The following is absolutely, 100% true: Dale Lonagan is back in the news, and the usual ‘Cult Leader or Visionary of The Modern Age?’ rumors have resurfaced. I thought I’d add some color to this barely sketched tale of peace and progress (how did The Human Pagoda come to be)?
The backstory (indoor gamin): Dale Lonagan is the illegitimate child of an international bureaucrat and the climate change journalist sent to cover him. Like so many orphans, Dale’s early life is one of hardship. He was abandoned and neglected, but fortunately for humanity, he was cast adrift within the bosom of collective progress.
The boy learned to survive within the corridors of diffuse economic and unelected bureaucratic power, selling stolen hand-soap at the bathrooms and cafeterias of 405 E. 42nd St.
‘O Global child, brilliant and wild, Earth calls before the Fall‘
Vincent van Gogh [Public domain]
For years, the boy knew only the touch of linoleum and cold marble, drifting off to sleep to the soft sursurrations of motions passing the floor. How such bureaucratese might have nested in his brain is anyone’s guess, but I once heard him recite nineteen climate resolutions consecutively from memory.
***How the outside world may have looked to a young wharf child, peering out from within The International Style:
‘I’d just grab the gallon bags off a the truck at the loading docks. The 10 gallons were bigger than my head. I’d stash ’em alongside my bed (a bed made of shredded U.N. resolutions). I slept myself the world.’
Enter Marine Stroop-Gruyere, Ambassador Minister Undersecretary for the Culture Of Peace. This committed global citizen noticed a young boy darting and wrapping himself awkwardly within a row of global flags.
He wore no socks, nor shoes, and the flags seemed to keep him warm.
After months of debates within her own heart and mind, she took action. She coaxed the young savage from a translator’s booth with morsels of locally sourced honey graham crackers sold for $13.99 a package. She took young Dale to her bosom. Stroop-Gruyere enrolled Dale in the United Nations Tour Guide Program.
After some months, Dale blossomed, soon becoming the youngest ‘Ambassador to The Public‘ in the history of the institution.
Year after year, watching the gavels lift and drop, seeing the commmittees come and go, a long view developed within this growing visionary leader’s heart and mind. Dale began to see that his thoughts, words and actions could make a difference.
‘In the Letter of Commitment, the Foundation staff and the Board pledged action in response to the June Community Letter’s call for us to become proactively antiracist. The Foundation is grateful to these poetry communities for continuing to hold it accountable, as it speaks to a belief in the capacity for change. The Foundation holds itself accountable as well, and has begun to move forward with short- and long-term equity efforts.‘
Such bad use of language!
Blink if you can hear me.
The money which someone earned in the world, often passed down to those who didn’t earn the money, is further donated to those who haven’t earned the respect of poets. Often, the support a decent poet needs to get better is diverted to the loudest voices in the organization and wasteful, bureauratic, mastubatory ends.
I think the best response is just posting good poetry. Maybe it strikes you, maybe it doesn’t.
‘Elizabeth Alexander never expected to go into philanthropy. Now she’s in her third year as the president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the largest supporter of the humanities and the arts in the U.S., where she’s quickly applied her vision to foster a more just society.’
‘There, she co-designed the Art for Justice Fund—an initiative that uses art and advocacy to address the crisis of mass incarceration—and guided the organization in examining how the arts and visual storytelling can empower communities.’
I like the idea that poems are actually not supposed to engage you in direct action, neither political, nor personal. They usually take some work to understand, but they can come alive on the tongue and live like wisdom in the brain for years.
Kirsch was not so impressed with the 2009 inauguration ceremony nor Elizabeth Alexander’s use of poetry to commerorate political power:
‘In our democratic age, however, poets have always had scruples about exalting leaders in verse. Since the French Revolution, there have been great public poems in English, but almost no great official poems. For modern lyric poets, whose first obligation is to the truth of their own experience, it has only been possible to write well on public themes when the public intersects, or interferes, with that experience–when history usurps privacy.’
‘In “Sea Change,” Graham becomes Prospero, casting spells by spelling out her thoughts to merge with ours, and with the voices of the elements. The result is a mingling of perceptions rather than a broadcasting of opinions. Instead of analysis, the poems encourage emotional involvement with the drastic changes overwhelming us, overwhelming the planet.’
‘Strengths and weaknesses, flows and ebbs, yet every poem in “Sea Change” bears memorable lines, with almost haunting (if we truly have but 10 years to “fix” global warming) images of flora and fauna under siege. Jorie Graham has composed a swan song for Earth.’
And still also more on institutional capture and old piles of money, as posted:
‘Ken Stern knows an awful lot about nonprofits, having spent the better part of a decade as chief operating officer, then president of NPR, one of the best-known, and controversial, nonprofits in America.’
Charity has limits.
This blog likes to keep an eye on NPR, as they’re a child of the 60’s, and but for the work of LBJ’s Great Society lobbying to include ‘radio’ in the Public Television Act of 1967, they might not be around. Many NPR stories, in reaching out to the wider world, often return to the touchstones of feminism, environmentalism and some form of diversity multiculturalism. Amidst high standards for journalism and production values lies the tendency towards positive definitions of equality, justice and peace. They tend to assume their ideals are your ideals as they filter new input from the world.
In turn, many feminists, environmentalists, and multiculturalists/activists rely on foundation money and/or private donations, and/or public institutions, for survival. They aim for broad definitions of the public good, and seek to influence both the culture and political outcomes.
Everyone’s starting a non-profit these days:
‘The ability to survive, even thrive, with programs that have been proven not to work is just one of the many oddities ‘With Charity for All’ documents in the topsy-turvy, misunderstood, and mostly ignored world of nonprofits’
Non-profits have become big business, partially following the ‘greatness model’ that worked so well for the boomers, when the getting was good. Unfortunately, there are limits to any model, and we’ve got serious economic issues and a lot of political dysfunction. The money has to come from somewhere.
‘To clean up the messy nonprofit landscape, Stern offers some suggestions that are sure to cause concern in some nonprofit quarters, including increased government oversight, increasing the application fee to cover the cost of better IRS review and, most radical of all, putting a life span on the charitable status afforded nonprofits, then requiring a renewal after a certain period of time (maybe 10 years). It’s an admirable goal, but in a sector where the stated goal of private foundations is self-preservation and “once a charity; always a charity,” is the mantra, it ain’t gonna happen. Stern knows this, of course, but it doesn’t stop him from asking this and many other valid questions about a sector that is loath to engage in self-evaluation’
It may be as simple as following the money.
On Stern’s third point, putting a life span on the charitable status afforded nonprofits, Stern might agree with David Horowitz, of all people. He’s a red-diaper baby, an ex-Marxist activist cum anti-Leftist, anti-Communist crusader. Making foundations and constantly agitating is what he knows how to do.
Horowitz argues that such foundations as Ford (which donates to NPR) have become vehicles for the interests of political activists, portraying the matter of as a fight between capitalism/anti-capitalism and/or socialism. He mentions the Tides foundation here. They are big money, he points out, and Obama’s political career was largely made possible by activist political organization, and the money and manpower behind them:
Stern and Horowitz potentially agreeing on some regulation of non-profits makes for strange bedfellows. Obama, true to form, was seeking a permanent form of activism. Activists, and the political idealists with whom they often find common cause, often don’t produce anything of value independently, and must rely upon existing institutions for their support.
It’s worth thinking about who wants to be in charge, and why, and what that means for everyone else. Following the money never hurts, and it’s a necessary evil, just a politics is. If you tend to agree with the ideals, you tend to focus on the sausage, not how it’s getting made.
This blog wants to focus on what keeps our society open, healthy and dynamic, and what maintains our political and economic freedoms. The pie ought to be growing.
‘Berlin’s coinage of 1973 is not even the first minting of the expression in English, since the term ‘Counter-Enlightenment’ appears fifteen years earlier in William Barrett’s Irrantional Man, where he states, not without some justice, that ‘Existentialism is the counter-Enlightenment come at last to philosophical expression’.
Such antipodal movement between reason enthroned and some of anti-reason’s shrines is likely going to keep influencing all of our lives for some time.
Here’s a quote from Kelley Ross, highlighting some of the clear dead-ends and unworkable ideologies that have come out of the Enlightenment, and which have crushed individuals underfoot but still generate loyal sympathies and continue living on in various forms, finding some traction in the modern/postmodern malaise:
‘In addition to these legal and institutional usurpations of liberty, the attacks on individualism itself by socialism and communism have continued under the guise of “communitarianism,” and trendy thinkers now like to say that only as much freedom as “possible” should be allowed given the fundamental priority of the state, of “society as a collective unit” (they know that they will sound like Nazis if they start talking about “the state,” so they say “society” instead). It is not, indeed, that freedom must never be abridged, but it is a very different matter to see this as a choice by necessity in a moral dilemma rather than as an unproblematic pursuit of a fundamental “collective” good. If the abstract entity (the “state,” “society,” or the “collective”) has the moral priority, then the even permanent abridgment of any amount of freedom is no moral wrong. What the state giveth, the state taketh away.’
Something I like to keep in mind: Many people, in fact, most people, haven’t really thought through the consequences of what changing a particular rule and/or law will have beyond their own narrower interests. It’s rare that a particular injustice, the facts on the ground, and some moral and presumed universal claim align, thus requiring very important change.
