Tuesday, March 27, 2007

“The Wal-Martization of the Public Mind and the passing of the "Red Barn in the Field"

Thoreau, quoting Emerson, said that all men lead lives of quiet,
[solitary] desperation. Most likely he was speaking to those most kindred to his philosophical ilk,those who believed the examined life, though perhaps more lonely, was still more worthy of pursuit than one of convention. But precisely what he meant by the "examined" life, and just what "pursuits" distinguish this life from an unexamined one of perpetual sleep, rests w/ his perpetual slumber on some hillside green in Concord, MA.

But Thoreau, in his Walden solitude, on his solo walks, was not left wanting for companions during his sojourn in the Walden woods. He conceded as much in the many jaunty passages of his literary classic. And one sometimes wonders how the company of such taciturn companions inspired such a clear and cogent view of the rapidly developing market imperatives and the knawing sense of disconnection with nature he felt went w/ the modernity of his times.

The sentiment of this essay borrows from some of his somber prognostications regarding the seemingly insensate march of market imperatives that, as in his day, seem to justify a singular ethic by subjugating all other considerations save the bottom line. In his day he chose the railroad- the "Iron Horse" as the looming specter- the imposing symbol of these inexorable market forces. By comparative analogy, this essay chooses the preeminent presence of Wal-Mart as its whipping boy.

Seems not such a great stretch, projecting forward, based on the gaining momentum of its exponential growth , that Wal*Mart is destined for increasing magnitude in its formative force exerted not only on the American landscape, but the greater world as well.. There is a much greater transcendent possibility unfolding about Wal-Mart, the world we find ourselves in, our current so called leader, his electorate, (to which he is but a composite emblem), and the eventual para mutual conjunction between “Sam’s Club,”the US government, and the rest of the world to which this conjunction considers not only its labor force but its client base buying fodder as well.

Sadly, we are in the final stages of the of the 2’nd “Modern
World,( at least the second modern movement of the western world that is). We are in a transitional gap of sorts, a gloaming maybe. The 1’st modern world being Greece and Rome. This 2’nd, starting w/ the renaissance through the 16’th century w/ the likes of such thought germinals as Francis Bacon, Martin Luther, Isaac Newton and, as just a few examples Kant, Locke, Hegel, Marx. These epochs seem to be curving downward toward a slow extinguishmen now; and as the receding lights of the scientific and philosophical Enlightenment flicker out, a new ordering principle supplants the quintessential distillates of this Enlightenment and all its diverse champions. Sounds pretty dire but look around and you'll see much evidence of this downspiral.

We currently find ourselves suspended in the gloaming, caught in the gap at the interface between the 2’nd and 3’rd historical epochs, (well, human epochs anyway).
New forms arise that fill out the structure of this new epoch. New
Shivas destroying the old, heralding in the New “kinder and gentler
world order.” An early commercial prototype of these usurping forms would be
Ford’s assembly line concept - but the extrapolated full bore blowout of
this concept is: ta daaa… Wal*Mart. Wal*Mart is mass assembly line production, distribution and sales writ on the universal scale. Ford’s concept had a single product line: cars. The Wal*Mart Conglomerate, (a new word needs to be
found here), will soon market everything from toothpaste and
produce, to educational concepts, and modes of thought to boot.

Just beyond the discernable horizon, Wal-Mart Pavilions, (under a franchised
out sourced pseudonym of course), might encompass huge tracts of space in a
Blade Runner style cement, glass and plastic dioramas.
Sadly, the “Red Barn in the Field,” the Greek Revival mansion in the hill and
dale green.. all have to go to make way for these "Global
Pavilions". And sadly, the independent minded thinker must also be
wary of the back hoe and macadam.

Dwight D Eisenhower’s forewarned portents on the Military/ Industrial
complex showed a seer’s prescience. The industrial era has
essentially merged with the Information/Commercial epoch. The
Military/ Industrial and the Information /Commercial are, in kind,
monolithic relatives. The prima facie mien, as yet not fully
developed, is recognized early on in the countenance of the budding
colossus Wal_Mart. Not so much this particular retail Wal- Mart,
but the concept “Wal-Mart” as a means of product and service purveying. Sam
himself had no vision of the hegemonic promised land on this scale,
but there is no stopping it now... Frankenstein is at large in a
frozen wasteland.

These Pavilions will be total immersion experiences. Every nuanced
subtlety of the buyer’s limbic system will be accounted for and
catered to. For example, there will be schools w/in the Pavilion
Compound that invite children and their parents to “choose” the
brand of “Evolutionary Theory” they wish to learn. Over here the
10,000 year old Earth created in six days by the divine Patriarch
w/ the arcade game that has you shuttling all the paired animals
into Noah‘s.. or maybe it will be Sam’s or George’s Arc. Over
there, the Godless model called Darwinism, that suggests chance and
random occurrence.. These out moded forms of the "old science" will
amount to a form of market heresy. So this particular school of
thought, ( Darwinian Evolution) will likely reach extinction in a
few generations…of its own accord, by its own lack of scientific
merit of course.. (planned obsolescence)
( strange irony here as that it was social Darwinism and laizzes faire economics-that formed the first arguments underpinning capitalism raison d'etre in the late 19'th century). There is a malignant Gulliver that blindly roams the land looking
for labensraum- for space to expand. This Gulliver is us, this
clamoring culture in mass consumption….

