Wednesday, January 31, 2007

If We're Going to Create a Reality, Let's Create One that Doesn't Suck!

Much has been made of a quote from a senior Bush administration official, publicized in an article by Ron Suskind in October 0f 2004:

We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while
you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again,
creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things
will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to
just study what we do.
No doubt--them's strong words.

One's first reaction is that of seeing someone at a party make a complete ass of themselves. Such words are of the common stock spoken by every tragic, doomed, soon-to-be-universally-excoriated power figure in history and literature since the dawn of time. The speaker in this instance is obviously an educated person, and ought to know this. If he had the sense god gave geese, he'd keep his perverse, megalomaniacal ideas secreted in the recesses of his diseased mind.

But this is not my point.

Rather, I'm interested to know: Hey, how's the old reality mill working? If I had MY own reality creatin' machine, I'd be sitting pretty right now, so the Bush folks must be living large, right? The answer depends on exactly what kind of reality you think the administration is trying to create--and that's not a simple matter because they only have one reality creating machine, and different elements within the administration are always arguing over who gets to drive it. On one hand, you've had the googoo-eyed idealists like Perle, Kristol, Feith et al, and the simplistic, spoiled, frat-boy bully wing--the Dear Leader himself. Those guys have tried to crank out such realities as democracy in Iraq, a watershed defeat of terrorism, and a permanently ascendant republican party.

We know how that's going. Nice job guys. Take the rest of your elected term off, why dontcha?

But there's another element in the administration--the evil geniuses. And they've been taking the keys to the reality machine out of the President's underwear drawer at night and turning out some scary product. Consider some of the realities they've been peddling:
  • The terrorists want to destroy us
  • Diplomacy doesn't work
  • The UN is weak and irrelevant
  • The executive has rightful powers that exceed those generally acknowledged in the last, oh, 200-odd years

You'll notice, these aren't goals, like "democracy in Iraq." They are assumptions about how the world works. And in each case, the evil geniuses have been very successful at converting these beliefs self-fulfilling prophesies. "The terrorists" have traditionally hated us indirectly for our policies, but administration rhetoric that casts the Muslim world as evil certainly encourages them to hate us just for us. (Who wouldn't? We're a dick!) And diplomacy DOES work, unless... unless you poison every relationship with belligerence and arrogance until diplomacy really does cease to be an option. The UN can be as weak or strong as the US wants it to be. Who has thoughts on which is in our interest... Anyone?... Anyone?... John Bolton?

And how about that accretion of dictatorial power to the executive? When all's said and done, public consensus about the legitimate authority of the executive will not be as extreme as the administration would like. But the administration's technique of low balling the value of the constitution and haggling relentlessly over every point of negotiation is likely to be very effective in practice. In the end, we'll probably feel like we didn't give it to them quite as cheap as they wanted, but we'll end up selling our rights far more cheaply than we ever intended.

Astonishingly, the people who create such realities actually believe they are true patriots. The arrogance that makes self-examination impossible, and the absence of any real compassion and humility in their shrunken, atrophied hearts, has left them with no foundation upon which to build beyond fear and cynicism (unconscious products of despair). And so they seek power and wealth alone as a bulwark against the rage and violence to come, rage and violence that they themselves have been instrumental in nurturing. Rage and violence that will legitimize their worldview and serve as a basis for them to build even more wealth and power.

Ironic? Undoubtedly. Pathetic? Yes. Sad? Well, it certainly would be if they weren't fucking everything up so royally for the 99.99999999% of us who won't be eating canapes with Dick Cheney in his bunker when the apocalypse comes.

You know, I may be a starry-eyed idealist myself, but I can't help wondering--if we can create our own reality, maybe we should try to create one that DOESN'T SUCK! Here is an off-the-cuff, unprioritized sampling of some of my ideas for this crazy, non-sucking reality. Maybe you have ideas too?

  • Absent an immediate and acute threat to our persons and/or treasure, diplomacy is preferable to unilateral military action. It may not satisfy our thirst for vengeance and black-and-white outcomes that can be labeled "victory," but it tends to work out much better for our persons. And our treasure.
  • Our children's children can't vote. It's our moral duty to defend their interests.
  • Material problems demand rigorous, rational solutions. Wishing won't make it so. If you stand out in the rain, you can say it's not raining, but you will get wet and uncomfortable.
  • If the market economy is to lead to a sustainable lifestyle, prices must reflect the actual costs of the products we use.
  • Government is not good or bad--it is better or worse. Disdain for government does not produce good government. Let's be shrewd, detailed and calculating about how we structure our policies.
  • Democracy is fragile and imperfect, but we're all stumped for a better idea. It only works if the electorate is composed of thoughtful, independent, and highly critical thinkers. Our schools and media must nurture these traits.

I'm not trying to suggest that we wake up and re-evaluate our short-sighted, self-centered appallingly materialistic ways... I'm only sayin'