Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 24, 2006

Stupid Times

by Monolycus
lifted from a comment

We live in some stupid times. I'm not saying there haven't been other stupid times in the course of human history... countless witnesses have attested to that. I'm just saying that the present times have their own peculiar flavour of stupid, and human beings are, by and large, products of their culture and environment (if you'll forgive me for taking such a dreaded... *shudder*... anthropological viewpoint).

That is my lens, though, and while a society is nothing more than a collection of individuals, those individuals are shaped and guided by their physical and social environments in exactly the same way that a squid or a whale is shaped and constrained by the ocean they live in. A steady diet of absurdity will produce only a more or less absurd creature. This has been amply demonstrated to us over and over again, however, like a bottom feeding catfish feeling its way through the murky silt of its home, we are unable to see the obvious through what it is that surrounds us.

It is natural, then, that when we are not simply engaged in groping our way through this sea of stupidity, we are justifying our entirely reflexive behaviour as being the only rational way to behave. It isn't, of course, but we will go to amazing lengths to deny that we are every bit as constrained by our own physical and social environment as that poor, silly, bottom-feeding catfish. These rationalisations contribute to the culture of absurdity and perpetuate it until it becomes legitimate to ask if the times have made the stupidity or if the stupidity have made the times.

When the individual observes the larger culture, it is extremely easy to become contemptuous of others. They do, after all, respond to the stupidity in profoundly stupid ways. On the other hand, there are mitigating factors at work... a human being who ingests lead or mercury doesn't just fall over dead; their psyche as well as their body is profoundly affected. They behave stupidly and erratically because our minds and our bodies are inseparable... a physical toxin will produce a psychological pathology. Is it not rational to assume that psychological toxins provided by this culture of violence and avarice will just as surely produce erratic and stupid behaviour? The laboratory that is the world around us seems to be validating that hypothesis.

A recent fluffy retrospective OpEd about the year in US scandals poses an interesting question. While acknowledging that we live in a culture in which it is increasingly easy to don the mantle of victimization while being a perpetrator, the author observes

"... the 2006 Hall of Shamers benefit from the Oprah dividend - the public's desire to seek reasons to reprieve bad behavior.

You may have been able to preach, appraise legislation, invent off the book partnerships or address a radio audience, goes the logic, but you weren't really responsible because of addiction and/or childhood abuse.

And while the forgiven get another chance by this reasoning and forgivers get to think they're Oliver Wendell Holmes, no one brings up the fact that almost everyone behind bars suffered childhood abuse and substance addiction. That's practically the definition of a criminal.

The author is concluding here that forgiveness, at least the selective forgiveness that we practice in our culture, is unwarranted. I believe that I am beginning to form rather the opposite view. Forgiving selectively is, of course, silly... but rather than becoming less compassionate as a result of this obviously unfair situation, I think it would be healthier to extend our compassion to include more than the rich and successful "victims" of a bestial culture.

Some seem to be taking that approach, however cynically they might do it. Consider Barry Cooper, a former drug enforcement officer from Texas. Apparently appalled by the vast numbers of non-violent offenders filling up US prisons, he has apparently planned to release a video to instruct people in the technique of not being arrested. (The article is an extremely interesting read, but doesn't seem to want to let me cut 'n' paste any excerpts... please take a look). Those sitting on the "less compassion, more vengeance" side of the equation are appalled by Cooper's actions.

This polarisation of "compassion for all" vs. "compassion for none" seems to me to be at the heart of most of the cultural stupidity I am seeing these days. It's a classic dichotomy, really, that has been discussed here many times in various forms. Of course, it's been discussed throughout history in various forms, so this should surprise nobody.

I am increasingly of the opinion that the "compassion for none" position is the more harmful of the two. It seems to have at its root a degree of pride and hubris that not only results in the obvious degradation of civil liberties that we are seeing, but by its nature plants the seeds for all manner of absurd intolerances and cruelties such as Dr. Rice's cold-hearted endorsements for murder or U.S. Rep Virgil Goode's conclusion that a US citizen who has converted to Islam represents an immigration problem. Without the pride of the authoritarian mentality, these positions are baldly and patently absurd, however both Rice and Goode are like the bottom-feeding catfish groping through impenetrably murky water and can not see what should be obvious if there weren't so much silt (in this case, emotional and cultural baggage) in the way.

