“Follow The Leader”

Stephen Miller – neo-fascist, racist follower of Jeff Sessions, AG, architect of the racist immigration policies, likely to run the White House Press Office soon.

“Trump TV” as a thing is actually up and running – state sponsored propaganda for The Leader, our Big Brother. Don’t know German? “Führer” means “The Leader,” “The Guide,” the only person with “the real truth” – anything to the contrary is a lie, aka “fake news,” even if absolutely true. Because “real truth” is what The Leader says and expects and demands – and you’d best conform to.

If this traitorous bastard is not standing at that narrow bridge over the Rubicon, he has already crossed it, leading probably half or more of U.S. Americans with him by belief, fear, apathy, or inertia.

A propaganda arm of any government turned openly and with full force against its own people to keep the Leader in power, to bypass free media inspection and reporting, is, by definition, an active symptom of tyranny – at least in the making.

You thought I was joking when I wrote my parts of “GOP NAZIS” and all the essays over the years before Trump and afterwards. Or you didn’t look and see what I said at all. Which is fine – I’m not the best messenger. Certainly, I’m no one, and not famous so why would you, in this age of celebrity, have known what I said or given a damn if you’d heard it?

But I am one messenger and one last vestige of an American citizenry that had faith in that Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and their expansion and protection – the protection of actual human beings, all of us.  I’m what a “regular” U.S. Citizen used to sound like.

This present “tissue of bullshit,” to quote William S. Burroughs, is not that (protection of our rights and liberties) at all. And it deserves no better than utter contempt and condemnation. The use of the values of liberal democracy to undercut and destroy liberal democracy and its values always was the weak spot in our form of government and society if enough people lost faith in our form of government and could care less about “society.”

Postscript:

“Enough,” more than enough people in the USA and Europe have lost faith in liberal democracy and civil society; it hasn’t ever been a stable thing in the US.  We went through a Civil War over it; a hundred years of Jim Crow “laws” and lynchings, bombings, the KKK, an American Nazi Party, various white nationalist/separatist organizations, domestic terrorism, mass xenophobia before and after 9/11… all alongside small steps in the direction of a genuine and humane civilization: universal suffrage for men and women from any and all backgrounds, public education, free speech and privacy expansion, LGBTQ rights, the recognition of black and Latino people as actual human beings, open borders, refuge against tyranny and violence, a decline in anti-semitism, destruction of “laws” against “race mixing,” and so on.

We almost had a public health care system for a moment.  Just a moment.

For every advance, a reaction in the opposite direction until, now, a major attempt to roll it ALL back, even the notion of liberal democracy and a republic itself, res publica, the “public thing” that benefits all as an ideal, even when not fully a reality.

THAT decline did not happen in a vacuum.  That happened because enough people lost faith in such – and don’t even understand what these things are, how precious, how delicate, how easily ruined from within.

In fact, I don’t doubt 9/10ths of Americans reading these words (if they bother to read anything) even give a damn to find out what they mean.  They (we) are angry and emotional, passionate, enthusiastic people and such people as that do not think; they act. And when they act, they destroy.  Because creation and preservation can only arise from a calm, thoughtful, care-full consideration as a pre-occupation, pre-activity, a guide for reasonable, self-restrained action later.

If I am doing anything, as I’ve often observed, it is this: Watching and commenting and theorizing for people who are not yet here.  People who may find something, anything of worth in the debris of my thoughts as I have little hope for the people presently in the grip of self-imposed or self-accepted delusions. And none of this will survive if you do not remember it and repeat it to others later, by word of mouth, and discuss these ideas.  My words will go away soon and my name is written on wind.

These, my countrymen, are not a people who will turn inward and doubt themselves and their beliefs for one moment as that requires effort and results in wonder and not a little fear and humility and a search for solid, rational answers, not the ready-made answers floating in the culture or subcultures that misguided them to begin with.  That fed them lies and tribal, parochial myths in place of truth… which is always cosmopolitan in character… that makes one a citizen of the world.

I don’t live in such a place and time.  I’m just leaving fragments of a map that might allow others, one day, to go search for that place and moment themselves.

6-7 August 2017
Richard Van Ingram

Links to some evidence:

“Trump TV” on YouTube

Keith Olbermann Predicts Trump TV, 11/3/2016

Sinclair Broadcasting Becomes Trump TV

Stephen Miller In Running For White House Communications Director

#Trump #TrumpTV #propaganda #authoritarianism #fascism#WelcometoAbsurdistan #Putin #media

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

At the Core of the Contemporary American Problem

[This is a continuation of the preliminary set of notes called “Trump and Bannon Alone Are NOT the Problem” – if you wish to read that, it is here: http://www.richardvaningram.com/?p=473
However, there is no necessity in doing so to understand what I will say here.  Clarity will be my aim.]

“You know we got to sit around at home
And watch this thing begin
But I bet there won’t be many live
To see it really end
‘Cause the fire in the street
Ain’t like the fire in the heart
And in the eyes of all these people
Don’t you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now’s the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain’t no Great Society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn’t free
And the law refuses to see
If all that you can ever be
Is just a lousy janitor
Unless your uncle owns a store
You know that five in every four
Just won’t amount to nothin’ more
Than watch the rats go across the floor
And make up songs about being poor…”
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
from “Trouble Every Day,” 1966

I.

How did Donald J. Trump wind up in office?

The American voters put him there.

Yes, he lost the popular vote by 3 million; but our system is not a direct democracy.  Because he won the states with the most Electoral College votes,
he wound up in the White House.

Never mind the Russian espionage that greased the tracks and slid him in.  Never mind he and his administration and untold numbers interacted with and collaborated with Putin and his mobster oligarchy to achieve this end.  Never mind that US Americans were bombarded with literally unbelievable propaganda across social media and through actual, legitimate news services that did not perform due diligence concerning the truth of the information and stories they spread.

No, shift your attention to the very people who read, saw, and believed the unbelievable: The voting public.  And of that public, only 25% or so bothered to go to the polls; some gave up on the process; some refused to vote for Trump but would not vote for Clinton – meaning, they did not see Trump as any sort of genuine threat.  And plenty believed and continue to believe whatever, whichever story — wholly fictional — that appealed to their gut beliefs and unexamined prejudices.

How is this situation a new thing in the world? — in the USA, at any rate.

It isn’t.  It is not new, simply qualitatively worse.

Historically, as time and human affairs are a continuum, more akin to a river than a string of pearls, each isolated and distinct, it is a difficult thing to point to any particular region of events and say, “Ah!  There.  It began there.”  It is possible to unravel strands of events back to momentous changes, though usually small and unnoticed at the moment they occur.  “There,” we say, “is the cause.”

Yet this is problematic.   It seems that human affairs (if not all affairs in this world) are the outcome of multiple causes — some more important, perhaps, than others, but all play some role; and which perspective one chooses, what questions one asks will tend to reveal a cause or cluster of causes while obscuring or hiding the others… allowing us to pretend “as if” they are not there.

