Friday, September 18, 2009

The Stranglehold of the Status Quo: The Breakdown Begins

This is my column for the October-November issue of Grassroots Press:

I haven’t said anything about Barack Obama in these pages since the January-February issue, when I said: “Obama is an agent of the Empire; otherwise he would never have gotten this far. He’ll be bold, but only up to a point... His ‘bipartisan’ strategy is guaranteed to limit meaningful change; the Dems seem to have spinelessness embedded into their DNA; and the Republicans are always master obstructionists. It will be a fascinating spectacle to watch, that’s for sure.”

Speaking of fascinating spectacles, this past summer was really something, wasn’t it? The sour smell of revolution is in the air; you can almost taste the madness. Sales of guns and ammo are at an all-time high. The lunatic fringe gets all the TV time it wants, while progressives and other members of the sober-minded demographic are routinely ignored by the corporate media. Unruly mobs shout down the “libruls” at town hall meetings. Assault rifles are flaunted outside Presidential gatherings. Ridiculous lies, spread by hate radio and TV, go unanswered. Liberal socialist fascist communist Obama, manifestation of all things black and evil, receives 30 death threats every day. Our country has always featured a healthy helping of craziness, but this past summer the mentally and morally deficient, with the amplification of the corporate media, have managed to set the tone for the entire country. Such a delicious, sick-to-the-stomach irony this all is – the entire planet is literally dying as we speak, yet the only response seems to be idiocy compounded upon idiocy. And we can rest assured that this is only the beginning.

In response, Obama and the Dems have been playing to lose. (The technical term for their behavior is “lame-ass.”) Is this intentional? Or even worse, are they really so clueless that they don’t know how to respond to the bullshit being pumped down on us from on high? They remind me of a basketball team that’s been bribed to blow the big game. When they should be going in for the kill, they inexplicably hold back. They miss the critical free throws. They flub the easy layups. They make stupid turnovers. The crowd grows silent as time expires. How could a team that was leading by 30 points at the half end up losing the game?

But that’s what happens when we’re reduced to always voting for the lesser of two evils. And make no mistake: if there was ever a lesser of two evils, it’s Barack Obama. He’s cautious, conciliatory, and utterly conventional -- which is to say, uncreative. Our dire situation cries out for creative solutions, but all Obama provides are the same tired old tricks that only make things worse. Under Obama, we’ve got Wall Street running the Treasury Department, deficits even more astronomical than those Bush created, a quagmire in Afghanistan, and no meaningful action on the energy shortages and climate catastrophes that will be destroying our civilization before long. And this is just the short list. Obama simply isn’t up to the task. He’s just a standard-brand politician, whose only selling point was his electability. I do like his family, their garden, and beehives. They’re way cool people, but so what? At the end of the day, Obama is just a figurehead, like any other President, and the Congress he has to work with has already been bought and paid for. Once again, we’ve been sold a dog and pony show instead of the change we thought we could believe in.

It all goes to show you: when we vote for the lesser of two evils, we still get screwed. Maybe not screwed quite as bad, but we’re still screwed. And on the national level, voting for the lesser of two evils is all that’s allowed by the powers-that-be. They win either way. Isn’t American-style “democracy” wonderful? I can hardly wait to make my next campaign contribution!

The important thing to remember about the health care “debate” is that our most important bargaining chip – single payer – was never allowed on the table. Single payer is an elegant solution because it would remove the parasitical insurance industry from the equation, resulting in enormous cost savings and liberation from one of the most oppressive institutions in our country. (The private insurance industry is far more oppressive than the government.) But doing away with the insurance industry would be a revolutionary act – far more revolutionary than the attack of any wingnut assault rifle brigade -- and as such is simply not allowed by our oligarchy. “Too bad about single payer, kids,” they say, patting us condescendingly on the head, “but we have this bright shiny new public option that maybe... just maybe... we can bestow upon you if you work hard enough.”

The trouble is, the “public option” we’ve been working for all these months is just a shadow of what we think it is. It’s too small and feeble to be any kind of replacement for single payer. We’ve been baited and switched yet again. The only sure thing is the mandate, which will at long last force healthy young Americans to buy health insurance they don’t really need. What a financial bonanza for the insurance companies! Our politicians are nothing if not slick. They advise us to accept “half a loaf,” but we’ll end up with just a slice, or maybe a crust. But the situation is still in flux, Obama can give a great speech, and it remains to be seen how all this turns out.

Americans are such a credulous lot for the most part. So many Americans will believe anything that’s marketed slickly enough. I need to write a column outlining the origins of American credulity: Christianity, American exceptionalism, Hollywood fantasy, the commodification of information, corporate-based “news” as entertainment... there are many factors which contribute to America’s la-la orientation.

There’s the old saying, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.” Evidently, a critical mass of Americans aren’t capable of making the deduction that a duck is really a duck. To give a real-world example: an emergency (pick any from the long list available) is really an emergency, not an “opportunity” that we can ignore until the most politically-expedient time.

For the most part, Americans insist that a duck is really a golden unicorn, or maybe a bag of tater tots. They insist on viewing reality through a set of pre-programmed fantasy filters. For example, a majority of Americans believe that global warming is no big deal. They also believe that the economy is going to recover! Imagine that! No doubt pigs will be flying soon.

With such a deluded population, it’s no wonder that representative government is failing us. The entire 18th Century paradigm of making intelligent decisions based on Reason is breaking down. In earlier, simpler times representative government worked well enough (though just barely), but now it’s proving unable to even address our problems, much less attempt to actually solve them. Papering things over in a politically-realistic way simply doesn’t cut it on a planet whose life-support system is rapidly failing. Barack Obama will be known as the last president of the post World War 2 era of prosperity, stability, and Earth murder. As for what is to come, we can only see through a glass darkly. The details are murky, but the overall trend is obvious: Big Shit a-coming.

The breakdown has now begun in earnest. The fraying around the edges is cutting closer to the heart. The Republicans are like children playing with hand grenades. The Democrats are fatally compromised by their corporate connections and their inherent conventionality and timidity. The Green Party, which at one time might have provided a measure of intelligence to the proceedings, barely exists anymore. The corporate media -- the de facto propaganda organ for the Empire -- successfully keeps the populace pitifully ill-informed. Only 39% of Americans believe in evolution, and at least 30% have lost their grip on reality altogether. The coming crisis will involve far more than the contradictions of the funny-money economy. It will be a perfect storm of overpopulation, resource depletion, economic chaos, pollution, energy scarcity, and climate catastrophe.

I’m inclined to take everything at face value at this point. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: “A duck is a duck is a duck.” I’m inclined to believe that there’s no particular solution to the “human situation.” The status quo has us all in a death grip. We’re trapped on the same planet together – rich and poor, ants and grasshoppers alike. There are far too many of us, and we’ve created far too much damage to expect to escape lightly. Karma bites. What goes around comes around, and boy howdy will it ever.

(Have a nice day! My blog is still low-key for the most part, with pretty pictures, whimsical captions, homestead happenings, and signs of the seasons. )