Browsed by
Tag: politics

IDF – Web Communication – Question 8

IDF – Web Communication – Question 8

This time the Interaction Design F​oundation listed a bunch of tips for making copy snappier and then asked us to rewrite something. We rewrote their example of snappy text: The Gettysburg Address. Then we wrote a little essay about Lincoln’s question: how to make a nation helpful to God. No real answer is found, a few wheels are spun, we skip out again into the sunlight, looking for a breeze.

Before Gettysburg Address

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —

that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion —

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;

that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom;

and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

After Gettysburg Address

Twenty-seven years ago our fathers established a new nation, conceived in liberty and proposing universal equality.

Now a great civil war tests whether ours or any nation so conceived and dedicated can long endure.

Voici a great battlefield, a portion we now dedicate as the final resting place for lives here sacrificed that our nation might live.

Surely fitting and proper. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, consecrate, hallow this ground.

Brave soldiers, living and dead, consecrated it far above our poor powers.

The world may not long remember our words, but it can never forget their deeds.
Let us living men, rather, dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work they’ve thus far so nobly advanced.
Let us, rather, accept the great task remaining before us –​
taking from these honored dead increased devotion to what they sacrificed their last full measure;
Demanding purpose for their deaths;

that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom;

and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

The Gettysburg Address breaks a lot of the rules here promulgated. It would probably not do as internet copy. Neither would my worsened version. The topic requires consideration. The speech’s poetic beauty opens up a window into one conscious moment’s confrontation with the great problem of his day and his life. By sharing his whole conscious space in a way ours can relate to, Lincoln shares with us his soul’s struggle with the motions of his world.
Lincoln’s question remains our own: how can spiritual values guide a nation? how can a nation be God’s instrument on earth? We know that individuals should empty themselves of all selfishness and let the Heavenly Light flow through and overtake their every word and deed. But when we think that’s what we’re doing, we’re often lying to ourselves, and thus–since the foundation of all spiritual progress is awareness–heading in the wrong direction. With a government the dangers of self-deception are even greater, hence the separation of church and state. But there is a difference between a government indifferent to spiritual values (ie: absolute values like “No, you actually should not lie–for real, that’s how things really are no matter what we little slips of passing fancies may feel or suppose.”) and a government separating church and state. You cannot make things better without following spiritual values (no other values can even ask the question “what is truly better”, since they are not absolute values, but merely unfounded assumptions), but so much trouble is created when people act like they are following spiritual values! Because they so often aren’t actually doing that at all, but are just using the notion of spiritual correctness to turn down the awareness of themselves and their fellows.

Abraham Lincoln did what he could. We all do what we can, given who we are and where we are. Reconstruction was undone. America is a work in progress. Our only hope is always the same: raise our individual and collective awarenesses to the point that we actually believe in and follow Goodness–not the word, nor even the concept, and especially not the swelling and sweetly sickening feelings we sometimes associate with Goodness, but real Goodness, that to which the word imperfectly but not therefore necessarily meaninglessly points.

But how do you do that? Clarity, honesty, openness, kindness, anti-corruption within the individual and every group, every governmental body, every business, church, artistic collective. But how do we do that?

Strange times, troubling times, burbling, gurgling, waterspilling times.


A Fun New War

A Fun New War

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in “First Essays”, available for sale (or free — write us at and we’ll email you a copy) on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

Yes! Finally! A nice, safe fun war!

Remember all those wars where everyone ends up bloody stumps lying in the cold mud or burning sand or, if lucky, the cool springtime grass, gurgling vagueries to the twittering skies? Do you remember the bombs that fall, the cities that burn, the people evaporating at the center and melting on the edges?

So what a great idea Brother Bear’s proposed! Now here’s a place for US American know-how, can-do, and go-get-em to shine bright and pleasant as a laughing spring day of fresh air, light-tunneling streams and limegreen leaf-underbellies flipped up by tickling breezes, soaking in and giggling out a broad clear sunshine!

All we have to do this time is figure out how to make voting machines secure, catch false news, and train every red-blooded American in the fine art of critically considering all ideas. How we’ll investigate and pick apart not just ads, but also conjectures, pop-off comments, well-argued but not necessarily therefore actually-reasonable soliloquies, imagery, everything! And one more tool to complete our victory: if fake news seeks to divide us, what better weapon have we but to unite? What better way to deny an attack on collective goodwill than building up the mighty arsenal of togetherness, of shared sympathies and joys, of love between all of God’s creation?

