Discourse deployed along networks of power

“The paramount concern of a popular religion cannot be, and never has been, ‘Truth,’ but the maintenance of a certain type of society, the inculcation in the young and refreshment in the old of an approved ‘system of sentiments’ upon which the local institutions and government depend.” – Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology

What a piece of work

“How small a part of the boundless and unfathomable time is assigned to every man? for it is very soon swallowed up in the eternal. And how small a part of the whole substance? and how small a part of the universal soul? and on what a small clod of the whole earth you creep? Reflecting on all this consider nothing to be great, except to act as your nature leads you, and to endure what the common nature brings.” – Marcus Aurelius, The Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (trans. George Long)

Neither responsibility nor right

“No one achieves excellence in his life task without love for it, in himself without love for himself, or in his family without love for his home. Love brings everything to flower, each in terms of its own potential, and so is the true pedagogue of the open, free society.” – Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology

Not exactly propaganda

“The world is full of origin myths, and all are factually false. The world is full, also, of great traditional books tracing the history of man (but focused narrowly on the local group) from the age of mythological beginnings, through periods of increasing plausibility, to a time almost within memory, when the chronicles begin to carry the record, with a show of rational factuality, to the present. Furthermore, just as all primitive mythologies serve to validate the customs, systems of sentiments, and political aims of their respective local groups, so do these great traditional books. On the surface they may appear to have been composed as conscientious history. In depth they reveal themselves to have been conceived as myths: poetic readings of the mystery of life from a certain interested point of view. But to read a poem as a chronicle of fact is—to say the least—to miss the point. To say a little more, it is to prove oneself a dolt. And to add to this, the men who put these books together were not dolts but knew precisely what they were doing—as the evidence of their manner of work reveals at every turn.” – Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology

Keeping a healthy perspective

Make merry, day and night;
Make of each day a festival of joy,
Dance and play, day and night!
Let your raiment be kept clean,
Your head washed, body bathed.
Pay heed to the little one, holding onto your hand,
Let your wife delight your heart,
For in this is the portion of man.

– from The Epic of Gilgamesh

The broken circle

“In the older mother myths and rites the light and darker aspects of the mixed thing that is life had been honored equally and together, whereas in the later, male-oriented, patriarchal myths, all that was good and noble was attributed to the new, heroic master gods, leaving to the native nature powers the character only of darkness—to which, also, a negative moral judgment now was added. For, as a great body of evidence shows, the social as well as mythic orders of the two contrasting ways of life were opposed. Where the goddess had been venerated as the giver and supporter of life as well as consumer of the dead, women as her representatives had been accorded a paramount position in society as well as in cult. Such an order of female-dominated social and cultic custom is termed, in a broad and general way, the order of Mother Right. And opposed to such, without quarter, is the order of the Patriarchy, with an ardor of righteous eloquence and a fury of fire and sword.” – Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology

A new world order

“Now: try to imagine real gender equality. Actually, try to imagine an America that is female-dominated, since a true working democracy in this country would reflect our 54-46 voting advantage. Now imagine such a democracy, in which women would be valued so very highly, as a world that is accepting and responsible about human sexuality; in which there is no coerced sex without serious jailtime; in which there are affordable, safe contraceptives available for the taking in every public health building; in which there is economic parity for women—and basic economic subsistence for every baby born: and in which every young American woman knows about and understands her natural desire as a treasure to cherish, and responsibly, when the time is right, on her own terms, to share. In such a world, in which the idea of gender as a barrier has become a dusty artifact, we would probably use a very different language about what would be—then—the rare and doubtless traumatic event of abortion. That language would probably call upon respect and responsibility, grief and mourning. In that world we might well describe the unborn and the never-to-be-born with the honest words of life. And in that world, passionate feminists might well hold candlelight vigils at abortion clinics, standing shoulder to shoulder with doctors who work there, commemorating and saying goodbye to the dead.” – Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls”

The tautological law

“Shinto doctrine holds that women should make offerings to aborted foetuses to help them rest in peace. If one believes that abortion is killing and yet is still pro-choice, one could try to use contraception for every single sex act; if one had to undergo an abortion, one could then work to provide contraception, or jobs, or other choices to young girls; one could give money to programmes that provide prenatal care to poor women; if one is a mother or father, one can remember the aborted child every time one is tempted to be less than loving.” – Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls”

