San Diego –– I am SOOO tired of and bored by the inanity that passes for political discourse these days. From the great unwashed at the protests du jour to the better dressed but not an iota more informed or brilliant people that pretend to leadership in this country, our discourse at a time of crisis has reached an all time low in my lifetime and perhaps in the country’s lifetime as well.
Once more we have, with one exception, professional poiliticians, the very people Franklin warned us about. being picked by party orthodoxy, the very thing Washington warned us about, trotted forth as individuals suited to lead us into what is arguably the most critical next four years since the civil war. For the last few election cycles the cadre of candidates has, in terms of intellect, ethics, understanding of the world and appreciation for what has, in the past, made America great, gotten weaker and weaker. Last time it culminated in the election of a candidate who has acted as if and made policy decisions as if he truly despised what this country was and was dedicated to overthrowing the system down to its roots and replacing it with another better in keeping with his father’s and his pastor’s thinking.
If this is the best field of potential leaders the country of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, et al can now muster then there is no way to soft peddle this: we are already lost. If the country of those dead and forgotten people willing to sacrifce their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to establish it is now reduced to a country of people who can’t spell or describe “honor” mush less exhibit any, who want the fortunes of others to be sacrificed for them, and who hold their petty meanginless lives so dear as to be unwilling to even risk them for anything beyond their own personal wants, then let’s just call it quits now and let Chine or whoever is next in world destiny’s line have the stage. Better to walk off under our own power than have our corpses dragged off by a merciless victor in a conflict we can no longer win because we are no longer willing to fight.
So, for my own sanity I want to aim a bit higher and hope there are some out there willing to actually think. If we, as a collective, are unwilling to seriously review the prospects for our country as it heads toward the “Bridge Out” sign as all of the engineers have leapt out of the locomotive, perhaps now firmly enscouned in the “Me” generation, a few of us individually are willing to think about our own lives and where we are headed with them.
In that vein I want to repeat a few lines from a commencement address given by Steve Jobs who died last week. Jobs had studied Buddhism and was influenced by its call for simplicity and inner honesty. He was probably aware of the interview in which, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama answered,
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health to make money; then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Jobs already knew he was dying from Pancreatic cancer when he gave the now famous address. He told the students about to enter the real world that every day he looked in the mirror and asked himself if this was the day he was to die, whether or not this is what he wanted to be doing his last day. If the answer was “No” for too many days in a row then he knew it was time to fundamentally change SOMETHING. The brilliance in that remark was the understanding that we cannot guarnatee that EVERY day will be what we want so we need to be careful of precipitous and ill conceived action but also accept the clues that tell us we need to kick ourselves somewhere tender and do somerthing positive in our lives. It was only when those days mounted up to, for him, critical mass, that he knew it was time to act.
Too many think that if things are not going their way for a few moments it is time to act. They feel somehow entitled to the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” those founders were willing to pay for but with a twist: they are no longer wiling to work for, much less die for them and it no longer is the pursuit of happiness they feel a right to engage in, but the right to the gift of the happiness itself… something ultimately unattainable because they have no clue what that really means.
Humans are by nature inquisitive and acquisitive. Attaintment without effort is ultimately meaningless to us; it brings us little, if any, immediate satisfaction and provides no lasting satisfaction. It is only through the sense of achievement, of, as Maslow put it, “Self Actualization” that we humans find the most happiness. But there is no achievement in a world where everything is simply provided and given. Flowing from a world of co-dependent authoritarian leaders where everything is given equally and without merit, comes only spirit-quenching addictive dependency and with that a profound slavery of the most insidious kind.
Chained, whipped, and branded, a physical slave can accept his or her lot or rebel against it, but they know precisely and painfully what their status is and where they fit into the current environment. But someone who has allowed themsleves to become enslaved by their own parastical grasping for the products of the work of others, the desperate desire to, as Conrad wrote, “Lounge safely through existence.” and the grand goal to be given happiness and all of the trappings of success without the distasteful necessithy of having to expend energy for it, much less sacrifice anything for it, has no clue about either his master, his lot, or the nature of the chains that bind his spirit. He has neither present or future that matters.
America was not freed from the chains of old Europe by such people or those of such fragile stuff. It was accomplished by what appears to be a long dead collection of men and women with steel for spines instead of the papier mache now being used. Those people did not whine that life was so unfair and they were entitled to an equality of goodies, they said rather that the government over them was unjust and they were entitled to the opportunity to work for and attain those goodies by their own unchained efforts.
if you want a real shock, read, or re-read the litany of abuses they itemized in The Declaration of Independence to explain their reasons for wanting to separate from the Crown and then think about how our government treats us today. Those grim warriors of freedom would have been on the march again some time ago and today would truly have been in open rebellion. Today however, the best we can muster seem to be people whose most profound expressions are to defecate on a police car and urinate on company signs or tell interviewers, as did a New York protestor, that they quit their job to come protest unemployment. I think if it were possible to go back in time and somehow bring our founding fathers forward to just see this country today, they would consider themselves a failure and today’s Americans betrayers of their effort, sacrifice, and blood.
Following a precept far older than they, those founders believed the line from the Old Testament that man was required “… to earn his daily bread by the sweat of his brow.” They would be saddened and astonished to see parks and streets bearing their names now swarming with folks wanting to be handed their daily bread so long as it is earned by the sweat of someone else’s brow.
i understand completely that there are unacceptable abuses in the system as it exists today; abuses that need to be corrected and abuses that, it is also obvious, our current crop of leaders can neither distinguish nor solve because they are so out of touch and so dedicated to the single goal of continued employment in government service — meaning in a role where government can serve them and their goals. But it is not the system that is at fault, it is the place corrupt politicians and businessment have taken it.
Steve Jobs stayed pretty much out of the political arena and maybe that is too bad. The government leaders should take a lesson from Steve Jobs and, applying it to his country, ask himself every day: if the country were to be destroyed tomorrow, is what I have made of it today how it ought to be remembered and what I want for it.
If the answer, today, and for the last several years of days, is “Yes” then they need to be replaced. I think maybe the only man in the country who could honestly answer “Yes” is Obama and that is because I believe he truly wants to tear down the entire system to rebuild it along the lines of his father’s and pastor’s dreams. I just happen to find that idea repugnant and terrifying so I believe he needs to be replaced before even more harm is done.
And if the answer is, and for some times has been “No,” then they also need to be replaced as incompetent because they could not do their job, or for corruption because they were willing to be bought off from doing the job their heart and brain told them should be done. And replacing them is your job as a voter in our democratic republic.
This weekend a series of speeches was held in D.C. at Martin Luther King’s memorial. Originally slated earlier the storms that ravaged the east coast delayed the official ceremonies. King, of course, remains a lightening rod to many but he was insistant on a non-violent approach to bringing the change he thought was needed. His success made him a target for hate and death threats that were eventually to come true. Like Steve Jobs, he knew he was likely to be killed though he did not, unlike Jobs, have a good idea when. So he wrote…
“Everybody’s going to die. And nobody can decide when they die, or how they die. The only choice you have is what you die for. And you have to begin living for what you’re going to die for, because it’s so easy to die for nothing.”
So how about you? What are your answers to those questions both for yourself and for your country? Is it time to consider some change in one place or another? And are you living for what you may die for? or are you one of the growing group of whimpering moral and physical cowards who are not willing to die — or even be hurt — for anything and so hide in the shadows and try, more than anything else, to keep their heads down and end up dying for… nothing? When they write your epitaph will it say that you stood for anything?