Friday, April 04, 2008


Since getting “Bronze Inside and Out” actually out there on the bookshelves, I’ve become caught up in the amazing issues of publication these days. “Publishing a book” is such an icon of achievement and success, and of course it IS, that the mere technical fact tends to dominate everything else in most people’s minds. They ASSUME it means money, honor, and so on and may even become a little resentful since they don’t have much idea of how to write -- it seems to them like magic.

It’s not just that the technical advances of the Internet and digital print have thrown a monkey wrench in all the book systems, it’s not just that somehow bloggers have knocked all the professional reviews of books, of movies and of music out of the newspapers and magazines so that suddenly all is a catch-as-catch-can free-for-all. It’s that the politics/economics of Everything have fallen into doubt -- most obviously the assumption that experts know what we are doing and know how to prevent disaster. Clearly, they don’t. As one of the bloggers who seems to really know what happens “in the world” says (I’m paraphrasing), “All our systems of government, of feedback, of prediction, and so on have rolled into a big self-perpetuating feedback loop.” It fuels itself, shapes itself, and takes no care for human intervention or consequences. The forces look a whole lot like the Four Horses of the Apocalypse: plague, starvation, war, and oppression.

One of the ideas I’ve been thinking about quite a bit, in an incoherent and not-very-helpful way, is that our sudden huge preoccupation with religion (the true nature of Islam, atheism, creationism -- the subjects that sell books -- and how it comes to bear on international politics -- more books) an interest which I cannot help but endorse, given four years of seminary, is actually only a distraction. While we dither over theological abstractions, it is the OTHER hand, the economic/political forces -- specifically the fascist diversion of laws and military force for the benefit of international corporations -- that is the real Fourth Horseman.

In Great Falls I went into Barnes & Noble to buy Western art magazines -- about the only thing I buy there now. I don’t patronize their faux Starbucks since the quality of the coffee has sunk even as they add more panninis and cheesecakes. At the book checkout counter were two new clerks, both girls and probably from back east some place. They were talking about job conditions, evidently as arbitrary and procrustean as the B&N refusal to sell local books. I said something casual, and the closest clerk (intensely dressed and cosmetized just short of Goth) said, “Well, it’s a corporation.” I suggested maybe they ought to protest, that we ought to drive the corporations rather than the other way around. She sighed, “Oh, it’s just not worth it.” Then she wanted to know whether I had my discount card, which means that I would be entered into a relentless database. I don’t.

“Maybe we’re getting close to the point where it WOULD be worth it to redefine corporation law,” I suggested. She shrugged.

Everybody shrugs. They “know.” They know we invaded Iraq, not in retribution for 9/ll and not to liberate the citizens, but to secure the oil for ourselves. But how many years down the road and no oil yet? It goes to pirates who sell it to our enemies. We can’t even get the oil wells back on line. So why did we REALLY invade Iraq? Maybe to drive up the price of oil so high that dissenters and webways will be willing to accept draconian laws? To scare us all into surrendering Social Security and Medicare? To drive private and public wealth into corporate hands? I’m not a subtle enough thinker to follow these things, but I have always remembered that Bush’s strategy all his life has been to ask for three times what he wants, knowing that if he settles later for only twice what he wants, the other guy will think HE won.

What the Iraqi war did more than anything else was throw chaos into many systems of the country by cutting off funds, sending needed men overseas, and imposing limits everywhere. It’s characteristic that when Governor Schweitzer, backed by the full unanimous vote of the Montana government, told the Homeland Security people to “go to hell,” in just those words, because we weren’t going to participate in the super-ID cards, and then later sent a letter saying what Montana WAS willing to do, the feds simply declared that this letter of dissent was in fact a letter of participation and took Montana off the “hell, no” list.

The medical world is deeply affected by all this. The Diabetes 2 renegades (I'm with'em!) constantly complain about the big hospital/pharmaceutical collaborations, very much disguised by books and then revealed by other books. (My so-called insurance policy looks more like a book.) Last year there wasn’t enough flu vaccine. This year there was so much that they were pushing people to get the shots, but it didn’t protect anyone from the kinds of flu actually going around. The only person I know who hasn’t had flu is me -- and I didn’t get the shot.

Where does religion come into it? Some would get distracted by the idea of religion as morality, which they normally think of as rules for behavior and declare that we need more regulation, more control, more inspection. (I’m not objecting, esp. when it comes to airplanes.) But corruption and sex are rampant!! Egad!!

Consider the idea of religion as authorization, God as the Ultimate Supreme Commander who authorized the organizing of this country as a breakaway, who authorized the Queen of England to take her throne, and who authorizes us to win at all costs. God is the guy that George W. purportedly consults for guidance. This use of religion is authoritarian. This God is the Ultimate Dictator -- the same guy who ordered Abraham to murder his son, calling it a “sacrifice,” a devotion. Of course, Bush doesn’t sacrifice his daughters. That’s Greek -- Iphigenia and all that. Not Christian. Those Greeks thought about hubris and tragedy too much. It's in the books.

I can’t bring this to a conclusion. There’s no end to it. At least none I can see. So far. The weather forecast is snow. Then maybe there will be grass.

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