You Say You Want a Revolution

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to save the world.
— John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Even though this week’s blog does not appear to be about anything, it is about the upcoming Presidential election in the “United” States of America. I, however, like Tom before me, have left out the coordinating conjunctions and the conjunctive adverbs, so you, dear reader, are on your own to make sense of what stopped making sense years before this election, which, in essence, made this (whatever this is) possible.

But we, all of us we’s everywhere, are responsible. We have created this opportunity for anyone to become President through the very ways we have been living our daily lives.

So, what follows are merely a few casual and meaningless observations that I fell upon while walking through certain half-deserted streets (mostly in San Francisco, in the fog) following tedious arguments of insidious intent (mostly in Berkeley in the light of dusk). And, like my old companion Prufrock, I dare not risk disturbing the universe by making a decision that will, any minute, be reversed with the newest meme that comes my way, telling me what to trust, what to believe, what to know; for what is knowledge any more? A blink of an eye?

Indeed, that (the place where a blink of an eye passes as knowledge) is no country for old men. All those terrible beauties trying to seduce us. 

When one with honeyed words but evil mind Persuades the mob, great woes befall the state. Euripides

When one with honeyed words but evil mind
Persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.
Euripides

Dear Facebook:

Why do you call it a Newsfeed? Who gave you such permission? Please stop doing all you do to language, to thinking. Stop it. Words were innocent, before you abused them with your filthy fingerprints. And you, dear Facebook Newsfeed, have perverted the purity of our youth into believing activism is as simple as a click of a keyboard, that we can be involved, active, without ever leaving the solitude of our social network prison. Imagine if Martin Luther King, Jr, had stayed home, had stayed off the bridges and streets.

Please. I beg you, Facebook. Stop.

It is not a newsfeed, nor was meant to be; it is a mirror. And please do not hire a Frenchman (Lacan by any other name) to look into this, to move around the mirror, to disinfect the mirror and make it become other to itself. No Frenchman is up to the task.

My advice is that you hire Andrei Tarkovsky

Love,

Narcissus

(Written on the surface of a perfectly still pond before the rain fell or before a stone skipped across the surface of the pond, rippling the words into a dance so subtle that we could no longer separate the dancer from the dance, and then what becomes of thought?)

We, none of us, become radical political activists by passively click “like” on a Facebook post. There are, of course, more devoted Facebookians, who do so much more than merely clicking “like;” some agent provocateurs of the Facebook ilk go so far as to click “like,” and write a comment. Something like: “There in spirit. If only the Gilmore Girls were not on tonight.” If such a commitment does not change the world, then, seriously, nothing will. And of course, there are even more passionate activists, ones who click “like,” leave a comment, AND go so far as to share the post on their very own Facebook page. The next thing you know such Facebookians will be storming the barricades. (Gentle reminder, the word activist in English means to get the f*ck off the sofa, walk out the front door, and step into the mud of the world.  That is, get thee to a barricade, and storm it.)

More often than not, we click “like” so that we can feel good about ourselves, perhaps even feel like we have done something, or we click “like” so that others can see that we like what they like, and so that we can agree that we think alike, and, because we think alike, we can stay Forever Facebook Fiends (Yes, I know you think that I missed a typo, silly you.), and so that everyone can see that we are ever so progressive with our like-clicking.

In fact (in the fact of being there in reality, without pulling Keanu Reeves into this conundrum), we are nothing more than Pavlov’s dog, obediently obeying and responding to what is placed in front of us, and only what is placed in front of us, and we promise never to question how what got placed in front of us got placed in front of us, and we promise to never question our own implications of us being a member of the they that we want to blame for what we ourselves have created. 

We are not victims of they. We enable they.

And, what is placed in front of us, and what passes as politics, or as knowledge worthy of reflection, is frightening.

