Monday, January 22, 2007

Impeaching Helplessness

For a supposedly liberal newspaper, The New York Times is traditionally respectful to institutions and their leaders. So when you see a quote like this in one of their editorials (this is not the op-ed page, mind you, but an editorial), it gets your attention:

Nor is there likely to be an explanation of why the White House could not have sought the court’s approval in the first place. The White House’s claim that the process is too cumbersome doesn’t ring true. The law already allows the government to wiretap first and then ask for a warrant within three days. The real reason is almost certainly that the imperial presidency had no desire to share power even with the most secret part of the judiciary.

We've been talking here about the imperial presidency for over two years now, but this is the blogosphere, not the Paper of Record. For the Times to be switching to language like this in a Sunday editorial is a sign of how clearly decadent our government has become.

Also in Sunday's Times was a more familiar voice of cut-the-crap sanity: Frank Rich, who has been calling them clear and straight for years now.

In reality we’re learning piece by piece that it is the White House that has no plan. Ms. Rice has now downsized the surge/escalation into an “augmentation,” inadvertently divulging how the Pentagon is improvising, juggling small deployments in fits and starts. No one can plausibly explain how a parallel chain of command sending American and Iraqi troops into urban street combat side by side will work with Iraqis in the lead (it will report to a “committee” led by Mr. Maliki!). Or how $1 billion in new American reconstruction spending will accomplish what the $30 billion thrown down the drain in previous reconstruction spending did not.

A program of lies rarely accomplishes anything beyond a narrow and limited agenda: this is the reality of the modern corporation in a nutshell. The problem we're living with today is that our government has studiously modeled itself after the corporate, adopting all of its delusions and fabrications; pursuing the five-year plan of destruction, perpetual downsizing and firing, and short-term profiteering as if it were the golden fabric of a new social order, the outline of a new constitutional model.

That, too, is, of course, a lie. Indeed, an entire tapestry of lies—what I have elsewhere referred to as a monument made of shadows.

But for a fellow like me, the question really is this: "can it all be about mere greed?" Or is there something else feeding the greed, filling the hungry demon with the vapid sustenance that only increases its desire?

I had cause to work on these quesions a little over the past week. The circumstances are quite unremarkable for our time: I was fired again by another corporate entity (this time the credit card monolith, American Express). On the morning after I'd received my notice (I'm to be officially discharged this Friday), I woke up with the sensation that a sea of time had drained between the night before and the morning after. It was as if a vast gulf had suddenly opened in the space between that then and this now. On the way into work, the sensation only intensified, all the way to the point where I became fearful—that I was going crazy, that I was sick, or even that I was about to die.

So I said an inner No to that fear, and to the self-consciousness that created it, that made me think in terms of an image or a perception rather than about what was really happening within me. It was at that point that a certain realization came about, and it came in the form of a fresh meaning to Hexagram 1 of the I Ching.

This is the hexagram that has been traditionally referred to as "The Creative". The understanding that arose to me on the subway ride to work that day was "The Awakening". Here is the rest of it, as it came through me:

The Awakening:
The sun of the self arises,
Fearless and free.
Where could the darkness have gone?

It occurred to me then that it is fear that feeds all destruction, all delusion. Fear fuels every dogma of fundamentalism. What Bush and his co-conspirators, for example, have done in Iraq is only superficially driven by greed. For the hidden agent of greed is fear.

Greed is itself commanded by fear. Why else would someone grab and accumulate, spiraling down all the while through layer after depraved layer of murder, corruption, and falsehood, so far beyond the point of satiety? What makes greed run so far out of control as to defeat its own purpose?

It must be fear—a terror of such conditioned, corporate intensity that it makes a slave out of the tyrant. What other kind of fear could make a person die within, to his very core of being, rather than face his inner torment and call for the help needed to overcome it?

The psychologist Joan Borysenko offers one description for such a fear in her book, Fire in the Soul:

The most basic fear of every human being is rooted in the helplessness of childhood, the time before we are capable of surviving on our own and must depend on the protection of powerful others. It is the fear of rejection and abandonment. This instinctual terror arises from the part of the mind that thinks not in words but in feelings and images. The common nightmares that children have about being chased and devoured by monsters—nightmares that occur even in children who have never been exposed to the idea of a monster—are the expression of a primitive fear that has its roots at the dawn of human history when abandoned children were, indeed, chased and devoured by wild animals.

Borysenko goes on to point out that the destructive effects of emotional abandonment are every bit as devastating and life-threatening as physical abandonment: isolation sickens and eventually kills its host. Lonely children fail to grow naturally; adults trapped in isolation have significantly greater incidence of heart disease, depression, and immunological illness. Borysenko is referring directly to the fear of abandonment within the family or human society, but her description also implies a related and equally primal fear—that of the abandonment, through repression or denial, of one’s true self, one’s unique individual connection to Tao, or the Cosmic Whole. This, too, is isolation—the loneliness that comes of separation from the Source of our being and the unified totality of our personality. This is the isolation that befalls us when, under the influence of a group ideology, we project an inextinguishable stain or intrinsic fault onto Nature, and thus onto ourselves.

This fear, this isolation, is what I saw in Bush's face during his last speech; it is what I heard in his voice. The demons have trapped him; the nightmare is real; and he can't move in any direction except to let them drag him further into death. When it is all over, he will need treatment, a lot of help. But now it is his very illness, his utter rootlessness, that will make him and his cronies all the more dangerous if they are allowed to remain in their positions one moment longer than is absolutely necessary by the time required for the process of the consolidation of the evidence and the procedural necessities of impeachment.

Now is the time.


Miss Bitty said...

I'm so sorry to read this news! I've been away for awhile -- it's a long story -- and I'm playing catch up on my blog-reading. I've got nearly a dozen more of yours to read but I didn't want to wait to comment.

ANYWAY! I'm so inspired that you've managed to extract such an important and valuable bit of wisdom from this news, and demonstrate how, when taken to the extreme that we see in our government today, it can literally be the seed of our destruction. I think increasingly, the image-makers and puppeteers are having a harder time maintaining the illusion while the wheels continue to come off this presidency.

Watching his last speech, I alternately hit the mute button, watching his body language in the absence of his empty words and awful delivery and on every level, he embodies a man so far out of his depth that he practically looks like a hostage up there on the podium, the microphone pointed at him like barrel of a gun. That thought hadn't quite coalesced until I read this, though, about being a slave to our fear of helplessness.

Brian Donohue said...

Thanks as always, Miss B! We'll be continuing on the same theme this week. Moyers had plenty to say about it at the Memphis conference, and Herbert was on it this morning at the Times (with a piece on the modern phenomenon of credit slavery). As we saw last week, there are coincidental strands pulling together here: I keep thinking of Roger Waters' metaphor (in Dogs) of the corporate tyrant whose blood turns to stone and drags him down to the destruction that he had visited upon so many others during his career of depredation.