02 July 2011


Perhaps this is the only real virtue of the human: restraint. I think I've used this from Conrad before but it's worth it. From Heart of Darkness (which as you may recall describes the abuses of colonial expansion, ie, lack of restraint by the White Europeans). Recall it's the uncivilized cannibals who are displaying restraint. But, to hammer the fine points...the humans in charge of global power, global capital have no restraint, personal or external. But this isn't just some "over there" issue: the same thing is happening in your backyard--vouchers are actually becoming a reality; charter schools are eating away our public school funds; the president no longer pretends to need approval to wage war (and you pay for this and so collaborate; and it continues apace in every way.

And here is a little story about a CIA torturer who feels he displayed restraint. And here is a little story about a "boy" (15 in this story from 2001--26 and continuing his work in defrauding anyone he can) who understands that our privateers succeed only when unrestrained--rather succeed for themselves only.

There is no "hidden hand" that makes greed good, folks (greed=lack of restraint)--that is magical thinking at its finest. But the idea operates within us currently--as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs continually asserts, their greed and rapacious, immoral activity (immoral if applied to personal relations) is turned into a good of religious proportions when it's applied systemically to the chimera we call "the economy". You've bought this story--it's been sold to you over and over again for so long that you don't even know it's a story anymore. But, you know it is...apply to self and see how "good" your actions are. Evil in one man or woman multiplied to systems cannot become "good". You get that, right?

For the rest, the only thing to eat--though it didn't look eatable in the least--I saw in their possession was a few lumps of some stuff like half-cooked dough, of a dirty lavender colour, they kept wrapped in leaves, and now and then swallowed a piece of, but so small that it seemed done more for the looks of the thing than for any serious purpose of sustenance. Why in the name of all the gnawing devils of hunger they didn't go for us--they were thirty to five--and have a good tuck-in for once, amazes me now when I think of it. They were big powerful men, with not much capacity to weigh the consequences, with courage, with strength, even yet, though their skins were no longer glossy and their muscles no longer hard. And I saw that something restraining, one of those human secrets that baffle probability, had come into play there. I looked at them with a swift quickening of interest-- not because it occurred to me I might be eaten by them before very long, though I own to you that just then I perceived-- in a new light, as it were--how unwholesome the pilgrims looked, and I hoped, yes, I positively hoped, that my aspect was not so-- what shall I say?--so--unappetizing: a touch of fantastic vanity which fitted well with the dream-sensation that pervaded all my days at that time. Perhaps I had a little fever, too. One can't live with one's finger everlastingly on one's pulse. I had often 'a little fever,' or a little touch of other things-- the playful paw-strokes of the wilderness, the preliminary trifling before the more serious onslaught which came in due course. Yes; I looked at them as you would on any human being, with a curiosity of their impulses, motives, capacities, weaknesses, when brought to the test of an inexorable physical necessity. Restraint! What possible restraint? Was it superstition, disgust, patience, fear--or some kind of primitive honour? No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze. Don't you know the devilry of lingering starvation, its exasperating torment, its black thoughts, its sombre and brooding ferocity? Well, I do. It takes a man all his inborn strength to fight hunger properly. It's really easier to face bereavement, dishonour, and the perdition of one's soul--than this kind of prolonged hunger. Sad, but true. And these chaps, too, had no earthly reason for any kind of scruple. Restraint! I would just as soon have expected restraint from a hyena prowling amongst the corpses of a battlefield.

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