The Culture War That Isn’t

Oh sure, the superficial issue is gay versus some canon of hetero-decency because the church always was “that way”.

As far as anyone knows the original community had gay and straight as does the population in general and Abba is in all. But such utterances have no power to change minds in a debate which is fundamentally emotional (revulsion against images of gayness) but which also involves political and economic compensations for the righteous defenders of hetero-decency. A basis for double-bind hypocrisies.

The idea that this has much to do with culture is specious. It has more to do with a happy marriage between revulsion and political convenience. Political meaning the disposition of power. We are talking about who inherits the church — the ecclesiastical properties, endowments, perks and such.

And there is a deeper level still. Culture wars is a convenient misnomer for what is fundamentally an underlying theological battle.

The battle is between religion, which can be defined as synonymous with superstition aka Dostoevsly’s mystery, miracle and authority aka what I have rightfully identified as creedal messianism, and the spiritual understanding inherent in Abba’s Way — where values of non-idolatry, helpfulness, tolerance and democracy hold sway.

No one even seems to know that this is the actual battle that is taking place, but it is.

Photos may lie but Canterbury’s in the NYTimes was subtle supercilious to the max. Pulled a good one, he did. Religion would seem to be as strong and as irrelevant as ever. But it is on its last legs, as is the immaturity of media and immaturity in general. Bonhoeffer saw the world coming of age and that is what is happening and all that does not come of age will be left in the dust bin of history, including the religion that infests the structures of churches.

And when the current stage of property-grabbing aka rectitude is over the victory will go not to the residual owners but, as ever, to the marginalized who claim no home made by hands.

A true culture war would be between a culture of violence (the culture that is dominant and almost pervasive globally) and one that embraces a negotiational stance closer to the value system propounded by Jesus of Nazareth — who remains the object of worship among the revolted.

But we are not at the point of this true culture war yet. The option of a genuine revaluation of values has not yet become conscious. And so nothing that is said here will have much effect.

The split, which could have been anticipated for at least five decades, will occur churchwide, and what will be left is a set of institutions with hands tied when it comes to authentic representation of what Jesus haid and did, who he was and is and what his message and meaning is today.

Hopefully the diaspora will understand that diaspora — a church beyond institution — is exactly where we should have been all along.


Hall of Shame

Violence in media is so pervasive that this note could have a thousand entries a day. I will merely keep it alive to record particularly damning examples of cultural complicity in the glorification and implicit justification of violence.

Actors can choose their roles, so as far as I am concerned when a film has no redeeming qualities and is filled with gratuitous violence, the actors are as culpable as all others. All others includes me who watches it. We are all tarred with the onus of participation in the syndromes of violence.

First entry.

The Jackal

Sample scene. A killing which commences with a high tech arm severing and ends with shooting mayhem inflicted on a defenseless person.

benign genocide, philanthropy

Evaluating Philanthropy

I am virtually certain that the theory I have been developing — perhaps it is a thesis — will evolve as discourse on the Web.

That theory is that the global reality we have today is essentially and foundationally the product of the interaction between capitalism and philanthropy and that the major moral lapses of this accepted interaction can be termed casual or benign genocide.

A huge piece of this line of thinking involves the need to demonstrate that philanthropy in itself needs vastly more critical attention than now exists.

Another piece is the need to evaluate capitalism more as a cultural than a purely economic entity.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with creating abundance. It is the uses of abundance — and in particular the unexamined and widespread acclamation of these uses that is built into what might be called the media-education complex — that needs an updated Veblenian analysis.

I cite Veblen with the serene intent of recalling many strands of Thorstein Veblen’s thinking and applying some of its vicious strictures to the low estate of culture today. Even dissenting streams are all coagulated with the broad flow of uncritical acceptance of a tasteless hierarchy of values.

It does no good to complain about economic differentials when the mass of social engines out there are in lockstep to applaud the low estate of virtually every step on the ladder.

If you Google “evaluate philanthropy” you come onto the essentually uncritical ethos I am referring to. The philanthropic structure is as accepted as the capitalist structure is, and as the casual genocidal structure is. It all proceeds under the banners of educational-media benignity.

We fail in criticiam if we try to squeeze the reality I am describing into the old wineskins of Marxism and whatever other isms may have been pertinent.

We need a critique which answers these questions:

What is the function of philanthropy and what does its dominant status leave undone and unattended?

What is the function of governments and to what extent is their task limited or compromised by the priorities of philanthropy?

