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Nowhereville

by on October 24, 2019

Nowhereville

by Marco M. Pardi

There’s a scheme of evasion that has gotten into everybody. It’s as though people were to say: “I get home dog tired after a terrible day out in that jungle, and then I don’t want to think about it. Enough! I want to be brainwashed. I’m going to have my dinner and drink some beer, and I’m going to sit watching tv until I pass out – because that’s how I feel.” That means people are not putting up a struggle for the human part of themselves.” Saul Bellow. “Matters Have Gotten out of Hand”. In A Violent Society.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

In 1965 the Beatles released their song, Nowhere Man. I suggest we all Google that title and read the lyrics. It will take you only a moment.

Even in those years, the 1960’s, I wondered if the United States was reaching – or had reached, the upper limits of what holds a society together. As we ran from pillar to post, one social crisis after another, we felt we were seeing every institutional pillar of society being exposed as weak, fractured, delusional, built on sand. For many, the “Good Old Days” took on a reality they never for a moment had. Alvin Tofler captured our fear in his book Future Shock, the examination of how the increasingly rapid pace of social change was outpacing our ability to cope with, or even understand it. People withdrew into enclaves of fantasy, long running television series, “New Age” groups – which touted themselves at outwardly focused but were instead simple grottoes for the alienated, “Eastern” religions, “witchcraft” – falsely portrayed as “The Old Religion” but simply a fantasy of personal and/or group power, “swingers” groups, and etc.

As could be predicted, most of these ran their course and were either replaced or marginalized, especially as social fantasy gaming emerged; Dungeons and Dragons, Fantasy Sports teams, and eventually the baffling plethora of internet based games. Far less often we heard the once common question, “Who’s minding the store?”

It could also be predicted, and was, that the accelerating growth of distractions – amusement and calamities alike, would blind the American people to the formation and emergence of the American Fascist Party, in the guise of what used to be the Republican Party. (Just yesterday Trump’s SA, the Sturmabteilung popularly known as “Conservative Republicans”, stormed into a a private Congressional chamber to disrupt the testimony of a witness in the current impeachment inquiries. Ironically, several of the Sturmtruppen had already been invited into the hearing but chose to enter with their fellow Braunhemden. )

With the attention of so many Americans vacuumed into their now ubiquitous devices: tablets, smart phones, i-pads, i-pods, blueteeth, noise canceling and reality filtering headphones, etc., information about the nature and the ramifications of social change is increasingly an annoyance, meriting a grunt of uh huh, or “fake news”.

But returning to games, as of this writing one of the most amusing metaphors of American life is currently dominating television: the “World Series” of baseball. Since teams from no other countries have ever played in this series I always wondered why it was called the World Series. As I got older I came to understand American hubris.

I should first say that what I know about sports could be inscribed on the head of a pin, and not displace a single angel. And, I do not watch baseball since I very much dislike watching players and coaches chaw and chomp with open mouths as they spit and vomit various materials all over themselves and the playing field. This year the teams are the Washington Nationals versus the Houston Astros. If chawing and spitting is the predictor of victory, the Astros have it won as they did so all through the National Anthem.

In the context of Naomi Klein’s new book – discussed below – I was struck by the juxtaposition of a team from Houston, the epi-center of the planet-destroying fossil fuel industry versus a team from Washington D.C., the governmental center of the one nation on Earth with the most power to stop the destruction from that industry.

When we look at the history of the fossil fuel industry, particularly oil and gas, we see an ongoing march in which, as the industry grew, it progressively bought the U.S. government. It has shaped everything from domestic environmental policy to foreign policy and the decisions of where and how Americans will die in armed combat. It sets our moral standards as we look the other way from the death and butchering of a critic of an oil producing foreign partner and we fatally pollute the air, water, and food which sustains our own children. The currently ongoing attempt by the Houston Astros to subdue and conquer the Washington Nationals is American policy writ large. And the band plays on.

I’ve reproduced below the publisher’s review of the new book by Naomi Klein. I’ve read her other books and they have a prominent place in my library. Ms. Klein should have a prominent place in our collective mind. I would vote for her as President, but she is Canadian. It should be instructive that the Trump regime has just filed suit against the State of California for partnering with Canada in an effort to mitigate the horrendous damage to the planet’s air quality, especially in the wake of the regime’s roll-back of the Clean Air Act.

