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This One Crazy Thing You Can Do To Make the Political Reality Better, Or, Thoughts After the Republican Wave


So, we got the “wave” that we deserved. Republicans took seats in the Senate, the House, and at governors’ mansions across the nation. This good old-fashioned trouncing has the right quite spiritedly, nay gleefully, affirming that America is the “greatest nation in the history of the mankind.” (Interesting case of confirmation bias, don’t you think?) In light of last night’s outcome I thought I’d pen a plea—and it may not be the one that you expect.

For decades we’ve been bowling alone. Voluntary association by Americans—unions, social clubs, bowling leagues, et cetera—has gone the way of the dodo as the internet destroys human empathy. Enquiry shows that without voluntary association, individuals become bereft of social trust. Historically, without social trust, we see very little support for liberal legislation (in the inverse, political and social trust was at an all-time high in America during the passage of New Deal programs). Without liberal legislation, America’s Democratic party lives on as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and as a brand without substance. Logic tells us that if political distrust leads to a dearth of liberal-minded legislation, the political right has no incentive to be trustworthy and, in fact, is likely to work toward disillusionment.

What can be done?

First, let me make an abstract claim I can’t substantiate; one I feel in my bones: with the devolution of trust, the two primary American political parties are now, and have for decades been, in cahoots. Yes, cats and dogs are getting along—a closed-loop ouroboros with Democrat head eating Republican tail.

It all sounds crazy, I know, but why should it? For one, candidates across the aisle take funding from the same corporate sponsors. Their cooperative Manichaeism holds the American political system in a paroxysmal state, a tug-o’-war over the same irreconcilable issues. Cast as devil or god, each party plays a specter defined by individual temperament—reason is the enemy of both. How else could absurdities such as a climate-change-denier as climate chair work? It’s all a comedy of errors intended to inflame sensibilities toward either extreme.

Political change is supposed to be hard fought. Recall that Hegel called history a slaughter bench, and viewed war as more a fight to the death between competing ideas than as one fought by armies. Still, the reward for all that bloodshed ought to be synthesis:
I believe that the diagram is broken. There are no new ideas, only materially different methods aimed at the same end: acquisition. We see a seesaw of competing ideology, with each side digging their feet in more deeply each time they become the ousted party. The whole scheme degenerates to the extremes. Here’s (an incredibly poor) diagram to illustrate the change:
New Diagram

So, for those interested in avoiding the status quo, everlasting political infighting, and pervasive denial of rights, what can be done?

Love and associate with thy neighbor, friends. As often as possible, break taboo and talk about political perceptions and realities. Actual political dialog among peers changes the paradigm and sets independent actors on the path toward creation and understanding of ideas—a sharp departure from the consumption of stale prescribed thought we’re spoon-fed by the mainstream media. More important than farm-to-table, shop local, slow-food and others localized movements you can think of, instead, Think Local.

Shut off your teevee. Forget what George Will, Wonkette, and even Nate Silver have to say. Support independent candidates. Become one yourself! At the very least, go roll a few with friends and talk about what is and what ought to be.

dude abiding

If we don’t take political thought back, we’re in for a thousand years of political gymnastics, business as usual, and trickle-up economics powered by right and left alike.

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DANGER by MarkedMatt23
DANGER, a photo by MarkedMatt23 on Flickr.

Just got this back from processing. It somehow guided my thoughts to the POTUS election.

Leaving — Headed to

Moving off of

Thanks to everyone who’s followed along here. I’ve exported all content and all new pieces will be available at

Craigslist Patriotarianism — Exciting Publishing Opportunity!!!

And here it is, hailing from Minneapolis, MN, the metropolis that boasts the highest number of PhDs per capita in the nation: your chance to contribute to the documentation and exposé of the US federal government’s conspiracy to undermine its country, constituency, and sustaining tax base–conveniently enough, it looks like it will be released just prior to the presidential election. To be clear, best-qualified candidates will provide a 100-word essay questioning the incumbent president’s country of origin, and “if you think the US government officials are corrupted and working against the American People in many ways, that would be helpful.” Good luck applying!

Merchants Of Cool | FRONTLINE | PBS

Watch The Full Program | Merchants Of Cool | FRONTLINE | PBS.

Revisited this over the weekend after having watched the program in an anthropology course a few years ago in undergrad.  11 years old now, I think the piece still carries lots of weight.  The missus and I had a conversation earlier today (which prompted the MOC review) as to whether there were more than 8 personality archetypes in America; cosmology shells that exist to be marketed at in powerful interactive ways.  I doubt that there are but she holds out hope for more nuance in the human condition.  Either way, it takes a disciplined will to maintain a life as one’s own in contemporaneous society.


Craggy by MarkedMatt23

This recent shot taken during a Sunday hike reminds of the neck-straining gaze towards the weekend. There’s much to overcome; a million little crevices and jutting corners. Still, at the top, life tends to grant grand glances of the valley below. It’s there that we remember why, how, and what-for.

Roderick on the Line

Roderick on the Line

Wow.  Two guys have a conversation and ant holocausts, bird-bigotry, Kurt Vonnegut quotes, Jeremy Bentham’s head, the Humpty Dance and a whole score of other topics surface. Their podcast just might be the perfect way to spend a two hour layover at the airport.

In honor of…

this, this happened – here.

We’d be lucky to still have you, George, or Eric Arthur Blair, or whoever you were.  I fell in love with your sour, pessimistic-yet-whimsically-longing-for-a-simpler-time works in a Senior honors single-author course and I’ll never forget how right you were about so many things and, still, how repugnant my moderately-modern sentimentality finds some of your thought.