(But that is another, epistemological and ontological, tale.   I mention it simply to put the reader on guard against overly simplified explanations of this and any  phenomenon.)

II.

Where did the public, the citizenry of the USA go wrong?  They did go wrong — I take this as given seeing what is running this country now and how it got into power.  There was no coup, no military takeover, nothing akin to these.  Instead, liberal democracy was employed to defeat the very idea of liberal democracy.

When Stephen Bannon says, in his pseudo-intellectual way, that he is up to “dismantling the administrative state,” he means: “destroying liberal democracy” – our republic, the res publica, the “public thing” of law, of civil liberties and civil rights, of protection of the minority against the unbridled will of the majority, whatever that “minority” may be: intellectual; non-European ethnic; non-fundamentalist Christian religious; non-wealthy white male; non-Eurocentric cultural.

He and the Trumpists are up to wrecking the notion of responsibility, social and political.  And every other virtue… which, oddly enough, are the heart of the good inheritances preserved within Western culture.

Trump himself (more on this later) could probably care less one way or another about this.  Playing on the prejudices of the white population got him power.  Being a cheap nihilist who values nothing except self-aggrandizement by any means necessary, Trump was happy to appeal to neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, neo-Klan, and other “alt right” groups as represented by Bannon.  He also appealed to as many other groups and their particular hopes and fears as well, some (if not many) diametrically opposed to one anther.

The people bought it.  They each heard what they wished to hear, ignored everything else.

One can and should see Trump as a sort of screen upon which each group projected whatever they wished for most fervently.  In return, he and his spokespeople reinforced the diverse and opposed wishes by speaking vaguely, lying outright, and by reinterpreting what was said and claimed to match each groups’ desires.

In return, each group paid attention to whichever messenger told them what they wished to hear and blocked out the messengers and interpreters who presented an opposed message to a differing group.  Everyone was promised whatever they wanted, no matter how impossible, within very few limits.

That was the activity; I think it is well-established now and noticed even by traditional political commentators from both American right and left.

How, then, did the public become disoriented in this fashion, to the point they put the most incompetent, careless candidate possible into office?

1975.

Could be that the set of moments we are looking for as a starting place (but not origin) occurred a bit before or after ’75, but 1975 will do.

By 1975, the Baby Boom came of age and the Boom outnumbered their earliest children, Generation X, tremendously; and Gen X was still underage, in control of nothing.

Those in control were mainly of the now so-called Greatest Generation which, at the time, the Boom could not hold in lower esteem.  This changed, but at that moment, the Boom lost all faith in most things the WWII Generation valued, good or bad.

Among these things was government in general and the Federal Government in particular, and not without reason.

I could talk about domestic spying by the FBI and CIA in the 1960s and early ’70s.  I could talk about the Vietnam War and the lies that escalated it and were tied up in keeping it running… for what, in the end, turned out to be no real purpose whatsoever.  When Vietnam fell to the NVA, no other “dominoes” followed.  Except in the ruins of Cambodia, which were ruins because of our illegalities in Vietnam, opening a vacuum to be filled by the insanities of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, and their “Year Zero” which we conveniently ignored.

No, the obvious place to look is Richard Milhous Nixon, the paranoid bully, and his administration that rigged the 1972 election, among other things.  Chased from office under an inevitable impeachment and prosecution, his vice-president, Ford, immediately pardoned him, placing him simultaneously in the category of guilty by admission and untouchable by law.

Now, here the people, the majority of whom still supported Nixon even as he left, saw their “hero” brought low ostensibly by leaks, the legitimate media (which began to be called “liberal,” as in politically slanted to the left), and “radicals.”  So the right wing went further right and saw that even the conservatives in Congress turned on their hero, in the end — there came the loss of faith in Congress.

The left and liberals lost faith in government down the line — governmental power was used, illegitimately , to lie to the people, oppress protesters and minorities, and send an entire generation off to die for no good reason.

As a whole, the Boomers “dropped out” again.  Became egocentric.  Stopped caring for the country in general, taking responsibility for it.  Every evil or failure was the failure of someone or something else — usually called “government.”  The hippies became the Me Generation devoted to the Hustle (in every sense) and an extreme sort of hedonism and consumerism.

By 1980, they voted Ronald Reagan into office.  Reagan who, as governor of California, hammered away at “hippies.” How strange!

But not really — Reagan told them what they wished to hear: “Government is not the solution to our problem government IS the problem.” He announced this as his administration began dismantling all the governmental programs and regulations that made the Boom the most privileged, healthy, and educated in our history.  The Boom, in turn, was more than happy to give up on the future of anyone besides themselves.

The Me Generation became Yuppies and began chasing the almighty buck.  They moved into management.  As a group, they became the “I got mine, fuck you” generation — the children of Ayn Rand and other pop-philosophy, pop-psychology, fundamentalist religious movements.  With the advent of the commercial internet, the Californian Ideology emerged, again, heavily influenced by Ayn Rand.  The belief was that, using the web, atomistic egos, each motivated by her own utterly selfish interests would cause order to spontaneously erupt, making government obsolete.

This was “The Invisible Hand” of Adam Smith and laissez-faire capitalism turned into an absolute principle of human and political reality, not simply economics (where it isn’t true, either, in any case).

2001, 11 September, New York.

On this day, after America watched a terrorist attack live on television, complete with unedited footage of desperate human beings hurling themselves out windows of the World Trade Center and exploding on the concrete below.  Then the things collapsed — something that they were allegedly designed against.

This gave rise to several things:

1.  The USA abandoned its commitment to civil liberties and rights in the name of “safety,” which is a myth of the worst sort.
2. Right-wing hate radio began spreading rumors about 9/11 being an “inside job” of some sort; “Truthers,” as they became called, spread baseless rumors that the government blew up the World Trade Center, not the jets and terrorists.  Further, they began saying no Jews died — they were warned not to show up to work that day, which is factually untrue and ridiculous.  The intention of this latter lie being to spread the neo-Nazi paranoid message that “The Jews” control world history and power — a conspiracy theory contained in the Czarist Russian forgery, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”,  a booklet from about 1900 that has been proven many times to be utterly false but which always has an audience with the fearful, prejudiced, and propagandized.
This was the beginning of a new era of conspiracy theorists and propagandists such as Infowars and Breitbart… but the internet was soon swarming with lesser known neo-fascist, Klan, and Nazi speakers smelling their moment for a power grab.
3. It was declared by the American right-wing that history had changed — that we are in a “new world” calling for a “new approach” that includes declaring wars before the fact of threat, kidnapping, illegal indefinite imprisonment, torture, murder, spying on US citizens with or without legal permission, and other acts contrary to the spirit and letter of The Constitution, Bill of Rights, Common Law, and over 200 years of interpretation and application of law in our country.

“Safety” not law, not effort, not responsibility, and never virtue.  The ends justify any means.

The majority of the people enthusiastically and angrily went right along.  They threw away their liberties, protections, and those of others without a second thought and attacked and marginalized anyone who spoke out to the contrary.