On Fire: The Case for a Green New Deal. By Naomi Klein.

#1 international and New York Times bestselling author Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything , makes the case for a Green New Deal–explaining how bold climate action can be a blueprint for a just and thriving society. For more than twenty years, Naomi Klein has been the foremost chronicler of the economic war waged on both people and planet–and an unapologetic champion of a sweeping environmental agenda with justice at its center. In lucid, elegant dispatches from the frontlines of contemporary natural disaster, she pens surging, indispensable essays for a wide public: prescient advisories and dire warnings of what future awaits us if we refuse to act, as well as hopeful glimpses of a far better future. On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal gathers for the first time more than a decade of her impassioned writing, and pairs it with new material on the staggeringly high stakes of our immediate political and economic choices. These long-form essays show Klein at her most prophetic and philosophical, investigating the climate crisis not only as a profound political challenge but as a spiritual and imaginative one, as well. Delving into topics ranging from the clash between ecological time and our culture of “perpetual now,” to the soaring history of humans changing and evolving rapidly in the face of grave threats, to rising white supremacy and fortressed borders as a form of “climate barbarism,” this is a rousing call to action for a planet on the brink. With reports spanning from the ghostly Great Barrier Reef, to the annual smoke-choked skies of the Pacific Northwest, to post-hurricane Puerto Rico, to a Vatican attempting an unprecedented “ecological conversion,” Klein makes the case that we will rise to the existential challenge of climate change only if we are willing to transform the systems that produced this crisis. An expansive, far-ranging exploration that sees the battle for a greener world as indistinguishable from the fight for our lives, On Fire captures the burning urgency of the climate crisis, as well as the fiery energy of a rising political movement demanding a catalytic Green New Deal.” 

So, this isn’t a video game. We can’t just control-alt-delete our way out of this death spiral. It seems many have misunderstood the meaning of Wu Wei, the concept developed by Kong Fu-Xi (“Confucius”), taking it simply as the benign “doing of nothing”.

We can no longer afford the Nowhere Man; Nowhereville is where we go to die, taking everything with us. A slogan which emerged in the 1960’s, and still rings true today was, “If you are not saying No, you are saying Yes.”

Of course, speaking up has its risks. Just today I received an email from Sharon Wilson, an environmental advocate, detailing how a fossil fuel company took her to court on false charges after she exposed their utterly poor environmental record. Even as I write this I wonder how many readers will accept that as a warning to keep their mouths shut and their communication devices tuned to other things.

I’ve been a wanderer all my life, but everywhere I’ve been is Somewhereville even though I’ve not always liked the human inhabitants.

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19 Comments
  1. johndporter permalink

    Not sure where you got your factoid that no team from another country has ever played in the “World Series”. It’s one thing to imagine it so, but to state it as fact? I expected better. (The Toronto Blue Jays not only played, but won. Twice.)
    But I agree with your point. It reminds me of the “Miss Universe” contest. I’m pretty sure no contestant from another planet has ever entered the competition. 😀

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  2. Thanks so much, John. Perhaps my mistake supports my point that my knowledge of sports could fit on the head of a pin. I do apologize for the oversight. Marco

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  3. Gary permalink

    I was going to say that 1992/1993 were “so last century” (Toronto wins in MLB), but John beat me to the punch.

    We have had a purely socialist political party in Canada since the 1930’s. It has had some success in pushing through some socialist ideas (stolen from its platform by mainstream parties), like universal medical coverage. But, it has never attracted more than 15 to 20% of electoral support. It has, from time to time, formed the government in several provinces, with mixed results. Klein is far to the left of this party. As a rule, radicals don’t get much traction in politics in Canada-a nation of largely complacent people.

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    • Thank you, Gary, Yes, I spoke from ignorance. Perhaps I should yield to distraction more often.

      I remember asking your opinion of an excellent analysis I received suggesting the U.S. two party system be replaced with a parliamentary system. As you have your feet in both countries, and your mind firmly in the realities of the political sphere, I would really value your opinion on the question of whether, like a cell approaching apoptosis, societies reach an upper limit they cannot sustain.

      As ever, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like

  4. Gary permalink

    My impression is that the U.S. may have reached that limit. It seems that all of the cautions that the founders built into the idea of America embedded in its Constitution have been thrown to the wind in this century. The founders belonged to an age in which common sense had some traction and they believed, from what I have discerned from the Federalist Papers, that common sense would prevail amongst the lawmakers. Nowhere is that now to be found. My jaw dropped the other day when I saw something attributed to Trump where he scorned the emoluments clause because it interfered with him holding a G7 meeting at one of his clubs. I see there is a growing movement to amend the the First Amendment to outlaw “hate speech”. That will be the beginning of the end of the most admirable piece of the Constitution.

    I am not sure if this is what you had in mind with your question.

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    • Thank you, Gary. That does indeed address and answer the question. And, I admire how you refrained from making it a Party issue. Although I personally have never identified as a member of any Party, seeing that as rather puerile, I obviously do incline toward finding fault with one over the other(s). However, much as I am sensitive to becoming a Cassandra I simply cannot see a good outcome, at least in my remaining lifetime. I often say I never expected to “book-end” my life: being born into one Fascist regime and dying in another.

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  5. We could actually be dying as a culture We have gone so far down the many slopes that seem to divide us as a nation, as well as how we actually deal with the world. No one likes to think that we are living in the twilight of our society, but we could be.

    I really do not trust any political party anymore, neither the Blue nor the Red. It is more about “my party, right or wrong”, than what is actually good for our country, as well as for the world in general.

    Yet, how much of my ‘pessimism’ is merely created by the news that we receive. How much is actually representative of what is going on with the people?

    If people do not have a ‘center’ to work from, then what is left is having our brains washed, starched, and ironed…….brainwashing is painless,perhaps one of our callings in life is to seek to free ourselves as much as possible.

    A good piece my friend, deep and insightful, you are, however, way over my head.

    Sorry I have been out of touch. My Hotmail was taken from me, so here is my new email address if you want to reconnect. mdohle@trapist.net.

    peace my friend

    Mark

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    • Thank you, Mark. I’m so glad you are back (as are the others who have drawn inspiration from you over the years).

      I know I tend to see the dark side more often, but I could not deny the increasing “tribalism” pervading our society. This means people reckon their connections more among those who share certain narrow values than they do with fellow citizens at large. Unfortunately, the easiest solution is also the most dangerous: A call to overarching nationalism which almost always devolves into a much larger and more hardened tribe. It worked for Mussolini and it worked for Hitler, and we saw the outcome. It is the heart of true fascism.

      Information is a fascinating phenomenon. Even when presented as objectively and factually as possible it falls upon ears tuned to receive it in unpredictably subjective ways. The current regime has all but mastered the art of understanding the subjective and exploiting it to their gain.

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      • I just tried the email address and got it back. I’m betting it should be mdohle@trappist.net The address above has only one p in it. Marco

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      • The Alt-Right, as well as the far left, are lining up for a turf fight. Not sure what is going to happen over time. The problem is that moderates, which I believe are the majority, who can at least try to sort things out, and not scream and insult, tend to be silent. It gets too tiring to even try to have a discussion, Everything is a debate, though often bad debates.

        The force behind our current cultural so-called ‘war’, is too powerful to stop I believe. I try to stay civil, and if attacked do not take it on a personal level.

        I sometimes think that people are actually turning themselves into stereotypes, and know that they are doing so, losing them in some sort of collective. I am not saying I am free from this, but it is something that has to be fought against. Listening to others even if not agreeing with them helps. Then become real and cannot be reduced into some collective.

        Peace
        Mark

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        • I agree, Mark. At my age, 77, I could easily excuse myself and simply tend my bonsais or watch re-runs of programs I never watched in the first place. But I think of my daughter and my grandchildren and that expands my awareness to those people I will never meet.

          Yes, I do sometimes wonder if my strident positions come from me taking things personally. But then, what is my personhood worth if I do not stand up and assert it?

