“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
Each morning as the African mists release their hold on the stories-high trees just visible over the concertina-crowned walls of my compound I sit quietly to drink a cup of coffee the beans for which were grown far away and shipped in for the pleasure of we who pretend to manage world affairs, and I try to make sense of our ‘new world in the morning’. It has become a challenge to understand what is going on in our new absurdist world, bequeathed to us by those who found it too much of a bother to think. We should not be surprised, for we live our lives cramped tightly into our pillboxes through which we gaze at the horizon through swollen reddened eyes, guarding against the Italian invasion from across the Aegean; an invasion that never comes (Enver Hoxha reference for the know-nothing’s sake; and certainly worth a google). And in looking day after day through the same slit it is easy to forget that the world around us is wide and grand and beautiful and exists beyond the tiny sliver of the human experience allowed through by our cement encasement. ‘Prejudices’ we would say, if that word was not so heavy-laden. World-views perhaps; and breaking out of the rounded sarcophagi into which our civilization has gone to die seems perilous and ill-advised. So we self-select on twitter, unfollowing and blocking until we have a perfectly pure river of excrement gushing in torrents through the pillbox slits, each little ‘micro-blog’ elevating our blood pressure until our coffee has turned bitter in our mouths and we no longer notice when the African mists have long been burned by the sun that has risen well into the sky. Facebook’s Machiavellian algorithm trolling through fake news to serve us just what we need to stay longer on their site – sharing and liking as the stories become more lurid and our sinister masters in their valley of silicon chuckle.
Incidentally this is why I no longer have Facebook, nor Twitter. I do have a Goodreads account; if you are curious to find out about me, examine what I read. Not that anybody reads anymore; taking more than 140 characters to form an idea and conclusion is passé in our modern world, where we no longer need to think, only repeat. East of Eden? Pacific Viking? The Cause of Hitler’s Germany (this last one extremely important in our post-truth world)? Who has the time? Would not we rather read the nasty little barb Megan Markle has fired into the ether? That is more instantly satisfying to the cauldron burning within our souls.
So what do I do, if I do not read Facebook and Twitter in the morning? How do I get my news, if not from the Valley’s digital overlords? How do I know what is going on – when I do not trust them to inform me? It takes the discipline of the ancient monks – which once I flirted with becoming – and (if you really care) I visit Realclearpolitics, Realclearworld, Quillette, The Imaginative Conservative, Aeon, The Federalist, The American Conservative and – yes I do! – Drudge. So do you, admit it.
Often times there is one particular issue which captures my attention; and I write about that or reflect on it on my blog (this one) and for my limited readers (you). And I do, indeed, talk of many things, of the aforementioned cabbages and often of the kings. And their knights; because there is so much going on which speaks to the end of our glorious republic which nobody seems to want to defend except the knights at their round table at Hillsdale.
The issue at hand today over which I have been ruminating is the now-famous (or infamous, depends on who you are) William Barr interview with CBS.
The ‘resistance’ is of course apoplectic and also somewhat nervous, for their coup attempt against President Trump has failed and also subsequently been found out (coups most often are) and now the esteemed Attorney General has decided that it well deserves a gander. Now, I’ve lived overseas for many, many years. And I cannot tell you how many coup attempts I have witnessed and lived through; but the number is not less than ten. They are considerably more frequent than we in our (increasingly unstable) republic might realize, and they come in all forms; from tanks rolling down streets to the more procedural ones concocted to befuddle the weak-minded: the elites rigging the game in their favor and self-dealing to assure things work to their advantage (and those pesky things called elections? Don’t worry about that). The best quote of the week is Barr’s, “’Resisting A Democratically Elected President’ is Destroying Our Institutions, Not Trump.” Read my piece on resistance here – because that is something I know a lot about. Real resistance, against real despots – not millennial meltdowns against free and fair elections. Resistance and a coup are not the same thing – this was a failed coup attempt. I know the difference.
