Category Archives: Politics

An Animal that Dare Speak Its Name

“Me Tarzan, you Jane.” That’s not an exact translation. We don’t even know the language in which the first individual pronounced his name. Or when! – 10,000 years ago, with the beginnings of agriculture and animal husbandry? Did he whisper it while painting on the walls of hidden caves some 25,000 years earlier? One thing is certain: the emergence of the individual shook the world’s foundation, altering the planet itself. His arrival began the story of human history, a tale of infinite complexity. However, the last thousands of years can also be read simply as an unending struggle by the individual against the group, a battle between a single combatant and the Moral Sense, David versus Goliath.
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a counterintuitive diagnosis

Republicans have not overturned the government, but since they gained control of the House two years ago, they have paralyzed governing, killing time by revisiting futilely the Affordable Care Act, and who knows how much legislative foolishness wasted on abortion. They have opposed President Obama on almost every issue.

What we need is a diagnosis. Why this relentless attack on the body politic? How explain Republican indifference to the suffering of hungry children? What enables them to harden their hearts against the 47%, while protecting corporations bursting with profit and millionaires? The answer:

Their conscience!

Conscience is a two edged sword, an evolved structure that has cast a terrifying shadow over earthlings for the last 10,000 years. Nowadays it darkens the Beltway. The right-wing of the Republican Party threatens to bring the Republic to its knees. For example, they are conscience-bound not to ever raise taxes.

If a fish could think, only late in the day would it discover that it swims in water. Our battered race has not yet discovered we humans float on a moral sea, endlessly endangered by relentless storms. Darwin, of course, recognized that the Moral Sense or conscience is a fundamental force in evolution, but it wasn’t  strawberries and cream for big Charlie. Around his 29th birthday, at the height of his creative powers, he attended a meeting of the Geologic Society in London. The Rev. William Whewell held forth, pronouncing that what distinguishes man from animals is his “moral and religious constitution, stamped on the human mind by the Deity himself.”

St. Paul had seconded the Reverend’s motion in his Epistle to the Romans. “The truth about God is known to mankind instinctively. Since earliest times, men have known of God’s existence and great eternal power. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. They have no excuse for saying there is no God.”

Neuro-anatomically, “knowledge in their hearts” refers to a system hard-wired in the brain, built-in. It is not a product of learning, not ontogenetically evolved through personal instruction. By any other name – Moral Sense, Moral Intuition, Natural Law, conscience – the truth about God, St. Paul claims, is known to mankind instinctively. We’re the only animal that comes into this world with a Moral Sense. All children arrive with moral intuitions.

This conscience business confronted Darwin with a major problem. Any gap in the descent of man bridged by a power outside of nature, such as St. Paul’s God, would blow to smithereens the origin of species through natural selection.

He turned to David Hume for help.

Republicans at 50 Paces

I can spot a Republican at 50 paces. They think funny. They talk funny, but they are not funny. They are a different species, one which threatens to paralyze our government.

A great deal of work has been done to figure out where Republicans are coming from. Chris Mooney, in his brilliant book The Republican Brain, reviews the scientific literature, then focuses on the science of why the benighted Republicans deny science. Shockingly, they don’t just shitcan science. They deny reality.

George Will is supposed to be so smart. How then can he remain Republican after the eight disastrous years of George Bush? How could he support Romney? Didn’t he register the in-your-face lies? Did he not fear the ominous fact that Willard presented himself in messianic terms? Even when confronted by his faulty arithmetic, Willard huffed and puffed, “Of course it works.” His arithmetic! And, oh yes, George Will denies climate change.

 

comfort ye my people

The Greeks taught that speaking is the highest form of action. No one makes a better case for this proposition than President Obama. When he spoke last Sunday to our grieving nation for the 20 murdered children in Connecticut, his words rang out like the tolling of a great bell. When he called out each child by name, he made speakable an unspeakable loss.

 

Money! Money! Money!

So the Republicans don’t want to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires. Lord knows the government needs the extra money. The people overwhelmingly support such a tax. In fact, so do the millionaires and billionaires. What is one to make of Republican recalcitrance?

I suggest it’s the Midas syndrome. The concrete-thinking king was obsessed with the notion that gold, that is, money-money-money, defined his monarchy. Nothing else mattered. Alas,he forgot he had a daughter. So with the Republicans. They have forgotten the poor, the sick, the children. They’ve no time or interest in rebuilding schools, student scholarships, revisiting the minimum wage.

Poor Midas. Poor Republicans. Discombobulated by the reallization that most of what folks need can’t be taken to the bank.

Banana-in-chief

Unless you’re Dwight Eisenhower, a civilian president is out of his depth as commander-in-chief. Obama never served in the military. When he refers to himself as the top banana of all the armed forces, there is a hollow ring to his self anointing. He is no more a general than I am.

So when the bemedaled top brass advises a president on matters of war and peace, it is difficult for him to think straight while bombarded by the authoritarian ways of the military. This vulnerability led Kennedy to the Bay of Pigs, and I suggest clouds Obama’s judgment on Afghanistan.