“You are either for us or against us.”

About 72% of Americans supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 23% opposed it, according to some polls.  Of that 72%, about 52% now claim they were part of the 23% in 2003, oddly.  Americans, it seems, cannot even own a mistake, even a massive one — they rewrite their own personal histories.  Example:
http://reason.com/poll/2014/10/16/poll-reveals-americans-supported-iraq-wa

2008

The “housing crash,” which was the outcome of 37 years of market deregulation, Ayn Rand/libertarian belief in an infinitely expanding, self-regulating market, and fraudulent banking practices on a nigh universal scale.

Common people were left holding the bag, including ownership of houses beyond their means to afford without credit, loss of employment, and being stuck with paying off multi-billionaires and millionaires on Wall Street with tax money to keep the banks solvent and market running.  No real conditions to help homeowners or people who lost everything in the stock market crash (after decades of being forced to place retirement funds in 401K stock investment schemes) were placed on the bail-out.  So no help was forthcoming.

This was the conservative farewell of the Bush Administration… yet people largely blamed the next president, Barack Obama as the racist reaction to the election of a “black man to the White House” began.

Donald Trump jumped on this bandwagon, fueling the “Birther” conspiracy movement — the groundless assertion that President Obama was not born in America, not an American, and so Constitutionally, an illegitimate president.  All nonsense, proven to be so again and again.

But plenty of people, white people, Boomer white people, preferred that tall tale to the prosaic reality and their elected officials on the right and harder-right got into office feeding the overt and covert racism.  Pure, hateful fiction replaced reality — and the people, having lost all faith in liberal democracy, government, law, helping one another, and half-terrified of nigh everything put the most ridiculous collection of politicians into office in 2010, 2012, and 2016.  The unifying theme: We will destroy the federal government and give the power to the states.  Pure Klan-secessionist nonsense we fought a Civil War over in the 1860s and definitively settled… for awhile.

The capstone was the election of Trump.  The ultimate representative of the nihilistic, xenophobic, immigrant-hating, ultra-nationalistic, white racist streak that feels free to walk about in public again in all states, not just the Deep South.  Some think this is the “last gasp” of the old disorder, the end of the rule of a majority white, European, nominally Christian upper class.  I think this judgment is premature in the extreme.

III.

Beginning in the 1980s, our public education system was slowly dismantled.  The general education required to raise a minimally responsible set of citizens to, at the very least, vote responsibly and informed was wrecked.  Vocational, overly specialized education for “useful employment” became the order of the day, not an education geared for historical background knowledge, clear thinking, judgment, and distinguishing false from true, doubtful from trustworthy.

It is no wonder to me that the vast majority of students who come to even good colleges and universities have absolutely no knowledge of history, even recent history.  Math, yes.  Some science, maybe.  But plenty of them are functionally illiterate — they can read a page out loud perfectly well, but as for interpreting it meaningfully, not so much.  Nor do they care or believe such is important.  The function of their hoped-for degree is an entrance ticket to a good, high-paying job, and that is all.

And the average attention span is next to nonexistent if the classroom is not kept as entertained as possible and everything broken down into bits than can be regurgitated on a test… preferably multiple choice.

The rest of the citizenry cannot get into college; hardly anyone can afford it with the destruction of the Federal Grant programs.  So they pick up their education off mass media — whatever mass media repeats the rumors that square up with their ingrained prejudices and never challenges them to doubt themselves and their beliefs.

A “self-organizing” populace, indeed:

…Otherwise known as a “mob.”  And all a mob can do is go along in the general direction everyone else is going because “they” say to do so.  Who are “they”?  No one in particular.  Common opinion.  Yesterday “they” loved the Iraq War; today “they” hate it and even lie about their support for it.  Because it’s “the thing to do.”

Not following along makes one seen as an “outsider,” even an “outlaw,”  Dangerous.  Perhaps such a person is a threat to our safety, is the general thoughtless thought.  Isolate them, ignore them; eventually, doubtless, attack them.  Direct action — violence, the “solutions” of fascism — not indirect action and tolerance, which are the values of civil society and liberal democracy… which are quaint, delicate things we can no longer afford in this new, muscular age of action and destruction.

Donald J. Trump and Company are simply the utterly common, vulgar, valueless destructive mob writ large.  “He speaks his mind!” — as if he has a mind or clear thoughts.  “He sounds like one of us!” — which is absolutely true — and the sure sign we are as deep in trouble as a society and people as we have ever been.  He and they (the GOP and the people who support them) are here to destroy, not create, not preserve, and certainly not to learn.

IV.

Do not look to me for answers beyond this point.

Not that I don’t have suggestions or some understanding.  But no one is listening. People do plenty of talking and hearing; but there is precious little consideration and listening,   My voice, added to that cacophony, will be just one more noise added to the din at this moment.

“People say,” “they say.”  This is an age of gossip and lies and the cheapest of fictions substituted for truth.  And of a populace unequipped to preserve or even value a constitutional republic, a liberal democracy:  the default preference is for action based on gossip and lies that sound pleasant, for cashing everything in right now; not for the effort required to truly be a citizen, an individual apart from, yet a part of and  responsible for her community both now and for a future she will never see.

Nothing I say will matter in the face of that.  So, I do more showing than telling.

25-25 July 2017
Richard Van Ingram

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A Stranger in a Strange Land

You can’t go home again… nor ought you try.

Thomas Wolfe, dear brother, lost and gone, but never far from my ear, I remember reading your wild books the first time, raging around that mountain college campus, no one giving a damn, you and I silently trading stories in the catacombs of my soul.

But the trade was mostly one way as you had lived and I was just a cheap 1980s version of a half-drunk Childe Harold and Eugene Gant filled with great sorrows at the ruins of humanity, but equally grandiose visions, hopes, for a future rebuilt on that wreckage.

There was no way back. I had no business where I was, no life, the marrow had been taken from the cracked bones of that place a century before my wayward birth. Wasted. Gold and copper gouged out of the earth, the miners’ families scattered to make do at… whatever.

What was there to remain for?

But I thought “home” lay off and far away, a “someday” as much as “somewhere.”

Thirty-something years would pass before I discovered there is no home here to be found or made, exactly, nothing permanent or even aeviternal. All is flux and fire in this world and this is the world in which I was made to live, to make a life, to share, travel within, to receive. To leave behind.

I am Gershon, a stranger in a strange land, the wanderer, the one who prepares.

Thirty-something years wrong as I could be before that stupidity in me, the haunting ghost of optimism that lingered from childhood, was buried with the whispering corpse of pessimism. Life is here and to be cared for, cherished in all its imperfection — what it amounts to, we’ll see. Neither good or bad, but what can be made of it or endured; what lies beyond is not my business.

My suspicions are that there will be an age of more ruination before anyone cares to build something better again on the wreckage I began to glimpse 33, 34 years back — I will not live to see that. That is my fate; perhaps yours as well, whoever you are. There is no going back — what lies forward may be an even more ridiculous form of ruination.