Step down, if you would be so kind, to a little lower layer*. Eye in eye here in the dark, in this old wood hold of an ancient wooden ship**. Here we’ve the privacy and salty old-oak odor conducive to confidential, earnest discussion.
Now, what if I were to tell you that this time the Russians weren’t our enemies?

You heard that right!

Those members of the Russian government seeking to unbalance and discredit our democracy with fake news and the real or merely-believed corruption of our elections: these are our enemies.

No, not so fast. Not even them!

Those elements within human beings that would live in this mean-spirited way, that would guide their overall selves to behave in this way and to take these steps: these are our enemies. Our enemy is bad-will, the desire to hurt, to maim, and the mindsets and efforts born of these spiritual errors.

We people always dream of holy wars, and now we have one. Oh happy day! The battle for the soul of the nation and the world is here clear as day! Liberal democracies win when clear-eyed, honest, kind thoughtful community wins. Can we answer this cruel, this sour-hearted salvo with clear, honest, careful, loving thinking, feeling, living, acting? Can we make lemonade? I think we can. I think we should.

Then, as we apply our love of good machines, good systems, good thinking, and shared joy to defeat those strange foolish desperate tugs within the human heart — those evil flinches that desire power more than Goodness — , as we fight the good fight against the efforts of foreign bodies to damage our democracy, we will be fighting not just outside invaders, but also corruptions within our own system and culture, even within our own hearts.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy! A neat war. A fun war. The nukes are still piled up and the intrigues yet swirl like feathery shadows on all sides; the war against imaginable horrors never ends for us vulnerable little humanthings. So we should be grateful for this provocation, this inspiration to be more pro-active, to fight for what is on the whole still a really wonderful set of possibilities before it is too late, before our own greeds and bitternesses and powerlustvaunts and thoughtlessnesses steal away our own beauty. The power-grab at our hearts/minds/souls by marketers and other psyche-manipulators has been going on for some time, but now the very weapon we’ve used to sucker ourselves out of money, health, community, and wisdom has been turned against us by a foreign government in a clear attempt to break our collective back: surely a sufficient wake-up call!

Let us take our stand here, so that together the Goodness within all human hearts will win and those aspects of human hearts and minds that feed and breed in rancor, meanness, greed, selfish indifference and all such snippy mean small-minded screams will have less and less resources, less and less inspiration, less and less fuel, less and less to say and do. In this way we humans can focus more and more on creation, exploration, sharing kind joy. Why not? We’ve done enough of the other stuff.
Oh happy day!


Rick Assessment
Chief WAP Military Strategist
[From an early-2018 memo]
Author: BW
Editor: AW
[Editor’s Notes:
*a little lower layer:
See Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (Chapter 36: The Quarter Deck)
**eye in eye:
See the same book, but Chapter 132: The Symphony]

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in “First Essays”, available for sale (or free — write us at and we’ll email you a copy) on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

Copyright: AM Watson

What Can We Say 1 & 2

What Can We Say 1 & 2


What strange times! What can we say?

Let’s start with what we all can agree on and go from there.

Example 1: Let’s demand aware clear honest thought searching for truly better ways of thinking and acting, with the whole process guard-railed by the understanding that to the degree we do not prioritize sharing kind joy we are going in the wrong direction. Any human dogma that fails to accept that principle (not so much those words, nor even those concepts, but the inner-senses-of-things they imperfectly but not therefore necessarily inadequately point towards) is meaningless/boring/not-believable to human minds and hearts. So to the degree one abandons it, one disappears from the conscious moment and becomes an amoeba, pushed around by whims that rise up, as whims always will, declaring themselves, as is their spurty want, great Truths. Much wiser to keep working to better and better center oneself around the Truth–deeper and wider than human ideas, and thus not liable to literal/definitive descriptions, but not therefore completely severed from human ideas (think of how a good poem can, when read with an open mind/heart, imperfectly but still meaningfully recreate the author’s experience within the reader’s conscious moment). That way one can compare a given whim’s claims against the Joy within that alone knows that and how human thought and action actually matter. We don’t need to be enlightened to agree on this principle, and we aren’t hypocrites if we agree to it and don’t always live up to it. The point is to agree that this is the goal and to throw back words and deeds that do not live up to it: “please try again!”, not “you’re out of the club!”, which anyway clearly violates the sharing kind joy rule.

