Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 25, 2005

Building Sand Castles

050425_chateau_de_sable_1

As you  can see, I am on holiday and enjoying the Atlantic beaches in the spring, keeping myself busy building sand castles and trying to get them to resist the onslaught of the rising tide.

I love building sand castles; I did that as a kid, and now as a father I have a great excuse to have a go at it again. It's utterly pointless, it's tiring and it's not even always successful. And yet it usually brings about a peaceful kind of satisfaction, of fulfillment that makes it all worthwhile.

As I've been cut off from the internets most of the time in the past few days, I've been thinking about politics, and about what I've been doing on MoA, and what we are all doing, and while I was fighting the tide it felt that it was not so different from what we are all doing on MoA.

When I think about it, a lot about life is pointless. You grow up, do stuff, work, possibly have a family and kids, and die, without changing the world around you in any noticeable way other than a more or less wide circle around you. We do it because we're there. But this is a bit like the sand castles, isnt it? That's the whole point. You do it because you're there, and while you're at it you do your best, even if you know that it will eventually be run over by the tide. Precisely because it is fleeting, the effort and the heart you put into it as just as important, if not more, than what you build. Same with your life: you try to live it as well as you can, behaving throughout in the way that you think if the most appropriate. If you have any perspective, you may decide that how you do things is more important than the result, which will be meaningless in the end.

Taking the image a notch down, you get to the level of our current political situation, where I think we all feel that we are fighting against a rising tide of seemingly unstoppable right wing assertiveness and arrogance, capturing power, defacing language, polluting many supposedly neutral institutions, and generally showing little respect for those that do not think like them. That's where my sand castle came in initially in my thoughts - we are an island or resistance, fragile, always in danger of being overwhelmed, and yet also, precisely, a symbol of resistance, of not giving up, of making a stand. And it is also a sign of hope: after all, sand is available, all is takes is enough effort to build it high enough to withstand the force of the waves, and to start again and again as the walls are being sapped, to reinforce the weakest parts, to focus on the most urgent when required but take the time to build stronger foundations when the threat is more remote, to build new front lines that protect your main asset by moving the fight elsewhere.

Writing on blogs in general and here in particular is a bit like that. It's a small effort against a relentless adversary, it's probably not going to have any long term effect but it offers us many important things:

- the ability to make a stand, to identify oneself clearly with a set of values and policy choices (in the immortal words of Bridget Jones: "we stand for the principle of sharing, kindness, gays, single mothers and Nelson Mandela as opposed to braying bossy men having affairs with everyone shag-shag-shag left, right and center and going to the Ritz in Paris then telling off all the presenters in the Today programme");

- the provision of ammunition (shovels and buckets) to fight our fights - information, a lot of information, to argument, to act or simply to feel more confident in the essential rightness of our opinions;

- the feeling of community, that we are not alone in that fight, that many energies are focused on the same goal and that their strength - our strength -  could very well be enough and that we will be able to outlast the tide.

Because that's also the lesson here: the tide will go back out. The only thing that matters is - will we still be around when it goes out, and will the flag on out castle still be there to be raised? Will we have sold out? Will we have been utterly defeated? Or will the sand walls have withstood the onslaught?

---

I remember growing up, learning the history of my country (France) during this century, and wondering often: what would I have done during WWII? Would I have been brave enough to be in the Resistance? Or would I have been opportunistic and risen in the Collaboration Vichy administration? Or would I have been in the majority, all the people that remained silent, did not choose sides and waited for the fight to play itself out? I have been very grateful, for many years, that there have been no wars or no conflicts in my country that would have pushed me to make such a choice. I did my military service, but did not have to face real combat. I respect men (and women) who serve in the army to protect us, risking their lifes for us, but I hate their job which is to kill and destroy and I grieve the fact that we still have not managed to make peace without them.

I loathe violence and selfishness but see these as part and parcel of human nature; they are not to be fought as such, but to be channelled into innocuous, harmless or even productive uses, and that's what institutions do. Institutions are essentially sets of rules that we all decide to believe in, and which are then formalised into laws and administrations and big buildings, but at the core they are that - rules that we all believe in ,and that thus become true because we all follow them. Such institutionalised rules are extremely strong and self-sustaning, as deviant behavior is not tolerated, but they are also very difficult to bring about, as you need everybody to accept them and to believe that everybody else accepts them.

