“Be ye in the world but not of the world.”

Jesus said that. Ted Kaczynski and John Allen Muhammad were two of the many who lived it for their own reasons and in their own ways.

After my surgery in March, I either took narcotics or sleeping pills but never both together. Now that I’m in pain from that surgery and from this surgery, I take whatever it takes to get some sleep, usually 300 mgs of Demerol and a kick-ass sleeping pill. During the day, I feel off-balance, monotone, and incommunicative, a remote observer of the world but not a participant—welcome or otherwise—in the world. I wouldn’t choose to live this way, but it’s interesting place to visit. For one thing, it leads me to wonder whether loners are typically cynical and anti-social because they unfairly deprecate the virtues of their fellowman or because their remoteness permits a more astute discernment.

My reading has been two biographies of Robert E. Howard—the creator of Conan the Barbarian—whose own sense of separateness led him to commit suicide at age thirty. To feel so separate from life while reading about someone with whom I can exquisitely identify, someone who was shunned and ridiculed by the society he hated, accentuates my alienation.

You see, I think it possible that I understand Tim McVeigh (about whom I’ve also read) and others like him who were considered too monstrous to deserve understanding even if it were possible. Let me be clear. I don’t defend indiscriminate killing, but neither do I find it inconceivable that a person could turn to it. I’ll share some fantasies that are intended to illustrate my point, although they might simply make you doubt my sanity.

In one fantasy, I have six months to live, plenty of money, and no family. I can expect to maintain my strength and faculties right up until the end. How might I spend these months, I ask myself. Should I party, travel, volunteer at an animal shelter, write a book, drink a lot of booze and eat a lot of chocolate? The possibilities seem endless, but in my fantasy, I think that, well, what if I traveled about the country and snuffed a few greedy lawyers, politicians, and CEOs—the kind of people everyone hates but no one can touch. Steal $50 from a 7-11 and go to prison. Steal millions from the public, have the taxpayer save your ass, and give yourself a bonus. Nobody can get to these guys, and that’s not right. The question in my mind is not whether they deserve to die, but whether it would be a good idea to kill them.

Here’s where you might remind me about the rule of law. If you believe in the rule of law, good for you, but tell me, how many robber barons do you see in prison? Jeffrey Skilling and Bernie Madoff. Congratulations, that’s two. Do you know how outrageous they had to become and how long they had to stay that way before the SEC, the Justice Department, and other law enforcement agencies could no longer feign ignorance? Look at the millions of people they harmed and the billions of dollars they lost, and tell me about your faith in the system. Don’t you get it? The system is created by the very people who are making a killing from it. If a 7-11 bandit conglomerate owned Congress, they would make themselves eligible for a government bailout if they had a bad year robbing convenience stores. The lawmakers, bankers, pharmaceutical executives, insurance conglomerates, and others who get rich by screwing us are NOT on our side and they are NEVER going to do anything to help us that they don’t have to do to stay in power. For sure, they don’t want a revolution, but they know that as long as most of us can afford SUVs, wide-screen TVs, and other societal opiates, we’re not really going to demand action about needlessly dying ecosystems or needlessly dying people. You see it in the healthcare debate: “I’ve got insurance, so why should I care about you, loser?”

So, someone takes it into his head to make like Charles Bronson in Death Wish, only instead of killing petty thieves and back alley murderers, he snuffs bigtime thieves and legalized murderers. Would it make a difference? I don’t know. I hearken back to the little boy on the beach who was busy throwing stranded fish into the water when a cynical old man pointed out that he wasn’t making any real difference given the enormity of the problem. “I made a difference to that one,” the boy responded.

You’re not going to make the world a really great place no matter what you do. Take my fantasy. I couldn’t kill enough bad men to get them all, and others would replace them anyway. Then too, the question arises as to who is bad. Is a hedge fund manager worse than his shoeshine boy because he’s less virtuous or because he’s more powerful? I suspect the latter, and this points to a major problem with any attempt to better the world.

Remember the United Auto Workers? In the sixties, all the hell these guys did was strike. Their dinky little assembly line jobs took every bit of thirty minutes to learn, yet they had one thing going for them as a substitute for skill, drive, creativity, and intelligence—they had a network of allied unions that absolutely scared the bejesus out of management. The benefits they received ran the price of cars through the roof almost overnight and were a significant factor in the eventual failure of the Big Three. No, it’s not just the richest who are the greediest. It’s not really even about income. It’s about power, and the fact is that the people who have the most money are usually the people who have the most power. So, let’s say that I was able to kill every last exploitative CEO in America, it wouldn’t make any lasting difference. It might feel good, like shooting the man who raped your sister might feel good, but in a few days or years, the killings would be just be another story in a yellowing newspaper.

So, what’s a guy with such a dismal appraisal of the human race to do? For one thing, I’m not really likely to roam the night with a sniper rife, and this leaves but two complementary possibilities. One is to follow the example of the little boy on the beach by doing however much direct good I can, and the second is to avoid collusion with evil. The first is easy enough, but the second is more than I am willing to take on because it would mean, for one thing, not paying taxes when I know full well that the government is going to use my tax money to promote evil. Now, if I lived alone, I could image pulling this off with considerable success, but it would mean an austere and secretive lifestyle that I can’t very well impose on Peggy.

I’m not even sure but what voting amounts to collusion with evil because it gives tacit support to the fiction that the people are in charge when the only real power the people have is to choose between candidates pre-approved by corporations, and one must ask oneself how different they are anyway. Face it, no candidate who fails to win the support of a sizeable number of corporations is going to have a prayer, yet the only way to win the support of corporations is to sell your soul. Republicans seem more amendable to this than Democrats, which is why I support Democrats, but it’s a dirty choice to have to make when the guy who I really want to support, I rarely do support because I know he can’t win without corporate backing.

Obama capped-out as last week—as far as I was concerned—when he accepted that Nobel Peace Prize. Peace through war? Sure, why not? Just think of all the wars America has waged during my lifetime alone, and just look at how peaceful we’ve made the world. I wondered how Bin Laden’s speech would have differed from Obama's if he had won the Nobel Peace Prize (if one warring leader can win it, why not another?). He too would have spoke of creating peace through war, but he might have wavered a little when he got to the part about assuring the strait-laced and strait-faced Nobel audience that HIS war would be a nice war in which only the most humane rules for killing people were followed.

My knowledge of war would indicate that ALL rules go out the window when (a) one side is at a significant disadvantage or (b) the rewards of abandoning them are considerable. For example, what happened to America’s humane rules when we bombed Tokyo, Hiroshima, Dresden, and Nagasaki; or when we supported countless rulers who tortured and impoverished their own people; or when we violated the basic rights of our own citizens through the Patriot Act or the rights of foreign citizens through rendition and enhanced interrogation; or when we stole Native American lands, violated every treaty we ever made with them, and adopted a “nits make lice” policy toward their children; or when we lied repeatedly about attacks—or planned attacks—on our country in order to rally support for attacking somebody else’s country? And how about our rules regarding “acceptable collateral damage” (i.e. the number of innocent bystanders it’s okay to kill)? Would these deaths be acceptable if they were in Omaha instead of Kabul? Inquiring minds want to know.

Maybe Obama means that we’ve become a “kinder, gentler people” (as Bush so laughably put it) just within the past few days. I really don’t know—maybe I was too drugged to hear the news. I do know that I don’t want to pay for these wars, or these politicians, or these bankers, or this endless waste and destruction that define what it means to be an American.

Vote to change America? I might was well vote to change the orbit of Mars, but if I do ever vote again, it will be for the guy who says, “War sucks, and if I’m elected, I’m going to get us the hell out.” I’ve had it with knuckling under in the name of practicality. Voting for Obama was the end of the road. It’s a damn shame that nobody who has a chance of winning can be trusted.


Bernie said...

Snow you have many questions yet I find not one answer in this post. Killing is never an answer by an individual or by military, war is never an answer......the war to end all wars has come and gone and we have been at war ever since. No Snow the people have to take control of their own lives first and foremost, be accountable and responsible, nuture their families, accept all as they are then move on to friends and acquaintences....taking care of their own glass house then branching out to help and encourage others is a start. Through hope and optisim we can begin to heal and fix the wrongs, it is easy to see the negative and all the evils that have been poured upon us but this will not solve the problem....we created it, we solve it one step at a time. It has taken many, many years for these wrongs to accululate and it will take many, many years to right the wrongs but I truly believe it can and will be done if people wake up and begin the good in their own homes and continue to spread it throughout society. We do have some control, and must grow it globaly.....:-) Hugs

Natalie said...

