just in Alabama that a person got fired for having a Democratic bumper sticker in 2004. Absent a specific law, judges will uphold the employer's right to fire a dirty commie Obama supporter, too. (I do not wish to be hyperbolic. Please check the link: private corporations and employers, if they can link the political affiliation with anything remotely work like, such as, "I told you not to," can call it cause, as free speech protects us from the government.)

It isn't just that having an Obama 2012 sticker can be provocative, while having a "Re-nig the President" isn't, when any vile thing from the febrile brain of the least of the Fox News viewership ("second amendment solutions") is acceptable but facts themselves, such as the ownership of the .01%, are incendiary, it's that we are overwhelmed, overtopped, and undernourished.

In the prior partisan days, the two sides were defined.
In 1840, one could scream "Damn Lincoln" or "Damn Toombs," and in 1890's one could holler about the "Irish" and point to Typhoid Mary or yell about the Know-Nothings and zero in on their leaders, but who do we blame today? The hyper-partisan English had their "Baxterism" and Winstanley and Filmer and Godolphin.
What d'we got? "The banksters" are terrible, but who are they? There are five banks, and they are setting policies and practices that show up in every branch in America, but they have no name. Who invented the mortgage security? Who invented subprime lending? Who invented the "write down" of foreclosures? What are the names?

"Corporate America" is sexualizing our girls, but who is it? No one went first. No one has a name. Which executive decided that eight year old girls should buy Secret, despite having no body odor, as a perfume? "Cell phones" are employing deceptive practices on their contracts, but "what can you do?" (obviously, Credo is the way to go, if their network gets to you). ISP's and phone companies share GPS and personal data with each other and the government, but there is no name to anyone.

The power is displaced, amorphous, and seemingly inevitable. With no one to complain about, no one to chuck a brick at, it can be ennervating. It can be too much.

There are two unforgivable sins in Christianity. One is mentioned in the Gospels -- slander of the Holy Spirit -- but the other is adduced by theologians: despair. I would argue that there are political analogs. The slander of the civic spirit and political despair are the fatal and unforgivable sins of politics.

"Money well timed, and properly applied, will do anything." -- John Gay The Beggar's Opera, II xii
Despair is an unforgivable sin because the people who are committing it never seek forgiveness: the sinner loses the capacity to seek salvation. (Of course, there is always the intervention of grace, and I'm no authority on any of this.)

Political despair is the equivalent in gravity, and it works the same way. A despairing sinner thinks that he is hopeless, that he can never be better, that there's no point in trying, that he's worthless, and so he goes on fragmented and broken, confirming the prognosis. A despairing citizen thinks that there is no point in making a ruckus, that they hold all the cards, that voting doesn't change anything, that no one will listen anyway, that the status quo is impenetrable, and she makes all of that true in the process.

Political despair rages around us. I have had the sad experience of a line of young people telling me that GPS cell phone tracking was inevitable. Perhaps, they supposed, there might be a way of asking for it to be off after 8:00 PM or something, but that might make the phone more expensive. After all, do we want privacy or a phone from the 1950's?

"Give the people a choice between freedom and sandwiches, and they'll take the sandwiches." -- Lord Boyd Orr, 1967
When they learn about RFID tracking and police storage of GPS data, they shrug. "They're going to do it anyway," they say. When they're told about drone aircraft in U.S. air space, they say, "It's not like they're armed."

The despair is not apathy. The amount of fire we see over "illegal immigrants" is proof that the lumpen mass is not apathetic. Instead, when it comes to mortgages, there is "no one" to blame. When it comes to banks generally shuffling profits into capitalizing risk rather than lending so as to continue playing with credit default swaps, there is no person there, no official, no thing to attack. When every credit card in the wallet raises its interest rate at the same time, it appears to be a law like the tides.

The Occupy Wall Street movement seems to have been born in AdBusters, which is a rather unlikely laboratory for a mass movement. A magazine with a miniscule readership -- and I count myself among them -- could do all that, with our "apathetic" youth? No. Neither are the youth apathetic nor our peers confused. It is that we are all bludgeoned into a daze.

The gravest crime is accepting crime as right. Signing up with the smart phone to get at all those cool applications and expecting a loss of rights is criminal itself. (Remember that the "app" is part of the cell phone eating your PDA ("Palm Pilot"), and it is still possible to have a personal digital assistant and a telephone as different evolutionary tracks.)

