or Deep Thought
In the latest Israeli-Lebanese war a lot of revolting things have been said. The most disgusting have been the refusals by the Bush administration and others to try to stop the killing from the lofty heights of principle.
Ah, principle. Ideals. So like their deceptive and slippery academic cousin, theory, but so much more deadly in the hands of someone who wants to use them for gain. I come by my suspicion of theory quite honestly, having spent untold hours in sterile labor bringing forth useless harmonizations of figured base lines from Piston’s Harmony - on paper*. The best that can be said is that no one had to hear them.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the principles and ideals of the politicians, the only ones who have it in their hands to act to get a cease-fire agreement. The various pitch lines that Condoleeza Rice and her titular boss use to prevent peace so that principle might live on are a good opportunity to look at what happens when abstraction is placed over the blood and lives of real people. We haven’t had such a good current events illustration of the problem since Kissinger used the shape of the “peace” table to prolong the war in Vietnam for political advantage. That was the first nail in the coffin of principle, for me.
The principle at stake in a cease-fire in Lebanon is that of endurance. Only a lasting peace that is guaranteed to endure through the ages is worth Condi’s time. Having, with only spotty success, pointed out for the past four years that Condoleeza must have been using quite a lot of that time practicing piano, I’ll let that pass for now. That such an eternal peace has eluded all but the dead in the Middle East for the past sixty years, doesn’t deter our Secretary of State from mouthing the empty words.
Why does anyone accept such a lame excuse to allow killing to go on in a clear attempt to cover up the disaster in Iraq? Why is anyone listening to their prissy statements of principle when it is growing ever clearer that these criminals are trying to expand the war into Syria and Iran? These people are criminally insane. You might as well get your ethics from a freelance knee-capper you meet in your local dive. He’ll have less blood on his hands.
Why is it when a politician or their hired hacks use the word “principle” that a curtain falls on reality? Not that our media has been focused on reality since Bush took office. His selection really did have an effect on American morality, bringing a massive revival of this kind of principle. Seldom have we been more principled. To death, even.
There might be principles and ideals that are worth dying for, I am less confident that there is a single one that is worth killing for. Theories, principles, ideals, these are all abstractions, they aren’t a substitute for life. Professional thinkers and those who are supposed to be thinkers are in the habit of talking and acting as if their ideas were superior to real life, the Platonic ideal. Unfortunately no tally of their accuracy is kept, you are more likely to find yourself out of a job for getting it inconveniently right than profitably wrong. In the distant future a lot of these catch phrases will look exactly like what they are, self-serving fantasies and even more self-serving lies.
Our media, ever star struck by those with a reputation for being smart, are impressed. Such deep thinking has largely replaced mere reporting in our “news”. In one of the supreme ironies of the age, deep thought is the daily bread of the cabloids, a fact alone that should impeach its worth. You would think that the pictures of peoples’ bodies and the screams of the wounded and surviving would break through the lyin’ curtain but they don’t very often. Not often enough to make much of a difference.
* If any of you are aspiring musicians, I beg you, spend your time studying harmony at the keyboard or your guitar. If you can’t hear it, you won’t learn from it. It’s just a penmanship exercise without the sound.
For scientists who might object. I’m not using the word “theory” as real science uses it but as non-scientific disciplines use the term. In my field, music, almost all theory is a waste of time better spent on dealing with and producing actual music. “Theory is slovenly,” Roger Sessions said. And in music, it is.