12/15/04

Choosing Darkness

Man... is the only primate that kills and tortures members of his own species
without any reason, either biological or economic, and who feels satisfaction in doing so.
It is this biologically nonadaptive and nonphylogenetically programmed "malignant" aggression
that constitutes the real problem and the danger to man's existence as a species.

~ Erich Fromm
The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

The election of 2004

It has not been the dirty secret you would suppose. Dirty yes, secret no. Out of the maw of our television screens they have come, the little dead girl from the well, Mr. Fly Face, an X-rated cornucopia of Dick Tracy grotesques, liars, assassins, rapists, torturers, beheaders, butchers, thieves and maniacs, an evolutionary collapse beyond Osama’s wildest expectations. Beholding this public transformation, our Obscene Makeover, the accelerated, unambiguous uglification of the American dream, we have come at last to the ritual moment of choice, the day of revelation when free people take stock of their moral circumstances and assume proprietorship of their own souls. What do you say? Only 100,000 dead. Do we stay the course? And we, the American people, liking what we’ve seen so far, voted them back in! We voted for the kind of world we actually do want. We voted to institutionalize malignant aggression. We went down to Willard’s little room in the cellar, unhooked his chain and brought him upstairs to join us for breakfast. We ushered him into the sunlight, a big family welcome for cousin Hellboy. Here we are, frozen in the camera's flash, in flagrante delicto, without a wince of shame.

How could 59 million people be so dumb?

Good question.

Obviously we are looking at an instance of mass psychosis, but the nomenclature on that topic is minimal and hysterical and not very useful. I could, of course, run down to one of the retirement communities that ring Tucson with an incrustation of wheezing Fox fans, punch any doorbell and ask for an answer to that puzzler. But it wouldn't make any sense to them, precisely because that is how dumb they are. They think they did a smart thing. They think the good guys won something. The brave, the patriotic, the God fearing and hard working and morally correct people took it away from the wafflers and fairies and communists and crack addict movie stars.

On its face it is not really a question, but only a burp of contumely, followed by more exclamation points than question marks. It certainly was my parting sentiment before bed on the grisly night of November 2nd, together with fear for all the future dead. It is nearly a kind of justice, I thought, that Uncle Sam, in an agony of incurable licanthropy, has decided to pick up the pistol and do the right thing. Putting G. Dubyuh Bush back in the driver’s seat could be the next best thing to a AIDS pandemic. And so to sleep, and dreams of Canada.

But in the morning, in the cold light of reinvented Amerika, the sheer force of the electoral mandate demands a serious look for a number of reasons more important than the fate of our so-called republic.

For one thing, the inexplicable continuance of the Bush administration calls into doubt the wisdom of the idea of democracy. This had not occurred to me, that there might be something questionable, corruptible about this idea, so precious to those of us who value self determination and the cleansing effect of frequent changes of administrative venue. But many voices in the world today are beginning to see it differently, given that the science of public relations can now control what people think merely by utilizing some simple psychological techniques pioneered by P. T. Barnum and Herman Goering, given ownership of the mass media by our overlords. In Italy, in Senegal, anti-democratic voices are suggesting that freedom might have to be sought from some new direction.

Even given popular power unmanipulated by special interests, there are problems with granting free reign to the body politic. In theory, referring navigational decisions to the passengers is supposed to act like a sort of consensual gyrocompass, the common good, to keep the ship of state from charting courses into obvious madness. But the body politic also morphs easily into a lynch mob, which is why the ideal of pure democracy should never be taken seriously. The will of the rabble, to the extent that it has prevailed, has not historically averted disastrous vendettas any more than the will of insane monarchs. Certainly this is true today, with both avenues of political power in dreadful confluence. The Magna Carta fixes nothing if it does not fix dumbness.

