Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Friday, September 30, 2011

No Other Path to Wisdom

(Note:  This comes from Dave over at his Decline of the Empire blog (link provided at right).  I read Dave's stuff on an almost daily basis, and while it is never a waste of time, a recent posting of his regarding the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests was particularly good, and gave me pause.  I have lifted some paragraphs, giving the Red Font to lines I found especially noteworthy. -- Chris)

I am not going to belabor the point that nothing tangible will be accomplished. Eventually these protests will wither away, and our elite-ruled society will not have changed one iota. This is simply obvious, so there's no need to defend this view. Here at DOTE I refer to this kind of thing as Reality. Don't get confused about what is possible and what is not.

Then why do I say, agreeing with Salon's Glenn Greenwald, that personally, I think there's substantial value in these protests? Well, it's a lot like the difference between breathing and not breathing. The Wall Street protesters are alive, whereas most Americans are not. Most Americans I've known or met dwell among the Walking Dead. They sleepwalk through their miserable daily routine, clinging to this illusion or that, watching Fox News or The Daily Show, vaguely hoping tomorrow will be a better day. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Every two years, about half of them vote for Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum. I don't call that living. I call that incarceration. In Thoreau's famous phrase, these people endure lives of quiet desperation.

And what about the "successful" ones who presumably don't have miserable daily routines? The ones who benefit from the status quo? Those in the elite, or those who got prosperous serving them? Watch the money pile grow in the morning, hit the links at two, a dry martini with filet mignon in the clubhouse, and then off for some blow and Dom Perignon on Buffy's boat. Well, these assholes are in jail too, only they don't know it. They, too, are asleep. Deeply asleep.

In fact, the more "successful" a person is in this corrupt, unjust society, the more hopeless they are in my eyes. I do not say this out of some sort of pathetic envy for their social success or riches. I say this from a position of absolute contempt. So, you're a Big Winner in Dante's Inferno (above, left), you're the "hottest" guy in Hell! Congratulations! How many people did you step on to get to that exalted position?

If I'm going to talk with somebody, I'll choose an occupy Wall Street protester every time. Screw these so-called "successful" people, their casual immorality, their tedious conventional thinking, their self-serving or corn-pone opinions. They don't know anything important, and never will. They do not represent an ideal others should shoot for. Wisdom is born out of suffering. Success gets you nowhere. There is no other path to wisdom.

Protesting an absurdly corrupt, unjust society is not the only way of taking life seriously, of acheiving a critical passion for living that goes far beyond merely breathing or achieving conventional success. But it's one way, and a good way too if it's done consciously. I would certainly hope that those occupying Wall Street are not delusional, that they already know (or will soon learn) that such protests are futile as far as getting anything accomplished is concerned. The Empire is in Decline. The relentless March of History is not on their side (or ours).

However, practical results are not the only things that matter in life. Abandoning the stifling status quo makes psychological breakthroughs possible, and might (ultimately) give birth to a sense of humor (albeit dark humor) about the Human Predicament. This engenders some healthy contemplation of the meaning of life itself. Getting outside the box is liberating. I'm talking about aiming toward The Good Life, where you make your own choices and don't take shit from anyone, at least not if you can help it.

(Wassail, friends. -- C.)


  1. Chris, I agree that the post was a good one - although I disagree with his assessment. Personally, I think the OWS protests are going to keep growing until they become bloody and we break out in all out civil war or at least widespread civil unrest - particularly if the "Super Committee" doesn't reach some sort of compromise and the across the board cuts kick in. I don't think cuts to medicare, SS, and welfare are going to sit well with an already disgruntled, disillusioned, and unemployed populace who doesn't have anything to lose. It's possible, anyway. But that's why I don't read DOE anymore. Dave doesn't like anyone who doesn't agree with him and can be very ugly when you do. That's too bad because he has some good insight.

  2. Hi Doc, good to see you. I agree with your assessment of Dave's tolerance for disagreement, which certainly doesn't win him any friends. To his credit, he (like Guy) does his homework, and I get more from one of his essays than from three or four days' worth of 'All Things Considered.' Maybe it's a generational thing... Dave's a Boomer, and as a rule they seem too ready to dismiss opinions which differ from theirs. Guy is an exception, perhaps because of his being on the tail end of that generation. Another thing I like about Guy, is that he presents solutions. Dave has given up on solutions, and just seems to be content chronicling the Empire's decline and fall.

    I am not so sure about the progression of civil unrest. Like you, I live in a Southern state, and the views of the "heathen frontier" states like ours are overwhelmingly unsympathetic to the Occupy movements. Aside from the largest cities, I don't see such civil unrest picking up much (if any) steam in the so-called "Red" states.

    Perhaps it will be the reaction of TPTB to the Occupy movement, instead of the movement itself, which will bring about the strife you mention. I don't know. I feel like I should be doing something to help, aside from blogging and posting on Internet forums about it; but all I can do at the moment is work, and tend to the family and the garden.

  3. The OWS movement could go either way, I think. As you say, it really depends on what happens outside of the group. The protesters themselves seem to be too disorganized to do much of anything of significance. But if there is sufficient impetus from outside, that may have a coalescing effect on the group uniting them behind a single goal. In my previous post I mentioned the super committee failing to reach agreement as an example. But there could be other sufficient stimuli as well. The entire world seems to be a simmering kettle just waiting for that one little bit of energy to send it off.

    I share your sentiment about our part of the world. As a group, we routinely act against our own self-interest - e.g. the poorest, most oppressed regions in the U.S. consistently electing Republicans, who traditionally work in the interest of the rich and big business. (Democrats aren't any better in reality, but at least in word.) All that being said, there are at least 4 OWS/99% groups here in Arkansas, with protests being planned. None here in NEA Arkansas yet. But, then, we have been the least affected by the economic downturn of any region in our state.

    Of course as a regular reader of Nature Bats Last (http://www.guymcpherson.com), you know that none of this really matters in the end. There are two many people on the planet with too few resources left to divide among us. The human race is in overshoot and the climate is changing rapidly. Without all that, the OWS protests would likely not even be happening.


Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"