Wednesday, March 15, 2006

'We can make it better'

Wilco was last night.

One of the best rock 'n' roll shows I've ever seen in my life. You might have missed out.

If you did, too bad.

After the show, a friend of mine briefly spoke of the third anniversary of the Iraq war and its accompanying nationwide protest on Saturday afternoon. He said, and I quote, "it won't change anything." I countered with a recent consensus of my personal, composite poll (i.e.: no one I've talked to in the past 4 months is for the war) and a recent CNN/Gallup Poll that says 55% of the country thinks the Iraq war was... wait for it... 'A MISTAKE.' I got no response. I know better than to really pry at someone who deletes e-mails from his inbox without even so much as a skim.

Fifteen minutes earlier, he was chanting "we can make it better" at the Wilco show right next to me. Disingenuous? He also, 20 minutes earlier, heard Jeff Tweedy lament, after not hearing enough people responding to his call, that "when not enough people try to make it better, the people trying to make it better have to make it ten times better to..." blah blah blah, you get the idea. Apparently, my friend has an awfully short memory. I blame the beer, sleepiness and the aural trauma inflicted on us by the amplifiers-- yet my friend would have said, and will say, this under even the most ideal of circumstances. If an amazing, amazing rock show can't give him (or anyone else for that matter) a little hope that he can change the world, then what, I ask you, the fuck can?

Maybe some amazing American television?

Maybe this:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead

Don't stop. We can make it better.


Blogger Matt Gilmour said...

1) I didn't speak of it, you brought it up
2)You hang around almost exclusively with liberal-minded folks, as do I. I wouldn't trust a personal composite poll
3) Of course 55% of the country thinks it was a mistake. People are fickle and opt to change their mind, especially when a war that they thought would be over and done with (boy, that was naive) is still dragging on.
4) Even if that weren't the case, 55% hardly proves anything. Half the country voted for Kerry (and presumably were against the war) and half voted for Bush (and presumably supported it). A 5% fluctuation either way means nothing.
5)I couldn't fucking hear you to respond and didn't want to have said conversation in your driveway when I had things to go do.
6)I don't delete emails from my inbox because I no longer receive them since I switched email addresses. And when I did it was because I didn't like being bombarded by an overly partisan organization that is in need of focus as much as the Democratic party is
7)It wasn't being disingenuous, it was me not wanting to talk about stupid political shit with you after having just seen one of the most amazing concerts of my life.
8)A rock show and amazing American television can give me hope and a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. But I think the current wave of anti-war protesters don't fit that description.

I don't know much about politics and because the debate in that arena brings out the intellecual shortcomings of those who engage it pretty obviously, I choose to stay out of it for the most part, because I'm a fucking idiot. But since I took the time to write this, let me remind you of the following:
1) I was never against the war, just the manner in which it was carried out and the attitude of those supporting it
2) I was never in support of the protesters, nor did I side with the liberals, because of the manner in which they carried out their own goals and the attitude they had
3) I predicted, the week the war started, how bad the insurgency and instability would be and nobody fucking listened to me.
4)The only thing worse than carrying out the war in the way we did would be to pull out now and leave them fending for themselves, because the most likely outcome will the takeover of the region by another warlord or terrorist group--only THIS one WILL pose a significant threat to us. The occupation will not and cannot end anytime soon. If it does, all hell break loose. And even if it does, all hell will probably break loose. The world, its governments and its people have created a quagmire of conflict from which we will likely never escape.

So to answer your question: THAT is why I said it's not going to change anything. Because the protesters are missing the point and are as much a part of the problem as the people they are speaking out against.

We can make it better. But we should probably figure out what "it" is first.

PS: I really enjoyed reading your show review. Oh, wait a minute...

3/15/2006 3:11 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Paul, I'm glad I'm not the only person who can engage in a little healthy infighting with Matt, especially as I am 1,200 or so miles away. So, in the interest of my own amusement let me offer you folks a devil's deal:

Matt, I will gang up with you against Paul on the war/politics issue, and

Paul, I will gang up with you against Matt on the merits of John Mayer's existence.

Let the inane rancor fester!

3/15/2006 3:29 PM  
Blogger Matt Gilmour said...

I'm fairly certain Paul agrees with at least some of my thoughts on John Mayer. You might need to find something else to gang up on me over.

I'd go with my ignorance, personally. Seems to be the popular target today.

3/15/2006 3:34 PM  
Blogger Konflict of Interest said...

No targets. I'm talking about cynicism in life and in rock 'n' roll. Its natural to be cynical when you're an inherently idealistic person in today's world. My overall message, obviously, is to never give up. No targets, no guns, no firing, no attacks.

Thanks for explaining yourself. I disagree, though. Here's why:

Like most people, I am fundamentally opposed to pretty much all war. Yes, Saddam should've been ousted a while ago (by us, a decade ago, perhaps?) but he wasn't because W's daddy was smart enough to realize what would happen if we really went all the way and did that shit.

Now we've turned every block of every Iraqi metropolis into a ghetto war zone. Poor people, women and children are getting killed. The bad people are stealing and killing and getting away with it, exaserbating the situation. The evil people are blowing themselves up for a pandering cause. The good people, and according to the New York Times this is actually happening or has happened, are latching their bodies onto suicide bombers to save the lives of their friends, families and even total strangers.

I honestly can't think how the situation could get worse. Let me rephrase that: I honestly can't think how the situation could get much worse. I mean, they've actually told us to leave directly. We may be able to "make it better" at home, but there's not much hope for it over there. Why can't we give freedom and democracy and unity for ourselves (our poor, our marginalized minorities, etc.) but we're qualified to do it, "help" do it, for Iraqis who have a trifractal (Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds) identity in the first place? Short of a fundamental restructuring of economy and politics in Iraq and America, I don't think we can do anything for them. We have to admit that.