A clamoring handful of conspiratorialists has suggested that the election was rigged, and that perhaps 59 million people were not, after all, so dumb. The exit poll discrepancies in Ohio do strain the credibility. Diebold voting machines did, indeed, switch, multiply and swallow votes. Bogus voter registration drives did toss democratic registrations into trash dumpsters. Absentee ballots to liberal districts in Jebville did strangely disappear. So maybe there were only 55 or 53 million dumb people. That still is way too many dumb people.

The stupefying fact remains, staring us in the face with the finality of a sudden miscarriage, that here in happy America, blessed with a fairly high rate of literacy and a standard of living and health care that rank easily in the top twenty or thirty worldwide, a nation devoid of military peers, up to our noses in money and food, a poisonous and abysmally ignorant minority of UN haters, xenophobes, racists, religious elitists, mean spirited jerks, brainless housewives, poolroom braggarts and gullible droogs have finally expanded their numbers to 51% of the electorate. Here, at a time when we stand on the threshold of healing the animosities of the past abominable century, when we have a shot at transforming the world by the sharing of our truly wonderful knack for solving infrastructure problems for the enrichment and consequent pacification of all kinds of diverse people, liberalism has withered and the majority of us have instead been seized with the virus of belligerence and piracy. We have always been an arrogant, aggressive people, potentially both dangerous and generous as reflected in a world which both loves and hates us, admires and despises us. We always have had the potential to move in either direction. So why this? Why now?

Looking at dumbness

What is “dumb?” Like "terrorism" the word is merely an invective, and needs to be specified. Are we looking at 59 million people who have suddenly lost the last requisite IQ points to merit the distinction of sapience, who have been busted back to homo erectus like malnourished ghetto children or inbred hillbillies? Have they developed spongiform encephalopathy from eating too much grease? Have they become cerebrally atrophied from decades of fake education? Are they crazy or misinformed? Or what?

It has been correctly said that there are many different kinds of intelligence, so one must assume that as many corresponding varieties of dumbness could be specified. It might be worthwhile to browse through a few of these.

Dumbness and dullness

In my partisan hallucination it does seem to me that Bush Republicans are less informed about real news events, and that they depend more than we do on outright fiction and denial to hold their ghoulish little Weltanschauungen together. It seems like a lot more of them are creationists or dogmatists or barnyard fools who do not read real books and are unable to entertain any but the simplest ideas in their heads, but that could speak for the density of my own internal matrix rather anything objectively so. I have to believe that if liberals were as much smarter and better educated than Bush Republicans as they seem, some academic would have noticed it. Some bona fide clinical study would have established the scientific truth of it.

Dumbness and ignorance

It is hard to imagine anybody smart enough to drive to the polls being misinformed today. We are awash in information, most of it biased, yet we are largely cognizant of the same factual material, privy to the same daily events. When something blows up in the world it is reported, however grudgingly, however embedded in contextualizing spin, by all viable news outlets. My admiration for the force of our predispositions over the pitifully neutral "facts" we digest has increased alarmingly this year. You've noticed this too, arguing with your sister-in-law from Oklahoma, who is not overtly demented, who is in possession of the same bits of information as you, yet who has assembled these Leggo-like factoids into mental constellations you find alien and monstrous and morally repellent. Facts do not guide or indicate or inform. They don't prove or disprove anything. They are bricks, nothing more. Bush lying through his teeth on live television does not mean Bush is a liar. Dead babies in Fallujah do not support my humanitarian point of view to the exclusion of somebody elses’ godawful Islamophobic take on the world. We make our own meaning like a pack rat makes a nest, out of anything at hand.

In a column a couple of years ago, George Will had no quarrel with the finding that up to 95% of the faculty of major universities in this country were political liberals. Personally I would have concluded from this that the most educated people in our country, as you might expect, overwhelmingly shun political conservatism. This interpretation, as it happened, never occurred to George, who saw it as proof positive that a left-wing elite had hijacked academia and was imposing a liberal bias on university hiring practices. The figures, in his view, spoke for themselves like a smoking gun.