If political despair is all around us as we accept abuse as the new normal, then where is the source of the evil? In the Gospels, one of Jesus's conservative detractors is faced with evidence. Jesus is performing miracles and healing people, and this guy is desperate to hang onto the status quo; he has to come up with an explanation -- any explanation -- for how Jesus could do good things and not be right in what he said about the Kingdom of God. He therefore said, "Maybe he's doing it because he's filled with a demon." That's when Jesus tells him he has committed an unforgivable sin. Slander of the Holy Spirit would never be forgiven.

Look around. Those who work to lessen harm and suffering, those who seek to feed the hungry and protect the weak are building. Those who seek money are taking away. The civic spirit is the spirit of building up.

Imagine that a person is, let's say, trying to alleviate poverty, and that person advocates federal revenue ("taxes") from those who have the most income ("progressive taxation") to provide food and monetary aid on a triage for the poor. If a person were to call that "the poverty industry" ("leftwing poverty industry constituency" opposed the Newt Gingrich triumph of turning over AFDIC to state grants, which effectively ended all Welfare in the U.S.) and advocate tax cuts for the wealthiest, and an elimination of corporate taxes and estate taxes, then that would be slander of the civic spirit. It would be, essentially, calling good evil. If you then go on to suggest that taking money from the poorest and giving less food to the hungriest will increase the "character" of those people and encourage a "free market solution," then one is either a narcotics wholesaler or a reprobate.

When scientists investigate a very, very old theory -- that ultraviolet light is increasingly trapped in the Earth's atmosphere by the increased emission of carbon dioxide in human industrial processes -- and note that the data is confirming it, they are providing a social admonition, exhortation, and limitation that will enable survival or adaptation of humanity. This is an unquestioned good. Scientific theories are never confirmed, exactly. They become more and more likely with data, and exploring the data on this theory would be wise. Now, imagine someone suggesting that the warnings of global warming were, specifically, an attempt at making money by increasing the ratings of The Weather Channel. Once more, the spirit of the public being accused, quite specifically, of being the spirit of personal enrichment: giving being accused of taking.

When I opposed Clinton's give-in to Gingrich, I was not getting paid by Big Poverty. When I try to reduce my carbon footprint, I have not even watched The Weather Channel, ever. Indeed, the charge made in the slander never has any actual credibility. We have to believe it first and then be grasping for reasons (after all, it can't be easy for a Republican spokesman to figure out why people are complaining about unequal pay for women, when women are paid the same and are happy; there are not many choices, and, being a Republican spokesman, "getting rich" must be the whole top ten list). The failure is the evil.

Why are we so fractured, and why is the chasm between the right and the rest so deep? When a person is motivated to lie about the spirit of others, to deny that civic spirit can exist -- when their minds do not have room for the concept of caring for the group ahead of the self -- then their sin cannot be forgiven, and when we despair, when we do not oppose, we let the flame of the civic spirit go out.

Originally posted to A Frayed Knot on Mon May 21, 2012 at 09:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


Ok, but I prefer these:

18%8 votes
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| 43 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Romney's entire campaing is about being ABOVE (16+ / 0-)

    the common good.  There is nothing he is offering that is to improve the nation, the economy or the job situation.

  •  We are fractured because that's the (8+ / 0-)

    way the 1% wants it. Divide and conquer as Scott Walker says. Bush's claim to be "a uniter, not a divider" was misdirection.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Mon May 21, 2012 at 01:03:35 PM PDT

    •  I think they want us despairing more (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I honestly don't think they like us so divided. Their favorite time in history is Reagan because that was the time when "liberal" was a bad word, when Reagan and Reaganites could laugh at dissent.

      When people like me argued that War Powers did not sanction an invasion of Panama, that was funny. It was "normal" to be a Republican. "Everyone" was for Reagan.

      The true 1% don't like the vulgar rich -- the T.D. Ameritrade billionaires and Scaifes and Ozarks wildmen -- who are happy to fight a civil war and light the ground on fire. What they like is the user fee that simply appears, the privacy rights that get lost but without anyone ever taking them. They like being nameless, faceless, and unaccountable. They don't want to be Koches.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Mon May 21, 2012 at 04:19:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Best explanation of accidie (6+ / 0-)


    A despairing citizen thinks that there is no point in making a ruckus, that they hold all the cards, that voting doesn't change anything, that no one will listen anyway, that the status quo is impenetrable, and she makes all of that true in the process.
    Thanks for posting.

