Hermit's Weblog
everything your mother never taught you about how the world really works.

Thu, 13 Dec 2007

Is There Any Good News?

I've been watching the movie Primary Colors (if you don't know it, check it out), and it did make me ask a question about this blog. Do I have anything more to say than to describe what is going wrong?

So I thought that I would take this blog in a new direction for a while, and write as if I was running for President (everyone else is). I've done this before, but in this instance I am going to have to deal with the present yuck factor of the way the world is. I'm mean really, can we actually do anything to fix the horrible messes piling up on this political highway? When I look at all the wrong things going on, I feel like I'm in a slow motion interstate accident involving 6000 cars, 18,000 trucks and not only is the fog thicker than pea soup (the number of lies and disinformation out there makes reality nearly invisible), but most of the drivers can't look up from their television sets long enough to see the plain as day road signs, shinning right through the soup, that proclaims in bright red letters ten miles high that right around the corner The Bridge Is Out!

In certain respects, most the news is bad. Between corporate agribusiness and our corrupt politicians, the food supply actually doesn't feed us real food. Most people's appetites have been trained to want red meat, as in greasy fast food. This is so in the West, and now is being exported to China and India. We've known since the 1960's that beef production requires maybe as much as 10 lbs of vegetable protein be feed to the cattle in order to create 1 lb of beef protein. This is plainly some kind of insanity, is it not?

A look at most of our current social problems and political crises reveals a similar absence of logic and reason, either in the behavior of large corporate institutions and/or the policies of governments. If we survey this rather odd situation (the absence of reason), we can come to two conclusions.

One conclusion is that reason is in fact present, but that its orientation is that wide social benefit is not the logical basis for the decisions, but rather that the reasoning behind the decisions that are being made is primarily directed at benefiting only a very few. The other conclusion is that because we can see the absence of reason when we approach the situation looking for something that benefits us all, we ourselves are making a mistake - we are not following out the facts to their logical conclusion.

Let's come at this from a slightly different direction, just to make this more explicit: 1) reason only appears to be absent because we have assumed that reason required the intention be to benefit us all; and, 2) the real absence of reason is among those of us who act as if the logic of the situation required something different as a result - we've not been reasonable, and it is our reason that is absent. The other guys are being very reasonable, they just don't care about the rest of us.

We live in a time in which the leading decision makers, both corporate and government policy, have had other agendas for many years, and their narrow view, which was quite self-centered, has now come to the foreseeable conclusion - everything is falling apart because it wasn't managed in the first place with any wisdom or grace.

Why is this important?

Well, one main reasons is that if we are deluding ourselves (by imagining that the world should operate at the level of reason we think right) then right away our picture of the world is in error. Now a lot of people recognize that self-centered decisions have been made and are being made, so that a lot of opposition has arisen directed toward the corrupted and selfish decision makers that have led the world into this train wreck. Here again we have to ask ourselves, whether we have not made further logical errors, in this case one of timeliness.

Do we have the time to fix what has been done wrong? Lets take global warming, as an example. Further lets assume that the facts are as thought - global warming exists and we need to do something. There are other questions. Does the political will exist to fix what needs to be fixed? Is it possible that, in combination with other escalating problems, we actually can't fix this approaching train wreck? Is it possible that so much has been so badly managed for the last couple hundred years, that the selfishness and corruption has created a situation that can't be turned toward the ideal so many want to imagine should be our direction?

Right now in America we have what some are calling a housing crisis, and huge increases in people having their homes foreclosed upon. If we read behind the scenes of this, we discover that the primary responsibility for this crisis was not in the predatory lending in the sub-prime markets, but in the financial markets where the faked up derivative instruments were created that made available to the sub-prime lenders the capital necessary pursue this dangerous course. If the loans had not been bundled in an effort by those financial markets to make speculative high risk loans through creating instruments nobody tried to figure out what their real value was, there would have been no crisis. If the government had tried to regulate this financial industry (as it was actually directed to both by the congress (who asked the Federal Reserve to act ten years ago) and by prudence, there would be no crisis in financial liquidity.

We just need to remember that as we gaze at the obvious problems, nobody who ought to be watching and regulating these problems for the benefit of all is actually doing that. Pick a problem and the changes necessary to fix it are so far down the line of actual political will that we are not being reasonable in expecting the train wreck to be avoidable. Need I say no one among the various civil society groups or liberal groups or even conservative groups wants to face this possibility.

