Saturday, October 16, 2010

Of Probabilities and Punishment

The Chipsters at the Gazette are aware that politicians and voters around the country have been waiting expectantly and impatiently for our endorsements in the upcoming mid-term elections; and so we have taken the time to consider our endorsements carefully.

In 2008 we Chipsters endorsed Obama, despite the fact that he was not Dennis Kucinich, on the less than sanguine grounds that he had hinted sufficiently at change to be taken at his word. Upon his being elected, however, we cautioned not to expect too much from a candidate who at best represented a more socially conscious aspect of capitalism. We did not expect Obama to fundamentally change the historical trajectory of the United States; however, we did hold out some hope that he would mitigate and mollify the effects of empire by restoring some civil liberties, by enacting universal health care, by undertaking to make education something less than a highway to debt peonage, and by re-regulating the economy so as to make it something other than a brute and cunning exercise in rapacious plunder and despoilation for the benefit of a few. At the end of six months Obama had run up his colors and we called for punitive voting to punish his Administration and the Democrat Party for their betrayal of every item on progressive agenda.

At the end of the day, we cannot but call for a total repudiation of the Democrat Party at the national level. To be sure, this anti-endorsement arises from the dismal record of the party at the federal level but, more fundamentally, the issue concerns democracy itself and the survival of its enfeebled remains.

The theory of democracy is that government policy should be determined by the greater number of society's participants, where each citizen votes his desires and interests as best he sees fit. The idea of a representative democracy is the same, except that the desires (and would-be votes) of a given number of citizens are distilled into an elected official who represents their interests and views.

In a direct democracy, politics is the art of the "doable" -- how many people can any individual voter convince to see things his way. In representative democracy politics is the art of the probable. This involves a double calculation to choose among the candidates whose promises (a) most coincide with the number of things we want to see done and (b) has the greater chance of getting elected.

But this calculation alone is not enough. In addition one has to rank and weight the objects of one's political desires and then assess, with respect ot each item, the likelihood of its getting accomplished. Candidate A may best represent our desires, but have no chance of getting elected; whereas candidate B may only reflect one of our less important desires but have both a good chance of getting elected and of getting our desire enacted -- even if it not the most important one.

To vote intelligently one needs to be a statistician which goes to show that most voting is probably no better than a spit in the dark.

But while politics thus becomes an uncertain and often disappointing thing, the democratic system itself is nullified if candidates lie about their positions. In order for the idea of democracy to work at all and for the attendant probablistic calculations to operate as such, it is essential that the electorate be able to calculate and vote on the basis of representations that represent reliable, factorable values. If not, then democracy is a spit in the dark from a carousel.

If after lying outright, a representative is re-elected -- that is to say, if, after a betrayal of democratic fundamentals, the electorate does not use the power of the vote to recall that representative but rather re-elects him despite his proven lies, then democracy is rendered a complete and total farce. Why not pick a candidate at random? Why bother to vote at all?

The present election represents a choice between a party that is opposed to progressive values (the Republicans) and a party that has not only betrayed progressive values but that has betrayed the concept of democracy itself. The republicans at least do stand for what they say; the democrats don't. A vote for the Obamacrat Party is a vote to betray democracy itself.

Typically, the national Democrtatic Party couples obsequious whining with a threat. Politics is that art of the probable, they will whimper, we can't always get all of what we want at once. And then, ominously: the other side is far far worse than our far far miserable performance.

It is too nauseating for words. Yes, politics is the art of the probable; but the fact is that the Obamacrats never even tried. Their "failure" has been so consistent and uninterrupted that it can only be deemed intentional.

No administration was ever more disgraced at the end of its term than the Bush Cabal. No one could reasonably interpret the election of 2008 as anything but a repudiation of Bush policies across the board. The Republicans tried their usual demagoguery and were soundly rejected. The Democrats were given commanding majorities in the House and Senate. Obama's 52% to 45% popular vote was not quite the Johnson Landslide of 1964 (61% to 38%) nor was his 59 to 41 seats in the Senate anywhere close to Johnson's unassailable 68 to 32; but the results were far more than Bush's 47% to 48% popular loss in 2004 and its 50/50 split in the Senate. Even in Bush's second term, his Senate majority was only 55 to 44.

