Jon Lebkowsky on the CDA Victory

(c) 1996, Jon Lebkowsky. Redistribution of unaltered text is quite okay.

Jon Lebkowsky


Laws, just or unjust, may govern men's actions. Tyrannies may restrain or regulate their words. The machinery of propaganda may pack their minds with falsehood....But the soul of man thus held in trance or frozen in a long night can be awakened by a spark coming from God knows where...Peoples in bondage need never despair. -- Sir Winston Churchill

As news of the lower court decision ruling the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional was spread across the net I was driving across the West Texas desert, through dusty, misnamed Garden City where I watched a trio of tornadoes dance across the prairie not far away, and I felt in my bones the indifferent power of nature, realizing then also the potent magic associated with physical place, a sense of being-in-space that cyberspace could never afford. And despite the daunting complexity of the sociopolitical landscape I've been trying to grasp and the banal hassles of birth-and-death cyclic existence and the occasional terror-inducing comprehension of the cold immensity of the universe I felt for once in my life completely free and unafraid, as though the balance of my life was no longer beyond my grasp. And this had something to do with the Fight, which is manifest in opposition to the CDA but is really a greater battle that has raged had something to do with my realization that the Fight is just THERE, always there, inherent in the human condition.

Change slide. Had my back up all spring over the blind opposition to government expressed in libertarian rants posted far and wide in the vastness of cyberspace, and I say BLIND as in UNINFORMED. And it's not that I can't blame the libertarians and others for kicking dust about a government that is so detached from everyday life and has grown to a complexity beyond comprehension. Though one of my libertarian compadres has called me a `squishy liberal,' I'm really quite skeptical of government, and this skepticism is informed by experience working within a large bureaucracy (what? you thought I could make a living doing THIS?!)....

But government is a necessary evil, and the complexity of governments that at least attempt a quasi-democratic structure derives from an attempt to satisfy broad consensus. There's a lot of rules, and within those rules a lot of compromises. Over a couple centuries the U.S., which is the government I know best, by itself and in partnership with its states, has amassed a rather amazing body of rules so huge and confusing that it's way fucking hard to know what they are and what they mean. And these rules have an administrative cost that we all must pay, billed by the IRS, the in-house bill collectors from which have no sense of humor at all.

This government is so complicated and costly that we have folks who want to opt out, and those are the libertarians. A few hundred years ago they might've built ships and sailed away, but that's not really an option now, though they can sail into virtual space if only to express their often incoherent negative feelings about the evils of government and the complete failure of the two party system to serve the interests of those governed.

It's great to have a forum where you can hash this out and debate `til you're blue in the face, but the fact is that we do have serious political problems and they won't be solved with talk of `scrapping the current system of government,' which is no better than the idealistic crap my leftist friends were spewing in the "Smash the State" sixties. Scrapping the current system of government is like trying to jerk a wart out by its roots: those roots go deep, the blood's gonna fly.

On the other hand, no thinking problem can deny that we have Serious Problems that must be solved to avoid catastrophic social, political, ecological, [your adjective here] consequences. Though it's a time honored tradition for the townspeople to gather torches and chase the monster, a more brain-intensive approach would be constructive, especially since the monster is in all of us.

We're not going to lose the two-party system or change the government overnight, but if we don't organize and do some thinking and talking we will lose any possibility of progress toward a more perfect implementation of liberty-for-all.

Hopefully constructive recommendations:

1) If you're into partisan politics, that's fine. Get active within your party. Meet others who are active. Establish a presence and ensure that your voice is heard.

However, you should also consider supporting or creating a nonpartisan group the members of which have diverse views which they debate at length on a regular basis. We don't understand the differences in our political perspectives until we start listening to each other, and we just might find that the partisan differences are mostly insubstantial crap used to sustain a particular power base.

2) Find out who represents you at whatever levels, city to national. When something in the political environment seems to stink, WRITE the reps and let `em know. They don't always sniff the same air that you do, so they need your report and the need to hear your view.

3) Learn how government works. Don't complain about the bureaucracy based on superficial evidence: dig in, find out what's going on. Don't make dismissive remarks about government and government workers, don't ASSUME. Do you think bureaucracies give poor service? Consider this: it might just be that bureaucratic management is not the problem. It might be that a lack of funding is he problem, and that you should ask that more of your tax dollars be directed to systems that seem to you to perform poorly.

4) Governments waste money. So do corporations, householders, and (eek) banks. But how do you KNOW that your many's being wasted? Think that one through: this is another `don't assume' issue where you might want to do some digging....

5) If you don't want to do any of this stuff, then why complain? You've accepted the system as it is.

Back to the desert: those tornadoes kicked up a lot of dust but they didn't' do any damage. However lightning struck a tank farm and the resulting explosion was pretty devastating. There's a line in a Grateful Dead song, "If the thunder don't get you / Then the lightning will." Considering this, what're you gonna do?

My last piece of advice:

6) Shut down your computer. Turn off your television set. Grab a cold whatever and sit, just sit, watching the sun go down.

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