Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Power is a Feeling

As the “Occupy” movement seems to gain momentum and spread to the remotest parts of the fruited plain, I keep having to deal, on a daily basis, with vivid feelings of deja vu. Wasn't there some other movement fairly recently that behaved in the same way? Oh yes – the “tea party”... and while it hasn't quite yet been absorbed into the Republican Party blob, it stands in imminent danger of being so – the question (for the Republican establishment) being, do they “need” the tea partiers or can they get along just as well (if not better) without them? And while the tea party movement may have receded a bit, the tea party idea, or set of ideas, still has enough traction to occupy some of the attention (or annoyance) of the Republican establishment. But will it make any difference in the long run – and particularly in the 2012 elections? Will the candidates elected under the tea party label in 2010 remain under that label, or will they have sold out? And, will new candidates claiming that label come into view? And will the tea party movement have any impact, however slight, on the Republican nominating process? (My guess is a resounding “no”, since the nominee of choice seems to be Rockjaw Goodhair, who has nothing whatsoever in common with the tea partiers.) All of this is, of course, contingent on Obama continuing to pursue his collectivist/socialist/totalitarian programs, which he shows no signs of letting up on – indeed, he continues to aggravate the situation, on the assumption that his base is secure and hoping that the “undecideds” will finally see the light. Plus, he knows that the Republicans are pure evil; he says so every chance he gets. His main problem is convincing everyone else of the fact – everyone but his base, that is, who already feel that way because they always have.

Obama is in a peculiar position, in fact – a “man of the people” and yet he feels constrained to pronounce a good portion of those people fools and ignorant dupes – and their duly-elected representatives fear mongers, haters, bigots, etc. It seems to me that a politician ought to take a bit more of the high road than to just automatically call anyone who disagrees with him on any issue an idiot – but that's apparently what plays well among his base, so he keeps it up. And the fact that he does so in that resonant, Martin Luther King-wannabee tone, rather than in the whiny way Bill Clinton always used, certainly helps. Clinton always took everything personally, including any kind of political opposition... whereas Obama at least presents an image of not being so thin-skinned. He basically lets things roll off his back – or, better yet, ignores them – whereas Clinton was an easy sucker for any kind of political bait that was thrown his way. So in that sense Obama is a better politician – but he still takes the low road much too often.

But let's get back to the “Occupiers”. They feel their star is rising... it's springtime in America (even though it's fall)... those of like mind across the land are getting up in the face of the oligarchy, the corrupt, the exploiters, the robber barons, and so on. (And never mind that their man Obama is one of the Regime's loyal servants!) But there is already an air of futility... of the pathetic... about the whole thing. The “Occupy” movement represents – if not strictly in the economic sense, then certainly in the socio-political sense – the rabble. These are the people who, for instance, supported Obama because they expected him to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan – which already shows you what their delusional quotient is. They believe, as I've discussed before, that “the people” still have a voice – surely another delusion, but at least one that runs across the political spectrum, since few people from anywhere on that spectrum have given up voting. They have – as has been pointed out – more of an “anti” program than a program... and I don't claim that that's an entirely bad thing, at least not in the early stages. I don't fall for the notion that you have to have answers before you start asking questions – or an alternative plan before you're allowed to protest the way things are now. This is a rhetorical scam perpetrated by the establishment in order to avoid confronting the issues. But it seems to me at this point that the Occupiers are running out of their no-program grace period.

I also suspect that the Occupiers' tent cities will disappear with the first snow fall. Ever wandered around lower Manhattan on a bitterly cold and windy winter day? All you can think about is where, and how soon, you might be able to get indoors. But that's not going to discourage anyone at this point, because “the people” -- the “99%” -- are on the rise! To the barricades, mes amis! And it's this intoxication with... not with real power, but with imagined power... that so energized past movements – not just the tea parties, but the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War/anti-draft movement. The trajectory is familiar; we've seen it all before. And the main differences among these various populist outbreaks is how they are resolved. Either the issue goes away, or the movement disperses, or it gets co-opted and absorbed into something else... there are many ways in which the waters become smooth again. The civil rights movement, for example, actually accomplished many of its goals – its original goals, that is, which included equal rights as opposed to affirmative action, which was added on later as a way of upping the ante and keeping the movement in business. Civil rights activity since blacks gained equal legal rights has been focused primarily on the attainment of equal (or greater than equal) outcomes – a demand that even the federal government, even under Democratic administrations, finds tough to meet. So the civil rights movement did not perish from its own success, but at least became relatively defused bordering on the anemic... and ridiculous at times. (Compare, if you will, the gravitas of the likes of Dr. King with that of Al Sharpton. 'Nuff said!)

