Monday, March 13, 2017

I Think I'll Go Back And Read Her Essays Instead Of Another Who-Done-It

As I've gotten older I find that the change back and forth from Standard to Daylight time takes more out of me than used to be noticed.  On top of that we're expecting the big storm that's coming our way and my trigeminal neuralgia is horrible.  I'm going to take some Tylenol with codeine and try to get some sleep.  

But thinking about the celebration by the sciency, materialist-atheists of the alleged "inconsequentiality of human beings"* in relation to the lit'rary brawling over the weekend, reminded me of what was the crucial brake with pseudo-liberalism for me, the horrible tornado in Moore, Oklahoma and the cruel, mocking, illiberal comments to it on several lefty blog comment threads that night, within hours, perhaps even within the hour when people were killed, injured, trapped, their families torn apart, their friends and neighbors killed and injured, their homes, neighborhoods etc. destroyed in minutes.

Which led me to remember I wrote about that once before in a post which contained a link to an essay which, re-reading it just now, makes me think it's exactly what we need in the Trumpian Age of Lies, ever so much more so than the snarky snobbery of The Rude Pundit.

I was also surprised to find that it began much the same way this post does.

"It is simply not possible to act in good faith toward people one does not respect, or to entertain hopes for them that are appropriate to their gifts."

I am aching all over this morning and need to get some sleep.  I will post something new later.   I have to confess that it was fun to turn an atheist's quote, widely quoted by atheists, back onto an atheist who was doing exactly what old Bertrand Russell said stupid men do. I'm not perfect by a long shot.  If I have the time I'll plow through the book to try to put it into a wider context.

Till later, I'll leave you with another essay by Marilynne Robinson, Imagination and Community,

And if you don't have the time to read every worthwhile sentence of it, with its both remarkably keen criticism of the United States and, at the same time and through her criticism, a refreshingly unaccustomed kind of clear eyed, unromantic generosity about the United States, here is a passage that has been haunting me for the past week.

I have talked about community as being a work of the imagination, and I hope I have made clear my belief that the more generous the scale at which imagination is exerted, the healthier and more humane the community will be. There is a great deal of cynicism at present, among Americans, about the American population. Someone told me recently that a commentator of some sort had said, “The United States is in spiritual free-fall.” When people make such remarks, such appalling judgments, they never include themselves, their friends, those with whom they agree. They have drawn, as they say, a bright line between an “us” and a “them.” Those on the other side of the line are assumed to be unworthy of respect or hearing, and are in fact to be regarded as a huge problem to the “us” who presume to judge “them.”

This tedious pattern has repeated itself endlessly through human history and is, as I have said, the end of community and the beginning of tribalism.

At this point in my life I have probably had a broader experience of the American population than is usual. I have been to divinity schools, and I have been to prisons. In the First Epistle of Peter we are told to honor everyone, and I have never been in a situation where I felt this instruction was inappropriate. When we accept dismissive judgments of our community we stop having generous hopes for it. We cease to be capable of serving its best interests. The cultural disaster called “dumbing down,” which swept through every significant American institution and grossly impoverished civic and religious life, was and is the result of the obsessive devaluing of the lives that happen to pass on this swath of continent. On average, in the main, we are Christian people, if the polls are to be believed. How is Christianity consistent with this generalized contempt that seems to lie behind so much so-called public discourse? Why the judgmentalism, among people who are supposed to believe we are, and we live among, souls precious to God—300 million of them on this plot of ground, a population large and various enough to hint broadly at the folly of generalization? It is simply not possible to act in good faith toward people one does not respect, or to entertain hopes for them that are appropriate to their gifts. As we withdraw from one another we withdraw from the world, except as we increasingly insist that foreign groups and populations are our irreconcilable enemies. The shrinking of imaginative identification which allows such things as shared humanity to be forgotten always begins at home.

I remember, reading around the blogs on the evening of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado, being shocked at the mean, nasty things being said about people whose lives had been shattered within the hour, many people dying, many people injured, many people losing members of their families, their friends, their homes, their neighborhoods and their communities.   The derision, the lack of respect and the judgdementalism on display that night, among alleged liberals, most with a higher education, was a kind of great divide opening up between us before my eyes, the chasm that I noticed for the first time, the exact difference between liberalism and its opposite which was being expressed by alleged liberals.

"It is simply not possible to act in good faith toward people one does not respect, or to entertain hopes for them that are appropriate to their gifts."  If there was ever a worth while sentence summing up the absolute prerequisite for any kind of liberalism, for any kind of democracy, that would be it.   It is worth everything that I've ever read from the hands of Jefferson or Madison and fully as essential as any of the best that came from Abraham Lincoln.  America lost that in the past century and more.  It's the reason we have devolved into a corporate oligarchy in which Barack Obama is far more the servant of the oil industry than he is of The People, the reason that The People tolerated having George W. Bush and Dick Cheney imposed on us by a corrupt Supreme Court and an even more corrupt press.

Our country is broken because the The People are broken and discouraged and encouraged to disrespect and be suspicious of each other.  It won't be fixed by cynicism, fashion and the pursuit of status at the expense of other people, not in the country, not in international competition.  It certainly won't be fixed by becoming more the serfs of the international oligarchs.

*  What they really mean is the inconsequentiality of other human beings. Like those who pretend to believe all kinds of things demoting the mind, cognition, free-will,... those who make those claims never live their own lives as if they believed that about their lives and the lives of those they feel something like love for.  I say "something like love" because I'm beginning to believe anyone who could love the idea of human inconsequentiality probably doesn't really love much of anyone other than, possibly, himself.

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