Example 2: Let’s demand clean government. We will not all agree on everything. However, we can all agree that our only hope is 1) clear honest well-considered win-win policy decisions are superior to randomly generated / whim- & prejudice-based ones (if not, we humans have no method for coherently thinking our way to truly better thoughts and actions, and are thus at the mercy of chance and history, which would imply there’s no point having political opinions, or any ideas at all [note that you have no good reason to suppose this, and to the degree you do suppose it, you don’t suppose you should bother thinking anything, and so you undercut all your thoughts, including that attempted-supposition]) and 2) our individual and group decisions are, on the whole, clear … win-win. So let’s agree that we will not tolerate dishonesty, nor will we stand for doing any old stupid thing, no matter how much money or other powers request that stupid thing. Ah! But here’s the rub! For most will assent to these principles, but then, in the same breath, they’ll come to completely different conclusions about which politicians are lying and which ones are doing any old stupid thing for the sake of money, ego, or blind worldly dogmatism grabbed with religious fervor. How? What is going on here? And how to fix it before it critically undermines our shared interests with the persistent myth that we are not on the same team and cannot share kind joy?

Example 3: Let’s agree that human ideas and feelings are not Gods, and that we must therefore ask over and over again for the great God to bless us and make us wise enough to understand that and how it is True that what we say and do really does matter, and that we really are all in this together and cannot escape one another and so must find a way, if it takes us eternity!, for everyone to share kind joy with everyone.


What strange times! What can we say?

Upon death, I’ve heard, the soul is led to the River Lethe, where it forgets all but its deepest, most profound, most spiritual lessons. There, every bit of you that is not Love disappears. Everything not soaked through with Love is, as some have put it, burned in the fire. And so, the theory concludes, the eternal purpose of human beings is to understand and live Love. Insofar as we accomplish this, we succeed. Insofar as we don’t, we fail and gently disappear.

Another, related, line of thought runs thus: We are all in this together and the whole rises and falls in accordance with how well we all treat each other, and also by how well we all treat shared resources: our immediate and larger environment, our governments and their organizations, our written and spoken thoughts, and so on–these structures within which all live.

There are of course those who hold that it doesn’t matter what we do. After all, the game goes on forever and there’s no stopping until all are saved. Even, they reason, if we blow up this world: that’s cool–we’ll just inhabit other forms in another world and keep on rocking. Perhaps. I couldn’t say for sure from where I sit, on a tall stool at the great front window of some no-account SouthEasternConnecticut coffee shop, watching the rain stop and a wintry droop-leafed rose bush wobble in the gray winds, the various accounts drifting see-saw all around me. However, it seems safe to say that as far as we know it would be best to not blow our hand. Better to go easy on one another and our shared physical and mental space, to seek more and more wisdom and, no matter the details of our lives, to focus first and foremost on sharing kind joy. Granted: that’s the sort of thing everybody knows, irregardless how foolish we all sometimes are and how high-flying our theories sometimes get; but, you know, at Christmas we remind ourselves of these platitudes, and that, trite as they may be, they are still True, which still Matters.

Authors: Bartleby Willard & Andy Watson
Editorial Concerns / Copyright: AMW

[correction to CNL 2018: delete “no-account”]

What can be done?

What can be done?

Clinton’s email fiasco that may or may not turn into a criminal charge. And the arrogance and lack of judgement that the incident demonstrates.

Sander’s longshot campaign, his lack of foreign policy experience, and does he understand how dangerous terrorism has become? A handful of crazy people could nuke a city, or poison its water, or a mall’s ventilation system–or do that to several cities at once. Or they could blow up the House while most everyone in the Federal government is present (suggested solution: most people can send representatives while watching it on TV in someplace dignified–for example, their state’s capitol). Can he handle this? Privacy is important but so is keeping New York City from evaporating (actually, any city dweller with any imagination will notice that evaporation is about the best option for dying in a terrorist strike).

