Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Hubris of The Doomed

The Darkness is falling! The Darkness is falling!
I hear that a lot lately. A recent commenter deep within a GagDad post, Michael Andreyakovich, recently begaied us all with a 'drunken' lament of Doom and Gloom, and that anyone who is even considering having children today, are just cruel and negligent!

Now, I confess to occasionaly indulging in my own dark forebodings, often brought on by news such as President Bush’s latest comment “If Iran is implicated in harming US Personal, there will be a firm response” – What the hell?! I'd much Rather hear him say “We've vaporized 5 Iranian military bases today, one for each US Soldier we have reason to believe was killed by Iranian backed personnel…” I mean if we don’t stand, surely we must fall?! The word on the street is that we are losing it, we are doomed… and in that thought of doom, there is an implication that It All hasn’t always been in danger of being lost, that WE haven’t always been in imminent danger of losing the light – that there is a NEW thick, deep darkness falling upon us.

First I want to take a look at what this ‘we’re doomed!’ really means and is, how unique to our times it is, and what - if anything - there is for us to do about it.

The Greeks identified one trait unforgivable to the Gods, and certain to invite their Doom, that of Hubris. The human conceit that ‘I know all that needs to be known, no one can tell me anything different, I have no need of further consideration of caution’ and taking ‘Pride’ in such ‘knowledge’; in short, taking upon oneself a surety of knowledge which even the Gods do not possess. This is the false Pride that goeth before a fall. The Greeks knew of it, the Romans were aware of it, the British suspected it of everyone else, the MSM declares it of (Republican) Presidents.

What does saying ‘we’re Doomed!’ mean? Doesn’t it mean that you have surveyed the scene, read the tea-leaves, and have attained to absolute certainty that there is no escape from the future which your crystal ball has foretold? That no one living or to be born can think, do, discover, teach or perform any act or series of acts which you haven’t forseen which could change the course of history, because YOU see that we are DOOMED!? That this Doom is so certain, that other people, deficient in your prescience, daring to have children (Children! The Fools!) are irresponsible in the extreme, that having any hope of a life worth living is just negligent and petty of them in the face of your foreknowledge. Hmm… I smell something burning, but it ain’t the world.

Wake up and smell the Hubris Michael Andreyakovich.

When Have We Not Been Doomed?
Let’s take a closer look at this certain doom, in particular at other times when apparently life was so Good and True as to NOT be doomed. There is much I think that we miss with our surface despair & assurance of having fallen away from previous golden states of security. What are these times that are often looked back upon as being better ones? I suppose that the easier pickings are those of the Founding Fathers, and those of the Greatest Generation, and even the youth of the big-babyboomers.

We can assume that the technological comforts of 21st century life vs 16th, 17,th, 18th, 19th and even 20th century life, medicine, machines, refrigeration etc aren't the focus of their lament – let’s assume that what is being lamented at having been lost from their time to ours, is something other than the eases and creature comforts of our luxuries and those luxuries we consider to be necessities.

Let's look at the Founders time - which part of their times do we think back on as having been free from the threat of Doom, so rosy and sound? True, they showed their sense and courage by rising up against the looming tyranny of Great Britain, well... perhaps a little over a third of them did anyway - but as many or more of them didn't support the revolution. Sure there was Washington, S. & J.Adams, and Jefferson... but there were also large numbers of the populace who were opposed to, or indifferent to revolution, or were sunshine patriots who, like Benedict Arnold, turned when their own weather turned foul - and others of his kind abounded - not a sound and pleasant time in which to live or raise children, surely.

Well, ok, then... still keeping with the Founders time, but lets focus on the period after the revolution. Surely here was a time of Goodness and Truth, and no implacable darkness about to fall upon and engulf them in doom. Er... but wouldn't that be the period where the unity of the colonies was falling apart, where it was actually conceivable that New Jersey would go to war with New York, when all the states sought to shirk their revolutionary debts and agreements... and when during this idyllic period there were rebellions across the land, such as with Shay's Rebellion.... Good times? Steady times?

Well, ok then, after the constitution was written, surely THEN it was a Good time, a True time, a time free of the implacable and impending Doom. Hmm... wouldn't that be the period that saw the whiskey rebellion? Those fine peaceable times when the frenchie-phile incited press was agitating against Washington (the Man, not the city)? Those fine days when half of the states still upheld legal slavery and ensured a coming Civil War? Those fine and inspiring days during which a vice president (Aaron Burr) shot and killed one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton? Good times?


Ok then, forget about the Founders then (silly whigs), how about the Greatest Generation who defeated totalitarianism & imperialism – are also the same ones of The Right Stuff, and Camelot and the Apollo program and landing on the Moon! No Doom there! Um… except that they were also the ones who ushered in a boom in Government Regulatory agencies, saw China lost to the communists, the UN was created (a low of lows)...Mississippi burning, Vietnam, & The Draft, The assassinations of JFK-> MLK->RFK… and was Woodstock really a Good time? The drug culture?

When Have There Ever Been Comfortable Highpoints?
And yet these times, or rather the catch phrases of these times, are so often held up as high points of our heritage. What are the images which sway us into thinking they were so fine? 1776, The Greatest Generation, Camelot, Apollo... Images, Icons, Glamours of times which we think of being peopled with people who had high Ideals. But what you’ll find if you press the matter with someone, is that these impressions of monolithically solidly golden, good & true times invariably crumble.

Looking back at those times, you’ll find that what we see as the High Ideals illuminating the times, in fact were not shared by all, and often not even by a majority. What we do from our vantage point is back date those ideals, associating them with the known outcomes, as Images of good times. The typical wackademic thing to do on discovering this is to gleefully point out that the heroes of the times had feet of clay. I think that that is foolish. In the extreme. There’s nothing to be learned from such a ‘discovery’, there is no history in such history. What is it we look for in history after all, do we focus on particular individuals and times because we expect them to be completely unlike us, perfect in every way, and by virtue of their perfection were able to escape Doom!?