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Mon May 21, 2012 at 02:52:00 PM PDT

    •  Thanks: It's Scylla and Charibdis again (3+ / 0-)

      I get very upset when I see how, "But... what? You've got to have a smartphone, so what can you do?" and "I'm sure drones in US airspace is no big deal" get mouthed by 19 year olds. "If it's a choice of Facebook or privacy, I'll take Facebook" seems to be the view. I want to throttle them: it's a false dichotomy! Don't accept Hobson's choice.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Mon May 21, 2012 at 04:22:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Truth As I See It (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    salmo, Larsstephens

    IANAL, and admittedly this is generalized a little, but ...

    Absent a specific law, judges will uphold the employer's right to fire a dirty commie Obama supporter, too.
    If there is "at will" employment, then the employer can fire a person for any reason whatsoever. The only push-back occurs if the person files for unemployment benefits. In that case, if they were fired "for cause," then they either cannot collect at all, or until a specified period has elapsed. Otherwise, if the employer cannot dream up a "cause," they can collect right away.

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Mon May 21, 2012 at 02:53:24 PM PDT

    •  I am/was on thin ice there (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The states have various positions, so that complicates matters, but a majority of people assume too much that freedom of speech is an actual right of persons in all locations. It's a strange thing when the parking lot, and the parked car, are "making a disturbance in the workplace" by supporting one of the two major candidates for president.

      Nevertheless, it has happened more than once. Don't worry, though: the GOP has plans to make every place a "Right to Workers" state.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Mon May 21, 2012 at 04:25:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Brilliant and inadvertently depressing, (4+ / 0-)

    though I surmise you intend the opposite effect. But maybe not--perhaps you hope we see the depths of the true problem and then feel sufficiently compelled and motivated to address them.
    But then the question becomes: by which means? How can we identify those most responsible for the legality of CDS, or of Bain Capital swooping in and despoiling businesses willy-nilly? And will the act of identifying those make it easier to bring them and their works into correction?
    I think that shaming those who destroy a sense of civic spirit is easier, both to identify those who are culpable and to take action against them.

    •  My hopes: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peregrine kate, ybruti, Larsstephens

      [I'm new to having hopes, or even trying to express them.]

      1. The nameless forces: We must recognize that invisibility in consumer interactions is a key strategy of corporations now. Further, we must recognize that corporate-owned media outlets are going to be slow to identify first movers and never outline when and where strategies were mapped.
      2. If we realize that, we can rely more on Pro-Publica and other cooperative non-profit investigative journalism, as well as, of course, blogs. We could also have a real "Wikileaks" style effort, where journalists post open calls for anonymous whistleblowers. [E.g. I did transcription as a typist of a CEO conference in Boca Raton in 1998. I had to sign an NDA. Turns out, I learned a great deal about a certain corporation's plans for "convergence" that way. Sensitive information passes through the hands of flunkies all the time.]
      3. #Occupy! and AdBusters: the central message of culture jamming is simply to highlight the degree to which the language is owned, thoughts are owned, and profit making entities have circumscribed our possibilities, and this is important. #Occupy, meanwhile, is due for a resurgence.
      4. Naming and shaming is important, but we need a win. Plain and simple, we need to win one. If we could demonstrate comprehensively the way public servants, police and highway patrol and coast guard, worked for a private corporation in the Deepwater Horizon fiasco, for example, and hold that element to account, and then publicize the reasons for individual settlements vs. a class action and the money that has gone to communities in Florida that do not see the ocean, much less a tarball, perhaps we might... might get some "No state or federal authority may be commanded or directly advised by corporate officers" rules. Perhaps, maybe, the executive could rule with an executive order (by the power of the Unitary Executive that Dick Cheney loved so much) that the executive can never decide but by a regular process, then there might be some hope.

      We have to get the CFPB funded. We have to have a win. We have to get Facebook to put some neutral news feed on it so that the least informed generation becomes more aware.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Mon May 21, 2012 at 04:37:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting theological spin. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Larsstephens

    But honestly, I see it in starker fashion. Despair simply isn't a practical option for anyone other than terminal narcissists.

    •  Despair is pride, yes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've heard that argument before, and it makes some sense, but I think despair is pride only for those with a healthy sense of possibilities. For those who have their political power taken from them -- and in a democracy that's done by removing knowledge -- it's less narcissistic. I have sympathies for the kids who think the way they do, but I still want to kick them in their pants.

      (Oh, and theologically, I'm sort of existentialist: people in despair have lost their selves. They don't care what they're called.)

