Creatures Steeped in Imperfection

By Chris Floyd - The Moscow Times
June 11, 2003.

"The rule of law is dead.
To 'inoculate the world with disillusionment,' as Henry Miller put it, is a positive act"

  Although much of the mail this column receives comes in the form of frothing, barely literate invective from Bushist Homelanders, occasionally a more plaintive cry will slip over the transom. "It's easy to be negative, to say what's wrong with the world," these anxious readers write. "But what do you think should be done about it? What's your answer to all these problems?"

To which the only reply is, of course: "What makes you think there is an answer?"

If we can just get it right somehow, do the right thing, then all will be well -- is that the idea? If we get the right politician in office, the right regime installed on top of this or that arbitrary accretion of tribes and wanderers (i.e., every nation in the world); if we get right with God, say the right prayers, adopt the right economic system, read the right books -- then death, deceit, treachery, greed, cruelty, stupidity, fanaticism, bloodlust and delusion will simply vanish from the face of the earth, right?

Of course there is no "answer." Death won't stop, murder won't desert us, the biochemical frenzies that lurk in the mud of our monkey brains -- in every single one of us -- won't go away because some gregarious backslapper buys, lies or fast-talks his way into office, or because some angry exile in the British Library overdoses on Hegel, or because some caravan trader or carpenter's son begins hearing voices. You can surrender your will and your mind to anybody or anything, to any set of beliefs, sacred or secular -- but that surrender will leave you in the same black hole of ignorance and fear you started from. Not one of those beliefs will make everything "right."

So do we counsel fatalism, a dark, defeated surrender, a retreat into bitter, curdled quietude? Not a whit. We advocate action, positive action, unstinting action, doing the only thing that human beings can do, ever: Try this, try that, try something else again; discard those approaches that don't work, that wreak havoc, that breed death and cruelty; fight against everything that would draw us down again into our own mud; expect no quarter, no lasting comfort, no true security; offer no final answer, no last word, no eternal truth, but just keep stumbling, falling, careening, backsliding, crawling toward the broken light.

And what is this "broken light"? Nothing more than a metaphor for the patches of understanding -- awareness, attention, knowledge, connection -- that break through our darkness and stupidity for a moment now and then. A light always fractured, under threat, shifting, found then lost again, always lost. For we are creatures steeped in imperfection, in breakage and mutation, tossed up -- very briefly -- from the boiling, chaotic crucible of Being, itself a ragged work in progress toward unknown ends, or rather, toward no particular end at all. Why should there be an "answer" in such a reality?

This and this alone is the only "ideology" behind the column, which tries at all times to fight against the compelling but ignorant delusion that any single economic or political or religious system -- indeed, any kind of system at all devised by the seething jumble of the human mind -- can completely encompass the infinite variegations of existence. What matters is what works -- what pulls us from our own darkness as far as possible, for as long as possible. Yet the truth remains that "what works" is always and forever only provisional -- what works now, here, might not work there, then. What saves our soul today might make us sick tomorrow.

Thus all we can do is to keep looking, working, trying to clear a little more space for the light, to let it shine on our passions and our confusions, our anger and our hopes, informing and refining them, so that we can see each other better, for a moment -- until death shutters all seeing forever.


And what about the charge of rampant "negativism," the lack of "positive ideas?" It doesn't hold water. A 900-word weekly newspaper column dealing with current events, aimed at a general audience, would be a ludicrously inappropriate venue to offer detailed prescriptions for the complexities of public policy, which in any case require extensive input, cooperation and compromise from many different sectors of society -- not a fiat from a journalist.

However, a journalistic forum can be a particularly effective tool for puncturing the lies, hypocrisies, corruptions and machinations of the powerful. If Leader A says X, and X is not true, then it doesn't take a great deal of space to expose that fact. If Leader B receives financial benefits from advocating policy Y, pointing out that connection is a relatively brief, straightforward affair.

And if a concerned citizen of the world (and of the United States, in the case of the present writer) discerns what he believes to be highly dangerous implications in the actions, pronouncements and ideologies of the American ruling clique -- a clique that now holds a position of unprecedented dominance in the world -- then is it not his duty to point out these implications, as strongly and "negatively" as possible?

In a surgeon's hands, a knife or a needle becomes a "positive" implement for restoring health. The same principle -- though on an infinitely less important scale -- applies to "negative" press criticism of dangerous rulers in times of upheaval and extremity. To "inoculate the world with disillusionment," as Henry Miller put it, is a positive act.


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