We should expect every person to have weakness’s, faults, imperfect virtues – that’s nothing remarkable, no different than Bob the consultants, nothing to be learned from there. What we look to learn from significant people and times of history is not their faults, but their ability to rise above the common faults shared by you and me, and to prevail over the tide of doom and doomsayers, and accomplish something truly remarkable – focus on their ideals and persevere.

It’s also very much worth noting again, that those ideals which we mistake as being common to the time, were held – even in their highpoint, by a minority. You think you’re bummed because the majority of your countrymen aren’t of your mind, and you see THEM as lacking? Talk to Samuel Adams before James Otis’s speech or the Boston Massacre, for a clearer picture of being in a minority.

Perhaps what is really lacking, is your accepting that our minority status is of any worth or consequence whatsoever, THAT is an impediment. What would be better worth our attention is not the fact that the darkness is threatening to fall upon us, still – as always, but that small minorities of the public have so often prevailed over the more hostile or indifferent majorities in the past. A useful question to ask in our time, might be what did they have, if anything, that we don't? What do we have, if anything, that they did not? And if the balance is in our favor, shouldn’t we be feeling even more optimistic than Samuel Adams did, nearly alone in the belief that this continent could and should host “a new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”

Doom Busters
The founders ink hadn't dried on the constitution, before it was being assailed. There is such a thing as entropy in physics, which is the tendency for things to fall apart. Mentally and spiritually, a similar principle applies - if you don't continue to integrate your higher truths, not just in concepts and words, but in action and deeds in time, then their understanding, even their definitions will begin to slip, become fuzzy, and slowly fade away.

Living is an active process. Grasping the Truth is an active process. If you try to hold onto it, tack it statically to the wall, it will dry, wither and crack into pieces, each blade separate and false.

Doom is such a thing. Doom is the attempt to take a barely grasped truth, and tack it to the wall, a talisman against change and against the need for understanding. Buying into the concept of Doom, allows you to pretend to be better than the world, or at least your neighbors, and so by not sullying yourself by interacting with reality, you can lay claim to virtue in the eyes of those who are impressed by your grasp of dry and dead concepts.

The lamenting of being Doomed is an act of Hubris all it's own - the assertion that you know the fate of man, the world and of the God(s). This process of civilizational decay has happened before - and to the biggest and toughest nations of their times, results of which we look back on and back date into a declaration that they were Doomed. Athens led the Western World in the Persian Wars and for 50 years after, before losing theirselves, Rome began a trek down the favorite 'free food! siren call.

But Hubris is a call that can be met with many fitting replies. Anything from Empire, to Something for nothing, to Irrational Greed, to We Know Best!... to We Are Doomed! But the real answer to why they reaped doom, is that those who knew better did nothing, feeling that they were alone in the face of overwhelming opposition – and that those who might have realized their peril, were never alerted either to it, or to the need to speak out, and that they weren’t alone.The biggest new wrinkle in history which I see in our favor, is that this time We DO know it is being done to us, we scattered 'few' are not only able to see it ourselves, but we have ready access to methods of contact and communication and education, which we can use to band together... to do what?

Quite simply, to answer back! Don't concede the equating of Good and True with flat facts and lists of don’t and do's. Don't quietly accept the Politically Correct comment, the dismissive insults from mental and moral munchkins. And don't fall into strident imitation of them, state your peace - clearly and with level head, such quiet strength will shout down their inanity more than shrillness ever could.

We are able to communicate with each other without relying on a few elite mouthpieces to do, or ignore, it all. I think we've got a shot at redirecting the tide of history this time through the cycle. The trick will be to get all the normal people to realize that what it takes is for us to stop letting the Politically Correct comment at the local gathering go unchallenged & unmocked. Stop looking for the big battle and fight the little ones at hand.

When I think of Sam Adams, nearly alone, sitting in a Boston pub writing stories and editorials in an effort to change history, I feel embarrassed at my cushy position in comparison to his. How does his position differ in substance from our own?

Stand up, speak out, call a fool a fool and a good man good, and pay no further heed to the fact that it's going to hell in a hand basket - it always has been - it just needs a few of us to become that vocal minority, even though we all suspect and fear that no one listens to us, to speak up and win the day.

A little bit of Light goes a very long way
It will never be easy. It never has been easy. The night is only pushed back by keeping the fire lit... But look at how much is pushed back by only a small flame? Be a flame, large or small doesn't matter - the dark will hate you equally. Have you ever lit a candle in a dark room? How much darkness is displaced, what kind of radius does that little flame banish? Maybe a 15 of 20 foot radius? One little candle.

Picture the results of lighting one, running several yards out and lighting another and so on - it doesn't take much light to disturb the reign of the darkness, and whats more, it’s mass doesn’t need to be equaled. A little bit of Light goes a very long way. But it does take effort, the match must be struck & held to the wick - and when the old candle burns down, it must be replaced. Just because our fathers & grandfathers pushed back the darkness of totalitarianism and imperialism 60 years ago, did you really expect that to fix the situation?

Leave Doom for the Doomed
Hope always requires engagement; it requires making the effort to defend and spread your thoughts, "Go forth and multiply!”. The thought you grasp, the truth you understand, if you grasp it well enough, you will be able to extract that light from your soul, and without diminishing your own glow in the least (but in fact, enhances it), pass it on to others, who may do the same, and so on and so on...

In the beginning there was The Word, and then there was Light – and That is a miracle.

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