Saturday, April 01, 2006
Why am I writing this ? The question for some of the people who have known me for a long time might be, why am I only now writing this. Either way it seems only appropriate to address purpose upon inception. (1)
So here goes.
First, I have something to say. My parents, a couple of original do-gooders convinced me early that I had a duty to it. A successful, but self indulgent existence was far from good enough. Mitzvot were an obligation. (2) I also spent many years in my youth listening to one of my grandmothers tell me that it was going to be up to my generation to change the course of the way things were going in this world. I had and have nary an idea as to how she conceived we might accomplish this, but at the time she didn’t seem the least bit troubled that she didn’t know either. Suffice it to say, I feel an obligation to be the best me I can be.
The second part of the answer is I believe now is an important time in our history as a planet. I have to qualify that, [and get used to that phrase if you’re going to stick around, because I have to qualify it, ad infinitum, ad naseaum.] I want to be able phrase now in, if not geologic terms, at least large scale time frames. Time frames big enough to say that when I started writing this material as kid in the 80’s, it was an important time in the history of our planet and our particular species.
Be that as it may, and depending on which version you’ve heard, anywhere from 5 to 10 years behind schedule, now is an important time in the history of our planet and our particular species.
I have Spoke at and with a lot of you, some of you for a long time. Your patience and forbearance has been a blessing. And those of you who actually listened, well I don’t know if it was you’re nuts or it was your guts, that got you through it, but thank you. Thank you. It’s been a long journey. I’ve met a tremendous variety of folks from north Jersey-where I grew up, to Indiana-where I attended college, to the West coast-where I sojourned in California for nearly four years, and finally the last eight years, whilst I have lived in the South, around and about Durham, North Carolina. All those people, all of you people, affected me. Those places shaped me. The Rents first and foremost, with their Love and support, and then onward from there, my siblings, my oldest friends, the kids who beat me up in elementary school, and then skipping around and just plain skipping: Bloomington, people of the Peninsula, policy debaters, the Southerners, B.C. Mexico, the winter at the Ocean, the winter of Mine Hill. You and it has all shaped me. Take some blame America, and most uniquely Jersey, for the results.
Not only have I met a bunch of you, I have talked to a slew of you, too. Thank you so much again to the many who have graciously listened to me and given your own ideas. Whence I spew them forth, please advise if I fail to give Credit or shriek disavowal, whatever’s your pleasure, it won’t be held against you. These are but my opinions.
To underline that, I would cite from Eric Hoffer in The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements “the explanations---all of them theories---are in the nature of suggestions and arguments even when they are stated in what seems a categorical tone…[he cites Montaigne]… ‘All I say is by way of way of discourse…I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.’ ”
Please cross apply his dictum herein. Those of you who know me well, might put it in even more succinct, direct and/or euphemistic terms. These are but my opinions.
But let us head another direction for a moment, the why ? Why? And why this project?
By way of explanation on the road to why, first, what. It’s a newsletter in the form (3) of a pamphlet, each issue in a Thomas Paine-Patrick Henry mode of call to action, structured in an early 21st century “Poor Richard’s Almanac” model, tempered by a post-Gandhian knowledge that the first moment of violence in the name of a Cause undermines it, most likely irreparably.
It is called Clarion Content. I am going to publish a monthly hard copy that will also be posted on the web, for now as a blog, comment at www.clarioncontent.com The hard copies will be for fuddy duddy fiends like me. This is Volume I, Issue I. The layout and format is lousy for now, but hopefully it won’t always be like that. Email me at email@example.com to request a hard copy. (4) Or go ahead and print it out, but know I wrote it. I am open to negotiation on the appropriateness of intellectual property rights.
There will be no pics for now. I dream of pics. I have nightmares with computers. Maybe some day.
Links, maybe some links to stuff I find interesting. (5)
Ads ? Still under review. (6)
It is, however, called Clarion Content and I was supposed to getting around to Why. Content is easier. Simply, there is a whole bunch I have to say about American policy and American culture. I’ve pretty well talked some ears off about it. It is time to write it down.
