Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Present

Marcel Proust. Can one recall a more practiced conjuror of dots connecting themselves through time’s infinite portals? When asked what he would do if the Apocalypse was, indeed, about to commence, the revered layabout replied, as only he could, wisely, because, somehow, knowingly. As once a certain ghost from Christmas Past did present a gift to the reviled M. Scrooge a gift that changed his world, M. Proust’s gift to us, also, consists of clear and genuine reflections that can change ours.

“I think that life would suddenly seem wonderful to us if we were threatened to die as you say. Just think of how many projects, travels, love affairs, studies, it—our life—hides from us, made invisible by our laziness which, certain of a future, delays them incessantly.

"But let all this threaten to become impossible for ever, how beautiful it would become again! Ah! If only the cataclysm doesn’t happen this time, we won’t miss visiting the new galleries of the Louvre, throwing ourselves at the feet of Miss X, making a trip to India.

"The cataclysm doesn’t happen, we don’t do any of it, because we find ourselves back in the heart of normal life, where negligence deadens desire. And yet we shouldn’t have needed the cataclysm to love life today. It would have been enough to think that we are humans, and that death may come this evening.”

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Media Freak

Garry Wills had him nailed a long time ago. 
Jesus, are we stupid or what?

“He was all energy and conviction, never letting up, though I was soon worn down by the emotional attrition. Every time I tried to ease my way out the door, he loomed up with new giant claims or some belligerent challenge—was I calling him a liar? Like all spellbinders, he was clearly convincing himself at least part of the time, trying to believe, with an actor’s wish to measure up to the part. Or, alternately, he would taunt me with undisguised lies that he made me respond—and had me hooked again. The weird fascination of Hitler became comprehensible at last. Much as I tried to stay clinical and observant, he involved me, made me angry, or sympathetic, or frightened; ashamed for him, or ashamed of myself for letting his emotional bullying work. He was the voice of all that Sixties mystique of “the confrontation”—the belief that sheer conflict will somehow purify, as when people in encounter groups screamed, criticized, fatigued each other down to the ultimate capitulation—and called their stripped down exhaustion “reality.” The street theatre of shouts and trashing, tear gas and taunting the pigs, was a way of moving these “encounters” out onto the public stage. My Demagogue had brought the process full circle around, taking the inflated political rhetoric back into the ego’s echo chamber. The Sixties experience—“mind-blowing,” consciousness-altering—was always some kind of trip.”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Sunday Funnies

Attention Doomsayers:
We who ignore history are not destined to repeat it. We're still living it.

The following paragraphs from the college textbook, Western Civilization Since 1500, illustrate the painfully slow pace of positive economic, social, and political change even in the most democratic nation ever to grace the face of the earth, the United States of America.

Bear in mind that these words were written many decades ago by the noted historian, Walther Kirchner, during the Eisenhower administration, and that they concern only the years 1830 through 1848.

United States. Unencumbered by old-established aristocratic traditions, the United States, a republic in a world elsewhere dominated by monarchs and vested landed interests, continued during the period 1830 to 1848 to escape most of the complex social problems confronting other Western nations.

Internal Conditions. The United States’ population enjoyed civil rights. Hereditary privileged classes did not exist; the franchise, accorded in England and France to no more than a tenth or twentieth of the population, was almost universal; the government and law courts were democratically organized. The settlement of western lands continued to act as a powerful force for democratization. Although life (except for the upper middle class of the eastern states and the plantation owners of the South) was comparatively hard and competition was sharp, America held out promise for all and, with her geographic advantages, offered opportunities for material progress unequaled in the Old World. Yet, numerous social issues persisted, even though they were of a kind differing from those in other parts of the Western world. Among them were the race problem and slavery, the question of unity between the agricultural South and the increasingly industrial North, and the issues of protective tariffs, centralized government, enforcement of law, westward expansion, and immigration.

Foreign Policies. Despite her safe geographical location, the United States early had shown strong nationalistic tendencies. Fearful of European colonialism, she had proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine (in 1823), which aimed at preventing foreign powers from gaining additional footholds in the New World. The successful development of the nation simulated nationalistic feelings and a measure of imperialism. This was evinced by the fact that the westward movement was often accompanied by the eviction or extermination of Indians; by economic imperialism, reflected in the tremendous growth of the lumber industry and in the swift development of mining for copper, silver, and gold; by foreign wars and the annexation of territory—for example, Texas in 1845, and other large Mexican areas in 1848; and by treaties, such as the compact with England regarding the Canadian border. Thus, while domestic unrest and international calm marked the European scene, in North America the situation was reversed. Internally, the country progressed without revolutionary outbreaks; but externally, expansion and wars marked the period from 1830 to 1848."


Add to these continuing problems those of the effects of globalization, climate change, international terrorism, rapid technological change causing worker displacement, widening income disparity and the crisis of having a worldwide leadership vacuum and you've got a good case to continue reading, "The Sunday Funnies". God Bless Blondie and the United States of America.