Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mind's Eye Re: Cops and robbers

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats' "Second Coming" is nearly 100 years old now, written in the immediate aftermath of WWI and in the middle of a six year convulsive period (1916-1922) which led to Irish independence. I've read somewhere that it's one of the most quoted poems in the English language - the "rough beast [...] slouching towards Bethlehem to be born" seems to ring all kinds of bells. Reading your latest post, Neil, brought the first verse immediately to my mind.

Even data has problems; what data do you collect (though this problem is solved if you collect everything about everything, which is now the normal digital standard, from Google to the NSA), more importantly, what criterea do you use to sort it - or, put more contemporarily, what algorithms do you use to mine it?

To quote another fellow Irishman, Oscar Wilde has a character in "Earnest" observe; "The truth is rarely pure and never simple." In our fractured post-modernist realities, truth has become irrelevant. You have your truth, I have mine, the Salafist living across the road from me has another, the neo-Nazi down the street yet another. In the social media the extremists from both sides shout without listening and any nuanced and more complex analysis is, at best, ignored, more frequently instrumentalised by the one or other extreme.

The recent British election campaign has shown that neither of the putative Prime Ministers wants to say anything real about any serious issue, for fear of alienating potential supporters. They've both been trying to learn from the doyenne of no-speak, Angela Merkel here in Germany, whose only principle is to say as little as possible while, at the same time, mastering the art of producing anodyne balm for the insecure, self-righteous petit bourgeois soul of the German majority.

The first season of The Wire (in my view one of the best series TV has ever produced) will be 13 years old next month. One of the frightening things about Baltimore is that the city and US society seem to have learned exactly nothing from David Simon's work. 

"Il faut cultiver notre jardin," Voltaire's Candide increasingly seems to me to have got it right. As you say, the temptation to retreat to an ivory tower, having secured - as far as possible - the necessities of basic living, is almost overwhelming. 

And yet ... and yet ...

Maybe all we can do is just not give up, try to cultivate decency and humanity and openness and listening to each other in our own lives and in the small islands of dignity we can discover in our ordinary lives. And protest in our own little ways against the lies, and oversimplifications, and hypocrisy, and bigotry. Shout out. And howl ...

   I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
   dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
   angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night ...

Am Montag, 4. Mai 2015 12:59:15 UTC+2 schrieb Molly:
The big ongoing news here in the states is the rash of clash between demonstrators and police. The demonstrations are (supposedly) brought on by the ever growing voice against the use of excessive force by police. It is such a complex issue, and the demonstrations themselves are not a simple problem.

Since living in Detroit I've heard many storied about how the riots of 1967 altered the course of history for the city, and changed individual lives forever. Most recently, I cried like a baby listening to the eulogy of a fine man given my his loving wife, my friend. He was a catholic priest at the time, and she a Detroit resident. He left the priesthood afterward and they married a couple of years later. There were over 40 priests at the services, three from Rome officiated the funeral mass. This guy was on the fast track to Cardinal when the riots shook his very core and changed his value system forever.

It gets me thinking about the very nature of the waves of demonstrations. In the sixties, of course, they were spurred by civil rights issues, Then the war in Vietnam (four dead in Ohio). Now it seems, in the age of transparency, the relationship between law enforcement and the criminals they deter (treatment during the time of arrest.) Complicated and exacerbated by the new "protest for hire" gang, the same well funded group that travels the US heightening racial tension (Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson.) Baltimore's riots had a big gang problem that hasn't been seen yet, the street gangs hoping on board in an organized way to conduct criminal activity in the chaos. Something's gotta give.

Certainly, the police methods employed in some metropolitan cities should be eliminated and cleaned up. But the police have to be able to defend themselves and do their job (which should be protecting and serving the public.) Where any of that goes off the rail is where it gets murky.

When we can't have civil unrest without it being corrupted by monied interests looking to make things worse, there is little hope for societal change. This may be the reason for the current chaos. Follow the money.


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