Here’s a shovel
Things are quiet around the pit. No fishermen. Ice beginning to look rotten. A time to be glad rotting ice doesn’t stink as does many other things. Once it warms I’ll be able to dig the pit without having to wear a parka. Why dig in the pit, isn’t it pitiful enough already? Maybe so, but I go by the great political principle that there’s no hole can’t be made deeper. Come to think, we might not have modern politics at all if not for that guiding light.
Was it Will Rogers (not sure if he’s denounced yet, but I’ll take the chance) who said, roughly paraphrasing, “A politician sees light at the end of the tunnel as reason to dig more tunnel.” Rogers (not Mr. because he wasn’t funny at all) was a popular humorist with distinctly “American” biting irony. What is biting American irony you might ask? Try this. “It was a perfect speech with exaggerations and lies woven in so expertly you wouldn’t notice them over the general babble of humbug.” If that sounds mean to you please feel free to apply it to any and all political expressions. Do that and then tell me it doesn’t fit more times than we’d like to admit.
Digging the hole deeper or extending the tunnel has its uses, but not, I’d say, practical ones. So how does a being desiring to retain a grip on sanity escape the digging herd of nearsighted moles (League of Mole Defense please accept my apology now and forever more)? One way (of many) is to see warning flags aplenty when certain terms are used to lend authority. The worst or most offending term in my experience is someone saying they or we (worse yet) know something when they actually mean they believe it or have heard it and have in their possession no actual proof and (another worse yet) have no interest in finding any. Much of what we know is assumed, ollective belief. (BTW, conspiracy theories thrive on this.) The reason we “know” where Megas Alexandros died (do you know) is the historical record, meaning indirect knowledge, reliable but not 100% so because we don’t know his cause of death or where the body is. Even with pretty safe bets, such as the death of Alexander the Great, the substitution of “know” for “believe” or “history says” is, I think, the questionable habit of accepting hearsay as something more solid. You can, as I’ve been too often inclined, drive yourself in loony circles trying to parse things out. Believe me, this is usually not worth the travail except (which could make it worthwhile after all) as a reminder of beliefs and assumptions sapiens carry around as accepted facts. I assert my belief that the most progressive, iconoclastic, revolutionary voices you’ll ever hear are as freighted with belief and faith icons worthy of the deepest of superstitions. (Most of us don’t like being reminded of how much we assume without question; all the more reason to do so, however.)
The practice of digging deeper or tunnel extension can be slowed by setting shovels aside to ask “Why are we doing this? What are we aimed at? What are we avoiding?” The tactic is really quite simple. It’s no more than accepting the way out of a hole is rarely if ever found by more digging. The solution isn’t down there. I find liberation and freedom when I turn away from the pit to look up and out. My sense of daylight increases as the dust of digging settles and I take stock of the many ways that kept me burrowing into the dark. It is a human thing to behave as humans do; we sapiens are, if nothing else, enormously good acceptors and followers of convenient mantras. They comfort and guide us. How often do we assert “actually” when meaning I think or believe? When someone talks about a “real truth” do they ever clear up what in heck a false truth might be or how the expression basically says what side of a question they take? Think of the number of times you’ve used a “construct,” a label or assumption, as if the term represented a solid. The terms liberal and conservative are not the same as granite and sandstone. In my lifetime alone these terms (along with many others) have shifted meaning. Even if, in your view, someone is conservative or liberal does that define their whole being, or is it only one part, and how big? The label or view we take can easily get in the way of seeing a person, and so instead of seeing light we dig deeper as a natural way to preserve the correctness of what is assumed correct. The truth has got to be there, so dig deeper. I’ll tell you, if you’re looking for diamonds in northern Minnesota digging deeper won’t do. I’d try Herkimer, but don’t expect a Kimberly class result.
Some commonly used expressions sound solid but end up functionally as another interpretation or explanation rather than the “real deal” they label themselves. My alert meter perks up when I hear “facts are,” “reality is,” or “experts agree,” and etc. as opinions and interpretations in disguise. Remember the guide, “Winners establish truth.” Had WWII ended differently we might hold as true that Pearl Harbor (as Japanese authority announced one year after the event) was the result of American racism. How’s that for an acceptable stand these days; almost modern isn’t it? Truth, fact, etc. are often the views of a winning or popular side. For 50 years who mass murdered 20,000+ Polish officers bounced back and forth depending on who held power. In the meantime where was truth?
A story. Some years back an old man in Central Europe joined a crowd honoring a visiting official. The old man held a sign “Thank You for My Happy Childhood.” In the crowd someone said, “But these weren’t in power when you were a child.” The old man answered “That’s why I thank them.” That, dear reader, might be a truth.