They can’t help us.
A few generations ago Europe debated
Whether the ends justify the means
Does the great Good that our perfect system will soon deliver:
Does that make these gulags a Necessary Evil?
Or are they still just plain old Evil?
Now we don’t even bother with the pretense
Of grand ideas and sure-bets
Now its enough to just lie over and over again.
As it was soon enough enough there
in Stalin’s Russia, where the gulags
(That Sartre and Camus considered)
Did their work.
Why is this so?
We don’t actually yet live in a tyrannical state.
So why does the lie
That any free mind can catch and call out
Why does it work here and now?
And the lie will turn itself into a truth.
The lie and those actions that it enables
Will indeed make elections unfair.
If we don’t stand up to it
And the decisions it excuses and coddles.
The lie that the current government is hopelessly corrupt
Will enable a truly corrupt leadership to take over
And to melt our government systems down into some base metal
Which can be more easily molded into a blunt object.
(I’m thinking of Trump who did scream “drain the swamp” to get inside and then who corrupted the state from the inside, and then who lost a fair election, which he then called unfair, and who now stands proud as Republican state legislators twist the ballot laws away from universal suffrage towards their electoral advantages while in all self-important earnestness recounting his fairly lost election and repeating empty lies about stolen elections.
I’m thinking of how stupid it is to destroy democracy for your own power: the more the state becomes tyrannical, the more power becomes a terrifying and short-lived desperate lunge fueled by dishonesty, cruelty and the replacement of competence with thuggery. By undoing democracy, you undo your own ability to live well without owning everything; but you also inject chaos into the system, and so undermine your own ability to hold onto everything. It is folly, but not just folly: it is cruel, reckless, greedy, mean-spirited folly: it is evil.
You cannot serve both power and good government.
And if you serve any government but good government, you serve death to souls and hearts and minds — not to mention bodies; death to love and growth and joy, death to friendship competence and real life.)
Bartleby Willard and Amble Whistletown.
These two lonely and broken men,
The one completely fictional and the other scarcely real
These two lost boys and crushed hearts
They can’t help us.
Before this crisis, they couldn’t take their own lonelinesses.
Now they can’t take anything at all
They can’t help us.
Why are they heroes in our story?
Don’t we need heroes who can help?
Kempt will come to rescue them
But he cannot restore the people’s commitment to or insight into the preservation of democracy, justice, and the rule of just, universal, and ultimately helpful, kind, and cooperative law. Kempt cannot get everyone to realize they already all agree on honesty, clarity, competence, kindness, gentle resolve and shared joy.
Why don’t they see that they are abandoning what they really care about and already share for fluff? What is going on?
Democracy works to the degree it speaks to and listens to and works with everyone. And representative democracy works to the degree the representatives speak to and listen to and work with all the people in the republic. The point of representative democracy is not crazy pool-shark pitter-patter about Freedom! and/or Empire! The point of representative democracy is to allow the people to effectively share power and thus act as a final check on madness and corruption in the state.
The point of representative democracy is that all human value-systems are based upon honesty, clarity, accuracy, competence, kindness, gentle resolve, and shared joy. And so we collectively agree to prioritize these goods, without which we none of us can be meaningful-to-ourselves. It is counterproductive and just plain mean stupid boring to sacrifice our shared values for anything.
The Mountain King, with his magic-secured harmonizing
Cannot help us, who’re stuck here in reality.
Thundration Whistletown and Archangelbert Skullvalley?
Well, they are very powerful.
And they exist beyond time and space.
And they have decided to once again put their shoulders to Sisyphus’s stone.
They have once again taken up the burden inherent within giv’in a hoot.
But they can’t guide the minds and hearts of the American people.
Nor do they control the lumbering mechanisms of our shared government.’
Already I see them juggling toads (the poor little buggers fat eyes bulge nervously forward as they spin gracefully, flippered feet centrificalized out, through the cool evening air). Already I see Arch and Tun juggling toads while arguing about who wins a game of toad-coached croquet when the toads knock down all the wickets and posts, get themselves trapped under mallets, and fail to particularly advance any of the balls in any meaningful way.
I fear they’re simply too blessed and too eternal to concern themselves with us mortals and our desperate struggles to eke out a little happiness and decency — that is to say: a little joy — in this earthy tumult.
There’s no hero in this story who can help us.
So why write the story?
Why read the story?
Time’s a wast’in