pseudopodium
. . . choose which side you're on

. . .

All these calls for us to choose which side you're on....

For starters, we can probably agree that in an emergency one should work to save people.

If not that (or after that), then one should witness. (And, clicking to one shut-down site after another, I only now realize that I should've been mirroring all these witnesses from the start, rather than letting them be silenced by their ISPs' inflexible contracts and our insatiable hunger for witness: a new social obligation to keep in mind, like attacking hijackers en masse.)

[Reaching back for role models to the USA's last fully justified military action, there's the active witnessing of Bill Mauldin or Ernie Pyle...]


If one has nothing to witness and no expertise to offer, one might as well deal with one's own despair as quietly as possible and continue with one's existing duties as effectively as possible.
[... the enduringly humane, determinedly oblique paths of E. B. White and George Herriman, as opposed to the brayings of Hearst's and Harper's forgotten editorializers...]


Repugnant -- but probably harmless except as example -- is to treat that evil as an opportunity for shoring up one's own fatuity. For example, perennial Profile-in-Repellence John Updike progressing at the speed of castor oil from "I wonder if what I do is really worthwhile?" through "Why, of course it's worthwhile!" to "Say, I bet I can get a honey of an essay out of this."

Downright vicious is to seize upon a great evil to advance one's own agenda and career, to judge and exhort without knowledge or risk, to profiteer literally or figuratively -- the low path of the professional politician, the professional pundit, and the professional zealot.

Those who correspondingly fight such viciousness play an unsavory but necessary role.

Disheartening when not numbing -- but otherwise rarely worthy of notice -- is weakness before the temptation of fallacious "engagement": the inability to turn away when one can neither act or witness. For natural joiners, such weakness might be expressed in flag-waving (whether red-white-and-blue or rainbow) and "FUCK BIN LADEN" or "GIVE PEACE A CHANCE" T-shirts and tuneless warbling of Kate Smith or John Lennon hits, while the natural non-joiners will instead be heard carping and nattering to themselves like so many nervous rodents.

For myself, when not pressed side-down against the silent velvety muck of dead bottom, I've stayed bobbing around that very low level of discourse. And I'm not at all proud of having added my dim lights to what Paul Ford correctly calls "a pinpoint of triteness."

But, see, I can't think through anything without speaking or writing it out. And politics and media -- the news that doesn't stay news -- are pretty much everything I've been able to think about since the 11th. (If you think what's here is depressingly pointless, you should see the thousands of words I couldn't bring myself to post.)

I hope other -- less important and thus more useful -- concerns will re-insinuate themselves soon.

 

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