I don’t know if college English classes still bring up this distinction when teaching 18th-century lit, but I remember how Jonathan Swift was presented as someone who loved individuals but hated humanity, with Alexander Pope seen as the opposite, a difficult if not impossible friend, who firmly believed in humanity’s worth and the cosmic outlook (“Whatever is, is right”).
As much as any of us is one or the other, I think I’m definitely in the Swiftian realm. Not that I like everybody indiscriminately (hell no!), but that, while delighted with my friends and fond of most acquaintances, I see humanity as pretty much a slopheap. Pete Seeger, on the other hand, from what little I know of him personally, seemed the opposite, his songs rife with uplift and hope but possessing an ability to piss off the people who dealt with him (though how he or anyone could end up a committed Stalinist is incomprehensible).
What does this prove? Not a damned thing, except maybe that we’re all just who we are, little of it makes objective sense, and individual human complexity can’t be sorted out through generalized claims.
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I have this almost unholy admiration for Greta Thunberg and the other young protestors today – especially the women. Most of them started fighting the idiocy of the world in their early to mid teens. Back in my (thankfully unnamed) generation (early ‘60s), it was college students, mostly male, who ignited or supported the national anti-war and integrationist movements. I’m hoping that the current youth group has more tenacity and better shelf-life than ours.
So many ’60s stars came a-cropper (Abbie Hoffman by suicide, Jerry Rubin by becoming yet another millionaire, Rap Brown from SNCC ending up a bank robber, the Weather Underground turning to pointless, fatal sabotage). That old mob failed beyond the immediate effect of halting the Vietnam war and aiding the limping start of integration. Zero Population Growth – needed now more that ever – vanished almost without a trace as the earth’s population swelled to beyond 8 billion of us destructive little buggers; and once Vietnam was down the tubes, marching for demilitarization and societal change (along with the support for unions) disappeared for most of the succeeding half century.
I never marched for anything (I seldom even hike), so I have no right to complain, and I don’t for the most part. I’d rather celebrate what seems a genuine resurgence of caring. That it had to come as the expense of endless Black deaths, social brutality and mindless environmental destruction only underlines my sense of hopelessness for humanity as a viable conglomerate.
But maybe we can at least have (somewhere, should there remain a world left to incorporate them), small enclaves of decency, acceptance and cooperation. These “kids” on the front lines, holding their elders’ feet to the fire, embody that hope, realistic or not.
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Why does Thump still retain a “base” of supporters, despite being a vile and vicious human being? Because they accept him as their model – he cheats, he lies, he denigrates those who oppose him and degrades those who grovel to him – exactly what these supporters would do if they were in his place, and they know it. “Base” is the right word – not for those who admire his few (but never implemented) “policies” – but for those who embrace his evil as the proper basis of existence. Though philosophy has never successfully defined “the good,” for most of us there are some pretty widely accepted designations of evil. We’ve lived through and with a lot of them in recent years.
Though Crumpet is often compared it Hitler, he’s really much closer to Goebbels (with less than half Goebbels’ mind). Goebbels invented the idea of continual promotion of the Big Lie through use of modern media – that if you lie often and consistently across all channels, the lie will be accepted as the truth. This approach became (and remains) the basis of nearly all modern advertising and politics, but Chump has returned it to its purest foundations: never retreat, never admit a mistake, ignore all inconvenient facts and champion the worst outcome.
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Bumper sticker suggestion:
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Europe stole this country from it’s native population.
Then our government stole Florida from Spain and Texas from Mexico.
For god’s sake, give them back!