The format is one Foreign Policy essay per issue, one Domestic domain essay per issue and one other vaguely cultural essay per issue. There will also be a permanent section that will accept contributions. (7) Hopefully I will be able to keep the collective back file on line. Only newbie pieces, mine or yours, will appear in the hard copy issues. On the website there will be a section for your editorial, critical, bloggian feedback. Occasionally between issues I may spew on the site, short pieces that don’t make the paper due to timeliness, continued relevance, etc. In each issue there will be a few “Swipes, Thoughts, & Pithy, F*rging Sayings from the Singularity.” If I don’t have it appropriately attributed, help me, don’t hate on me. It is all a collective endeavour. There will also be stuff, “In the Manner of Practical Advice.” Maybe even predictions. Large grains of salt are highly recommended for the well hydrated.
This first issue will be some what longer simply because I am laying the groundwork, so bear with me, I promise I won’t always be such a windbag. [Ha.]
That is the Content. (8)
Why then the Clarion ? Because a Clarion call is a call to action, and now is the time. My gut feeling is something like, “What the ***k, over ?” “Do you copy ?” “Can you read me ?” Did we notice 9/11 and did it makes us more angry or sad ? Is retribution the best answer ? Even if it were, are we getting the right people ? Are we, each of us, doing all we can to minimize the collateral loss of life ? (Which is probably a phrase that should be banned as an unreasonably cruel oxymoron, that is, any use of collateral where the damage is loss of life, seems to me Death can never be collateral damage to the being it happens to.) How can so many say that they feel that something is vaguely wrong, something is not going well with the planet, even in the face of seemingly the greatest economic times, and most technologically advanced age humanity has ever known ? (9)
We Americans have no real scarcity, yet there is a sense something is wrong. Is it environmentally out of whack ? Species are getting whacked. Or is it the Golden Rule conundrum ? Underlying Karma ? The way we struggle to do unto others ? Or a general incivility ? Or an inability to be decent to each other ? Is it fear ? I will not tell you I have the answers, only that I firmly believe we have to forthrightly address these and many other questions. (10)
What about the War ? So many fewer military personnel and so many fewer innocent civilians are getting killed both proportionately and in absolute numbers than have been in wars past, (11) yet America cringes and looks away. The state won’t even let the media show the coffins retuning draped in the stars and stripes. Americans (12) see footage of wounded Iraqi women and children on the TV, but not in numbers nearly as large as we see Survivor and the Olympics. Why ? How long would the Colonials (13) have stayed in Nam and how many more people would have died, if TV hadn’t brought the horrors of war home to the living room ? For a while the cable news networks were running a list of the American casualties of the week at the end of programs. Tremendously sad, but somehow dehumanized by the medium, it was more like a sports graphic than anything reverent.
Now questioning the War is trapped somewhere between exploitative and un-patriotic. Ick. Dissent is not un-patriotic. Dissent is often your highest civic duty, in a Universe where your first duty should never be to the State. Where were the dissenters when the State decided it was a good idea to put Japanese Americans into internment camps ? Where were the dissenters when the State sent the Cherokees down the Trail of Tears ? Do you think there were absolutely none or were they just hushed down by the tyranny of the majority ? I believe in the value of alternative sources. (14)
I fear my own radicalism and seek to temper it, anticipating your laughter and disdain, but I cannot be still. I will not tell the lie that I live or have lived the ideal example. My conception of the Universe includes a maximum of one perfection.
