Reality Is A Thug
Jury selection begins today in Houston for the trials of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Their lawyers argue that they won't be able to empanel a fair-minded jury in Houston on account of a lot of people there were screwed-over-for-life by Enron. In Iraq, things have not gone as well as predicted by the Bush Administration. New Orleans basks in the warm afterglow of a faith-based levee system.
My father died recently. Nobody ever told me there would come a point in my life when I didn't have a father, but reality is a thug and the thug doesn't much care what I wasn't told.
Reality gets things done, you know? Without reference to rules and regulations, or even the best laid plans of mice and men. And it ain't afraid of nuthin'.
The thing that scares me is that someday some outfit will come along and kick reality's ass. I rewatched the movie "Brazil" recently and found myself thinking that once we get to the point to where they can retool our minds the way they can in that movie, all will be lost. Certainly Karl Rove and Frank Luntz aspire to that degree of control, but I think the best they can really manage at this point is putting off for a time the inevitable consequences of mouthing off to the thug.
Certainly there is no justice in the universe, but there is reality; there is... the thug. Civilization survives in those dark corners where the thug only occasionally goes. We huddle in the dark, out of the way, pretending we are not afraid of the thug, even pretending he doesn't exist. But he does, of course, and occasionally he wanders by while making his rounds of the universe and at that point all our delusions, all of the lies we tell ourselves and others, take one in the kisser.
Which is a kind of justice, I guess. I mean, if you set aside all the individual lives destroyed by fiascoes like the collapse Enron, or incompetently waged wars like the one in Iraq, or colossal screw-ups like Katrina Does New Orleans, you do finally get to a kind of very rough balancing of the scales. Reality sweeps through and kicks the crap out of everything. It doesn't much care about the finer points of the sort of precision justice we all worry about. That sort of justice is our responsibility and pretty much doesn't happen unless we care enough to do something about it. Certainly, for the moment, reality isn't going to do anything more than punch minor thugs like Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling and Rove and Bush and Rumsfeld in the nose. If we want anything more out of those transactions, it's going to be up to us to do the necessaries.
Nevertheless, the big kahuna thug has already made sure that all those guys will at least go down in history as the minor thugs they are. In fact, they are already just smears on the windshield, even though the action of the wind gives the illusion their wings are still beating. Surely they have ruined many people's lives, and will ruin even more of them, but the big kahuna thug doesn't much care about individual lives. That's what gives us the feeling that there isn't any real justice in the universe. There is, though. Maybe we can't take much comfort in it. Maybe it doesn't satisfy us the way somebody clearly getting their just desserts always does. But there is some comfort in living in a universe where even the most notorious of the minor thugs the human race generates eventually get sick, rot from the inside, and then die.
Is it human justice? Of course not. Does it make up for all the harm they do to their victims? Not in our minds. But they do, eventually, get what's coming to them. They eventually get pounded by the thug, just like the rest of us.
Nobody ever really "gets away with it". That's the glory of our original sin, and I'm not referring to the Biblical definition of that notion. No, our original sin is that we are all, even the most notorious of our minor thugs, born into a bigger thug's universe and there isn't a damned thing we can do about it. The best we can manage is to keep reminding ourselves that "getting away with it" is a delusion. Murder and lies and political spin and corporate books riddled with dummy loss-swallowing corporations will out. Eventually. And the final fillip the thug gives you as he walks on past is that you will be remembered, for as long as you are remembered, primarily for your delusions. The final entry in the books for all these minor thugs will be: "He thought he could get away with it." The thug's laughter is dull and stupid and generally humorless, but it's laughter all the same.