Random Musings on a Disintegrating World

Talk Nation


Friday, July 5th, 2013

So David Brooks took his inner bigot to work today and let it write a column (and no, I won’t link to Brooks) in which he said:

 

In reality, the U.S. has no ability to influence political events in Egypt in any important way. The only real leverage point is at the level of ideas. Right now, as Walter Russell Mead of Bard College put it, there are large populations across the Middle East who feel intense rage and comprehensive dissatisfaction with the status quo but who have no practical idea how to make things better. The modern thinkers who might be able to tell them have been put in jail or forced into exile. The most important thing outsiders can do is promote those people and defend those people, decade after decade.

It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.

[emphasis mine]

What’s fascinating about this is what it reveals about the conservative mind which, using whatever weird formula Brooks used to come up with this crazy abstraction about people in the ME, thinks that all the intransigence and conflict comes because large populations in the region are out of ideas or lack even the mental capacity to conceive of new ideas and new approaches to the problems they face.

As soon as I read this drivel I realized that with a bit of editing his words were also an apt description of why we in the U.S. are locked in constant political and social conflict. Let’s apply that editing to Brooks’ piece and see how it applies to our own situation.

In reality, the U.S. World has no ability to influence political events in Egypt the U.S. in any important way. The only real leverage point is at the level of ideas. Right now, as Walter Russell Mead of Bard College put it, there are large populations across the Middle East United States who feel intense rage and comprehensive dissatisfaction with the status quo but who have no practical idea how to make things better. The modern thinkers who might be able to tell them have been put in jail systematically ignored or forced into [political] exile. The most important thing outsiders can do is promote those people and defend those people, decade after decade.  {think…Paul Krugman}

It’s not that Egypt the United States doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition functioning democracy. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients [to understand how to make it work].  {Congress anyone?}

I suppose it is fun to play Brooks for a fool here but what is really disturbing is that he is considered one of the more “sane” conservative thinkers in this country (and I use the word ‘thinkers’ loosely). Yet this bigoted drivel is the best he can come up with these days. Like so many other conservative voices Brooks has donned some pretty large blinders that restrict his point of view to such a narrow focus that he can’t help but slip into following the same kind of twisted logic path that allowed Southerners in the first half of the 19th Century to justify slavery (which even some conservative voices are starting to do out loud these days) and in the twentieth Century to justify Jim Crow and segregation.

There was a time when Brooks actually had something to add to the conversation but those days are long past. [h/t to David Atkins over at Digby's blog]

Monday, July 1st, 2013

So, George Bush says Edward Snowden “damaged the U.S.”.  I have to say Bush has a lot of credibility on this subject.  He spent 8 years damaging the U.S. in ways no President before ever has so I’d say he has to be acknowledged as an expert on how to damage the U.S.

Friday, June 28th, 2013

A restart of a blog I drifted away from a few years ago.  I may get my old posts from the last iteration dumped in here, I may not.  That’s for the future when I have more time.  For now, I’m back and currently probably talking to myself.

Friday, June 28th, 2013

This was first posted just after 9/11.  As I re-read it I’m amazed at how relevant it still is.  What Osama wrought was to turn us against each other as much as against the terrorists.  What we see now in the face of the Tea Party and the obstructionist Obama-haters in the Republican Party is exactly the kind of extremism that will bring us down as a nation, just as Osama hoped it would.

Anyway, here’s a rerun from 2001

 

I haven’t posted since the events of Tuesday because it is all just too much to take in at once and deserves more than an emotional response. What happened on Tuesday on the East Coast was nothing short of barbaric. All the more so because it was intended to have the results and affect on innocent civilians that it had. We are treading on some very thin ice now, made thinner each day by our apparent insistence on pumping ourselves up, like a college football team before the big game, for some kind of righteous retribution.

This is a dangerous time and a dangerous game we are beginning to play, one that does not benefit from cheerleaders. We need thoughtful, determined leadership. We need intelligent, well-thought out responses to the world or we risk devolving into a more sophisticated version of the very people we seek to avenge ourselves upon.

I have some suggestions.

  1. We need to be aware that the underlying progenitor of the rage that created and perpetrated this horror is fundamentalism, not Islamic fundamentalism but fundamentalist principles themselves, no matter the religion or ideology to which they are attached. Just the other day, Jerry Falwell reduced himself to an American version of Osama Bin Laden when he sought to blame what happened on “Liberals, homosexuals, and the ACLU” among others. Such irresponsible talk from someone with a national audience tells me the terrorists have won a bigger victory than even they imagined. In Falwell’s America, anyone who doesn’t think “correctly” or believe in the proper version of Christianity (other religions need not apply) is to be suspect, hounded, or even imprisoned. If we want to dig out the roots of terrorism we ought to condemn him as loudly as we do Arab fundamentalists. 
  2. We need to end the “War On Drugs”, immediately. If we are indeed in a protracted war against terrorism there are many good reasons for doing so. For one thing this is no time to be waging war on our fellow citizens. The majority of Americans imprisoned today for drug crimes (the majority of prisoners) are not guilty of anything more than the equivalent of carrying around a six-pack and drinking a few beers. We need to prioritize our values and our efforts and this “War” takes billions every year and yields us little or nothing in return except more imprisoned Americans and more ruined lives, lives ruined by imprisonment far more devastatingly than ever they would have been by drugs. In addition, the infrastructure created to bypass our impotent drug war provides some powerful avenues into this country for things far more devastating than drugs, namely weapons, terrorists and money. This “war” also provided the financing for Bin Laden and his ilk by making it possible for them to finance their terrorism through the production, distribution and sale of heroin and other drugs made obscenely expensive by the drug war. Making them legal and controlling them through other means will virtually eliminate this source of income. 
  3. We need to end the absurdity of Star Wars. The idea of a national missile defense was laughable already but now it is even more untenable an avenue for our investment. We need technologies that work now, not at some unspecified future date. The $100 billion proposed to Star Wars would have produced little of substance for all the money and time invested, lulled us into a false sense of security and wound up being our modern version of the Maginot Line behind which France sought to hide prior to their being overrun by the Germans in WWII. 

I don’t know what our direct response to all this will be or should be. It is too complicated an issue to try to solve in a simple weblog, or a letter, or even a policy of the government. We need to respond, we need to do so appropriately and we need to understand the roots of the antagonism and hate we have stirred up around the world. We are reaping the harvest of unintended consequences and we can no longer hide behind the excuse that we mean well or are striving to improve the world by our actions. The decimated tribes in the third world who have lost their lands, their heritage and their lives care little for our intentions but are faced every day by the results of our actions. We need to understand that and react accordingly.

I’ll post more when I can bring myself to think rationally about this.

Peace to all.