The price of life

“The pro-life warning about the potential of widespread abortion to degrade reverence for life does have a nugget of truth: a free-market rhetoric about abortion can, indeed, contribute to the eerie situation we are now facing, wherein the culture seems increasingly to see babies not as creatures to whom parents devote their lives but as accoutrements to enhance parental quality of life. Day by day, babies seem to have less value in themselves, in a matrix of the sacred, than they do as products with a value dictated by a market economy. Stories surface regularly about ‘worthless’ babies left naked on gratings or casually dropped out of windows, while ‘valuable’, genetically correct babies are created at vast expense and with intricate medical assistance for infertile couples. If we fail to treat abortion with grief and reverence, we risk forgetting that, when it comes to the children we choose to bear, we are here to serve them—whomever they are: they are not here to serve us.” – Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls”

Some other time

“The morning of the election I thought about what it means to vote for a woman. Voting for a woman felt like voting for respect, for tolerance, for justice, for peace, for empathy, for righteousness, for equality, for color, for movement, for understanding, for listening, for strength, for kindness, for hope, for openness, for braveness, for black lives, for gay rights, for emotion, for feeling, for spirit, for heart, for story, for making, for holding, for inclusivity, for love.” – Anna Dunn, “Lines of Resistance”

A road not taken

“By around 1970 Europe and Japan had more or less recovered from the Second World War and were becoming economically competitive with the United States, which had recently wasted enormous resources in Southeast Asia. The US responded by reneging on the Bretton Woods regime: going off the gold standard, establishing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and turning the IMF into a global enforcer for Wall Street. Among its other benefits, this move conveniently positioned us to capture the flood of petrodollars that followed the oil price rises soon afterward. The savage Volcker interest rate hikes later in the decade further weakened the US manufacturing sector and strengthened the financial sector. The Reagan years saw American companies flee abroad in droves. The end of the Cold War presented the US with a fateful choice. We could relinquish the artificial financial advantages that kept money flowing into Wall Street even as foreign demand stagnated, American industry declined, and the American trade deficit grew. This would have meant military retrenchment and a period of economic austerity, but it would have restored our competitiveness, allowing for reindustrialization on a solid basis and with a more evenly distributed prosperity. But we didn’t.” – George Scialabba, “Socialist Register 2004″

Proportionality

“When a person exercises a common right, without negligence or malice, to render such action a nuisance, and therefore to hold the defendant liable, it must be such an act in itself as to be a nuisance to all or to a majority of the persons living in the neighborhood, and not simply, by exceptional circumstances, to one person.” – Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Rogers v. Elliott, 146 Mass. 349 (1888)

Not to mention the MAD years

“There had been a deep and unsubtle optimism among Americans. The Great Depression and Pearl Harbor created a different sensibility that suspected that prosperity and security were an illusion, with disaster lurking behind them. There was a fear that everything could suddenly go wrong, horribly so, and that people who simply accepted peace and prosperity at face value were naïve. The two shocks created a dark sense of foreboding that undergirds American society to this day.” – George Friedman, “World War II and the Origins of American Unease”

 

It only costs a nickel

“Step right up; show me your life. I’ll show you the story you’re in. Nothing more important in this world, kid. Figure that out and you’re halfway out of the dark. Call them fairy tales, if that makes you feel good. If you call them fairy tales, then you don’t have to believe you’re in one. It’s all about seeing the pattern—and the pattern is always there. It’s a vicious circle: the story gets told because the pattern repeats, and the pattern repeats because the story gets told.” – Catherynne M. Valente, “The Consultant”

Not so clever by half

“If there is a choice in explaining a government action between a Machiavellian, clever, ingenious plot to achieve that result and sort of blind, bumbling, well-meant incompetence, choose number two all the time.” – Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence (interviewed by Kathy Gilsinan in The Atlantic)

Succinct

“The Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos, jailed for political reasons, wrote his poems on cigarette papers while in prison, stuffed them into the lining of his jacket and, when he was released, walked out wearing his collected poems. They were mostly short.” – Daniel Halpern, “A Few Questions for Poetry”

He’s got his work cut out for him

“The task of the human-hearted man is to procure benefits for the world and to eliminate its calamities. Now among all the current calamities of the world, which are the greatest? I say that attacks on small states by large ones, oppression of the weak by the strong, misuses of the few by the many, deception of the simple by the cunning, and disdain toward the humble by the honored; these are the misfortunes of the world.” – Mo Tzu (trans. Fung Yu-lan), A Short History of Chinese Philosophy

