Quitting and Going Home: Failure, Success or Complicated?

10 11 2007

I was reading “Death to the SAT” today:

“Considering the source” is a legit part of critical thinking — a fun part, easy to write and get folks to read! –but praising an idea solely because of the source is intellectual pandering, and attacking a source in place of analyzing the source’s idea is intellectual pathos (from which, the SAT might expect college-quality readers and writers to know, comes the vocabulary word PATHETIC.)

Any idea can and should be examined quite apart from one’s lizard-brain feelings about how its political critics and champions line up. Intelligent feminists and journalists need to do this with “education” issues, for example, instead of blindly buying teacher union and other liberal rhetoric on public schooling, homeschooling and parent-family privacy issues.

Evolution can be studied and discussed beyond either praising or mocking Jesus, Darwin, or the Pope. The meaning of life and death can be considered without ranting about Dr. Kevorkian; the meaning of war and peace can be considered as much larger than our personal feelings about Cindy Sheehan, George Washington, George Bush, Adolf Hitler or Jane Fonda.

which reminded me of my Culture Kitchen essay about Cindy Sheehan as empty celebrity icon we imbue with our own meaning. Although I meant to crosspost it here at Snook, it seems somehow it never got done. So here it is:

So the controversial Cindy Sheehan is quitting her one-woman crusade, maybe giving up her citizenship in disgust and moving to Canada? Did her 15 minutes of political celebrity make her a heroine, did it serve life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for the American people, or just serve as spectacle?

“I have tried ever since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful,” she wrote.

“Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives.”It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years, and Casey paid the price for that allegiance.

“I failed my boy and that hurts the most.”

Whatever her failures and disillusionment, is there anything better one individual struggling within massively failing systems could expect? Not according to the 1990 holistic system thinking movie “Mindwalk” . . .maybe save the system, save the world?

Actor Sam Waterston’s answer, after starring in Mindwalk, was to lend his celebrity to Unity08, trying to reform the whole system through new interconnections rather than win-lose adversarial elections.

Both Democrats and Republicans — who together “are” by definition the entrenched political system — are naturally resisting and ridiculing him in these efforts, as they have successfully done to Sheehan, manipulating all the media they can dominate to keep systemic change from being taken seriously by real, regular, reasonable people going about their private business and wondering who can save them from what they have wrought.

I think — although Sheehan herself doesn’t seem capable of such analysis — that the opening trick we can’t manage, is thinking well enough to understand what “saving” the system even means, in such complicated plot lines populated with infinitely interdependent characters, aka the Real World.

Making it do — what? Making it work — how? Making it serve — whom? Because we fail at that, we fail at everything we attempt after that.

This morning my expert public policy eye spots a (rare imo) right answer in the New York Times business news, real analysis and insight for all those of us who puzzle over public schools and party politics, religious wars, et cetera and just can’t understand why we keep doing all the wrong things wronger, regressing rather than progressing : Read the rest of this entry »