The paralysis of analysis: hopelessness in the current world

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

The 1814 translation into English by the Reverend H. F. Cary is the origin for this phrase in English, although he gave it as the less commonly used 'All hope abandon ye who enter here'.

Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.

Justice the founder of my fabric mov'd:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.

Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.

One of the prices of knowledge, especially when deprived of power is pain. When Trump seemed ready to provoke WW3 by escalating in Syria, many of us were frightened for the immediate futures of ourselves, our families, our friends. Now that the immediate threat has abated, we are still faced with the arduous prospect of slow suffocation of our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

The converse, "ignorance is bliss", rings quite true in these times. When the Gods of War almost started the War Without Return (WW3), I thought long and hard as to whether to call my children. After consideration, I did not do so. The "benefit" of advanced knowledge of pending destruction appeared insignificant in comparison to the horror and perhaps panic such information might have had. Like most of their peers, my children have no earthly concern for "politics" even though this Python from Hades constricts our freedom daily.

c99 is an intellectual haven for me and many others, even those, who, like alligators, are content to lurk beneath the surface, while covertly observing the gloom and doom. Those hardy, stolid creatures care not what travails occurs on shore, being sure of their own future success as predicted by their millions of years past. Past predicts future.

Well, not quite. But our history is currently is like the drunkard's walk, a state in which the drunkard, having lost control of his limbs, staggers unpredictably onward. Yet, each stumble and hesitation leads to a loss of entropy; in other words, the drunkard loses postural stability at a higher entropy level (erectness) with each such misstep. The result is that the drunkard's inability to right himself (or herself) loses more entropy (altitude, erectness) with each lurch and lean. The final result is not random, although the path taken to achieve the end-posture of lying in the gutter is unpredictable.

For me, the path to the gutter of our world, our civilization, is unpredictable but the result certain.

Is there a way way, conceivable, even if unlikely to add additional entropy, forestalling the drunkard's fall until sobriety recurs? This is the GREAT QUESTION of our time. Whatever cast of characters, the dysfunctional, malevolent institutions dictates that WE have no control. In effect, being powerless, we have no means of righting ourselves, being subject to overwhelming force, consistently applied.

Hat tip to snoopydawg for this excellent link to an article "Inverted Totalitarianism"

The expositor, Sheldon Wolin, paints a grimly correct analysis of the current dysfunctional system, which again, python-like, progressively squeezes harder each time we exhale, until we no longer breathe.

One may call this essay a rant. I might call it a requiem.

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Lookout's picture

my hope is the dollar goes belly up and we are too broke to continue our foolish military aggression around the world. That's my preference over WW3 w/ China/Russia.

That's all dependent on climate chaos allowing for our survival...a very questionable assumption.

That Hedges piece is really good. I also enjoyed his recent article, America the Failed State

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Alligator Ed's picture

@Lookout The Chris Hedges article: America the failed state is apropos in many ways. The loss of civility both political and non-political is a definite symptom of loss of social integration. Of course, this campaign to divide the populace is modus operandi of oppressors both modern and past.

“Congress works through corruption,” Saul, the author of books such as “Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West” and “The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World...

The corruption of the British system was amended in what Saul called “a wave upwards.” The 1832 Reform Act abolished a practice in which oligarchs, such as Charles Howard, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, controlled the election results in 11 boroughs. The opening up of the British parliamentary system took nearly a century. In the United States, Saul said, the destruction of democracy is part of “a wave downwards.”

The two political parties are one party—the corporate party. They do not debate substantive issues. They each support the expansion of imperial wars, the bloated military budget, the dictates of global capitalism, the bailing out of Wall Street, punishing austerity measures, assaulting basic civil liberties through wholesale government surveillance and the abolition of due process, and an electoral process that has cemented into place a system of legalized bribery. They battle over cultural tropes such as abortion, gay rights and prayer in schools. We elect politicians based on how we are made to feel about them by the public relations industry. Politics is anti-politics.

Is perverse nationalism a la Trump any better or worse than globalist neoliberalism? No. The solution is not in my ken.

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detroitmechworks's picture

Taking a moment, I'm going to apply the various philosophies I'm studying and trying to live according to, and how each would respond to this situation. (YMMV, and this is just my personal views.)

The Cynic in me Knows that this is outside of the self. It is an imposition of despair from without, for the imposition of despair is a powerful tool for those who would be tyrants. When you feel like you can't even do ANYTHING because of despair, that's when TPTB have you exactly where they want you. You are a slave in all but name. Therefore, I suggest we look at our shackles, and realize which we can easily remove without TPTB noticing.

Judo would remind me that no Pin is impossible to break, provided that the opponent doesn't make a mistake. Some holds you can't escape from, but that does not mean give up. It means tap, then go at it again from another angle. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and being down for a moment doesn't mean that you can't get back up later.