Dumbness and blindness

To view the dumbness of our new electorate as bovine inertia would be 98% correct. I hate to labor the analogy to cattle, but how else to describe the 40-odd percent of people who don’t vote because they are only peripherally aware that some kind of political activity is taking place, because they have never read a newspaper? Or the vast middle swamp of voters who are inclined this way and that because they have no opinions of their own, because their husbands and their drinking buddies and their Sunday preachers tell them what is right and what is wrong? Cows. The common run of people, from my elitist point of view, is blind in the gospel sense, unenlightened, uncurious, unmoved by beauty or savagery. Democrats make the mistake of trying to interest such people in the issues, while Republicans win them over with little flags and vacuous slogans like “these colors don’t run” and “support the troops” and “flush the Johns.” Many citizens are alert enough to their families and their automobiles and football games, whereas abstractions like the Middle East never come onto their radar screens except as matter for crude hoo-ah jokes about cowboys and Muslims.

Right wing blindness, which we view as the inability to see the obvious, can be explained as cultural conformity, a variant of sloth by which common people shrink from the hard work and social risk of independent thinking. We also can’t rule out a mitigating lack of educational opportunity, or for that matter, actual demon possession. But one occasionally encounters a bright, calloused, militant Bush Republican who is neither evil nor uneducated nor torpid. We are lead to remember that the occlusions of hubris are designed to infect intellectuals and other smart people of all political and moral persuasions. It insinuates itself into the very cleverness by which we are otherwise guarded against debilitating lapses of intelligence. Not to claim immunity from the crime of pride, my point is that the Bush “crazies”, lost as they must surely be by now in the dementia of power, surely suffer from this kind of dumbness. Reality for these brave Platonists is not something waiting to be discovered, but something you create as you go. Like people who drive in blinding blizzards and must imagine a highway when they can not see one.

Dumbness and ethics

Yet the gulf between the two halves of our polarized society is evident. If the difference can not be measured cognitively, by what scale can it be distinguished? Are they just a pack of devils, born like wolverines without any common decency in them?

But they are not a pack of devils. I know a couple of people who voted for Bush who are honest and fair, filled with compassion at least for fellow Christians, fellow Americans, us but not them. They care for their own, but they do not care about people they have never met or creatures of a different species. They are not liberals, of the kind who, in 19th century England, abolished the slavery of Africans they had never met, or who, last week, convinced the Supreme Court to stop executing juveniles, just as a principle of decent behavior and regardless of how much other peoples’ bad children deserve to die.

Ethically challenged people have trouble with the Golden Rule, and therefore also with moral philosophy and the version of Christianity favored by Christ himself. They just can’t visualize the shoe on the other foot, the wisdom of fairness. Righteousness, to the dogmatic mind, does not mean living harmoniously in the world. Au contraire, it means you are licensed to behave like a perfect bastard until all the world agrees with you and whatever dipshit cult you represent.

Dumbness and mental illness

My oldest living friend, Dr. N. Hoell, a psychiatrist and undercover CIA operative in Missoula, Montana, has been the source of many useful insights over the years into how mental illness is viewed by the therapists who are tasked to cure it.

Psychotherapists do not confuse themselves with metaphysical conjectures about reality. Not to put too fine a point on it, the reality with which they urge their patients to stay in touch is just the common old dogshit world of nine-to-five jobs and family squabbles and television and baseball games. The inability to function in the consensual loony bin of real life is what doctors call “crazy.” Hoell is frequently called as a expert witness in court proceedings which seek to establish somebody’s sanity or lack thereof. The fate of some flipped out wretch frequently hinges on whether, at the time they were drowning their children, they were able to distinguish right from wrong. Whether, as they were spraying their high school cafeteria with K-Mart ammo, their minds were capable of weighing the ethical pros and cons of their behavior. Whether it would be more appropriate to try to lead them back to a recognition of the sanctity of human life, or just inject them with lethal chemicals.

