Thursday, July 05, 2007

Um Yung, and Politics

So, Independence Day was quite a nice little affair here in our neck of the woods. Our neighbors David and Della invited us and another couple (Master Nunan and his wife Pennie) over for a delicious brunch (complete with tons of fantastic food and fresh roasted peach bellinis -- delicious) in the AM. Seeing as we are currently undergoing some sort of Biblical punishment here in Texas, the neverending downpours caused the city to cancel the local fireworks, and so we instead organized a very impromptu get-together with some friends (our brunch buddies from that morning, my mom and bro-an-co., plus about 10 or so additional adults and kids). Nice size group -- manageable, without it turning into complete bedlam.

Anyhow, there were a couple of awkward moments at brunch when things veered over into politics and religion-land. Yes, yes, we all know that these topics are to be avoided like the plague at friendly get-togethers, but to be honest I've had a wild hair up my butt all week due to Bush's commuting of Libby's sentence (grrr...) and I was having a really hard time keeping my opinions to myself when our host brought him up in a very yay-we-like-him manner. But, they're my hosts and I'm not going to be rude, so I bit my tongue and stared into the middle distance. But later, Master Nunan brought up some stuff about teaching intelligent design or creationism or whatever in public school and I had to say my peace. A mild disagreement, really, and we veered away from it before it became a debate (I had my say, he had his say, and then I dropped it when I realized it was getting awkward). No biggie, really.

But later when he came by for the party we kind of stepped aside and I clarified my stance, as did he, and I really came to the conclusion that in general terms we agree. So, no harm no foul and we are fine, I'm sure. But what was interesting was how not long afterward a full-blown political debate broke out in my living room. And we had all stripes there -- I'm very liberal socially, but can definitely see myself as something of a fiscal conservative. But I've always voted Democrat. Then there's Master Nunan, who has always voted Republican. We had a couple who fit nicely into the California Democrat mold, and my brother who is a lifelong Republican as well. What was ironic, as we discussed and debated, was that here we had a roomfull of people with fairly wide-ranging opinions that map well across the "mushy middle" -- the place where I'd say the vast majority of the American people can place themselves -- and even though we pretty much agreed on just about everything, we all will almost certainly wind up voting for different candidates along party lines.

Because it's an either/or system. You can't vote your beliefs, really. You have to just pick a side to vote for (or, as is usually the case for most of us, against) and that's that. And whatever happens, you're stuck with the outcome. You can of course vote your conscience, or at least try to, but with the overwhelming attitude that voting for a third-party candidate is "wasting your vote" that's just not a currently feasible solution. So, most of us vote with a major party, as often as not actually voting to stop the other side, not to put the guy we like in office.

And ironically, people who actually seem to agree on nearly everything -- moderates, or progressives, or whatever the term of the day is -- wind up voting for opposing candidates, essentially canceling each other out in the process, and ultimately only the extremists from either party actually matter.

God, it's so totally broken.

That's what got me thinking about Um Yung. And just how antithetical it is to the current American way of thinking about politics, on both sides of the spectrum. Yes, the Um Yung in simplest terms represents dual elements opposing each other -- much as could be said of the current political environment, which utterly consumed by pro/con, yes/no, for/against. If you're not with us, you're against us. Absolute opposition. No yield, no quarter. So, in that sense, it almost seems to be a perfect illustration of our society.

But the Um Yung also shows that the opposing forces that define the universe also define each other. In order for one to advance, the other must recede, but in so doing it advances as well, pushing into the other while retreating. A perfect circle. Similar to an ouroboros. Perfect balance, where aggression results in simultaneous victory and defeat.

And that's where things are so broken in our current media-driven culture, I think. Everything has been collapsed and simplified into these simple black/white distinctions but there is no real balance at all. Everything -- news, opinions, politics, religion, you name it -- is communicated in these insanely simplistic two-sides of the story terms, regardless of whether there are actually two equal sides, more than two sides, or really no opposition at all once the didacticism is stripped away.

And once things are simplified into the insanely simplistic two-sides state, there is certainly no effort on anyone's part to recognize the other side as anything other than something to be obliterated. Take your talking points, insult the opposition, demonize them by any means necessary, regardless of whether they might, in fact, have something of merit to be considered buried underneath their talking points and invective. Our entirely public dialogue has become based on defeating those who oppose us, to crushing them and removing them from the field altogether. Negating them. Making them not matter. Making them not exist.

And in Um Yung terms, in eastern thinking, doesn't this simultaneously destroy the victor as well? I think that's what we're seeing, here in America. We're the ouroboros, but we're not just biting our tail, chasing ourselves. We're actively consuming ourselves as well.
We'r ethe red, consuming the blue, or vice versa. Destroying the thing that define us, and destroying ourselves in the process, leaving a vacuum behind.

And since nature abhors a vacuum, the question, of course, would be "what will ultimately come to fill that vacuum?" I don't know. I hope we wake up before we have to find out.

Mood: A bit troubled
Now Playing: Amy Winehouse, "Back to Black"

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