The Demorats whine incessantly that they were one vote short of cloture and therefore the Republicans could "block anything" thereby necessitating that Obama go hat in hand offering compromise in order to gain some measily consensus. The short answer to this is: ______

The longer answer is that the numerical breakdown of the Senate is only a rough guide to the effectiveness of any one party's majority. Johnson's 68 Senate seats included 22 Dixiecrat seats, giving him less than an impermeable majority (46) on certain issues. What the numerical breakdown in the Senate indicates is a rough probability of the success -- not of compromise -- but of political pressure, which is where the popular presidential vote figures in.

It was precisely here that one can see the truth of Teddy Roosevelt's remark that the real power of the presidency lies in the "Bully Pulpit". The key word here is BULLY....which is what TR and LBJ did so well. A friendly squeeze on the shoulder from LBJ was more than enough to squeal out a needed vote. The more popularity a president has, the greater his bullying power.

But instead of getting into the grease-pit of politics, Obambi took the distanced, academic high road "letting" Congress work out a consensus. It was nauseating to watch from the get-go as this Gazette has said from the get-go. When the ball is passed into your hands, you make a lunge for the goal post for as far as you can with as great a burst of forward motion you can muster. Every president has understood that, especially FDR in whose memory the phrase "First Hundred Days" was coined.

Worse than Obambi's shine-off was the spinelessness of the self-serving Democrat whores to whom he flubbed the ball. How was it, one may ask, that a minority president with a split Senate was able to take the country to war, expunge the Bill of Rights, negate one environmental and social protection after another, and institute an unaccountable "unilateral" presidency working for a corporate dictatorship while at the same time wasting a surplus and running the country into massive debt for the benefit of a few? Where was the cloture rule then? It was nowhere to be seen because the Democrats themselves connived at everything Bush did.

And it is at this point in the pudding that we come to the definitive answer to the Demorat's gambit at blackmail: there is no "worse" alternative because the Demorats are themselves part of the very corporate-military-bankster cabal as the Republicans.

While letting the congressional Demorats and their Republican "colleagues" arrive at a consensus that gave us no health care reform, no global warming initiative, no repeal of the Patriot Act, no end of unwinable wars or diminishment in military spending, Obambi himself has been quietly at work continuing the Bush Agenda on every front. That he may from time to time throw some regulatory chicken feed in the progressive direction does not change his path or his goal. We will illustrate with a few items from an otherwise dismal roll-call of Obama policies and accomplishments.

It was bad enough that Obama did not close down Guantánamo prison within months as promised, instead he asserts the right to unilaterally assassinate American citizens while at the same time his FBI smashes down doors and ransacks the offices and private homes of groups engaged in legitimate political activism and dissent, undeterred by any legal (much less constitutional) restraint. These are the hallmarks of despotism pure and simple.

It was bad enough that Obama did not end the Iraq War as promised but merely extended it into Afghanistan turning yet another part of the globe into a terrorised, brutalized chaos-land -- no, as if that were not bad enough, his administration is champing at the bit to extend these full-spectrum operations into South America and even next door into Mexico.

It was bad enough that Obama had nothing but praise for Blankenfein, Wall Street's biggest billion dollar crook or his idea of financial reform instead of taming the shrew simply required 30-notice before the screw. It was bad enough that Obama did nothing to resolve the problem of "undocumented workers", his administration's immigration reform consists in massive, unprecedented deportations that just somehow manage to target labor unions while doing nothing against scum-bag corporations that exploit what has become all but imported slave labor.

