I hate it, I simply can't stand it, when Arthur Silber is right and prods my conscience. I would so very much prefer to close my eyes, put my fingers in my ears, ignore the impending collapse of the world and just write about abstract philosophical issues. But I can't, because he is right.
We stand on the brink of a war with Iran, possibly a nuclear war. George W. Bush knows that his time is running out; he's a desperate and dangerously irrational man, perhaps hopelessly delusional. He is served by a cadre of those who are equally deluded or utterly amoral.
Worse yet, he still has the support of a quarter of the American people, even after his insane criminality and his complete inability to be even a competent criminal has become painfully obvious. Revolutions--including our own--have been successful with less of a base. These are the people who actively hope for Armageddon. The Left Behind series has sold millions of copies (Amazon sales rank #7640) despite the comical literary incompetence of its authors. The associated video game has generated $2.2 million in revenue, and presumably has sold about 50,000 copies (although the company itself has lost $31 million so far).
What do I do about a president and his substantial base that do not consider the actual physical destruction of all of human life a particularly worrisome consequence?
I don't want to use my pessimism as a cop-out. I'll do the things that Silber suggests. I'll write daily to my congresspeople, I'll write directly about avoiding war with Iran and mention it more-or-less daily on the blog, and push the framing of the issue in terms of its utter immorality and illegality. Effective or not, I cannot begrudge a half hour of each day to at least the simplest steps that Silber exhorts.
I exhort my readers to do the same: Whether you're for or against a war with Iran, regardless of your opinions about the war with Iraq, spend a half hour every day doing something. If you're a blogger, write about these issues. Let's get the debate and all the opinions and positions out there for criticism and commentary. Regardless of your position, the issue is important; how can you begrudge 30 minutes?
But I am pessimistic, perhaps more profoundly so than Silber himself. If we cannot get agreement on the actually immorality and criminality of the war in Iraq, even when more than 3,000 U.S. deaths and more than 600,000 Iraqi deaths (not to mention almost a trillion dollars) have pushed the issue into our faces--the national opinion seems to be only that we were not sufficiently brutal in our occupation--what chance do we have on the more abstract issue of war with Iran?
The issues run much deeper than just this upcoming war and just the previous war. Silber himself has identified a thread of violent American arrogance going back at least a hundred years. Even a superficial study of history, I think, shows that this sort of violent national and cultural arrogance goes back to the dawn of recorded history.
There will always be some crisis demanding our immediate attention. But if everyone just goes around putting out fires, who's going to address the issue of why everything keeps catching on fire in the first place? For this reason, I'm going to continue to direct most of my attention to what I consider the root causes of our present situation.
I'm addressing our persistent attachment to the illusion of moral objectivism. Only a species with such a profound commitment to its own arbitrary moral choices would even think of preferring the destruction of the world to relaxing its moral rigidity, and therefore invent the utterly insane notion of Mutually Assured Destruction. I'll also be writing more about religion, which is, if not the only purveyor of moral objectivism and authoritarianism, then certainly the most egregious and long-standing.
I'm addressing the scientific method. If we have any hope at all of surviving in the long term, we're going to have to "get religion" about science as our sole hope of addressing our political and moral issues in a rational manner.
I'm trying to write polemically about liberal, humanistic and anti-authoritarian values and against contradictory values.
Am I doing enough? I don't know. It may be simply that self-destruction is an intrinsic part of human nature, perhaps even intelligence itself (which would explain the Fermi paradox). If so, nothing will be enough. Am I doing as much as I could? Of course not. Short of literally setting myself on fire there is always more I could do.
I'll do what I do. If it's not enough, it's not enough, and I suppose I'll go to Hell just like the rest of the apathetic masses.