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Saturday, December 31, 2011


'Forty years ago (in the 1930s) the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead thought it self-evident that you would get a good government if you took power out of the hands of the acquisitive and gave it to the learned and cultivated. At present, a child in kindergarten knows better than that.' These words were written 37 years ago by a man I consider one of my 'mentors': Eric Hoffer.
He wrote in the wake of sixty-odd years of wars and revolutions brought about by the type Winston Churchill called 'bloody-minded professors'. I also might call them the world's second-most recent versions of this world's Wackford Squeerses--some of whom actually believe they make a better world by making more of us miserable. I'd say our current Wackfords are the Islamists and, also, their 'Christianist' counterparts in this country.
But to return to the main point: men who cared nothing for money, wealth or riches made charnel houses of Russia, Germany and much of Europe besides, China and other, smaller, countries. Now we see before our eyes the evil that men do who lust after riches as after nothing else. And if we don't change course now, we'll be on a trajectory right back to feudal times--maybe even with, God save us all, a new Holy Office! (Inquisition, dude!)
'Crisis in leadership' is, I'd say, a much-overused phrase. But what else can we call what we now have? The people with ideas to 1) get us off the fossil-fuel tit and onto cleaner, renewable energies 2) thereby restart our economy for real 3) make our educational systems more equitable and thereby continue to keep the economy humming are mostly far from power while those with actual power seem, for the most part, to have as much useful ideas for action as they have knowledge of either ancient Sanskrit or ability to read cuneiform! And such ideas as most of them do have are about as relevant to most of us right here, right now as is cuneiform or Sanskrit!
'Occupy' does seem to be more leader-full than leaderless to me. And now I say, let all of us either in Occupy or sympathetic with it step forward--now. By and large it may be too late for the year now beginning, but 2014 and 2016 are coming right quick! Let's continue organizing--including starting political campaigns. And let's do something else I see as very much in tune with Occupy's spirit: explore ways in which to mount inexpensive, low-cost campaigns. And this isn't only because most of us haven't much money, although that fact dovetails with this idea. But more than that, do we or don't we want to rebuke the overweening power of wealth and do so as sharply as possible? Not possible, say you? Who saw Occupy coming? Why not use social media and, perhaps, other online ways which Anonymous might create and teach to us all to get the messages out?
Finally, we need to ask ourselves these questions: between Lenin, Mussolini and those that followed them along a path of horror on the one hand and the still mostly faceless and fecklessly greedy and incompetent traders and banksters who've all but ruined us--what, if anything, do these groups have in common? What sort of person or persons do we need to avoid having in positions of economic and/or political power? As I sit here and mull this over, it also occurs to me if, at least to some extent, the 'anti-intellectual' strain in our politics perhaps confuses the actually knowledgeable and authoritative person with the authoritarian 'know-all'? Dislike of the former is largely unhelpful; aversion to the second is profoundly necessary. Obama can come off as a 'know-all' but he is actually the real article. The Gingrinch is a near-perfect specimen of the latter. I think we need to beware of anyone who sounds as if they know it all and also act as if they've nothing to learn from you, me or any of the 99%. Any one of us can always learn something new from anyone. So let's beware of such creatures, whether they act professorial (Gingrich) or anti-perfesser (Palin, Bachmann, Perry). One things both groups seem to have in common is a belief that they know and/or own it all--except, of course, their own malfeasances, mistakes and misdeeds!
We also need a variety of 'markers'. One has to be the willingness to take 'radical' action coupled with the readiness to shape it pragmatically. FDR is still a good model of this: he took action and was ready to experiment but he was no ideologue. And being no ideologue never meant he lacked principles. He once said this when asked about his 'philosophy': "Philosophy! Philosophy? I am a Christian and a Democrat--that's all." Well, make the 'd' lowercase and add 'Judeo-' to 'Christian' and that's good enough for me. Which leads to another necessary marker: leaders need to know the difference between infusing society with God's Spirit and keeping government and religion separate. Everyone has to understand that religion and state both do better when strictly separate--and spiritual infusion has to be from the bottom up and never from the top down. A third marker needs to be a leader has to have some idea of who s/he is independent of any office they might hold. We don't need any hollow wo/men who seem to need power so bad they'll sell their office for it.
I could probably say more, but this'll do for now. Think these things over, everyone: perhaps even as we hear the notes of Auld Lang Syne tonight. A blessed New Year to all of you.

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