"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
What Is the Purpose?
Exclusive to STR
November 5, 2008
November 4th, 2008 ' mid day.
I wonder. Here it is, Election Day, and all the world, I imagine, is focused upon the idea of who will end up holding the reins of the empire that is attempting to run roughshod over the peoples of the globe. (And space, too, truth be told!) Me? I'm lying back beginning to read a novel by W. Somerset Maugham that takes place in a land and time far away (totally aside from the fact that it is fictional). Earlier today I'd heard an interview with a man who expressed that all of "America" lives in a hologram cleverly created by those who own and craft 'the media.' It was a thought that, while new, instantly resonated within my mindspace. And the reason I choose to read the fiction of Maugham is an attempt to commune more closely with reality, the reality of the truth of life and humanity. How odd is that? We write fiction to better understand ourselves.
Tonight all eyes will be watching, hopeful or fearful, not unlike the hordes of children who thronged the bookstores upon the release date of the latest Harry Potter book, awaiting the next installment of their world. What kind of psychosis is this that commands all eyes upon the hologram? It is as though the fantasy vision of the heartland in one of Norman Rockwell's magazine covers would somehow be fundamentally changed were he to change the angel on the top of the Christmas tree in the town square.
No one expects that he will suddenly be free from the subjugation of the endless 'swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.' No one expects, or even seems to desire, the bright beacon of freedom once again shine out across the world. No. Not a single person, I bet, is thinking that individual liberty will once again be the highest value that "we" seek in this land. Who out there is imagining waking up in a holographic vision where no one need prostrate himself before a bureaucrat for permission to do the simplest thing, like maybe building a porch to sit on in the evening? Heaven forbid.
Has a one of you reading this had such a thought regarding this "most momentous of elections"?
Well why the hell not?
What happened? When I was a child, my father was invited on a business and cultural exchange trip with a few others to visit the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , the CCCP. He was never without a "guide," and every place he was taken was, for all of its wretchedness, a "Potemkin Village." I was small at the time, but one story stays vividly in my memory. He told me that rarely was he able to have a conversation of any substance with "the man on the street," but in the instances where he was asked about "life in America ," the most common question was about freedom. It seems that no one could understand the idea of freedom. They could not understand how freedom could be different from the lives that they lived. (Lives where it was required that you get permission simply to visit the next town, much less think about making any choice whatsoever regarding your occupation, or much of anything else in your life.) He told me of his answer to one man who had asked how it was different for Americans than for Russians, and my father said, "Well, for example, if I wanted to go to Paris on a whim, all I would need do is drive to the airport, hand the ticket agent my money, and board the plane. I would not need anyone's permission." The eyes of the Russian were glazed, said my father, as if this was so far removed from his reality that it was not even something he could fantasize.
I think back on that and I can no more envision that world today than could that Russian.
What is it? What is going through the minds of those at the voting booth today? They certainly can't be thinking that they are doing a noble act that will bring forth respect for, and protection of, the rights of the individual. You don't think it's that, do you? No one can be that delusional.
I picked up a book the other day, Power and Innocence, by Rollo May. Here is a paragraph I found interesting:
This dependence on magic stretches back through the centuries of oppression of the blacks, colonial peoples, and minorities of whatever sort. It was assumed that the blacks could be made passive, docile, and helpless and could be kept this way by use of built-in threats and an occasional lynching. But in the false calm, we repressed the question we should have been asking: When an individual is rendered unable to stand up for himself socially or psychically, as in slavery, where does his power go? No one can accept complete impotence short of death. If he cannot assert himself overtly, he will do it covertly. Thus magic--a covert, occult force--is an absolute necessity for the powerless. The spread of magic and the reliance on the occult is one symptom of the widespread impotence in our transitional age.
That was written in 1972. It was a different time. I think.
What is the purpose of voting? Is it any different than the voodoo doll, or tarot cards? Maybe we need to pray for a better hologram, one where people will take the time and effort to think and choose to act with conviction.
Maybe a 12-step program for voters would work. Members could claim to be "Friends of Lysander S.'
Step #1: We admitted we were powerless'that our lives had become unmanageable'
Or just buy more voodoo pins. I don't see any evidence of reason making headway.