[Our very own DA (Disaffected) has given us a worthy but otherwise wordy reflection on the political charade that has become the dilemma of the American dream. It is a common ailment of that class of citizen-subjects presenting and self-identifying as American Dreamweavers, we may call it the American Dreamer’s Disorder, or shorthand it as ADD. Enjoy DA’s post. Sandy (kC)]
How’s that for a catchy title fellow kulturCritic’s? This one came to me in all the usual ways. Mulling over comments made on Sandy’s post last week – one by our very own Heretick (HT) regarding a Chris Hedges post regarding our “liberal [patrician] protectors”, and then stewing over it for a few days over the customary few beers at night and early morning walks (aka, stumbling about in the woods) the next day. But the undercurrents of all the spew you’re about to be subjected to have been busy percolating upward through my now geriatric consciousness for a whole lot longer than that –pretty much nearly all of my 55+ years now it’s fair to say. My only somewhat rhetorical question, then as now, is, why would rich, mostly intellectual, what we in the working class would commonly call “effete, self-affected liberals”, deem themselves to be the protectors of anyone, and why in the world should the working class – the “heavy lifters” for corporate capitalism and American exceptionalism – need protection in the first place? Aren’t the conservative political interests they (often blindly) pledge their allegiance to already filling that void?
So, let’s deconstruct that catchy title first of all. Liberals and Doomers are both distinct titles, and I meant them as such. Both, however, are highly pejorative and “polluted” terms, fraught with hidden meanings and subtexts to all who use and hear them (see my diatribe on this blog a few weeks back on War and Patriotism), but for this discussion at least, I’m going to wade right in and use them anyway. The term liberal is still preferable to the recently popular, although equally pejorative word, “progressive,” which itself seems to be morphing constantly, as those on the political left and right continue to redefine (read: disguise) themselves in a modern political environment that has itself now morphed into little more than pure smoke and mirrors (aka, political spin) all of the time due to its wholesale adoption of Madison Avenue advertising/propaganda techniques and the now all-encompassing ever-present electronic media hologram. The term doomer is likewise pejorative, especially when used by mainstream and/or right wing critics, a fact that most doomers like myself seem to be oddly comfortable with; one because we see it as inevitable in the current divide and conquer political environment where definitions are damning and lasting; second, because as a life-long contrarian I usually love to adopt the pejorative labels people try to smear me with, and three, because it’s… well… descriptively true.
“Liberals” I’ll loosely define as the “old left,” nominally politically as belonging to the Democratic Party, as term itself has become anathema to everyone on the right. People who broadly believe that waging war on the entire planet just might be insane, who believe science generally provides better answers to practical questions than religious fairy tales or dumb luck, who like to think for themselves at least occasionally rather than tune into media personalities who do it for them, and who believe that social issues should be dealt with inclusively and with some amount of thoughtful understanding, rather than reactively and with bigotry and hate, but further, that they not merely be used opportunistically as political bargaining chips, in a system which, over time, has reduced almost all such issues to that category. With the further caveat that anyone professing these beliefs actually believes all this stuff and walks the walk at least occasionally, not merely wear them as political advertising slogans, which in this day and age is definitely not a given. Pretty standard stuff I think.
Likewise, “Doomers” is even easier, and most (conservatives especially) would merely consider them to be the lunatic fringe subset of the aforementioned liberal class defined above. The readers of this blog and similar blogs – JHK, JMG, and the like. Pessimists, modern day Cassandras, and just plain old (often curmudgeonly) contrarians whose basic mantra is, “We’re fucked if we don’t change!” Doomers have seen the data, read the books, listened to the talks, and come to the conclusion that what we’re doing now just ain’t working, and that further, if we keep doubling down on it all as we’re currently doing, our outcomes will be every bit as predictable as they will be disastrous, not only for us, but for the entire planet. Doomers believe that unwarranted blind faith in capitalist fueled technology, as JMG has rightly pointed out of late, is exactly the same as faith in biblical or other religious tales taken out of context, especially considering both are “sold” to the unwitting by wily hucksters with hidden agendas galore.
So let’s get right down to it. In the past 15 years or so in particular, the charge “Liberals, what are they good for,” has taken on new meaning to both liberals and conservatives alike. And the answer, lest you think I’ve lost my ever-loving geriatric mind is a resounding, “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!” To the one or two remaining literate conservatives who might have wandered onto this board by mistake, your response is a knowing and sardonic chuckle and nod. To the rest of you “liberal” non-regulars who might have wandered in, you might ask, “WTF DA? We’ve got a two term BLACK, LIBERAL Prez presiding over continued American hegemony in all things great and small? WTF?” And therein lays the rub.
Even liberals – at least the conventionally defined political ones – have now bought into the myth of American exceptionalism, largely expressed at the end of a gun or smart bomb, and the wisdom and inevitability of global capital markets, ruled over of course by American Wall Street financiers, the newly, largely self-appointed, “Masters of the Universe.” More directly, liberals have been corrupted by the twin sirens of militarism and massive wealth, and the massive personal power they bring. However benevolent they may fancy themselves to be, they have fallen for the same power traps that their conservative opponents have long openly embraced. They have become the thing they despised the most. Conservatives by any other name, in word and deed.
So how did this come to be? The conventional wisdom holds that this was all inevitable in the aftermath of Reagan, that Saint Ronnie and the Neo-Con revolution (itself a backlash against the wimpy, “blame America first” liberalism of Jimmy Carter, itself a response to the American political meltdown of Nixon’s Watergate and defeat in Vietnam) that gave him his political birth in the 1980’s, completely redrew the political map in America for generations to come. [For an excellent examination of the subject I suggest readers check out James Mann’s Rise of the Vulcans. Future superstar neo-cons such as Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, and Jack Abramoff, as leaders in the National College Republicans (aka, “Reagan Youth”) were already busy formulating and applying grassroots political strategies that would allow them to continue to dominate American politics long after demise of their newly adopted saint, who curiously (and fittingly, typical of icons everywhere), would become an even more exalted figure in death than he ever was in life. Even then, they already knew and were applying what high-minded intellectual liberals would only haltingly and ineffectually accept over the next 30 years: that American politics is a full-contact sport, and money, which enables professional, broad spectrum “messaging” (aka advertising, or more honest still, propaganda), is the key to winning such fights. And that money, residing as it does in America’s “winner” class, is, not surprisingly, highly drawn to messages of American exceptionalism and all its trappings, a message which, as it turns out, is also highly attractive to America’s “loser” classes, who are often likewise desperate for something larger and more successful than themselves to be a part of.
Which brings us to or current dilemma in the aftermath of the twin abominations (obaminations?), Clinton and Obama. The former a back country hillbilly huckster-shyster, who succeeded a Bush (with the help of midget cretin named Perot), who, try as he might, was never a neocon true believer; and the second, a smooth talking multicultural shape shifter who also succeeded a Bush (with the help of worthless housewife cretin named Palin), who, try as he might, was (and remains) a fucking dilettante idiot. Neither have been or will ever be patrician protectors of the working class in any shape manner or form (and only the latter even tried to minimally portray himself as such), so much so that the very idea of liberal democrats ever doing so in the first place now seems rather quaint and dated. Add to that Obama’s exceedingly duplicitous yet wholehearted support for all things military, corporate, and big financial, with which he has completely eclipsed the Clinton legacy and seemingly permanently repositioned the Democratic Party somewhere to the right of Reagan in 1980. All of which leads me (in my customary roundabout way) to the existential question for liberal (presumably) democrats going forward:
In a system that is now dominated (and populated) by wealthy interests who fuel broad spectrum messaging (propaganda) in which the dominate message has proven to necessarily be American exceptionalism and “progress,” defined by exponential growth capitalism driven technologies, can the party/class that has in the past at least nominally defined itself as the political counter to such extremes, but which has long since sold its political soul in the name of merely getting elected, EVER be taken seriously again? Indeed, has political messaging and liberal surrender so completely corrupted the American political system that party positioning on the traditional left-right scale is no longer even a reliable or relevant factor? In short, are we not now a virtual one party rule, inverted totalitarian, state?
