Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back at Duke's

Lindsey, Troy and I are sitting at the no-alcohol coffee bar at Duke's Landing on SE Belmont. Lindsey is on her way to a gig at The Parlour next to Tara's school (Cleveland), where she's one of four acts.

I'm studying Tara's course lineup for next year. She's taking a pretty stiff set of courses, including three IB. That'd be a lot of homework.

I'll have a few things to say about my time off the grid. We delved into WWII lore pretty deeply. Jim's dad was enduring torture by water boarding at the very time Jim himself was getting born in a concentration camp near Baguio.

Much of Jim's presentation was laudatory vis-a-vis a certain Japanese officer, who was humane towards his prisoners, at great risk to his own career (he paid a price). He was always a welcome celebrity at post-war reunions.

I got back late this afternoon.

While at the camp, I sampled Beyond the Age of Innocence by Kishore Mahbubani, a reading placed strategically on the piano.

Mahbubani goes out of his way to cut post-911 Americans some slack. Yes, thanks to Gitmo any remaining moral high ground has been lost, but that just levels the playing field. Intellectuals around the world have had to shift their arguments accordingly.

Plus Gitmo is just the tip of the iceberg, given those torture taxis (Lindsey used to work for Gulf Stream, I believe I've mentioned), secret prisons in Eastern Europe and so forth.

All that being said, Americans are still too nice to really make it as warlord imperialists. They have this holdover generosity of spirit, a leftover from kinder, gentler times. The British were far more cruel, although less technologically well endowed in those days.

I would add to his analysis that many ordinary Americans are fundamentally POWs, drawn into a mindless form of militarism that's not specifically one nation's pathology, although when it comes to masquerade balls one definitely needs those masks (national flags are more retro than corporate logos, are more quaintly Victorian in that sense).

I enjoyed his passages on how USA embassies have become fortresses, symbols of impotence and insecurity. Any real diplomacy is likely taking place outside of these venues, in private homes and coffee shops. Who could stomach this ugly aesthetic? The State Department is a mere appendage of the Pentagon at this point. Congress has put all its eggs in the one military basket, with powerless presidents having little choice but to sign on.

The short term profits from elective warfare (war on the side, a kind of mercenary hobby) accrue to a myopic older generation situated all around the planet, with bank accounts everywhere, including Singapore I'd hazard. The balance of humanity suffers an ongoing holocaust as a result, which Fuller measured in stadiums-full of innocents.

Speaking of Dr. Fuller, Mahbubani avoids any mention of America's more subversive writers. He's formerly with Singapore's debating team (a diplomat) and is writing a somewhat mainstream book, the kind you'd find in an airport bookstore. Chalmers Johnson is not in the index I'm pretty sure. You'll need to go to a big book store like Powell's to find a hard copy of Sorrows of Empire.

Likewise, Bucky Fuller's subversive tale in Grunch of Giants was one of hope more than despair, but that doesn't keep it out of the realm of esoterica, Medal of Freedom notwithstanding. So-called "professional" historians mostly refused to connect those dots, as our World Game Museum memorializes.