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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Story: The Pen and the Sword

I am finding it more and more difficult to write in these pages.  It is not so much that I have less to say, although I admit to being less clear on how to say my increasingly non-language conceptions, comprehensions and feelings, but I have said most of it before and perhaps better.  There is not a constant stream of new things to say.  There never has been.  Certainly, every day events take place that, from one point of view, can be considered new, though in Reality they are only another turn of the same wheel that must be dressed up to avoid the “dog bites man” appellation.

Drawing the picture created by the dots of individual events has always been the sine qua non of the human condition: doing it well has meant easy survival and doing it badly has often meant one of the several forms of disastrous failure – with large helpings of good and ill fortune thrown in.  Someone such as myself, who has neither the resources of material, energy or interest to do original reporting or the status of ‘expert’ to do detailed evaluation of day-to-day events can only reasonable offer, hopefully evocative and perhaps innovative ways for seeing the events that inform and plaque us.

And we desperately need ways of organizing present experiences that can comport with the realities that confront us.  The model is simple, executing it ‘in reality’ is not.  Reality will always elude us, we have no facility for it, but we have the adaptive process of “Story” that, when functioning properly, designs a significant body of our community members and their behaviors into satisfactory relationships with Reality.  There is, however, a great and terrible caveat:

A metaphor that I have used before: a juggler violates “reality”; with only two hands it ‘should not be possible’ to suspend 3 or more objects in controlled flight.  And, in fact, it is only possible for a short period of time.  For most people only seconds, for some, minutes, and certainly this “violation” of reality can only be carried on for a short number of hours by even the most talented.  And so it is with the human treatment of the biophysical world: we are juggling its many properties, keeping more balls in the air than possible in the long run, but have become completely dependent on the juggling for the survival of both our numbers and the way most of us live.  It is not unnatural in such a circumstance to see the juggling as more real and vital than the Reality in which such juggling is, in evolutionary time, a short-term aberration.  It should be noted that thousands of generations may live out their lives during the juggling phase, only a few will be part of the falling down.

But this metaphor must be examined more closely before despairing – if one considers the metaphor prescient and thus worthy of despair.  The juggler may be convinced to divest him or her self of the suspended objects one at a time until the juggling is ended and the objects are all completely in the thrall of the most direct laws of nature.  And, and this is important, the juggling can be made to go on in well-controlled and regulated ways that, while risking some failures, are all designed for controlled endings after short forays into improbability.  This would be a most human way to approach life on a sustainable planet.

For this to happen we need a new Story, one in which there is real democracy, equity and social justice; by ‘real’ I mean both that these qualities of community actually exist in a functional form and that communities struggle with the real difficulties that they present.  It is my goal to, in the smallest of possible ways, to help generate that Story.  It is the way available to all of us: to tell the new Story to others.

In this new Story the central pillars of the present Story, wealth and property, are seen not as unquestionable, but as cognitive structures gone wrong and used to build structures of repression and destruction, the greatest acts of juggling in human history.  Wealth and property have historical antecedents that account for their present form rather than being the absolute and correct culmination of human economic and political thought.  From God-kings, to kings, to the struggle for the commons, property has been a great confusion.  Locke, Blackstone, Smith and Marx did their part in trying to rationalize the issues; they were just jugglers good enough for a little while.

We are seeing the consequences in international corporations and in wealth accumulations that give absolute impunity to a few millions of people – and generally people the least well equipped to empathize with and act responsibly toward the rest of humanity and the life on the earth that receives the down stream effects of that impunity.  There are only two forces that allow the present construction: the force of arms and the force of the present Story that makes the gaining of wealth and property acceptable and desirable.  If that Story were eroded sufficiently, then only the force of arms would be left – and that has never been enough.

Many of those who live and act in the Land of Impunity know these things and spend vast amounts of their wealth to control the Story, but the Story is not an army that does as it is told; Story, like a tattered mimeographed sheet passed from hand to hand in East Berlin, can prepare a revolution.  It was the Story, shared by so many, that let the Berlin Wall fall in one night as an incomprehensible, outlandish party.  It is very likely that the people didn’t even know that they had come to share a Story of such power, waiting only to be catalyzed by events.  This is the process to which we must contribute, even if we don’t know what to say or how to say it.