Thursday, September 24, 2009

A story of words - 5

However we play with the statistics to cover up the converging crises of our time, the crises continue to intensify.

We can euphemize the autism crisis away, the obesity epidemic, the soil crisis, the water crisis, the energy crisis.

We can dumb down standardized exams to cover up the accelerating implosion of the educational system.

We can redefine people in and out of poverty and manipulate economic statistics.

We can declare - simply declare - that the forests are not in precipitous decline.

For a while we can hide the gathering collapse of environment and polity, economy and ecology, but eventually reality will break through.

As we rebuild from the wreckage that follows, let us remember the lesson we have learned.

The power of the word, like all magical powers, will turn against us or wither and die if not renewed by frequent reconnection to its source.

Abstracted too many levels from its source, language maroons us in a factitious fantasy world, an unconscious story that turns us into its victims.

Those of us dedicated to creating a more beautiful world must not lose ourselves in abstraction.

Let us not imagine that we are more intelligent than the Neo-cons in their think tanks or the liberal professors in their universities.

They are just as clever as anyone else at manipulating logic.

All they say follows logically from their premises.

It is the premises that are at fault, and these cannot be reasoned out.

Remember that the Neo-cons too believe they are creating a better world.

Only arrogance would say that we, being smarter than they are, can do better.

Indeed, it is arrogance that defines them, and the opposite of arrogance is humility, and to be humble is to constantly open to new truth from the outside, from the real world and not one's interpretation of it.

That is the only thing that can keep us honest.

Horror results when we get lost in a world of axioms and ideals.

Many before us on left and right have reasoned atrocity out to a nicety.

We stay honest by grounding ourselves again and again in the reality outside representation.

When environmentalists focus on cost-benefit analyses and study data rather than real, physical places, trees, ponds, and animals, they end up making all the sickening compromises of the Beltway.

Liberal economists with the best of intentions cheer when a poor country raises its GDP; invisible to their statistics is the unraveling of culture and community that fuels the money economy.

Visit a real "mountaintop removal" operation and you know that there is no compromise that is not betrayal.

Visit a real third-world community and the vacuity of free-trade logic is obvious.

See the devastation of a bullet wound or a bomb strike, lives strewn across the street, and the logic of national interest seems monstrous.

Increasingly isolated in a virtual world, the people fear authenticity even as they crave it.

Except in the young, the fear usually prevails over the craving until something happens to make life fall apart.

Following the pattern experienced by Cindy Sheehan, the fundamental corruption of first one, then all of our civilization's major institutions becomes transparent.

I have seen this many times in various areas of activism.

Someone discovers that the pharmaceutical industry, or the music industry, or the oil industry, or organized religion, or Big Science, or the food industry is shockingly corrupt, but still believes in the basic soundness of the system as a whole.

Eventually, in a natural process of radicalization, they discover that the rot is endemic to all of these and more.

Each institution supports, affirms, and draws its own legitimacy from the others.

So we discover eventually that the wrongness permeates every institution, and we desire to find and uproot its source


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