We are again lucky to have been born at a time, and in countries, where we have pretty good institutions, based on the rule of law, a strong State with mostly honest civil servants able to makes rules and to enforce them and to control the monopoly of force in legitimate ways. We also sense that the situation is fragile today, that these institutions are under unprecedented attack, and that we have to choose sides to protect our institutions. This is not a fight of left against right, although most of the left is on our side; it is a fight against fundamentalism, obscurantism and the simplistic "might is right" which has been the default option for mankind since its inception. It is résistance vs collaboration; it is action vs the easy slope of silence and low expectations. At least today I know what side I will be on with all my strength.

This is also why this is not just a domestic US fight, as the perverted values of the current US administration and its fundamentalist friends threaten not only US democracy but also peace and stability in many parts of the world, either directly as in Iraq or indirectly by fuelling resentment and the rise of fundamentalism inside Arab countries led by Western-supported corrupt dictators. I fear that I will not continue the blessed life of an European of today, with peace and prosperity, for very long, as a long fight, possibly another war, threatens to engulf us all. Hopefully this fight will remain at the political level, but it seems unlikely in view of the extreme objectives of the fundamentalists and the lack of consciousness of that threat in the population.

Sometimes it seems to me that our peoples are yearning for such strong leadership. We are dominated by individualism and selfishness, forces for collective organisation of society, like Churches, ideologies or States, are corroded and discredited by such individualism, and the only thing that thrives in that atomised environment are mediocre politicians and numbless media/entertainement and it seems that everybody yearns for higher meaning and sense, most people not having enough discipline and personal standards to find these on their own or on this site... And opportunists rush into this flaw to try to take advantage of this situation for their benefit.We must not let them.

Thus our institutions are in danger, our freedoms are in danger, our political sand castles are in danger.

But, as I spend these few days by the sea reflecting on all this,  I can say that I am ready to fight for these with you guys. It's pointless in the large scheme of things, but it is essential, and it is worth it. For now, I train myself on real sand castles, and I enjoy it. Both fights keep me alive and in good spirits!

050425_chateau_de_sable_2

 

Posted by Jérôme à Paris on April 25, 2005 at 22:03 UTC | Permalink

Comments

Thought provoking post J.

Nature after all will decide if we are worthy of going the distance.

Which in IMHO we will not.

Posted by: Friendly Fire | Apr 25 2005 22:07 utc | 1

Thanks Jérôme!

Posted by: b | Apr 25 2005 22:21 utc | 2

jérôme

again, there is a gentleness in your posts but no less informative for that gentleness

unfortunately for me, & i think luckily for my communities i am informed by a profound rage & if i am honest that rage has been there since i began to write at 8. the first poem was a poem against us imperialism - though it was about bellaphron & pegasus & my understanding that we were all vietnamese.

in my quartier i watched so many good people, intelligent people suffer & die even before they had reached 20 & i watched the destinies of others determined in a way they should never have been. not in a rich country. not in any country

i hated with a hatred that consumed me literally & i havce spoken of a little of this on the the thread on addiction - how much it consumed me - it led me to do things that are not natural but that were absolutely necessary. of that, i have little doubt & absolutely no regret - if it had led to something more explosive - i do not think i would have regretted that either

i was thinking after reading your post that i posess tenderness but not gentleness even when i am working with fragilised people i work with them as if they are soldiers in some endless war. & that is neither to demean my method or the people. what i do with them is natural - consistent & possesses clarity

what i was trying to say to alabam on the other thread was there is something in toni negri's work on multitudes which touches me deeply because it is here in this country that i work with multitudes & they bypass by & large class formations though they are largely from the proletariat or the lumpen proletariat. they have taught me love & keener sense of politics than i possessed twenty years ago. they have tempered my hate with their love - they have not comprimised it but in their way they have transformed it into a continual rage & i wouldn't be surprised if at least a part of my need for insulin comes from that rage

what i know clearly from the business of living is to always take risks - all the time & without restraint. i know that each moment in my life blessed by that courage to risk has always led to 'better things' & i know if i had not risked i would not be alive speaking here as i do today

that & never seperating myself from the struggle of the people - i once sd in a poem that "struggle is one of the most beautiful words we have in this language" & i believe that - more firmly today than when i wrote it