A petty, greedy, cheap age this turned out to be; gaudy, all surface and shallow as a mirror. Ages such as this come about… they can be the end of civilizations. We’ll see, in this case.

I’m a stranger here, sent to witness and wander. What it will or won’t end up mattering is as much beyond me as HaShem. And in my case, I must become who I must be.

Sleep well, Thomas Wolfe, Byron, Goya, Hogarth, Voltaire, Swift. and so many others close and far — we each play our roles. None small but most unnoticed. How well we pull it off, we’ll see in the long stretch of time and fiery change.

Richard Van Ingram
22 January 2017

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

For All and For None

Trepidation — that is what I experience much of the time when I speak of anything important, make an image, write words.  The struggle with this, for me, is intense and often crippling: Is this a genuine fear of hubris — of trespassing on matters I am not called to explore?  Or is it a form of grandiosity — and, mind you, grandiosity resides in the strangest of locales?  I mean, am I afraid to speak because I “know” many will hear  and some believe?

Do I really possess that latter power?  People will be moved to action because of my words and drawings?

That, truly, is foolishness.

The power to speak, to a degree, is something I can perform; the power to speak rashly and with poor judgment, even incorrectly out of naivete or stupidity — that is a defect that often possesses me.  The desire to please: well, that is a wretched thing indeed and often lies behind the moments I’ve played fast and loose with truthfulness in favor of rhetoric.  A tongue may be golden because it passes on a genuine gift; or it may be but gold-plated because it is manipulative, seeking lesser things, seeking ultimately to receive, not share, not help, not mentor.

Those moments, the latter sort, are fewer and fewer as I mature, and haste born of passion is something I spend time in extinguishing.  Delay and consideration are not luxuries, not for a human being — they are among the necessities.

So, I can speak, I can write, I can make art — and these may emerge from deep meditation and consideration, restrained, or they may be extravagant and self-aggrandizing. Even the silence can be grandiose if not properly motivated… and no one, outside myself, can tell or judge my motivations in such matters without themselves attempting to substitute a manipulating fiction for my own story, the story that is my autobiography, is me in this world.

As for treading where angels fear to go… that is the birthright and responsibility of a human.  The world, this world, the world of life was no more made for angels than it was for monstrosities — morally stunted or deformed egomaniacs or zealots who never doubt themselves because “They Know.”

“They Know” what the Absolute Truth is, as if they were gods, and they know what they desire, and they will possess what they want or destroy any who get in their way or resist.  In such manner, people make themselves a living plague, something to be completely avoided or resisted.

Angels have no choice.  Monstrosities choose to serve the black depths of insatiable ego at any cost, rationalizing and creating whatever fiction suits them best in the moment and in the long-term.

‘Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” ‘ Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14

I’ve considered this passage from the sage for a very long time.  Years.  In fact, I meditated on it before knowing Hillel (or anyone else) summed this very human crisis up as succinctly as he did.

Notice the three questions: One without the next is misleading.  And the first question has, itself, two portions, and if that question is not adequately faced with some humility, all is lost.  The error in interpretation will breed a deadly monstrosity called “egoism.”

The commentaries point out that, in the first question, two “I”s, not one, are referred to — The first is said to be the sacred, holy “soul,” my – and your – true self that has never departed from the presence of HaShem – The Ineffable One.  That “I” is pure and untouched by this world, in a deep sense — the sense of the prayer, “My soul within me, she is pure.”

Obviously, I am not pure in any really meaningful way — I am full of error, stupidity, foolishness, imperfections, even evil.  Part of me is stained black as night.  I have done wrong, many, many times.  But that other “I” — she has done no wrong and will not.  How odd.

Why?  How can such a paradox exist as a unified “me”?

Because, in part, the burning mystery of that Spark of the Divine — the “image and likeness” – is the “I” whom I must strive to bring forth within this world of history, circumstance, flux, through the vehicle of my actions and intentions, however limited.  The first “I” is my destiny, the one that I must choose to realize and make my vital project, that guides and gives form to my life in whatever time and in whatever place I am given to perform it.

If justice is to be here in the world, I must choose it, value it, interpret it, and become a just person by consistent and painful degrees.  If there is to be mercy, forgiveness, courage, thoughtfulness, carefulness, generosity, peacefulness, beauty, truthfulness, hopefulness… if there are to be qualities such as these, I must bring them into the world in my own way without departing from their standards, their requirements.

Thus, if I am not for me — if my deepest Self does not shine even dimly for me, guide me, orient me, direct me to true Light, and if I do not choose to “become who I am,” to actually perform my proper labor, my destiny, my work… no one else can force me, perform my work – however modest – in my place.  No one else can become me… or you, or any of us.

In the words of Ortega y Gasset, paraphrased, “We are each irreplaceable, each necessary,” all of us, each pursuing her destiny, all supporting her.  Human existence is a matter of “all of us or none of us.”

Perhaps human life has always seemed cheap to most people — I do not know.  We are faced, once more, with entire groups of people, majorities, who have decided those “unlike them” are “The Other”: and The Other is the object of fear and hatred, to be expelled, monitored, locked up, destroyed.  Instead of beholding an Alter-Ego, “another I,” when considering others, they take full possession of “I” for themselves and themselves alone, their tribe, their beliefs, their skin color, their fictions.  Anyone else, any dissent, any culture, individuality, creativity, belief, even tribe or color or any other form of love than the majority’s becomes threatening.

Threats, if taken seriously enough, get eradicated after being randomly defined as “unnatural,” “wicked,” “abominable,” “lies,” “leeches,” — any and everything except “human” and sacred.  Criminals by birth.

So – “If I am only for myself, who am I?”  Even HaShem “stooped” to grant humans existence out of nothing; The Divinity shared with us the great gift of being, and there was no necessity in it.  We did not have to come into existence — any one of us or all of us together, even this or any other universe.  Even the possibility of universes is not, in itself, self-explicable in the sense of metaphysical being.  The Divine began – as far as we are concerned – by sharing something beyond comprehension with us, out of a free, creative choice, out of mercy.

Out of an inexplicable love and friendship.

And what is given, then, is given to be shared, not hoarded up.  Not given here but refused out of disdain there.  We receive, we learn, we create in order to pass on, to share, not because it must be “earned” by the other, but because if I do not share, who do I become by my selfishness? How can I become myself, my true self, without acknowledging the other?

It is not as if I, myself sprang into being without others — in reality, first, there are the others: only afterwards and slowly is there the “I” who exists in the world, who begins to value and choose and create.  I emerge from the others and their labor.  They gave me language, they gave me beliefs, ideas, they taught me to think, to value, they gave me culture, they passed on to me certain valuable (and not so valuable) practices — and even where wrong or misguided, I cannot turn around and perform the labor — give the gift — of improving, reforming, or even excising errors from the culture for the future without, first, being brought up and given certain gifts.

“If not now, when?”

When will I choose to learn that I and other implicate one another, require one another?  When will I begin to doubt myself long enough in to hear my “True Self,” my calling, my vocation, my destiny?  When will I perform who I am — become who I truly am?

