Most honest attempts at religion, philosophy and even science seem to be about trying to give the best answer to the question “What’s going on?” that can be given from a particular point of view. These belief systems seem to function most efficiently and peacefully when we keep in mind that they’re only subjective points of view–these are not concrete, infallible explanations whose accuracy can be confirmed; these are maps, not the territory.
I suppose the one valuable contribution that my dalliance in libertarian thought left me is the non-aggression principle; I never accepted the whole shebang, but that idea’s stuck with me, and though I don’t believe in objective ethics (let alone Objectivist ethics–yeesh), if we’re going to get subjective about the whole thing anyway, “don’t use force against others and they won’t use force against you” seems a good place to start.
Now whether or not everyone will ever agree to that and actually live by it is another matter, and until and unless that happens, you can expect things like the attacks on September 11, 2001 CE, to happen once in a while. This kind of violence may be the inescapable result of the way our global society is structured; it’s also likely the result of some of our darker primate urges, the ones wired for dominance and control and hierarchy (and yes, submission and “comfort”), being broadcast and reinterpreted through the hyper-modern electronic shotgun barrel that is the twenty-first media–a tribal drumbeat to war, reverberating from our televisions, computers, radios, phones.
But it was not 9/11 that broke America. The United States has been broken a long time–and it is broken, sad to say; I can be nothing but honest; it’s a curse. America was broken decades before I was born. My mother was born on this day in 1948, and I question whether it was already broken back then. Our whole socio-economic structure has probably always been unsustainable; that’s probably why it crashed in the first place last century. What is fast-approaching a century of constant warfare (declared or otherwise) seems to have helped pump enough money into the economy to keep it afloat for a while–but the crippling debt that long-term strategy has left the US with (not to mention the way most of the profits from the labor involved have been stashed away in overseas bank accounts instead of reinvested back into the nation and its people) is probably the end of the America I knew growing up. Whether it will be the end of America as a whole is another matter. It’s an exciting time to be alive, with all the potential chaos, order, bliss and devastation that entails.
I’m tossing up a pdf version of With No Power Comes No Responsibility, the first part of The Plain and Honest Truth. It’s one attempt at a portrayal and explanation of life in America after 9/11. Lord Byron said, “I laugh, so that I do not weep.” That sounds a wise choice to me, but I don’t believe in dualistic choices. Robert Anton Wilson put it differently: “It’s only true if it makes you laugh, and you only understand it when it makes you cry.” That’s the spirit this book is meant in. This is my reaction to what happened ten years ago, and everything that’s happened since. If you know me, you know I can be a little long-winded sometimes.
If this project had a theme song, it would be “We’re Mad” by the Toy Dolls. It feels like a good anthem for the past decade. Give it a listen today, and smile.