Madness and Death
It's hard enough, hard enough Just to survive, just to be alive -- NoMeansNo, Madness and Death
Recently I have heard some complaints from various quarters that girtby.net is too nerdy and incomprehensible to those that actually have a life, or at least interests beyond cataloging UI glitches or some other nonsense. I hear ya, guys. It's not that I'm not interested in real life topics; I like to think I'm at least moderately aware of current events. The trick is finding something interesting and new to say. There is a lot of great commentary out there, if you know where to look, and trying to compete with that is daunting, to say the least. But here goes anyway.
It will soon be the anniversary of the 2004 US presidential elections. I remember that time very vividly. I was far more invested in the US election than in the Australian elections of that year, and got up several times that night to check the results. By morning I was dead tired, and after defeat was conceded, just shattered.
I knew at the time that I was showing a possibly unhealthy interest in the US election, but up until the result was announced I had no idea of just how emotionally involved I was. The result was bitterly disappointing, to a surprising extent, and hence you won't see a blog entry from me from that time on the subject (unlike the Australian election for example). It wasn't that I particularly liked Kerry. I just couldn't fathom that many people who willingly voted for Bush.
A recent sporting event recalls this disappointment, seeing the faces on the players and supporters who lost the final match. Years ago (maybe not that long ago), as a budding intellectual snob I remember looking down my nose at the proles who worshipped sport, and who reveled in their ignorance of political events. I sneered at their their mindless tribe-like allegiences. But finally, after all these years, I get it: with sport at least you have some degree of determinism. You can't always win, but at least you know the rules. With politics, US politics particularly, who the fuck knows what the rules are any more?
What are the rules that allow anyone to commit terrible acts of abuse and torture? Weren't we supposed to not do that? Wasn't that one of our rules? What about the rule against invading another country based on a threat that was totally and unforgivably fabricated? Didn't we used to criticise others for rounding up hundreds into make-it-up-as-you-go show trials? Didn't we also used to like actually catching and punishing the real criminals? What happened to the rules that stop your country's leaders from killing thousands of your fellow citizens through corruption, nepotism, negligence or incompetance? Lets not even count the bodies of the foreigners, whom we say we want to protect, but in reality we couldn't care less about. It's hard to know even where to start with this stuff. Then there's out-and-out assault on science, civil liberties, the environment, and lots of other fundamental shit. Is there anything the Bush administration have done that even looks like it might be a good thing in the long term for more than a select bunch of cronies? Who threw the rule book out the window and allowed these fuckers to get away with all this? The people who voted for Bush, didn't all this madness and death mean anything to them?
See what I mean about an emotional response? I just find it too difficult to write when I'm frustrated and angry, and I'm not exactly Lord Byron at the best of times. But that's why I generally don't blog about this stuff, even though it is very important to me and I'm sure it would make a nice break from discussing the latest nerdy toy.
The most frustrating thing is that there are some really tough problems to solve and cool-headedness is needed. For one thing: what to do with the US soldiers in Iraq? There are no easy answers: I can see that their presence may be exacerbating the situation over there, but pulling them out looks like a recipe for disaster. It needs some careful consideration, possibly on utilitarian grounds, on how best to address the problem.
A piece by Billmon from the Whiskey Bar keeps floating around my head. He argues that the malice we manifestly bear unto the Iraqi people is, on balance, a conclusive argument for withdrawal of the troops. I guess he's arguing from a principle of first, do no harm, and I have to say I'm inclined to agree.
As evidence for our collective malice Billmon points to a recently-reported practice whereby US soldiers swap pictures of dead Iraqis for pornography on the internet. I have to say, I visited the site in question and found only a picture of an impossibly cute little Iraqi girl covering the eyes of a squinting American soldier. Maybe there was more horrific stuff to be found on that site, and maybe I didn't want to find it. After all, there are some pretty horrific pictures out there if you really want to make yourself feel like crap.
Forget the internet, you don't have to look very hard for evidence of the fundamental fear and distrust we, as as society, have for the Iraqis. Never mind Abu Graib, how about the fact that GWB was (re-)elected? How about that? What does that say about us as a society?
Husband: It's a fair cop, but society is to blame. Detective-Parson: Right, we'll arrest them instead! -- The Church Police sketch
Seriously, it does come back to widespread prejudices and fears. (I'm not making any distinctions between American and Australian society on this point, because I don't believe there is any, at least not a qualitative difference. But that's a topic for another time.) The Bush adminstration's response to Katrina is no more deplorable than most of the other disasters they have foisted upon us, so why is it only now that things are starting to look bad for them? Why has it taken all this time for Bush to finally hold himself responsible for something, anything? Why did we let them get away with that and not this?
If I had solutions to these problems, I would share them with you. I don't, obviously.
I could wrap this up with a pay-it-forward style inspirational message that if we can change only the attitudes of a few people, this will cascade and eventually have some widespread impact in the long run. But my heart isn't in it. I know you know all this and the above diatribe is really just catharsis on my part, albeit a kindof depressing one.
There's always next season.