the problem with now

I hate it when I’m right.

Way back in 2005, before anyone thought we’d elect an African American to the highest office in the land, folks were convinced that Hillary Rodham Clinton would the forty-fourth president. And I said then, in a glib, off-hand post, that that was a terrible idea.

The reason I thought Hillary Clinton in 2008 was a terrible idea was not because I have anything against the woman. I’m fairly ambivalent about her as a politician, truth be told. The reason I thought it was a terrible idea was actually because I have a fair amount of respect for her. I knew that whoever got elected in 2008 would be inheriting a political and economic mess of gargantuan proportions. I was short on specifics in that post, but I talked about the economic mess, about two wars, about global crises, and, most importantly, how the spin doctors and talking heads in the media are so wrapped up in the Now that they have no sense of history or causality. Americans in general are so consumed with the present that they blithely ignore how it is that we got into this mess in the first place, and they seem to want to pin all their hopes, all their fears, all their blame on whomever happens to be sitting in the Oval Office regardless of who’s fault this disaster actually is.

When then-candidate Obama came into my sphere of awareness, I knew that he’d be just as screwed as anyone if he won. But I had hoped that he would be able, through sheer will-power or political tenacity, to rise above my dire predictions and the pundits and actually overcome the rhetoric. I had hoped that — whatever failings he may have as a president, whatever he may not be able to accomplish, whatever compromises that he would inevitably have to make — I had hoped that I would be wrong.

As we lurch into his second year in office, as we loose Ted Kennedy’s seat, I’m afraid that I was right. I’m still hopeful that the writing isn’t on the wall, but I’m fearful that it is.

I don’t know what to do about that. I don’t know what Pres. Obama or the Democratic party can do to win back disenfranchised voters on either side of the aisle. With one exception of course — jobs. Short of magically giving every American a job without simultaneously appearing to create a larger government thus pissing of all the crazy people wearing Revolutionary-era, three-cornered hats out there, I don’t know. All I do know is that I hope that they’re able to turn this sinking ship around in the next year or two and nudge it, however minimally, in a better direction.

In other news, rain. And lots of it. And with no end in sight. Despite the fact that I got a new office last week (this one with a window!), I am still feeling a serious lack of vitamin D around here which is, undoubtedly, contributing to a generally dour mood. Expect more dour posts in this space in the days ahead — really sorry about that — but I do hope to find some joy in the weeks ahead. And if I do, you can bet your bottom dollar that’ll I’ll share it with you, my loyal readers.

4 thoughts on “the problem with now

  1. You see this thing very clearly Scott. This is such a timely post. One of the features of postmodern identity is contemporaneity which means “the collapse of the past and future into the present,” ( http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/postmodernism/ ). The issue of causality is mooted and any attempt to plot future is seen as a useless exercise. I call this Stuck in the Now.

    It is not surprising then in many Buddhist, particularly Zen circles, that the emphasis is increasingly on mindfulness of the moment and other concepts that range beyond that such as karma are becoming increasingly rejected. (A sort of %&^* all that Asian historical stuff-how often does that come up?!)

    It’s a total morass to any kind of real spiritual development or realization. There is nothing beyond here and now in the American mentality (economic crisis anyone?). No wisdom, which accompanies an ability to view a broader picture and certainly little potential for sustained compassion.

    So in Buddhist circles folks are spiraling down into increasingly chasing their own tails rather than “opening the space” that would allow for room for growth. I’ve all but given up on engaging with that kind of debate any more. The pointlessness of it has been adequately demonstrated.

    I have the first in a series of posts on this underway. Am really glad you have introduced this subject since it merits a good deal of attention considering the mire people are into now.

    And the only ones who will be able to leverage the situation will be those who can get their heads out of that muck and survey the larger landscape. While those on the right do forget the past and make hay with the present they are also looking at a longer range future which progressives can’t seem to get their heads around. I do hope for all our sakes those progressives with tendrils into the power centers stop this lame wallowing in disillusionment and get the hell back to work.

    Here’s another little quip that relates. Those on the right seem to understand this better than all the “lefty” philosopher-spouting pundits.

    “Vivian Sobchack points out:
    The postmodern and electronic “instant” … constitutes a form of absolute presence (one abstracted from the continuity that gives meaning to the system past/present/future) and changes the nature of the space it occupies. Without the temporal emphases of historical consciousness and personal history, space becomes abstract, ungrounded, flat—a site for play and display rather than an invested situation in which action “counts” rather than computes. Such a superficial space can no longer hold the spectator/ user’s interest, but has to stimulate it constantly in the same way a video game does. ( http://genesis.ee.auth.gr/dimakis/Gramma/7/02-kokonis.htm )

    I’d better make a post about this. Thank you for the stimulation for these thoughts.

  2. @ Alyson: Let it be know that snarkiness and flippishness are always welcome here, appreciated just as much as eruditedness and braininess! (Because those all words, right?)

  3. What I don’t understand is why anyone thinks that the Democratic party is going to get Americans out of our particular mess. They helped create it. I don’t want party option A or B and that’s the only choices that people want to talk about. The two parties are bankrupt on so many levels. Holding my nose to vote Blue because it stinks slightly less than Red doesn’t make me think that Blue is actually a decent party.

    We’re not going to make any political progress as long as we expect the entrenched powers in this country to change business as usual. After all, they created this situation, in many ways, and they prosper by it.

    I sincerely doubt an across the board Democratic government would solve our problems.

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