morticia7 at juno.com morticia7 at juno.com
Thu Jun 17 13:51:11 EDT 2010

We all know what Percys thoughts were about the impending, if not
exhilarating doom of a fast-approaching hurricane on its way to
ravage the Gulf Coast. I am wondering what his thoughts might be about
the slowly encroaching destruction upon the shores of the Gulf Coast
today from millions of gallons of crude oil, including, directly in the
path, Louisiana. Presumably, one can reason there are no Hotel Oil
Parties being planned or staged (though you can imagine parties might
include abundant cases of Fosters Beer Oil Cans and frequent and
plentiful use of Motor Oil Shots knocked back neat...see enticing
recipe below).
The potential for Oil Parties aside, I wonder how Percy might have
used the present human-made catastrophe as an inspired metaphor for
representing the darker side of human intentions and fallibilities, if
not humanitys tendency toward its own self-destruction, and the world.
For instance, how could such a disaster, had it occurred in Percys
time, been useful in the imagery of Love in the Ruins, Lancelot, or
Thanatos Syndrome? Which might have provided the best forum for that
exploration? I would think Percy also would have a very personal
response to the crisis as one who lived in Covington, La, and so,
perhaps less literarily, might he have something to say, in an essay
for example, about the motivations and values of trans-nationals such
as BP in their influence and impact upon the destinies of so many as
the present situation so amply demonstrates?
Anyone have any responses or thoughts to add to this important current
topic, hopefully not crudely expressed?
</fontfamily>Sickness unto death.
I think Percy would zero in upon the BP spill as a metaphor for
original sin.  Oil is always seeping into the Gulf.  We went and let a
largely unregulated company drill a huge hole thinking they would
follow their own self-interest.  They didn't.
Once blood - or oil - is spilled, you can't get it back in the bottle. 
That's entropy for you.  It diffuses out into the environment.
On the night the health care bill passed, I gave serious thought to
writing a post here about the death of the South.  I believe it
represented the high water mark of a political realignment dating back
to Nixon's Southern strategy in his 1968 appeal to Segregationists
disaffected with the civil rights movement.  For the last forty years,
the Republicans have cultivated a paranoia about Federal action. 
Remember when Reagan told us government wasn't the solution to any
problem, it was the problem?
During the March health care debate the "paranoid style" (Hofstadter's
term) reached a zenith not seen since the civil rights movement.  It
was almost identical to rhetoric the white sovereignty commissions and
citizenship councils used during the 1960s. My parents noticed this as
well.  It was like the children and grandchildren of hard core
Democratic segregationists had grown up around the anti-Federal
paranoia, moved into the Republican column, forgotten the racism
involved but continued to rant and rave with it in their family blood.
Obama was accused of thwarting democracy and being fascist - because
the bill passed with majority votes in both houses of Congress.  Sarah
Palin's assertion of a death panel in the bill was knee deep in
psychological projection.  Glenn Beck's propaganda ranted about FEMA
death camps where Obama enemies would be gassed.  I guess he forgot
about the part where George Bush rounded up Katrina survivors into FEMA
trailer camps and gassed them with formaldehyde.  It ain't exactly
Zyklon B but it was a gas and it was a trailer camp.
Anybody notice the ironies piling up around here?
I think Percy would have noticed.  I think irony is God's way of
telling us to pay attention; maybe we've screwed up something.  Only a
certain personality type with a flat perspective on the world could
miss so much irony so often.  I think maybe this is why Percy was drawn
to the ideological blindness of the Nazis as a metaphor.
With the oil spill, we have yet another disaster caused by the
inability of government to protect us.  It's not that government can't
do it.  Government has been prevented from acting.  In this case, the
MMS has - for years - inadequately overseen offshore drilling so as not
to inconvenience campaign contributors.  It's an effect of not having
publicly funded campaigns.
So what does the Supreme Court do?
It dismantles what few controls we have on campaign spending.
In a little-watched case on elected state judges, the Supreme Court
declared that Massey Energy's multimillion dollar contribution to a
candidate running against the campaign of a judge hearing the case was
not enough to sway the outcome of the case.  The judge they targeted
lost and the new judge came in and ruled in favor of Massey Energy on a
potentially very costly suit.  Remember the Massey coal mine disaster? 
That happened this year.
The Supreme Court also dismantled all limits on corporate political
spending in the _Citizen's United_ (while still allowing said
corporations to slander anybody they'd like; the _Sullivan_ case makes
it practically impossible for public figures to sue people who libel or
slander them).  I wrote comments on this at the New York Times website,
if you're interested.  The strict interpretationists on the Court
concluded that corporations had to be treated as persons - despite the
fact that nowhere in the constitution are corporations equated with
individuals.  At the time the constitution was ratified corporations
were even limited to a set number of years' existence.  (I guess if the
founding fathers were alive today they'd all be convicted of mass
Is it me or in the end are all literalists revealed as fundamentally
In the most recent incident, the court issued a stay against
public-funded political campaigns in Arizona.  I think they've
concluded campaign fairness tramples on the natural rights of rich
people to spend their money lying about anybody anyway they'd like.
Time and again, this court - and the right in general - have
increasingly equated government action to redress economic injustices
with per se unconstitutional deprivations of liberty.  If a guy lies to
you and steals your money and you try to get it back - well, it was
stolen fair and square.  What Madison described in Federalist #10 as a
perfectly legitimate need for government to control the pernicious
"effects of faction" is seen more and more as trampling on basic rights
*per se*.  This interpretation is something far different than the
constitutional authors intended. 
Liberty, which flows from God under natural law, is both the freedom to
do something and the obligation to do it well on behalf of others in
your community.  The freedom to speak is also the obligation to speak
truthfully.  When someone supplies you with bad information, they are
oppressing your freedom of speech because it is also the freedom *to
hear*.  A car salesman is stealing money when he rolls back the
odometer on a used car he sells.  Fox News is stealing votes when it
lies about basic political facts.  It does this to keep you from having
the appropriate information to make a rational decision.
Free markets don't work when economic actors are allowed to supply bad
information.  Markets have to be transparent.  These markets also
require property rights which require courts which require taxes and
effective governments to run them.  Free markets don't work when
certain actors can steal from you - like BP destroying your fishing
stock with an oil spill.  Yet contemporary right wing ideology equates
all government action with the original sin of the Civil War while all
private market action is assigned limitless virtue.  In this distorted
lens, all government action to address economic injustice takes on the
taint of this original sin of Abraham Lincoln.
We can't take over failing banks because that's interfering with the
private market.  Yet we can't regulate the banks either because markets
are perfect and the government will only screw it up.  This type of
thinking leads the neoclassical economists to conclude that all
unemployment is voluntary.  After all, markets are perfect and actors
are all rational.  If they don't have jobs, they must not want them.
This is the kind of lunacy you come to when you have no theory of fraud
(outside of government action).  Concluding that man is always a saint
in his free market state really hamstrings your thought processes. 
This is something the "libertarian" types don't understand.  You can't
simply mutilate liberty into a set of individual freedoms.  It's not
divorced from civic virtue in a republic.  They are the same.  You have
freedoms *and* you have obligations.
You see this pathology in the deluded views expressed by Rand Paul. 
Paul thinks it's somehow permissible to be against racial
discrimination but to allow businesses to continue to discriminate
against blacks.  He thinks forcing racists to sell food to black people
is an intrusion on private enterprise - which is just unacceptable to
his libertarian views in any terms.
But it's the government's job to regulate the value of money.  If the
value of money changes simply because of the color of the hand holding
it, then government has failed at a very basic economic task -
regulation of the money supply, fixing the value of the dollar.
We see this situation with the oil spill.  Like the New Orleans levee
failure in 2005, the spill was caused by lax regulation, too few
inspectors and too little forward planning.  *Less* government isn't
going to fix anything now and it certainly won't stop future disasters.
Yet even before we know what went wrong in the first place, every
Republican governor in the Gulf states is pounding the table for an
immediate return to drilling.  And they're still campaigning against
stricter carbon taxes and more environmental standards.
It's ironic.  The Republican governors campaign for less federal
government action and when Obama finally gives them exactly what they
asked for, they're furious at him. 
For many of these problems, government is the one actor that could make
a difference in our lives and yet we keep shooting it in the foot and
wondering why it limps.
What was Walk Kelly's old saying?  "We have met the enemy and he is
us?"  How's that for your self-destruction, Henry? 
The government is *us*.  *We* go to the polls and constitute it.  This
is us running ourselves down.
I don't think government can make man perfect or bring about Heaven on
Earth but I do think government can make it easier to behave well and
harder to behave poorly.  There are worlds of difference between
America and Haiti and much of this has to do with the pragmatic
political philosophy of American government.  Lately some of us seem to
have abandoned that heritage from the Enlightenment.
The founding fathers thought man was a sinner and rather than try to
perfect him, government had to deal with the cards it was dealt and
make the best of it.  Instead, the right has recast homo economicus as
perfect in every way.  Unfettered capitalism is our new utopia and it
perfects man after all.
How utterly French of you, Newt.
Isn't utopia also the goal of Bin Laden?
I think if you have to cling to any idea as infallible, best cling to
that of our own fallibility. 
I feel horrible for a lot of people in the disaster zone (which is
where I'll wind up if Baton Rouge is hit by another hurricane).  Those
people are about to suffer through the same autoimmune problems I have.
Mercury and some of these complex hydrocarbons detoxify through and
clog up some of the same pathways in the body with many of the same
effects.  Gulf War Syndrome for all and all a good night.  (With a side
of Pelagianism too, perhaps?)
If only there were heavy sodium in them thar' salt domes...
$653/Month for $150,000 Mortgage!
Free Quotes. No SSN or Credit Check.

More information about the Percy-L mailing list