& i was wondering when reading your post - if the gentleness comes from having children - which i have never (consciouslly)done & in my work i do not work with them either. adolescents yes but mostly adults. & perhaps that absence of gentleness is simply the absence of them in my life. i have often been told sternly that i speak to children as if they are 40 & perhaps i do

but i am moved by your post because you are not afraid of your proper simplicity & your proper fascinations. i presume a part of that is that you have had a priveleged upbringing but that is not a value judgement - not in the least. i never have begrudged people their advantages. what i have been in rage about all these years is the continual inequality of those advantages - education & health for example. for me your 'simplicity' makes your other posts - the posts on economics all the more readable because they come from a heart

& i feel we possess the same perplexity before the barbaric & ceude empire trhe united states has become. i'm sure we would differ when it all began but i think on the day to day level it affects our lives & robs hope from the people ideas & things we live - we are in perfect union as i think most of us here

i think i am intellectually well equipped as anybody but these last years i cannot believe or understand sometimes what i am witnessing & that is the reason intellectually i will draw on any source shor of spengler to understand & transform it through work & life

this is a long way of saying thank you for this 'personal' post that i think is not personal at all

amité et force

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Apr 25 2005 22:50 utc | 3

Jerome, very nice post.

On a similar note one of my favourite http://www.oriononline.org/pages/oo/sidebars/Patriotism/index_Solnit.html>essays by Rebecca Solnit on "hoping in the dark."

btw I also build sand castles at the beach :-) and if you are interested will share the recipe for "sand balls" which always intrigue children. that beach looks wonderful!

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 25 2005 22:58 utc | 4

Beautiful Jerome. You have lit a candle for those of us who feel the darkness closing in. Strange. We now have to think of ourselves as the resistance.

Have you ever made dribble castles? Little Notre Dames. They get washed away as well but they are dreamlike to build.

Posted by: beq | Apr 26 2005 0:49 utc | 5

Thank you, Jérôme. That's good for the morale.

Posted by: alabama | Apr 26 2005 1:04 utc | 6

Thank you Jerome - very thoughtful post. You mention the feeling of community. I think that in this struggle it's very important to strengthen our communities - not only our virtual community but our real-world communities. Even if we are overcome for a time by the dark forces, it's our communities that will not only sustain us but help to build and carry on a way of life worth preserving for the future, should humanity emerge from this. As I think rgiap is saying, our various kinds of communities - those of struggle, work, family, passionate interests, whereever - are where we evolve our capacity to love and cooperate and build.

Jerome has posted this at Daily Kos. Let's give him some recommends to bring this beautiful piece of writing to the attention of more people.

Posted by: liz | Apr 26 2005 1:13 utc | 7

jerome, thank you for a lovely post that touches the heart and the intellect.

i can very much relate to your metaphor of tides and walls of sand. i spent the better part of yesterday afternoon in union square park in new york handing out flyers (from moveon) urging people to call their senators to ask them to fight bush and the repugs on the "nuclear option." each time the traffic light changed there was another wave of pedestrians washing over our call to action. it was very much like being faced down by a sea of self-absorbed faces and at times it did feel as if our walls of sand were crumbling, but then there would be the person who not only took the flyer but stopped to talk or said "thank you for the work you are doing." i'm not quite sure how much of the castle was left standing when we finished, but ,as you said, it is very much about how you live your life. like you, i am here to fight the good fight - if only a fraction of the people to whom we handed flyers actually called their senators i will consider it an afternoon well spent. the reality is that the two senators from new york are democrats who will join with other democrats to preserve the fillibuster. my goal was to raise people's awareness and if everyone to whom i handed a flyer read it and spoke with someone else it was well worth the effort. and if some became more engaged and made the phone calls to their senators it is only good for them as individuals and good for the country, and it may even make our elected officials feel more accountable to their consitutents.

nothing like good fresh sea air to envigorate the spirit - vive le resistance! and have a superb holiday!