Trump’s insane ideas: building walls across Mexico that the Mexican government will pay for; stopping all Muslims from entering the country; using his magical bartering abilities to turn the world’s governments into rival businesses that he strong-arms and outmaneuvers. And then also the usual (for a couple generations anyway) bank-breaking Republican fiscal policies that make the poor get poorer, the rich get richer, the government unable to fund necessary services (D+ on our last infrastructure report) and the economy stay unstable. Oh and then there’s the narcissism, flagrant misogyny, and general Nietzschian conception of “might-makes-right or at least it wins and winning’s the thing”. Except that doesn’t even win: when you reduce all to power plays, you are the ones that become Nazi Germany, and someone else must give the King’s Speech and say that might doesn’t make right, that there is more to life than power and money, and that government’s are responsible to those human values first: to creating and maintaining places where people can be both physically OK and morally decent. That is the vision that allows for the mutual trust and support necessary for collective success!

So what can be done?

Because Elizabeth Warren isn’t running and so I’m thinking we won’t unite: we’ll all stay alone in this giant, ill-conceived, incoherent mosaic.

What can be done?

Why would it have been different with Elizabeth Warren running? Because she can explain the necessity of financial regulations, the compatibility of healthy capitalism and taxation and even some redistribution. She can explain that ad-money linked to a candidate’s ear is corrupting our democracy, and she can help us think through our way back to the steering wheel–or at least the brakes: in a representative democracy the primary responsibility of the electorate is to serve as a final check against excessive corruptions and flagrant madnesses of the political class, a duty we’ve largely traded-in for teatime with pundits and rabble-rousers where we pretend we’re all political geniuses and/or that the other side’s too perverted to talk to.

What is different about Elizabeth Warren? Well, she’s not hated by the right like Clinton is, and she lacks Clinton’s email problem. The left acts like it’s the Republicans fault that Clinton is hated: that’s somewhat true, they’ve spent 30 years maligning the Clintons. But is the point here who’s fault it is? And isn’t the email mess more than just Republican headhunting? Wasn’t that at best really stupid? The nation desperately needs someone who can unite us, and it is hard to see how that person could be a Clinton, and easy to see how it could be that sunny, sweet, irresistible, and so very accurate without being pretentious or impractical Elizabeth Warren, who, I regret to say, is not running for President.

Bernie Sanders still is running for president, but he’s excessive: we could make college an affordable part of life without mandating that it be free; we could improve the health care reforms we’ve started without demanding that we jump straight to single-payer; we could regulate the financial sector without acting like they’re all a bunch of crooks; we could move slowly but surely towards a better society–and cranky perfectionism is not the way to do that.

The Republican party is hopeless because their budget ideas are all based on fanatical magicalism, and they flip constantly between hating and trying to dismantle government and pretending they want to and can govern–and even keep social security going. Donald Trump is an arrogant fool with no experience governing and even supposing he is a good businessman and not more like a good self-promoter and con-man, the country is not a business–it is a country, and the bottom-line is not the annual profit report: it is justice, freedom, liberty, safety, and the tools and space for everyone here to become their best so that we as a nation can become our best: yes, staying safe and financially healthy, but most fundamentally becoming kinder, more just, wiser, more fun, more creative, more human–living out our inner landscapes more completely: that is the path to sustainable collective success, and anything else is the Titanic.

What can be done? What has gone wrong? Why can’t we even unite around no-brainers like stopping banks from using publicly-insured money to fund risky investments, taking back the political process from the “ad money + lobbyists = you listen to me” political investors, and improving our D+ infrastructure? Look–the sickness is most pronounced in the Republican party because they’ve given themselves most completely over to the myth that money is the point and justifies everything else. It is that ugly truth that makes bipartisanship tricky. The Democrats are not perfect, but the Republicans have lost their minds. And yet this exact same position in reverse is held by the majority of Republicans. How can I see with their mind/hearts enough to find a common ground? It is painful for me to try. I am so baffled by them. And yet no progress will come to the land that now slouches with flat heavy feet down the rocky ravine–just asking for the decisive tumble into the abyss–unless we can find a common reality.

AMW and BW, worried on of a Sunday morn in the year 2016.

I want to quit

I want to quit

I’d give up, but that seems futile.

I’m getting older without a cause. That’s the problem.

If Elizabeth Warren would’ve run for president, all would be well. I could relax while she unified the nation around sensibleness. But that didn’t happen.

