Thursday, July 8, 2010


We are barely into the “Dog Days” -- depending on one's definition thereof – and Pittsburgh is suffering its longest and most intense heat wave since I was privileged to set up shop in these parts. Why, just yesterday the high temperature was – hold on to your hats! -- 93 degrees! Yes! Stifling, scorching heat! The hottest temperature here in nearly five years, according to the National Weather Service. Of course, anyone in the Washington, DC area, where I was privileged (?) to live for all of 33 years, would laugh heartily at this. We're talking about a place where a week-long stretch of 100+ degree highs is not unusual... and where, if any summer went by with no temperatures higher than 93, people would be panicking about “global cooling”. Truly, the Washington area has some of the worst weather in the country... which some might say is poetic justice, considering that Washington is where all the people who want to tell the rest of us how to live live. So let 'em roast! That's my philosophy.

But let's also admit that most Washingtonians, even though they represent the power elite, are, basically, slaves and serfs. They live, and exist, to do the bidding of their betters – which usually means politicians, political appointees, bureaucrats, and the entirety of the hidden Washington, DC power structure. And there are many ironies to life in that region. For example, Washington, DC – i.e. the city – is run by blacks. Period. No one who is white, unless they're a self-hating white person, has a chance when it comes to the power structure of the DC government. And yet, in theory, the DC government is overseen by Congress – which is hardly any consolation. How would you like to live in a city that was subject to the whims of the United States Congress? No thank you! And yet, DC is also the home of some of the most prominent members of the ruling elite – those people without whose consent nothing is done, either in Congress, or by any administration... or even, I suspect, by the Supreme Court. These people may not be at the very top of the heap, but they are pretty damn far up the totem pole. I'm talking about people who own entire blocks in Georgetown – do you know what that means? It means they have a few tens of millions of real estate under their control. (Theresa Heinz Kerry is one example – or at least she was back in the mid 70s when she was just Theresa Heinz. I was part of the entertainment at a birthday party she threw for her husband, Sen. John Heinz. They had a very nice 3-story, plus two basement levels, manse right in the heart of Georgetown. I got a tour of the place from one of the boys. The point is, they were owners of one of the prime properties in a city where using the word "niggardly" can get you tossed off the city council for being a racist.)

So there are manifest absurdities connected with even the ruling elite. They can only venture so far out of their “gated communities” before they come face-to-face with the real people of this country – the homeless, the psychotic, and the average working stiffs. And I suppose this is the way it has always been – I mean, even the most exclusive redoubts of the rich, famous, and powerful have to include ample servants' quarters. The elite cannot help but cross paths with the “plain people” once in a while – and the National Enquirer proves it! Famous people – people worth millions – are caught, red-handed, walking out of a 7-11 with a Slushie. So yeah, forget about the elite being able to totally insulate themselves from the rest of us; it just can't be done. I've always said that I'd rather be a poor person in a rich country than a rich person in a poor country. And this is because there are always – intended or otherwise -- “trickle-down effects” from the rich... whereas if you're at the top of the heap in a place like Haiti, you have to spend all your time worrying about getting your throat cut. I just don't think that's a very relaxing way to live – I mean, call me crazy, but...

But to return to my main point, whatever it is – you would think, given the revolutionary actions of the Obama administration to date, that we would be experiencing a period of – at the very least – euphoria by now, similar to that which overtook the country during Franklin Roosevelt's “Hundred Days”, or JFK's foreshortened administration. Why don't we see students marching in the streets, with accordions, a la Mao's Cultural Revolution? Granted, the newest generation of leeches and parasites is converging on Washington, DC to “help” with the Obama revolution, and real estate in that area is experiencing another boom -- unique considering that the rest of the country is on the ropes... but I just don't sense the same esprit de corps... the same jubilation. After all, the draft is no longer in force, unlike the 1960s... and the economy, while on its knees, has not yet received a knock-out punch... and we are, it is argued, on the verge of – finally! After all these years! -- achieving that cynosure of all righteous societies, namely “fairness”. So why is there no jubilation in the streets? Why no mass rallies, North Korea-style? After all, we have a leader who has promised to mend all wounds, and cure all ills – and he is (or so he says) well on the way to doing both. And yeah, a few million people's hopes and dreams have been dashed by the economic collapse – but this is just a temporary condition, understand? And what comes out of it will be better than anything we've ever dreamed of – a society where “fairness” rules and “privilege” is smashed to smithereens. Except for one awkward fact, which is that “privilege” is the word that describes the entire governing class at this point – Obama and his crew, Congress, the courts, the bureaucracy, the media, and everyone else in positions of power. Whether they “deserve” the privileges they have is not to be questioned by the unwashed – the point is, they are who they are, and they are occupying positions of power... and the rest of us should be thankful that we've managed to stay out of jail for one more day. That is, in a nutshell, the core position of our rulers at this point. So it's hardly surprising that the frisson of populism that accompanied the New Deal... or the Fair Deal... or the New Frontier... is missing in this case. No one is celebrating! What's happening is that people are hunkering down, expecting that the worst is yet to come... and they are not counting on our leaders to do much of anything about it. Oh yes, they may twiddle away at the margins a bit – as with the tax code – but they'll do nothing about the core problems. And that's because, to them, the core problems are not problems at all – they're a way of life. The many predations of places like AIG and Goldman Sachs – the millions of people that they've crushed underfoot – are small considerations compared to the consolidation of power that has occurred.

