Unabomber in Washington
by Butler Shaffer
Recently by Butler
Silence of Institutions
that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of
wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle
East? Their morale, like so many lifeless bodies, is already shot
to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich
kid got for Christmas.
~ Kurt Vonnegut,
When Ted Kaczynski
– otherwise known as the "Unabomber" – was finally captured,
he was living as a recluse in an isolated cabin in Montana. Over
a seventeen-year period, he mailed bombs to a number of targets
(e.g., universities, airlines) killing three persons and injuring
a score of others. While he was quite open about the socio-politico
motives for his violent acts, thoughtful minds wondered how an otherwise
intelligent and well-educated man could reduce himself to such acts
of utter desperation.
on this question centered on the fact that this man had – during
this time period – lived such a secluded life. I was reminded how
so many serial killers are identified by neighbors as "loners,"
suggesting that those who choose to live apart from others might
have anti-social tendencies. I continue to reject this idea, but
do acknowledge that a prolonged isolation from others can generate
a confused and conflict-ridden state of mind; that we need ongoing
relationships and conversations with others to keep from talking
ourselves into a state of insanity.
We are neither
members of a single-minded collective, nor hermits living in isolation
from one another. Each of us is a biologically and experientially
unique individual who, at the same time, is a social being
who requires living in society with others. Whether we can conduct
ourselves so as to fully integrate these characteristics, is a question
with which we continue to struggle.
childhood on, we have a need to converse, to negotiate, to get feedback
from others, to ask questions of one another, in order to discover
the nature and range of our actions. This does not mean that
we need to have others tell us how to act: to so think is to abandon
the responsibility for our own thinking. Ayn Rand’s works were an
important catalyst for the development of my thinking; she raised
all sorts of questions that energized my mind. But after a few years
of such exploration, I ended up rejecting most of her thinking.
But to get to that point, I had to listen to, consider, and analyze
what she was saying as part of the process that brought me to where
I am. I might add, that this is the same process small children
engage in when they keep asking you "why?": they often
want to hear what you tell them so they can compare and contrast
what they have learned from others and their own experiences.
What if we
didn’t use others – and they, us – as sounding boards for our understanding
of the world? What if you or I went off to a cabin in the wilderness
and tried to interpret the nature of our world, and create our plans
of action without the benefit of conversing with others? Others
may have experiences, insights, knowledge, questions, or strategies
other than our own, whose exploration might greatly improve the
quality of our own thinking.
circumstances, with whom could we talk in an effort to flesh out
our own thinking? Is it not evident that, when we are alone, the
only voice we hear is the echo of our own thinking? Is it not also
clear that this voice will be in complete agreement with what our
conscious mind has to say on any subject? How many of us have developed
an inner critic whose words can match the power of an intelligent
friend, family member, colleague, or even a stranger, who might
respond to an idea by saying "you must be kidding"?
The more I
think of the processes of isolated thinking, the more I am convinced
that such a restricted mindset precisely describes life in Washington,
D.C. With the Beltway helping to isolate this city from the rest
of the country – or world – the practitioners of a realpolitik fashioned
from shared basic premises can talk to one another with the same
self-assurance attending the inner conversation every neurotic conducts
within himself. Who is to disagree? Where is there to be heard a
discouraging word? Oh, sure, a Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, or one
or another dissenting voice, may try to disrupt the dominant single-mindedness
of purpose. Even the resident of a remote shack in Montana must
have heard occasional words of peace and reason during his stay.
for debate in Washington sounds more like Lilliputians arguing over
which end of a boiled egg to be opened than it does a morally principled
or analytically sound inquiry preceding governmental action. Nor
do establishment news flacks – whether of electronic or ink persuasion
– exhibit any disposition to raise questions that would appeal to
intelligent minds. Never has the metaphor of rearranging deck chairs
on the Titanic been more apropos.
I am tempted,
as I write this, to engage in my habit of making a play on words;
to refer to the current president as the "Unaobomba."
A few readers might regard it as clever or cute to do so, but the
characterization would be unjustified. Barack Obama didn’t invent
this game. He is but the heir to policies and practices passed on
to him by George W. Bush who, in turn, was the devisee of his predecessors.
Obama did inherit the keys to the arsenal, and it is he who will
be responsible for how he employs what has been left to him. But
it is the system – carefully put together and controlled
by the corporate-state establishment – to whom the "Unabomber"
label justly applies. It is the system owners who put the
Stepford servomechanisms in seats of apparent authority to have
the system run to their liking.
While a handful
of dissenters will occasionally fall through the cracks, those who
aspire to exercise political power on behalf of the system owners
will be carefully screened to eliminate from voter consideration
any man or woman of truly independent persuasion. A candidate’s
race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or other group identity, will
become the diversion that keeps the system attuned to the owners’
interests. Thus, John Kennedy’s candidacy was important for the
purpose of electing a Catholic president; Barack Obama in order
to have the first black president; while Hillary Clinton’s campaign
stressed the importance of having a woman president. As long as
the candidates were in agreement on the primacy of government operating
of, by, and for its corporate-state owners, peripheral matters served
as the lagniappe to keep Boobus Americanus content with asking these
and such other irrelevant questions as whether increases
in the federal budget should be reduced by 1% or 1.5%!
In the same
way that men and women who isolate their minds from the inquiries
and doubts of others end up talking only to themselves, the limitations
imposed by the owners on intra-Beltway thinking produce the same
narrowness of policies and behavior. Those whose inner thoughts
monopolize their conversations about the world are often characterized
as persons with serious mental problems. But in Washington, such
a disposition is regarded as a virtue, known otherwise as
"bipartisanship." When politicians strut around proclaiming
their commitment to bipartisanship, they are reminding the owners
– not the voters – that their faith was not misplaced.
is this singularity of thought more evident than in that political
arena known as "foreign policy." In what could more honestly
be termed "war policy," those in control of the military
operations of the state have the same tunnel-vision; the same singleness
of purpose, as did the Unabomber. Kaczynski and the government war-planners
were faced with identical tasks: to determine who would be the next
victim of a deadly and unprovoked bombing. This university or that
one? Iran or Libya? Given the centralized nature of all state behavior,
it might be said that the government war-makers came together with
a oneness of mind – each functioning, metaphorically, as a synapse
to interconnect with other like-minded persons. How indistinguishable
are such processes of group-think from the Unabomber’s insular means
of arriving at his destructive decisions?
Will the public
wise up to the deceitful and destructive game being played at its
expense? I doubt it. I am quite optimistic that the system is in
a state of irreversible collapse, and will likely go the way of
the erstwhile Soviet Union. It will collapse of its own conflict-ridden,
contradictory, and life-destroying dead-weight, not because
of any sudden intuitive epiphany amongst millions of people. Until
that time comes, the game will continue to be played according to
the undeviating proposition that a lie is as good as the truth,
if you can get people to believe it. In the meantime, if a sitting
president were to unilaterally declare war on the entire world –
to be followed, perhaps, by a Star Wars attack on other planets
– his public opinion ratings would soar. When you talk only to yourself,
immunized from alternative opinions, any course of action is possible.
As long as the corrupt business persists, the owners will have it
no other way!
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.