But I don’t really understand what is going on. Why are the Republicans so crazy? Why won’t they stop running for office if they hate government so much? Why won’t they admit that we need to build roads and that people on welfare is not what is breaking the budget and that of those the small percent that are gaming the system really are not what is breaking the budget? Why do they keep pretending that cutting taxes is a magical potion? Why have they trapped us all here in this hog pen while they whistle and rodeo us in the mud–pretending that we’re raging bulls and not puny brown-nosed piglets? I am so lonely here! And the weirdest part is that we all know that we need some mixture of free market, regulations, and safety net. We all know that the magical formulas that toss away any one of those is magical thinking. So how can it be that we let the Republicans act like two of those three economic pillars are evil treacheries and the other is God’s mighty hand in creation? And so we are scattered to the wind. Oh Israel! Oh Israel!

When we be a people? When will we share this land and this purpose? Don’t we have a purpose? Don’t we agree at least that the government should avoid making decisions just to appease people and organizations with money to burn? Why are people voting for Trump? What is going on? Will someone please get me out of this dank cellar?! Who locked the door? Who’s flooding the upstairs bathroom? Don’t they know I’m trapped down here? Don’t they care?

I can’t stop the evil. I can’t even figure out what is behind it, where it is, what it is. I feel helpless and stupid. What do I do? Who do I turn to?

AMW and BW, all upset with no place to go

A New, Improved Manhattan Project: Pt 1: Preliminary Worries

A New, Improved Manhattan Project: Pt 1: Preliminary Worries

I live in the world. I worry. Won’t it just have to go off the rails? Nuclear war still clearly a threat; nuclear terrorism now clearly a threat. Antibiotic resistance bugs still being carefully crafted by reckless agricultural practices. Strange rumors of cracking ice and swirling storms. And so on.

And look how the United States lost its shit after 9-11. Plus the corrupting influence of money and advertising in the US election cycle coupled with everyone tucking into their private media sources for a dose of agreement and amplification in the echo chamber: the politicians become more and more beholden to a few while the many become more and more divided over the glory of their good-good wisdom and the horror of their neighbor’s evil-evil stupidity.

How worrisome!

And yet here on the ground floor of the US, we mostly go on our merry way. It is fun. We like the sunlight and enjoy meeting friends for a chat. We slip into comfy beds with our lovers; we stroller our kids around vibrant, bustling streets, full of life and fun. We have to go to work but not all the time and there’s opportunities to find more congenial, more rewarding work.

Meanwhile some groups tell us they very much plan on killing a bunch of us–hard to say how many: 30, 300, a city’s worth, the more the better–and get the rest of us to lose our shit and blow our hand. The freedom to speak your mind and a safe, an orderly setting with a functioning government are wonderful and they are still ours to watch fade on out.

In a representative Democracy the citizens must serve as a final check on corruption and idiocy in the political class. But we’re too busy playing policy expert with our chosen pundits and otherwise goofing off to focus on the task at hand; and we’ve been too completely lulled and badgered into writing the “other side” off as “hopeless” to work together as a nation: we are not doing a very good job of fulfilling our basic duty, which is to together guard against political corruption, meanness, and other obvious idiocies. The rich have their TVs in the bedrooms of the poor; and there’s a mighty judgement coming–the relatively young Leonard Cohen might yet be wrong, but the route oute is difficult to discern.

When a major city is destroyed by a nuclear bomb or everyone at the President’s congressional address is killed, the citizens need most of all to stay calm and resolute. They need to work together to make sure that they keep first things first: yes, immediate safety and order are important, but the very most important thing is that we hold these truths to be self evident:

That all people are created equal and are endowed by the Light within (deeper and wider than any concept or feeling, though some concepts point better towards it than others–here I picked “the Light within” because because and sometimes we mention “love” with a similar argument) with the right and duty to live well (fully, joyfully, creatively, beautifully, kindly) but also justly (justice = no shortchanging souls in order to achieve your goals; aka: your goals can’t forget that you and other people are full, complete humans; aka: beneath every goal must be the deeper goal: that the Light in our centers bursts evermore through the rags and we all move more and more for real).

We know that sense-of-things deeper and more fundamentally than any doubts we may conjure against it or any dogmas we might use to justify ignoring or co-opting and betraying it. It is a good idea; it is our idea. This idea informs us that we can and should work together to make this democracy of the people, for the people, by the people be just and kind to all the people in this land and the world.