We need a groundswell, quick before its too late. We need to stop the presumption of de facto rule, individual ineffectiveness and stasis. “These people are in charge and we don’t have any say. We can’t do anything. It does not matter whether or not I vote, or get involved. Things are inevitable.” This rant/gripe is interlinked with the pervading sense that the World has permanent, insolvable conflicts. Be it Palestine-Israel, the Balkans, the Congo, Sudan, Cyprus, Taiwan, and throughout the former Soviet Empire. Let us seize the other side. Peace and harmonious existence is possible. Not inevitable, but not unachievable, unless we fail to strive for it. (15)
Are things moving or are we stuck in the mire ? Can we learn from our human story ? Are these grudges that will never be resolved ? Are these ancient conflicts of a world that faced the kind of resource scarcity that is no longer present ? Every year that passes with millions starving or unable to have access to clean water is all of our disgrace. There is no doubt something we can give up, governmentally, personally, institutionally to address this issue. We don’t have to give up everything, but everybody has to volunteer to give up something, and then actually give up something. What gets us now is the Nimby-ism and the depersonalized anonymity. There is implicit agreement that we should all give something up, but a generalized feeling of why can’t it start with them or the Jones’s, why does the budget have to be cut for my activity/project/subsidy (16) instead of theirs.
Do we want peace with our fellow Earth dwellers or the ability to keep holding onto our particular grudges ? Do we have to win ? Does the other side have to lose ? Does anybody win ? Are these absolutes the only way out ?
The status quo’s seeming resource scarcity is really distribution problems. It is all about how we share what we’ve got. I won’t advocate a utopian everybody is equal=equal=equal dream, (17) but rather that which no one seems opposed to, shelter and food for everybody. Ask around, it is very hard to find anyone opposed to that goal. After we have food, shelter and clean water for everybody, we can work out what’s still wrong with Health Care distribution and the concomitant population problems and resource pressures that might bring.
Skipping around and just plain skipping: thoughts on a nowhere near comprehensive list of issues that the Clarion will cover: Free trade and farm subsidies ? Estate tax ? American Tort Law ? The nature of competition ? Time compression ? Free play ? Freedom of information ? Access there to ? American Foreign Policy and Diplomacy ? Immigration ?
Eliminate the news summary and the scroll across the bottom of the screen.
Of course, I hope to stir your response and reaction.
If the big topics fail, I am going write about Sports, too. (18)
I must give some explanation of my grammar, or lack thereof, and my word usage. (19) I believe in the supremacy of meaning and the malleability of both grammar and vocabulary. I am willing to accept grammatical objections, much as I will accept policy ones, but I ask for similar leeway to defend my grammar. In my view, the rules of usage, like the rest of the world, are not fixed, but rather live in the world and evolve, and thus are eternally a matter open to debate. (20) My highest duty is to communicate to you, not to obey one objective, static set of rules about how it is appropriate to do that. It is between us to establish the dialogue and the understanding, the standards and the lack thereof. Again, I accept criticism. I believe in it. Look back at the Hoffer quote and know I reserve the right to be wrong and revise. I apologize in advance. Not only in my policy and my grammar, but my words, too. We. Me, writer. You, reader. We can use context to split up the task of forming the cloud of meaning that envelopes every word. (21)
As to the policy evaluation, I have certain core beliefs that I will share with you across time, but for the details, a Keynes quote that embodies my stance, “When the facts change, I reserve the right to change my mind.” These are my opinions in the here and now, but I reserve the right to grow, evolve, and change, and as all does, and as I do, so will my opinions and feelings. (22)
So the why’s of doing it---remember, it is about I have something I want to say. I recognize that once I put it out in the public sphere, I no longer own it. I cannot control your reaction to it, your opinion of it. I can only control my own imperfect expression of it and what happens to it thereafter is up to everyone else. Even if its only to put it in the circular file, the dustbin of history.
Its fortitude and value is all about you. Alone I scream soundless into a fierce wind. Spray binary numbers onto a chip doomed to decay. Together we can ride the wind or the fiber optic cables, we hold the power to accelerate and accentuate, with our collective voices. Your efforts alone ultimately are the key to a different future for each of us. Be kind first.
1. Even before form.
2. Not that you could tell by my behavior thus far, though I have been more cognizant of it and working harder at it in recent years.
3. Forgive me if my formatting sucks. Send help.
4. I will never, ever give anyone your information without your express, written permission. I and the Clarion Content will never sell our subscriber lists. We are unlikely to turn them over to a government, unless they personally violate the Geneva Convention on our ass, in which case, I make no promises about how I might respond to torture. Tongue hopefully in cheek rather than tethered to a wall. Write me personally with your thoughts, too, I would not assume anyone’s comments were for publication without their clear consent.