As trite as it might sound, I'd like to take the opportunity on this Christmas Eve to suggest that a little goodwill toward humans might actually go a long way towards actualising that peace on Earth we keep hearing about. At least I don't see how it could make the times much more stupid than they have already are.

Posted by b on December 24, 2006 at 18:57 UTC | Permalink


thanks for pulling this forward b. i just wrote monolycus a personal email about this lovely post.

When the individual observes the larger culture, it is extremely easy to become contemptuous of others.

so obvious, yet how apparent is this seed of disintegration of what john mohawk reminds us in the Power to Make Peace

"You have the power to make peace with an enemy only if you acknowledge that the enemy is human. To acknowledge that they are rational beings who want to live and who want their children to live enhances your power by giving you the capacity to speak to them. If you think they are not human, you won't have that capacity; you will have destroyed your own power to communicate with the very people you must communicate with if you are going to bring about peace.

perhaps this from warriors great law introduced yesterday from b reals post filtering thru my thoughts playing round and round in my head this holiday reminds me it all starts w/separating ourselves from others, this contemptuousness you refer to. instead of thinking of complex solutions we could all start excercising our 'righteousness, reason, and power' skills.

while we are on the topic of sea of stupidities i actually got quite a bellyfull of laughs reading mediamatters Most outrageous comments of 2006. (not very fitting for a holiday thread but oh well)

thanks everyone for everything. rock on

Posted by: annie | Dec 24 2006 19:29 utc | 1

We have gone from looking at education as a means of improving human beings to looking on education as a utilitarian means of enhancing one's income. And Americans have a tradition of admiring those folks with little or no education who have been financially successful.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Dec 24 2006 19:36 utc | 2

Adventures in Stupid, or another Dinesh D'souza book

Dear Dinesh,

Just read your new book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. Here's your blurb -- I think it works: "Dinesh D'Souza does for liberals what The Protocols of the Elders of Zion did for the Jews!" Put that one up high, D, because with your crowd, that's going to move some serious books. And you're going to need the help, my friend, what with being hospitalized for what would have been your book tour. Come on, Dinesh, let's fight....

Posted by: fauxreal | Dec 24 2006 20:32 utc | 3

oops. too much sherry in the marinade... :)

here's the review (let's hope.)

Posted by: fauxreal | Dec 24 2006 20:34 utc | 4

Forgiveness can be tendered or offered once the ‘crime’, insult, offence or violation is defined and accepted by agreement of both parties, victim and perpetrator.

Yes, you spat on me, and yes I did, and I forgive, and so you forget, and we forget (wild pronouns, because at that point they should no longer matter.)

But with so many offenses about, forgiveness becomes a frayed rope. Offered again and again, with no results, no reparation forthcoming, the move becomes worn, thin, and may snap. Forgiveness then turns into, first, a strong stance on ‘rights’, second a tolerance and justification for self-committed insults, third into revenge, directed at many targets.

The problem, we see, is with the first offense, offense(s) as defined by the culture, law, others, etc. The small stash sold, the woman grabbed, the inconsiderate racist remark, the theft of the cousin’s car, the dog who destroyed the tulips, the nurse who screwed up the plaster cast, the policeman who hit once, the boss who lied.

The worst case (that I have personally experienced and suffered from) is of pardon sincerely offered but refused, as the acceptance of pardon would officialise the sin. (Pardon, sin, I prefer them to forgiving...) That destroys the implicit contract between human beings, completely. And it is, I think, becoming more common.

I hope this makes sense? Cheers and Merry Xmas.

Posted by: Noirette | Dec 24 2006 20:54 utc | 5

While I understand the spirit of Mono's post, the word choice is interesting. What is stupidity? What is rationality? The terms rational, rationale, rationalization, etc have a variety of different senses. Being rational is good, but the process of rationalization - intellectualizing a problem to come to a negative decision - is bad. The latter seems to me to be more dominant in discussion of what makes people rational. Rationality is the intellectualization of wrong decisions, of stupidity. Take polls on opposition to the Vietnam War, which demonstrated that people with lower education opposed to the war more than those with higher levels. Or the amount of well-educated men in the Einstatzgruppen.