I am worried that we lack the clarity and shared purpose required to pull it together and put joyful-justice/just-joyfulness first when faced by something awful–or maybe even when merely faced by something that particularly reminds us of awfulness.

I am concerned. But what can I do?, that’s what I’d like to know. Or rather: what should I do, and am I allowed to go take a walk?

Authors: BW, AMW


What is this?
A three essay series called “A New, Improved Manhattan Project”
Part 1: Preliminary Worries
Pt. 2: The Proposal
Pt. 3: Some Tips for the Geniuses

Whatever happened to selling evolving ebooks on the world-wide web?
Well, nothing’s being posted, but the somewhat-begun books are still available:
Love at a Reasonable Price are listed and linked-to here:
Intro to Love at a Reasonable Price
Intro to Diary of an Adamant Lover for sale here:
Buy the Books

We also are still selling cat totes and epistemologically controversial baby onsies:
Buy Cat Totes!
&/or Objectively Cute Baby Onepieces! (advertised here: An ad for an “Objectively Cute” baby wrap

But what are we really up to?
I dunno, Bartleby and Andy are writing something once in a while and then sometimes going back and editing things. I think they’ll go back to the ebooks before too long. We’ll see.

Essayish 5: Proposed Solutions

Essayish 5: Proposed Solutions

Can the dashing author-adventurer Bartleby Willard and his faithful editor Andy Watson get anything done? I dunno, maybe, if they can get the right rhythm going. Maybe they can put together enough sanity and creativity and firestorm and discipline and decency to make something of this project. However, what if their surrounding environment goes to pot? What then?

Many things can go wrong. A small band of haters can gather up chemical weapons or nuclear devices and take out a city or three. Or maybe before too long the world’s dependence on oil and fresh water will create a new cataclysmic strife. Or the pandemic really will come, and everybody will tumble into the sea, to float gently along: bloated sunk-eyed jellyfish who don’t recall their childhood in the scamper town or their grownup life drifting through the signs.

Or here’s a list of other worries I recently made:

We’re going to kill ourselves soon. I don’t know exactly where to fit this in. Categorize it under “First things first”. The US and Russia still full of nukes pointed at each other and around the world; still sliding nuclear submarines around the globe, ready to take out a billion people. And countries around the world still trying to edge their way into the nihilistic world-destroying club while those already in chuckle to themselves, their mountains safely full of doomsday–as if anybody could control doomsday! Oh, and then there’s pumping tortured livestock full of antibiotics; in this way agribusiness avoids the cost of treating animals with a trace of decency while simultaneously creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs. And what’s going on with GMOs? And why didn’t we put the brakes on high risk banking after it cost the world economy gazillions and came close to melting it down into burning paper and overturned streets.

Why don’t we get serious about nuclear disarmament? Why don’t we stop small groups from profiting by putting the rest of us in danger? Clearly the only hope is a growth in wisdom. But what does wisdom look like in the public sphere?

I would like to see an end to the subtle corruption of the USA of my day: The way money buys political ads and accompanying that money flutter lobbyists whispering sweet-somethings into squishy, campaign-fatted ears. But apparently spending money to make people see your propaganda everywhere they turn is equivalent to freedom of speech, which of course we need as a fundamental guard against corruption, and which is therefore duly protected by the very first amendment our forefathers brought forth on this great nation. It is perhaps conceivable that the right to outspend your enemies and therefore more fully saturate everybody’s poor little unsuspecting brain with your psychologically proven mind-influencers is not actually equivalent to freedom of speech. It is conceivable that that was nothing more than an opinion held at one specific time by the majority of nine old sitabouts who–far from being the Form-following philosopher kings that their intelligence, expertise, dedication, advanced age, and freedom from financial or career concerns was supposed to make them–had their own hatchets to sharpen.

But even supposing another set of uppermost judges were to–rightly or wrongly!–reverse the ruling that equates regulating campaign spending with regulating speech (perhaps using an argument that the speech act is one thing and the using power to drench the world in it is another thingNote 1), we’d still all be gathered around our own individual media sources, drinking only the spin that already agrees with our own particular prejudices, getting thicker and thicker in certainty and swagger and louder and louder in indignation and disgust at neighbors who gobble the contrary media.

