Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Constitutional Crisis Issues

A Suggested Cure for a Constitutional Crisis

(Note, you can view the entire discussion at Bill Moyer's Journal: Tough Talk on Impeachment)

My Thoughts:

Whatever the founders may have imagined when they were designing this governing system was inevitably based on the availability of only a very few democratic prototypes to choose from at the time. And their own imaginations were, by the very nature of constructed imagination as we now understand it with our modern cognitive sciences, an accumulation of memes of organizational boilerplates mishmashed together through 12,000 years of humanly evolved social complexity experiments. This appears to have begun after some of our species began experimenting and leaving behind the simple, easy to self manage group problem solving strategy of wandering bands of hunter gatherers, a strategy that had brought us through several million years of evolution to the beginnings of a brilliant innovation: the agricultural subsistence strategy ages and their correlated social organizations somewhat arrogantly coined as "civilizations." And now, perhaps, the creative combining of various cultural memes developed through this period has brought us all to the edge of our doom -- but that's another story.

While apparently Ben Franklin brought in some ideas from the Iroquois participatory democracy model, for the most part the US prototype drew from the Roman Republic model, and thus we got the vestigial Roman Senate thrust into our bicameral legislature to represent what they imagined needing representation, and that was the states themselves, somehow separated in concept from the people. After all, there simply wasn't a big supermarket of democracy prototypes to choose from, and these guys had to finally, somehow, come up with something.

Most of those Founders were of the elite of their time, educated in the classical traditions of Europe, so knowing what we know about the mind now, we can assume their imaginations conscribed to what they knew at that time. That's one reason why our Constitution is called an experiment. They really did not know how it would actually work out once in play. Since then a lot of different democracy models have evolved. Ours is arguably something of an antique, being an early experiment founded in the horse and buggy mentality of its day.

Perhaps 19th Century American Exceptionalism still holds sway in our thinking and the accumulated traditions of American hubris makes questioning the document's greatness inhibitory. Because I find that trying to bring up the subject of actually redesigning the Constitution does not perk up many ears.

One of the problems I suspect embedded in our Constitution's design is that power in any hierarchical order of society acts like a drug, and it works in many nefarious ways. Most of the Founders were from a European class structure in which as elites they had advantages they took for granted. The "drug of power" of their very positions can be expected to have dimmed their imaginative faculties, no matter how excited they each may have been about the new "revolution of individualism" they were in, and they had difficulty extending full humanity and a corresponding application of the Bill of Rights to all the individuals we are now willing to consider fully human in this country after some 200 years.

What they didn't know was that a presidential system itself has ontological implications built in, and no matter how much they didn't want it to become like the monarchies of Europe, they didn't recognize how evolution of institutions themselves can supersede the individual. We ourselves still focus on personality, when it's the institution itself that the next president will inherit, and much of what they say while stumping for election will vanish once they sit in the seat of power.

With the evolution of society, the growth of corporations, and the economic system that altogether has evolved, all along the way the government has had to try to adapt to meet the Constitutional mandates and the contingencies of reality. What's being tested in the process is the legal structure itself. Often the resolutions are an unhappy result of paradox, like applying the 14th Amendment, which is about individuals, to a corporate entity, the private corporation, and declaring that a corporate entity is a person under the law. The very notion of the revolution of individualism and the Bill of Rights is thrown into some sort of conceptual chaos with that.

What's evolved is a result of basic structures that were in place, some of those results have memic features that are almost Frankensteinian in their very DNA. The point is there may have been no way to interpret the Constitution that could have come out to look anything like what the Founders hoped for, and a kind of legal fundamentalism calling upon an originalist interpretaiton itself puts a chain around the pressures calling for a creative approach to problem solving that maintains democracy. If we find we are giving up our democracy for anything -- security from terrorism, for instance -- then perhaps there may be an inherent structural problem worth considering in the Constitution itself.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Colbert "Finger-Waggin' at the Boss"

Born ...in the U S A

Born ...in the U S A

"I think there were, you know... some verses, but I'm more of a chorus guy."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Warrior Many Tongues

I awoke this morning hearing a voice saying:

"Beware of the warrior Many Tongues whose mind is cluttered with things and he walks the earth in confusion, deep in his fear of the Great Spirit Emptiness, for he knows that without Emptiness there would be no-thing."