Rationality, the ability to make decisions described as "rational," is heralded as a good thing, a way to live within society. If you do something which either opposes the good of yourself within society, or the good of society itself, you're being "irrational." It's a concept designed to support the conceptions of the society. Which is good, if the society is good. But if it's not, well, see the Einstatzgruppen.

Stupidity, at least as Mono seems to be using it, is an attempt to attach external forms of ethics onto society, ie, that there are good things to do, and bad things to do, regardless of how rational society believes them to be. Which means it might be stupid to be rational, and intellectually believe that it is good that strip-mining makes us all better off by increasing our GDP or what have you.

Posted by: Rowan | Dec 24 2006 22:17 utc | 6

A culture grounded in exploitation must necessarialy also be "stupid". The gaping fault line between "compassionate" and "conservative" can be made to disappear only as in an elaborate magic trick, but, as only fools believe in magic -- they also find within it, an endless source of entertainment.

Entertainment with an appetite so voracious and consuming that has in itself, devoured the guts out of the truth to the extent that both "compassion" and "conservative" have become exhausted and spent, exiled to the further reaches of ideal. Distant, and remote red dwarfs.

It is the cultural equivilent of the military industrial complex, a fast food nation feeding frenzy of throw away neologisms -- birth pangs, no child left behind, freedom fries, good investments -- bring it on, a new plan for victory.

Where its the stupidity, stupid.

And makes us all crazy.

Enough to stay on the bus.

To hell.

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 24 2006 22:50 utc | 7

"We have gone from looking at education as a means of improving human beings to looking on education as a utilitarian means of enhancing one's income."

this is also part of a global trend as the world becomes more "Americanized".

and its not just education, its also peoples belief systems regardless of their level of education.

but as they say, for every force, theres a reaction.

we tend to view cultures that are guided by "the sustainable" as primitive or backward. But maybe they know certain things we do not. Maybe once upon a long time ago, they learnt the hard way.

Posted by: | Dec 24 2006 23:16 utc | 8

I never like the contast between the "stupid" and the "smart", present company always in the latter set, of course.

I have a friend whose disgust with democracy hides behind his disgust with the "stupid" Americans who vote for god, Bush and The American Way. He applauded the Military Putsch here in Thailand, as it would allow the "smart" people to save the "stupid" people from themselves.

The "smart" people in America, who by their own admission can see what the "stupid" cannot, have not lessened by one iota the monstrous crimes inflicted upon the world by the present criminal regime. Is it by democracy that they are held back? Would a dictatorship of the smart "certainly make things easier"? Who said that most recently? Including himself, naturally enough, in the "smart set"?

There is only one set of humans on this earth.

The differences between us recede to the vanishing point when viewed as a collective.

Between any two or few of us commity is more nearly "natural" than not. It is when we operate from within our societal structures, and find or imagine ourselves to be favorably situated within them, that we start to act "stupidly" in defense of our privileges, real or imagined, no matter how "smart" we are.

Compassion is a matter of scale. I want to forget Israel, Iran, America, Iraq, Thailand... and to see only people, who live here or there, in this way or in that. Vive la difference. Compassion seems automatically to follow.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 25 2006 3:50 utc | 9

i haven't read a lot into the barry cooper project, but my first thought - being the practicing skeptic that i am forced to be in order to preserve my own (imagined?) sanity - is sting. i mean, c'mon, gonzalez needs more names for the next operation falcon. 'hey kid. want a video of how to hide illegal substances? just give us a name & address and we'll ship it right out. operators are standing by.' but, even if that is not the case, how convenient to have a sizeable audience using the same tactics for concealing their stash, eh?

Posted by: b real | Dec 25 2006 6:09 utc | 10

@ Rowan (#6)

My choice of language was a little unfortunate... but I didn't really write the above with the thought that it might be "front page" material. I was trying to express a small, personal observation and assumed that it would get buried quickly under the larger, more important, observations of others. I would certainly have paid closer attention to my grammar (oh, the typos!) if not my language in general if I had considered that it would have been read by anyone more closely than merely in passing.

