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Mandalay Bay: Top O' The World, Ma! (PART ONE)

Aging Baby Boomer Runs Amok in Vegas

“Literature creates a fraternity within human diversity and eclipses the frontiers erected among men and women by ignorance, ideologies, religions, languages, and stupidity.” He talks of literature in oppressive regimes and wonders “why all regimes determined to control the behavior of citizens from cradle to grave fear it so much they establish systems of censorship.” The answer is simple: “[T]hey know the risk of allowing the imagination to wander free.”

Consider the poet/rock star Patti Smith, an artist in full synch with Vargas Llosa’s thinking.

“What is the task?” she wonders in a 2017 book called Devotion. “To compose a work that communicates on several levels, as in parable, devoid of the strain of cleverness. What is the dream? To write something fine, that would be better than I am, and that would justify my trials and indiscretions. ... Why do we write? ... Because we can’t simply live.” Because we want to be part of the great conversation of our times.

All human beings (even animals) have inner lives that, at every moment, interplay with reality, especially all those “other people” out there. What we share with other people is what Friedrich Nietzsche called “the will to power.” That is, all human beings want to be free and to do what they want. In his 1984 book titled The Politics of Meaning: Power and Explanation in the Construction of Social Reality, Peter Sederberg sifts this down to what he sees as the fundamental equation of politics: the struggle over meaning.

“Politics consists of all deliberate efforts to control systems of shared meaning. ... The existence of shared meaning is a social puzzle to be solved not by a philosophical determination of the meaning of an event but by comprehending how human beings establish mutuality in an inherently polysemantic world. ... In this dialectical fashion we are both the creators and the products of shared meaning.” As Vargas Llosa notes, some people would discourage by any means available this kind of social dialectic.

The kind of politics Sederberg speaks to may be a lost art these days. For it to work right demands respectful exchange. It’s a social enterprise requiring human interaction, which can seem the antithesis of political life in the age of the internet. In Sederberg’s view, violence can and does tilt the scales in the political struggle for shared meanings. Complexity poses a major challenge, as does the internet. “As a society grows more complex,” he writes, “the problem of generating and maintaining shared meaning also becomes demanding.”

In a book titled Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich, Duane Elgin describes four stages of growth and decline for western industrial civilizations. There’s Growth Stages One and Two, and Decline Stages Three and Four. He concluded back in 1981, the beginning of the Reagan years, that the US was somewhere in Stage Three of Initial Decline. Thirty-six years later, at the beginning of the Trump regime, I’d conclude we’re in the early part of Stage Four, the Breakdown stage. Here’s some of how Elgin describes Stage Four Breakdown:

story | by Dr. Radut