Thursday, February 15, 2007

My further two cents

Blog wars are all about power. That's the only reason people invest so much personal energy in them. Bill Donahue is a despised figure because of what he represents and how he represents it. More than that, he's a despised figure because he wields power. Not much, really, but enough to get two bloggers fired. Nobody really cared about the insane ideas of Timothy McVeigh until he wielded enough power to invest them with real damage. Of course, Donahue is not McVeigh, and Marcotte and McEwan are not victims of a bombing. But they have generated real emotions in left blogistan for much the same reasons: they are victims of reprehensible individuals who still manage to have enough authority to make things happen in the "real world." Marcotte and McEwan lost jobs in meatspace. They didn't get flamed, suffer server attacks, or even lose advertisers at their blog: they lost jobs. Why does that matter to anyone else in left blogistan, especially people who know them largely because of their blogs?

Power. Bill Donahue has proven he has it. And many of us in left blogistan don't like what Bill Donahue advocates, what he stands for, and the fact that he is, if only occassionally, effective. But he has power, and we don't. And we resent the hell out of that. It's so unfair!

So the animosity is because he can do something we can't: he can make things happen. But the truth is, we are not in control, and we are all beholden to someone else. Somebody writes your paycheck, whether it's an individual, a corporation, an institution, a congregation, or just the customers of your mom & pop shoppe. We all depend on others for our livelihood, and our "rugged American individualism" teaches us to dislike that, at some level. We all want to imagine that we're the hero of our own action movie, that we're "Dirty Harry," the no-nonsense individual who doesn't play by the rules because there are bad guys to route and we have to fight on their terms in order to win. Except the only thing that happens when you fight "on their terms" is that you become a criminal, too. Or, as the saying goes, if you're gonna wrestle with pigs, you're just gonna get dirty.

So Marcotte and McEwan lose because they said the same things other people said, and that's not fair! Or they lose because Donahue has power they don't have. Either way, it's about power.

Perhaps it's the influence of Voltaire on me. But Candide's advice, after his picaresque adventures, still seems right to me, if only because it reflects the wisdom of the Desert Fathers: "We must tend our own garden." Not the advice political activists want to hear, but when I reflect that Reinhold Niebuhr ended his days lamenting the return of the Republicans to the White House, I can only consider: what else do you expect in politics? It is, after all, about nothing but power. And power simply is not the ultimate.

Powerlessness, is.

And in this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, and to my mind's eye it was as round as any ball. I looked at it and thought, "What can this be?" And the answer came to me, "It is all that is made." I wondered how it could last, for it was so small that I thought it might suddenly disappear. And the answer to my mind was, "It lasts and will last forever because God loves it; and in the same way everything exists through the love of God." In this little thing I saw three attributes: that first is that God made it, the second is that he loves it, the third is that God cares for it. But what todes that mean to me? Truly, the maker, the lover, the carer; for until I become one substance with him, I can never have love, rest, nor true bliss; that is to say, until I am so bound to him that there may be no created thing between my God and me. And who shall do this deed? Truly, himself, by his mercy and his grace, for he has made me and blessedly restored me to that end.
--Julian of Norwich

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