Now.  Or never.  You and I have a now that is ever-passing; soon enough, there will be no “now” that includes me, even as a memory.  Only a now that includes whether or not I did my work, did it well, did it poorly… and no one save HaShem will have any memory of that.

“…[I]s it your reputation that’s bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of those applauding hands. The people who praise us; how capricious they are, how arbitrary. And the tiny region it takes place. The whole earth a point in space – and most of it uninhabited.”

Marcus Aurelius, THE MEDITATIONS

No, it is not that your life is meaningless: It is that your life and the lives of all other people are the only conduits of meaningfulness in this universe we know anything about.  Yet meaningfulness and fame, fortune, comfort, and other preferable situations — there is no link between these two sets of things at all except accidentally, in terms of “fortune.”  If one only lives for the “preferable” and falls apart when these depart — as they must, one will never strive for meaningfulness.  One will fail to value it.  One may even grow to find meaning repulsive and painful.

Hence, monstrosities are born, create themselves, serve themselves, demand service for themselves, all while ignoring and discarding… themselves.

And, so, we arrive at the end of all I wish to say for the moment.

Richard Van Ingram

20 November 2016

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

It HAS Happened Here.

It HAS Happened Here – free pdf

it-has-happened-here-cover

it-has-happened-here-foreword

it-has-happened-here-2

it-has-happened-here-3

it-has-happened-here-4

it-has-happened-here-5

it-has-happened-here-6

it-has-happened-here-7

it-has-happened-here-8

it-has-happened-here-9

it-has-happened-here-10

it-has-happened-here-11

it-has-happened-here-12

it-has-happened-here-13

it-has-happened-here-14

31 October 2016

Richard Van Ingram

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Imminent Doom & Other Vacation Spots

“An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress,

Nor is there singing school but studying

Monuments of its own magnificence;

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come

To the holy city of Byzantium.”

 

William Butler Yeats

from “Sailing to Byzantium”

 

Going within – the passage into dark, deep waters in the eternal night of the cavern of subjectivity. Will one arrive at Byzantium or any shores at all?  In the flashes of lightning the seas are rough, whitecapped, and in the gloom the sailor beholds monsters in the deep, some with shining eyes; they nearly surface menacingly and then dive down, down into the abysmal mysteries where all dreams and nightmares sleep.

 

Crises – will the wife leave or throw me out due to dissatisfaction?  Will I maintain what post I have from month to month teaching philosophy to the resistant and sometimes thoroughly uninterested?

 

 “What’s this got to do with computer technology?”

 

Indeed.

Or earning a living, if that’s defined in economic terms as Americans and nearly all the world, now is inclined to believe and believe fervently.  Come on – get the show on the road; we know nothing of this “Byzantium” or an “interior life” or retreat.  Nope.  We are storming the gates of the future and seizing whatever is there to be taken for booty.  By any means, let me tell you, and then we will be happy. 

 

Happiness, damn it, and nothing less, happiness and ease and progress.  What use is history, sir?  What point is all this nonsensical talk of “limit” and theory and value – value?  I’ll show you value: New car every year, fistfuls of cold Benjamins, big houses, vacations, and the corner office with the window.  Or whatever.  If I can touch it and spend it and use it, it is all the “value” I care to know anything about.  And, of course, old man, leftover from some dead age, you have nothing to teach me about that.

 

Indeed.

 

We have the monuments of our own magnificence – the skyscrapers and jets, the all-knowing oracle of the internet: science and its children, physical technologies.  Not that we know anything of science or the culture required to keep the enterprise alive; but we do know the value of antibiotics and facelifts and faster cars and air conditioning and the iPhone. 

 

No, I’ve little to add to the lists of what you already think you know.  No, I’ve less than nothing to tell you about making money or keeping it or attaining status of any sort, much less more than token and impermanent respect and its false substitutes.  How else to explain these “tatters upon a stick”?  It’s not as if I can afford a new suit and that’s not by accident.  Yes, I shop at the thrift store.  No, I never made enough at my art to pay the bills or fill the car with gasoline more than a few times.  Yes, it’s depressing.  No, I’m no one to envy.

 

If you’d only worked harder… or, my favorite, “Worked  smarter.”

 

God knows, I’m not smart or else I’d fit right in.  Even the cheapest village has a place for its idiot and I couldn’t even get that job and hold it long.  Adios, hit the road, Jack and don’t come back no more, no more, no more.

 

So, here I am, as happens more and more often, in retreat, gone within on the high, mean seas, sailing for a myth near my heart which, too, is probably a myth.  The world outside has gone mad, at last, or, as it would say back to me, I was always crazy to expect the world not to experiment with every form of drug, even fascism, even the destruction of civility and sociability and tolerance and, and, and….  Hell, we, as humans, have done this over and again for well over a hundred years – why not let America have its turn at the table of pure weirdness?  Cash it all in and eat to our bellies are full-to-bursting with satisfied paranoid strangeness and hatred, violence and death?

 

After all, we owe it to ourselves.  Mom and dad’s left us the credit card and gone on permanent vacation – let’s have a party and only invite “our  kind,” hire security to beat the hell out of any gate crashers and televise it all, just for fun and ratings.  Why not?

 

I got tired of saying, out loud, “How long, O Lord?  How long?”  Yeah, I still pray it, but deep inside while taking the night journey to Nowhere.  Or “Not-here,” at any rate.

 

You go on your permanent vacation and leave me to mine.  You’ll be more the missed.  Genuinely.  If we survive this savage and ugly period of history, perhaps I’ll come back out and sing my tuneless songs of philosophy and share other sorts of magical words and draw some pictures.  And maybe you’ll be interested then.  But not now.  I know and it’s not your fault – the pink slip was handed to me a long time ago, in childhood, and I was too much of a dunce to read it rightly:  the ticket to Byzantium, not the inaugural ball or even to any sort of position that would show… well, hell, not even something like my great-grandfather’s job as head of the custodial department at the local college.

 

He could at least raise a family off that and maintain property with some dignity.

 

Different age. 

 

Ages pass.  I was not born for the past and, I fear, not for the present.  My country is the one for old men who have passed, are passing, and are yet to be.

 

27 May 2016

Richard Van Ingram

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A Prelude to Politics 2016

This post is not political, but philosophical, which immediately means many who see the word will treat this as toxic, if not boring. And we all must be thoroughly entertained constantly at all costs, right? Being incapable of playing “entertainer” 24 hours a day, I will proceed in any case. Read on at your own risk.

I am not writing about politics presently because of several reasons, the chiefest of which is: There is so little common cultural and intellectual background between me and most people in my country at this point that even the simplest of concepts do not mean the same thing by me and them when shared.

This seems a small matter. Perhaps I am a poor speaker or writer. Or perhaps I misunderstand what I am talking about. If you wish to take the risk that either of these is likely, ignore what I say and stop wasting your time.