This is one reason I do what I do… The Red Barn in the Field is a
beautiful and dying thing. All who sense the early portents, whose
minds are not yet “Martinized” should be reading Gibbon’s “Decline
And Fall Of The Roman Empire” and Thoreau’s Walden … End of rant. Care to join me on a run while a few Red Barns are left?

Saturday, March 24, 2007


John Stuart Mill said , paraphrasing: "A far worse state than war would be a world where there was nothing worth fighting for"... Well, for a philosopher whose primary utilitarian themes insist on the greatest good served for the greatest number of people, I'm not so sure his apathetic aphorism would hold water today. In fact, just a minor change in syntax, and shifting the intellectual perspective just slightly, produces a neutralizing twist on this rationalized ethos for war. Mill, living today, might even see this statement for the historical anachronism it has become -at least when applied to this particular element of his "greatest good served" philosophy.

Considering rational futures based on how profoundly different, and "trigger hair sensitive" our world has become since his time -especially post Hiroshima- then his philosophical water falls through like a sieve. When the overall consequences are multi magnitudes greater on the world scale, wars today become sheer illogical mass madness.

Yet,why do political leadership structures still have tens of thousands of nuclear warheads entrenched all over the world? And why, when all coherent systems of logic are applied to the question-why does this illogic fleet away to infinitely regressive paradox/absurdum? The rhetorical question begs: why does such an absurd state still remain the status quo? What might Mill put in place when his greatest good served axiom is applied to the question of war's implications today.

It's at this point-a point where a seemingly paradoxical impasse has been reached- that collective solutions might be sought at the "immaterial" level-figuratively immaterial anyway. Going inward as a world community to search for clues to the myriad configuration of neurons in the human mind for example is one way, perhaps the only way to salvation- a journey deep into the neuronal tissues of human behaviors collectively as well as individually to study this "mind attachment" as it relates to country/nation/ religion and search for how these concepts are biologically and somatically interwoven into notions of freedom/rights/liberty/and moral alignment w/ god in the "minds" of human beings. This is what "going inward" means. Can we truly call ourselves the paragon of thinking animals, Mr Mill, if we don't at least try for this immaterial "non war" imperative as a sheer survival strategy when making crucial decisions?

Power brokers on the world scale ie., politicians, political theorists, industrial hegemons, those who are empowered to make such crucial decisions in the future must realize that a fundamental sea change occurred at Hiroshima. The splitting of the atom should have come w/some cosmic "how to survive" rules of responsibility. Sadly we are left on our own here.

A certain historical depth perception is required here; an understanding that comprehends that the harnessing of the force holding stars together changed everything all in that instant at the Trinity sight in New Mexico, when Robert Oppenheimer whispered his famous/infamous quote from Dante, "I am death become, destroyer of worlds". Technologically, Hiroshima was further from Dresden, Tokyo, Normandy or the London Raids than were all of these from Homer's Trojan wars.

This depth perception becomes self evident when past wars are understood in their historical contexts before the invention of the atom bomb. There reconstructions and Marshall plans and the like. On a global scale of warfare today, where Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), are the stakes, aftermath means essentially mass destruction,cultural deconstruction, and starting all over again. What once might have substantiated utilitarian argument for world wars before Hiroshima, become no longer tenable as "diplomatic tool solutions". No longer tenable in the modern world w/ a hair trigger's capacity to release unimaginable megaton forces that perhaps a single individual in a public place can unleash.

Historically, the "Hiroshima Moment" is where the critical juncture must be sensed. Based on the intuitive understanding of the profundity of what Hiroshima represented, world leadership must correspondingly break from aggressive default positions inherited from the past. It is from this intellectual beholding - one that understands and utilizes how fissionable "material" is held together that the counter intuitive "immaterial" solution begins to be vitalized.Going inward may be the only way to emerge from the labyrinth so to speak.

With all its attendant high tech efficiencies, the advent of nuclear bombs has drastically altered the traditional theatres of war. In reality, there are no "fronts" today. There may be hostile borders such as N Korea and antagonists nations sharing borders, but there are no tactical arrangements of battalions, or massive armies amassing at various locations-none of these old strategies apply when megaton devices can be hurled over the poles at supersonic speeds, or concealed in the backpacks of "tourists". We need new modes of thought that break radically w/ the past as the atom bomb radically and totally changes the means and more importantly, the consequences of all out war.

We need pragmatists like Thomas Hobbes and Mill, and others of like mind to draw upon in these discussions trying to figure out where we are headed as a "thinking race".The arguments must be rigorous, and founded in pragmatism, not sentiment, if it will have the power of logic to captivate those who will assume positions to affect a change.

