January 27, 2006


This morning i was listening to kpfa, which was playing a talk Gore Vidal gave to a small audience from November of last year. In this conversation, he mentioned an author describing the decline of empires - that it happens because people start believing the things that occur are inevitable.

On such subjects as the US government spying on its own citizens, and the war, he said Americans have never been so passive as they are right now. In an NYT poll, 67% thought it would be appropriate for the US government to wire-tap phone lines and access the email accounts of people suspected to be terrorists. (Upon hearing this fact, I was thinking I might be a nice, suspicious candidate). How have they been so successful in convincing people to hand over their rights? In a flurry of fear-mongering ("terror"), the deception of advertising ("war president!"), there is control of the public. We begin to believe these things are inevitable.

I think a lot of us are weary of this kind of stuff these days, out of energy. But, it's good to remind ourselves, because it speaks to other parts of our lives as well.

My lesson? When anyone says, "This is the just the way it is and has to be," never believe them.


andrea said...


as my housemate would say [or hint]:
"entropy & apathy!"

well well..
this is why l.n. is still teaching, i suppose. her words have never lost their
freshness, not even the ones that date back to the six-ties. definitely not.

entropy & apathy... people are too lazy/bothered to distinguish advertisement/propaganda/edutainment/

and this phenomenon is partly attributable to the bay area's polarising characteristics! my housemate & i were debating this last night. at first, i thought that it would erupt into an argument. but i realise/remember that he saves his temper for the more-irritating.

ay caramba!

"why do you think that exponentially less americans believe in EVOLUTION these days?"

i had heard him wrong; at first, i thought he had said "CREATIONISM" or something. and so i started babbling, in order to try to refute him.

"evolution", "devolve", "creation", "engineer", "seed", "root", "design"- these are all catch-words. nets of words. they become parleyed about to no end.... it's utterly sickening.

Reporters, Brad Pitt, and "Your [Suburban] Mom" think that they are becoming more educated citizens, simply because they read TIME magazine or somesuch, and because TIME magazine/somesuch is recruiting better and faster minds.

like google!

of course, we're all thinking about the same thing. bru quoted roy to me last year, saying, "she was walking around the rose garden with her husband, and she commented aloud, 'you know an empire is slowly draining itself when... you see lots of FAT, CRAPPING DOGS.. .. as with the roman empire!'"

makes perfect sense. the decline has been happening all along. the country is too big for its young, pre-pubescent britches. kind of like berkeley.

and this in turn reminds me of another suburban story (circa winter break):

"dogs, asperger's syndrome, happiness."

a said...

and speaking of "entropy":

let's think of this empire's decline as funnel-shaped.

jean said...

i feel as a designer or artist or academic for that matter, there is a kind of obligation to fight this entropy / apathy. and it's not just a challenge-to-the-challenge, a constant critique -- it's also a way of expressing the possibilities for an alternative, having us see something we haven't seen before, or have lost sight of.

in those very ineloquent terms, i think this is the most energizing thing about art and design culture. (and music!)

as i have futurist leanings, i like to see / hear something i haven't seen YET. progress versus regress.

Lillian said...

so...depressing. i feel that my future has gone into a slow decline.

it seems a lot of the apathy that people nowadays have slowly let it infiltrate my generation of hip-hop, dog eat dog, i'm better than you all. despite the fact that some are keenly aware of things that happen (yet still do not care), the majority don't know mostly because...well....they don't care. apparently, we live in the present.

is it the parent's fault? i dunno, probably. the thing about the suburbs, they like to sugarcoat things. it's a peachy keen and dandy world right now.

Anonymous said...

speaking of wire-tapping, this week the US government announced they are suing google because google isn't willing to give the government access to their logs. *yikes* keeping track of what citizens are searching for on the internet via google. same premise as wire-tapping, i suppose.

yet... when bush invaded a country, his advertising campaign claimed his intentions were to hunt down "terrorists". several weeks later, after changing his invasion story to "freeing a country", the search for "terrorists" became the search for "evil doers". and that's scary... to have a guy come up with new, unconstitutional laws which could vaguely apply to anyone!

bush's use of the term "terrorist" has as much collective fear as using the label "witch" back when witch-burning was a time-honored religious activity. time for you guys to move up here to canada :D -psycho

bruce said...