What threatens us today is fear. … Our danger is the forces in the world today which are trying to use man’s fears to rob him of his individuality, his soul, trying to reduce him to an unthinking mass by fear. This is what we must resist, if we are to change the world for man’s peace and security. So never be afraid. Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion, against injustice, lying, and greed. If you will do this, not as a class or classes, but as individuals, men and women, you will change the earth.--William Faulkner

What threatens us today is fear. … Our danger is the forces in the world today which are trying to use man’s fears to rob him of his individuality, his soul, trying to reduce him to an unthinking mass by fear. This is what we must resist, if we are to change the world for man’s peace and security. So never be afraid. Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion, against injustice, lying, and greed. If you will do this, not as a class or classes, but as individuals, men and women, you will change the earth.--William Faulkner

A few of my “friends” on Facebook (perhaps more than a few) have begun unfriending people with whom they disagree, and/or unfriending those who disagrees with them. This saddens me deeply. So many people claiming, a priori, to know the truth, without being open enough to think deeper than the memeing madness that we are served.

Are you being served? I didn't think so.

What becomes of philosophy when memes replace the soundbytes that replaced narratives? How is thinking possible outside narrative? What becomes of becoming?

Facebook is little more than our own private mirror reflecting back to us exactly what we think, exactly what we value, exactly what we believe. And, yet, we accuse others of being narcissists. I know you already know this. We all already know this. Everybody knows. And yet.

The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.
— Leonard Cohen

This should frighten us. This insistence on everyone thinking exactly the same way that we think. This fear we have of speaking each to each. We should be afraid of what has become of us. We should be ashamed. Our parents should be disappointed in us, in our fragility, in our own unwillingness to listen and to think beyond our own limits of understanding the world.

There is an election next week. This election will place in power the next President of the United States of America. So I will leave you with discarded parables I found in the Mission District the other morning.

Bugs go Ka-choo. It happens. There is even a carefully written, witty memoir of such a bug going Ka-choo, and of all that happened because the bug’s gentle and accidental ka-choo. This book is important because the bug takes responsibility for setting in motion a series of events, even though the bug did not intend to create such a series of events. Still, this bug never positions itself as a victim. It takes ownership of its ka-choo. Such a stance is heroic. We need more heroes like this bug. (We do not need more heroes who need wars to become heroes. Mel Gibson knows what I am talking about, and the American philosopher Tina Turner knows this in an even more profound way.)

This is the charged, the dangerous moment, when everything must be re-examined, must be made new, when nothing at all can be taken for granted.--James Baldwin

This is the charged, the dangerous moment, when everything must be re-examined, must be made new, when nothing at all can be taken for granted.--James Baldwin

For years a girl (this could just as easily be a boy or any other gender, but since this is a true story, it is a girl, a daughter) gets into her mother’s car. She buckles her seatbelt and then immediately looks down at her phone. A short while later (or a long time later, depending on the destination), mother and daughter arrive. The daughter lifts her eyes from the screen of her phone, unbuckles her seatbelt, and gets out of the car. When this girl one day takes her first driving lesson, she gets in the car, sits behind the wheel, looks down at her phone, and waits.

A simple reflection for all of us to undertake before we vote: Think back to the day when you first started carrying a cellphone with you everywhere. Can you remember the exact day that happened to you? (Twenty centuries of stony sleep.) How many times have you left your house without your cellphone, then, realizing that you did not have your phone with you, rushed back to get your phone? (The blood-dimmed tide is loosed.) Can you remember the first time you thought to yourself that you had to have your phone with you in case something happened? (The deep sadness of this thought is that the only way it is true is if nothing ever happened before cellphones, and we know that is not true. I mean, after all, Hitler was possible without Twitter. Imagine if Hitler had Twitter. But, honestly, the deeper sadness of thinking we have to carry our phone with us everywhere is that it might be indicative of a loss of faith in community, in the humanity of helping each other.)

Vote.

“The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending; or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous "turn" (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially "escapist," nor "fugitive." In its fairy-tale -- or otherworld -- setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” --J.R.R. Tolkein

“The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending; or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous "turn" (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially "escapist," nor "fugitive." In its fairy-tale -- or otherworld -- setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” --J.R.R. Tolkein

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