At this point we are at more bad news, and certainly so far from what flavor of Kool Aid the Presidential candidates are selling that we must be on a different planet. In a sense, this Candidate's message is its time to recognize that things are going to fall further apart in a big way. Once we accept that, we can actually take hold of reality in a way that would enable us to do something.

Let me lay this out as a series of bullet points.

1) Things are worse than we think because they are acting in combination (not as single events). 2) Our ideal solutions for the individual problems aren't going to find a way to get done in this current climate of corporate self-serving intentions and political corruption. 3) Once we stop spending our energy trying to fix problems that can't be fixed, we can begin to fix problems that can be fixed. 4) The difficulty is learning to distinguish between the two before it is too late to act on the problems that can be acted upon. 5) If we learn to do this, we will discover that things are better than we think (acting creatively in combination in ways we don't yet observe).

Now we are getting to the actual good news! There are problems we can cooperate in solving that understand that the organization of the world is on an apparent line of descent (less seeming civilization, instead of endless further wonderful development). This presents us with the alternative seeing how not to be caught pulling against the flow of events (the apparent descent into an absence of coherent healthy political transformation, or technological fixes) - that is how to avoid trying to drive us stream. In order to understand this we then seek a workable picture of the actual way of things and work with that flow.

So as to save our collective time, here is the reality. Western Civilization is collapsing (civilizations do this kind of thing), and something new is being born (see my website Shapes in the Fire). That's why I wrote above about "apparent" descent. This process of changing civilizations should be called metamorphosis - caterpillar becoming butterfly. Really, this is good news. Imagine then, if you will, a Presidential candidate who actually understands what is going on in the world and wants to lead us through this rite of passage. Further, imagine that you don't have to elect him to office, because this kind of "leadership" is more like the work of a sage story teller than it is of holding and using power.

The power is the power of the word to express just those ideas that help us "see" what needs to be seen, and then where to apply our will in the most productive way, in flow with the real shape of events.

[14:00] | [] | # | G

Wed, 05 Dec 2007

The Insanity Index, or why I read Drudge nearly everyday.

Some years ago Matt Drudge started a website. It became not only a phenomenon, but a significant feature in American Politics. Political candidates, and elected officials, after a time all had to take account of the Drudge Report. It even became a kind of art, trying to figure out how to get a favorable mention on Drudge, or how to avoid an unfavorable mention.

Now the interesting thing is the Drudge Report isn't a blog. Matt Drudge is not writing his views in prose, although his views do seem to determine the many links that can be found by going to this website. Because of the site's popularity, for example, many folks leak stories to Drudge, hoping he will post a link to another place that also has the leaked story. Yes, occasionally there is original "reporting" of these leaks on Drudge, but for the most part what one gets by going there is several dozen links to other kinds of media.

I have observed there some interesting characteristics. The obvious is that Drudge in general favors the political Right. Everyone knows this. You can also expect that if he doesn't like the person the link is about, the picture (when there is one) on the Drudge site will be unflattering.

Another characteristic is the phrase that forms the words behind which stands the link. This phrase is often itself spin, and frequently does not exactly represent the true character of the story you will read if you go to the linked page. This phrase (we might call it the Drudge Report headline) will offer something exciting, and often not really deliver on that implied promise.

To sum up: the Drudge Report, in that it is political in nature, is quite subtly (and sometimes more obviously) biased toward the political Right.

But that is not why I go there.

Drudge also runs stories whose substance is more in the character of the bizarre. If there is a weirdness out there, Drudge will have a link to a story about it. Wife kills husband with cat, and so forth. How he gets these links is anyone's guess, but I think mostly the links get sent to him, and he has people working for him that process this material, and knowing his tastes then offer him choices. He probably makes the finally choices as to what to put up.

This, to me, is his genius, and that is why I call it: the Insanity Index. For example, today I read a headline link to a story about the white boys that were hurt in Jenna. They are suing the black boys that fought them, and the School Board. If you don't know this story, then put your blinders back on and go back to sleep.

Now I am not leaving politics out of the Insanity Index by the way. There is more social insanity there than other places. Most people take the stuff politicians say seriously, though. Me, I just shake my head, try not to puke or cry and watch them (the politicians) encourage the rest of us to burn down the world.

In November 2007, 455 million plus visits were logged for the Drudge Report. Now you know why I call my main website Shapes in the Fire.

[12:06] | [] | # | G

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Joel Wendt


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some thoughts on the nature of public life
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