Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ramblings - 2

Like most people capable of reading, writing, and noticing when things don't add up, I sense that our government lies to us and am inclined to consider our "war" in Iraq a mess.

Unlike most people whose opinions swarm around me in the news, on the Internet and in daily encounters, I am -- apart from knowing just enough to know when something doesn't make sense -- extremely ignorant. I have not been to Iraq. I never (or almost never) assume that the things I know after I've read a newspaper or listened to NPR are actually things I know. I do my best not to assume that I know something because it's what everyone knows.

I'm amazed, not only that so many people (who, also, have never been to Iraq) know exactly what is happening there and are able to tally up all the good effects and bad effects of any action taken there and come up with an exact negative -- amazed not only by all this knowing, but also at the desperate urgency that impels so many people to have opinions about things and, therefore, to become suction devices for attracting to themselves the phrases and factoids necessary to present a plausible aura of knowledge to surround those opinions.

(No, I'm not amazed by any of this. But some ghostly authorial persona of me is.)

I have my own agreements with some of these stands. For example, I don't think "we" (or the guys who claim to be our representatives) should have gone into Iraq. But I don't know whether they should get out now or in 6 months or in a year. I don't think a "War on Terrorism" makes sense. It's a stupid misuse of the word "war" (as is "War on Drugs"), a metaphorical use that pretends to be a literal use, so calls for literal solutions, appropriate to a war, but not to a campaign against a rather vague abstraction. After all, it is arguable and, I think, likely that one of the main sources of terrorism in the world over recent decades has been our own government, which trained (I don't KNOW this, but believe the sources I've read on the subject) -- which trained army officers from other nations in techniques of torture at Ft. Bennings, Georgia, School of the Americas, and armed, trained and financed death squads in other nations that killed hundreds of thousands of their citizens (for example, in El Salvador and Guatemala).

It seems obvious to me that the correct handling of murderers (e.g., the guys who planned 9/11) is a police action, while the correct handling of terror is to eliminate the sources of terror, which lie in such basics as the absence of justice in many societies.

And I don't see that a few thousand deaths and even the fear of thousands more are worth throwing out freedoms for which hundreds of thousands of Americans died. Yes, I have my opinions and even some knowledge.

But each day we are faced with headlines that seem to demand that we know. We receive e-mail demands that we sign petitions. We are supposed to tell Bush to get out of Iraq now. And I begin to feel that most of us are no longer able to appreciate the joy of not having to know everything and not having to decide everything.

Perhaps I have expressed this poorly, for it seems to call for irresponsible spectatorism. No, I'm not saying that, as the daily load of wounded and dying ideas arrive, we should ignore them. I'm saying that if we don't practice triage and deal with those most likely within our competence, we will be overwhelmed, and when we are overwhelmed, we search for desperate solutions, big simple solutions that seem to handle everything. (That's what terrorists do.)

My own approach, since I haven't the resources to learn Arabic, visit Iraq, read all that's been written on Iraq, even read all of our administration's pronouncements, is to concentrate on what I know -- or, since knowledge may be considered a spectrum from great certainty to less certainty to no certainty, I try to invest my energy most in those things of which I have the most certainty.

For example, I know that madness on a national level is a composite of individual madnesses, so that anything I can do to increase awareness and aliveness of individuals (including myself) is of use. I know that I can't trust a president who appoints executives of Eli Lilly (the Prozac folks) to high adminstration posts or a defense secretary who helped pay off FDA officials to get Nutrasweet (aspartame) approved. (Here's a point on the certainty spectrum: I have a lot more certainty that Eli Lilly is a destructive force in society and that Nutrasweet -- promoted by Rumsfeld's old company -- is a health disaster than I do that American troops are causing more harm than good in Iraq, so this gives me something about which I know a fair amount to use as a touchstone for reliability.)

I know that creating a lot of hatred for the Bush administration and spending my days in invective is not likely to give us a better world. Revolutions generally lead to chaos, and chaos gets solved by a fiercer tyranny. I know that all the various lies, corruptions, killings and torturing, reported and suspected, are nothing new -- even for America: We are seasoned whores pretending to be outraged virgins. That outrage needs to be led into constructive channels; "constructive", in this context, means that what needs changing is the way human beings operate, the way we think, act, etc. I know that trying to effect such changes by drugging or programming people (as in Skinner's Walden II) simply intensifies the insanity. I know that we change people for the better by helping them become freer, that only slaves are dangerous.

I even know some workable ways of freeing people -- from the tyranny of past horrors, from the generalities of despair, from the grief of past losses, from the numbness of past and present drugs/medications, from the mountains of old decisions beneath which each is buried so that new decisions can be made on fresh data; from inability to confront what is before one; from inability to think clearly or act decisively. These things I know, have experienced, have effected.
(Not to make a mystery of them, I refer you to www.scientology.org.)

I don't know if I could persuade George W. Bush to pull a single troop out of Iraq, but I'll bet I could get a crying child laughing (no tickling allowed) faster than he could.

I'll bet many of you (assuming there are enough of you reading this for a subset of you to constitute a "many") know a lot more about this infestation of Iraq than I do. But I'll bet, also, that if we encountered a fact that didn't fit your knowledge, I'd learn it faster.

Basically, I'm just better than everyone else -- isn't that what I'm saying? God, I hope not.

No comments: