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Drinking the Kool-Aid
Ever since Jim Jones convinced his Guyana commune followers to commit mass suicide in 1978, by drinking cyanide laced Kool-Aid, the reputation of the powdered drink mix has never been the same. It took a while for someone to use the phrase metaphorically, but writers and trendsetters are always coming up with catchy new idioms that become cliché with their over use. Drinking the Kool-Aid in the respect of following a political position is one of those uses. Meant to disparage the person who sees some good in a position that others may rabidly hold as a fundamental tenet of their own blind allegiance to a principle it tells more about the speaker than it does about the object of the statement.
Politics is not polar as some might suggest. We do speak of being Far Left or Left Leaning and Right Leaning and Far Right when we try to do the characterizations. Those who think in this manner make a fundamental judgment error that a position is an absolute and that the labels are points on the scale with nothing in between. The assumption is that a position is all good or all bad. This is a Western philosophical construct which is not mirrored in Eastern philosophy. By the Eastern mentality a great statesman who has brought prosperity to the people of his country is a good man even though be may beat his wife regularly. The wife beating makes him a terrible husband and not a terrible statesman. By the same concept, a President of the United States may create a business landscape that results in huge profits for corporations that has a trickle-down affect to the citizens of this nation and be hailed as a great president. All the while he is being the great president and making wealth for corporations, that wealth must come from somewhere. For any of us to live above the average, someone else must live below it. A large segment of the population of South America learned through torture and murder what laissez-faire really means. The neoliberal policies enacted and enforced in Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and other countries were both good and evil at the same time. It all depends upon who you ask.
Even as Left and Right, standing in for Liberal and Conservative, Democrat and Republican, refer to the extents of a range the political spectrum, we must realize that the spectrum is not linear. The spectrum of light is a circle. The rainbow arc is actually a circle that intersects the surface of the earth so we cannot see all of it. Politics is better described by a pendulum that can swing in two dimensions and ultimately describes a circle by its movements. For example, Libertarianism is not on the linear swing of the Liberal-Conservative pendulum path, nor is Socialism. Their positions lie on a different swing path. Anarchy, monarchy, oligarchy, dictators all hold their own positions somewhere on the perimeter of the circle. The closer to the axis that a person or government is, the less like any of these discretely defined political constructions that person or government is.
It is so convenient to ignore the damage one does in the wake of their actions. Like an aggressive driver without mirrors on a crowded highway, he has no idea that he has been scattering motorist as he flies past. It is only by the more conservative driving habits of others that the aggressive one survives. The man piloting his speed boat creates a wave that spreads out in an ever expanding V as he cuts through the water. If he never looks back he will not see the erosive affect he has on the shoreline or how it batters boats at their moorings. He may not see the fact that he capsized a small boat either.
It is so convenient to say that I will take care of myself and do not need government interfering in my life. That might work reasonably well for a man who lives quietly in the woods and writes about how good the freedom is. But then again he is depending upon the relatively high level of civilization that surrounds him. His claim to his acreage must be defended by his warm body standing behind his weapons for no other authority has the right to interfere between himself and they who would encroach on his idyll.
The Libertarian lifestyle cannot survive the overpopulating of its domain. Too many of them in too small an area build a friction that leads to smoke and fire. Given sufficient time, they will self destruct from their own spontaneous combustion. This is not to single out just one political POV because all political camps exhibit the same degradation when confronted with a mirror on itself. Conservatives, that political Right in the US, was allowed enough rope and they hanged themselves with it through permitting the finance sector to run amok in an unregulated frenzy. Possibly the truly dedicated laissez-faire economy might have worked, except that without the regulation that was so strongly eschewed one could not keep out the despoilers. But then that is part of what the regulations are supposed to do.
No man is an island… no man stands alone… When a person strived to keep governing influences out of his life, he must accept a different governing influence in its place. While there is land enough for the solitary man to move away, he can essentially do as he pleases. But others inevitably follow. When they bump up against each other the friction starts or they come to a settlement. Then a third arrives and a fourth, etc. Soon they have a government whether or not they like government. After the first few citizens of the non-state state are amongst the multitudes who have come to stay some form of written code must be published so that everyone can see the same set of rules and learn them without “error and trial.”
Even when the Others are not part of the original tribe they may be impacted by the freedoms of the original tribe. The Free Ones may feel free to dip water from the pristine stream and dump their wastes into it to wash it away. But down stream the Others have a whole different opinion about that. An inter-group council may be able to reach a mutually agreeable solution, or not. If not, it’s War. The Free Ones may not care what the Others want and believe that it is not their problem. And the rest is History, the history of the world as we know it.
When Light of Reason fails and invading hordes march in with guns blazing and swords flashing, this is no time to enlist the Pacifists’ help. Their turn will come after everyone else is exhausted and Reason again has a chance to prevail. If Reason did not rise again, one war would be final for no one would be left to fight. No man who retreats to the woods to live in self-sufficiency ever solves the armed conflict by his absence. Now if millions did that, there might be some survivors to rise again from the ashes of the conflict. He or they did not mitigate the conflict other than by not participating.
While the survivors are busy in the woods preserving the future for their progeny, and the barbarians are busy burning down civilization, someone must keep trying to put out the flames. A grass roots movement could emerge and save the day, but I would stake my hopes on putting forth a breakout leader who could rally the support that is necessary to put an end to the bloodshed with every tool available. Bombs and bullets are only a small part of the arsenal that needs to be employed to save our days. A change of attitude toward our adversaries and they toward us would go a long way toward a stable future that we would forward to living in.
Withdrawing to the woods is a cut and run approach to personal salvation. It is a temporary solution at best because in may not be long before the woodsmen come chopping at the perimeter seeking fuel for their home fires. It fails to remedy the underlying strife that ignited the conflict it the first place.
There may not yet be a breakout leader who has the brains, ideas and influential support to lead us out of our present financial debacle. Thee remains a huge bloc of influence that likes what it is now seeing in the global markets. There are still profits to be made trading in the disaster of failing stocks and investment banks. They will extract the last drop of value before beginning anew the buying cycle that pushes up prices. And by saying “they” I mean “us.” Each of us seeks to hold a small resource upon which we live without hard labor. Even the most modest of our hopes multiplies into the tens of trillions of dollars when every American is included. Now expand that to Europe and Asia.
Following one ideology or another in itself is not a destructive activity. Following all the precepts of one ideology allows the Principle of Imminent Collapse to manifest. No system designed by Man has ever been able to be all things to all people all of the time. That which was constructive to civilization in one set of circumstances can easily become its downfall. This assertion can be visualized in the struggle for religious freedom from the Church of England by the American Colonies. Their desired to not be forced to obey one denomination of Christianity led the Colonists to hold as unequivocal truth that each man has the freedom to worship freely his god in his own way. For a couple of hundred thousand Protestants that worked quite well. It worked until somebody decided that they had the right to make laws that favored one denomination or another. It worked as long as America appeared to be a Christian nation (under God). Although America remains essentially a Christian nation, that guarantee of religious freedom in the land extends to Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and a whole host of other harder to define religious dogmas. Along with those spiritual beliefs comes a multitude of rituals and cultural ways that fly in the face of the dominant religion and the laws of the land.
It is fair to say that if there is an objectionable practice by humans, one or more religions will have included it in their rituals and customs. Religion itself cannot remedy the conflicts, actually nor can governments, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. It is only by the trying that any sort of change will ever take place. Turning away and allowing the objectionable practices to continue only perpetuates the practices for many years longer. Now I am not taking a side in any dispute over whether a practice is objectionable or that its opposite is the objectionable practice. Women voting and holding gainful employment to one POV may be the objectionable practice while other POV see the denial of voting and gainful employment by women as the evil practice. What is necessary is having an institution which hears the claims, weighs the pros and cons and issues its findings. Then it is equally important to have a judicial body that will rule on enforcement.
The issues of global financial collapse that manifest itself in September 2008 were years in the making. No political party is innocent in precipitating this failure. No form of government would have kept it from occurring. Only a wise implementation of one of many types of governance would have allowed us to avoid the collapse. The failing of governance has been in its inability to reign in the widespread corruption of the ideals that put the finance structure in place in the first place. The government and the governed are both composed of man and women who have at their core a desire to succeed beyond their peers and beyond the limits of previous attainment. The zealous behaviors that brought down the system were the exact same behaviors that made the managers want to be part of that system and build it up to the point where it imploded.
It was a great ride while it lasted. The middleclass population flourished in ways that it never before could have imagined. One generation was able to make it through from the bad old days of the crash of the Great Depression to cash-out for retirement before the inevitable crash of the 21st century. The operation was flawed in its creation. It was never possible to be sustainable. Only carefully considered non-emotional uninfluenced management had any hope of pulling back on the throttle to make the machine run smoothly and last a long time. A good railroad engineer knows how to build a head of steam to make it up the grade ahead and not allow the boiler to overheat when the throttle is cut back. He looks ahead and knows his track, his load, the fuel and his water level and he carefully adjusts the speed and fuel to keep the locomotive moving at a constant effort for the long haul. We were supposed to have that in the Fed, but that failed too.
The ability of investors to turn a profit got out of hand. It became too easy to put up money, make nothing, move nothing, do no worldly good for anybody, and still make a profit. Just about everyone bought into that scheme. They drank the Kool-Aid that was offered to them with the promise of a tidy profit. They bought the entire process hook, line and sinker. Nobody was in the wheelhouse when that tanker ran aground. It could have happened on the watch of a Democratic administration, or a Republican, or even a Libertarian one. None of these principles of governance has any intrinsic capabilities or safeguards against ruthless financiers who measure their performance only in monetary returns without regard to the collateral damage that they do to people and their futures.
The sweet beverage felt good going down.