Well, one could go on and on. Just as one could go on about the limits of criticism of design, of transportation, and so forth.

It is doubtful that much will take place until he spark that accompanies these questions strikes the flinty minds of the dominant forces that might be called the mainstream of Web thinking.

I have faith that it is in the questions themselves that the prospects of significant change and growth exist.


Brief Thoughts and Screeds

Years ago when she first came to the NYTimes I started a little section of my then-site called Maureen Dowd Watch. It was a bemused acknowledgement that the Times was hiring and venerating a columnist whose writing might work on a precocious college paper but which was virtually incomprehensible to an intelligent and probing readership.

I merely want to reiterate that if she is regarded by her peers as a current voice to be listened to, we need some serious reality checks.


Nick Kristof and Bob Herbert are about the only Times op-ed columnists who can be considered responsible — if responsibility is understood to be doing the max you can do in the position the good Lord has put you in. Kristof’s recent messages from China championing Internet freedom there are redemptive and inspiring.


The Democrats need literally to bite the bullet. The issue of war and peace has been allowed to be expressed as an either or, thanks to the Democrats’ unwillingness to consider alternatives to war and stand for a policy which avoids war in preference to means which are not lethal to thousands, even millions. The Republicans can be the party of the Natural Born Killers if they wish. Democrats need to become the party of the Grow Up and Move Beyond. This requires a revaluation of values and courage is lacking to take it on. Which is why blogs like this do not get into the sphere of recognition accorded “liberal blogs” which tend to be concerned with the issue du jour. When Democrats can convey the message Lethal War is Dumb or There Are Other Ways to Win, they will be on the way to creating the next fifty years of reconstruction in the wake of the last fifty. Ying Yang.


“The role of the self evident in history” is the title of a forgotten essay by Anders Nygren. The thesis is that some things are so taken for granted that we do not notice them when we try to analyze what is going on. This is most evident in the studious ignoring of the effect of the subordination of everything to the oil economy and its principal product — the automobile. Until we grapple with this dominant and invasive reality we allow it to pull every string and delude ourselves about solutions.


Greed Glitters More Than Gold

From my friends Larry and Alice Spatz

In the Valle de San Felix, the purest water in Chile runs from 2 rivers, fed by 2 glaciers.

Indigenous farmers use the water, there is no unemployment, and they provide the second largest source of income for the area.

Under the glaciers has been found a huge deposit of gold, silver and other minerals. To get at these, it would be necessary to break, to destroy the glaciers – something never conceived of in the history of the world – and to make 2 huge holes, each as big as a whole mountain, one for extraction and one for the mine’s rubbish tip.

The project is called PASCUA LAMA. The company is called Barrick Gold. (Barrick Gold is mining at Lake Cowal-NSW Australia at the moment!)

The operation is planned by a multi-national company, one of whose members is George Bush Senior.

The Chilean Government has approved the project to start this year, 2006.

The only reason it hasn’t started yet is because the farmers have got a temporary stay of execution.

If they destroy the glaciers, they will not just destroy the source of especially pure water, but they will permanently contaminate the 2 rivers so they will never again be fit for human or animal consumption because of the use of cyanide and sulphuric acid in the extraction process.

Every last gram of gold will go abroad to the multinational company and not one will be left with the people whose land it is. They will only be left with the poisoned water and the resulting illnesses.

The farmers have been fighting a long time for their land, but have been forbidden to make a TV appeal by a ban from the Ministry of the Interior.

Their only hope now of putting brakes on this project is to get help from international justice.

The world must know what is happening in Chile.


Panflick at The Agency

My initial Panflick novel — Panflick: The Boston Car Wars — (short at about 80 pages) will appear within a few months. This is the start of a second. I see no reason not to publish it here. It will change and grow. Life goes on. Panflick Novels are weeks in the life of Adam Panflick.

(Early 2000s)

Adam Panflick figured it was time to leave the windowless enclosure he had been given high above New York’s East Side to perform the noxious tasks related to the publication of the Agency’s Flagship Magazine.

It will be shunted off soon, he reflected. Cost-cutting will finish it off, if coddled psychotic Nobel-winners do not do the job first.

His “office” had one advantage. No one ever came here. Adam was safe from the surveillance of the strange lot upon his floor, the 47th, high enough to make each elevator journey an invitation to death fantasies. Around the edges were the windowed offices of the privileged. Some of them simply sat immobile at their desks all day staring ahead. Others were rarely if ever to be found.