I lay there a trying to remember the dream and the events that led up to that voice, and trying to visualize the face, but it wouldn't come back to me. But I could still remember the phrase and the sound of the voice, so I reached for my leather bound journal on the nearby night stand, fumbled around for the pen, and I managed to write it down without losing the memory of it. It's sometimes very hard for me to write down phrases I hear in dreams, they just vanish when I try.

The thoughts and feelings from that dream hung about me like a sheer gray curtain, as I got up and began my morning. I made my coffee, turned on the computer, and sat back for a moment, looked at the headlines on a news page, but I was not really reading them.

It seemed like a koan. "Without Emptiness there would be no-thing." Just enough of a pause between the "no" and the "thing" to seem like two words, but said to sound like "nothing."

Thoughts of the meaning of infinite and spirit crossed through my mind, like old memories, for I'd thought such thoughts many times. Yet somehow this dream phrase seemed freshly related. The age old corporeal problem, the spirit world and the ever emergence of things surrounded by space, or nothing, which ancient philosophers hypothesized to be composed of something, and now modern philosophers, in the form of physicists are imagining it to be something as well. But if infinity is unmeasurable, is there ultimately a something? Maybe the "great spirit" is no more than that which makes thought possible.

And people have made up places where they can revere this seemingly amazing possibility, like the sense of awe some express after smoking some weed and then looking at an ordinary, everyday object as if for the first time, dragged forth on a long, thin line...

The Bell Curve Possibility

It's been my experience, much of it from observation, that different schools of child rearing are handed down through families. Some of us have actually had different experiences than "because I said so" and the parental attitudes that often go with it. I am inclined to wonder sometimes how important that parenting experience is in setting up the way we expect the world to be for us, and how we will approach it after with that initial, formative experience.

But that aside, there are times when a parent does need to be concerned with a child's safety, and even the most nurturant parent should recognize the necessity of invoking a "command moment" I would think. And who hasn't felt frustration on a "bad" day and invoked the "almighty" voice?

I also agree that much concern should result in noticing that our educational institutions do concern themselves with enforcing obedience to authority in that same vein. I'm aware that for some, it does not provoke concern, but a sense of satisfaction.

Yes, indeed, you are patronizingly reassured, as your thin little body sits in the huge wooden chair across the desk from the rather large and imposing stern vice principal
in the office to which you've been summoned once again, you are free as long as you stay within these carefully drawn lines. No questions outside the box, please (with no hint of please in the stern voice). Otherwise, without this training, people may not be quite so willing to run out and find jobs once they escape from the torture chambers of squirming daily in rows of those hard, slippery wooden desks while an authority preaches,...er teaches.

It's my perception that these institutions invoke methods of ingestion, regurgitation and then take regular measurements of quantities of regurgitation. The methodologies of teaching ingestion and and invoking regurgitation often rely on behavior modification enforced pain and pleasure principles, all together of which creates an institutional atmosphere whereby students can be measured and sorted, sifted and stacked, and which also offers verification of that controversial
Bell Curve possibility is in fact...


On the other hand, awakening another form of intelligence, the open-ended, therefore non measurable ability to creatively question, is not really something that can be taught, just as teaching the proverbial horse to feel thirst is not an option. So you won't find any troublesome methods of that nature anywhere in there.

But... and this is an important "but" for an itinerant rambler to a vice principal's office like myself... an intellectual "thirst" to simply "find out" can be systemically suppressed in a population through its institutions. I at least believe that much. I also believe each of us faces a challenge to overcome that on our own, daily, if indeed it does occur as I seem to experience it. I find that possibility very exciting to imagine, but then I get out and about and talk to people, and my excitement sort of just dwindles away. As Linda Hunt asks Kevin Kline across the bar at the Midnight Star in Sliverado, "What's wrong with us?" And then she gives him that look and that sly smile.

Laurie Anderson Lyrics
Baby Doll Lyrics

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Little Bit of Comedy Central

Since I don't own a television -- I refuse to actually pay to be propagandized -- I don't get to see some things, unless they show up in the Internet. So I saw these little Steven Colbert things this morning and decided I wanted to have them preserved on my website for posterity! To understand the wit that goes back and forth in the second, where Steven has Arianna Huffington on his show -- specifically her comment about Grizzly bears -- I felt the first one to be helpful:

Arianna and Steven: