Why?

"O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced."

- Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852

Wide Asleep in America is committed to confronting the rampant and widespread falsehoods (usually about Iran, Israel, Palestine, and US policy thereof) found and repeated in the media and presented by politicians and pundits, and to exposing this propaganda for what it is: hegemonic efforts to manufacture consent and delegitimize the independence, sovereignty, and self-determination of nations, governments, and peoples who oppose imperialism, colonialism, oppression, and hypocrisy on a world stage, all while stifling and criminalizing dissent and resistance to such actions here in the United States.

The writing published on Wide Asleep in America is proudly dedicated to promoting human rights, international law, and peace with justice. It strives, above all, to tell the truth.

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To read The Inaugural Post from January 19,2008, click here.

To find out why I call myself a 'Hobbesian Idealist,' click here.

Who's 'Lord Baltimore'?, click here.

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January 19, 2008

So, I'm at a loss. It seems that no one I really know cares nearly enough. About anything. Sure, most folks I have any substantial contact with would call themselves "liberal," but what the hell does that mean? If it means that they vote when they remember to vote for Democratic Party candidates that they've heard of in the news or on TV, then that's bullshit. Nonsense. They are all smarter than that. At least, I would hope so.

But hope is an expensive commodity these days and the US economy doesn't entice me to buy in at this point.

I think I'm just sick of knowing that people who would consider me a friend of theirs will be the ones lamenting, "Well, if I knew then what I know now..." when the truth of the matter is: WE DO KNOW NOW.

It's very easy to find out what's going on, it really is. But it's the overall lack of interest that has stalled the process of dissent and determination. People I know still read The New York Times and get headlines from CNN. And why? There's plenty of evidence that these are exactly the news outlets that distribute and disseminate false information straight from the asses of the exact people we need to not listen to. So where does this lead? I don't know. But I do care.

I care about things - what they are, I will not go into here. There's no need for a laundry list of important issues facing this world; the things I believe don't need to be bullet-pointed. All I want, at this point, is a little more interest, a little more activity, a little more action. We can get into specifics later...Iraq, Iran, Palestine, elections, etc...whatever. I just want a little more attention to be paid to what's really going on. Shit, read some Chomsky. Broaden your scope. Don't just wait to see what happens...do something, anything, to make sure that what should happen happens.

So here's a start...I'm not sure at all what this site will turn out to be, if anything at all. I guess I just wanted to start somewhere, if only to pool together some information and articles that are important to me. So here goes.

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Since I self-describe myself as a "Hobbesian," I should explain a bit. I would say that I refer mostly to English philosopher Thomas Hobbes' (1588 - 1679) theories on social contracts and self-interested motivation more than the many other ideas he put forward. For example, Hobbes promoted the idea of a single unaccountable authority with no separation of powers to maintain civil order, which I obviously and wholeheartedly oppose; however, he also developed some of the fundamental elements of "liberalism," namely individual rights, equality, the artificiality of state authority, and representative politics based on public consent, all of which are ideas I think are just dandy. True, he was an unapologetic absolutist, yet, ironically, his belief in an individual's "right to life" (self-preservation) and the "right to liberty" (the absence of external impediments to the self-initiated exercise of one's powers) surely contributed - via Locke, then Jefferson - to the subsequent decline of absolutism. And yes, he was a real materialist, but I chalk a lot of his missteps to him being a man of his own time - just as most of our founding fathers were slave-owners as well as political geniuses. (And no, being a "man of your time" doesn't get you off the hook for being a racist, hypocritical bastard.)

I find Hobbes most compelling when he writes of the frailties of human judgment and reasoning, specifically that people are prone to "absurdity, to which," he says, "no living creature is subject but man," and that human beings are "vehemently in love with their own opinions...and obstinately bent to maintain them, [and give] their opinions also that reverenced name of conscience." He believed that "science" is the only way to formulate reliable thought, as he terms it, "the knowledge of consequences."

His interest in selfish motivation is what really fascinates me, though. That all human nature and morality springs from basic selfishness is a truly amazing conception - though perhaps not as depressing as it may seem at first glance. In his De Cive ('On the Citizen'), Hobbes writes, "I obtained two absolutely certain postulates of human nature: one, the postulate of human greed by which each man insists upon his own private use of common property; the other, the postulate of natural reason, by which each man strives to avoid violent death."

