Sunday, February 13, 2011


Ignition. Combustion. Change. Destruction.

It is only honest to admit that this blog openly hints at its author's pessimism. The title of the blog, the image of the blogger writing messages in the midst of a fire, is an obscure nod to Antonin Artaud and an analogy for many worlds through which we view this lifetime.

The burning house is attachment to egotistical desires and conceptions of the world. The burning house is our ecological predicament, the process under which the human habitat is shrinking while human beings dither and bicker. The burning house is the American revolution, the fading belief in a democratic union of human beings in fair and equal justice. The analogy refers to the individual being and the social body to which she belongs.

It is natural to perceive life as a conflagration, a process in which 10,000 things are interacting and changing one another in a process that is both productive and destructive. Like a fire. Depending on which pair of lenses we look through life, we live in a series of a burning houses.

This is not necessarily a pessimistic view, but I'll admit some of that: Of the human beings who live and have lived, very few have taken any interest in waking up. I have largely given up on my own country's potential to realize democracy and social justice -- yes, I admit to that. I'll also admit openly that I don't trust the human species will act to change the rapidly deteriorating ecological condition that supports human life. (The period of migration has already begun as land becomes unusable and water becomes more precious. The wars will begin soon.) The world will change with accelerating violence as human beings leave themselves with fewer, and more costly, choices for how to survive.

Yet hope lives in occasional contradictory evidence and the possibility of being proven wrong. Since January, I have been reminded of hope -- real hope, not that tired buzzword in U.S. politics, as epitomized in the disappointing leadership of President Hope N. Change -- and the lessons are coming from Arabic Africa. So rarely do I feel proud of our species; lately, I am reminded that we have our good moments.

The largely non-violent popular revolutions taking place in Tunisia and Egypt have hit me hard enough that I mostly watch (to the point of near obsession) and do not comment, because I don't really know what's going on or what's going to happen. Neither do you. Neither does Glenn Beck, although his fantasies are entertaining. Neither does Barack Obama or his imperial court (all deeply chagrined at the loss of Hosni Mubarak, a reliable and stable "partner" during his 30-year dictatorship). Neither, even, do the people of Tunisia or Egypt. This is revolution. This is conflgration. Once you kick out your dictator, you are in uncharted territory. What next? Don't know.

Tunisia and Egypt are now in the "what next?" phase of their revolutions, which is simultaneously the most dangerous and the least telegenic phase. When the multitudes occupy Cairo's Tahrir Square, there are lots of good pictures for the cameras. The process of writing a new constitution and implementing fair elections is not as attractive to our entertainer-journalists. So the lights go off and the eyes of the world turn elsewhere. This is how Honduras fell, how its own movement to reverse a coup and restore its elected leadership was left to die openly on the street. The cameras go away yet the conflagration is still in process: ignition, combustion, change, and destruction.

How many people in the U.S. watched this and, for just one moment, compared the anguish and the aspirations of the Egyptian public to their own situation, here in the U.S. power structure, where money rules and human beings are left to die?

The guy writing messages in this particular burning house tends toward pessimism, but over the last couple of months he is reminded that amid the embers there yet glows true hope and possibility.


NellaLou said...

Letting go of that which has signified stability in global political meta-idealist thought realms, though not obviously provided it on the ground to the people, on a global scale is not something I thought I'd see in this lifetime.

If a whole nation can do it why not the individual? Consider how joyous the Egyptian people have become once they stopped buying into that stability/normalcy myth. "It doesn't have to be this way" is an idea that took work, diligence and sacrifice to manifest as any realization does.

No doubt many are rushing to the scene with all kinds of fetters and ropes to "re-stabilize" and attempt to control the direction the future takes there. But for now on one level as a metaphor for awakening it's a pretty good one.

Petteri Sulonen said...

Oh, for sure. These revolutionary moments never last all that long. Eventually some new kind of status quo takes over, and we have another illusion of stability. Right now the chances look pretty good that the new one will be more tolerable than the old one, and perhaps it will allow some space for different stories to be told. Wouldn't it be cool if there was room for little revolutionary moments all over the place every once in a while?

But what a glorious revolutionary moment that was. Proud of our species, as you say.

quid said...

Well... you are a bit of the pessimist. However, I need that to offset my persistent rosy glow in the face of insurmountable odds.