|RANT FROM FEBRUARY 2008
"The Power of Negative Thinking"
One day last month the following series of thoughts came to me, totally unasked for:|
"Scenario: The Acting President goes to Israel, where he is assassinated by a suicide bomber. Cheney becomes Acting President, taking the title along with the power he has been wielding all along. Cheney appoints Tom DeLay Vice-President, and declares martial law. Cheney dismisses Congress and the Supreme Court, in the name of national security. Democrat politicians are arrested and held incommunicado. All artists, cartoonists and writers who have expressed opposition to or disapproval of or mockery toward the Bush-Cheney administration are arrested. Under the Police State, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are privatized and dissolved. The gap between rich and poor widens, until only fourteen families own everything. Tourism comes to an end. The national forests are cut down. The beaches are covered with oil spills. Nuclear waste is left untended. The sick are left uncared for and the dead unburied. Starvation is rampant, especially in urban areas. Public schools are closed. Only one communication corporation controls all information outlets. Off-switches are removed from radio and TV sets. The internet is shut down. All phone calls are monitored. Habeas corpus is permanently suspended."
Once a body gets started thinking like that, it's easy to get carried away. Some call it "negativity." Others could call it "realism." A knowledge of history contributes to the tendency to think that way. "What I learn from studying history is that nobody [in power] learns anything from studying history." There is nothing in the previous paragraph [except the off-switch thing] which has not happened somewhere in modern times, more than once. In fact the so-called War on Terror has become an excuse for such things in this decade in many parts of the world. Many of them are already happening here, not to rich white folks, to be sure, yet, but to real live human beings nevertheless.
Many people are seriously turned off by such negative thinking. I suspect that at the root of that attitude is a belief in magic, that is, that "thinking makes it so." "If we refuse to think about it, it won't happen, or it won't be too bad. Thinking about it, and openly expressing it, will help cause it."
I have sometimes been accused of being negative or thinking negatively. I must admit that there is something of a tendency in me to see, or try to foresee, the bad in any situation. So, I'm wondering where that inclination in me comes from. And I wonder if it could be my early and serious study of the prophets of the Old Testament, especially Amos and Jeremiah. At one time I had the crazy belief that I should be like them, or even be one of them. I said it was crazy. It may have become something of a habit, to think as they did. The purpose of being an aware and conscious person is to speak truth to power [Jeremiah especially thought that]. Be a truth-teller, not merely an entertainer.
There is a branch of medicine called Diagnosis. "What's the matter? What could be causing it? Have we run into this before? Something for sure is the matter." "There's something rotten in the state of" Wherever.
I have run into people who refuse to listen to what they call negative thinking. "If you don't have solutions, then shut up. I don't want to hear about insoluble problems." I'm not sure solutions can be found without preliminary diagnosis. And that's the function of the prophet.
But some serious solutions have been proposed, even by presidential candidates. For example,  universal single-payer health care [Kucinich], or  closure of all 750 U.S. military bases on foreign soil [Paul]. But mostly we have entertainment instead of solutions, and the prophets who are into diagnoses of what's the matter tend to be ignored.
I was able to listen to the Acting President's recent State of the Union message, because I was writing down, scribbling furiously, the lies contained in the speech. I noted fifty-three , but missed some. If one counts the grinning and smirking at unfunny spots in the text, there are even more falsehoods. Something is the matter when that much lying is accepted by Congress and the world.
Who can imagine what will have to happen, in order to establish the Second American Republic? The First is apparently long gone.
It is just a little strange to be living in the Last Days of the civilization one is in. Everything is disintegrating, dissolving, fading away, losing value. The money, the promises, the ideals, the hopes for the future, one's own plans and dreams, the connections to other people and to strangers - all are diminishing. Fear has taken over most people, it seems. And anger, which may be simply fear turned outward, seems to be nearer the surface. It is no longer clear how to protest. Writing rants and essays and unpublishable op-ed pieces seems futile. But one thing is still basic. In the midst of this malaise, which has become so huge and widespread, one must get clear, and then make a clear statement, for posterity, for whoever comes later, if anyone. Not all of us consented that any of this that is going on was a good idea. Some of us did not want it, and did not approve of it in any way. We will go under with the rest, but not without protest. Not without making it very clear that we oppose the Powers that Be utterly.
We remember fondly the days when we could register our protest publicly. We put our bodies on the line. We had the idea that it made a difference, that it could make a difference. Now we aren't so sure. Many who seem to agree with our evaluation of the situation refuse, or are unable, to join with us and others in any meaningful protest. Most Americans, miserable and fearful as they are, really think that protest is un-American, indecent somehow, unseemly, impolite, negative - and our awareness of that fact demoralizes us further.
But meanwhile, we must get clear, and that may have a negative ring to it.