Anchor for this item posted by Bernard (ben) Tremblay at Thursday, June 06, 2002; Thursday, June 06, 2002

Democratic Underground

Concerning "ugly tactics"; the moral authority of resentment
a letter as yet unsent

Rummaging around some libertarian sites after finding a right wing site that declared public education to be a left-wing conspiracy (by weaking values it would open the way for satanic behaviour, you see) I was remembering Christ's very harsh language when chastising the social and religious elite of his day ... a "band of vipers" he called them. If memory serves, he said they were "like white-washed sepulchers, clean on the outside but full of death and rot on the inside". And then, of course, there's the story of how he chased the merchants out of the square in front of the temple ... braided cords into something like a whip, I gather. It seems that, though willing to suffer personal hardship, he wasn't much for giving the lie to righteous causes of indignation. But that's not quite "scum", and then again he was the Son of God, after all, so ... but still ...

That got me thinking back to the 70s struggles ... when I was studying for the priesthood there was that clumsiness with Liberation Theology ... preferential option for the poor ... faith communities. Having had training in combat arms, when I heard that some priests in Latin American had picked up arms ... not many, of course ... but still. And of course, with the struggle against apartheid heating up ... you'll recall that Nelson Mandela used guns and bombs ... and our very very peaceful demonstration against the all-white cricket team on world tour ... priests and ministers, lawyers and doctors, students and parents, workers and kids ... of the 135 who came together, 63 of us were man-handled and charged with assault (at that time, the biggest group arrest in Alberta history, so I've been told). No tear gas, mind you, but the dogs were only metres away ... but still, the fact is we insisted on finishing our meal when the team wanted the cricket pitch, and so ... but still, "assault by tresspass"?!

A quote from Dom Heldar Camarra comes to mind: "When I give the poor food, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor don't have enough food, they call me a communist." Some of Latin America's right wing regimes did a nasty job on priests and nuns ... rapes ... being thrown out of a helicopter ... my friend survived; not all did. The nastiest countries even whacked Bishops while they were saying mass ... quite communicative, that sort of thing. *I wonder how the US funded Plan Colombia is going?*

But this libertarian site has my attention ... they have this quaint idea that fundamental rights have to be defended for the sake of us all. And I bet every one of them would pale at anything that was red ... or pink for that matter. And here's another quote!

""Don't be deceived when they tell you things are better now. Even if there's no poverty to be seen because the poverty's been hidden. Even if you ever got more wages and could afford to buy more of these new and useless goods which industries foist on you and even if it seems to you that you never had so much, that is only the slogan of those who still have much more than you. Don't be taken in when they paternally pat you on the shoulder and say that there's no inequality worth speaking of and no more reason to fight because if you believe them they will be completely in charge in their marble homes and granite banks from which they rob the people of the world under the pretence of bringing them culture. Watch out, for as soon as it pleases them they'll send you out to protect their gold in wars whose weapons, rapidly developed by servile scientists, will become more and more deadly until they can with a flick of the finger tear a million of you to pieces." --Jean Paul Marat, 18th Century French Visionary (and revolutionary)

Reading a shorter quote on one site got me thinking somewhat more worldly thoughts ... ""If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin." -- Samuel Adams. "Vain and aspiring" ... hunh ... not exactly obscene, and nothing like "scum", but hardly the sort of materialistic data-crunching I'm accustomed to being asked for. And all of this after reading a long essay where they give grudging compliments to the Oxfam report that criticises the neo-liberal agenda. (Vandana Shiva was a little less grudging, but a lot more credibly critical.) A very peculiar conjunction of focus, a singularity of concentration, not quite a consensus, but a uniformity of discontent, as though responding to a breach of some generalized expectation ... a basic indignation? Is that what rock-throwing represents, then: indignation denied and grown into resentment. But, then, to dismiss that indignation again by demeaning the angry resentment. Oh, now I have the gem I've been scrambling to uncover: the artless rock thrower's inelegant gesture of violence is explained by the insensitive rejection of those whose solidarity fails; the vicious circle of the mute appealing to the deaf who denied them their voice.

With all of this ... so many of us churning away at the blood-drenched record of an elite gone mad with greed for wealth and lust for power ... with all this I find myself still concerned by the motivates of those who demand an unrealistic perfectionism; as though this young and vigorously stumbling reply to dread and cynicism should somehow reflect a pristine serenity! It's almost as though the elite are among us, within us. Could it be that, in our socialized intuitions we see the ruling ideas of our day? ... cover your ass, maintain your self-image, and strive always for plausible deniability ... heh heh heh

I wonder what use Martin Luther King Jr. or Che had for "plausible deniability"? Perhaps they enjoyed something more relaxed: a clear commitment to their own participation first and foremost, to principled action considered in the light of their own experience, to be reflected upon in the still silence of their individual privacy. Maybe they connected more with heart and blood than with cleanly abstracted utilitarian concerns, cost/benefit considerations that are so characteristic of spread-sheet thinking. Perhaps their skill and thoughtfulness was rooted in their humanity, and their reactions to injustice, and so then the paradoxes of action and theory could be grappled with from the stable base of their authentic integrity.

But then, from the sidelines, perhaps I'm only imagining something like a pattern in the chaotic maelstrum of history ... and then again, there's something like an emancipation project in the air, so ...



Anchor for this item posted by Bernard (ben) Tremblay at Monday, June 03, 2002; Monday, June 03, 2002

In connection with a page on "Only Integrity is Going to Count" from the Buckminster Fuller Institute, I'll quote from the preface to a text on design science cleverly entitled "A Fuller Explanation":
"When R. Buckminster Fuller recalled his days as a schoolboy in Milton, Massachusetts, he related how his mathematics teacher would introduce two-dimensional surfaces by placing lines of zero thickness side by side; young Buckminster used to wonder how one could create a finite surface out of nothing. Similarly, he could not accept the stacking of planes of zero thickness to create volumes. Intuitively, he sensed that areas and volumes are as different from each other as are forces and velocities: one cannot mix quantities of different dimensionality. Accordingly, Fuller learned to compare three-dimensional objects with each other, and hence to add, subtract, and transform them from and into each other rather than creating them out of objects of lower dimensionality. In doing so he came to discard the conventional orthogonal system which has blinded architects as well as solid-state scientists, and followed natural structure in designing his stable light-weight structures."
I would like to suggest that the dimensions of material productive activity and the activity of governance, which for me includes the axis of human happiness, intersect in a no less complex and subtle way. My point being that Fuller's actions are illustrative and exemplary: by following natural structures we, as a species, can design social structures, cultural constructs and the social relations that they engage, that serve us in dignity ... that is, in security and self-respect; our constructs can serve our true happiness. This is my understanding, and this is my belief.