It was bad enough that Obama shovelled billions into the coffers of bankster crooks, but when it turns out that that those very crooks themselves decide to back off from foreclosure because they don't have valid title and/or valid mortgages which will fly in a court of law, the administration decries the let-up of foreclosure actions. In other words, not only did the administration turn a blind eye to financial criminality it is encouraging the banks to continue to profit from their wrongdoing.

It was bad enough that Obama did not make the slightest attempt to bully-hoo Blue Dog Democrats and Yellow Dog Republicans into line during the last sesssion, instead during the run up primaries to this year's election the Administration consistently backed Republocrat candidates against viable progressive challengers -- thereby insuring as best it could that the next Congresss will not have a strong progressive contingent to work for a progressive agenda.

As if all this weren't bad enough, just this month, after promising to end "Don't Ask Don't Tell", the administration chastized a courageous federal judge for nullifying the military's anti-gay policies. It then told insurance companies that although they were required to insure children with pre-existing conditions that surely did not mean they couldn't raise premiums through the roof. And then to top it all off, as if there weren't more important issues for a federal executive to be concerned with, the Attorney General prattles against California's marijuana initiative. Laura Bush would be more progressive than that.

This Administration is not only a betrayal it is a nightmare.

We have heard people warn of the mistake liberals made in walking away from Hubert Humphrey in 1968; and indeed that act of electoral disgust was a truly historic blunder. For it was Humphrey's defeat that rang in the reactionary, neo-con, corporo-imperialist era that currently depoils and oppresses billions around the globe, including us, the ordinary American.

But the analogy does not hold because in 1968, LBJ had already resigned. Early in that year Johnson, held his own private election. As sure a vote-prognisticator as any man who ever lived, Johnson understood, ante-hoc, that he had been defeated for second term. Thus, in 1968, electoral disgust had already achieved its legitimate, democratic, repudiatory objective. Humphrey was not a proper object of electoral punishment because as Vice President he had been an mere by-stander. He should have been judged on the basis of probable calculations; punishing him for the sins of LBJ was pointless.

But in 2010 all the Demorat culprits are still at large. In the wake of their massive betrayal --- at best a rank and incompetent species of cowardice --- none of these slimes have the Johnsonian decency to resign. Instead by hook, crook and snivelling blackmail they hope to slime into back into office still clawing onto the perks to which they are addicted.

There is every reason to repudiate these pukes. Democracy herself demands it.

©WCG, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Resented Day of Triumph

Today, is Spain's national holiday; for, it was on this day, in 1492, with the discovery of las Américas that Spain ceased to be a patchwork of feudal kingdoms and became a nation-state. For this reason the holiday is celebrated as el Día de la Hispanidad -- referencing the unity of that territory the Romans had called Hispania.

However, at the same time that Spain became a nation it also -- in a two for one bargain -- became an empire, so that the holiday also remembers past glories and celebrates a "civilizing legacy" that spread Catholicism and Spanish around the globe. For Spaniards, at least for proper ones, October 12th is a day of triumph.

In the United States, October [12th] is rather stupidly known as Columbus Day and has served as an occasion for Italian Americans to revel in their Italian-ness. This misbegotten idea arose from the assumption that Colón was Genovese. He was in fact Catalán although he did travel to Genoa before returning to Spain. But wherever he might have been born, Italy (or Genoa) had very little to do with that cluster of historical realities that ensued from Columbo's quixotic venture. However, it ill-suited English America's studied indifference toward anything Hispanic to acknowledge the stunning phenomenon of Ibero-America. It was better to turn the commemoration into a species of naval holiday celebrating the day we White Boys Came.

On such a basis it was inevitable that the native peoples in the United States would retort that the event marked the day We Red Boys got screwed big time. As a result, and egged on by the academic witches of Victim Studies, October 12th has become, for some, an occasion for recrimination and resentment and, in all events, a pretext for engaging in America's by now favorite passtime: Issue Conflict.

