Saturday, November 16, 2013

Says Our President

- Here!
- Hello, brother.
- Don't call me brother.
- My fellow poet. Can I read you my latest composition?
- Let's walk.
- It's entitled "Says Our President".
Says our president,
"The time has come to do something about the government spying on the American people."
He's been our president while the spying was done
But no one notices.
And no one will notice in the future,
When he does nothing about it.
What does the president do?
He does what he is paid to do,
Plus he imagines what the people would pay him to do
If they had the money
And he says he intends to do it.
- Do I have to comment?
- You do, brother.
- Don't call me brother. Why do you think no one notices the president has done what he has done and won't do what he says he will do?
- He is subject to forces out of his control and he does the best he can.
- But you think he is an outright liar.
- He is doing his job.
- His job is to lie.
- His job is to do what he is paid to do, and say what he must to go on doing what he's paid to do.
- He doesn't notice whether or not the words he says describe the world accurately because his attention is only on doing his job?
- Yes.
- He doesn't know he is lying?
- It doesn't appear so. What do you think?
- Those of his kind I've met practice a ritual of money making. They've learned it without self consciousness. They do it because "it is done", and they like doing it because they can do it regularly. Because they don't know why they are doing it, there's a sense in which they literally don't do it for themselves, they do it for "god".
- Money making is spiritual.
- What else could it be, when it is done for its own sake?
- You've inspired me. The poem continues:
Says our president,
Lying is generosity.
Lying is good for others.
Lying is sacrifice.
Says our President
It is true that lying is good.
Good for himself and others.
Lying is unselfish.
Lying is a spiritual act.
Lying is a miraculous wonder working deed.
- Aint it the truth. To speak poetically. You know, the politicians of money are in a battle over the history of our species. One guy in particular who teaches at Stanford claims that political history ends with us all organized in a central state accountable to the people applying rule of law.* To get to the end requires a battle against constant attempts of tribes to block accountability and rule of law and make the state serve their own family ends.
- It is principle against family.
- Yes, but according to this Stanford guy principle also is family. People obey the principle because that is what is done. The state gets to the end of history when the right balance of families occur in a society. 
- Seems unlikely. Does he say how we get to the right balance? How many people, how rich, how diverse, what technology, climate, geography?
- He says history provides too many variables, and too few cases. 
- So we just end miraculously with what we just happen ourselves to have got, this rule of money, families competing to bribe the government, this resulting miraculously in the rule of law and accountability. Does this guy believe it? 
- Like the president believes what he says. This professor, the Stanford family guy, writes in his last book about his brother academic who invented a theory that Chinese emperors taxed their people like a shepherd takes care of his flock, not for its interest but his own. No one in the family of academics seems to know that in the beginning of the field of study they are supposed to be experts on was Plato, who invented that very argument 2500 years ago. No one in this academic family knows that Plato was ahead of them in their entire argument of the end of history. His imaginary Republic had finality, rule of law, accountability, and central government, was an organization of different families none of whom could give reasons for what they did and wanted to do.** If they spoke of these matters, there was no one to listen, because what was done was settled on other terms, by the balance of interests of the separate families. Our president would be right at home in Plato's Republic.
- But Plato was joking.
- Making a reduction to absurdity*** of  thinking that you could construct a good place to live out of a balance of thoughtless conventions and ritual.
- So brother, these guys, the president, the people who pay him, who pay our professors, want us to believe this is the best we can get. We're at the end of history predicted at the beginning of philosophy.
- The forgotten beginning of philosophy. Everything must be forgotten in this history of the end of history, because the historian too is a ritualist, and can't say why he is doing what he is doing. The historian says he is doing history, but he does history like the president does politics. I quote you, poet of the revolution:
He does what he is paid to do,
Plus he imagines what the people would pay him to do
If they had the money
And he says he intends to do it.

*Francis Fukuyama The Origins of Political Order. Profile Books, 2011
** Beauty And The Creative Spirit In Democracy