Should you take the side of the bet that in this one area of expertise — the one in which I have read and studied intensely, with which I have painfully struggled, wrestling myself and the history of ideas and my circumstances since 1984, increasingly so since 1990 — I might have something to say, go further.

Why do I think there is little cultural ground shared between me and others? Is it that I am an elitist? Grandiose?

No. It’s neither of these things, not exactly. The grandiosity is unlikely as my medications suppress that psychosis while inclination and personal history tend to create in me a certain sense of inferiority. Inaccurate, but weighty.

Elitism — I do not think some are born “better” than others or “more human than human.” Yet, fortune and labor conspired over the course of 50 years to create an odd form of human life, the life of a specialist in general knowledge… a philosopher.

This vocation requires that I take in as many perspectives as is humanly possible, reconcile them in some rigorous fashion, and produce an ever-growing multiple perspective vision of existence explained with no more and no fewer theories than is absolutely necessary to attain truth. A human truth, not absolute, but not subjective either, one befitting “the height of our times.”

And that sets me apart, as I cannot live without bearing the burden of this task, not for my sake, but for the sake of truth… and then, in turn, for the sake of other humans who also must live from truth or else die stunted feeding off “myth” (in the worst sense) and rumor and outright lies passed to us as “truth.”

An antiquated but ever-necessary vocation, a very human vocation, out of fashion (besides, it does keep attempting suicide) but always required if humanity is to keep being human and civilized and not merely “survive.” Yes, we could choose to just survive as something less-than-human, something inhuman, and humanity also keeps making this attempt on occasion: This perennial attempt to throw off the creative burden of living-well and living-together to descend to the simple violence of running away and forgetting and selfishness.

But should we, or the majority of us, choose that path with the technology of the past age lying around the result will ultimately be widespread death, if not annihilation as those bent on survival will have no care whatsoever for questions, least of all whether to use the technology, when, or even why it is here, how does it benefit some form of beings we used to call “humanity”? How can there be any notion of the “common good” once I have given up on “others” and the future and serve only my own private passions and opinions and desires — in short, only the almighty “me”?

I live in a place that fantasizes it is the land where no one must care for any burdens whatsoever yet the future will turn out well for it. Questions are burdens; values are burdens; learning who to become and choosing to be the right person is a burden; helping and caring for others, even those we may be predisposed to dislike, is a burden. Learning is a burden. Human life, life lived fully as a human being is a burden.

The alternative is to give up on burdens, as we seem to have, and run amok — to be entertained cheaply, to spend lavishly, and to “get by” knowing as little as possible outside our specializations… if that much. The civilization and world we just emerged from and are now pretending we are immune to considering was built on books. Books, the reading of them, understanding them, and keeping those dead words of the past, good and bad, alive in a conversation built from our living thoughts. It was built on learning from and arguing with and attempting to surpass what was handed on to us through those books.

It is not so much that there are ready-made answers in those books, but the foundation for questioning — ourselves, one another, our world. In fact, in those books are the roots of the very beliefs most of us count-on but of which we are mostly unaware, beliefs good and poisonous both. In them are the schematics and maps of our souls and the world we find ourselves within and, if we go further individually or together, we must understand and consider these root theories and the historical needs that gave rise to their creation.

All so we can seriously consider and question and reform… and discard, if need be, in favor of creating theories more appropriate to where we stand in history, theories in and through which we can better believe. But that requires effort and, yes, effort is a burden… it is THE burden.

So, no, it will do no good for me to talk anymore about the more superficial layers of common existence — such as politics — because I and my audience do not even vaguely inhabit a similar world. To speak is already to be mis-understood in too many cases and being misunderstood now is a threat to the hyper-emotional egos punishable by.. death. Death by gun, unemployment, loss of insurance, homelessness, ostracism… the list is long and indefinite, but effective.

Not that I will remain silent even on the topic of politics, but when I decide to speak, as threatened days ago, I expect that this year, of all the years in which I decided I had things to say — this year will be the one in which words are either pointless, as those who need them worst are least capable of even desiring to decipher them, or they will result in something like violence. And I intend to be party to neither nor have I any great wish to be liquidated quickly or slowly over sharing ideas and standing by what is valuable.

Not that cowardice will keep me or any public intellectual silent in perpetuity. It’s my burden, gladly accepted and lived for a long while, to share my own witness to truth, inasmuch as I can grasp it. But only at what seems the right moment. At that moment, I imagine I will say what I have to say and hand on whatever I have learned and received. Whether anyone accepts what is said, much less bothers to listen… well, that’s the risk of talking with a purpose; Nothing new in that.

The new thing, the thing that has emerged finally, in a way that cannot be ignored, is that any potential “audience” cannot really hear what someone like me says. We sound as alien as if we came from some foreign planet no matter how plain the English in which we decide to speak. One of us is trying to make sense by appealing to trans-subjective standards — the crowd being addressed could care less about that as long as they get their way… by any means required to impose their desires.

And that is enough for now.

14 March 2016

Richard Van Ingram

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

ICE STATION ZEBRA TRANSMISSION 27 January 2016

ICE STATION ZEBRA SURFACING FOR TRANSMISSION
27 January 2016

The Doomsday Clock is now sitting at 3 minutes to midnight but, then again, I’ve lived with the assumption since age 14 that it was about a hair’s width off if not 7 or 8 minutes past.

Pessimism? Some days. “Realism?” I really have no use for most people’s “realism”; it’s usually just an excuse for lazy choices and no effort. And, sure, there are those days I collapse in exhaustion and don’t plan out how to get things done as well as I ought; I lose my temper; people disappoint me; I disappoint me. Like the Steely Dan song “Bad Sneakers” goes:

“Five names that I can hardly
Stand to hear
Including yours and mine
And one more chimp who isn’t here…”

3 minutes to midnight, people. It always is. That’s why I make the attempt to adjust myself to the situation and not expect the situations to adjust to me. That would be the depths of blinding idiocy. In the end, I just don’t have the time to waste on my temper, disappointments, other people’s foolishness, anyone standing in the way of my small but essential mission on Planet Earth. Essential because, if I don’t do it, no one else will and no one else can do it quite as oddly as I can.

Square peg, round peg — the problem is, I’m not a peg.

I’m neither hammer nor nail; knife or meat.

I have chromosomes but I’m not them, as wrecked as that corkscrew DNA of mine is on paper. Besides, once I’m dead, my corpse will still have those same chromosomes, the same number. Theoretically, you could clone my body — you wouldn’t get me back, though (not that I expect anyone would want to do so; and I wouldn’t want to be cloned, anyway). No, I am my autobiography in the context of my history and circumstance. Just as you are. The chromosomes and genetics are just circumstance — the stuff we adjust ourselves to and create ourselves with.

Sometimes the circumstances are helpful — as in, cooperative with my plans — and sometimes they resist and I adjust accordingly. Eventually, at least. Acceptance is the only meaningful alternative in the face of some situations, people, attitudes. I can’t change any of them without their cooperation. So, I’ve just got to go about my business as effectively as I can. Or change directions. Or make the resistance my rock to push up that hill.

