Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Kicking the Legs Out From Under Civilization

You never heard much talk about the Enemies of Civilization before 9/11. That is one of the few things that the WTC disaster did change. It's all we hear about now. The Enemies of Western Civilization (EOWC) supposedly crouch in caves, polishing their homemade explosives, plotting to blow up our churches and unravel the cables on the Brooklyn Bridge, just because they have no churches or Brooklyn Bridges of their own. That's a vivid picture, isn't it? The dirty, brown skinned fellow with the weird language and the hard to pronounce name, huddled in a cave. The problem is, he's not really the Enemy of Civilization. Sure, Bin laden, the Taliban and all the other bogeymen we call Al Quida don't like Western Civilization so much. but they love, love, love Muslim culture, even if they are willing, in their fanaticism, to undermine it with their explosive expressions of devotion.

No, the real enemies of civilization have been with us for a lot longer than the last four years. They've been around for more than a thousand years. I'm not talking about the Commie Jew Pinko Atheist Terrorist scapegoats of the last hundred years or so. I'm talking about the proud, upstanding Enemies of Civilization. The men in fancy suits and elaborate robes, with rings on their fingers and desolate minds filled with vapourous notions. About Good and Evil. About the Culture of Life (so long as it isn't living on their land).

What's gotten me in this mood is the news that President Kill Again has nominated yet another fox to guard the hen house of Western Civilization. This is another example of Bush's disturbing attitude towards every institution that might even clear a throat and mutter week objections concerning his agenda: find the most vocal enemy of a cause and put them in charge of it. Need to fill some vacant Judicial seats? Load them with naked theocrats. Got a UN ambassadorship that needs a warm body? How about a dude who thinks the UN building in New York could stand to loose a few floors. Got a gross incompetent advising you on National Security? Why not promote them!

Bob Harris has rather accurately described this trend as Dada Performance Art rather than the actions of a concerned civil servant. Either that, or the actions of a man frustrated by the niceties of civil culture, trying to remake the world in the image of a medieval empire. Not that I for one minute buy any of Georgie boy's piety. It rings as hollow as a church bell. No, he and his gang of ubercapitalists strike me as third rate Medicis; wealthy families trying to rule with impunity while pretending to be just bankers and art patrons.1

It's as if Ubu Roi came to life and is stalking across the political stage. Only this time, when the curtain closes, it just might kill us all. Maybe this sounds like hyperbole but what other reason could there be? What other end can be reached when Unrestrained greed trumps even basic human rights? Our leaders are all Randian Survivalists, dreaming of an end to the restraints put on their desires by such petty concepts as justice, decency and emotion. Only the strong will survive. The poor and week will be crushed and their goods and services devoured, until nothing remains but one really, really wealthy king. He won't be able to breathe the air or drink the water but he'll have the grandest, most bejeweled mausoleum, ever.

Bob again:

Last year, I wandered the ruins of Troy, where you can witness the rise and fall of almost a dozen different civilizations, all stacked up in the same spot. Every single one of them thought they knew what they were doing. When then end came (as it always does), every single one of them returned to the dirt, their gods dead, their epic struggles wasted and forgotten, and their most treasured creations reduced to inscrutable shards.

You and I and all of us are not the privileged product of millennia of human improvement. We do not occupy a privileged luxury box from which we can view the mistakes of the past from above as they parade for our amusement. We are on the ground, in the dust, and making the same short-sighted decisions, this time on a fantastically grander scale.

What disturbs me this morning, other than my own part in the waste (which remains large, as it must be for anyone living in the highest-impact society yet designed), is a growing sad realization:

Suppose for a moment that an international movement began with the genuine potential to start pulling humanity back from the precipice. Just imagine it, briefly. Let a few details of its shape and scope and necessities bounce around in your brain for a few seconds.

And now let's consider: if such a movement actually existed, would America's government, media, and populace be likely to join?

Or would this most heavily-armed nation in human history -- the one where an advocate of killing rare species for fun is currently about to become director of a key wildlife post -- be vigorously, furiously opposed?


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1. Their lack of taste in art is what makes them third rate. The Medici family may have been wealthy beyond all reason, they may have hand picked Popes and bent the rules of the day to serve their own interests but at least they threw some coins to make their palaces and private chapels presentable. The Bushici just drape gaudy velvet over statues to hide their tits and froth about the decadence of modern art and wonder aloud why more artists can't paint pretty pictures like Thomas Kinkaid.

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