To clarify my meaning... I don't believe in psychometrics. Some of the most "stupid" people I have ever met hold the most sterling academic credentials or can boast of the highest IQ's. They use language deftly to conceal rather than to illuminate... and this belies a certain "cleverness" that is, at the end of the day, no less stupid. It is stupid because it is ultimately harmful. I would not applaud someone for their ingeniousness in making toast if it "cleverly" involved setting themselves or anyone else on fire. In some ways, it is even more "stupid" to be learned and to harm oneself and others than it is to be merely inept... but we do not, to my knowledge, have vocabulary to describe this. Kissinger, unlike Bush the Younger, will always be described as brilliant... but what has his brilliance brought to the advancement of humankind if not decades of suffering or personal gluttony?

I was using the word "stupid" in about the same way that Camus used the word absurd, and he (along with Kafka and a few others) was among the "witnesses" I was referring to in the first sentence of my post. The stupidity I am on about has little to do with "intelligence", and certainly less to do with "rationality", although it is often disguised as both. I don't want to continue to use the word "absurd" (it's a bit cliche and doesn't contain the quite emotional horror and disgust I feel), so I sacrificed some of my meaning and used the ambiguous "stupid" to express this. Anna Missed (#7) is using the word precisely as I had intended... the "stupidity" is a compounding, horrific, willful blindness that leads us (all of us) into an abyss from which we can not climb back out.

(I can hear O'Brien whispering in my ear: "The word you are trying to think of is solipsism. But you are mistaken. This is not solipsism. Collective solipsism, if you like. But that is a different thing: in fact, the opposite thing.")

@John Francis Lee (#9)

Hannah K.O'Luthon once (correctly, I feel) chided me about how inclusive I tend to make my "we's" when I am writing a larger complaint. I do that not because I don't recognise that there are individual exceptions to my complaints, but rather because I am discussing a subject in which I feel a certain amount of repression or denial might be involved (and I am not neglecting to include myself in that equation).

You are absolutely correct to observe that "(t)here is only one set of humans on this earth." That is why I say "we", and when I discuss "stupidity", I do not contrast it with an existing example... I contrast it with the way "we" imagine ourselves to be.

@ Noirette (#5)

Questions of "stupidity" aside, you are addressing the real heart of my post, and that is the problem of compassion and forgiveness. And yes, this is a genuinely sticky issue. Annie's quotation of John Mohawk (#1) does not go away, regardless of the magnitude or frequency of the offenses against us. When we dehumanise our opponents, when we hold irreconcilable grudges (and this is one of my greatest failings as a human being that blocks me from Nirvana), we place ourselves in the unfortunate role of being as valid an obstacle to peace as the original offense itself. We preclude even the notion of reconciliation or peace when we seek "justice" at the expense of compassion.

It isn't easy. And sometimes, we instinctively decide that compassion makes us vulnerable or invites more and greater offenses. But isn't that exactly what the American "War on Terror" boils down to: "Peace can not be achieved, so we will not seek it: instead, we must annihilate our opponents and remove them from the equation by force"...? It has become clear, at least to me, that the expense of an inability to seek peace has outweighed the expense that "being vulnerable" would have entailed. There are hidden costs to intolerance, but the final bill does eventual come.

I am certainly not trivialising your observation; it is an extremely valid one, and one that cuts to the heart of this matter. What does one do when forgiveness has the appearance of only inviting more of the same? I simply must focus on the fact that, just as vengeance contains significant hidden costs, compassion contains significant hidden benefits. If we are going to be as rational as we imagine ourselves, we have to attempt to lift ourselves above the silt we live in and view a larger reality. It could possibly be that neither approach (viz. "compassion for all" vs. "compassion for none") will bring about an entirely satisfactory outcome, but as we can clearly see unfolding daily on the stage of world events, one approach is certainly more harmful to us than the other. If we want to break the equation down into game theory (and I would really, really rather not do that), we must recognise that life is not a zero sum arrangement. We may certainly all lose, however there can ultimately be no "winner". That is the reality we must face if we are going to minimise the negative consequences of what I have foolishly termed "stupidity".