But the dialectic is fundamentally false. This is not to deny the parade of horrors committed by the Anglo-American colonists on the native American Indians who unfortunately stood in the path beat "by Pilgrim feet through the wilderness" (as Katherine Bates rather poetically put it). Just about everything Native Americans (USA) say, egged on by witches, happens to be true. And maybe then some. But those horrors, while they occurred in time after Columbus bumped into the wrong place, were not caused by that event. Post hoc non sit propter hoc.

The crimes inflicted on the Native American in the United States were the result of English-American political economies and racism. And not entirely "English" either; for the British Crown, while not quite the Great White Santa Claus in London, did seek to protect the Indians against the rapacious incursions of the colonists; and this policy was one of the "injustices" alleged as grounds for throwing off the "tyrannical" English yoke.

Things were markedly different in Quebec and the Mississippi Valley. The French political economy, such as it was, was primarily focused on trapping. French adventurers integrated with and learned from their Indian counterparts giving rise to an indian-catholic hunter culture and ultimately a mixed French-Indian race known as the metis. This was hardly a "holocaust". For these Indians, the european discovery of the continent brought a change but something more than unremitting depredation.

In Spanish America the situation was far more varied and complex. There is no doubt that the Iberians -- that is, the Spaniards and Portuguese -- committed atrocities against the people they conquered. There is also no doubt that Spain plundered the Americas under a corrupt, discriminatory and efficient colonial regime. But the Hispanic panorama included much more. The same boats that brought rapacious settlors, also brought jurists intent on protecting the Indians and idealists hoping to establish a utopian new world, free of European stains, with "uncorrputed" native human material.

Through the push and pull of these contending forces, one fundamental fact was clear. The Spanish Court decided very early in the game that the Indian had a soul and was thus entitled to be converted and to participate in the sacraments. To say as much no doubt induces incredulous guffaws among the politically correct progeny of the so-called "Enlightenment". But anachronism is the cardinal sin of historical analysis. Whatever one might think of conversion, today, the fact was that then it was considered a way of incorporating someone into the greater whole of society. And it is then that true history is concerned with. The reception of the conquered natives into the greater civic-communion, provided a context into which they could in turn re-incorporate their own gods. It was thus that destruction gave birth to re-creation. Despite all the depredations and the discriminations, which no right thinking person can deny, this basic policy of incorporation served as the core strand around which all the interweaving of customs and usages that comprise the mestizaje of Ibero-America.

The difference between the Anglo-American and the Hispanic American experience is that the former brought change and exclusion whereas the later brought change and receptivity. Change that opens a path only for one necessarily brings destruction for the other. Change that opens a path for both allows for mutual re-shaping. Thus, for Indians in the United States, the discovery of the Americas does stand as a harbinger of destruction. For Indians in Ibero-America the destruction of their civilizations also brings the memory of discovering another and recreating self. Accepting the inevtiable mix of joys and sorrows, there is something to celebrate.

There are those, down South who, taking their lead from up North, wish to promote a history of victimization. There are also those, particularly in Mexico, who seek to metamorphose the holiday into a celebration of pro-Indian anti-Spanish but somehow Mexican cultural nationalism, for which reason October 12th is known as El Día de La Raza. Confusion arises from the fact that, in Spanish, the word "raza" does not exclusively refer to race. When, for example, Che wrote that from the Rio Bravo (Grande) to the Straights of Magellan, "formamos una raza mestiza" he (being himself white) was not refering to race but to cultural synchretism. Thus, if "La Raza" refers primarily to a cultural phenomenon with attendant biologies, it accurately signifies the facts. However, if and to the extent, that "raza" is intended to point away from Spain -- as if mestizos were really "just" Indians and as if guitars and horses and pigs materialized out of nowhere in a species of "mexican miracle" -- it implies a falsehood. It takes two to tango any attempt to ignore the "hispanicity" of one partner in the dance seems rather another example of resentment making an unnecessary appearance.

