Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blown To Peaces

Some readers say I resemble Chris Hedges, former New York Times reporter-turned-lefty moralist. There's much of Hedges' writing that I like and respect, but am I really so sanctimonious? I hope not. My screeds are release valves for my brain, not prescriptions for better living. I write about what I perceive. I've long conceded that I may be nuts or simply hallucinating. I don't insist that you wash your hands and sit up straight before reading my stuff.

With corporate rule tightening and Democrats lunging further rightward, I understand Hedges' rage. The lack of progressive, much less radical, resistance to Obama's expanding war/surveillance state is very disheartening. There's a general feeling of marginalized drift, and few offer real alternatives. Thus we're left with scorned prophets like Hedges, waving his tablets at Mammon's feet.

I'm not interested in prophecy. Like so much else, it's a fixed fight. I'd rather be John and Yoko, who said they were Laurel and Hardy. A fool in pajamas giving baked rants to the bemused. Hopefully, my material is better than Hair Peace/Bed Peace. And I'd try to treat Al Capp with a lighter touch.

Still, Hedges' anger hints at possible responses. What that actually means is up to those committed to serious change. Moderation is no option. Moderation in the face of present realities is worse than surrender. At least with surrender, illusion is dead. You know you've lost, are underfoot, and ideally find fresh ways to assert yourself. Moderation feeds the fantasy of reform in an age where reform is nearly impossible. Too many forces against it, which is why reform is touted as the "mature" route. Moderation is a voluntary leash.

Does this leave extremism? Yes, but not violent or hateful versions. There's enough violence and political hatred already. Reactionaries are defined by their hatred; liberals even more so. In fact, hatred is about all that liberals have left to offer. Hatred and fear. Rejecting these negative, destructive mindsets is, by current standards, decidedly extremist. Developing peaceful alternatives deepens the extreme.

Nicholson Baker suggests a time-honored path: pacifism. Not We Shall Overcome, daisies in rifles displays, but a thorough, ongoing philosophical engagement. Baker's recent defense of pacifism in Harper's dealt mainly with opposition to World War II (as did his book Human Smoke), that reigning symbol of righteous mass murder. Thanks to that war, all subsequent wars are justified, all enemies Hitler. The pacifists of the 1930s-40s had no chance to stop the slaughter. That war was inevitable. Are today's wars equally so? Perhaps. But there's more to peaceful resistance than just opposing drone attacks.

American culture is suffused with military worship and the glory of battle. It's given that Americans accept this arrangement, which a good many do. But support for endless violence seems shaky. It helps explain the increasingly desperate arguments for imperial war.

Our owners forever fret that a large chunk of us will awake and take action. Billions are spent trying to alter our thinking and sway our opinions (and if that fails, there's Homeland Security and SWAT). I don't believe they have much to worry about, but then I have less to lose. I'm hardly alone in this, which gives us the freedom to project different modes of living to those who embrace the war state. No lectures. No chants. Simply breathing alternatives sharing the same space.

Will it work? Who the fuck knows. I've helped temper a few war lovers (while pushing several more into bloodier waters), so I've seen results. Humor helps, something Chris Hedges might consider. It's tough finding decent punch lines with grim set-ups, but such is creative struggle. Dick jokes for peace may be our saving grace.

AGAIN: I'm still looking for donations, if you are willing and financially able. See the PayPal button above my blogroll. Every bit helps tremendously. Thanks to those readers who've contributed so far, and I'll soon contact those desiring signed books. Love you all.