Tuesday, July 16, 2013

the reset button

Moment after moment, everyone hits the reset button, ingesting new information that then informs and rearranges all the information that came before. Mostly, it goes unnoticed. But occasionally it gains a
wider social foothold as the trust that held things together in the past melts away into a time when basic assumptions require remortaring, redefining and reconstruction in search of some upgraded peace.

-- In Egypt, there are raucous throngs in the streets after a military coup ousted the democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi -- a man once applauded but more lately criticized for his inability to fulfill promises that convinced both political allies and political enemies. It seems that democracy is not quite good enough, that trust cannot be accorded, and that the throngs in the streets are more compelling than what was once hailed as a democracy. If "democracy" is defined simply as "majority rules," then the willingness to stick by the principle seems to dissolve ... leaving ... who knows what might be better. Time for a reset that will involve blood-letting.

-- In Los Angeles, as elsewhere, protesters (some violent, some not) made their voices heard in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman -- a man accused of shooting Trayvon Martin to death in 2012. Martin, 17, was black. The case was top-heavy with the echoes of racism that is woven into American society in little and large ways. Was the jury system, one of the cornerstones of any democratic society, to be trusted to dispense something resembling justice? Maybe not ... maybe the racism that flowed quietly beneath the American social fabric, just had to be addressed frontally, openly, loudly. Time to hit the reset button, time to reconfigure what is trustworthy and what is not. Cornerstones are only as good as the people who credit them. The message, whether in Egypt or Los Angeles, seems to be something like, "We may not know what's better, but we sure as hell know what's worse."

-- And lingering on the reset stage is the case of the Roman Catholic Church. With approximately 1.2 billion adherents, I guess it would be fair to say there's a lot of trust. But even without the priest-sex-abuse revelations and the financial machinations that grab the headlines, still it feels as if the willingness to trust, to accede, to genuflect mentally and physically, is dribbling away. What if there were a religion and no one believed? Of course, things are not that cut and dried, not that stark. It's more a drip-drip-drip scenario, one the church seems to acknowledge as it revises its tactics and focuses on Africa and South America, places that are arguably less well-educated than the honey pots of the United States and Europe. The church needs its authority and it needs supporters of that authority. No trust, no church ... and no money. As in Los Angeles and Egypt, what might be better -- what reset strategy would be more felicitous -- may not be in hand, but the raw failures of what has been trusted up until now are just too egregious, too burning, too flimsy.

Maybe I am just making up this Greek chorus of confused generalizations. It's pretty much a matter of feeling ... that well-worn trust invariably comes upon times when that trust is worn out. Time to hit the reset button and it'll be a bloody while before the new-and-improved versions of trust are established. No government, no jury system, no god ... now what? In what ways will I finally decide to rein in my opinions and judgments and accede to the needs of others ... whose needs correspond to my own?

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