Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mole # 2

Underground Missive # 2


. . . take time to marvel at his adaptations. Most transfixing are his front paws -- large, powerful things with claws perfectly designed for digging. That's one shown at the left. After the mole's paws, the most interesting adaptations are those you don't see. For example, underground animals wouldn't want dirt clogging their ears, so mole ears, while present, aren't to be seen. And in the tunnels' perpetual darkness, of what use are eyes? Moles do have eyes, but they're tiny slits covered with thin skin. Moles also have nostrils, but they open sideways, not forward, so dirt doesn't plug them as the mole tunnels forward.

So reads some website or other. And I am sure by now you have done your own googling or yahooing and found that my name, i.e., Mouldywarp, is the ancient English name for the common mole. Also called a “dirt-tosser,” which is an apt description of what we burrowers do. We dig tunnels underground and are not particularly particular about what we do with the soil. We are perfectly suited to the task of burrowing into the bureaucracy. From our appearance, we look like useful drudges that can serve the purposes of a being that depends upon endless systems of tunnels, and that cannot see or hear much of what is going on inside the bowels of the bureaucrat beast.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! In fact, when we are not suspected of seeing and hearing and sniffing about, regarded merely as a dumb species, that is when we know the most of what is happening around us. How think thee we have survived nearly everywhere on the planet, friend, when gardeners and farmers spin out endless methods and theories for gassing us, trapping us, grinding us, choking us to death?

So let this be a warning, bureaucracies. There will always be moles. There will always be Solzhenitsyns and Sakharovs and outraged citizens using their wise claws and snouts to see what you really are and what you are really about in your GULAGS. Respect us, dear reader, remember that we are not the species killing our own young or undermining our own existence with debt and taxes.

Take, for instance, a minor moment in the office where I burrow about. I appear bored and stupid during a conference call of excruciating mindlessness when suddenly I hear this from a county supervisor of something or other: “It has come down from Obama [always here spoken with a tone of hushed reverence] that there will not be a single corner in the nation that is not served by free or cheap public transportation.” This stunning piece of news was followed by an announcement of opening new routes of public busses that will network across the state and even connect with Amtrak. Drivers are to be hired. Routes are to be GPS-ed. Computer programs will be “enhanced.”

Now I ask you, have you learned of this from any other source? A major policy slipping down through the bureaucratic system, unnoticed even by the Foxes of the earth. A fait accompli, no less. A tentacled extension of the fabled Stimulus monster. Ah, you see, there is much going on underground that only moles can detect. A shiver in the earth’s crust, a seismic quake, a tectonic shift. Something is going on: realities are coming into existence of which the country is not aware until it sees them already operating.

When no one is looking at work, I read and ponder the new edition of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s In the First Circle, now uncensored and published in a new translation. If you want to know how bureaucracy worked in Soviet Russia, read this book. If you want to know how the same kind of bureaucracy is coming to this country, become a mole in the system Obama is creating. What you will learn is that what most people take as reality is being redefined daily. The Soviets did that so successfully for seventy years that the unwary simply no longer knew anything.

You object, and rightly so. The mole writing this works in a pleasant office with (mostly) pleasant people, mostly women. Like all bureaucrats they process endless stacks of paper, write down information, and file it in folders or computer programs. What could be sinister here? The secret is that in a bureaucratic universe nothing looks sinister: the maidens who filed index cards on the concentration camps looked sweet and talked of their weekends. On the surface it seems benign enough. But moles know that “on the surface” is a very incomplete picture of the garden. What is distinctive about bureaucracies—from ancient Sumeria on—is that they are non-teleological. The one question one never asks in here is “why?” If one (foolish as this writer) does, he meets with shrugged shoulders, sighs, uncomprehending stares, or censorious looks.

We will come back to this in Missive # 3. But permit me a digression. In my humble view, the two greatest writers of the twentieth century were Sigrid Undset and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. They are now mostly unknown and dismissed in the American university, passed over for third-world and minority-culture scribblers no mole would allow in the garden. In 2005, I talked about Solzhenitsyn for an hour in my Utopia/Dystopia class and then asked if any of the 35 students had ever heard of him. No. I returned to my office which I shared with other part-timers and expressed my astonishment, only to have four teachers, ranging in age from 25 to 55, say “who?”

Undset, a Catholic who opposed the Nazis with her life, and Solzhenitsyn, who opposed the Communists with his life, are both great writers whose works . . . well, no need for panegyrics. Read them yourself. In 1985 Solzhenitsyn was one of the most well-known people in the world. His works were read and taught from high school to graduate school and his life was well known. What happened? He was invited to give the commencement address at Harvard. In it he said, in a nutshell, that though the Communist world was intolerable, the West was no model to follow—corruption, moral decadence, homosexuality, pornography, hatred of religion. The next morning the New York Times and the Washington Post flushed Solzhenitsyn into the lowest sewers of history, and he became an unperson. No one taught him any longer—what are you, a fascist reactionary? One still finds his works at the Good Will, but not in the university.

Here, read his speech for yourself:

I’ll be back,

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