The normative definition of sanity is about all you have to fly by when you live in a society that takes 18 year old children straight from drivers ed and sends them to Baghdad to light up carloads of suspicious hajis at checkpoints and get their legs blown off by IEDs, a society where women are routinely suctioned, siliconed and botoxed and children spend their afternoons high on caramel sugar water and sniper simulator video games. If you balk at this, if you wander off into an autistic funk, become angry or depressed or abnormal or strange, we have to assume there is something the matter with you. Treatment options, after 100+ years of clinical experience, have pretty much boiled down to anxiety medications and some gun ownership restrictions.

Individuals have a shot at mental equilibrium, being monads, closely associated with the cognitive apparatus that is the proximal source of intelligence and common sense. When people are not crazy (disoriented) to start with it is not easy to make them so. Societies, on the other hand, swim in the whoozy flux of history. They themselves become the definition of normalcy and are therefore prone to spates of unreflected madness, including a dreadful enthusiasm for mutual extermination occasioned by disputes over things like the propriety of a 1500 year old caliphate or whether the divine substance of the Blessed Virgin was assumed bodily into heaven or who France belongs to.

Collective dumbness (mobs, clubs and bodies politic)

Is it appropriate to expect intelligence (or good or evil) from 59 million people, or from any collective the size of the American electorate? Can we extrapolate what little we know about human cognition from individuals to groups so vast? Can a dumb society be meaningfully compared to a dumb individual? Can there be a collective ethos? A school of fish turns this way and that. How do they decide?

From which direction do the wires of causality lead? Are dumb individuals the products of dumb societies, or it is the other way around? Does the problem lie in the machinations of human groups, or does it lurk inside you and I, coiled in our reptilian brain stems like original sin?

Groups, frankly, give me the creeps. I don’t care if it is the Lutherans or the Taliban or the DNC or Fadda Joe’s parish or my anti-death penalty coalition or the USA or Byron’s Liposuction Supply Company. It is not that groups are the source of the murder and mayhem of which they are capable. The aggressive energy, natural or malignant, is our own, a property of persons, not institutions. The basic social contract, moreover, that allows civilized cooperation at all, is incompatible with destructive expression. The benefits of an orderly society demand the recognition of a reality principle and the repression of our nastier urges, as we all remember from Freud. But if groups are contrivances to suppress the devils that are part of our nature, they are also contrivances to release those devils. Groups in fact are prone to evolve into externalized proxies by which we further our secretive personal agendas, for good or ill, in a way which is no longer personal, no longer accountable, and it is this disconnect from our living selves that puts me on edge. Passions of which we are directly aware as human individuals go underground in our collectives, seeking expression by disguising themselves as what they are not. The social construct is truly the land of make-believe, where nothing is called what it really is. As proxies, our groups are precisely as conflicted as we ourselves, forbidding the acting out of our monstrous psycho-sexual perversions while simultaneously creating opportunities to perform those same lewd acts under a different name. One can’t help but notice that as brave American boys spread the blessings of freedom in the Middle East a lot of killing and raping and tormenting is also getting done. This morally acceptable release of Mr. Hyde into the streets of our modern world is accomplished without trauma to our delicate self respect by several levels of cognitive flimflam, as follows:

