THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Recently, I asked readers of this space the not-so-musical question, “What do you want?”
No sooner had that question appeared than I got my first answer, from Norma, the young woman I wrote about last summer who was so disillusioned by her first semester of college that she dropped out but then decided to return to school this fall:
“I’m sorry to bother you, Larry, but I’m reading a certain Famous Deceased Political Philosopher for a class and want to know if he’s onto something. I’m not sure how I’d like you to answer, but my mind is swirling with despair and I absolutely must share this with someone.”
When I first got this e-mail I was both flattered and puzzled. Flattered because Norma was turning to me at an obvious time of crisis. Puzzled because I’d never heard of FDPP.
Google saved the day, and I learned that the work of FDPP claims that contemporary society is built on a foundation of false beliefs and the truths, values, and ideals most people hold dear are a deliberate sham created by a ruling elite to keep the masses in line. For FDPP, honor, justice, and God are false idols, pacifying the population so we don’t rebel.
I thought about this for quite awhile so I could come up with as coherent an answer as possible to the question my mind rephrased as:
“Was Famous Deceased Political Philosopher correct when he wrote that everything positive we’ve been taught is a lie told by bad guys who want to keep us hopeful enough to not throw them out of office, take away the money they’ve been stealing from us for centuries, and otherwise kick their butts?”
I know the smart way to respond to a query like this is to not respond at all. Let it sit. Hope Norma will move on to something a little lighter like, “Why did Britney Spears win three MTV awards for her work last year?”
But Norma picked up the gauntlet I’d thrown, answered my question, and told me what she wanted. What kind of guy would I be if I didn’t do the same?
So, Norma and anyone else worried about political conspiracies using us as pawns, here’s my reply:
“I’m thrilled to see that you’re looking into the state of our culture. This kind of investigation seems to me to be an important part of the human condition. One way or another, we all examine ourselves and our place in society.
“We do this, I think, because we hope that if we understand things we can control them. Maybe give ourselves some power over our lives. This FDPP guy, however, has come up with an explanation that gives power to no one but a few hotshots. Is he right? I don’t know.
“I do know many people who believe what he says in varying degrees. Some feel they’re part of the oppressed masses and give up trying to accomplish anything because, “What’s the use?” Others, seeing themselves as oppressed try to fight back. Still others identify with the elite. They see themselves as special and work like demons to be accepted by those they believe are ‘really’ in charge.
“I feel sorry for those who give up. I admire those who fight the fight. I disdain those who want to rule.
“But I also see another class of society. Those who, like Buddha, or Jesus, or other less influential but determined men and women, know who they are, what they want and need, and live accordingly, adhering to their ideals regardless of outside influence or pressure.
“Men and women who lead authentic lives regardless of what those in charge want them to believe. Or be.
“Norma, I think the truth boils down to this. The behavior of any ruling class only affects those who allow it to affect them. It means nothing to those with enough strength of character to believe in themselves.
“Bad guys could very well be lying to us for their own purposes. But honor, justice, and God are only shams if you let someone else’s need for aggrandizement overwhelm your innate sense of honesty, fairness, and the divine.
“Not only do I not know whether or not this particular Famous Dead Political Philosopher is right, I don’t think it matters. What matters is you, and how bravely and truly you live your life.
“And that idea doesn’t depress me at all.
“I think it’s pretty damn cool.”