The real problem is clearly that we’re an evil and depraved people. Except that if you actually meet us, we’re not that bad. We’ve just stopped believing in a shared good, in a larger nation, in beliefs and hopes and goals held in common. We’ve fallen for the lie of Red vs Blue and it is killing us down into the asphalt that the jumpers dent, splatter, and forget.

Perhaps if we began to pull ourselves away from the televisions and computers, and/or we began to demand not journalism that makes us feel like we are already right, but journalism that challenges us. (I know!: The problem with the latter fix is that the underlying problem involves how everyone thinks their opinions are the Truth and it’s the other side who can’t bear to be challenged with the Truth.)

Whatever you are trying for: “truth” or “goodness” or “holiness” or “best current guess” or “decency”–whatever phraseology you use, your deep underlying goal presupposes that life matters and that we can consciously find our way to better and worse ideas and actions (ie: your real motivation is a sense of meaningfulness deeper than ideas and feelings). So though our specific philo-spiritual persuasions vary widely, we all agree that life matters and that with open-hearts and open-minds, we can find our way to truer visions and better actions. Take that common ground seriously and you will see that it implies a shared absolute standard of values. The real Truth is prior to our ideas and feelings about Truth, but each of us has the same inner sense: this is the truth from which we can begin: this is the truth from which real commonwealth can beginNote 2): admit that the Truth is in each of us: we all know very well that life matters, that people matter, that we need to treat one another with respect and dignity. We don’t just think that or feel that, we know it, and it is this deep knowledge, deeper than the assumptions out of which we’d build our doubts about the authority of this knowledge, that binds us.

We need to start seeing that we have enough in common and that the only things that win in media battles are memes and dramatic swells of self-aggrandizing emotion-puffs. People aren’t soundbites or momentary thrills. They aren’t even complex, well-thought-out ideas and intricate mazes of overlapping and interacting feelings. They are ideas and feelings centered around that indefinable something that motivates and justifies our attempts to use ideas and feelings to find truer and better paths. People win when they treat themselves and others with dignity and actually think and work together; they lose when they reduce the real world to black and white sides and human beings to us or them.

But in case we don’t straighten up and fly right, I’ve got another plan:

Some scientific genius can come up with some magic dust that will–upon release from a small, square-based, cork-stopped glass flask–instantly fill the world and undo all nuclear weapons all over the world–rendering them all harmless. Another scientific genius can come up with something similar for chemical weapon X and another for Chemical weapon Y. And then we’ll need a scientific genius to release a special bacteria that will make us resistant to all the dangerous ones and a special virus that will keep us safe from the bad ones. And so on. I’m not sure how many scientific geniuses we’ll exactly need, or how we can be sure to keep their inventions from not backfiring and actually making things worse. But at least that’s the plan in a rough-sketch.

Or everyone could do like me and turn into a superbeing that cannot be harmed by anything and that jumps from city to city, from harbor to harbor, from coast to valley, from desert to mountaintop, from the seafloor to the country church. I certainly enjoy this lifestyle and wholeheartedly recommend it for everyone. But for some reason the many–stiff-necked!–drag their feet, make milky-eyed laments and handlebar-frown excuses. They can’t, they don’t know how, they’re just so wretchedly mortal–and on and on. There’s no helping some people!

Author: Bartleby Willard
Oversight: Andy Watson

Copyright: Andy Watson
Note 1: This idea originated in the idle conversation of WAP co-founder and -leader Tom Watson, co-chief of the implausible yet achievable Wandering Albatross Press. On numerous chit chat throughout the continental United States, Tom Watson has expanded at length upon a scholarly legal article that he proposes to write. In this much-promised and little-realized paper, Tom plans on demonstrating the constitution’s ultimate support for campaign finance in the 21st Century and beyond, basing his prodigious future-arguments largely upon the distinction between the freedom to speak and share your opinions and the power to fill the media sea with them. Or so I understand this as yet nonexistent but at least to hear him talk inevitable intellectual, moral, and spiritual achievement. As the unwritten article as yet remains unnamed, for convenience’s sake we will in the future refer to it as “Article I’ll believe it when I see it”.

Note 2: A Literary Allusion: “Villanelle for Our Time” by Frank Scott (Leonard Cohen put music to this poem in his 2004 album “Dear Heather”)

“Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.” is in F Scott’s poem.

I found the poem, along with a concise and thoughtful commentary by a certain “Max Stephenson, Jr”, professor of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, here;