There are many who feel just as disillusioned as you, Snowbrush. Like you said, you can only be responsible for your own actions. It is their responsibility to own their own shit.
Keep throwing starfish back in,there may not be a change today, but I believe that each time one of us oysters agitates against the annoying grain of sand, we make a pearl in the end.

Merry Christmas to you and Peggy.xx

kylie said...

snow, you are sounding frighteningly sane and i would probably agree with you except that if i dismiss humanity so conclusively i will lose all hope and all pleasure in life and i cant do that.

Lydia said...

Amazing post. I am struck by the similarity of your fantasy to tales my husband spins when all riled up about things. How often he has said he would do such-and-such if he was alone, but that he couldn't subject me to the after effects of his actions. I do get it...in that Death Wish was one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen, one I'll never be able to forget. Since my husband had not seen it I rented the DVD some years ago, and then just as I was putting it into the machine I told him that I wasn't sure if he should see it...and he trusted that I may be quite right, and we did not view the film.

I'm so depressed about Copenhagen and the war, yet continue to hang onto a thread of hope in Obama's presidency because that's how I am when I invest so much love into something/someone.

I admire the way your brain examines the drug state! Sorry you are having so much pain and wish you well.

The Blog Fodder said...

This column is one more reason everyone should read your blog and THINK about what you have said. Your clarity of vision is astounding. I don't know either if anything can be changed. All we can do is make the difference we can to those we can. Like your little boy with the stranded starfish.

It is about power, yes, not about money. Money is just to keep score.

But maybe we just have to be happy the electricity works, the lights work, the gas works and the water and sewer works. And that the roads are passable and we have cars to drive on them and food is cheap.

Unknown said...

Sending gentle HUGS to you....and a kick in the ass...why because I can LOL....


Marion said...

Wow, what a brain! I'm impressed by your 'Snow Manifesto', dude. I, too, feel impotent and lost when it comes to our government. It's all a big joke.

Why is Congress staying up late to RUSH passing that 2,000 page healthcare bill which, in all probability, is totally in favor of the drug companies? My husband is on some medications that are $1,000 per bottle for 30 little pills. Luckily, HE has healthcare coverage but I do not. Long story. But I went to get a bottle of generic pain pills filled and they cost $75.00. And with having to pay $80 for a doctor visit monthly to get my ineffective medication, that means I have to pay $155.00 out of my income of -0- just to get some minor pain relief. I have four prescriptions, but can only afford one. It's a crying shame. You know that medications probably costs only a few dollars for the drug companies to produce. There are no laws governing drug company's greed. They are making billions of dollars from the sick/old/weak. I pray there's a particularly painful level of hell for those people.

That is what's wrong with our country, unbridled---GREED. We all know that Obama met secretly with the heads of pharmaceutical companies even before this healthcare debacle started. Ya think they got what they wanted? Hell, yeah! He who has the money gets the presidential meetings. I say us poor middle class slobs are fucked to the max. Even if they do pass the healthcare bill, I'm sure it'll be a total cluster-fuck. My husband is on Medicare---which he paid into for almost 40 years---and they take $150 per month out of his meager SS check for healthcare and medication coverage. It doesn't sound like much, but it's over 15% of his check. Like I said, we're just fucked.

I say we all go the cash way, quit paying taxes and practice civil disobedience. What ever happened to the Thoreau's of this world? Where are the protestors like we had in the 70's? Why are credit card companies getting away with doubling and tripling credit card interest rates even if you have perfect credit? It happened to me last week. I got a letter from my credit card company doubling my interest rate, so I canceled it. They're doing this BEFORE the new laws go into effect, thereby screwing the poor middle class yet again while the government sits by and does nothing. Snow, I vote you lead our peaceful anarchy movement. Only, please, leave your rifle at home. ;-)

Wishing you a speedy recovery, love and peace, my friend. Have a Merry Christmas and keep ranting. We love you!! Blessings!

nollyposh said...

Hmmmm... i'm a bit nervous commenting here less i be whacked ova tha head with some half crazed wit... and i see your point, but what would be the point of a worlde with no challenges Lol!
MeRRy ChrisTMaS to you and the Peggy girrrl <3

Winifred said...

That's a post and a half Snowbrush!

Yes the world's a shitty place but all you can do is what you can. I just keep hoping there's something in that "butterfly effect" theory. Who knows.

Anyway hope the pain subsides and you and Peggy have a lovely Christmas and a pain free year in 2010.

rhymeswithplague said...

