The Long Slow before the Quickening

Before it takes shape, as it gradually gains hold, the transition to consuming less – basically, what sustainable neutrality reverse is all about, no matter how specifically construed – is happening painfully too slowly. That ‘pace,’ if that’s the right word, explains part of the associated pain that feels all around, as though it were the the only thing accompanying the shift.

News media – ‘legacy’ is a very generous modifier at this point – have little at their disposal beyond the language of cost, suffering, loss, giving up, change in the context of deprivation. We can say this is the wrong framing, but acknowledging the limitation is important, especially if we are going to progress beyond it.

No magic button here, but a recognition of a kind of system-wide failure, of education, articulation, creativity. But that limit is shading another, broader system-wide failure unfolding right in front of us so slowly, slowly as it can and gradually as a massive system/combination of overlapping massive systems does, that it can seem invisible, not believable, deniable.

Maybe it has slipped the bounds of deniability, as several big things begin to occur at once and more quickly. The need to reckon with the slowness and the quickening, while not seeming to be our major challenge, is the key to unlocking all the other challenges. The cognitive dissonance of a world on fire/drowning will lead to despair absent the ability to think our way out of it.

In some quarters, that is indeed a dark thought. But that’s what we’ve got to do. As I’ve written here and elsewhere over the years, the Earth is still a kind of lady in waiting, with waning patience for us to get our act(s) together. She’s going to start touching herself soon and we’re still not close to ready to think about that.

Cutting people off from the Human connection

black and white photo of woman
Hannah Arendt by Fred Stein, 1944

For a while now, it’s been an enduring mystery how so many ostensibly intelligent people can harbor such fantastically reactionary political opinions, believe utter nonsense, vote for incompetent racists, support hatred and bigotry in all its forms. I mean to say, don’t they know any people? Don’t they have friends and encounter strangers, at least once and a while? The great Hannah Arendt explained the relationship between lonely isolation and the inability to think:

Organised loneliness, bred from ideology, leads to tyrannical thought, and destroys a person’s ability to distinguish between fact and fiction – to make judgments. In loneliness, one is unable to carry on a conversation with oneself, because one’s ability to think is compromised. Ideological thinking turns us away from the world of lived experience, starves the imagination, denies plurality, and destroys the space between men that allows them to relate to one another in meaningful ways. And once ideological thinking has taken root, experience and reality no longer bear upon thinking. Instead, experience conforms to ideology in thinking. Which is why when Arendt talks about loneliness, she is not just talking about the affective experience of loneliness: she is talking about a way of thinking. Loneliness arises when thought is divorced from reality, when the common world has been replaced by the tyranny of coercive logical demands.

We think from experience, and when we no longer have new experiences in the world to think from, we lose the standards of thought that guide us in thinking about the world. And when one submits to the self-compulsion of ideological thinking, one surrenders one’s inner freedom to think. It is this submission to the force of logical deduction that ‘prepares each individual in his lonely isolation against all others’ for tyranny. Free movement in thinking is replaced by the propulsive, singular current of ideological thought.

In one of her thinking journals, Arendt asks: ‘Gibt es ein Denken das nicht Tyrannisches ist?’ (Is there a way of thinking that is not tyrannical?) She follows the question with the statement that the point is to resist being swept up in the tide at all. What allows men to be carried away? Arendt argues that the underlying fear that attracts one to ideology is the fear of self-contradiction. This fear of self-contradiction is why thinking itself is dangerous – because thinking has the power to uproot all of our beliefs and opinions about the world. Thinking can unsettle our faith, our beliefs, our sense of self-knowledge. Thinking can strip away everything that we hold dear, rely upon, take for granted day-to-day. Thinking has the power to make us come undone.

Read the whole thing, because it is amazingly perceptive about what we’ve been experiencing for a while. And of course, she got there first. Perhaps the single greatest intellect of the 20th century.

Talking about the Whether

It’s funny to talk about journalists giving money.

First, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann was indefinitely suspended when the Web site Politico revealed that Olbermann had donated to three Democratic candidates.

Politico’s post included this statement from MSNBC President Phil Griffith: “I became aware of Keith’s political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay.” 

Now, the Web site The Wrap is reporting that Fox News Channel host   Sean Hannity and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough have also donated to candidates.

As the site reports: “This year, Hannity gave $5,000 to Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) political PAC and $4,800 to New York Republican John Gomez’s unsuccessful congressional race.”

I found the idea of Murdoch giving the republicans a $1 million donation kind of silly – and a lot redundant. I mean, the in-kind contribution of a single-minded, 24-hour cable puke-funnel would appear to be the balance, if not tip it. Tacking on a measly Mil for them to buy new forks after you’ve already cooked the food and set the table seems a little… crass and patronizing, not that the party much cares if they’re seen as lackeys. Just wanna be seen. Thanks for playing.

So, per the above report, Olbermann’s problem wasn’t a matter of whether he gave, but the “to three democratic candidates” part.

Right now, and over the past thirty years, it has been corporations that have loosened most of the conventional, if increasingly Orwellian, memes into society. Most prevailing ideas about health, wealth management, insurance, risk, taste and comfort have originated as some flavor of perception-shaping effort on behalf of a product or service. And we’ve greatly accepted them into our nostalgias, tagging the years and decades of our lives with brand names and theme park visits like blog posts. This has, of course, been extended into, some might argue it has in essence become, the political arena. I recommend a halt to these proceedings. Olbermann could’ve really made news with hearty contributions to O’Donnell, Angle and Rand Paul. Then the corporate ideologues wouldn’t know what to think – hippies and CEOs would both be scratching their heads, wondering who the sucker is at the table, who’s mark of the double-play wacko. That’s the kind of confusion that needs to be sewn.

Damn – I thought I had a semi-free weekend. Now I’ve got to White-paper my new de-consulting firm: Tricks of the Tirade.