||[May. 19th, 2009|12:27 pm]
I've been watching a lot of Ken Burns lately: we saw The Civil War, and then The War (second world war), and I've been trying to connect the dots. What kind of story links those two disputes?|
From a purely military perspective, it seems that by 1945, tactics had finally caught up with the weapons, at least at the level of the soldier in his foxhole. The Great war of 1914 was kind of a repeat of 1862, in terms of what the generals didn't understand.
But on a political level, there's still a larger story trying to worm its way into my head, having to do with why people get caught up in such avoidable mayhem.
It's pretty clear that if Slavery was really at the core of the 1862 fracas, then it was at a subconscious level. The south didn't arm itself to defend from the north, it armed itself because its property wanted to wander. The fear of slave uprising came before resentment of northern imperialism. And the north wasn't doing a hell of a lot better with chaining its paid workers to their stations, and forcing children to work instead of letting them go to school.
I want to rewrite an alternate history where the war between the states may have lasted quite a bit longer, but at the end of hostilities, there wouldn't be another hundred years of American apartheid in the south.
If a human being was finally granted ownership of his own body in 1865, he still did not get to have ownership of the life support systems that allow him to thrive. And that condition persists today.
Life, Inc. makes a case for local currencies, and ending the charted monopolies that have grown into the modern multinational. I think somewhere in all this, is a mathematical value that needs to be defined.
Property and other things of value cannot always be held by the individual, and it would be silly to try. Private corporations don't and shouldn't monopolize national borders. But neither should they monopolize school textbooks. The corporatist movement seems to be making an argument to me about the nature of the world, something like, "the nation" is too large, too diffuse a body to own most kinds of property, and the corporation can be smarter and faster. Let's dump regulatory laws in favor of the market"
On the far end of this spectrum is an old survivalist strategy from the '60s and before: "let's get away from the corrupt city and live on our own in the wilderness, and let the land teach us what we need to know"
Corporatist reality give me too little freedom, and back to the land is actually bad for the planet and is too much work. Somewhere between those extremes is a happy medium where I can freely interact with my peers, and my neighbors, and create value in a way that doesn't involve entities whose morals I mistrust.
The human animal is still trying to domesticate itself. In 1862, the unit measure was small enough to sort-of understand. An individual human could be separated from its family at the whim of its owner, and mistreated property would bear the bruises and scars of rough handling.
These days, the individual human cannot be so easily removed from its blood kin, but "the mobile labor force' means that commodity housing is the only kind of home we will ever know, and we will only ever have rented access to our life support systems, be they shelter, water, food, or medical.
The scars of neglect don't show much on our bodies, it's what we lack in our minds. How many of us remember growing stuff from seed, and then eating what we've grown? How many of us are still on speaking terms with our parents who are still together, and our siblings, whose lives have a common cause to ours? In the States, we often can't remember that there was ever a different way to meet social needs, or that other places are still meeting these needs differently right now.
I think that mathematical value will only be found as people decide for themselves who they'll cooperate with, and who they'll resist.