@ b real (#10)

I am also a tremendously paranoid sort who finds conspiracies lurking in every corner... so, too, is José Padilla now. We have all been victimised by this culture... this system. Just like Padilla, we now suspect even those who would defend us. We can't prove that they are not complicit in some way with those who harm us. It is very valid that after one has been victimised, they are unable to trust...

But what life is this? Padilla is now reduced to helpless infancy, trapped in his own mind and unable to function. His understandable distrust of his captors has actually made him more dependent upon the very people who harm him. The government has made him exactly the way they wanted him to be; I don't fault him for that.

Yes, it is remotely possible that Cooper is "setting people up" for a sting, just as it is possible that he is genuinely as appalled as we are at the growing US prison population... a population he has seen firsthand. It is also possible that he is, as his critics suggest, going rogue in order to make a few bucks off of the corruption he has, until now, been a part of.

I don't know. It's not in my power to know. Unlike Padilla, however, it is in my power for the time being to judge for myself, and I elect to believe that Cooper is a human being as I am... and feels the same things that I do. If I am as appalled at the unnecessary incarcerations, it is not out of the realm of possibility that someone whose life revolved around that world would be just as, if not more, appalled than I am.

It doesn't matter to me. The only drugs I use are legal (alcohol and nicotine). But whatever the genuine Cooper's motives are, the abstract Cooper has stood up and said "This is an unfair situation". The abstract Cooper is all I have to talk about, and I agree with him.

Posted by: Monolycus | Dec 25 2006 8:20 utc | 11

Happy Christmas to all here. Special mention to b for keeping this place of sanity alive.


Look at Yahoo News Headlines this morning:

• Pope makes Christmas appeal for children
• Iraqi Christians celebrate Christmas
• Legendary singer James Brown dies at 73
• Ethiopian jets bomb Mogadishu airport
• Thai minister defends currency controls
• Candidates turn to Web to reach voters
• Texas town withers amid ownership fight

Russian made jets are bombing Somalia, the Pope and children, I will not go there.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Dec 25 2006 10:13 utc | 12

I see two threads here, suffering the consequences of wrong actions and compassion.

If I do something wrong, something that hurts other people I must suffer the consequences, as have the people I have wronged. The wrongness lies in my exercising my choice in the matter to deprive others of theirs.

That's in the dimension of actions and reactions. When I'm apprehended I'm dealt with according to the nature of my wrong actions. So, too, will George Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, and the Salvadorean soldiers who brutally killed the village of El Mozote in the eastern department of Morazan in El Salvador, 25 years ago this month, as I learned from r'giap's link on the remembering thread, be dealt with.

Sometimes people escape trials and prison, as have Ariel Sharon and Augusto Pinochet, but they will still be remembered as Pol Pot and Adolph Hitler are remembered.

And there is no reason to follow the hierarchical Church's call to amnesia about these monstrous events, to let "bygones be bygones" when such monstrous events literally cry out for their consequences.

But we can heed Father Rogelio's call "to remember why we are here" testifying to the crimes that were committed. Men were brutally murdered, women raped and murdered, children slain. An entire village wiped out. 800 people in one day.

We must light a candle for them, a candle of remembrance, we must make sure that the authors of these actions are made to confront, and to accept the monstrosity of their actions, and to suffer the consequences. But we cannot become the same brutes ourselves in our revenge.

We must be compassionate, not because it is a "good thing to do", but because it is the only way to draw ourselves back from the abyss, the only way to reassert our own humanity in the face of the monstrous crimes that we humans are all capable of.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 25 2006 10:43 utc | 13

I feel that Pinochet for example was treated in the most just way. He lived many years and during all those years he was subjected to constant retelling of his crimes. We have now Wolfowitz complaining that he cannot exculpate himself because of his duties at the World Bank. He is being punished simply by the development following his deeds, Kissinger is in the same position. Would it have been better to break their bones at the wheel? or quarter them? Someone has said that the concrete development of the effects of our deeds, which is the overt manifestation of our guilt, is the only manner of joining the guilty again to society. I don't suppose that we should treat people according to our hatred instead of allowing the full development of their misdeeds, or mine for that matter, and through that suffering become redeemed.