The Indian himself spoke a simpler and better truth. We got ourselves conquered, the post-conquest apologia went, "because we thought Cortez was a god". Nonsense. Moctezuma repeatedly tried to ambush and assassinate Cortez. When the two met on the causeway to Tenochtitlán, Cortez's attempt at equal familiarity with the Emperor was promptly cut short. This is hardly the way one treats a god. Nevertheless, blockheads-with-an-agenda seized on the apologia to promote the canard of the wholely "naive" -- and thus wholely innocent ergo blameless and righteous Indian. Again nonsense. There is no indication that the Iroquois thought the Dutch and English were gods, even though the English were 100 years further advanced than Cortez and the Iroquois were not half as urbanized as the Aztecs or Incas. Are we to assume that the Aztecs were especially stupid? Different AmerIndians had different responses to the phenomenon of the European arrival, but none of them, from the Straights of Magellan to Hudson Bay, confused men with gods.

What the Indian apologia stated, in a metaphorical way, was that the Conquest was an historical inevitability. They could see the critical facts as well as anyone: technologically advanced men had arrived from somewhere unknown, but from wherever they came there were obviously more; and if there were more whatever happened would be inevitable. Whether we call it "god" or the "god of chance" the fact is that if, for whatever reason, one group of humans develops faster than another so that at certain point its own dynamic pushes it outward, whether in search of necessities or luxuries, it will conquer what lies in its path. The Indian might fight or accomodate, but there is no indication he expected the Europeans to stay at home. That is a moralizing stupidity the Indians of the time did not engage in.

The result of the inevitable was: hispanidad. And here, in a lovely irony, it was New York City -- that cosmos on an island -- which best proved the point stripped of imperial nostalgia, nationalistic razismo, or recriminations that no longer serve a point. In sartorial microcosm, the parade down Fifth Avenue symbolized hispanic becoming. What was was a Spanish Empire that encompassed an array of peoples as radically different from one another as can be imagined. What emerged in Ibero-America, from the ordeal of history, was a breathtaking cultural interweaving in food, song, dance, clothing, arts, architecture, language and religion.

Viva La Hispanidad!


Fotos © cortesía

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bow, Bow, to the Daughter-in-Law Elect

Predictably enough, the suicide of 21 year old Tyler Clementi, after his roommate published surreptitious videos of Clementi having gay sex, has brought forth hand-wringing, tearful and outraged demands from the legions of political correctness to put an end to "hate-crimes" and "school bullying". One pissed off gay man blogged,

"This is too much. Who cares if you don't agree with homosexuality? It doesn't give ANYONE the right to harass you to the point of thinking THERE IS NO F*CKING POINT and ending it. I've been there and I KNOW how hopeless you feel when it feels like no one is on your side. These kids need SOMEONE to stand up for them and say that this sh*t is wrong. Not even lying, I'm with Queer Supremacist right now. Making nice with these *ssholes is NOT working. Maybe if we tie a couple of them to fences and beat their *sses they'll cut it the F*ck out! *RAGERAGERAGE* RIP BILLY LUCAS." [ Here ]

Of course, the Mizz Marples of Correctness would sternly (but lovingly) restrain our Acting Up Queer. "That's not the way to fight this sort of thing, dear". Actually, "RagerRage" has a point. The prototypical bully is just as prototypically put in his place by a good punch to the nose. The PC Alternative of mandating more social control and repression will only serve to create a generation of even more socially dysfunctional, apathoids driven into the world faux of their iPods and TwitterPads.

Let us begin at the beginning....1913 in fact. That was a good year for dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Websters (1913 edit.) defines "bully" as follows:

A noisy, blustering overbearing fellow, more distinguished for insolence and empty menaces, than for courage, and disposed to provoke quarrels.

To intimidate with threats and by an overbearing, swaggering demeanor; to act the part of a bully toward.

The editors presumably had Theodore Roosevelt in mind. But, by 2010, the definition had metamorphosed into:

Bullying is an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.

Wikipedia informs that Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person is

"exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons." He defines negative action as "when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways."
Wiki goes on to say that

"Bullying is a form of abuse. It comprises repeated acts over time that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power with the more powerful individual or group abusing those who are less powerful. The power imbalance may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a target."