Any society, once declared, becomes an independent body with a corporate life of its own. The recognition of legal corporations as “persons” is a relatively late acknowledgement of group autonomy that has been with us since primitive hunting parties and clans. As persons, groups (which of course are not persons) command the sacrifice of individual purposes to collective purposes, i.e. the deference of the personal to the abstract, the immediate to the narrative, the living to the fabulous. Groups present the appearance of objective reality only insofar as their idea exists in the minds of their members (and their enemies), and as long as that empirical chimera is sustained, the fictitious deeds and interactions of groups have the character of natural events. Wars are “thrust upon us” like offshore hurricanes. We are obliged to respond to the thoughts of states as though they were not our inventions. We are not allowed the right of authors to deconstruct the crises we cook up. Battles may be joined or shirked, but not rendered back into the cerebral vapor from which they are manufactured. We are drafted by our consensual dream and marched off as if against our will. Because we no longer see ourselves as the ontological source of our corporate enterprises (even though we are their only animating principle) we no longer feel morally responsible for actions deemed necessary by the larger body. We become team players, whether the game is baseball, a public lynching or the Fifth Crusade. Suspended along with our private agendas is the rest of our personal baggage, including our standards of decent behavior if that should be required by the collective (which, remember, is also us.) Given this somewhat blindered situation in which the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, it seems that the potential for self deception and the clandestine promotion of repressed projects is very real. That we choose to fight a “war on terror”, in preference to a host of wiser responses to the persistence of evil, suggests that there exists some hidden benefit. That we choose the leadership of people who see the world as a heavy metal comic book suggests that the Conan inside many of us is looking for a little romp.

Our desire for the annihilation of life, Freud would argue, is best realized collectively. Individuals (most of us) want to live, and want others to live. As we begin to form groups we lose intelligence, that saving Greek perspective of sophrosyne. We march off to those Napoleonic ballets where blue and red coated fools square off on grassy fields with muskets and cannons and chop one another into ecstatic bits. As persons we balk at such madness. As a species we set about it without hesitation. Beyond the mere madness of dueling soldiers, we devote our talents to the orgasmic delights of urban annihilation, of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, Berlin, Dresden, Hanoi, all of Cambodia, Jenin, New York, Baghdad, Fallujah.

Following events like the Manson family murder spree, the Jonestown Kool-Aide party and the cyanide-assisted Hale-Bopp disembarkation, we become temporarily interested in cults. We worry about our sons and daughters who have gone to live with the Moonies and the Hari-Krishnas and the Rastafarians, the Transcendental Meditators, the est Seminarians, the Wickans and the Christian Scientists. Articles appear describing the cult phenomenon, and certified deprogrammers emerge from nowhere to offer their professional interventions.

But concerns about the perils of cult magnetism are short lived. The reason for this is as near as the preliminary definition that is offered in every tabloid. What is a cult? A group organized around some central belief or value which demands the suppression of individuality and ultimately the total devotion of its members. It is characterized by absolute conformity of thought and dress, as well as perfect obedience to cult leaders. Tithes amounting to part or all of its members possessions are called for, as well as increasing levels of devotion up to and including ones own life. Sexual rituals or proscriptions, public chastisements for deviant behavior and morbid notions of sacrificing individual lives as proof of commitment are symptoms of full blown cults. A cult, in other words, is just about any group. The Daughters of Ishtar is a cult. The Christians are a cult. The Shriners, the Knights of Columbus and certainly all branches of the U.S. military are cults. The Boy Scouts are a cult. The United States of America is a cult, vastly more savage and nuts than the Mafia or the Hells Angels or the Crips or the Bloods (also cults.) Cults are what folks do when they get together, and taking too close a look at it leads us someplace most of us would rather not go.

Some largely unconscious impulse in the human animal, acting more freely as a group phenomenon, is fascinated by and drawn to control and destruction and death. I take it as given that the 2004 election represented an opportunity for the population of this insular and neurotic nation to choose darkness over light, death over life, war over diplomacy, bullying and mayhem and sexual predation over solicitude and peace and decency and freedom.


The post-election blues

Three broad classes of response might be expected to present themselves as the smoke blows off the Aceldama of America's moral struggle: practical, despairing and speculative.

Pragmatism

Activist reformers of the Joe Hill school, correctly noting that public opinion is still balanced about 50/50, would not give up the fight. Indeed, we should not withdraw our active press to move the world by our best lights even if we are the last sane people left standing. It's called radical humanism, and you don't have to be an optimist to practice it. It may be that witnessing is ultimately better than winning, but certainly you'll never win if you don't keep trying. How many times did they kill Rasputin before he finally actually died? So sure. Organize. Give it another shot. What are we supposed to do? Just accept these flies?

