Thursday, January 02, 2014

Canaries In Coal Mines And The Art Of The Possible

     There's a fellow out there on the Internet who has replaced the arch-Threeper as my prime coal-mine canary.  There's no doubt he's on a list; a lot of lists.  And I have no doubt that at some point in the frog-boiling process, his door is gonna get kicked in by Agents Of The State.  What happens after that is liable to be somewhere on the spectrum from "Took an honor guard with him to Hell" and "...disappeared..."  In the meantime, I monitor him, not so much for what he says but for when -- not if -- he either goes silent or makes the evening news.

     'Cos that'll be a real bad sign.  That'll mean it's time to jump.  Or bunker down.*

     His latest essay is all about "burning it all down."   'Cos, he says, it's rotten to core and headed for the Pit anyhow, and the only way to build a better nation/society/comity/polity/WTFever is on the ashes of the old one.

     I have a problem with that.  No, I have two; one's very simple, even crude, and the other is subtle.

     Here's the simple one: I like indoor plumbing, electricity, telephones, the Internet, bein' able to buy good gasoline, fresh vegetables in Winter, fresh eggs without having to own chickens--  I like these things and I detest "roughing it."  I've done it.  I have shivered over a hole in the ground in snow higher than my rump, cooked over a fire, counted myself lucky to have good dry straw to sleep on and by golly, I aim to avoid it. Edison and Ford, Tesla and Einstein and the nameless, wonderful geniuses who invented fire-making multiple times (not to mention soup) were aimin' at something more and I'd just as soon they didn't work in vain.

     The subtle one is actually the one that scares me worst.  Okay, if I have to live like a bear -- or like a bear with a rifle, I hope -- I can do it.  I'll gripe, I'll hate it, but I can do it.  But it frets me every time one of these Internet commandos starts in on how The Gummit is one-hundred-percent Bad, Rotten, Awful and should be burnt to the waterline and rebuilt...  And presumably, perfected.  Presumably with the "bad element" removed.

     Perfected how?  Removed to where?  Re-education camps?  Do they become the core of the new prison population in a nation with the highest percentage of its denizens behind bars, a system that has worked so well that we've got about as much crime as any other modern industrial country?

     The Founders and Framers did their level best to build, not a perfect system, but a system that worked despite having mostly-flawed people running it.  Do you really think Jefferson and Washington were unaware of the chasm between their fine words about Man and Rights, and the slaves in the rude sheds behind their respective grand houses?  D'ya suppose anyone -- including the man himself -- failed to grasp that Thomas Paine was so innately contentious that few people could stand him for very long?   Do you really think those men didn't see in their fellows at least, the vanity, greed, concupiscence, quarrelsomeness, all the failings of mortal men?  They knew the system would be gamed; they tried to keep the game fair (or, at least, fair for white, land-owning males who could keep their wits about them; but that's another sort of rant). They knew the system would be run by jerks; they tried to set it up so as to get some work out of them -- and to keep them out of everyone else's hair.  They didn't try for perfect; they knew perfection to be unattainable.

     You know who aimed for perfection?  Pol Pot.  Lenin.  The Owenites.  The French Revolution.  Hell, GODWIN even the GODWIN Nazis claimed to be GODWIN reaching for the ideal.  And every one of them ended in greater or lesser sorrow.

     Is the system imperfect?  Yes.  Very.  And it's getting more lopsided by the minute--  But you can't fix it by "burning it all down;" you'll only create a fresher, bloodier hell.

     If there is any hope at all, it is in technology.  The System is slow; The Establishment is inherently hidebound.  The Internet, small-scale CNC machining and 3-D printing may have poked the established order full of holes already.  Only time can tell.

     Conversely, we may be riding an inevitable -- and long, slow -- decline.  Republic may have to become Empire, and Empire sink slowly into to rubble, over and over again.  Our culture's fates may be written into our genes and our memes.

     But "burn it all down?"  All you get from that is ash!  Or ash and blood; ash and tears.  "Carthago delenda est" didn't work out too well if you happened to be Carthaginian.  It's a damn fool canary that asphyxiates itself for spite.