I know when to be cynically aloof and hopefully determined. It's a gift, I guess.

Three years is enough time to do what we could have done for the Iraqi people after we stuck ourselves there. We were big, bad, loved, feared and admired world's policeman in a country for a little while and now we need to wash our hands of it. The only reason we haven't yet is because America's collective ego is so huge that we can't admit defeat.

That said, I love America as an idea and certainly am a fan of its ideals. I consider myself somewhat of a patriot. To do that, we must have an open dialogue and open debate. Sometimes, we must even dissent.

To paraphrase a line from "The West Wing": Patriots are honest with each another.

3/15/2006 5:09 PM  
Blogger Matt Gilmour said...

And I pretty much agree with what you just said. But that doesn't mean I'm going to show up at some naive war protest where I'm going to despise, for one reason or another, the majority of the folks present.

Patriots are honest with each other. But I don't think attacking a friend's character on a blog nobody reads is what Sorkin had in mind.

Then again, you know everything. So why bother to have this (or any)dialogue in the first place?

3/15/2006 5:38 PM  
Blogger Konflict of Interest said...

War protests may have been naive before the war, when we were on our way there, but now that a poll, or public, is behind us, what's damaging about staging a demonstration? What's wrong with capitalizing on this situation to achieve something that's undoubtedly right?

Even better question: Can't someone go to a place, immerse themselves a crowd of people, and maintain their own ideals and essence without being touched by the surrounding environment? That's definitely what journalists do. It's what strong people do. Wouldn't you like to see if you can do this? Even if you know, what's the harm in reinforcing that? Would you go to this, even for me? I'll even buy you some SoulVeg (vegan soul food) for lunch.

Two things to tack onto this:

- I'm not attacking your character. I used your character as an example to make a much broader point. There was certainly no attack intended. The way I framed it, I thought, was pretty objective... maybe a tad inaccurate.

- And I don't hang around all liberals, that's grossy inaccurate. If I did, I'd spend all my time at the Progressive Center (where I dislike visiting even briefly) or All Saints (which I dislike more and more each time I go there, pretty much -- good coffee and location, though). Take my best friends: You and Sean. Both of you are moderate, pro-working class Democrats (right?), but not liberals.

3/15/2006 6:16 PM  
Blogger Matt Gilmour said...

Nothing's damaging about the demonstration (other than pissing off the opposition and annoying those who are on the fence).

But is what you are achieving the right thing to do? I don't think so--getting the military to pull out is going to be disastrous and like I said, will probably lead to an even worse situation in the future. But I could be wrong.

That is the very reason why I won't go to the demonstration: because I won't associate myself with groups/causes that I cannot say for certain that I support.

You are right about immersing oneself and maintaining your own essence. I can respect that aspect of attending and I'm certainly capable of doing it.

However, I'm still not going. I'm probably working on Saturday, and if not, there are half a dozen other things I'd rather be doing (although the SoulVeg is tempting). It's not an insult to you--under other circumstances, I'd do this for you. But not this time.

The final two items:
-I'll forgive you since it wasn't intended. But you might want to go back and re-read the manner in which you delivered a good portion of that post. It's very condescending, which is the exact attitude on both the left and the right that I mentioned in my first comment.

You unknowingly sometimes sabotage your own cause by allowing the worst parts of its supporters to manifest in your speech and behavior and in doing so alienate not only people like me who are your friends, but more importantly, strangers who are necessary in helping you win the good fight.

-My bad on the liberals thing, but you know what I mean. I don't hang around with "liberals" either, but the majority of my friends kind of belong to the same cloth. And though I'm uncomfortable being labeled as such, but moderate, pro-working class Democrat is reasonably accurate.

Either way, I just banked some serious tip money today, so I should be at Kool Keith on Friday night assuming I get off work early enough and it hasn't sold out. We'll drink beers and hug and all that shit --- straight hustlin'

3/16/2006 12:04 AM  
Blogger Konflict of Interest said...

Awesome! Online arguing is fun! Glad there's no hard feelings.

-"You unknowingly sometimes sabotage your own cause by allowing the worst parts of its supporters to manifest in your speech and behavior and in doing so alienate not only people like me who are your friends, but more importantly, strangers who are necessary in helping you win the good fight."

Wanted to speak on that real quick. I think it starts as a kind of pure, unbridled passion at first and then it turns into something a little more misanthropic the more frustrated I get. Naturally, I have good intentions, I just think my focus is sometimes off.

Maybe reeling the rhetoric in about four or five notches wouldn't hurt. At least someone like you or I understand that the volume ("volume" or "intensity" in the abstract sense) just gets turned up sometimes, and usually its not an affront or to be taken personally. Sometimes something that's loud is what it is: loud. Sometimes it's just inherently that way. I remember you once said to me that: "I don't know how to lower my voice," or "I don't have an inside voice." I totally found that inspiring.

My concern about you not going was that you were in a personal/political, complacent sort of apathy. I guess I should've known better. But you know I don't want that kind of awful, awful thing for you. The thought of it makes me cringe. Indifference is the most awful thing in the word.

I cannot overstate how strongly I believe that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. But maybe I should reel that in a little bit, too.

I want you inside me,


3/16/2006 1:39 PM  
Blogger Matt Gilmour said...

You were inspired by my physical/biomechanical deficiencies? (did I even spell that right?)

You know I'm not indifferent. I just get so fed up with both sides that I wind up not caring, because I have nobody to support, nothing to latch on to.

We're both loners wandering the Earth, but the difference is you're more comfortable throwing yourself out there. I'm not because, as I stated in the first post, I'm a fucking idiot.

3/16/2006 4:01 PM  

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