I recently discovered Jon Read, an erstwhile lunatic whom I contacted after visiting his web site, www.truthing.net, and with whom I share a bi-weekly martini. Jon is a few years older than me, an intelligent and orderly thinker, certifiably paranoid and passionately devoted to saving the world. He claims to have been an originating co-founder of People’s Park in pacifism’s San Francisco heyday, and to have shared the dais with many notables over the years in his chosen role as free lance problem solver. Our philosophical positions are similar, in that we both want the same outcome for our ailing society. Unlike myself, Jon is optimistic, and spends all of his time writing and proposing solutions to things like reviving the Democratic Party and implementing exit strategies from Iraq. He hunts down pharisaic chairpersons and congressmen and stuffs their pockets with essays and videotaped statements at which they will never glance. If our endarkened people do not after all crash and burn in this decade it will be because people like Jon did not succumb to defeatism.

Actionable approaches, since we are too fat to be revolutionaries, must focus on winning elections. Elections do not stand in some inviolate, incorruptible sanctuary provided by the Founding Fathers to ensure our lasting freedom. The voting process is by no means off limits to the manipulations of special interests. Politically motivated people therefore face two daunting tasks: Restoring the election process itself from the proprietary commodity it has become, and organizing to influence public opinion to regain a majority. Dismissing the former as difficult and dangerous, and the latter as requiring that Americans become educated, reformers are today suggesting either that the DNC abandon its progressive base altogether and simply run candidates better qualified to promote the Bush agenda than Bush himself, or that progressives allow the Democratic Party to waft away like a vapor in the hope that grassroots liberalism will eventually rise again to a competitive status under a new banner in some future ecosystem.

It's hard to jump on any of these bandwagons with much enthusiasm. The Democrats are probably terminal. If they weren't protected by barnacles, carrion birds would peck their eyes out. Progressives tend to be pacifists, i.e. an eternal minority. One does not sign on in order to win. One signs on in order to act correctly.

In my jaded view, hopeful activists should become Republicans. These are detestable times, and practical minded people with detestable ideas are in demand.

Despondency

Hunter S. Thompson, a diehard romantic haunted by the memory of happier times, recently blew his brains out after requesting that his cremated remains be stuffed into an artillery shell and fired across the State of Montana. This gesture, I think, would characterize a second class of responses which range from clinical depression to the apocalyptic. Groans from this slough of despond are uttered by histrionic souls like myself, often in the language of tragic prose. The world after sixty years of nuclear detente appears from my perspective to be organized into pairs of skeletal square dance partners: America and Russia (still, oh yes, and hair trigger), Israel and Iran (soon, if not already), India and Pakistan, plus France and China and North Korea and whoever else is ready to jump into the fray, the coordinates of every possible adversary long ago typed into the targeting software, all just waiting for the dark fiddler. Like Mt. Saint Helen's, like 1914, the Let's-Blow-Ourselves-Up Kazoo Band is getting ready for another unforgettable Saturday night, needing only the requisite level of animosity and paranoia to kick off the evening. It remains improbable to me that we would go to such trouble and expense to deploy this vast, demented Rube Goldberg device and then, finally, decline to try it out. I know it seems insane that rational people would stuff devastating explosives into their own pants this way, but the reader will be gently reminded that this is what we are actually doing. So one of these days when a nuclear compression wave funded by your tax dollars unexpectedly disperses your atoms into new and interesting molecular possibilities, you can say that you heard it here.

I'll grant that we are too close to this to have it in perspective. We should note that it was also a disaster when Nero became Emperor, actually a much greater disaster for his opponents than anything we have seen to date from BushCo, however ominous the portents. Nero did have matches and did set fire to Rome, yes, and if he had possessed nukes it would have been the end of the world, yes, but in fact his tenure passed and those hopeful souls who survived it were justified in their hopefulness in the end.

The human experiment often seems to have come up a peg from its worst moments. In the 14th century, Timurlane indulged a fascination for discovering how many human heads he could pile into a pyramid. It became a sort of signature thing, a way of leaving something of himself behind in his travels. (Hey, look, people would say. Timurlane’s been here.) After storming a place called Ispahan he acquired 70,000 human heads for his grotesque hobby, trumping by several factors the number of mason jars Howard Hughes was able to fill with urine in the years after the power he sought made him nuts. Perhaps only in their innermost fantasies do Bush and Rumsfeld and Zarqawi aspire to such Olympic levels of sick lunacy. Whether our behavior is understood as a meandering Darwinian riff or degrees of abandonment by an exasperated creator, it is hard to dismiss the sadness, the ugliness of it. Simply because human history is full of infinitely worse things than butchering a few hundred civilians in Fallujah, does not, in my mind, justify anything approaching optimism.

Speculation

For those too realistic to hope, there remains the pursuit of understanding. The booby prize.

(Fadda Joe calls on the phone, right here as I write this, back from a week at Pat's beach house in Baja, resting from his crazy job telling people what to make of their earthly existence. "From the perspective of the third world," he says. "it isn't just the Republicans or the Americans. It is a problem of the human condition everywhere. Believe me, many other countries in the world, if they had the weapons, if they had the power, would do even worse.")

So there lies the third direction of inquiry, investigation of the perverse inclinations of the human psyche, without regard for the possibility of a cure, neither seeking it nor ruling it out. We are assisted in this by many excellent physicians, dating from the time we first noticed that we were ill.

*****

12/22/04

Addressing the Malaise

The December Harpers is out. As usual, Lewis Lapham not only preempts my clever and timely essays, he writes them better and has them published before mine are even finished. His article, True Blue, is a superior restatement of the above, albeit concluding that the theory of a stolen election is more in keeping with American history than its alternatives. In lieu of reaching my own conclusion (which follows*), he appends several readings by guest writers, i.e. Planet of the Apes by Richard Wrangham and a charming bit of military snuff porn by someone named Ralph Peters from the U.S. Army War College quarterly called In Praise of Attrition. While never explicitly stated, the combination of the three pieces leads the reader in the direction of my increasing apprehension that the answer to our flippant question might need to be sought in the area of abnormal psychology, or worse.

The revised question: Why would 59 million people choose death and darkness over life and happiness? Self destructive behavior operates best where the light is dim, but the light is dim everywhere. It is the self destructive element that is the root problem of our race, and not primarily the fact that we are so easily hoodwinked by it.

* Postscript

To those Voxsters who have complained about a dearth of postings in recent months, I append this apology. I’ve been busy. Unlike many bloggers I do have a life away from the computer. The above meanderings were intended to proceed through the topics below before arriving at an undeniable and devastating conclusion, and I have to admit with some embarrassment that the project was too ambitious for me. The piece exists in outline, basically an assemblage of things that have already been written by people more eloquent than myself. I herewith give myself permission to do it later or forget about it altogether.

*****

Eleven diagnoses in eleven languages

1. Anthropology: We are killer apes (innate aggression vs malignant aggression)

2. Sociology, mythology: We are a male dominated society (the neolithic catastrophe and the death of Tiamat)

3. Physics: Nature has given up on us (entropy and the Energizer Bunny)

4. Religion: God has given up on us (perdition, Deus Absconditus, the fall from grace)

5. Psychiatry: The varieties and perils of narcissism (anal hoarding and sadomasochistic sex)

6. Political Science: The Machiavellian exploitation of narcissism (electoral husbandry, the art of herding cattle)

7. Military Science: How human beings are made into soldiers (getting Johnny to kill)

8. Educational, philosophical: We have become ignorant (the sleep of reason)

9. Freudian Psychology: Life in general aspires to death in general (monsters of the id)

10. Biology: Cognitive speciation, apocalyptic mitosis (the abandonment of hope)

11. Deliverance: The radical humanism of Albert Schweitzer

*****