A great divide has opened up – and I can't help thinking of those special effects – remarkable for their time – in which the seas parted at Moses' command, or other equally remarkable things happened. But the divide now is between the ruling elite and their servants (after all, the servants spend more time in the “big house” than the master, right?), and the slave or serf class – which means, basically, you and me – the un-privileged, the un-anointed, the done-to. For example, our taxes will go up next year based on decisions we had absolutely nothing to do with. And this is about as good a definition of tyranny as I can come up with: We pay while they play. And this is happening in an alleged democracy! With elections! You can only imagine what it would be like in an open, unabashed dictatorship (it might be better, actually).

So, under these conditions, is the average citizen – who has started, finally, to see the light – expected to evince any enthusiasm for a process, and a system, that he now knows is operating totally against his interests? I don't think so. As bovine and comatose as the American public is, there has to be a limit to their tolerance, and I think it has been reached. And yet, they are so unused to protest, and to activism – after all, those have always been the province of the leftists, who are now in charge – that the best they can come up with – and a small number it is at that – is the “tea parties”. And the ruling elite sees the tea parties on about the same level as the proverbial “little old lady in tennis shoes” -- annoying but basically harmless.

So what do you do then, in the face of monolithic, all-powerful government and its media allies? Well, you could do as so many of the citizens of the Soviet Union did – just get drunk and stay that way. Or you could become an expatriate – and live in some enlightened place like France, for instance... or just become a “world traveler” with no mailing address. But after all, you do have some loyalty to place – to family – to the land, if you're from the country... and damn it, no pontificating liberal in the White House is going to make you pull up stakes and leave without a fight! So we have the groundwork for the next civil war – maybe. But so far, all of the contenders – like the Michigan Militia – have shown themselves to be uniquely unqualified for the job. And don't forget, in the first civil war, the Southerners were defending home and hearth – and states, which they identified with much more than the federal government. Can you imagine anyone going out now and fighting for Pennsylvania? I can't. If anything, state governments in our time are even more corrupt, venal, and incompetent than the federal government. So they are hardly worth fighting for. Well then, how about fighting for one's county... or town... or village... or farm? That is at least more traditional, and more compelling in its way. But ten thousand men fighting for ten thousand farms does not exactly an army make; there has to be a higher-order idea, and what does the Obama administration have to offer in this regard? Basically nothing. And this is what takes all the energy out of the populace, and why we are all suffering, to one degree or another, from fatigue. There is no hope in Washington, and no hope for change... and we have lost sight of basic philosophical concepts and values to the degree that we can't imagine any alternatives. The tea partiers are, like so many protest movements, high on the “agin” scale and low on the “for” scale – if you asked them to lay out alternatives to what we have now, on any level, they'd be stumped. It would be something like, “Well, go back to where we were... let's see...before the New Deal. Or actually, before Wilson. No, before Lincoln! Oh hell, let's just go back to July 5, 1776 and start over.” And that would be from the ones with insight. The rest would be waving flags in a desultory way and mumbling something about “not cutting and running” from Iraq and Afghanistan – which basically means they have already drunk deeply of the Regime's Kool-Aid.