“Acceptance” does not mean “approval.” No, many things and many activities and attitudes violate many standards that I reasonably measure my life against and values I work to instantiate in the world. They are antithetical to everything I’ve struggled to learn and correct within myself, no matter how imperfectly. I disapprove of many things, argue against many things and ideas and beliefs, offer alternatives, and satirize some of those as acidically as possible.

Will it have an effect? It doesn’t matter. It makes me who I am to do these things, to bear witness, to bark out the warning little dog that I am. The barbarians may be within the gates but my job was only to warn of the approach, being a guard dog, not a war dog or a master of anything except myself.

3 minutes to midnight.

I read, as a child, that it took maybe hours for the bodies of the large dinosaurs to die even though their brains were disabled, say, in combat. Why? The bodies were so large that the signals sent from the brain took quite awhile to play out even after the brain was gone. But, then again, cut a chicken’s head off: It’s not huge but it takes awhile for its body to figure out it’s dead, too. And dinosaurs evolved into birds… but the point is, we may be 7 or 8 minutes past midnight, people. We may be already dead as a civilization — we’re just so intricate and byzantine in construction that the stuff that keeps us, as a people, held together in a culture and collection of subcultures may be already be fatally “gone.”

And that “stuff” is a certain core of values and ideas, interpretations of those, and belief in the interpretations through social institutions. We may well have “irony-ed” and “sarcasm-ed” and “distrusted” our way out of existence. And are just too damn amused to see it.

I’m unsure, but I fear I may be right. I thought about this hard for years before saying it out loud in 2008 on a friend’s porch one night. But I was drinking as was everyone and no one took me seriously. Lit another cigarette and let it slide… but the thought’s haunted me for years. Something very similar was probably haunting Nietzsche in his maturity before he lost his mind to permanent syphilitic dementia and exhaustion.

He was the watchdog sounding the warning nihilism was approaching but was optimistic new values could be created to replace out-of-effect ones. Ortega y Gasset, in the face of totalitarian communism and fascism, sounded the alarm that people were about to attempt to substitute science and technology for meaningful values.

Much less importantly, I’m here in the wreckage, the aftermath 80 years after Ortega wrote his essay on this topic, to bark that people chose to make nihilism a “style of living” and materialistic reductionism a pseudo-scientific dogma and, equally literalistically, to take up an anti-scientific religious fundamentalism and a legal theory called “Originalism.”

All that and world destroying technology besides. But all this technology is just the dinosaur’s dead body staggering in a pantomime of life, the headless chicken running drunkenly around the yard,

…Ideas which you aren’t paying attention to because they are not amusing, spectacular, or sexy as the cell phone you stare into: You can’t make “memes” out of them that will “go viral.” Legs are what we want on social media, right? Numbers, not qualitative gravity. Things that travel with the speed of push-button prejudice and half-second wisdom.

3 minutes to midnight.

Too much for me, all this. I’m just a guard dog, an underdog, largely an observer and a survivor. I get by being underestimated as my pedigree isn’t much. This means I’m not often noticed, much less heeded; but it does not mean I don’t see and know and put things together, if slowly. It doesn’t mean my small message doesn’t have an important core of truth beyond it.

Unfortunately.

Richard Van Ingram

ICE STATION ZEBRA ENDS TRANSMISSION

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Letter to My Students, January 2016

 This is the letter I write my students each month; it differs from month to month, depending on circumstances and what I’m compelled to teach and leave each unique group — and some particular individuals who rarely know I’m speaking directly to them in passages.  I don’t know that it matters; I don’t know it doesn’t.  We never know — we do what seems best by our best efforts to discover who to be.   This is part of my effort, such as it is.
I send a letter to my classes each month.  Lucky you, it’s your turn,  The only test it’s “on” is life.  It begins with a quote from a song to set the mood:

“It’s a beggars life, said the Queen of Spain
But don’t tell it to a poor man —
‘Cause he’s got to kill for every thrill
The best he can.
Everywhere around me
I see jealousy and mayhem,
Because no men have all their peace of mind
To carry them.
Well I don’t really care
If it’s wrong or if it’s right,
But until my ship comes in
I’ll live night by night.

“When the joker tried to tell me
I could cut it in this rube town,
When he tried to hang that sign on me
I said, “Take it down.”
When the dawn patrol got to tell you twice
They’re gonna do it with a shotgun,
Yes, I’m cashing in this ten-cent life
For another one.

“Well I ain’t got the heart
To lose another fight
So until my ship comes in
I’ll live night by night.

“Well I don’t really care
If it’s wrong or if it’s right
But until my ship comes in
I’ll live night by night.”

Steely Dan

“Night by Night”

from the album Pretzel Logic

1974

When my thoughts bother me, I sit up half the night or longer.  Most nights, I’m awake as if Truth herself will come over for a visit and ask for tea and cake in return for a good talk.  That’s not going to happen.  Instead, I meditate on things; not idly, but actively, turning problems over and over in my mind.  Sometimes I actually make some progress, though it may take years.

 

Genius I don’t have.  But stubbornness and creativity – those are my cursed-blessings.  And all curses are blessings and all blessings curses, depending on what attitude you take to them.

 

Truth, goodness, beauty: These do not “just arrive” in our lives.  We have to go out and struggle for them, fight for and pursue them with all our might or we get no closer to them than the day we were born.  Maybe we fall further from them.  Because mature activity itself brings truth, goodness, and beauty into the world inasmuch as humans directly experience these.  We see them in an example of a life lived at a high level of intensity, not satisfied with just any old standard or none at all; we see them in works well-made, well-performed.

 

I have seen beauty and honor in a janitor assiduously laboring at cleaning toilets; I have seen viciousness and sluggardly behavior in managers and powerful people in high places.

 

It is ethics that allows us to take what others might take as a circumstance full of curses and turn them to a great gift for themselves – because we are what we choose to do, how we choose to do it, and the standards we choose to live up to; and the same is a gift for others at the same time.  It is a failure of morality that allows some to take the greatest of fortunate circumstances and turn them into a living hell for themselves and those they touch in any way.

 

Think of Enron.  Jeffery Skilling told his professor at Harvard, “Smart?  I’m a fucking genius,” if you recall.  If that is an example of “genius,” I’ll choose to remain poor, worried, cautious, contemplative, artistic, and stubborn.  I’ll choose to remain dissatisfied with myself and continue working at being a little better each day; I’ll continue being not so certain of myself, always having a bit of doubt, and judging myself by a higher standard than I use for others.

 

And, as I told you all, I’m not paragon of virtue.  Or anything else.  I just make a genuine attempt to care until I am exhausted from not sleeping.

 

I worry over my students.  This month has done none of us any favors and I’m not certain I turned the situation to the best effect in how I handled it.  As it’s practically over and I can only correct future versions of the course to adapt it to changing times, there’s little I can do about that.  I had more students in both classes than usual and the work isn’t designed for huge classes.  We had fewer days in which to do the work and I lacked about six hours of lecture to guide you.