     Yes, we've got a mess.  It wants fixing -- or falling apart; but you don't need to push a man who's already teetering on a ledge. Some other folks are liable to get squished, too.
     *If things get extremely bad enough, fast enough, I'm most likely to end up behind Federal lines, helpin' to transmit "news and official information" about evacuation routes and where the Red Cross kitchens are, hoping listeners/viewers can read between the lines.  I have made my peace with that. --See, if any ol' crunch comes to call, my odds of ending up in a camp no matter who wins are close to 100%.  I'm too contrary, awkward, opinionated, out of place.  But I will by golly strike out swinging, not looking.


greg said...

Hmmm...kind of similar(if a little less pointed) to what Tam posted about the other day.

I tend to agree with you...the fact is...there isn't a better system out there! Not to be super-duper patriotic, but there isn't another country I want to live in...right now.

I don't think the problem is so much the system, as the fact that people are using the system to tell other people what they can and can't do, as opposed to letting them do it, unless it hurts someone else.

Roberta X said...

Then I may not have explained myself sufficiently well.

And so it goes.

diesel smoke said...

Hello Roberta X
I think you have hit the problem square. Don't push the man on the ledge. But be ready to do the things necessary to survive.
I like to think I will be one of the guys that you will never see, but every once in a while you will find some venison hanging near your door and wonder if it is me. I do not what the book of Eli, but that might be where we are going.
You are smart, you have a plan, you will survive. I am not so smart, my only plan is to get away from the mess as fast and as far as possible.
My motto is Run Silent, Run Deep.



Jeffro said...

I'm certainly invested in the idea of keeping infrastructure running - since I kinda need the pharmacy at WallyWorld to stay stocked.

If necessary, I'll do what I can, but I'd really rather not burn the whole thing down.

Anonymous said...

I think this does have some utility, but only as a warning.
I don't want to experience it.


Anonymous said...

Amen to what you said, although personally I more expect a slow decline British style, and in fifty years the generation now being born will wake up and realize that USA is not anywhere near being the greatest country in the world. And some things I'm not as worked about. NSA invaded my privacy? Ah, Google and Yahoo and my ISP have probably been able to do that for years now....

And being that I have a chronic disease that's kept sort of under control by a nice bit of modern prescription drugs (alleged official retail: $800 a month. Yeah, prescription patents! Yeah, employee health benefits so I don't actually pay that much!) I doubtless would not survive very long if we went to H. in a handbasket. (H=Houston, of course.) There's plenty of folks that might be sympathetic, but can't afford to let the house burn down over their heads: they wouldn't get out alive.

And we may think we're down the sewer, but the same BBC poll that says that most foreigners think the USA is the worst danger to peace in the world is also the same one that say most foreigners would choose the USA as the country to emigrate to, if they were to leave their own country.


BGMiller said...

Burning it to the ground is a bad idea I agree.

But can we just reset to factory spec? Or at least reinstall from a few back-ups ago?


Roberta X said...

Ah, if only we could accomplish that by voting really, really hard... I dunno; but I aim to keep voting back at the bastids.

Anonymous said...

How many divisions does Google have?


Anonymous said...

Al--Google doesn't need guns to ruin your life. And if they want some, they can always call in one sort of cop or another.

Which is why, from day one I went online, I didn't fool myself with any expectations of privacy. And for some things, to quote Henry VIII, "if my hat knew what I thought, I would take it off and burn it in the fireplace".


Anonymous said...

Pendulums swing, that's what they do.
In the recent past, things got bad enough that we got Miranda warnings.
Things are getting bad again, we can hope (and work to ensure) that law enforcement gets pulled into line again.

We do need to arrest the pendulum's motion before it swings so wide it destroys the good parts of our nation. When trying to change the pendulum's motion, it's important to note that direct action often doesn't work. Larry Niven fans will remember 'East takes you out, out takes you west...port and starboard bring you back". Real life is multi-dimensional.