Word, Jean. Especially on the last part. I feel that too often people dismiss something so fundamental as questioning what is inevitable, what can’t be changed, as too idealistic, and accept things at the cost of their principles. It’s a romanticized notion to say that we never lose when we fight for what we believe in, when it should really be a way of life.

jean said...

there's something the kids (we) need to learn and learn again.

i was thinking back to a conversation i had in june of last year -- i was talking to a coworker 10 years older than i am about the 'air of fear' here.

the notion of increasing fear was reiterated in a conversation i had with a fifty-something AC transit bus driver in april 2005 noted here. "he said how today is so much darker than the 1970s even though there was the oil crisis, etc. back then, there was a lot more certainty."

i think cynicism comes when promises of progress fail to materialize. but, we can't fail to believe in change.

andrea said...


if we're going to be teaching ourselves spiffy new terminology, i suggest "induced fear", in addition to "air of fear". i'm copping the phrase from "induced demand".

funny (no, not really) that what you just posted yesterday
parallels the seminar i attended yesterday morning.
coincidentally (again, not really) we were examining
several graphs that charted the historical, ever-
increasing worldwide demand for fuel.

i should edit that: most of these graphs were fixated
on the u.s. demand for fuel.


naturally (yep), the 1970s was quite the decade to

and don't you see that, while it's a GIVEN that history
repeats itself (and then rinses, and then repeats...)
it's fascinating to see how our current decade PATENTLY
mirrors that decade?

well, a 30-year cycle is a handy cycle. all of a sudden, i feel like recommending more movies to you, on this subject. but those can wait. :p

one (1) interesting fact gleaned from yesterday's seminar:

the E.I.A. ("energy information administration" is a sector of the U.S. D.O.E. (department o' energy).
according to the professor, the E.I.A. dispatches figures & forecasts that are HIGHLY unreliable. he also
re-emphasises another cool fact about the U.S. government:

"rarely do these government-headed statistical surveys

after all- why would the federal government here ever
want to avoid responsibility for the State of the Union?
no sirree! if in case our economy isn't "doing okay", then
the federal government thus decides that it's time to..

no joke. in actuality, though, it's the pockets of the P.R.C. that finances a large percentage of u.s. debt.
no joke, no coincidence, nothing to cry about.

this is why "brave new world" & "1984" are still on the
syllabus for that nader class.

however, as you know... the same books would be absolutely necessary wherever you find strange patterns
of "mass behavior" (whatever that means!). i mean, i begin to wonder whether Berkeley public OR private schools ASSIGN these books as required reading. they had better! if you walk down the civic center of the town, then you will see what i mean. particularly, walk past the police station (which does not call itself a police station).

conversations with AC transit bus drivers are awesome. i would type more... but enough for now!

we ought to transpose more of these topics from blog-topics into walking-topics.

andrea said...

"that we have to grow up in times like these?"

it's tough, but we all have to do it. there's no such thing as physical-rewind, eh? our parents did it, so so can we. i don't think that times have ever been "good" or really "golden". you know what i mean..

i heart the F BUS!!!
but, as you know, AC transit has had to cut its budget over the years, which means less trips from the East Bay to "the City".


bus drivers' words always ring true, no matter what. i mean, look at their job!! they feel the brunt of economic trends. gas station attendants- they do, too.

and on yet another tangent:
why don't we just sit ourselves down and make our own "apples to apples" game? while i was at home over winter break, i got really depressed about the fact that "prestigious" university educations (!!!) neglect the importance of a working understanding of either global economies or the stock market.

chalk it up to "entropy/apathy". i'm entirely serious about this, though.
list of prospective terms for said game:
1. I.M.F.
2. morbid obesity
3. 3rd world debt (is this really a term? it's pejorative.)
4. Bono
5. asshole
6. B.T.U. (British Thermal Unit?)