Posted by: jlcg | Dec 25 2006 12:31 utc | 14

"We have gone from looking at education as a means of improving human beings to looking on education as a utilitarian means of enhancing one's income."
this is also part of a global trend as the world becomes more "Americanized".
and its not just education, its also peoples belief systems regardless of their level of education.
I am speechless for last two days. A friend is a dentist (and we know what kind of income gives a private surgery , don’t we? ).Well his friend who is also dentist (with two private surgeries)and it happens that he has American wife and two daughters. This bitch (his American wife) just came yesterday to see them and told them how their 28 year old daughter (who by the way left school early in a high school and never worked cause Daddy bought her two houses , one to live with a boyfriend and second as an investment so she can live of the rent) is opening business! Daughter is opening business and guess what it is? It’s a BROTHEL!!! We all know that “American business is business” but this is just too much! My friend and his family were in a state of shock so am I. This woman was surprised that my friend was in shock and told him: “Why not! It’s a good business and it’s legal, we have all the licenses and we are building a nice place with rooms and bathrooms etc.”. Well when my friend asked where she is going to get girls her answer was: “It’s easy. I just put an add in local paper and hundreds of them called me. Instead of working at the supermarket for $10/per hour they are going to make 150/per hour ‘working’ for my daughter”. She feels like she is actually helping those young girls and any farther discussion is inadequate for her. To add salt to the injury she even took opportunity when she was alone with friends 24 old son and his cousin to make an invitation to them to come “if they want to ride” and she’ll even give them “special”.
We are talking dentist’s wife and daughter her and even if I am aware of brothels being reality from the beginning of the world (to the end) I always thought that criminals are running brothels exploiting poor people in need …I am obviously naïve. It really wouldn’t surprise me if that girl (even if she is 28 so not exactly teen) came to this idea but for MATHER to support and even advertise it around …
I really am astonished and speechless and furious and…Where the hell we are going if this is reality today??? And we are talking about people who are in possession of really good wealth (millions in real estate and different trusts and funds). My God! The moral is really really lowered nowadays. I suppose that’s why those cults are able to attract so many people and fundamentalism in Christianity is flourishing…Where the hell western society is going??? I of course do not want to generalize about western civilization let alone Christianity but this I see as a very bad sign…very bad…Ah…are these times just stupid?

Posted by: vbo | Dec 25 2006 12:55 utc | 15

Another fine post by Monolycus.

We certainly do live in stupid times. Given all that we know about what has happened in the past and the last century in particular, we humans certainly should know better.

I think the author of the fluffy OpEd piece was simply describing the "Oprah dividend" and how it is unfairly applied to those that have done nothing other than having won the womb lottery or been sprinkled with celebrity fairy dust when the excuses given are identical to any criminal behind bars.

The author was pointing out the hypocrisy of the public's ability to go to great lengths to excuse the actions of celebs.

Danny Heatley is a very good hockey player and made the NHL. He and his pro buddy went out drinking and Heatley was showing off his Ferrari-like ride by speeding in a residential neighbourhood. He lost control and killed his passenger in the ensuing crash. If he saw the inside of a police station, it was likely the captain's office. The victim's family forgave him.

He was never charged and I pointed out this fact while adding that I'd have been charged with speeding, DUI and manslaughter at a minimum. Oh, but his family forgave him. I ask if I had killed your child in a similar manner and been blessed by your forgiveness would I not be behind bars (and rightly so)?

The forgiveness allows both parties to move on with their lives. Both to heal, hopefully (rather than letting it gnaw your guts), and one to serve the punishment befitting their crime.

That there is a rarefied type of individual whose actions garner a forgiveness so complete as to render the actions, regardless of severity, non-existant in the eyes of an adoring, faithful public is what the author was describing.

This doesn't make what you've concluded any less valid and that author might even agree too.

The psychological toxins referred to are belief, nationalism and patriotism as evidenced by the comments of Rice and Goode.


