Some Truth, 2 October 2017

Baby Killing Machine

I made this while watching news coverage of the Sandy Hook mass murder. Nothing changed except the propaganda machine salved right-wing consciences by proclaiming the deaths a “hoax” via Infowars.

I also, in my pointless outrage at the murder of Trayvon Martin, made a vicious attack drawing against Zimmerman and the right-wing love of guns and disregard for humans, especially if their skin color is a shade darker than fucking milk. Then more murders and violence, by cops, by idiots, by Neo-Nazis, Klan, by people who never ought to have owned or touched a weapon.  Many, many of us protested; many of us voted; some of us even wrote our elected representatives:

Nothing was done. 

Marching, yelling, demanding… and the far, far white trash violent supremacist GOP took over the government – state, local, Federal, the too-damned “White House.” With Russian dictatorship aid. Meanwhile, liberals are split, still believing bloody Bernie can get them universal healthcare or doctor what’s-her-name can get rid of oil and let us all get stoned.

Libertarians care about the second amendment and the right to economically screw you grave-deep into the ground and the demolition of government & law. Oh, and pot. Remember the dope, kids.   Because that’s the most important thing right now with your country halfway to a dictatorship.  Vote for them!

Yeah.

Fuck this shit.

Right now, the GOP & libertarians on the take are going to vote to make SILENCERS legal. So you won’t wince when some fool decides they don’t like you for some pointless, mythical bullshit excuse and shoots you dead. Or your family, your neighbors, people. Living people.

The USA is going to crash. How completely and when is the question to ask, not “if.” We have lost faith, collectively, in every value that made this place… human. Worthy of humans. We sold out cheap.

2 October 2017
Richard Van Ingram

P.S. Do not give up, do not give in. You nor I have to sell out or drop out simply because too many around us have. Resist and stand for something worth living for.

#RIP #politicalcartoon #guncontrol#LasVegas #LasVegasshooting

#murder 

#lowbrow #art #artist #philosopher

#RichardVanIngram

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Notes On Maureen Dowd’s “Trump, Neo-Nazis and the Klan”

Last summer, at the RNC Convention as I drew a group of young men with Trump Vanguard flags – and heavy wooden poles – that I titled “The New Hitler Youth,” I got interviewed by at least 7 major news outlets, from NPR to The Financial Times of London, and some folks shooting documentary footage. I doubt a damn bit of it was used or ever will be. C’est la vie.

Soon, Roger Stone was standing about two feet to my left (pacing) and that fruit loop from Infowars came, stood 5 feet in front of me and stoked up the all-white crowd with a stirring speech about: “globalist conspiracy” of “Illuminati” (i.e. the Jews and Freemasons); taking “our” country back (from whom, other Americans? to where – 1860? for what – another Civil War?); and other home-spun fascist/Nazi bullshit.

In all my interviews, in the first minute of talking, I made my only important point: Donald J. Trump is a nihilist. Empty, devoid of any real ethical values or belief in any, he is a simultaneously a black hole sucking in attention and “fame” at any cost and a blank screen onto which various groups of people are projecting their fantasies, wishes, and fears – him offering vague calls and dog whistles to each group, even opposed groups, and seeming to promise them all the impossible fulfillment of their prejudices and darkest desires.

Because he was using them and they him, a deal among scam artists all waiting to stab one another right after they wreck everything in sight.

If there were cutting room floors anymore, all my words would be there in the debris. My diagnosis was too cerebral(?), not vernacular enough, not filled with insults or interesting stuff for a camera. Just some random bearded old idiot sitting on the sidewalk in Cleveland drawing a cartoon of soon-to-be little brainwashed Nazis who menaced people with their wooden sticks while actual extremist authoritarians wandered the sidewalks and gave rabble-rousing speeches.

Now, that latter bit was good for screen and radio; me, not so much.

But before that day, I swear I never heard anyone diagnose the “Trump phenomena” as nihilistic in constitution.

Now, it’s “the thing.” Because I was correct, to that degree. Others would see it later, as in this column in the New York Times by Maureen Dowd: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/19/opinion/sunday/trump-neo-nazis-and-the-klan.html

Read it. It’s good, But Dowd, being optimistic and from another generation (Boomer) than my own (front-end “X”), is just a bit too sanguine. She thinks this era will pass and ‘all this” racism and hatred will go with it. Ironically, she says this right after talking about, after the end of WWII, Klansmen doing the same shit as the Nazis in her hometown.

Just as they keep doing now, just as they taught their kids and grand kids and great-grand kids and people who have never worn a sheet or use their crude speech… yet believe the same things, nonetheless. And might even be insulted if you brought that to their attention and called it by name.

Bad beliefs and old lies, once brought into the world, do not die – they await resurrection when people fear or are uneducated or mis-educated and live on tall-tales and deadly myths instead of history and humility of some sort, desire for truthfulness and have an habitual self-doubt. They practice mercy. Practice justice… strive for a life in the service of these and are satisfied with nothing less.

That is a tall order at this moment just as it always was.

Whole states or regions with churches that openly discriminate and preach coded messages that are racist misinterpretations, making God responsible for justifying and approving their idiocy and hatred of other human beings….

Ms. Dowd, that is not going away. Not automatically. We never got past it, even after 1864, WWII, the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, laws… it lived on, vampire-like, hidden in the darkness of our culture’s soul, our souls, our language, stereotypes, images.  We never owned up to this darkness invented by white people and used as a bludgeon against anyone defined as not “white” enough.  And with this bludgeon powerful men and women lorded over all of us, white and darker than white, not-Christian or not-the-right-kind-of-Christian for centuries, some enslaved in chains, some enslaved by fear and awe of “power.”

And now it’s wholly alive again, resurrected by living people, white people, fearful and propagandized, terrified, full of foolishness led by a fool who is headed… nowhere.

Germany’s Dritte Reich didn’t arise or go away automatically… and, in some sense, never died even after it, too, was led by a fool Nowhere. Its spirit just migrated here to the USA, attached to those moronic, already existing Klan-ish beliefs, vampiric, now alive again in its walking dead state. When it was driven out of Germany at the end of World War II, it took millions atop millions with it in blood, fire, fury, and absurdity.

We will be fortunate indeed to throw this set of undead beliefs back into a graveyard hole for awhile without a similar destruction here and around the world again.

20 August 2017
Richard Van Ingram

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“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

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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

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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

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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

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