In the public square and the marketplace, too, simple ignorance is often the rule, not the exception. Genuine truths usually come bundled with self-interest, financial interest, and groups of people often reinforcing their own pre-held beliefs, opinions, convictions and let’s not forget: A required common enemy to define themselves against. There’s a lot of preening and in-group/out-group issues constantly going on.
For those who didn’t make it through, and those who did, and those who have worked every day to make it better…
Here’s a video of the memorial at night, from some number of years ago. You can look into those holes, the water flowing down and away. You can also be with everyone else for a moment, looking at the beauty around you; the bustling city.
***At this point, with freedom extended as it is, and similar logic followed as it has been, there’s little to agree upon. Once a matter becomes public, squabbling factions and rival coalitions, along with their respective politicians, claim authority.
In my view, once key pieces of honor, duty, and common-sense are removed, confusion tends to reign. Genuine leadership is hard to come-by. Getting good people, and the good in people, to the public square becomes a challenge.
Via a reader: John Searle on The Philosophy Of Language as part of Bryan Magee’s series:
It’s always a pleasure to observe someone with deep understanding explain a subject clearly.
There’s some interesting discussion on modernism and postmodernism too, or the tendency for the ‘moderns’ to focus on language itself as a problem to be re-examined and possibly solved, or the study of linguistics to be put upon a foundation similar to that of many sciences.
As we’ve seen in the arts, the poem, a novel, the very written words themselves can become subjects which poets, novelists, and writers examine, doubt, and in some cases ‘deconstruct.’
As to that tribe in South America, cited as evidence against Chomsky’s claims of necessary recursion and the existence of a universal grammar, Searle has some things to say in the interview below.
‘But evidence has overtaken Chomsky’s theory, which has been inching toward a slow death for years. It is dying so slowly because, as physicist Max Planck once noted, older scholars tend to hang on to the old ways: “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”
For what it’s worth, in my travels, I often find people who believe ‘inequality’ to be a social or moral harm, to also find ‘equality’ to be a social and moral good, and I’m curious as to how they arrived at such a position.
What does ‘equality’ mean, exactly?
In my experience, people can be wildly unequal in terms of physical and mental abilities, innate capacities and learned skills, life experiences, love and relationship goals, drive and ambition, and of course, pure luck.
We’ve all had some good times, some hard times, some things we’ve fought hard for, sacrificed for, and made a central part of our lives.
Am I gonna make it? How can I be better to someone I love? Is what I’m doing with my time worthwhile?
I generally agree with equality under the law as far as the equality of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ goes, but once I start to hear ‘equality’ as an abstract list of ‘rights’, human and otherwise, I find myself occupying a position of skepticism and doubt.
How much equality is enough, exactly?
‘Over 11 percent of Americans will be among the top 1 percent of income-earners (people making a minimum of $332,000 per year) for at least one year in their lives. 94 percent of the Americans who join the top 1 percent group will keep that status for only one year.’
It seems to me that economic mobility and opportunity is one of the greatest strengths and cherished inheritances we share as Americans.
We don’t have to build around the ruins of monarchy, aristocracy, feudal landownership and fixed classes as found in most of Old Europe. Our founders set us on a glide-path out of such constraints, with a lot of foresight and wisdom.
‘Moreover, the factors that explain higher household incomes among Americans are not fixed over a lifetime, and they are to some degree a matter of personal decisions, which means that people are not forced to remain in one income bracket for their whole lives. American households with higher than average incomes tend to be households where the members are well-educated, in their prime earning years (between the ages of 35 and 64), working full-time, and are in stable marriages. Households with lower than average incomes tend to be households where the members are less-educated, outside their prime earning years, unemployed or working only part-time, and they are likely to be unmarried.’
‘…there is the basic truth that technology and globalization give greater scope to those with extraordinary entrepreneurial ability, luck, or managerial skill. Think about the contrast between George Eastman, who pioneered fundamental innovations in photography, and Steve Jobs. Jobs had an immediate global market, and the immediate capacity to implement his innovations at very low cost, so he was able to capture a far larger share of their value than Eastman. Correspondingly, while Eastman’s innovations and their dissemination through the Eastman Kodak Co. provided a foundation for a prosperous middle class in Rochester for generations, no comparable impact has been created by Jobs’s innovations’
Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working. Check out his series at The American Interest. Technology is changing things rapidly, and maybe, as Charles Murray points out, it’s skewing the field toward high IQ positions while simultaneously getting rid of industrial, managerial, clerical, labor intensive office jobs. Even so, we can’t cling to the past. This is quite a progressive vision but one that embraces change boldly. Repost-Via Youtube: Conversations With History – Walter Russell Mead