Posted by: gmac | Dec 25 2006 12:56 utc | 16

the "stupidity" is a compounding, horrific, willful blindness that leads us (all of us) into an abyss from which we can not climb back out.
Wow! So great said. I ‘ll save this even if it’s not yours…

We must be compassionate, not because it is a "good thing to do", but because it is the only way to draw ourselves back from the abyss, the only way to reassert our own humanity in the face of the monstrous crimes that we humans are all capable of.
This one too. Thank you guys!

I don't suppose that we should treat people according to our hatred instead of allowing the full development of their misdeeds, or mine for that matter, and through that suffering become redeemed.
There is something here…But have in mind that some people are “emotionally numb” and with no consciousness (for different reasons) … But in most of the cases I am with you on this…Hell is nowhere far…it’s inside us!

Posted by: vbo | Dec 25 2006 13:32 utc | 17

b real @ #10

I agree with you. There's something about that Barry Cooper project that just screams enough material for SPIKE and CourtTV to slap together another season or two of "The Most Dumbest Criminals Caught On Tape".

Posted by: Sizemore | Dec 25 2006 14:52 utc | 18

Nobody can be punished unless that one is conscious of guilt. If she is not conscious of guilt then she will face punishment simply as an exercise in barbarism. Punishment to be effective must flow from an acknowledgement of one's evil deeds that is from the break of the social compact by my acts.Himmler was conscious of his acts and he had a dose of cyanide in one tooth. He swallowed it because he could not bear the exposure of the content of his life. Goering also had his poison pill, apparently never acknowledged guilt and he mocked his prosecutors by dying before being hanged. Guilt and punishment are the supreme mystery of our lives.

Posted by: jlcg | Dec 25 2006 14:54 utc | 19

Here's my wish for Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all.

...except, I don't think I really mean this, not in the all-encompassing idea of this wish. Sometimes goodwill is a poor substitute for honesty, or taking responsibility, or education about the ways in which the modern world has taken shape.

Pinochet, as mentioned above, is a chief example. His letter to Chile, upon his death, is his exculpation of himself. He claims that he is a victim. Incredible to imagine.

Here's Pinochet's version of reality:

I have been prevented from going home to my country and I am living through the hardest and most unjust experience of my life.

...he sees himself as a hero because he "defeated" communism in Chile. By any means. By torture and mass murder of innocents. By "disappearing" those who supported an elected govt.

Should this man be "forgiven" without first creating some justice for his victims? At the level of societies, is it possible to simply "forgive" when this would seem to make similar actions acceptable by refusing to shame them in the public sphere? That sort of punishment, it seems, is not for the person alone. That punishment is for society, for people who would be inclined to justify horrendous actions that are far beyond reason and decency (yes, that extends to the present situation.)

Yet, Nelson Mandela did find forgiveness. But only after a Truth and Reconciliation Commission made certain the crimes of the apartheid regimes could not be denied. The amnesty program for torturers and murderers was not universally endorsed, even tho amnesty was only available for those who admitted their guilt.

But forgiveness at a national or international level seems to have the same purpose as forgiveness at a personal level, in that the forgiveness is not for the person who has committed a hurtful act. Instead, forgiveness allows the wronged person to go forward, to create something else, something better than the injustice.... Something beyond the power that someone else held over the person wronged. If forgiveness never happens, how is it possible to move beyond past powerlessness?

Posted by: fauxreal | Dec 25 2006 18:20 utc | 20

Speaking of stupid, what happened to the war on Christmas this year?

Posted by: anna missed | Dec 25 2006 18:25 utc | 21


"the war on Christmas" is just a euphemism for "The Struggle for the Winter Solstice". The Christians have had a hammerlock on it since the Middle Ages, but the pagans are gaining ground again, with the assistance of Kwanzists. Channukists maintain a benevolent neutrality on the front.

Needless to say, the intertwining and sometimes contradictory alliances rival those of Lebanon or Afghanistan, but what we mostly see is Christians no longer content with being on the defensive and striking back, although the Anti-Christmasians often launch their attacks on public Nativity scenes from densely populated areas...