And the poetry I'm writing tells me that this is but a moment in time. A coda where it is time to reflect on what was and what will come. Knowing the future from the past doesn't mean that it is inevitable. Parts may be, but having at least a vague map lets you know where to go for shelter.

Aaaand that's my take. It's simplistic, but nature in its infinite complexity always seems to follow simple rules.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

Alligator Ed's picture

@detroitmechworks My essay may be prose, but the higher Muse of Poetry, infuses your reply.

Your comment is hopeful and proper:

The Cynic in me Knows that this is outside of the self. It is an imposition of despair from without, for the imposition of despair is a powerful tool for those who would be tyrants. When you feel like you can't even do ANYTHING because of despair, that's when TPTB have you exactly where they want you. You are a slave in all but name. Therefore, I suggest we look at our shackles, and realize which we can easily remove without TPTB noticing.

Sometimes it is hard to get out of a box. lined with mirrors, suggesting an infinity of sameness as one looks in all directions. Thus getting out of the box may require the help of others not so forlorn.

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mimi's picture

You Sir Alligator Ed scare me quite a bit.

The result is that the drunkard's inability to right himself (or herself) loses more entropy (altitude, erectness) with each lurch and lean. The final result is not random, although the path taken to achieve the end-posture of lying in the gutter is unpredictable.

For me, the path to the gutter of our world, our civilization, is unpredictable but the result certain

If the result is certain, why would that path be unpredictable?

In my opinion it's very predictable that the drunkards fall into the gutter and suffocate themselves in the muddy mess they created.

The drunkards die with all the others they killed. And that is the start of a new beginning.

Is there a way way, conceivable, even if unlikely to add additional entropy, forestalling the drunkard's fall until sobriety recurs?

Forestalling? You want to forestall it? I want to get it over with. The drunkards can't fall fast enough.

You write so well, but I don't see the python squeezing out the last breath of a that alligator.

Nope.

When Alligators start listening to Brahms, something isn't right.

Please get outta there in whatever you are in. There were survivors of WWII and there will be survivors of WWIII.

Don't do that again. Little girls get scared when men want to die.

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Alligator Ed's picture

@mimi This alligator doesn't want to check out soon. Periodic situational depression seems to be my reaction to new developments--most of them bad.

Listen to Brahms--yes. Puccini not so much.

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mimi's picture

@Alligator Ed
I tried to make fun with my first reactions to your article to distract from its seriousness.

This alligator doesn't want to check out soon

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WoodsDweller's picture

Regardless of what actions are taken I don't see any way that even one human will be alive in 50 years, and nobody who reads this blog (aka those without wealth and power to secure a spot in a shoddy bunker somewhere) will be alive in 10 years. Things are about to get very bad, very quickly.
My confirmation bias is confirmed daily.
There is a sort of zen about it all. Act, act with virtue, but without hope of reward or positive result.
I would be more concerned about the disastrous future the El Trumpo regime is bringing about if I thought there was a future for humanity. In a way a lack of hope is liberating. I find comfort in understanding.
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. All of humanity is in hospice now. Be kind to one another.

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I like this world. It's not perfect, but everything I love is in it.

Alligator Ed's picture

@WoodsDweller WoodsDweller, I find solace in your words of empathy.

There is a sort of zen about it all. Act, act with virtue, but without hope of reward or positive result....

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. All of humanity is in hospice now. Be kind to one another.

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lotlizard's picture

@WoodsDweller  
https://skipmendler.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/handy-tips-on-how-to-behave...

Sometimes it comes in a dream, and sometimes in one more newspaper headline. And then you know. With your cells and past and future you know. It’s over. We are killing it all and soon it all will be dead. We are here at the death of the world — killers, witnesses, and those who will die. How then shall we live?

PROBABLY GOOD TO TELL TRUTH as much as possible. Truth generally appreciated by terminal patients and we all are.

Good to avoid shoddy activities. You are doing some of last things done by beings on this planet. Generosity and beauty and basicness might be good ways to go. Avoid that which is selfserving in a small way. Keep in mind standing in for ancestors including people who lived ten thousand years ago and also fishes. Might be best to do activities that would make some ancestors feel honored to be part of bringing you here. Silent statement to predecessors: Well, yeah, we blew the big thing by killing ourselves. I tried to honor you as much as I could in that context by doing the following:

Originally published in the Whole Earth Review, Spring 1995, p. 88.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Herbert_%28writer%29

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Creosote.'s picture

@lotlizard @lotlizard
Her thought and writing resonate deeply and acutely here

Hope to find more of her writing now

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TheOtherMaven's picture

@lotlizard

derives from the same essay. It's about the best advice we've got left.