Hobbes goes on, in Leviathan, to break down basic human feelings to their barest essence: self-interest and self-preservation. As bleak as that sounds, the end result can also be a functioning society with plenty of morality and decency. For instance, that the feeling of 'sympathy' or act of 'charity' is born out of subconsciously wanting to feel good about oneself does not mean that people are immoral by nature, but that every motivation can somehow be traced back to how it affects oneself internally or externally, even if the result winds up being good for society or someone. If someone acts altruistically because it suits his or her innate sense of what's right, that means they are acting because it makes them feel good about what they're doing, right? Thus, my belief in Hobbesian idealism.

Furthermore, Hobbes himself was not rigid in his own doctrine as he also thought that human beings are too often overly concerned with the opinions of others, inflamed by religious doctrine, or carried away by others' inflammatory words.

Basically, Hobbes believes that human nature consists of three motivations: (1) we will compete, often violently, to secure the basic necessities of life and perhaps to make other material gains; (2) we will challenge others and fight out of fear (diffidence), so as to ensure our personal safety; (3) we will seek reputation (glory), both for its own sake and for its protective effects (for example, so that others will be afraid to challenge us in the future).

One look at the history and consequences of Zionism should confirm these theories. Essentially, Israel acts outside of society's "social contract" that focuses these selfish motivations toward harmony with others. Zionism's proponents, enablers, and supporters still make their decisions based on an arcane, colonial 'state of nature,' wherein might makes right and consequences to others' well-being (as it may then relate back onto oneself) are dismissed. We can further look to Palestinian resistance and politics when considering Hobbes' own postulation from De Cive: "...the wickedness of bad men also compels good men to have recourse, for their own protection, to the virtues of war, which are violence and fraud." (And yes, of course, conceptions of "good" and "bad" are reductive and binary and, in no way, suitably describe entire communities, people, or ideologies.)

Granted, I tend to find Hobbes' notion that some "injustice" is required for the sake of "peace" to be frustrating, though unfortunately not altogether untrue in our current reality. My interest in Hobbes doesn't come from a belief in or agreement that he postulates the way things should be, but rather that he, sadly, presents the way things actually are. This can be seen, again in the case of Palestine, with the "international" encouragement of a bogus 'two-state solution' (an inherently unjust proposition that endorses, entrenches, and legitimizes a century of Zionist supremacy, ethnic cleansing, and occupation) as a way to 'peace.' Obviously, the 'peace' that would result would be simply manufactured acquiescence of Palestinian sovereignty and self-determination to Israeli hegemony through further military power, economic dependence, and political fealty. So, what the self-motivated powers of the United States and Israel would call "peace" would simply be further injustice.

In my opinion, later philosophers like Rousseau and Hume have much more optimistic views on human nature that I wish were true, but find little evidence for in reality.

Still, I would love to be convinced otherwise.

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When I first started writing Wide Asleep in America, I posted my articles under the pseudonym "Lord Baltimore" as a way to separate my political writing from my personal life, a division which quickly dissolved as my work gained modest attention and distribution.

The moniker, despite what many presumed, had nothing to do with geography as I am (and always have been) a proud New Yorker. Rather, it is a film reference. In George Roy Hill's Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (1969), "Lord Baltimore" is the expert Native American scout hired to track Butch and Sundance over difficult terrain after they rob railroad mogul E.H. Harriman's Union Pacific Flyer for the second time.

As Butch and Sundance flee the pursuing Pinkerton posse led by Joe Lefors (the "toughest" lawman who "always wears a white skimmer"), Sundance recalls hearing about a "full-blooded Indian" who "called himself with an English name" and who "could track anybody, over anything, day or night." He suggests the search party's tracker is that very man: Lord Baltimore. When Butch protests in disbelief, claiming that Baltimore is "strictly an Oklahoma man" and would never work outside that territory, Sundance responds, "I guess. Whoever it is, it sure the hell is somebody."

There actually was a real tracker who used the sobriquet Lord Baltimore in the late 19th Century and who was painted by artist John Hauser. For some reason, the name always stuck out to me when I was growing up as being particularly cool-sounding, so I figured I'd resurrect and self-apply the sobriquet when I launched this blog.

I have no other connection to the name or the character (unfortunately, I have no Native American ancestry nor do I have any mercenary affiliation, for example), beyond absolutely loving the film, sharing an alma mater with the screenwriter, and also having a deep affinity for research.

A quick web search reveals that "Lord Baltimore" was actually the title given to George, Cecilius, Charles, and then Benedict Calvert, all members of an English colonizing family that governed Maryland in the 17th Century. This is certainly not the association I was intending to make with my writing handle, as my clear contempt for imperialism and colonialism can attest.

As such, I credit screenwriter William Goldman with the inspiration, rather than the familial dynasty which held the Proprietary Governorship of Maryland for generations.

Either way, I don't use the pseudonym anymore. But I still think it's awesome.

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