          I find it increasingly difficult to listen to opposing voices without concluding they are simply the channeling of abhorrent propaganda, being voiced either by people who have been duped or by people who are themselves the same as the predators they support. Either way, it is hard to develop and maintain an objective perspective in listening to and considering what they have to say.

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  6. Dana permalink

    “I do not watch baseball since I very much dislike watching players and coaches chaw and chomp with open mouths as they spit and vomit various materials all over themselves and the playing field.” I laughed out loud at that one! Classic Marco. The other day someone told me they were watching the “Golden” something or other and I thought it was a TV series. Evidently it’s a basketball team.

    I’ve never read any Naomi Klein. It’s gotten increasingly difficult for me to stay focused on a book. I suppose I’ve done that to myself through all things you mentioned above. I have three books going but only halfway through all of them. Still, I’m doing my best to stay informed, and stay out of the cozy bubble.

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    • Thank you, Dana. Someday we would all like to read your analyses of those three books. I always remember the surgical precision with which you dissected anything which came your way in our Anthropology and Critical Thinking classes.

      Like

  7. Dana permalink

    It’s good to see you here as well, Mark. You’ve always shared words of wisdom, and hopefully we’ll see more contributions.

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    • mkdohle permalink

      I will try to participate more, good to be back.

      Peace
      Mark

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  8. It has been my personal experience, whenever I am around those who are willing and/or able to discuss anything important, that even those who agree with me do so with anger in their voices. In order to maintain a civility with those around us, especially those whose opinions differ from our own, it has become necessary to do so in silence. This is the silence of lambs being lead to slaughter. If this nation is to survive, we must find our voices again, and we must use them. The time has passed in which we could afford to be “a real nowhere man, living in his nowhere land”.

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    • mkdohle permalink

      The best we can do is to speak ‘truth’. One of the hardest human endeavors is to simply listen to those who differ. I find it difficult, yet I try, not sure how successful I am.

      Cultures age, weaken, fall apart, just the way people do when they age. Because of the amount of change that comes so rapidly, I do believe the cultures will also age faster and yes become part of history.

      I do think the overwhelming amount of communication… instant communication, can lead to a deep frustration. None of us can change anyone’s mind, yet we must try to communicate.

      Not sure what I am on the liberal, conservative spectrum. I am Pro-Life, but can’t always agree with some of the rhetoric of my Pro-Life brothers and sisters. Changing laws will not really help. Why would we want to create another group of criminals? The new more liberal abortion laws that have been passed in some states, only makes matters worse. It seems like ‘infanticide’ is now legal, where will it end. I see no answer to this dilemma.

      For many the unborn do have rights. Now abortion up to the time of birth has only made the issue more complex and impossible.

      The whole ‘Trump’ civil war is another impossible situation. Both sides think the other is crazy and brainwashed. There is some humor here, but it is not always easy to find. Though SNL on you-tube seems to be able to find some.

      Some of my friends will not give an inch to what they call the lunatic left, which is a mistake. I do see the same coming from the left……..there is no real communication, which at the best of times can be difficult, you can only imagine how insane it is now.

      Peace
      Mark

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      • Thanks, Mark. I agree with your view of cultural breakdown. I’ve long held that “culture” is only an approximation: we each live in our own universe and seem to “agree” on only the superficials.

        While abortion is obviously a trigger concept for conflict, I think the ultimate bottom line is how we view and therefore treat the environment. While it MIGHT be some “people” who die following the cultural decision on abortion, it is the planet itself that is dying following the cultural decisions we make about it. And once life is extinguished on this planet there will be no voices raised in disagreement.

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    • Thank you, Rose. I agree. Not in my lifetime have I seen social discourse suddenly elevate to such levels of hostility, even on both or all sides. Yet this is exactly what the regime wants; it engenders the call to and the acceptance of Draconian crack-down measures which solidify the regime’s control over the legislative process and therefore the people themselves.

      As we are seeing with the regime’s call for the exposure of the whistleblower, they are hoping the mob which supports them will take action such as that which happened in Nazi Germany during Kristallnacht and during the lynchings during the civil rights turmoil in this country.

      Those of us who speak do so at our peril.

      Like

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