I still hope to someday write a long, convoluted piece on how Saul Bellow was the eyes, Orwell the nose, and some yet unforeseen author the ears of the becoming-modern essential-face.

The Fractured Contemporary Mind: My Interaction with Saul Bellow’s It All Adds Up

I often find myself horrified by my own inability to form sustained, iterative, progressive thoughts. My thinking is tangential and erratic; most of my intellectual activity is reactive. By and large, my mental resting-point is a near-trance tinged with equal parts exhaustion, frustration, and mild terror. I read frequently, then sporadically and, in bursts, voraciously. Each time I rest a book on the nightstand I try to think back through the meaning of the material that I’ve just read – and, here, I generally find a failure of comprehension.

Today, I’m reading Saul Bellow’s It All Adds Up, a collection of reflective essays spanning nostalgic odes to Depression-era Chicago, biographical pieces which describe the unlikely musical and political genius of Mozart and FDR, respectively, drafts on the state of the American soul and the writers, both real and potential, who struggle to revive it, and introductions and farewells to places and people of importance to the author. Throughout the book the nut of Bellow’s thought wrestles with who we (Chicagoans, Americans, Jews, Post-Modern Westerners, Globalists wrestling with, just then, Cold War realities) are, how much humanity we retain, whether we can squirrel away those humanistic holdovers in a post-Romantic, Nihilistic, materialistic world, and how we might shield ourselves from the wiles of the intellectual class he abhors.

Bellow certainly is a powerful essayist – on par with Orwell, I’d say (they both share a rabid disapproval for formal intellectuals). While Orwell relies on olfaction for exposition, Bellow draws us in with eyesight and where the Englishman steadies our attention on the meaning of material conditions, Bellow brings us to the soul. Bellow’s illustrative description of his Depression Chicago flat, for example: the decaying mattresses and “see-through sheets” and walls with buckling wallpaper which separated his bookish behaviors from the workmen’s’ trades beyond them – the steel mills, the slaughterhouses, and the furniture factories – each sustaining the city he loved dearly. These are physical-descriptor metaphors for the ruddy contemporaneous human condition. For Bellow, this was the best the world had to offer and disappointing all the same.

While I’ve sincerely enjoyed it, the book lends itself to my personal anxieties. Here we have a piece of literature illustrating the impoverished state of the human mind and soul and a reader with a sinking suspicion that his own mental state is generally out of sorts — jumbled and disrupted by a combination of a lack of personal discipline and an external overload of stimuli. We’re a species who’s greatest and most temporary happiness comes at the cash register, who’s longing lies the way of the till, and whose minds can’t be troubled with the dictates of a meaningful existence.

The discomfort transcends personal space, too, as the collection of essays takes you through Bellow’s own political journey. Here I found a quandary that I’d wager is regnant throughout our thinking populace yet unheard of in mass culture: a Nietzschean revaluation of values that’s political in nature and language. While he began his political life a Trotskyite, like so many Bellow was pushed rightward by the appalling political realism of the Stalinists who held so much sway in the early post-war era. He found his roots, then, as a liberal and, I believe, he steeled himself there for a lifetime as the world moved scattershot in a multitude of directions.

Here’s a man who’s all for the Liberal state, who’s familiar with the horrors of the authoritarian-totalitarian regime, who detests cut-and-dry jingoism while, at the same time, decries ubiquitous American self-loathing spurred on by an unctuous intellectual class. Saul Bellow was a liberal: it’s the meaning of the word that has changed.

The ultimate truth that emerges is that it is now Conservative to support the modern Liberal state. To share worries with a man like Bellow that, when a society rejects all public talk of prejudice, we’ve castrated ourselves politically and that, while formalized laws that oppress groups by color, creed, gender, sex-act, and religion are odious, a personal preference for one’s own choices and natural circumstance creates, defines, and seasons character and ought not be driven out of us as Jesus drove the demons from the swine, is now a socially and political unwieldy position to take.

Living in a multicultural world where vocal public preference is abjured and culture-clash-irritants are forced inward for contemplation, we’ve essentially stilled our social critics – those from within and without. Resentment is the only recourse for elucidation. Hatred is a human quality that’s best engendered by stifling thought and muzzling speech. In truth, we’ve created a new political-correctness-Puritanism not unlike the early-20th-century American Puritanism that D.H. Lawrence worried had broken the “sympathetic heart,” had made us all “stink in each other’s nostrils.”

The battle lines are drawn – those who wish to conserve elements of humanity that are often deemed undemocratic and, at the same time, beautiful vs. those who call for a grey mass of material equality of purchasing power and freedom of superficial expression. Neither side has a perfect platform for utopia. Increasingly, we rely on abstract technological progress, material access, and a super-abundance of choice to arbitrate our differences. This was what Bellow wrote about.

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Housekeeping Item

So, I’m slowly but surely easing in to the blogging bathtub here.  A few sweetheart bloggers have been kind enough to link to me recently, even in my period of office-crazed absence.  I believe it’s in good taste to return the favor when they have good material.  I’m a minimalist — or at least someone who likes to keep particular snippets of life (in this case, words) tidy.  The best way I can think to achieve this is a BLOG ROLL … which you’ll see above now or after the jump if you click on the shiny blue text.

**only a few of these nice folks have linked to FH … others simply contribute to the internets in an enjoyable way … be that political and cultural commentary or baseball banter.

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