Past peace movements,essentially reactive movements against aggressive moves, have been primarily idealistic or altruistic/ moral/religious by nature. These plaintive arguments- ones that came out of "Frankfurt School" , or utopian aspirations on "Man Becoming" ideals,for example, must find proactive, non reactive based philosophical structure.

Leadership structures, entrusted with nation state security, with its seeming cultural inherencies, must be radically reevaluated from the standpoint of what constitutes national interest "protective measures" today. In the past, more was always better. More was always safer . More guns, more bombs,cannons, men to fight etc. The inward, non material solution seeks more as well; more inward enlightenment.. more illumination on what the mushroom cloud portends if it remains an "icon tool" in our mental arsenals. ----

The weak and short sighted resignation that wars have always existed therefore must be intrinsic to human nature and thus will always exist is no longer just an idle position to hold, but, if held universally, has only a catastrophic end point as its terminal expression in today's world.

More precisely put as a question: what goes down in the myriad connections of the brain of a terrorist that compels an override of the most basic of all instincts, that to survive, and what causes - by acts of asserted will- what causes him/her to kill themselves and thousands of others in the process by flying airplanes into buildings? These 19 individuals were compelled by "jihad", compelled to "war"- even if symbolic in nature- killing thousands of innocents, (if "infidels"can be considered innocents in the minds of the jihadists), including themselves in the process. What kind of "scorched earth" religious zealotry has taken in the minds of such individuals? What remarkable constellation of organic molecules in the folded labyrinths of the "terrorist's" minds could propel such action? If barely affecting the colossus of the American superstructure, they surely succeeded in getting the world's attention from what these aural structures of mind compelled.

Think of it, what were the main issues in the tissues of the minds of those who flew those planes into the twin towers? If just one reason can be cited, maybe going to heaven by killing thousands of innocent infidels seems close to the heart of it. The question is, just what essentials from the environment and what from the uniqueness of each man's gray matter might have compelled them to commit such horrendous acts?
And, when in the past could a band of only 19 individuals unleash such a magnitude of powerful destruction.?
9/11 was just a relatively small but ghastly prelude to what is theoretically and practically possible and probable in the future if some form of "inward solution" is not sought now. Aside from the peopled conspiracy leading up to the final act, could 19 individuals alone have caused anywhere near this magnitude of destruction in any time in history?. Impossible. Theoretically and practically impossible, as far as the history we are presently aware of. Not so today. This meager number of persons with great capacity for incredible destruction is the world we inhabit today. It is for this practical reason that another inward, and immaterial approach must be sought and fast.
And this crucial power released to manpower required ratio must be understood by policymakers today. More and more destructive power can now be released by fewer and fewer individuals in smaller and smaller packages. The curve indicates this downsizing trend just as the first computers and their power capacities have gone from devices that required 2 large rooms to what today are essentially hand held palm devices .
Think of how many individuals and volumes of material and how much power released over a period of time was required for the Dresden raids during WW2 for example. Magnitudes of power, coordination, and effort in for a corresponding yield of power out over an extended period of time. Now imagine 1 person w/ one easily concealed tactical nuclear warhead who detonates on the steps of the U. S. capitol and instantly obliterates hundreds of thousands of lives.
How much power, effort, coordination in to power yield out was required for this single individual ? How has the ratio radically changed since Dresden? But from Dresden to Hiroshima the world changed radically and irrevocably. And from Hiroshima to now it is only an efficiency, concealability, and power increase factor that creates the Armageddon scenarios we are talking about.

What might Mill conclude today when applying his greatest good served for the greatest number when arguing for just war rationales? Nothing holds up to the old arguments for just war on the world scale, or any scale at all for that matter. Nothing holds up anymore and everything changed when we discovered how to harness the power that holds stars together.
After the force holding stars together-what is essentially a material force- was finally understood and harnessed as weapons of mass destruction, then the only solution preventing self immolation eventually by the "discoverers" of this force seem to tend toward inward "immaterial" solutions.

To the extent that Mill's statement seems more a national psychological assessment describing accumulated ennui such that might describe Rome in decline for example , then it becomes apparent that an earned decadence cultured from within over time would create such apathy that nothing would be worth defending from this malaise- this stupor of decadence- a place and mind set that America seems arguably to be drifting towards then I'd agree, and consider his statement an applicable conundrum in that any society that had slid to this level of decadence, where the premise maintains that nothing is conceived as dear enough in the "nation collective" to be worthy of armed defense. That this society has likely, in descent, done moral violence unto itself in some manner-- and suggest that historically, cultures that imprint into the social code, the valor and romance of war, especially those of conquest, commit this moral violence, and have already begun the deconstruction process from within anyway. So Mr. Mill, as you roll over in your grave, let's put a positive twist with a small subtraction and addition on your aphorism…..

War is ugly, [so] a far [better] state would be a World where all nations held in unison that no conflict was worth warring for. This state would be called Peace........ Yes, Mr. Mill……… this would be called Peace .