The first agenda item of any even remotely “radical” movement has to be to stop whatever wars are being fought at the time dead in their tracks – but we don't see this from the tea partiers, au contraire! They want us to “commit sufficient resources to win”. The problem is, those resources don't exist, and they never will. We simply cannot win against true believers on their own turf – and that's because we are not true believers any longer. It could almost be argued that the “boys” we sent “over there” in World War I really believed they were fighting for something called “democracy” -- whereas, in fact, what they were mostly fighting for was to dethrone a bunch of somewhat addlepated monarchs and clear the way for both communism and fascism. Then when World War II rolled around – well, then the government had to convince people that Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini had designs on their farms in Kansas. Not that much of a stretch, really. Then with Korea – well, you know, if we let the commies take over South Korea, the next thing you know they'll be in Ontario, and ready to speed across Lake Erie in U-boats and start shelling Cleveland (which wouldn't have done any more damage than “urban renewal” did, frankly). And the same argument applied to Vietnam; why, you don't want Uncle Ho turning your daughters into “ho's”, do you? And so on. The only reason Iraq and Afghanistan work is 9-11, which is this era's USS Maine, or Pearl Harbor, or Gulf of Tonkin. And as such, it's a hoax – even though it actually happened. It really doesn't take much to cause the American people to go to war... and as much as they seem to enjoy peacetime, there is a sense of restlessness until the next war comes along. This, I guess, is one of the many fatal flaws in Americans and Americanism – the fact that we thrive on war but barely eke out an existence on peace. And the problem is, we're competing on the world stage with scores of other countries, and cultures, that think the same way – war is the path to glory, and peace is for wimps, losers, cowards, and fags. Am I exaggerating? No – this is, basically, what all the propaganda is all about, year after year. Why is the U.N. so despised? Because it stands for “peace” -- whatever the hell that is. No man with the proper masculine equipment has any use for peace. Even the “Nobel Peace Prize” is typically given to warriors – and that's because there are no peacemakers to be found. No, peace is definitely not in the human makeup; it's not in our DNA.

So, the cynic might say, what we need is a real war – not these anemic exercises in Iraq and Afghanistan. And FDR would have agreed – as would Wilson, and LBJ. Say what you want, these were real, bonafide “warrior presidents”, and that is the way they chose to define their legacy. By comparison, Obama is more in league with Carter or McGovern (in the dreadful event he had become president). We do what we have to do, but we're not really into it – really not committed. And the military has to deal with this ambivalence, which explains what happened to McChrystal (and what won't happen to Petraeus, because he is, among other things, the bureaucrat's bureaucrat).

What I'm getting at is that our greatest tyrants, for all of their flaws, at least knew how to inspire. Consider Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR. Consider even a tyrant manque, like JFK – he too knew how to inspire, even though his successor, a real tyrant, didn't. And then we have Obama, who I don't think ever fancied that he could become a real tyrant; he had already had too many “talks” with the people who really run things. And in a way, this is good – we are no longer subject to the whims of a single demagogue with delusions of grandeur. Level heads have prevailed – at last! The only problem is, what those “level heads” want may have nothing whatsoever to do with the general welfare, or with the hopes and dreams of the average citizen. We are, truly, living in a strangely abstract time, where we pursue our modest goals on one level and the rich and powerful pursue theirs on an entirely different level – and ne'er the twain shall meet. If a man can be born, live, and die in our time without experiencing any serious rebuffs to any of his ambitions and plans, well... lucky for him. (He must have had pretty low expectations!) But it had nothing to do with anyone wanting to protect his “rights” -- it's just that what he wanted was of little or no interest to those in charge. If he had wanted, on the other hand, true liberty... true freedom of speech... true property rights... he would have run headlong into the machine, and been pulverized thereby. This is the core fact of life in the America of our time – that the only people who consider themselves “free” are the ones who haven't tested their freedoms. The others – the minority – know better. And it is that minority that is forever protesting – in person and via the Internet – and feeling a bit of solidarity, perhaps, with the “summertime soldiers” like the tea partiers... even though they know that when the harsh winds start to blow, the tea partiers will scatter and disappear. But even then, these are the people who retain some degree of awareness; the rest are in a state of terminal despair, and self-imposed exile from the political process. They may retain some sense of morality, but it is only applied to their own limited sphere; the notion of trying to apply it to society is so overwhelming that it is never allowed to enter their consciousness. So this is what constitutes what I call “fatigue” -- a combination of having given up in despair after considering the state of the world... and having given up _before_ considering the state of the world, because just the consideration process was way too threatening. And when enough people have this attitude, the Regime has, in effect, carte blanche – it can do anything it wants, at anytime, to anyone, and pretty much get away with it. So when those caught up in the machine ask “Why?”, the answer is that they have permitted it – they have allowed it, by forgetting that, in the words of Wendell Phillips, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.

1 comment:

Cindy Moran said...

Glad to see that you spent my birthday doing something productive. I enjoyed this post!