FOOTNOTE: have look at Gibson’s blog. Without endorsing every word of it you'll find it stimulating and provoking. Especially the later paragraphs on emotions and staring down demons. He finishes thus - “A world without wonder would not be worth living in. We should be wary of any people who want to banish our sense of wonder.”
The Ranter remembers a kinder, gentler time and recalls youth’s belief in itself - when we thought we mattered and everything was possible. Starting young, full of enthusiasm and optimism, we’ve matured as age crept up on us and we passed forks in the road without even knowing it.
To the left narrow tracks winding towards empathy, understanding, love and hopefully …. wisdom.
And to the right? A broad path sloping down to comfort, security and …. entropy.
Albeit these choices didn’t occur at just one easily identified moment. We maybe chose to defy bullies at school, refuse the draft, take strike action or vote for the unpopular candidate because she was right, nevertheless.
With so many choices we mostly took the path already mapped out by family and social connection. We had a normal life to live after all. Occasionally we chose the opposite of what everyone expected of us, taking that first tentative step towards independence and self determination.
In the 60’s and 70’s conscription and the Vietnam War made it easy to be rebellious and join popular movements - resistance, defiance, justice, liberation were all easy to endorse. Marxism and Maoism offered seductive ideologies and neatly packaged answers.
Red’s a striking color that inflames the emotions, and demonstrations can be fun. So it was a pretty cool time to be young and alive. And of course some today think those times are coming again.
But we didn’t “smash US Imperialism” as expected, instead it morphed into neo-Liberalism and the demands of career and family took precedence over political principles for many of us. Pragmatism snuck to the fore. Vote left-of-centre but don’t take direct action. See the other point of view. Stability is more important than idealism. We need to be realistic, pragmatic. And so on. Many or maybe most of the 60’s radicals slipped away to the establishment sidelines.
However, history records that people can actually establish true democracies and "Turn The World Upside Down” - the Levellers and Ranters in 17th century England, or the Paris Commune of 1871, Zapatistas in Mexico or Rojava today. Despite defeats and the rewritten tales of empires and great men, a popular memory remains embedded in our collective unconscious, in humanity’s political DNA.
Though faced with tragedy and corruption everywhere - US drones and missiles killing civilians, Trump, Syria, half of Africa mired in war and corruption, asylum seekers trapped on Nauru and Manus, the homeless on the streets of the supposedly rich world . . . and so on - we still have that basic choice. Do we just lay down and roll over? Or do we cooperate with each other to resist? Choice. We are active agents in our own lives.
This blog, like many others all over the world, strives to record resistance and encourage humanity’s capacity for, well . . . humanity.
Even though winter is coming, all ranters remember the spring of childhood and still carry their hopes into the future . . . We are all born of woman and we all die in the end. We all drink water and walk on the earth and look up at the sky. We talk and think in ways that animals can’t, but that’s not to say other animals don’t communicate or feel emotion, for we are animals just as much as they are and have evolved from other types of creatures in the distant past.
In fact it seems all living things are aspects of something bigger and deeper, manifestations of life that interact with and depend on each other. Although science helps us understand these interactions, there’s something about the whole much more complex than the sum of the parts. Something that ranters know as spirituality but which can’t be reduced to mere religious belief. Nor simplistic “faith.” There are things we just cannot understand, yet we go on living.
That is a comfort since our planet revolves around just one of the millions of stars in creation. And while the idea of humanity means a lot, it’s worth recalling a line from a Shane Maloney novel:
Coming home drunk and distraught, the hopeless romantic Murray Whelan lay in the gutter looking at the Milky Way, and those countless stars seemed to say “We may look tiny but you are just small.”
We are human animals and we are part of life, along with insects and fish and plants, all of it. We think we’re important, we’re the ants’ pants, that this is the anthropogenic age, that we are gods in fact. But our share of time is minute – less than a drop in the ocean or a grain of sand on the beach. Reflect on the inconceivable vastness of the universe, look at the Milky Way - our part in space is so small.
This is not an argument for God, just a plea for perspective: humans live here and now, once and only for a brief time. Geoffrey Gibson in his blog With Compliments says he was liberated by Wittgenstein’s observation that we do not live to see our own death. After we’ve gone we’ve nothing to worry about – no longer here, nor anywhere else.
So in the here and now, if we focus on just being, we need to choose between Eros and Thanatos. Life and death. Love and fear. The concept comes from Freud’s 1920 book Beyond the Pleasure Principle.
Picasso's painting Guernica, in some ways a declaration of Eros vs Thanatos
That’s something else about Ranterulze and in fact all ranters - we celebrate life in all its complexity and contradiction. Individual freedom along with family, community and responsibility. Sex, pleasure and reproduction. Music, dancing, laughter. Dealing with disappointment and even disaster. In all such situations, whether personal or social, we must choose how to respond - with love, or out of fear?
Due to an accident of birth, we are of the luckiest generation in this Lucky Country. No civil war, democratic stability, economic growth, lots of sunshine and seaside holidays, happy families with good friends.
Yet we are embedded in the patriarchy, tricked by participatory democracy so that political hierarchy and economic inequality remain invisible. Seduced and manipulated by the mass media, itself controlled by the same 1% who own the economy and wield the power.
This is the basis of ranterulze.net. Recording the ways of the world in the hope that truth will out, that this tiny voice will help “speak truth to power.” Seeking to counter the unrestrained sweep of testosterone, searching for alternatives to patriarchal power and control. Exploring different ways of incorporating spirituality without the institutional controls of church, religion or faith.
I believe that humans have a moral sense, an obligation to look after others of our kind. Not only by instinct, like ants or bees, but by choice and a sensibility about right and wrong. How we define “our kind” and by extension, “others,” that’s the question.
Ranterulze would love to hear from you, especially if you can point us in a new direction or add to the thoughts on these pages.
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Email to "johnd" at (@) "tigerulze.net"