Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us.

In Austin, we are very lucky to have the alternative press "The Austin Chronicle". Page Two is the regular column by editor and co-founder of the newspaper Louis Black. It's also interesting to note that Black (and publisher Nick Barbaro) co-founded the famous South by Southwest music and film festival. [Two thousand performers in ninety venues over a week or so. Wow.]

But this post is not about music or film or South by Southwest. It's bringing your attention to a couple of recent Page Two columns by Black that caught my attention.

My first thought, with the very recent and ongoing BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is that We The People and not BP aka British Petroleum are to blame for this disaster. Accidents happen. Or, more accurately, statistical certainties happen. We The People are our own worst enemy with regard to environmental/ecological degradation. We The People have become our own worst enemy with regard to our own impotent governance.

This oil spill has the potential to become the most destructive ever witnessed by this planet - both in environmental and economic terms. It's so depressing I'm trying to avoid the news about it, and trying not to think about it. Pray for a miracle.

Good morning. But I digress.

Black's two columns are not so much about the environment, although they do touch on the subject, as they are about our current polarized political/ideological climate, and how We The People are responsible for it.

I would like to meet Mr. Black. I enjoy his writing.

Here's the link to the first column. I'll post Part II in a day or so.

Here's an excerpt, from whence the title of this post obviously originated:


"Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us."

– Pogo, Walt Kelly's Earth Day 1971 Pogo comic strip

The above comment by Pogo is clearly about the environment, especially the almost nonchalant littering and homestead-derived pollution destroying his beloved home, Okefenokee Swamp. It is also just as clearly metaphoric about all the damage being done to the environment because of people, whether it be because of their thoughtlessness, greed, or very existence. Now, no hysterical worship of Goddess Mother Earth here, but our existence affects the Earth, sometimes in destructive ways, especially when we refuse to acknowledge there is a problem or to mitigate it in any way.

Another step back should be taken, especially during current times, to realize that in so many areas the problem is us. And us only.
Proverbs: Prayer Mantras

These are the days of blame. Vindicating or validating one's own beliefs is most easily and legitimately achieved by attacking someone else. A shocking amount of political discussion is not about solving or even describing the real political, economic, social, educational, health, or justice problems facing this country. Instead, it is spent blaming those in disagreement.

The prayer mantras repeated over and over now are far from the bleeding-heart, knee-jerk, weakhearted "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." The whole notion of walking a mile in someone else's shoes is pathetic acquiescence to those who would kill us. Understanding is viewed as appeasement.

"Two wrongs make a right." If a Democrat or a Republican is criticized, there is neither hand-wringing nor a painful mea culpa from his or her brethren. Instead, examples of similar behaviors by members of the opposite party are cited.

"Stating something as a fact makes it a fact." We are living in times when some are insistent that there are few, if any, "real" problems. Instead, they claim, issues facing us have been deliberately manufactured by people trying to destroy the country and enslave us. Unyielding, self-sanctified certainty may yet save this country, in this view, but reasoned discussion and compromise will certainly end up destroying it.

"In order to really be a patriot, one must not only state that one is a patriot but argue that one is far more so than those who hold differing opinions." And: "True constitutional piety allows for only one true path, one holy and God-blessed way of thinking."

"American exceptionalism forgives all." We are living through a time when communication is demeaned, not valued, and in which political cooperation is regarded as a corrupt and treasonous activity. The idea is not to identify the problem but to identify the "enemy" causing the problem. Given that those in disagreement are quite simply evil and malicious, attempting honest and open communication with them is to play the fool, to be of those slaves who believe every word their masters say.

Statements along the lines of the following are commonly made: "The Constitution has been violated and disregarded; our judicial system is corrupt and our legislative system broken. It is time to return to the Constitution as the basis for our society and our laws. We must take back the government."

With a dull, rhythmic certainty, we hear legislators attacked for not carrying out the will of the people. Frequently, these attacks are offered by other legislators.

On the far left, some believe in destroying the social order entirely, while others believe if we get rid of the upper class, the owning class, things will be fine. Many hate innovative, successful entrepreneurs because they are successful.

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