Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Present: A Quotation.5 and Comments

“From the beginning the useless people set up a shriek for ‘practical business men’[in government.]  By this they meant men who had become rich by placing their personal interests before those of the country, and measuring the success of every activity by the pecuniary profit it brought to them and to those on whom they depended for their supplies of capital.

 The pitiable failure of some conspicuous samples from the first batch we tried of these poor devils helped to give the whole public side of the war an air of monstrous and hopeless farce. They proved not only that they were useless for public work, but that in a well-ordered nation they would never have been allowed to control private enterprise.”
G.B. Shaw

George Bernard Shaw wrote these words shortly after World War I.  Through all the spectacular daily changes, how little has deeply changed.

Literary Hub asked a number of authors who had recently published books what it was like to be out promoting their work in the first year of the antipresident.  Kim Stanley Robinson, who was on a book tour for his novel New York 2140 about the climate crisis future, said this:

"I ignored the presidency of Donald Trump. He is a blip and an aberration in a process of coming to grips with climate change that has been gathering momentum for about 20 years now. We’ve designed cleaner technologies for energy and transport and although installing them worldwide is a massive task, it can be done and it will be. It will be the work of human civilization in the 21st century. 

The Paris Accord is an agreement of world historical importance. The United States will rejoin it, having never really left it, and on we’ll go. The targets set by the Accord get us only about halfway to the carbon reductions we need, but when we achieve that first half as a global society, the second half will get easier, because the momentum will be in that direction. And the need for it will be more and more evident. We’ll do it for the children.

It’s true that Trump and his team are stupidly destructive of much that is good. They are tearing the social fabric, and enjoying that in the usual way of thugs and vandals. There’s a sickness there that is disturbing to see. But we’ll knit the fabric back together and carry on. His supporters are a minority that is shrinking. Remember Gramsci’s pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. Be angrily optimistic and fight for justice and the generations to come."

It is a wonderful perspective.  But as much as we would like to let as much of this current administration go by and pass into history with as little pain as possible, we must be forewarned, we must be ready for what still might come.

Specifically for what happens if there is war.  Shaw noted how fast everything changed from the day before war was declared to the day after.  A virus of hysteria infects everyone.  Civil liberties vanish.  Simple criticism of the government, even a wisecrack, becomes suspect and criminal.

Along with the usually distant hellish destruction, this always happens.  It happened in World War I, WWII, Vietnam, the open-ended War on Terror. The differences this time are the power of the Internet and social media to punish dissenters instantly and with personal destruction, and of course, the most authoritarian-minded occupant of the White House in American history.  So be wary, and beware.

The other caveat I would add is that while this may be a blip in history, the amount of poison being poured into the American government and culture, and indeed into the world, will take a long time to drain.  It took President Obama eight years to bring the country part way back from the eight Bush years.  But the poison injected by this administration in little more than a year seems even more widespread.

But Obama was in fact President for eight years, which constituted the childhood, adolescence and young adulthood of millions.

  There was a Kennedy generation; there will be an Obama generation.  This is my greatest solace.  Some of them are already out there, demanding action on guns.  They will be "angrily optimistic" and they will "fight for justice and the generations to come."  

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