I’ve been letting wood s lot accumulate in my feed reader like so many New Yorkers on the end table. Here are some fragments I stumbled on while catching up:

I daily encounter graduate students who are dab hands at unveiling the hidden historical violences that underlie a secular, universalist liberal humanism. Yet these students’ sentient years, unlike the formative years of their teachers, have been spent entirely in a xenophobic Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush America where “liberal” is, if anything, a taboo category and where “secular humanism” is routinely treated as a marginal religious sect, while a vast majority of the population claims to engage in direct intercourse with multiple invisible entities such as angels, Satan, and God. …[T]he force of any interpretive project of unveiling hidden violence would seem to depend on a cultural context, like the one assumed in Foucault’s early works, in which violence would be deprecated and hence hidden in the first place. Why bother exposing the rules of power in a country where, at any given moment, 40 percent of young black men are enmeshed in the penal system? In the United States and internationally, while there is plenty of hidden violence that requires exposure there is also, and increasingly, an ethos where forms of violence that are hypervisible from the start may be offered as an exemplary spectacle rather than remain to be unveiled as a scandalous secret.

 — Eve Sedgwick

Despite what the American left believes, we cannot blame politicians and corporations for everything. At some point waaaaay back there it was our human and social responsibility to stand up, throw ourselves “onto the wheels of the machine,” as Mario Savio put it forty years ago. And we did not. Instead we allowed and continue to allow the persecution of those who did or still do.…

…For instance, there is the cherished notion among liberal and left leaning Americans that all this is recent, and sprang up simply because George Bush was elected. I don’t think so friends. No one man can establish cruelty in 300 million people in eight years. He can only heighten it by squeezing the people harder, encouraging fear and alienation and coldness of spirit.

 — Joe Bageant

Biden is one of the immense tribe of Washington savants who were gung-ho for the invasion of Iraq but who edged away from their support once it became less popular. Of course, the opposition is not based on any belated appreciation of the invasion’s illegality, immorality, ruinous cost, or geopolitical imbecility. The default “opposition mode” is to criticize the invasion because there weren’t enough troops. Morally, this argument is cretinous, like condemning Operation Barbarossa solely because the Wehrmacht didn’t go in heavy enough.…

To explain why the American political class invades the wrong countries, indemnifies criminals, picks people like Joe Biden for responsible positions, and engages in so many other destructive acts, we modestly propose Werther’s Law, or the Iron Law of Adverse Political Selection: in decadent political systems the most damaging policy option tends to be the one chosen.

 — Werther

The problem with American style democracy is that it is all well and good to say, “I owe no man anything. And no man owes me. I am free unto myself.” And, unfortunately, alone. No grasp of the common weal. And so we are left to depend entirely upon the state to do everything man does collectively, while we are each left to seek out the latest personal comfort or amusement.

 — Joe Bageant

As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem.… Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. And our problem is that scene in All Quiet on the Western Front where the schoolboys march off dutifully in a line to war. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.…

We are talking about obedience to law — law, this marvelous invention of modern times, which we attribute to Western civilization, and which we talk about proudly. The rule of law, oh, how wonderful, all these courses in Western Civilization all over the land. Remember those bad old days when people were exploited by feudalism? Everything was terrible in the Middle Ages — but now we have Western civilization, the rule of law. The rule of law has regularized and maximized the injustice that existed before the rule of law, that is what the rule of law has done. Let us start looking at the rule of law realistically, not with that metaphysical complacency with which we always examined it before.

When in all the nations of the world the rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this. We have to transcend these national boundaries in our thinking. Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another than we have with Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us. It’s the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That’s why we are always surprised when they get together — they smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say. It’s like the Republican and Democratic parties, who claim that it’s going to make a terrible difference if one or the other wins, yet they are all the same. Basically, it is us against them.…

We are asked, “What if everyone disobeyed the law?” But a better question is, “What if everyone obeyed the law?” And the answer to that question is much easier to come by, because we have a lot of empirical evidence about what happens if everyone obeys the law, or if even most people obey the law. What happens is what has happened, what is happening.…

We all grow up with the notion that the law is holy. They asked Daniel Berrigan’s mother what she thought of her son’s breaking the law. He burned draft records — one of the most violent acts of this century — to protest the war, for which he was sentenced to prison, as criminals should be. They asked his mother who is in her eighties, what she thought of her son’s breaking the law. And she looked straight into the interviewer’s face, and she said, “It’s not God’s law.” Now we forget that. There is nothing sacred about the law. Think of who makes laws. The law is not made by God, it is made by Strom Thurmond. If you have any notion about the sanctity and loveliness and reverence for the law, look at the legislators around the country who make the laws. Sit in on the sessions of the state legislatures. Sit in on Congress, for these are the people who make the laws which we are then supposed to revere.

 — Howard Zinn

Although Albert Camus died before baby boomers took charge of the world and placed their redoubtable imprimatur on the political scene, he foreshadowed their eventual devolution in this prescient statement: “Conformity is one of the nihilistic temptations of rebellion which dominate a large part of our intellectual history. It demonstrates how the rebel who takes to action is tempted to succumb, if he forgets his origins, to the most absolute conformity. And so explains the twentieth century.”…

We can’t blame Nixon any more, although it would be fun to still kick him around. No, we have to look inward. We’re the ones who created this mess. We’re the ones who abrogated our political idealism and slowly but surely conformed to establishment power and corporate materialism. And we’re the ones who allowed George W. Bush, a baby boomer of the worst sort, to slime his way into the presidency and bankrupt the country both economically and morally.

 — John F. Miglio

If all this talk of passivity and surrender by the multitude has got you down, check out this Boing Boing post… and then read the comments further down on the page.


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