The Great Divide

“Now to all who acquired the use of them these new weapons [horse, chariots, and swords] gave a powerful horizontal thrust that carried all before it, and the older, basically peasant, land-rooted civilizations were simply helpless. But not only a new striking power, a new arrogance, too, had arrived: for is there anything more flattering to a man of simple character than a good seat on a splendid horse? The words cavalier, caballero, chevalrie, and chivalrous tell the tale. The day of the peasant afoot and the nobleman ahorse had dawned, which the machine age, only now, has ended. And it was to last for about four thousand years, gradually welding by violence and empire the far-flung provinces of the earlier, centrifugal ages; so that the world that formerly had been dividing was now gradually being brought together—but with a radical split horizontally between those who cry ‘Victory!’ and those who weep. All the way from the Nile to the Yellow River the lesson of the inevitability of sorrow thus was learned by those in the role of the anvil from those with the mettle to be hammers, and with that, the golden age of the children of the earth Mother was of yore.” – Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology

The children of lesser gods

“In Egypt a sequence of psychological stages progressed (or, if the reader prefers, declined) from a state of mythic identification, through inflation, to mythic subordination, and in the last of these a certain standard of human decency not inherent in the order of nature was by projection attributed to God. The Pharaoh—that great ‘Nature Boy’—was thereby subdued to human virtue without damage to his sense of participation in the virtue of divinity. But in Mesopotamia this highly flattering sense of participation in divinity dissolved. The king was no longer the Great God, nor even, as in Egypt, the Good God, but the Tenant Farmer of the God. And this mythological rupture set the two orders of nature and humanity apart, without converting man fully, however, to the courage of his own rational judgments. As a consequence, a pathos of anxiety developed in which all the nursery agonies of a child striving to gain parental favor were translated into a cosmological nightmare of mythic dependency, characterized by alternate gains and loss of divine support, and finally a mordant, rat-toothed sense of intrinsic human guilt.” – Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology

Twitter me this

“Good faith is no defense where the fraud and deceit practiced consist of making false statements of fact as of the knowledge of the one speaking, for if one asserts a thing to be true of his own knowledge when it is not true, or when he does not in fact know whether it is true or not, his statement that he knows it to be true of his own knowledge is false whether the fact asserted is true or not. And if a person makes a positive statement that a thing that is susceptible of knowledge is true, it is implied that he knows it to be true of his own knowledge, and, if he has no such knowledge, he is guilty of actual fraud.” – Justice Graves, Illinois Appellate Court, National Bank of Pawnee v. John L. Hamilton

Painting the picture

“[Florida Department of Corrections] inmates convicted of property crimes and weapons-possession offences have the most tattoos, while sex offenders, particularly those convicted of paedophilia, tend to have the fewest. Inmates with at least one tattoo were actually 9% less likely to have been incarcerated for murder than those without. The effect is even more pronounced for those with tattoos on their head or face, who are around 30% less likely to be murderers. Similar associations can be found for perpetrators of domestic crimes. Those relationships hold even after controlling for age, race and sex.” – “Crime, ink,” The Economist, December 24, 2016

Distillation

“When we consider the nature and the theory of our institutions of government, the principles upon which they are supposed to rest, and review the history of their development, we are constrained to conclude that they do not mean to leave room for the play and action of purely personal and arbitrary power. Sovereignty itself is, of course, not subject to law, for it is the author and source of law; but in our system, while sovereign powers are delegated to the agencies of government, sovereignty itself remains with the people, by whom and for whom all government exists and acts. And the law is the definition and limitation of power. It is, indeed, quite true that there must always be lodged somewhere, and in some person or body, the authority of final decision; and in many cases of mere administration, the responsibility is purely political, no appeal lying except to the ultimate tribunal of the public judgment, exercised either in the pressure of opinion, or by means of the suffrage. But the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, considered as individual possessions, are secured by those maxims of constitutional law which are the monuments showing the victorious progress of the race in securing to men the blessings of civilization under the reign of just and equal laws, so that, in the famous language of the Massachusetts bill of rights, the government of the commonwealth ‘may be a government of laws and not of men.’ For the very idea that one man may be compelled to hold his life, or the means of living, or any material right essential to the enjoyment of life, at the mere will of another, seems to be intolerable in any country where freedom prevails, as being the essence of slavery itself.” – United States Supreme Court, Wo v. Hopkins

For those keeping track

“The fourteenth amendment to the constitution is not confined to the protection of citizens. It says: ‘Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ These provisions are universal in their application, to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction, without regard to any differences of race, of color, or of nationality; and the equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the protection of equal laws.” – United States Supreme Court, Wo v. Hopkins