Posted by: conchita | Apr 26 2005 1:15 utc | 8

Great post Jerome. We are in this together and as the sands wash away your sand castle, hopefully Bushies agenda will wash out to sea and sink.

Posted by: jdp | Apr 26 2005 2:05 utc | 9

Beautiful essay, Jerome.

And doubly welcome to see you and your son together after all your family has been through in the past year.

Your writing is awesome and amazing.

Posted by: SusanG | Apr 26 2005 4:32 utc | 10

I opened the photo of you and your son when I came to it and I felt overwhelmed seeing you two there, knowing what you're family has gone through. It was all right there, the parent protecting the child, in what is ultimately a futile act, as time will erase us all. As a parent and as the son who's parents, particularly my father, struggled and succeeded in keeping me alive...it touches me so deeply.

And your words, they are so important and, as rgaip says, gentle, and perfect. I am sending this post to my wife; she doesn't fully understand why I spend so much time reading blogs such as ours.

You are profoundly lucky if you can appreciate life and breath and love anew, as if it was the first time, every day. After my transplant I felt this feeling, each day for two years. But then, I am ashamed, I allowed myself to be sucked back down in to life's complexities and complications and I took too many things for granted. Now, some days I am desperate to feel that constant appreciation for everything.

Thank you, Jerome, for reminding me to again appreciate what I have, what I am and who I am with. Some day, I will come to Paris, and I will hug the freaking stuffing out of you! So watch out!

Posted by: stoy | Apr 26 2005 5:18 utc | 11

Doh! I just recommended your post at Kos and then read that it was your wife and son in the pictures, not you! Sorry dude, it wasn't such a close up I could tell. And and my eye sight isn't so good. ...And I'm tired! Yeah!

[slinks off to bed]

Posted by: stoy | Apr 26 2005 5:27 utc | 12

Jerome,

Thanks for your thoughtful allegory. Sandcastles are pointless; but then so if life ultimately, if you dwell upon it through Reason. When building sandcastles on the beach with my children I like the way that the physical work seems to scour your hands clean, and how, through doing it, I somehow 'pass through' something: a problem I'm working on, petty squabbles with my kids over food, sun cream, or being careful in the surf. I also see the building as a profoundly temporal process, a temporal context where you are literally part of the physical and temporal flow of the earth and sea (like Bergon's 'la duree'); you become part of it. The sea soon washes away your marks to leave no trace at all. Rather than a defensive allegory (a fragile redoubt) the building of castles of sand can also stand for (if you want to put it that way) the current hegemony of neoliberalism. However, in the fullness of its fragile temporal context, it will be washed away by the forces of History. It will happen, but we also need to be a part of the process and ideas and actions. R'giap speaks to this in his post where the connections made with 'lumpens' act as points of contact where mutual understandings can emerge and new ways or being and of seeing be articulated. The incomprehension of the world that R'giap notes is, I think, slightly disingenuous. The incomprehension resides in Davos when they gather, in the White House as they pore over situation reports and Daily Briefings. To mask the incomprehension they fill the media with mythologies and legends. One was reinforced here yesterday. In Australia it was ANZAC day, the so-called birthday of the nation when in 1915 thousands of soldiers were killed in pointless sideshow of an even more pointless main event. Still, our PM reiterated the hidebound myths of heroism and 'mateship' that sinks itself yet deeper into our national culture. Neatly, he incorporated Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan into the national military consciousness in ways (you had to have seen it and understood the context) that are increasingly glorifying Gallipoli and every conflict that Australians have been involved with ever since. To John Howard the world is incomprehensible without these fictive narratives; to middle Australia and Middle American and the Shires of the UK, the families of those who are serving in Iraq; the world does not make sense without the narrative of myth. It does if you read it historically, which we do here and we need to do more--R'giap's despair notwithstanding. I'm going to ride my bike now...also a bit like building sandcastles only you do it on your own.

