11 January 2017

The Joy of Fighting Back
Part 2:  Sadness and its Discontents

Liberals are sad right now.  At least, this would be a reasonable inference from reading opinion pieces such as this one.  Virtually everything about the world seems to them (us?) to be "sad and tragic."  (I have a rant I could deploy about old white male scientists of today and their inability to write effectively, but it will have to wait.)

 J.R.R. Tolkien, an underrated philosopher, presented this problem very well in the final volume of his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

'Fight?' said Frodo. 'Well, I suppose it may come to that.  But remember: there is to be no slaying of hobbits, not even if they have gone over to the other side.  Really gone over, I mean; not just obeying ruffians' orders because they are frightened.  No hobbit has ever killed another on purpose in the Shire, and it is not to begin now.  And nobody is to be killed at all, if it can be helped.  Keep your tempers and hold your hands to the last possible moment!' 
'But if there are many of these ruffians,' said Merry, 'it will certainly mean fighting.  You won't rescue Lotho, or the Shire, just by being shocked and sad, my dear Frodo.'

In my city's downtown, on Inauguration Day, I know of two planned events.  One, at 2 pm, is a protest against Trump, racism, sexism, and associated ills; the other, after sunset, is a candlelight vigil for victims of the same ills.  I do not wish to denounce either one of these events.  However, I, personally, have frankly had enough of hiding in the dark and mourning.  This is an activity that can consume decades of a person's life (see, among others: Queen Victoria) -- and starting with the massacre in Orlando last June, the LGBT community and its allies have had plenty of reasons to do it.

There are always reasons to mourn.  If nobody was killed in senseless gun violence in this country today (which is rare), children died of preventable diseases in poor countries -- and they could have been saved if the super-rich in rich countries had not insisted on austere debt repayment architectures (to be euphemistic about it) that leave those poor countries nothing to spend on health care.

Finding reasons for joy is harder:  I grant that is true.  Sometimes we just have to leave our familiar holes ("to step out of our comfort zones" as people say) and trust in our mithril surcoats and bright blades.  Tolkien again:
'No!' said Merry.  'It's no good "getting under cover." That is just what people have been doing, and just what these ruffians like.  They will simply come down on us in force, corner us, and then drive us out, or burn us in.  No, we have got to do something at once.'  'Do what?' said Pippin.  'Raise the Shire!' said Merry. 'Now! Wake all our people!  They hate all this, you can see:  all of them except perhaps one or two rascals, and a few fools that want to be important, but don't at all understand what is really going on.  But Shire-folk have been so comfortable so long they don't know what to do.  They just want a match, though, and they'll go up in fire...'

 And you know what?  Americans do hate all this.

I did not watch the President's farewell address last night, but it seems he said something about "forging a new social compact."  The verb "forging" is well chosen.  A forge needs intense heat and strong arms to pound the metal.

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