(Target! Boy, is that clever; those sociologist are sure on the ball ! )

Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as psychological manipulation. Bullying can be defined in many different ways. .... Bullying can occur in any context in which human beings interact with each other

How much brain-power does it take to realize that, as currently defined, 'bullying' includes any kind of social interaction. That being the case, demands to "end bullying" in fact constitute a demand to control and repress any form of social interaction; to be sure, leaving the limits up to the wise discretion of your local dimwit school principal or other available authority figure (AAP).

Queer-zine informs.

"Clementi joins a long list of students who have committed suicide after enduring anti-gay bullying at school—and this is the fourth incident this month alone. Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old California boy who was openly gay, was bullied so severely he hanged himself. In Texas, 13-year-old Asher Brown shot himself Sept. 23 after being relentlessly bullied for his perceived sexual orientation. And on Sept. 9, Billy Lucas, 15, of Indiana hung himself for the same reason."
But what actually happened? It was hard to find out. In so far as Brown was concerned,

Asher was tormented for being small. For his religious beliefs. For the way he dressed. And for being gay. His bullies acted out mock gay sex acts in phys ed class.

So what exactly was Asher Brown "bullied" for? Was it a case of religious persecution? Of sumptuary-hate? Height-discrimination? Bad acting in the locker room? One supposes it will depend on which Aggrieved Group gets first dibs on Asher's body.

What pursed lipped, dimwit victimologists can't fathom is that the case isn't made more clear by being made more inclusive. Of course, from the perspective of those hankering after research grants and matters to stick their noses into, the more "causes", "symptoms" and "potential effects" the merrier. But from a legal point of view (and we are talking about demanded legal remedies) the "or" is precisely the problem.

physical or verbal
real or perceived

In other words, a not-objectively real but a subjectively imagined verbal power play constitutes bullying. But not even only that. We are told that bullying is of three kinds physical, verbal or emotional. In other words, there is a kind of bullying which is neither physical, nor verbal but somehow "emotional" which presumably ties in somehow with "psychological manipulation".

Under the victimologists' magic sociological wand, our tall, good-looking, most popular, "swaggering" varsity football hero who gives wimp "that kind of look" has just engaged in an act of perceived, non verbal, emotional, power-play bullying.

It is one thing to one thing to outlaw physical misconduct. It is a Pandora's Box to attempt to outlaw attitudes. The reason for the difference is that physical conduct bears its own clear contours. There is body A and there is body B. The two bodies do not occupy the same space. When part of body A smashes into part of body B, there has been a clearly defined collision that can be outlawed. But where are the borders of "inuendo" and "those kinds of stares" ? Where is the line between "opinion", "insult" and "intimidation" ?

No doubt according to our pursed lipped sociological Mizz Marples, an "appropriate" [this has to be said in the just the right tone of "if -you-don't-really-know disapproval"] opinion would be "a statement of personal belief expressed in other-respecting, non-debasing, netural terms". For example, "Excuse me Asher, but with all due respect to you as a person and to your right to dress as you feel best expresses your inner outwardness, I would like to throw out for your consideration my opinion that your clothing looks like it belongs ....%#&$*(#)!@*%!*"

No wonder kids are drowing their frustrations in iPods.

The sorry fact is that human beings are not very nice, and that among the un-nicest of all are teenagers -- especially the ones in middle school. In fact, "innocent children" make a pack of wild dogs look civilized. They are merciless with one another; so merciless in fact that all of them have bad memories about how awful it was growing up.

The reason it is so awful is that they are learning how to play, and learning involves mistakes. A child begins its play with little square blocks and other things that involve manual dexterity. He makes mistakes; things fall down; things break; he cuts himself. As he grows older the play things become more involved and complex. Eventually they include word-games and social interaction. We realize we can swear and use dirty language; and that this, almost magically, hurts and provokes people as much as if we had run up and kicked them. Better still, we can use words to avoid responsibility and cheat people. Words are the best toys ever. It is inevitable that adolescent will act worse than beasts who don't have words to play with.