Posted by: | Apr 26 2005 5:37 utc | 13

Sorry, forgot to append my name to the previous

Theodor

Posted by: theodor | Apr 26 2005 5:39 utc | 14

The tide we're up against, per http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/042505B.shtml>Sterling Newberry on "Rove's Revolution":

This reactionary order has always failed in the past, because it must consume every cent of the economy. That is its nature: it is an attempt to preserve rent, which is any economic advantage that comes from position in time or space, even if it must sink the entire national surplus in the attempt. This is why the Republicans must borrow to effectively abolish Social Security; Rove knows that in order to secure Republican domination for a generation or more, he must place a weight on the back of government so heavy that no one can remove it. Should a Democrat manage to take the White House, then all that need happen is that a Republican Congress stop doing the behind-the-scenes juggling that keeps the economy going, a recession will ensue, and the Oval office will return to Republican control.

In the past, similar attempts have resulted in the bottom falling out of the economy, and a new political mandate, often one born of fire and crisis. The Civil War was such a crisis; the Great Depression was such a crisis.

Rove's strategy is to create a three-tier attack on the old order, and on anyone who would prevent his new order. That three-tier attack unifies the reactionary elements in society, by providing each one with a specific role to fulfill. His plan can be stated in three words: Bash, Break and Borrow.

The first part is the most visible: bashing is simply the demonization of any political opponent. Whether the Swift Boat Veterans, or the recent USANext advertisement that accused the AARP, of all groups, of being pro-gay marriage and anti-soldier. Identify the political enemy with objects of political fear and loathing. The problem of bashing has haunted the intellectual left - in What's the Matter with Kansas, Frank Thomas ponders why, in his view, so many people in the heartland vote against their economic interests in favor of such shallow bashing.

However, bashing by itself is of only short-term effect. Newt Gingrich's bomb throwers were expert bashers, and while they could terrorize and paralyze government, they could not reorganize it. In order to make substantial changes, the Republican party needed to break the New Deal and all of the mechanisms which made it work. From bipartisanship to government regulation to use of deliberative expert policy, a relentless attack on the way the old political order came to decisions was the order of the day. One of the best books to see this process at work is Paul Krugman's Peddling Prosperity, a thorough debunking of "supply side economics" of the Reagan Administration, but more importantly, of the whole way in which carefully vetted ideas contended among experts for the chance to be the basis of policy. Instead, academia was merely lipstick to put on the pig that was already being greased down the shaft.

But even this turned out not to be enough. Even with a massive series of revenue reductions and the terrorist attack of 9/11, it was not enough to fundamentally hobble opposition. Eventually, the terror of the attacks wore down, and the attempt to grab a cheap supply of oil by invading Iraq turned into a slow and bloody fiasco, whose only benefit politically was that the Congress was sure to vote 80 billion dollars that could be used as pork to bolster the Republican party any place where people were dependent on the military budget as their basic industry.

In short, Rove knew he had to borrow. Not merely borrow the 4% of GDP that the revenue reductions of 2001, 2003 and 2004 required, but the staggering sums that closing Social Security would require.

There's more: Newberry believes (and I have to admit that the signs and portents seem consistent with his reading) that the neocons are attempting nothing less than a rewrite of the American State -- a wrenching re-write, a new era, an historical transition, a constitutional crisis. This I think -- and its echoes around the globe as the rentier class strives for total control of society, academy, culture, thought, and the future -- is the tide that's rising.

Posted by: DeAnander | Apr 26 2005 5:49 utc | 15

Jerome, you and others here made me cry... I am emotional lately …it's over the top...
I'll save your article on sand castles for next generations...that’s how important it is in my eyes. Thank you and all the best for you and your family...
We here on MOA couldn’t make it this far without you and others with an energy like yours…thanks for not giving up guys.

Posted by: vbo | Apr 26 2005 6:17 utc | 16

Oh Jerome,

And so there are these parallels, and so culture works in mysterious ways, and so an old http://www.robertsmithson.com/>love returns to remind, that it lives through the worst, and so who said it would be easy, when true victory is colored with its sacrifice. I could live on your sand castle in that moment.

Posted by: anna missed | Apr 26 2005 9:03 utc | 17

As always, an outstanding post from Jerome.

rgiapp - I feel anger too, much anger towards the United States - as they are today. Today I have become an enemy of America.

When America changes I will be its friend again, and I certainly feel only love and compassion for the decent *Americans* - like the decent Germans, Japanese and Iraqis who suffered greatly because of their leaders' actions.

One of the major components in our decision to uproot ourselves after almost 30 years and leave America after Black Tuesday (blog) was that we could no longer live in a country and wish for its fall.