Which brings me to my next topic, on justice. America has been, above all and before anything else, a land of justice – of rule of law. To make that system function we adopted an accusatory system of justice (the official term I think is adversarial) which we inherited from the Ango-Saxon system crafted on the English isle 1500 years ago; juxtaposed against an investigatory system (inquisitorial) which came from Medieval Europe (Latin in origins). Latin American systems are mostly inquisitorial – they assume the bad faith of all their citizens and set up mechanisms to assure that their wicked, oh lets call them ‘constituents’ can do as little harm as possible; except bad does happen as the subsequent intrusive bureaucracies become so large and powerful that they are sclerotic and easily corrupted. Did you know that birth certificates expire every six months in Venezuela? Did you know that to get married in Colombia you have to put an advertisement in the newspaper for two weeks in the assumption that you are a bigamist in order to allow your wife – who also is perusing the paper that morning with her coffee – to call in to whatever number provided to say “Hey that’s my husband!”. Adversarial systems allow the government to serve as arbiter between people, one accusing the other of something (and only with sufficient evidence provided). Our government does not spend time trolling through people’s private lives looking for crimes. That’s what the Stasi did, keeping files on every citizen in East Germany. Its what the Gestapo did; the KGB – its what the Communist Party of China does, it’s what Venezuela’s Bolivarian Intelligence Services do. And its what the Democrats in Congress are doing with Trump (yes it has to be said); going through his life with a fine tooth comb to see if they can find something where no unanswered accusation exists. This is extremely terrifying; hearkening back to McCarthyism, which was a particularly complicated period (even if, like me, you agree with the goal – to keep the commies out). Because, let us be honest here, who of you reading this has not committed (usually inadvertently) some crime? I sure have (speeding ticket anybody? But what about that time you were speeding and never caught? Do you live in fear? I can go on…) – for even the best of us run afoul of our complicated legal systems and if somebody wants to find something in each of our lives, they will. Period.
Incidentally, there is a third type of justice system – transitional justice (built usually upon restorative ideas – which seek to put things right). These are particularly valid when our justice system is collapsed due to corruption and bias (or the magnitude of the population involved in a particular crime). Imagine if every poor person from the slums caught with a dime-bag of blow was, instead of being incarcerated, forced to seek out those to whom they sold and advise them of their mistakes, pay back the money they made tenfold, and spend months with a church group helping those in need? What if they were sent to serve the poor in Africa for a season – learning the true nature of oppression and injustice? “Victimless crimes” they are often called. What if these folks emerged from their experience better than when they started – and society with them? That is restorative justice. But I digress.
Which brings me back to the Mueller investigation – it seems people have lost the plot; like a Dostoevsky novel in which you realize suddenly you are following the wrong character – that the protagonist has somehow become a minor actor without your noticing. The whole two-year long colonoscopy live-streamed on MSNBC was ostensibly about the Trump campaign colluding with Russia. That was definitively disproved/thrown out. Full stop. Did that resolve the issue? Of course not. For now people are all pretzeled up about obstruction; what is it, what isn’t it, when does it happen and can it happen over Twitter? All of this is – frankly – irrelevant. There was no collusion with Russia (in perspective, since we heard so much about it, imagine if there had been no Watergate Hotel break-in?) You can’t obstruct justice if there has been no crime. Is the President intemperate? Yes, I think that’s fair to say. Should he be more careful on Twitter? I’d sure like him to be. Did he break traffic laws as he was rushing to arrive quickly to the scene of a murder where the detectives in charge were busy planting evidence against him on the body? Maybe (and this would seem to be Barr’s conclusion). But that is over. And Internal Affairs now has the case. Lets stop worrying about the speeding or the violated stop-sign; they are irrelevant. And the dirty detectives? They might want to find good lawyers.
OK this has gotten long, but has been quite fun! I certainly feel better – and I certainly am desirous that you are feeling the same. I may rant tomorrow again, perhaps regarding the disgrace which has become of our system of higher education – and how it is destroying our republic. And why rant at all?
Because if we don’t speak out, who will…? – (the answer, of course, is the un-examined minds on Twitter).