By Brian George
Crusade of the Subcontractors
Said William Carlos Williams, "The pure products of America go crazy." Traditions divide. History was bunk—a nightmare from which we alone with all of our true values had escaped. Dreams that have only half emerged from the nonexistent unite us. No roots connect us to a natural location. A moment's inattention has removed our trust in the permanence of the material object. An off-course plane, a box cutter to the neck can result in the destruction of the World Trade Towers. Paranoia invades the body politic like a virus.
Flat Earth patriots make haste to burn the Bill of Rights on the altar of the counterrevolution. Dead heroes are loaded into transfer tubes. Collateral damage corrects the balance of deception in Iraq.
Such drama attends the crusade of the subcontractors of Halliburton! Human capital helps to grow the technology of the organ harvest. Death gives meaning to the disaffected. There is no bread left at the circus, and there does not need to be any. Repetition turns the Big Lie into truth. Chaos integrates the collective unconscious. It appears that there are those who hate us for our universal values. Are the ignorant jealous of our wealth and beauty, or do evildoers hate us just because we are good? They should leave us in peace to act on our vision of the future—if we have one, and whatever that might be. This assumes too that the individual can be proven to exist, that we know what freedom is for, that a word does not mean its opposite, and that each self can articulate its purpose to the other. There is a hunger in the heart for some larger structure of shared meaning that cannot be micromanaged by the media. It does not respond to myths of infantile omnipotence.
Meaning need not be imposed by fiat from above. Instead we should look more closely at the subtext of our daily actions. Small leads to big; the personal becomes the political, once again. Destruction introduces the common wisdom to its shadow; the newly transparent body becomes a template for the city. Memory becomes an attribute of space, as correspondences subvert the spell of repressive desublimation, in turn prompting the oppressor to exhale a sigh of relief. "Only connect," said E.M. Forster. Reports of the death of Social Darwinism have not been greatly exaggerated. The future world is waiting for the past to arrive; it just hasn't done so yet, having taken a 5,125 year detour. Alternatives to fear grow. A symbol invites the inanimate object to dance. Being present is the key that opens the locked door to the macrocosm. Our values exist; we do not need to create them. Shared goals ask for permission to be conscious. How does this relate to “Habits of the Heart”, and to our view of the four subjects of the study?
Like many of us, the authors argue, these four individuals are much better at getting what they want than at determining what it is they should want. They are even less prepared when it comes to offering an interpretation of the American Dream—which has traditionally been understood as a dream of "freedom from" rather than "freedom to." Centuries of struggle have brought us to this place. Is the ultimate goal of freedom only for each individual to do his or her own thing?
(Illustration: Hans Glaser, 1561 battle of UFOs over Nuremberg)