5. I may not know all the why’s and where’s of these leads, nor does a link constitute an endorsement, but I want to stimulate the conversation.
6. Feel free to weigh in with an opinion here.
7. Submit any time, early and often. I am looking for name suggestions for the Foreign Policy, Domestic Domain, and vaguely cultural other essay sections. The names I have given the sections in this issue are on a trial basis.
8. Please stop me or at least cry out, when I sound too arrogant or the Content reads like my personal diary/journal.
9. This was the case even prior to 09.11.01
10. Something that helped crystallize that thought for me from a poem by possible genius, Taylor Mali, “Declarative sentences - so-called because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true as opposed to other things which were, like, not -have been infected by a totally hip and tragically cool interrogative tone?… What has happened to our conviction? Where are the limbs out on which we once walked? …I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you, I challenge you: To speak with conviction. To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it.” Excerpted from, “Totally like whatever, you know?” Available at http://www.taylormali.com/index.html So speak up.
11. See the first chapter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control “The Century of Megadeath.” A scary read, it should be obligatory for high school social studies students. According to ZB hundreds of millions died in and because of war during the last century. Amazon has it, he was of course, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser among other things.
12. I say Americans throughout because I am one and because these are the people I know best. I have traveled relatively widely in the US, but I have not traveled so much in the World. Yet.
13. Make no mistake America is playing a colonialist role, if not absolutely, at least to the eyes of a significant portion of the world audience. Senator John McCain has been heard to liken American forces in Iraq to the British in Malaysia. A sadly apt analogy, if American believes it is somehow going to occupy Iraq until Iraqis are mature, passive and docile enough to govern themselves. This kind of paternalism can come to no good end. America has to find a different better mode and model for interaction.
14. I equally firmly believe in reading some of those with whom you disagree.
15. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, “Keep in mind that the essence of your prayers is the faith you have in them that they will be answered.” While I recommend prayer, I am not in any way telling you, who or what to pray to. Or that you have to pray at all.
16. I go back and forth on this one, but since I am going to use it I will try to explain it. It being my use of the slash /. There are places where I prefer the slash to the comma. I say I go back and forth, because I can’t decide if it is such personal grammar as to be an inferior choice or if it is a good way of communicating. Where I like the slash / is when I want to emphasize the substitutability of certain words, not to say that they are synonymous or work equally well, or combine best to express the meaning of the thought as when using the comma. Rather, the slash to separate several words, is used where each word represents an individual case/state/situation that is possible in that locus.
17. It is silly to attempt and impossible to write a comprehensive list of influences, though, I would happily spout them for hours, and still not have a complete list. I have read Hardt & Negri’s Empire and listened to the Beastie Boys quite a bit. E.F. Schumacher has also crossed my path. At Amazon H & N’s Empire
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0674006712/sr=1-1/qid=1143924954/ref=sr_1_1/102-8493971-2353718?%5Fencoding=UTF8&s=books More Amazon, E.F. Schumacher… http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060916303/sr=1-1/qid=1143925045/ref=sr_1_1/102-8493971-2353718?%5Fencoding=UTF8&s=books
18. In fact, no matter what, I will probably write about Sports, because it is a passion of mine.
19. Some would argue I just have lousy grammar skills. A case could be made. I suppose you have already noticed my capitalization. I have broad a standard for proper nouns.
20. On this view see Jacques Derrida, exactly where, well that would be in contradiction/opposition/discord with the point. www.google.com for many interesting links or your local university library for the texts or if you got the pennies www.amazon.com
21. Word meanings are not fixed for eternity, but rather shift and change. They change via and in, both, (small and large) contexts and settings of their usage. Word meanings vary for whole cultures and amongst their endless, small clique, sub-cultures. Essays on the pernicious influence of MS Word spelling and grammar check are forthcoming.
22. I have already been utterly wrong many times, and that was just this week. It may not have been the last time. Please note that I have to be irreverent, because I believe respect is earned, kindness is freely given, and humane treatment is an obligation.