There was a small meeting room with several entrances. There was also a sea of internal cubicles that had the look of a crossword puzzle. There were a few odd-shaped spaces that bore some relationship to the odd shape of the modern structure in which the Agency was housed.

There is no more noxious indication of the despicable state of humankind than the willingness of the developing nations to emulate every disastrous mistake of the so called first world, Adam thought, each time he ascended in the horrendobox known as the elevator.

The phone rang. It was Adam’s putative boss, Parwandichar Singalong, a personage whose gender Panflick had long since given up on determining. The voice had a Julia Child pitch but an accent common to the precincts of this international conglomerate.

“Adam, are you there?”

“Of course I am here,” Panflick held the receiver out and looked at it malevolently.

“Have you completed the captions?”

Panflick hung up.

I will do captions in a pig’s eye, he reflected. He knew the end was at hand. He was no more an editor than he had a voice in anything. The whole thing was nonsensical. Where had life gone?

In the hall, tall, angled forms moved past his open door. There was another door a few feet down that led to some other area of the floor and the hall was a favored shortcut. This continual flow accentuated even more the absurdity of his situation. One needed, in a place like the Agency, to discuss what was to be done. Here discussion was itself a project of several month’s devising.

The phone rang again.

Adam had not mastered the phone. The black and gray device had the capacity to indicate who the caller was, to enable sharing of calls, forwarding of calls, switching of modes and a whole list of other things Adam had no interest in even knowing.

“Hullo,” he barked.

It was the secretary of the Head Man on the floor.

In a few words Adam agreed to go to the fellow’s office — one with windows on both exposed sides, a corner, looking down on First Avenue and across, uptown, toward yet another Trump Excrescence. Across First, somewhat to the right, stood the asbestos-infused Secretariat.

Head Man was another international of indeterminate identity clad in robes that would have seemed resplendent if they did not so contrast with the garb of every other person on the floor that they came off as an affectation, at least to Panflick’s jaundiced eye.

But as Adam stirred to wander over to the HM’s office, Wanda happened in. Adam got up and nodded and locked the door from the inside. Silently and with a good deal of interesting eye contact, they prepared to have yet another of what had become almost daily laisons. It was a testimony to Adam’s secluded situation that it was possible to have such satisfaction in the very maw of the workplace, as it were. When it was over, Wanda unlocked the door and disappeared.

It was a wonderful aspect of the Agency that its facilities were cleaned regularly and spacious enough to enable such operations as sponge baths, a fact which assisted Adam and Wanda in their odd and spontaneous ministrations. Spiffy, Panflick made his way from said facility to the corner area where the Head Man could be seen sitting at his spacious desk with a cell phone pressed to his ear. He held his hand up peremptorily when Adam appeared at the door and then gestured him in. Adam sat and watched the Head Man complete his call, which had to do with some international meeting that was in the offing. There were always international meetings in the offing. Without them there would be no agency.

With a flourish and no speech the Head Man swished up and pointedly closed the door.Then he moved back to his desk and settled in and regarded Panflick with something like interest combined with a trace of sympathy.

“Do you want to comment on your issues with, ah, Singalong?”

“I am a thinker and an editor and a writer,” Adam said with remarkable restraint. “I do not do captions.”

“I didn’t want to say this. But I think you should know that your relationship with Andrea Belknap was certainly a major factor in our choosing you to edit ONWARD.”

Adam regarded the Head Man’s mein with veiled scorn and did not reply. Ms. Belknap was the venerable and highly intelligent correspondent for a venerable and once intelligent paper that owed its continued gravitas precisely to persons like herself. And that Adam was her friend and confidant was indeed a plus when it came to having something of cache around the various branches of the Agency. This despicable and unsubtle dissing effort by the Head Man would get nowhere. Adam had long ago learned to use silence as a weapon of choice.

However, another look into the ambition-laden face of the Head Man and another second’s reflection on his tenure in these precincts served to stimulate the following response.

“ONWARD will last only so long as money is available to keep ten underworked souls occupied in various phases of its low-key existence,” Adam said matter of factly. “You have not taken my advice to place it in every international plane populated by know-nothing corporate sorts — to at least educate them in the fact that there are indeed a few projects out there that work. There are people who actually do things out there. The notion of a publication having actual success is presumably foreign to the culture of the Agency. I will last through the next issue. And I do not wish to hear captions referred to again.”

Adam got up. The Head Man seemed to be off in some other world. He walked out and caught the elevator up to the cafeteria.