Well, I'd say you have the curmudgeon vote in your pocket.

Merry Christmas, by the way!

Strayer said...

Love this post, Snow, even if you are zoning in never never land.

I think about the cat issue, fixing the one around here is tossing a few starfish back. Wish I could throw every starfish back. So delusional I am...

I learned what a joke the justice system is long ago and who it serves. I'd like to see a COPS done arresting white collars and robber barons. I wonder if we give white collar crime the nod because it is hooked somehow with the notion they earned it and the blokes they stole from are little no goods who don't work hard enough. Or is it just because they dress up so nice and pretty? (compared the 7-11 six pack robber, that is)

I wondered why there was not rioting when Enron fell, burning of the building, dragging burning effigy's down the streets. That signaled a point to me where American went numb and lost all passion for right and wrong.

Bernie said...

Hi Snow, just wanted to stop by and let you know I am thinking of you and do hope you are making out okay and not in too much pain.
Wishing you and Peggy a beautiful Christmas and many blessings for a healthy and happy 2010....:-) Hugs

Joe Todd said...

I have often felt about the same way you do concerning the "State of affairs" I really don't think the "robber Barons" are happy people though

A Plain Observer said...

Snow, how can not disagree with anything you say here, except for killing. We can not return wrong with wrong.
It is so very sad and helpless to know the ones in power are not there to help the rest. I see it even in smaller scale in my hometown. The politicians that rule the county, enjoy a salary and do nothing to deserve it. It seems to be a family legacy that is passed from generation to generation.

julie said...

BRAVO Snow!!!
And BRAVO Marion!!
You've said it all...and how I wish it wasn't true. It feels way too late for civil disobedience...social justice where are you?
I don't belong to the NRA, but I have suggested to my husband that he bury guns in the back yard...my government scares me...but I think my complacent country men scare me more.
Wishing you a jolly old Christmas!
Big hugs..julie

Snowbrush said...

When I post such a dismal piece, I never know what to expect, but I have learned that I'm not alone in my appraisals. I am very grateful to all who responded, but I will mostly pose a few questions that came to mind based upon what some of you wrote.

Bernie " war is never an answer...."

What would you do then if your nation was invaded? To say that war is NEVER the answer would seem to imply that all people are basically good and reachable by dialogue and negotiation. I suppose that this is where pacifists are coming from (are you a pacifist?), but to me the thought of doing nothing to defend one's loved ones (if not oneself) from a direct attack is so appalling that I can't begin to understand it.

The blog fodder "But maybe we just have to be happy the electricity works, the lights work, the gas works and the water and sewer works."

Right. Things are seldom if ever SO bad that there are no consolations, and my own outlook changes depending upon what I'm focused on at the moment.

Kylie "i would probably agree with you except that if i dismiss humanity so conclusively i will lose all hope and all pleasure in life and i cant do that."

But, Kylie, my friend, if a conclusion represents your honest conviction about what truth is, how can you refuse to accept that conclusion because it portrays reality in a dismal manner, without surrendering your intellectual integrity in favor of a comforting illusion?

Lydia "Death Wish was one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen"

I understand that Bronson did a whole slew of them over the years, and that he even aged so noticeably in the part that "Saturday Night Live" did one or more comedic pieces in which he was portrayed as a decrepit senior citizen vigilante. I've only seen two, but they were so similar that I didn't care to see any more. I agree, the first one at least was a great movie though.

Just because today "Snow, how can not disagree with anything you say here, except for killing. We can not return wrong with wrong."

But is killing always wrong, or were you referring to my vigilante-style fantasy?

Julie Mitchell " I think my complacent country men scare me more."

BJulie, I often wonder if more evil comes from apathy or from a commitment to the wrong cause. Any thoughts?

Joe Todd " really don't think the "robber Barons" are happy people though"

Well, hell, Joe, I guess they can afford shrinks for that problem, eh? Just kidding you there.

Marion "What ever happened to the Thoreau's of this world?"

He's a favorite writer of mine to be sure, and the most influential philosopher in my life. But, you know, he was as much an oddity in his own time as he would be were he alive today. People haven't gotten worse, I don't think. Do you?

kylie said...

you are right of course......
and i obviously have to account for every word here, must remember that.

i do agree with you that lots of people, lots of the things that happen, are diappointing in the extreme.
i try to balance my cynicism with faith because there are lots of great people madly trying to toss starfish back. they deserve credit for that and i need to not be overwhelmed with the crud of life

All Consuming said...

I, as often is the case, know exactly where you're coming from. Is it partly due to empathy from the huge amount of painkillers I am also on? Well that's certainly true of how you describe your state of mind. I reckon we just have very similar brains to put it simply. I know just what you are saying, I have thought and do similar myself, and that is bearing in mind I try to be as much of a pacifist in my daily life as possible. It doesn't mean I'm heading out with a shotgun to blow out as many of the fat cat bankers who have bled our economy dry, only to be bailed out thanks to our lily-livered government with OUR money, whilst any poor sucker who ends up in debt trying to feed their family goes to jail.But I can see how that can happen, that and alot more. Great post as ever. Michelle xxx

A Plain Observer said...

I am conflicted there, Snow. I believe killing is wrong yet I support the death penalty for those who abuse children.

Renee said...

You know that you are a complete genius right?

This was some of the best writing I have had the good fortune to read in a very long time.

I don't know what is in those pills and yes you may be living in the shadowlands, but nothing is wrong with your mind.

By the way I laughed at you and the comment on girlish figure as I was joking and obviously couldn't give two shits about it.

Have a merry Christmas dear friend. And give Peggy a kiss under some mistletoe.

Love Renee xoxo

Snowbrush said...

Kylie "i obviously have to account for every word here, must remember that."

You're an imp! You're horrible and awful and terrible for making out like I'm some tediously corrective school marm when you know darn good and well that my question had substance. Shame, shame, shame! Oh but how I enjoy you!

How one first seeks and later identifies the truth is no piddling matter. I think of truth primarily in descriptive terms, "Turtles have shells," for example. Pragmatists (of which I think you are one) tend to think of truth as whatever yields a desired result. By my standards, this runs the risk of reducing truth to unsubstantiated subjectivity. For example, if you pray for rain ten times, and each time it rains the next day, you might conclude that prayers for rain--at least your prayers for rain--work. But then I must admit that I actually know little about philosophical pragmatism for the simple reason that my early investigations into it left me so unimpressed that I didn't delve further. I think that, perhaps, pragmatists don't believe that truth even exists on an objective level.

Renee "I laughed at...the comment on girlish figure as I was joking and obviously couldn't give two shits about it."


kylie said...

my favourite person in the whole world is like an overcorrective school marm and if you make me think of him it is a great compliment.
i believe there are total and absolute objective truths but i doubt i can articulate it further at this point.
i suppose i am, in essence, a pragmatist but i dont know if i am a philosophical pragmatist.....

i get the feeling we'll talk more

the imp

kylie said...

what do you look like in your school marm clothes, by the way?

my schoolgirl pigtails are awesome

rhymeswithplague said...

Turtles also taste great in soup with a little sherry.

Is that truth or unsubstantiated subjectivity?

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Snow, much to think about here. You are a fascinating writer.

KC said...

Glad you liked my pics Snow. I hope the New Year is painfree and peaceful for you. Best wishes to Peg and the dogs too. KC

Crazed Nitwit said...

I don't know if these are drug fueled ramblings or the way you usually think but I find myself drawn to your conclusions. Maybe because I thought the exact same thing about the Peace through war bullshit speech in Norway. I had truly hoped Obama was different. My mouth is filled with sour bitter ineviability.

I am an idealist. I try to be cynical but a teeny piece of hope always lingers in my heart.

I like writers who make me think. Thanks for not being some moron of the ME generation. I'm between a baby boomer and GenX born in 1962.

"Generation entitled" are what my children are, though no teaching by me. There are so many events, people, places that are more important than Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reminding me I have a brain(with something besides nursing theory in it).

The-Fire-Olympus said...

I can honestly relate to this.
I have so many fantasies about making the world a better place and
wishing people to be intelligent but, I know it will never happen

Rob-bear said...

"I’ve got insurance, so why should I care about you, loser?”

This is where the "do your own thing" of the 1960s has brought us, Snow.

"Greed is good." "It's all about me." Right? Wrong! It's all about US — you, and me, and everybody else together. I didn't believe the self-centredness of the 60s back then; I don't believe in it now. It is so totally destructive of community.

Whether it's a school in Afghanistan or a nation like the United States, the same thing holds true — hard to build, easy to destroy.

The real irony is that much of the money the U.S. has borrowed is from China. How about a Chinese takeover of the U.S., when America defaults on it payments? How good is your Chinese, Snow?