The Government We Deserve
I am however, way too good a student of quantum mechanics to be caught by silly dualisms. Clearly both have their place, clearly neither of these theories is 'the single one and only truth'. However our American culture with it's emphasis on the individual both historically and in the invidious comparison that runs our economy, has placed an utterly outsized emphasis on the idea that it's the individual that matters. Thus we are routinely surprised when young, un-monied, powerless radicals who care about society, people and life, turn into rich, empowered, insiders and 'suddenly' start becoming 'conservative'. (Joe you listening out there?). They and we think it's because 'they've changed their minds', but we are both wrong, what has changed is their circumstance, the changing mind follows as day follows night.
A very common phrase coming from the Administration is 'No one could have forseen' whatever fuck up is currently getting them in the hot seat. As a group though, I think we have forgotten just how well forseen the whole geostrategic and socio-cultural situation of modern America has been, and how long ago. Alexis DeTocqueville said in 1805 (or there abouts) 'Democracy will only last until the people realize they can vote themselves money'. (or something to that effect). Robert Heinlein in a couple of books published in the middle 1950's predicted the rise of a theocratic government in the US. He also predicted that the population would become increasingly un-educated and the government would more and more promote a stance of anti-science. (those predictions all seemed wacky to me when I read them in the 70's). George Orwell predicted the rise of states whose fundamental grip on power was based in the perpetual fear of an enemy as well as a state that would attempt to manipulate the meaning of words, more generaly the truth, in order to keep the citizenry confused, and impotent, focused on the powers that be as the sole source of anything positive. Many authors over the last 25 years or more have talked in non-fiction about the coming troubles when oil gets scarce. None of these people knew anything about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Osama Bin Laden (I haven't even talked about all the predictions for the rise of terrorism), or whomsoever it is that you love to hate. (Once you really get this perspective deep into your blood stream you realize that the incompetence of this administration is the greatest blessing not their primary fault)
We are living through a period that has long been foretold, and most of those tellings end badly. As a culture we have stopped believing in the most basic truths of our forefathers. We see it all around us every day. Christians who believe that 'God' wants them to kill people in foreign lands, 'Conservatives' that don't give a hoot about a balanced budget and have in fact for the 2nd time made this nation one of the most indebted nations in the world. 'Small government advocates' who think government ought to be going around destabilizing countries for selling cocain to the children of the wealthy. And for that matter, liberals who want to use the federal government to enforce a morality of environmentalism that (extremely unfortunately) they are unable to sell on it's own merits. And of course I haven't even gotten to the basic duplicity of a culture that has forgotten that it is science, not sales that made it strong, science, not money that provides the nuclear weapons they are so hot to use, even as they attempt to legislate science, to control it so that it only produces politically expedient results. This administration came into power on a platform that 'improved efficiency' was impossible (far out!). Is it any wonder they have spent their time fighting wars for control of resources? Finally perhaps most duplicitously of all, the belief that societal good is inherently not a real thing, that it flows purely and simply from personal good. That the only value we as citizen need concern ourselves with is our own financial 'success' (vs. others). The financial success of our corporations being deemed the greatest possible good, we do not notice how shipping jobs (of ever increasing sophistication) overseas creates financial difficulties for the macro economy here in this country. And of course the heads of corporations -- who could not possibly invent, nor indeed really even comprehend, the systems that make their companies rich, and yet somehow are given not just the lions share, but indeed, in the end, the whole share of the wealth generated by those inventions -- don't care, because they no longer regard themselves as bound to 'America' but rather as an international elite whose loyalties lie with an altogether different culture. (not all of course -- the exceptions are strong and important). We think to rule the world through technology even as we refuse to pay those who understand technology more than a 3rd world wage, and worse, shun science, truth and teaching in our schools.
I haven't even touched on the increasing willingness of Americans to listen to lies, slander, inuendo, con-artistry, mean, mean spirited people saying and doing anything to manipulate their listeners into believing what they want them to believe. We can blame the liars who for example haven't served a day in the US military while they slander ex-soldiers who lost limbs fighting in the con-game wars of yesteryear out of a sense of duty. But really, who is the real problem? The liar or the person who believes the liar? If as a group we all decided to fold our arms and scratch our chins and say 'hmm, doesn't look that way to me' -- this whole nightmare would vanish in a puff of smoke. When Michael Chertoff goes around implementing a bunch of rushed measures that do nothing to affect real security, despite having been in the loop for months about the british investigation (much less that the 'threat' was identified years ago and ignored, chopped out of a recent budget), does that prove he is 'on the ball' or does that demonstrate that he is involved in con-artistry? When the President tells us that the war in Iraq is the center stage of the War on Terror and the only important threat since 9/11 comes out of Pakistan and Britain (!) does that prove that their stategy is oh so insightful, or does it prove that those of who were going 'wait a minute, you're making an alliance with Pakistan?' way back in 2001-2 were maybe on to something? Does it prove they are telling the truth or does it prove they are conning us? But, again, whose worse -- the lying cheating bastards or the fools that keep ponying up the cash?
And that is the really important issue. See as long as any politician, do gooder, pundit, or loose lipped smarty pants (such as yours truly) keeps us focused on what's wrong with cheating bastards, they are basically doing us a disservice. Why? Because they don't ask us to do the hard work of taking responsibility, of growing up, and seeing that what we do, say, spend, read, watch *affects* the world we live in. 'It's all the media's fault -- they are just in the pockets of the xxxx's'. So why are you buying their paper? In a world in which Faux News is the most succesful (in corporate capitalist monetary terms, and in popularity) news show in America, guess what? They are going to get immitated. The problem is not Fox News. The problem is all the people watching Fox News. And that is something that our entire system, from top to bottom, is absolutely designed not inform us of. People don't want to take responsibility. They would much rather blame someone else. We don't want to recognize the importance that our choices have on the world around us. In a point, not unlike that of DeTocqueville, the result of 'free market' news, and 'democracy' (better known as pandering to the masses) is that the foibles of the majority get pandered to. People who want to gain leverage don't say things that would be regarded as 'biting the hand that feeds them' and in this case that hand is the great consumer. So the whole society is endlessly looking for scapegoats, someone to blame for the problems that are all around us, and the most likely culprit -- in a lot of really fundamental areas -- is the one group that is absolutley immune from prosecution: Joe Everyman.
And so what happens? one generation of panderers rises, gets blamed and falls, and then a new generation of panderers comes onto the stage. But the stooge audience, they have season tickets, and bloody well want their money's worth of blood, comedy, and craziness, and they do love a a good car chase with a nice big pile up at the end.
Americans love the idea of a war in the middle east. They love it. And so it will come to be. They love indulging their anger and aggression on a target that they know can't hit back, and if the target tries to hit back they get really, really mad about it. Many of them love the idea of 'armageddon' the end times, and so there are plenty of con-artists waiting in the wings to sell them 'The Armageddon Show'. Hoping no doubt to find a quick surprise ending that leaves them, the con-artist, alive at the end. As all good guys do right?
You say that isn't you? That you are 'forced' to advocate war because of how evil the other guy is? hmmm, guess you've forgotten what culture you come from. Are 'they' really so evil? Have we really not done 'anything' to them? really? Does data seem lacking? is the truth something you prefer to get from people who tell you what you want to hear?
Or does none of this sound like you? If so, great, but what comes next? Will there be a war? Which side are you on? Will you stand up and make a choice -- no matter what bill of goods some con-artists is shilling today about how it's all their fault, and for their own good, and we know what's best, and you have to break a few eggs? Will you look for data, and even more importantly stop letting people play on your baser emotions?
Will you stop blaming and start choosing?