That tells me that had I been living in Europe in the 40s, I would have left, like Fritz Lang did. It may not be brave, in fact it is quite cowardly, but it is better than being a "good German" I suppose. I shall assume my karmic burden.

Speaking of karma, as a student of history, I know the Wheel turns. Sometimes I think we are sort of like in 1912 or 1914. A dark time, likely followed by more trials. But then there will be a rebirth and a Belle Epoque... I'm convinced of it.

Perhaps it is the price the US has to pay to grow up -- without the blood bath of WWI and WWII, would Europe have managed to evolve out of its chauvistic squabbles?

The US is due for a fall; like the Bellamy family in UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS who didn't recognize the End of their World, few today seem to realize what is going on.

But even if the short-term outlook is glomy, I remain an optimist at heart.

Posted by: | Apr 26 2005 9:20 utc | 18

Forgot to sign my post. Sorry.

Posted by: Lupin | Apr 26 2005 9:20 utc | 19

Jerome, good post.

I don't see the situation as negatively as most others here. For a start, we have massive technological possibilities that previous generations didn't. We can protect ourselves and our loved ones (and our neighbours) more easily. Compare, perhaps, melting down railings to create bombs vs. recycling electrical equipment to create solar panels.

Yep, I can see it. My ignorance makes me optimistic.

Still, Robert Wilson (I think) said the optimist, if nothing else, stays healthier beause they assume there are solutions even if they haven't found them. He also disliked the eco-puritans who wanted us back in leaf shirts living in jungles. He felt technological solutions could make all lives better (other animals too). I am rambling and incoherent. It must be Tuesday.

Anyway, I wanted to post Essay on the Personal by Stephen Dunn, but here's a link instead: http://users.tellurian.net/swaa/Dunn2.html

Now get those modern projects rolling that'll make the world a better place for those young 'uns on the way. You can, of course, coz you are fully relaxed and zenned from your holiday.

Maybe think about this period as the Time of the Last Religious War. China's post-religious. Russia's post-religious. Europe's post-religious. Is Africa post-religious? South America is post-religious.

(By post religious, I mean the politicians do not HAVE to have some obvious religious affiliation in order to hold office.)

So the Middle East (wherever that be) vs. U.S.A (Canada is post-religious) is the ultimate grudge match and (we hope it won't go on too long but they wanna fight these two, and they won't thank us for stopping them)... Ah jayzus. I was trying to be all helpful.

Jerome a Paris. I am envious. You have been on holiday. But soon I will go to Amsterdam!

Posted by: Arg | Apr 26 2005 10:29 utc | 20

Thanks Jérôme. It was a beautiful statement. It has been a decade since I took a vacation and even longer since I walked on a warm and sandy beach. My kids are getting older now and soon they will be gorwn up and gone. I need to treasure the time as you have. I think I will this summer, if even for a long weekend. The ocean is only six hours away and I need to hear the waves. No matter what political garbage clogs the streets of Washington and Crawford Texas, the waves come and go in unrelenting poetry.

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 26 2005 12:32 utc | 21

Jérôme you could be a great Yogi (this is a compliment), you have the mind and heart for it.

Posted by: Fran | Apr 26 2005 12:50 utc | 22

diogenes, may I suggest Monhegan?

Posted by: beq | Apr 26 2005 13:21 utc | 23

Very touching, Jerome, and just the tonic I needed for this morning. The 'Myth of Sisyphus', Camus and such, the recognition of the little futilities of every day... finding something, just something in the rolling of the boulder up the mountain. Like you, I built sand castles with my children when they were young. We took buckets and shovels and trowels. We learned to build surreal looking 'drip castles', like something out of a post-apocalypse science fiction film. They are now almost 33 and 28 years old respectively and we still talk about it.

My crazy old dad, when he was younger but still crazy used to hold his index finger in the air and theatrically pronounce: Time and tide wait for NO man!

I'm off to make some sort of meaning in the doing and being today, with only a partial nod to the inevitable tide. Thank you for sharing this.

Posted by: Kate_Storm | Apr 26 2005 13:39 utc | 24

Thank you for that moving post — and for Moon of Alabama as well, which seems to be taking on a quite interesting life of its own apart from its parent.