As I said earlier, doomers are almost always identified as liberal, although many these days are perhaps disaffected thinking conservatives, or even more likely, those who resisted party branding in all its guises all along (and to who I heartily salute). Hardly surprising, since the modern conservative movement largely marches in lockstep to the guiding lights spelled out above, all of whom devoutly worship the revealed, albeit largely imaginary at this point, truths of the aforementioned St Ronnie of Reagan, and the subsequent revelations of his loyal disciple, Cheney the Dick. “We doomers”, if I may, are a rather more eclectic group, ranging from the few remaining 60’s dropout counter culturalists to the disaffected and disillusioned modern day nay-sayers like myself and most on this board, many of whom were at least marginal believers in the current system at some time in their lives. In spite of well-reasoned and researched scientific evidence, most of us – including even those of the highest credentials and (formerly, at least) professional repute such as Guy McPherson and James Hansen – have been dismissively labeled as kooks and modern day Cassandras, victims of the same smear machine techniques used to discredit liberalism in general. And even though the doomer message ranges from such moderate and mainstream ideas as JHK’s – suburbia’s going away sometime soon and it’s going to be back to the land again – to Guy McPherson’s – the world as we know it is going away soon so we’d better start getting ready for whatever’s next – as liberal politicians could have told us all along, a message of American stagnation – never mind demise – ain’t one that’s ever gonna win you many supporters, especially not in today’s highly polarized and sound bite oriented media debate. Americans may be a lot of things, but patiently thoughtful, attentive, and reflective don’t rank high on the list. Most of the working class poor are busy full time dealing with the catastrophic effects of “economic Darwinism” imposed on them by a global capitalist death machine that, in the cruelest of ironies, they themselves continue to support.
All of which leads me to the even more imposing dilemmas imposed on the doomer community:
Can a message of American/world-wide stagnation or demise, vital as it may be, EVER be effectively communicated in such a highly charged environment, and if so, are current messaging techniques ever going to be even remotely effective? And further, and more pointedly and personally, how do we ourselves remain positive and upbeat going forward (doomer authors’ admonitions to garden and get back to nature in a modern environment where that will plainly just not be possible for most, notwithstanding), and indeed, SHOULD WE, in the face of a message that can essentially be summarized as, “We have met the enemy and it is us?” All of which goes doubly true for those of us who lean toward the extreme end of the spectrum with the predictions of Guy McPherson, who believe that 7B people residing on terra firma at any given point in time ain’t even remotely sustainable for much longer, and that the answer is painfully obvious – elimination of many, and the sooner the better at that, and renunciation of the industrial technologies that allowed such massive overpopulation and it’s now pervasive knock on effects to ever occur in the first place? Talk about inconvenient truths! I have met the enemy, and he or she is staring right back at me in the mirror!
Answers? None here, I’m afraid. Only more questions in the same key. But what I can say for sure is that sugarcoating the truth as we see it – liberals and doomers alike – in the name of personal gain, be it book sales, gaining political office, or whatever else the self-serving motivation might be, ain’t serving anyone, least of all our own dwindling senses of sanity. But reconciling all that with the fact that, for most of us at least, opting completely out of a system that demands our increasing reliance on and subservience to its demands, even though it clearly no longer serves the interests of more and more of us to do so, is likely to remain a bitter and lifelong unresolved dilemma. In the end, in a world gone clearly mad, the insane are now firmly in control of the asylum, and the sane are very, very afraid of what lies just ahead.