Tag Archives: Oblique Coup

Freedom is just another word for…

When I re-read Dead Memory last year, one of the bits which stuck with me was this: “if you could only learn to read the present, your memory might be of some use to you. Telling you what the future holds won’t help you. Change occurs when systems reach their breaking point, and then it’s too late.”

I feel like I can read the present, but the problem is processing what I know.

America and the world are really scary right now. Reflecting on my adult life, the last time things felt this scary was maybe the 2004 election, when it seemed like America would either evict Republicans from power, or lose democracy, and the first one didn’t happen. As it turned out, within two years things were falling apart for Republicans, but that now seems either illusory or a wasted opportunity, and now it looks like we have lost democracy after all.

This is all stuff that I have been writing for a while, I know. More and more I’m probably just posting here as an attempt to step back from the ritual and shouting which seems to obscure the present rather than read it.

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Jan. 6 Committee, Day One

The realization, starting in my late thirties, that “responsible adults in charge” is mostly a myth no matter how high up you go—this is one of those realizations which always remains difficult to believe.

Day One of the US House Select Committee on January 6 2021 has provided another dismaying booster for that realization, though.

I have gone back and forth on the whole idea of this House investigation. There are meaningful questions which ought to be answered. A professional investigative agency seems much better qualified to pursue most of them. The Department of Justice seems like in practice it is going to stay far away from many “politicized” areas. The politicians’ fixation on a “bipartisan” investigation is just lunacy. Republicans are so in thrall to sabotage that they turned an offer of 50/50 membership into a mostly Democratic committee.

Day One of the Committee seemed mostly to be a lot of weeping for the cameras, on behalf of the ruined virtue of America’s wonderful institutions, rather than investigation. Some allowance can be made for Opening Day, and I’m aware that politics and really all culture involves some degree of playacting.

But the whole premise which this Committee is making into the theme of its pageant is fundamentally, childishly, misguided. A violent putsch assaulted America’s Capitol on January 6, and an assault on America’s democracy needs our urgent response, but they are not the same things.

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The Illusion of Change

During my active years in comic book fandom, somewhere or other I absorbed the concept of “no change, only the illusion of change.” I’m not sure that there’s any firm, verified single origin for it, and in any event its significance is in the clarity of its understanding of America’s biggest long-running superhero properties. From year to year, things seem to happen, but decade to decade, not so much, and over the longer term even less so.

I was reminded of this after spending some time thinking about American politics and governing, at the national level, and what major change has actually happened compared with 10 and 20 years ago.

That probably gives away much of my conclusion, which is that at this time scale so much of the screaming and scrambling and struggling seems to even out. Most of it is equivalent to the illusion of change. Above and beyond that, slow geologic trends seem to be the main story, and it is not really a good one.

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