Posted by: Édouard | Apr 26 2005 15:15 utc | 25

i'm optimistic as well. i used to feel that existentialism made a lot of sense to me, but then i realized that the filters i was trying to measure my experiences with placed too much emphasis on those churned out by an artificial, sociopathic culture. life is about coexistance, cooperation, communication, sharing, and mutuality, not control, conflict, competition, and unnatural hierarchy. life is only pointless when the dominant ideologies & institutions work to isolate us, to make us passive observers of power, and dependable active consumers. i do not believe that the majority of our institutions in mass societies are or ever were neutral. if this weren't so, we would never have attained the point at which our societies poison our own children on a daily basis. the way our cities are laid out speak volumes about humanity's underlying philosophies/concepts of power and caring. there is hardly anything natural about it.

and there is nothing natural about the momentum of the right. even metaphorically speaking, they are in no way mother ocean, giver of life. we are building community, context and communication, supporting life. they are destroying these, the cult of the dead object. we are restoring our role in the web of life, regaining recognition of our clear dependence on the soil, the sand & the water. they are building bubbles, self-contained & isolated. we are alive b/c we struggle. there is nothing pointless in that. not at all.

Posted by: b real | Apr 26 2005 15:37 utc | 26

C'est encore plus beau lorsque c'est inutile.

Posted by: Cyrano | Apr 26 2005 15:40 utc | 27

You know, for a moment there that read like a goodbye post. Don't do that to me. I'll need a stiff whiskey for my nerves.

I'm afraid you have it completely wrong though Jérôme: we are not a sandcastle, nor are we building sandcastles. We are the sea. They are the ones building sandcastles. It doesn't matter how high they build them or how they buttress them: they willfall. The question is when and how. Will they be destroyed in a storm, overwhelmed by small waves or worn down by slow erosion?

Posted by: Colman | Apr 26 2005 16:00 utc | 28

Diogenes said:


It has been a decade since I took a vacation and even longer since I walked on a warm and sandy beach.

I wouldn't be too jealous: I'm reasonably certain that very little on the Atlantic coast of Europe will count as warm for a few weeks yet, and I speak as someone heading down to the west coast of Ireland at the weekend.

Posted by: Colman | Apr 26 2005 16:04 utc | 29

@ b real: "...the cult of the dead object"

A Culture of Death, Not Life by Frank Rich

Once the culture of death at its most virulent intersects with politicians in power, it starts to inflict damage on the living.

Posted by: beq | Apr 26 2005 16:56 utc | 30

First, Mohegan looks about right. I neeed to stop at Machias anyway and check out the campus. Can't wait!

And warm is relative I guess. Here cold is -45 with -70 windchill and January, warm is 55 degree and downright hot is 80-85.

Posted by: diogenes | Apr 26 2005 23:13 utc | 31

diogenes, take the Laura B from Port Clyde. If you can get away for a week (sigh) try to rent a cottage through Shining Sails called "Pratt". It's been awhile but it is the most amazing place. Look out most any window and you think you are on a boat. The deer come to the back door. They like bananas. No electricity. Fireplace, kerosene lamps. Propane for necessities: stove, hot water, fridge, a small heater. Escape.

Posted by: beq | Apr 27 2005 0:15 utc | 32

Considering the background we know of your family and your son in particular, I have to say this is probably the most moving online piece I've ever read. Thank you, Jérôme.

Posted by: mats | Apr 27 2005 0:40 utc | 33

Jerome,
touching post. Thanks.

When I was younger and built more sandcastles I realised that using twigs in the walls made my sandcastle a little bit more enduring. Still the sea took it but it took longer to do it. Some might call it cheating, but then again some cheating might be reasonable when facing an almost insurmountable enemy. Maybe what we are doing here is gradually creating twigs out of sand (strange, but you have to construct your twigs out of something), finding the structures that might endure a little longer. And of course it will be called cheating, not playing by the rules of the mighty always is.

Posted by: A swedish kind of death | Apr 27 2005 11:05 utc | 34

So eloquent, so moving, and so hopeful. Thank you.

Posted by: ides | Apr 27 2005 20:59 utc | 35

The comments to this entry are closed.