A good philosophy

David James Duncan, author of ‘The River Why’, has a deep understanding which can help people make some accommodation with the political forces that we are subjected to. Below is an extract taken from an interview done by the American publication Smokebox. You can substitute Bush for Brown and maybe start to have pity for both men (or maybe not).


The guy who’s been helping me come to terms with Bush is Leo Tolstoy. In War and Peace (at the beginning of Part IX if anyone’s curious) Tolstoy defines history as “the unconscious life of humanity in the swarm.” This unconscious swarm, he adds, “makes every minute of the life of a king (or president) its own, as an instrument for attaining its ends.”

Picture a queen bee. There may be no more important bee in the hive, and her drones may fight to the death to defend her, and journalists may run over each other to ask her what she thinks about the global pollen market or the OPEC-price-fixing of honey. But if you watch that queen for a few minutes, crawling laboriously across the comb, lovelessly plugging egg after egg into the appropriate slot, her life starts to seem more like a prison sentence than a life. She may be queen, but her life is less spontaneous, her actions more predetermined by hival need, and her movements less free, than that of any other meadow-wandering peasant-bee in her colony.

Bush Senior was a queen bee. Bush Junior is too. Tolstoy writes, “The higher a man’s place in the social scale, the more connections he has with others, and the more power he has over them, the more conspicuous is the inevitability and predestination of every act he commits.

The king is the slave of history…In historical events great men—so called—are but the labels that serve to give a name to an event, and like labels, they have the least possible connection with the event itself. Every action of theirs, that seems to them an act of their own free will, is in an historical sense not free at all, but in bondage to the whole course of previous history.

”Peasant that I am, Marc, I am free to go wander the meadows and sniff the flowers every day of my life. Does Bush have that freedom? What do you think would happen if George W. Bush had an epiphany, and decided to stop being a slave to the “ignorant, smug, greedy, thieving” forces to whom he is enslaved? What would happen if he suddenly started expressing the vision and values of, say, an Amory Lovins, a Gary Snyder, or even a Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.? My guess is he’d be sedated and committed, or worse, within days.
Source: Smokebox.net Interview: David James Duncan

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