July 5th, 2019

Otoyo Learns

On the United States and Dependence



Happy Independence Day, United States. Though Aladdin has now outgrossed Independence Day to become Will Smith's biggest hit of all time and the country is 22 trillion dollars in debt. I live in the United States, in southern California, where there was an earthquake this morning I didn't feel but know it happened because I read it on the internet. There's a massive homeless crisis here and property values are going up because anonymous buyers are purchasing lots of property with cash. What is independence? A state of mind? Hopefully.

I still haven't seen that Aladdin movie. I'd like to, I hear it's good and Aladdin was my favourite of the 90s Disney films when I was a kid (though it's lost some lustre now that I know how much it borrowed from the superior 1940 film The Thief of Bagdad). It's weird how no-one adjusts for inflation when talking about box office records. In article after article, from one record breaking film to the next, no-one seems to think it worth mentioning the ranking isn't adjusted for inflation. I guess it wouldn't be very interesting to keep saying, "And 1939's Gone with the Wind is still number 1." This wouldn't make money for anyone right now and it's a movie not reflective of current popular cultural values. Maybe. Though it's a little hard to tell when so many sites ping-pong back and forth between saying how regressive cultural attitudes are an ever present danger and acting like they don't exist.

I was reading The Communist Manifesto a few days ago after watching Property is No Longer a Theft. Not that I'm thinking of turning Communist--quite the opposite, really. I used to consider myself a Communist, or at least a Socialist, but I've changed my mind over the past few years. The way I used to look at it was to say even if it's true what some on the right say, worse case scenario, that people are fundamentally out for themselves and most people are selfish--even if it turns out that's true, surely it would be best to embrace the philosophy that says we can all work together one day in a single wonderful cooperative where everyone knows that we all need to work for each other. Where enough folks get up in the morning and think, by gum, society needs plumbers so I'm going to volunteer myself as a plumber. Surely, even if humanity isn't psychologically ready for that, it's best to believe it has a potential to be and to work toward that end. But I've already waited too long.

I've been really liking Robert Louis Stevenson lately. My mind goes back to an essay he wrote partly about his own shift from Socialist beliefs to Conservative called "Crabbed Age and Youth".

For my part, I look back to the time when I was a Socialist with something like regret. I have convinced myself (for the moment) that we had better leave these great changes to what we call great blind forces: their blindness being so much more perspicacious than the little, peering, partial eyesight of men.

But Stevenson, at the end of the essay, acknowledges some self-contradiction because at several points he also asserts that he is not "abashed" at having been Socialist and argues that it's good for young people to have strong opinions, even if they're wrong. "[I]f St. Paul had not been a very zealous Pharisee, he would have been a colder Christian." It's this magnanimous view Stevenson has towards mistakes, which I tend to sympathise with, that makes Socialism so unattractive to me now. When I see young and extreme leftists exercising the full strength of their ironic wit to make those who disagree with them seem the epitome of evil, when leftist journalists carefully massage stories to downplay inconvenient details or outright omit them, I feel, in a way, the most sorry for that commentator or writer. Sooner or later, these people will think or do something that will make themselves guilty in their own unforgiving rhetoric. Then they can either punish themselves, delude themselves, or change their minds. I've seen firsthand enough of the kind of perpetual terror some of the self-deluded live in that I prefer to be one who has a change of mind.

It is in vain to seek for consistency or expect clear and stable views in a medium so perturbed and fleeting. This is no cabinet science, in which things are tested to a scruple; we theorise with a pistol to our head; we are confronted with a new set of conditions on which we have not only to pass a judgement, but to take action, before the hour is at an end. And we cannot even regard ourselves as a constant; in this flux of things, our identity itself seems in a perpetual variation; and not infrequently we find our own disguise the strangest in the masquerade. - Robert Louis Stevenson

I'd still describe myself as a liberal. But I can see too much of the trouble caused by the "fairy tales of Socialism" as Louis Stevenson calls them, not only for the believers themselves but for everyone else who may have benefited from a more practical form of liberalism.

So I'll conclude this July 4th ramble by simply reminding my fellow liberals it might be constructive if the country thought electing someone other than Trump was a reasonable thing to do.

Twitter Sonnet #1252

Considered cups were left in dusty sun.
Reflected rooms return to mind at once.
As language drifts along the table run.
The ink evades what Word forever hunts.
The steady peel of paper bares the wall.
The drapes beneath a pallid film revive.
The figure beams of light obey a call.
With shadow paint the plan's at length contrived.
A blanket shroud conceals a shifting form.
The working clocks compel the frame to stand.
The chilled and rusty limbs again're warm.
A signal heart appears on ev'ry band.
Perspectives blurred beneath the bourbon tap.
The moving ground remained a single map.
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