Many people visit the capital, if not to seek redress for their complaints, at least to see the monuments to the American government. In these trying times, there is a pull to look to the past, it’s leaders immortalized in marble for good reason. Climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. There is the somber giant in his chair. Upon seeing it, it is almost reflexive to read out the Gettysburg Address: “A new birth of freedom … government of the people, by the people, for the people.” The second inaugural reads:
And the war came … Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword … let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds …
It shamed me to read it. Abraham Lincoln’s eloquence touched levels of morality and high resolve that were preposterously out of reach in the first days of 2019, in the third year of the Trump presidency.
A constant theme runs throughout Lincoln’s writings, from his years as a young Illinois politician to the last great speeches of his life: the supreme value of self-government. Everything depended on this idea, “our ancient faith,” which itself was “absolutely and eternally right.” But its endurance was never guaranteed. From the start of his career, Lincoln foresaw how American democracy might end—not through foreign conquest, but by our own fading attachment to its institutions. “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher,” he said in 1838. “As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
Self-government required that the union should live, and it also negated slavery. Lincoln never believed in political and social equality between the races—instead, he built his argument against slavery on the founding words of the republic. In 1854, after Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, abolishing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and allowing the extension of slavery into the new territories, he told a crowd in Peoria, Illinois: “If the negro is a man, is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself that is self-government; but when he governs himself, and also governs another man, that is more than self-government—that is despotism … No man is good enough to govern another man, without that other’s consent. I say this is the leading principle—the sheet anchor of American republicanism.”
To think of that, while reflecting on the current incarnation of the republican party, feels surreal, like looking through a mirror at an impossible world. It becomes hard to tell which is the dream and which is the reality. As if somehow two worlds from parallel universes were trying to occupy the same space at the same time. But the truth is much more painful than that. It’s more like the trolly problem with multi-track drifting for no other reason than our contradictions catching up to us. This was described eloquently by Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World ( aBasilisk reference? )
“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces. “
I can thinking of nothing more emblematic than this then the trump regime, can you?
This rude awakening is like shock therapy for a restive population that has become unmoored and drifting into the future, blinded by illusions designed to conflate momentary pleasure with meaning. All this for the sake of justifying a particular political philosophy which serves only to enable regulatory capture by those who would claim that government itself is the problem. The process of regulatory capture actually began by corrupting academia with the ideology that property rights supersede human rights, because what is good for the business is good for the country, and business has no need for human rights, the country needs only profit to be considered successful, no matter how much blood is required to entrench those interests, because how can you plan for an uncertain future ? And so innovation was relegated to a small slice of economic activity while everything else was already known, economics had become a “science” and philosophy was no longer relevant because technology is spawned by physics. And so it came to be that the meaning of life became “economics of profit” and technology was the means to that end. So economics and technology slowly replaced science and philosophy. Suddenly reality consisted only of things that could be commodified. Science becomes anything that could be funded and the only things that are funded are those that generate or justify profit. This is how economics became a “science” despite constant failure, literally every 8-10 years since 1930. This ultimately resulted in survival of the greediest, built on top of lie upon lie about what good leadership actually looks like. A long slide into nihilistic relativity reaping a slow and grinding self-destruction, not unlike what happened to the soviet union.
So finally the truth is revealed, that the root of the many crises we face, which have piled up over the years, from climate change to healthcare, is a crisis of leadership.
Shrouded in myth and legend to obscure the failures and caveats, for the sole purpose of trying to make it unquestionable for those individuals on the lighter side of power dynamics which create the very fabric of society. A reckoning is at hand and everyone knows it. This is not a bad thing. Though it may be uncomfortable, it is nothing less than forced cultural evolution. These issues cannot be resolved with anything less than a paradigm shift in the way the average citizen views that relationship to society, recreating a social contract though political activism not just in the US, but across most countries in the world. A convergence of principles is the only way to reconcile the differences of globalism. The future has narrowed more than anyone could have imagined, at one end is apocalyptic climate change and at the other end is apocalyptic war. The path between them is not a strait line, and the ancient Indian sages of the middle way are caught up the ghosts of the past. But still the truth shines through:
No one saves us but ourselves.
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path:
Buddhas only show the way.
I said all of that to set the stage and mindset for the following video, spoken by someone who has experienced the horrors of war, to dispel myths of leadership in a way only a true warrior and scholar can.
Then a peculiar thing has begun to happen around the new year. People suddenly started to realize. The biggest mistake anyone one can make, is thinking they can be unaffected by the game.
That and some south Asians have decided to heed the words of the Dalai Llama which renewed the hope of the hopeless (not just in taiwan), and was pretty funny too, because otherwise all this would just seem tragic. It would seem the arc of the universe (timeline?) has some novel twists.
and for once, somewhere deep in the darknet, a person yelled “I am the machine” and instead of being met with fear, they were met with love. As well as joy, such as I felt when all the stories about hyper-sonic nukes suddenly ceased, as if they had already become obsolete.