Posted by: ralphieboy | Dec 25 2006 19:02 utc | 22


Not intended as a personal attack or anything, but what happened to "Live and let live"? Why do we have to start "wars" over everything we disagree with? Both the pro-Christmas and anti-Christmas zealots just make me sad... This isn't helpful to anybody.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Chemmett | Dec 25 2006 20:00 utc | 23

The advantage of waging an aggressive war of choice is; you can take Christmas day off and eat turkey.

Posted by: pb | Dec 25 2006 22:07 utc | 24

To the tune of Adeste Fideles:

Consume all canapes, crudites, confections;
Consume ye caramel and divinity;
Rumballs with raisins, men of tender gingerbread;
Then eat ye some more fruitcake
Then eat ye some more fruitcake
Then eat ye some more fruitcake
Soaked in rum.

Posted by: catlady | Dec 26 2006 0:06 utc | 25

Chile’s Leader Attacks Amnesty Law

Gen. Augusto Pinochet died this month without ever being held legally accountable for human rights abuses that occurred during his dictatorship. But his subordinates are now facing a new threat: President Michelle Bachelet is pushing to invalidate an amnesty law that for nearly 30 years has exempted them from prosecution on murder and torture charges.
“This government, like other democratic governments before it, maintains that the amnesty was an illegitimate decision in its origins and content, form and foundation,” Ms. Bachelet’s chief of staff, Paulina Veloso, said in an interview at the presidential palace here. “Our conviction is that it should never have been applied at all, and certainly should never be used again.”

"it is better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees" -- emiliano zapata

...and the masters of the universe & their ideological sycophants are indeed on a killing spree - us, our descendents & the biosphere

Posted by: b real | Dec 26 2006 4:04 utc | 26

"We have now Wolfowitz complaining that he cannot exculpate himself because of his duties at the World Bank. He is being punished simply by the development following his deeds, Kissinger is in the same position. Would it have been better to break their bones at the wheel? or quarter them?"

I think it would be better to send them to jail (after a trial and guilty verdict) and give them paper and pencil to communicate with the outside world - censored, of course.

Posted by: Susan | Dec 26 2006 8:11 utc | 27

"The Devil's greatest trick is to make us believe we're not already in Hell."

Posted by: SteinL | Dec 26 2006 9:55 utc | 28

Mono wrote: American "War on Terror" boils down to: "Peace can not be achieved, so we will not seek it: instead, we must annihilate our opponents and remove them from the equation by force"....


Is 2006 more ‘stupid’ than 1920 or 1950? Those are perhaps not good dates, as they had their own exuberance, and today we experience something closer to angst and anomie, not to mention all the end-times crap. The current ambient ‘stupidity’ owes much to moves towards individualism, identity politics, which are a manifestation of same and don’t lead anywhere (much) today ...The ethos of competition as the golden invisible hand that will improve life for ‘all’ has eroded social relations everywhere (‘West’.)

Looking out for number one in a stressful and insecure environment leads to aggressive behavior and sabotage that becomes, to a certain level, the norm; others feel aggressed and need ‘security’, etc. and many play both those registers at once.

Compassion is then in short supply and it is hard to forgive the world for being what it is. Enemies loom, people are helpless, someone has to pay.

One spins into ‘being real’ according to scripts vaguely internalized - acting, like on a sitcom, and that is new - not 20’s or 50’s... Within this kind of explanation (which relates to ‘capitalism’) people lose their social anchoring, partly because rulers / elected pols have also crossed the line into irrationality, corruption, the belief in control...

Anyway, not original. Basically, imho, it has to do with ‘limits to growth’ - approaching the edge of some kind of system change, possibly collapse, which is hard to deal with, as the forces that might!? - old fashioned res publica politics - grass roots collectivism - mild but determined revolutionary / etc. movements - ‘scientific’ piloting - those ‘great leaders’ everyone bemoans the lack of - nutty innovators - attempts at ‘world gov’ (eg. UN) have all been marginalized, scattered, smashed.

Forward, to the cliff! Grab a parachute, a sled, the seat of your pants, or go party with the para-military in Guatemala! ;)

hi vbo.

Posted by: Noirette | Dec 26 2006 18:17 utc | 29

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