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Mon May 21, 2012 at 04:40:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We really come at this (0+ / 0-)

        from very different directions. I don't think pride has much to do with it, unless by pride you mean egotism. I don't think people who are in despair have "lost themselves". I think they're trapped within themselves. Despair is an essentially egocentric exercise, arising from an exaggerated sense of one's own importance.

  •  despair is a defense mechanism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, The Geogre, melo

    Its job is to transform life's sharp stabbing pains that would drive you mad into a dull ache that you can live with.  Its job is to check equally extreme and unwarranted optimism - it certainly is for me.  Its job is to keep you from dying on a barricade waving a flag and to allow you to build a little life for yourself beneath the authorities' notice.  Its job is to keep you from a worse pain brought on by wanting things you can't have.

    •  Ah... (0+ / 0-)

      "Most of the evils of life come from not tending one's garden?" I certainly know that one.

      That reaction is a form of despair, especially if it's an end point. However, you're at Kos, so I assume you haven't really ended your journey, aren't really growing the hedges high -- any more than I have, although I, too, want to stay in my garden. The retreat leads to two doors. Behind one is quietism, and that is the path of the person dragged from his home, protesting, "But I never did anything wrong." The other is accurate action.

      'Course I'm a big one on the talk. I want to strike within my reach, as I haven't the energy for riots anymore (1984 was my one and only), but I think actual despair is despair: the despairing give up and stop asking. They figure it's all beyond their control.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Tue May 22, 2012 at 05:00:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    1) mingling religion and politics/government.
    2) introducing religious concepts into the political/government arena.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Mon May 21, 2012 at 08:09:31 PM PDT

    •  Nnnoooo.... (0+ / 0-)

      1 and 2: Drawing an analogy.

      If you had reasoned further, you might have asked for a justification of the analogy. You see, there is nothing wrong with politics and religion mingling culturally or intellectually. There is something wrong with the government becoming religious or forbidding a religion, either, and there is something wrong with any religion becoming political, but extending the Establishment Clause into discourse is. . . bizarre.

      The justification for the analogy is this: Politics are primarily ethical, which means that they lack any standards for determining out of bounds behavior in an absolute sense. Because it is contextual, practitioners can, and do, draw their contexts at will to create a justification for their actions. However, the public operates on a moral basis rather than an ethical one. Whether in India or Iran or Indiana, the public has a sense of good and bad, not "efficient/inefficient" and "legal/illegal."

      To help develop a language of moral critique of a political formation that has had thirty-five years to mature into an entirely corporatist system (the political system's ethical basis is now corporate), it's necessary to draw an analogy from a moral system.

      In general, though, if you don't like the connection between religion and progressivism, then you don't like progressivism. The point of my corner here is to reunite the nexus of the moral critique offered by the Christian and Jewish progressives and the economic critique offered by the Marxists.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Tue May 22, 2012 at 05:09:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You seem not to understand 1) analogies, (0+ / 0-)

        2) ethics and morality, and 3) religion.

        Religion as in Organized Religion is and always has been about power and control, about politics. It is not about morals in any meaningful sense, though it generally attempts to co-opt the concept of "morals" as being somehow unrelated to "ethics" and proper behavior as part of its arsenal and toolkit.

        You cannot have a meaningful differentiation between "ethics" (trying to determine what is right and then doing it" and "morals" (arbitrary and capricious rules asserted by elites to control their subjects) that plops down in favour of the latter without recognising that it too is baseless and non-universal

        In general, though, if you don't like the connection between religion and progressivism, then you don't like progressivism.
        Nothing could possibly be more bassackwards. Progressivism strives for progress, not regress. The stone and bronze ages are long past, and are not progress nor progressive. Blind obedience is not a virtue. Sexual repression is not a good thing, nor is conformity for its own sake.  Faith does not generally result  in progress.

        Concepts like "sin" (eat no shellfish, nookie only as and when directed) are useless for analyzing the real world or solving its problems and are not conducive to progress. They instead incorporate and a whole manichean weltanschauung and ossified neolithic hatreds, fears, xenopohobis, and anti-rationalist thought processes. Progress does not flow from eschewing proscribed thoughts, ideas and works; from separation of food groups or temporarily shunning menstruating femalse, etc. ad infinitum. That is even tacitly recognized by the vast majority of the religious, who ignore most religious strictures.

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Tue May 22, 2012 at 08:58:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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