“[In this work]…the lunacy of trying to fool the self is set aside at some point, salvation and the needs of mankind are prominent & hegemony takes a breathing spell.” — Bob Dylan, liner notes, “World Gone Wrong”
Something momentous is happening over at “Once Upon a Time.” Arthur Silber has at last begun his long-awaited series on “Tribalism”: the deep-rooted, deep-rutted, largely unconscious mental-emotional structures that lock human beings into such horrifically destructive modes of behavior, on every level, from the most intimate and individual to the most public and universal.
The first two parts of the series (here and here) are up at his blog now, and both are marvelous, trenchant, and moving works. Here you will find that rarest of things: a human voice — distinct, unique, authentic — speaking to you directly, with integrity, of deeply meaningful things. Here you will find a dimension of depth that has few if any parallels in political commentary anywhere today. For while politics is the immediate context of Silber’s visionary analysis, as he says, rightly:
“Politics is only a symptom of a more fundamental condition. Unless we address these more fundamental concerns, the symptom will never be altered in a lasting way.”
These more fundamental concerns are the focus of Silber’s “Tribalism” series. And the search for answers — or at least more creative approaches — to these concerns grows more urgent all the time, as years and decades of deceit — and self-deceit — compound our ignorance and error. I once put it this way, in something I wrote 18 years ago, in the run-up to the first Gulf War: “I think we are living in a world of lies; lies that don’t even know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies.” Silber’s new series show just how literally true that is. As he notes:
We see today the disastrous consequences of insisting on the truth of a story which is fundamentally wrong. Yet most Americans have an inexhaustible willingness, even an enthusiasm, for believing lies. As I have remarked, lies are the diet that sustains us, the poison we will swallow time and again, without end. And still worse: “Truth is the enemy; truth is to be destroyed.” It is far from obvious why so many people should enthusiastically embrace a lengthy series of lies, particularly when those lies continually result in death and destruction on a vast scale, as they do today, as they did yesterday, as they will again tomorrow. It is a question that merits investigation.
Silber’s investigation promises to take us the very heart of our darkness — to throw glimmers of light on possible exits from the shadows. It can’t be, and shouldn’t be, reduced to a few excerpts, so do yourself a favor and get over there to read the whole thing. There you will be challenged, enlightened, provoked, stirred — made to think and feel. There, the lunacy of trying to fool the self — a madness that fuels the ever-churning fires of hegemony — is set aside, and the courage to face a world gone wrong, from the inside out, is on remarkable display.