The overall problem of Government having too much power should not be addressed head-on; those with power will see what you are doing and resist, and they likely have the power to resist effectively. Find an attack that works orthogonally and those in power may not see it coming...

Samsam von Virginia

Joe in PNG said...

The problem lies not in Washington, nor in the system, but in the heart of your neighbor who says "there ought to be a law".

The trick is trying to get them to change their mind without becoming a worse thing than what you're trying to replace.

Earl said...

I just finished watching Crowell, again. Knowing that the enlightened English did the Civil War, which had followed the War of the Roses, then the Restoration (cause you have to have a King) then the Glorious Revolution, where the Stuarts were tossed because they weren't Royal enough(?) always trying to make a perfect government - then all that practice became a lot of little almost democratic governments, and international trade to empire to capitalism, but with a human face... and on and on. I like technology - but I wish humans would get smarter, and learn to live without deciding that the other guys gone will be so much better - it will always be different but better? We bear our sins into tomorrow, no matter the technology. Some fool is going to say that a computer can do it better - which won't stop humans, either. But we keep trying.

I believe in wearing all the parts out, and then figuring a way to do it better. Change is constant, time is going to waste, and yesterday is history, tomorrow is the future. Smile for us now.

Roberta X said...

Earl, amen!

Joe: The trick is to learn how to change your neighbor's mind -- or at least get along with it -- without succumbing to the urge to try sawin' his skull open.

Paul said...

Just reading about the device discovered at the bottom of the sea in a greek boat. Very complex piece of equipment.

I think we have had running water many times in the past but the powers of darkness always seem to destroy those high points of civilization.

I would charge they have no imagination as they cannot see any way forward that does not keep them in power or toilet paper. Since they do not know how toilet paper is made I don't think they understand it will go away when they tear things down.

enough babbling, back to the mines.

Opinionated Grump (Rich in NC) said...

Ever Since James Burke's 1978 Series, when I found out about the Limelight/Hydrogen/entertainment connection, I've been an Optimist. This other 'Stuff' is just people who want [scorn quotes] "power" thinking they actually have it. Ya Know, our 'betters'. Embedded bureaucrats are/have always been/ will always be a problem. the mind of subversives and Interwebz think that's a failure and creates a work-around. Personally I like the suggestion 2/3 for to pass a law 1/3 against to repeal a law.
Rich in NC

Windy Wilson said...

Burning it all down, or hitting reset is just calling the artillery on your own position because the gooks are inside the wire. Not a satisfactory strategy if there is ANY other option.

Roberta X said...

Poor choice of term, Windy. Care to try that again, with "enemy" or "opfor" instead?

(Yeah, I'm soooooo mean and PC. Y'know what? Tough. That kind of talk might fly fine in a war zone but we ain't, and the "gooks" are running the corner store, paying taxes and voting just the same as you. I am g-ddamn good and tired of the lazy habit of constantly sorting us nekkid apes into neat, stupid, handy-to-despise categories.)

Windy Wilson said...

OK, Enemy.

Roberta X said...

So noted and greatly appreciated!

benEzra said...

'The problem lies not in Washington, nor in the system, but in the heart of your neighbor who says "there ought to be a law." '

What got Clark so spooled up was the fact that there are two different sets of laws, one set for the Important People and another, much harsher set for everyone else.

This particular incident involved a judge who had sentenced many people to prison for putting unapproved substances in their bodies, but when she herself was found to have been high or sloshed while on the job, she was allowed to check herself into rehab instead of being sent to prison. Because she is an Important Person, whereas her peers she sentenced to prison are not.

In my judgment, having one set of rules for *everyone* (including Only Ones, the very wealthy, and other Important People) would tend to limit at least some of the excesses of the "there oughtta be a law" busybodies.

Windy Wilson said...

This multiple sets of laws is what caused the French Revolution, to the extent that there was great simmering resentment over one set of laws for the "nobility", another for the churchmen, and another for Jean Valjean and his ilk.

Roberta X said...

And that worked out so well for the average Frenchman.