Saturday, August 28, 2010

'I Decline to Accept the End of Man'

by Len Hart, the Existentialist Cowboy

We look back at New Orleans recalling Katrina and more recently the reckless disregard shown the Gulf of Mexico by BP, a 'person' by SCOTUS reckoning. By going unpunished, BP proved SCOTUS to be as wrong as they are either stupid or crooked or both.

That --of course --is the difference. That is why 'corporations' are not people and never will be people however absurdly SCOTUS may decree it. People are charged, arrested and tried for crimes. But corporations have been put above the law. To call them 'people' is beyond stupid; it is unconscionable, wrong and wrong-headed. It is a lasting testament to the failure of American education that SCOTUS has apparently gotten away with it.

SCOTUS has proven itself oblivious to truth, logic or common sense. Five wing nuts on that court have established a body of odious 'case law' that not only makes of people mere legal abstractions; it robs us of what it means to be human. In doing so, SCOTUS has guaranteed that it will play its utterly dishonorable role in many catastrophes yet to play out. Bertolt Brecht had people like SCOTUS in mind when he wrote: "A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook!" Five ideologues on the 'high court' are crooks! Those five ideologues are either crooks or idiots --possibly both.

It was not so long ago that yet another Gulf disaster was unfolding amid justified fears that it would reach biblical proportions. But this article is not about BP nor the Gulf though BP is all but off the hook and the Gulf seems unlikely to return to normal in our lifetimes --if ever!

In terms of the age of the universe some 251 million years ago is just a recent event. It was then --the so-called Permian extinction --that a 'mammoth undersea methane bubble' literally burst destroying in the process some 95 percent of all life on Earth, primarily by poisoning the atmosphere. It was the greatest mass extinction in world history.

I am reminded at these critical junctures of William Faulkner who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950, a time in which we rightly feared the imminent end of earth and mankind by way of a Nuclear Holocaust.
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

--William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, Sweden, December 10, 1950

William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Acceptance s Speech, 1950

1950 was also the year that the great Philosopher Bertrand Russell was honored.


Bertrand Russell: Nobel Prize Acceptance, 1950

We simply cannot and must not tolerate the proliferation of the panoply of horrendous and environmentally disastrous weapons of war. These weapons cannot and will not be confined to battlefields. Indeed, the battlefield itself has become any target -military or civilian -that murderous military militants can target globally. This level of mass and official psychopathy is untenable, completely unacceptable. We must will ourselves to become sane! Only a global revolution will save us. The question is: how does one wage a war against these monsters and win?

I would hope that it is yet too early to search out that 'last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening' from which to view that last blood red sunset. Nevertheless, it must be clearly understood that we simply cannot tolerate another BP disaster. As we write and debate, the margin for error declines in an ever steeper curve. At some point on that curve, a point that is yet unknown, we may never return.

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