 

I have compensated by grading with a lighter hand than usual, though many of you would have done well either way.

 

That aside, if you walk away from this class with anything, walk away with this much:  You cannot afford to make ethical decisions arrived at by “your own personal experiences” and nothing else.  Besides being haphazard and lacking in consistency, you, at the beginning, have no idea where your moral beliefs originated and whether that origin was to meet an actual problem you face or whether it was well or poorly constructed.  You have no idea if the interpretation of the belief you were taught and is reinforced by your culture or subculture is the best interpretation available.  Worst of all, you don’t know if “your personal experience” is limited (it is) to the point of being misleading.

 

No, you must acquaint yourself with the history of ideas to find out where your beliefs came from; you must acquaint yourself with general history to find out how the culture you emerged from originated; and you must study philosophy and the branch of it called ethics to learn the basic theories to give you rational grounds to examine and judge better ideas from worse, better interpretations from worse, and how to make better choices over worse.

 

This itself will not make you moral, but it will put you miles ahead of most people and give you fresh eyes to see the world.  It will instill within you a tendency for a healthy skepticism for slick claims and manipulation.  It is the beginning of being an effective and responsible human and citizen.

 

The rest of it is up to you and your choices and how open you are to hearing others’ perspectives and integrating them into your own and keeping a check on your own prejudices.  It is up to you to learn to expand your world to be more inclusive, though selective, and to walk a reasonable balance between these.

 

Being ethical is a skill, like driving a car.  It is the skill of building a good human life and, like driving, not just any actions will yield the results you need.  Learning to want what you truly need and looking for that in your limitations instead of just “wanting” things without an understanding of your full needs as a human is itself a skill.

 

Skills, once practiced enough and worried over enough become transparent we just begin to perform them as “second nature,” as Aristotle once said.  You no more think about all the steps in driving a car while driving than a good person is consciously thinking about all the things involved in living well.  No, the only two times that happens is when we make a mistake and snap into awareness or we, in the luxury of contemplation, review and revise what it is we do in light of new experience — our own or that we’ve heard from others.

 

Hence, we must be open to hearing from others, alive and dead.

 

Form bad habits, poor skills, skills for manipulation, cleverness, become locked up in “your own personal experience,” as limited as it is, and you will fall into selfishly motivated disasters as sure as a poor driver causes wrecks and Jeffery Skilling and Ken Lay wasted billions of investors’ dollars and years of other peoples’ lives who worked for them based on promises that were lies.

 

I gave you the shadow of a beginning here.  I suggested a direction and have told you what you, on your own, as responsible adults must study on your own to truly advance and lead, be examples not followers looking for someone to exploit them.

 

People in college exert themselves beyond the curricula of any particular course: Course work begins to teach you how to think, not what to think, no matter how strongly an instructor accents some content over others.  Figuring out the true values you need to live up to, ultimately, is your choice.  And you must choose and will choose, regardless (that’s our common fate) – I just hope it is in such manner that you learn how to transform even curses to blessings, not the other way around, and bring some measure of peace into your lives and those around you.

 

The future needs you and it is yours, not mine, to make.  Choose your path well.

 

22 January 2016

Mr. Ingram

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

What I’d Do With $1.5 Billion…

That’s what they call a “hook” — that title, I mean.  Everyone sees the money sign and goes completely mad: It grabs the attention, the heart races, dreams and visions float before one’s eyes.  Or does it?

I play the lottery in America when the numbers get to the point of absurdity.  Why not?  Sure, I have my fantasies of what to do with more money than humans ought to have: I tell myself I’d endow several chairs of philosophy at my favorite schools, chairs for teaching Stoicism as a practical approach to contemporary ethics , and chairs in the philosophy of Ortega y Gasset.  Leave behind an educational legacy.  Fund the Ortega Institute in Spain.  That sort of thing.

I’d leave behind scholarships for creative people, not necessarily the top grade-earners, but the ones who were rebellious, didn’t fit in worth a damn, but were intelligent and who write the best essays as to what they would try to make of themselves with a liberal arts education.

I’d establish trust funds for my son, step-daughter, and step-son.  The idea would be they’d be able to do something decent with their lives and not be enslaved to the capitalist system anymore.  And pay medical bills.

I’d pay off the student loans… hell, I’d pay off a number of people’s student loans, people who work in fields that make no money and involve service and creativity.  Why not?

And pay my own medical bills.  Get some decent insurance.

I’d buy a printing company and publish the works of artists, writers, journalists, political cartoonists, and commentators and pay them a very decent wage to raise hell and investigate and attack every sort of hypocrisy and injustice one could lay hands on in the United States.  And never worry one damn minute about ever turning a profit — only beginning social and cultural change for the better and that’s it.

Give enough money to all my friends so that they could pursue their dreams… or have time to invent some.  Tell them to go forth and do good works and see what they come up with.  I have some faith they could do some damage of a positive sort and leave behind their own legacies.

Me, I’d teach and make art.  Make more art than I can now and maybe teach less, but donate the pay into scholarship funds for the most needy at the school I teach at.

Establish an endowment for the Scottish Rite Valley of San Antonio that would perpetually pay the upkeep of the cathedral and even repair it; donate enough for the Scottish Rite Hospitals and St. Jude’s to make a real difference; establish another for my mother lodge, Perfect Union #10 with one string attached — if any brother Mason or his family is ever in need, all of their bills are to be paid, no questions asked.  I’d leave enough in the fund so that it couldn’t reasonably be exhausted.

Make an endowment to the temple I wish to attend so that education and passing down the Reform Jewish tradition would never have a financial stumbling block in its way here.

Make sizable contributions to the ACLU and NAACP — I’m members of both, but it would be nice to see their war chests well-stocked for the foreseeable future.

See that many independent comic book artists got their work published, good, bad, indifferent — I don’t care.  Flood the market with stories and new visions, not collectibles and not digital comics, but real, paper comics that can be passed around in low-tech areas surreptitiously and distribute them far and wide in many languages.  Chinese, Hindi, and North Korean might be nice.  They can have any profits to make more books and live.  What the hell?

And while were on North Korea, surely I could smuggle some people out of that slave pit?  Give them a chance at a life.

Oh, my laundry list goes on like that for a long while.  But I’m not going to win $1.5 billion and it may be a good thing I wouldn’t.  Money corrupts people.  I’m not certain I do a good job managing the little I have now — expand that exponentially overnight and I might become a monstrosity.  Who knows?  All blessings are potential curses if you allow them to rule you and not you them.  Likewise, all curses can be parlayed into some sort of small blessing if one masters the situation and oneself.  I’ve lived long enough and seen enough to know this is truth, or a glimpse of it.

So there it is.  Not soured grapes, but a caution to myself:  Do good regardless; be the person I am supposed to be, broke or a billion dollars in the black.  The money doesn’t matter as much as who I make myself through what I value and what I do.  The same goes for you.

13 January 2016

Richard Van Ingram

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail