Saturday, January 19, 2008

State of Terror in the Terror State

The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
The first, that it flies to the highest point;
the second, that it does not suffer for company,
not even of its own kind;
the third, that it aims its beak to the skies;
the fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
the fifth, that it sings very softly.

--San Juan de la Cruz, Dichos de Luz y Amor

During those heady first days of the Iraq War, if it can be dignified in that manner, really it is just a criminal act -- I heard all kinds of ridiculous stuff from otherwise intelligent people. I was doing some volunteer work at a public library and was discussing the war with a librarian. She told me she felt that the war was all about the emancipation of the women of Iraq. However what she was really saying was that the people of Iraq did not know how to conduct themselves in a civilized manner and that we would impose our own noble standards of the western world upon Iraq. And in a weird way this was partially true for it is quite in line with American exceptionalism whose roots can be traced back to the time of manifest destiny which lives on today in the American world view. It has been our own arrogance that has led us down the rosy path to endless wars, the beginnings of a police state, and most of all, made us the most hated and feared nation on the face of the planet. We have flaunted international law by way of right of might casting our military far and wide raining down destruction on countless innocents who had never done any harm to us, imprisoned people without cause depriving them of any of the basic rights that this nation supposedly stood for and made torture a tool of the state. In short in lieu of our headlong rush to wage war against terrorism we have become the largest purveyors of terrorism alienating most of the world against us. But don’t misunderstand me this is nothing new in our history for we have waged wars and intervened as well as tortured for many, many years now long before the invasion of Iraq. I suppose what is so shocking is that we have become so open about it even justifying it through intellectual contortions that would have made Houdini jealous.

Americans can still afford to be smug in their bed of delusions yet there are signs of decay all around us. Our banking institutions are in a world of trouble, our higher paying middle class jobs are evaporating as they stampede to other nations across the sundering seas which sunder no longer along with the more menial jobs that we were told in the inception of free trade agreements would be the only jobs to migrate. I myself used to work as a mechanical designer in the high tech industry of Silicon Valley working on varied projects from telecommunications equipment, chip etching devices, to the batteries for the space station and building satellites. I had begun as a drafter but after many years I worked up to where I was designing parts only to have my way of earning money destroyed by the deregulation of industry that began in the Reagan years and finally put to death under Bill Clinton and his NAFTA. However I see this as small beans when compared to the immense suffering we have inflicted upon Iraq and for whose consequences there will be hell to pay.

Though there are disputes for the number of deaths in Iraq that America is responsible for, either directly or indirectly, I suspect it is much worse than any of the estimations but that is just my opinion but even so how many deaths are acceptable? Are 100 deaths A-okay? How about one thousand? Is even one death perpetrated by the American killing machine nothing to lose sleep about? You tell me. And then there are the people who have been horribly wounded and mutilated, their lives forever changed and the countless Iraqi people who have been forced to flee for their lives. The people of Iraq who are left live under the thumb of our oppressive government and the warlords we empower without many of the things we take for granted like electricity, food, water and adequate medical treatments. However far too many citizens of the USA do not care to think about such things rather we are obsessed with our conceit and another meaningless election where one pawn of the establishment shall be replaced by another. Whoopee-do. After all Americans believe they are world leaders blessed by God with the Midas touch of “can-do-ism” whose destiny is to ensure the rest of the world shall wear baseball caps and blue jeans spreading democracy and capitalism where ever we trod and none shall withstand our onslaught for who is there who can stand against such mega-power? Apparently quite a few can withstand such mega-power and this is a reality the USA shall have to come to grips with sooner or later however sooner would be the most desirable.

It is long due past the time when the citizens of the United States should have developed that most basic trait of human understanding which is to put yourself in the other fellow’s shoes and ask of yourself, would I like this if it happened to me? We are only one culture among many, only one imperial state among many that the world has witnessed on humanities journey through history and perhaps a little humility would have kept us from taking so many wrong paths.

There are other world views than that of our own culture and who is to say which is best?


A man staring at his equations
said that the universe had a beginning.
There had been an explosion, he said.
A bang of bangs, and the universe was born.
And it is expanding, he said.
He had even calculated the length of its life:
ten billion revolutions of the earth around the sun.
The entire globe cheered;
They found his calculations to be science.
None thought that by proposing that the universe began,
the man had merely mirrored the syntax of his mother tongue;
a syntax which demands beginnings, like birth,
and developments, like maturation,
and ends, like death, as statements of facts.
The universe began,
and it is getting old, the man assured us,
and it will die, like all things die,
like he himself died after confirming mathemtically
the syntax of his mother tongue.

The Other Syntax

Did the universe really begin ?
Is the theory of the big bang true ?
These are not questions, though they sound like they are.
Is the syntax that requires beginnings, developments
and ends as statements of fact the only syntax that exists ?
That's the real question.
There are other syntaxes.
There is one, for example, which demands that varieties
of intensity be taken as facts.
In that syntax nothing begins and nothing ends;
thus birth is not a clean, clear-cut event,
but a specific type of intensity,
and so is maturation, and so is death.
A man of that syntax, looking over his equations, finds that
he has calculated enough varieties of intensity
to say with authority
that the universe never began
and will never end,
but that it has gone, and is going on now, and will go
through endless fluctuations of intensity.
That man could very well conclude that the universe itself
is the chariot of intensity
and that one can board it
to journey through changes without end.
He will conclude all that, and much more,
perhaps without ever realizing
that he is merely confirming
the syntax of his mother tongue.

--Carlos Casteneda The Active Side of Infinity