Saturday, February 2, 2008

Obama as Funeral Director or Wild Card?

The other day, a friend sent me a drawing of two dogs having a conversation. One was saying to the other: "I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking."

I have always felt more than a little ambivalent about the nowhereland of cyberspace, and have often wondered whether these blogging efforts of mine were indeed "just pointless, incessant barking." I do not receive, for instance, many comments in the "Comments" section of my blog, but when there are any, they are automatically delivered to my email. The truth is, I do get responses, but most people write to me directly, rather than posting their thoughts on the blog. So be it.

My previous entry, "The Vision Thing," included excerpts from a book I am reading, "Dark Ages America," by Morris Berman. Believe me if I say there is no way to describe my wild excitement when I turned on my computer the next morning, and to my utter astonishment, found the following comments from Berman himself:

Dear Suzi,

Many thanks for recommending "Dark Ages America" to your readers; I appreciate it. I just want to say, however, that neither Obama nor anybody else can provide America with a last chance. What I really discovered in writing "Dark Ages America" is that our problems are structural, and that some of them go back to the very early years of the Republic, if not before. These problems have come full circle now, and whoever winds up in the White House--whether black, white, male, female, blue or green--is essentially going to be a funeral director, nothing more. Certainly, a GOP president will accelerate our collapse, insisting on a hegemony we no longer have, and thus carrying out self-destructive policies at home and abroad. As for the Dems: Hillary not only backed the invasion of Iraq, she has also been saber-rattling over Iran, which would be a rerun of the Iraq scenario, only much worse. She also has major ties to leading corporations, esp. the medical establishment (see article by Ari Berman in The Nation, 4 June 07), which means that we shall have with her what we had with Bill: the shadow of social change, but hardly the substance (rich got richer and poor got poorer under Bill's admin). As for poor Barack, all he can do is smile and provide cliches about unity when there is little to smile about and no unity in the country at all. A few months ago the New Yorker did a very sympathetic portrait of him--he certainly comes off as a nice guy--but ironically enough, his political outlook is probably closest to that of Edmund Burke, the famous British conservative who saw societies as organic, and believed their basic framework could not be altered very much, if at all. Burke would not have been surprised at my 'discovery' (hardly mine, really) of the structural and deeply historical nature of our problems, and it just may be that Barack is aware of them as well. He may indeed be the perfect person to act as funeral director, but let's not kid ourselves that he or anyone else can turn this country around. That is a pipe dream. I recall reading some fairly sophisticated economic analysis recently entitled "Farewell to the Dollar," or something like that; readers might also want to check out the essay by Parag Khanna in the NYT Magazine, 27 Jan 08, entitled "Waving Goodbye to Hegemony." Finally, on the microlevel, the street level of daily life in the US, we have a population so incredibly dumb or ignorant that very little can be expected of them in the way of intelligent action or decision making--even if that were to make a difference. ("A nation of sheep breeds a government of wolves"--Edw. R. Murrow) I have been documenting this for years, and have a huge list of stats that boggle the mind. For the latest example, readers might want to check this out:
Nor is this limited to the proverbial woman-in-the-street. John McCain strolled thru Baghdad last year in a Kevlar vest with helicopters flying overhead, and proclaimed the city "safe". This has to be just about as idiotic as anything the current president has said during his tenure. While Obama is certainly no moron, talking about "hope" and "vision" when the data clearly show dark days ahead is a kind of ignorance all its own. I'm sorry, but Sartre really did have it right: No Exit.

Thanks again for your kind comments on my work.


Maury Berman

I have a tiny history from the past with this man, worth recounting in the present context. We once had cokes together at a Common Boundary conference in Washington D.C., where we had both been invited as speakers. It was a very genial encounter, but that seems like it was almost a century ago now, and we have never had any contact since then. However, one of Berman's early books, "The Re-enchantment of the World," was a big influence on me when I wrote "The Reenchantment of Art."

I responded back immediately to Berman to say that we are on the same page about these being end times for America, maybe even the world. Things are NOT going to get better, I said, because, as Derrick Jensen so aptly puts it, "We're fucked." Even so, there is still the option of chemotherapy, which has been sometimes known to reverse a fatal illness. Obama as chemotherapy? I suggested. Because I do believe, in the words of my friend Bill Rutherfoord, "Nothing would send a clearer signal to the world that Americans are serious about correcting past excesses than to put Obama in the White House." Why? Because, as Toni Morrison wrote last week in a personal letter of endorsement she sent directly to Obama: " exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates." Whatever mysterious quality she was referring to is what I see as well: it may be a kind of evolutionary force.

Again Berman wrote me back: "I tend to see Obama more as nationwide Prozac (or Valium) rather than chemo--just a sedative to keep the lid on as we drift off into nothingness. Hillary is probably closer to chemo; McCain to shock therapy followed by death. I don't think Jensen got it quite right; it's more like: "We are utterly and totally fucked." Check out discussions on my blog ( for more elaboration."

But there is something else I want to mention, and that is the possibility, in every situation in life, of the wild card. It's the thing you never imagined could happen. For instance, if anyone had told me Morris Berman would respond to my blog about his book in less than twenty-four hours of the post going out, I would've have said, "That's impossible--no way, Jose!" However, despite my inability to have imagined it, that is exactly what happened. To me it was a message: there is always a wild card. And whenever I personally receive the gift of one, it serves as a reminder: no one ever really knows what will happen. For all that we know, there may be worse places than the U.S. for a phoenix to perform its fiery rites. And on that I rest my case.


Portico said...

Hello Suzi,

I wanted you to know that I read your blog because I am also reading your book "Living the Magical Life." It is a delight as is your life and I'm so glad you're living it. I reconnected with your writing from the the Russ Volckmann interview after an absence of sorts that resembles the Mystery of your journey in many ways.

I heard you speak at a CIVA conference years ago. My spiritual path has now arrived "home" with yoga and meditation, but I remember thinking how great it was that you were there. Thank you for that too.

Much joy to your journey. And again thank you for sharing it with us.

Joy and Peace,

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