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There is no justice. There can be no peace.

wendy davis's picture

‘abandon all hope ye who enter here’, and i’d issued warnings about reading it all in one swell foop. the only two who’d even commented on it weren’t phased a bit, seemingly.

i’d have to say that the only times i get depressed about any of the current national and global zeitgeist is that it simply didn’t have to be this way, even with the polar icecaps melting at ever more alarming rates, uncovering more methane pools, etc., having baked in the sixth extinction already. we know who to point the fingers toward, and few name them for who they are and what they’ve done: capitalists and their cul-de-sac status quo handmaidens. but in the end, i find that knowledge liberating, myself.

it’s certainly not only in amerika that the leaders are oppressing, murdering, if sometimes slowly, enslaving the citizenry by the greed of capitalist desire to make more and more profits by way of forced austerity, deadly pharma, GMO foods and seeds, rampant homelessness, endless wars and the related diasporas of millions.

“We're starving in a handful of gluttons
We're drowning in their gravy spills
Their tongues are silver forks
There's a lack of wisdom,
You can hear it on their breath
Windego
It's delicate confronting these priests of the golden bull
They preach from the pulpit of the bottom line
Their minds rustle with million dollar bills
You say Silver burns a hole in your pocket
And Gold burns a hole in your soul
Well, uranium burns a hole in forever
It just gets out of control”
~ buffy sainte marie

but when all hope is lost, what we do know is this: that we’ll all die one day, most of us not by choice, but most of us never learned to live with the knowledge that death always hovers just out of sight over our left shoulders (don juan mateus), which sense might have aided us to ask: ‘is this what i’d want to be doing if i knew this might be my last moment on this mortal coil, on this side?’. so we do what we can do in order to make community and alleviate some of the suffering of those we’re able to aid, tend our flowers, grow our herbs, be enlightened by our music of choice, and act as our consciences dictate we must. yes, tell our truths to one another, know our own inner duels with our dark sides (i have many), make amends to those we can...and wing our prayers out into the noosphere to others living similar dire fates.

in this country we’ve come to believe that we can change the world by marking Xes in voting booths for one duopoly candidate or another, as do citizens of other lands. but look what con jobs were obomba, tsipras, a host of others. i reckon i don’t feel any less safe w/ the great orange one in the oval, and as far as a peace deal w/ north korea: it was the D team who’d tried to tank it earlier, now it’s the exceptionally dangerous pompeo reneging on the deal, same as w/ the iranian nuclear accords. face it, the PTB, corporate inverted totalitarian model, the competing ‘deep states’...just don’t want peace.

i just covered the tragic-farce of the 2-day Nato summit in brussels, and that alliance is sooooo not about peace and ‘defense’ it’s not funny. oh, yes, trump was his usual incoherent asshole, made his ‘out of nato’ threats, changed nothing but making himself more enemies and declaring Victory at the end, but those doughty souls who go to Nato summits and cry ‘No mas!’ are the darlings of my heart.

not calling your kids was a wise decision, i think, gator. what if we'd always known that 'We Are One'? maybe now...more of us do know. oh, crap, no versions of sweet honey performing this are on youtube any longer; don't let the images get in the way of the lyrics and vocals. blessings on ya, gator.

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Alligator Ed's picture

@wendy davis I take solace in the community which we all share, as diverse in backgrounds which we are, but with commonality of hopes and dreams. We know not which way to pursue our salvation, if there any at all. I cherish the encouragement and humanity of our community in our time of trial. This is why I share these deep broodings with you, not to burden you but perhaps explain my descent into despair. Yes, look outside the box and abandon surrender without hope--a hope which I find weakens at times but is renewed by you and all of you. Thank you again. Emergence from this dark pit into which my spirit sometimes falls can be overcome with aid from fellow spirits, similarly inclined. Respite is needed from daunting challenges outlined in my essay, which I suffer but am not alone in experiencing.

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wendy davis's picture

@Alligator Ed

it's still a foreign land to me as a newcomer w/ (often unappreciated, smile) more radical leftist politics. that said, rants, fine prose or not, can serve many purposes by way of telling our own soul's truths at a moment in time, whether venting our fear, grief, rage, or describing our personal dangerous, life-threatening precariousness at this point in time.

i used to have as a bodywork client a local doc who played banjo w/ me at times. when we talk at my office, she often wondered if i might like her to prescribe anti-depressants for me. zounds, take the whichever color pill (the matrix) and go back to sleep? egad, without the ability to feel heart and soul-piercing pain, even in self-reflection, how does one know one's even alive?

thanks for the steve miller tune, it's new to me. i usually find my go-to miller is 'livin' in the USA' ('somebody get me a cheeseburger...')

may i offer the magical, other-worldy carlos santana featuring 'everlast'? (he gave so much juice to so many of the young uns):

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Alligator Ed's picture

@wendy davis

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