Unfortunately, it doesn't get much better with age. As James Madison put it,

"The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; .... A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts."
In other words, noisy, overbearing, swaggering behavior -- bullying -- is built into human nature. Sad but true. But for all that, we don't outlaw non-physical bullying; and for anyone who is already out-moting outrage and passive aggressive dissapproval, let me remind him and/or her that James Madison is one of the Founding Fathers, a principal architect of our Constitution, the Author of the Bill of Rights, and this is what he had to say:

"There are two methods of removing the causes of [bullying]: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests. It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency."

In short, if we wish to be free we have to suffer jerks. But this is too much for our outraged victims and safe-T mavens. They will have us all agree to The Agenda or be gagged once and for all.

That said, the Tyler Clementi case is disturbing not only because of the disdain and disrespect shown towards him by his roommate but also because it is a paradigmatic example of how iPhone, Facebook and Twitter have blurred the lines between "public" and "private". Everywhere we see people who are locked into their little box and almost entirely disconnected from the world around them at the same time are connected without limit to the entire world with whom they have no other connection. As a result, they have no grasp of gradations of privacy. What 40 years ago would have been restricted to essentially private snickering and teasing in the dorm, now gets blasted about on the World Wide News of Marshall McLuhan's "Global Village". The further result is that what used to be a bullying brush fire now becomes a bullying firestorm.

It is always possible that Tyler Clementi already --- in the current lingo -- "had issues". People generally do not turn the Life Off on a dime. This will seem likely to straights, particularly those male sex-jocks who would be more than pleased to have their bitch-humping prowess displayed around the globe. But being straight and being gay are not the same. The opprobrium and condescension still attached to being gay by society in general makes any "outing" a terrifying thought. When actual gay conduct is captured and broadcast to the world, the thought is mortifying.

Thus, the "bullying" -- if we still wish to call it that -- in this case derived its destructive force both from the means by which it took place and from the poisonous reservoir of sexual intolerance that regards gays as something to be derided, despised and rejected.

The temptation here, even among those who are not sociologists, is to say that the solution is to outlaw derision, spite and rejection. But that is not the answer and it will not work, just as making a desert and calling it "peace" is not real peace.

The beginnings of an answer, it seems to us Chipsters, is to go back to 1913 -- to those days when every Dad taught his son how to deal with bullies. The focus has to be on building up strength and resilience on the part of the "potential victim" [arrrghh]. The fact is, the world is nasty place and throughout our lives we are all going to run up against jerks, assholes and bullies. What all of us need -- and what disadvantaged or disapproved of people especially need -- is inner strength to make it through.

This inner strength is only partly self-generating. Putting aside our fetish for Robinsonnades, "alone" man can accomplish little or nothing. Inner strength must be refreshed from outer support -- from loving family, from understanding friends, from a forgiving [oh won't that be the day!] Church. Last in the support line -- if at all -- is Daughter In Law Elect.

With the first two factors alone, a young man like Tyler Clementi can make it through life's storms, and it becomes almost irrelevant what society does to or with his tormentors.

This is not to say that society should do nothing to deter the bully. It is only to say that it should not destroy freedom by attempting to achieve the impossible. Society should by all means punish any physical aggression anywhere it takes place. By analogy, it should punish invasions of privacy such as occurred in the Clementi case. In addition, because an institutional setting (be it work, school or military) involves a joint and several undertaking to engage in and promote the activities of the institution, it is legitimate to warn people that whatever they might think, whatever value judgements they have and have a right to express they cannot do so in a way that impedes the functioning of the institution or the participatory rights of others. But that, it seems to us, is the outermost limit of what should be undertaken with respect to bullies. To do more would be to turn society into a mass of stupified drones who are all indoctrinated with the same opinions. For that, we should wait until we get to Heaven.

©Woodchipgazette, 2010