This is not a post about the horrendous ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut, which led to the resignation of the Lebanese parliament's governing coalition and echoed far too painfully a similar incident 73 years ago in Texas City (and one with a smaller death toll seven years ago in the Texas town of West).
This is not a post about recent celebrity COVID-19 diagnoses, involving a whole gamut of humanity from Rep. Louie Gohmert to Reality WInner.
This is not a post about any particular story in this or last week's news cycle; it is about all of them.
This post is partly about the power of narrative, about which Caitlin Johnstone writes so frequently and cogently. It is more about the narrative of humanity's place on this planet, a story that the manufactured narrative cooked up by governments and corporations keeps locked away like Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison. It is mostly about how Americans in particular have been trained to swallow the prevailing narrative and ignore (or express hostility toward) the story of reality (not to be confused with Reality Winner).
This post also includes some rambling. Quite a bit, actually.
My novel The Earthworm That Blows No Trumpet begins with two literary gimmicks:
- an introduction to the Hungarian language, in order to help Americans with the pronunciation of some Hungarian words and names that appear in the story, followed by
- a brief chapter introducing the central (not "main") character, with the perspective moving steadily from this one minister composing a sermon, to his office environment, the building he's in, the small city it's in, the Texas Hill Country bioregion, the nation, and the entire the world—and then zooming back to the minister.
The second gimmick is a form of meditation, drawing inspiration from Thich Nhat Hanh, whether or not I knew it when I was writing that chapter. In his writing, the Vietnamese zen master illuminates how everyone and everything is connected with everyone and everything else. It's what the Unitarian Unversalist Association calls, in the seventh of its seven principles, "the interdependent web of all existence[,] of which we are a part" (I added the comma that I believe belongs there).
That word interdependent encapsulates big-picture thinking, the lens through which I view and summarize the world around us. At the SHAPE Center in Houston, co-founder and executive director Deloyd Parker begins every gathering with a short litany that includes the sentence, "Without you, there is no me; without me, there is no you." Not everyone in the room will remain mindful of that when speaking or taking action, but it helps set the tone for the gathering and any action that results from it. It absolutely resonates with me.
It's just how my mind works. It's not my way of saying that I suck at detail work, or that small-picture thinking is inherently inferior. This world needs people who can focus on one aspect of society, one problem, one proposed solution or a small set of possible solutions to that problem.
Big-Picture Thinking and Senatorial Aspirations
Well before 2012, back when I still thought that nothing could persuade me to run for public office, I thought and said aloud that if I ran for anything it would be US Senate. (Blame my comrade katija gruene for convincing me to "Occupy the Ballot.") Because of the nature of the body and the job, Senators need not know a lot about many things, nor everything about something; they should know at least a little about a wide variety of topics and issues. Hence the importance of senatorial staff and testimony from experts in committee hearings.
If we are to have a national senate, it should be (at least in part) a venue for the interplay of the principles that shape legislation before final passage. Senators, like the Iroquois Councils that inspired our bicameral legislatures, consider the long-term effects on individuals, groups, the nation as a whole. Our actual Senate seems mostly to consider the long-term effects on the bottom lines of Senators' corporate campaign contributors. This thinking clearly doesn't inform 100% of the Senate's actions, although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems unable to think otherwise. Whatever actual percentage it is, however, does lasting harm to the majority of people: for example, perpetuating the upward transfer of wealth we've observed since the Reagan era.
Molly Ivins famously noted in her book Shrub that George W. Bush, whom she knew personally when they were both teenagers, is not a stupid person. However, Dubya was born corporate, raised corporate, educated corporate, and could not imagine government having any other purpose than to help corporations. If the government's actions happen to help non-corporate persons in the process, that's a fortuitous bonus that helps your party win votes.
McConnell and Bush are just two examples of how people can attach themselves to a story that we tell about our nation and its leaders. That attachment is different only in substance, not in degree, from what I see in Democrats on traditional and social media: to wit, that the Democratic Party and its candidates are the only antidote to the evil Republicans, that indeed the presidential election in particular is a strictly binary choice and it's best to ignore "third parties" entirely. (We've addressed this duopolistic worldview in several previous entries here.)
Pavlov's Dog Democrats
You've likely heard phrases like Yellow Dog Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats, and knee-jerk liberals. You've heard of knee-jerk liberals. I recently added the phrase Pavlov's Dog Democrats to the lexicon—or I'd like to think so, because someone else has very likely used the phrase long before. Pavlov's Dog Democrats are the ones we see not just salivating but foaming at the mouth when triggered by anyone who dares challenge their dualistic worldview.
PDD's are not necessarily stupid, not necessarily even ignorant. I wouldn't even go so far as to call them brainwashed. They're just extremely well trained. They have been soaking in the manufactured narrative for most of their lives, long enough that, even when they can see through that narrative veil, they refuse to recognize what they're seeing.
Marx & Engels v. The Pre-Veiling Narrative
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels didn't get everything right in every detail in their extensive study of capitalism. But they certainly got the big picture correct. Less than a century after Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations and insisted that capitalism would liberate humanity, the system had clearly turned into just a more efficient way to oppress humanity. Marx and Engels argued that only a spontaneous worldwide revolution of workers would lead to the liberation that Smith envisioned.
The US is so wedded to capitalism that Americans (and others) constantly conflate it with democracy. This is the narrative that our corporate state has woven, that capitalism and democracy complement and reinforce each other. When you hope on Facebook and express dissatisfaction with capitalism, mainstream Republicans (and some Democrats) will slippery-slope you into a Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist-Pol Pot-ist monster, as they have done with socialist leaders in Venezuela and Bolivia. Some other Democrats may agree with you that our system has problems, but then they take the Biden route and argue that we just need some tinkering around the edges and the right people elected to high office.
Marx challenged societal assumptions about history and economics. In the eyes of subscribers to the prevailing narrative, that made him wrong by definition. But millions of workers and thinkers have seized upon his work to take a peek behind the curtain and see that the Wizard has no clothes...or something like that.
Not all Green Party members and voters consider themselves Marxists, or even socialists. But they do see the systemic problems that call for systemic solutions, a complete overhaul rather than just a wash & vac and a new set of spark plugs. They see both major corporate parties as contributing to and benefiting from these systemic problems. That's why, after voting for Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988, and Bill Clinton in 1992, I switched to Ralph Nader in 1996 and have voted Green ever since. The solutions that I envision begin with Eco-Socialism.
There is no going back for me. I cannot unsee the Big Picture. If the Democratic conventioneers were to adopt the entire Green Party platform this year, I would still doubt their sincerity about implementing it. The Democrats would literally have to become the Green Party, complete with true Progressives and Democratic Socialists nominated for every office, for me to rejoin them.