Then you have the anti-Vietnam War and draft movement (and I conflate the two because I am increasingly convinced that neither would have existed without the other) – and the way the Regime dealt with that was to (1) end the war, and (2) end the draft. How clever! And I think they realized, on some level, that there are very few true pacifists in America... that everyone has some idea about the kinds of wars worth fighting. For the Democrats, this means any war presided over by a Democratic president – even ones he inherited. And for the Republicans, it means any war supposedly intended to “spread democracy”, or “defend the American way of life”, or support Israel. So yeah, it's hard for any genuine pacifist movement to gain traction in this country, since the vast majority of our leaders, as well as of our citizens, is pretty much willing to go to war at any time, in any place, and for any reason. And the traditional concept of “just war”, to which the Vatican keeps trying to introduce American leaders, gets lost in the shuffle.

Let's put it this way. How many American politicians have been voted out of office, or not voted into office, for being against war – either war in general or a specific war or wars? Versus how many have been voted out of office, or not voted in, for being pro-war, or in favor of starting or continuing a specific war or wars? You do the math. I think you'll find that being against war of any sort is a non-starter for anyone seeking office on the national level. And the U.S. is certainly not unique in this sense, except for the fact that our wars are almost invariably ideational in nature, i.e. not designed to increase the general welfare of Americans one iota (even though this is at the top of the list of rationalizations).

But the “Occupiers” don't really say anything about war, do they? This is because they don't want to say, or imply, anything against Obama, whom – on some mysterious level – they still believe in. And they certainly don't say anything against big government, because they see that as their principal weapon against the predatory behaviors of Wall Street. So let's see... not against Obama, and not against big government, even though both are the abject slaves of Wall Street. See how hopeless their cause is already? I mean... at least in the case of the civil rights movement, and the anti-Vietnam War movement, there was a line of logic and reasoning behind it, and some notion as to what should change and how. There was, in other words, a vision; the criteria were operational and feasible. But the Occupiers have no discernable program – and neither do the tea partiers, for that matter. The tea partiers are hobbled by that fact that they like big government at least half the time – when it's waging war overseas and abominations like the “War on Drugs” on the domestic front. So, just like the Occupiers, they want someone – Superman, I guess – to go in and, with surgical precision, remove all the parts of big government they don't like, and keep the rest intact. And what's funny, of course, is that the tea partiers and the Occupiers want almost the exact opposite things excised or left alone. So I guess if they joined forces either nothing would change or everything would change... but that's not going to happen.

Now, allow me to shift gears a bit and talk about the reception the Regime and its organs have given to these respective movements. To begin with, the mainstream media – the barking dogs of the Regime – are treating the Occupy movement with total respect and diffidence, whereas they couldn't find enough bad things to say, often enough, about the tea parties. Now, does this mean that the Regime is “pro” the Occupiers while being against the tea parties? Don't be silly. All it means is that they see absolutely no threat from the Occupiers, whereas the tea parties are a bit disturbing. And why is this? It's because the Occupiers are, as stated above, rabble – by and large. Fairly or not, they are seen as the same people who complain about everything else... the chronically dissatisfied, chronically outraged and demanding, by and large infantile, and hopelessly powerless. Perennial losers, in other words – with clothing and grooming choices to match. When the Occupiers start hollering through bull horns, all the elite in their high, blue-tinted towers hear is a faint buzzing. The tea party, on the other hand, is made up almost entirely of white, middle-class people – the very people the Regime depends on to provide not only labor and support (and votes if needed) but also to remain silent. While it's true that the Regime is, over time, depending less and less on the middle class as a source of transferable wealth, they aren't quite ready to put them all in camps yet – but they are most certainly not ready to put up with the complaints that follow when the scales fall from the middle class's eyes. So it's the middle class – contrary to almost any socio-political theory out there (with George Orwell being a notable exception) – that must be kept down... kept content, and distracted, and wed to ideas that benefit not them but the Regime. There are plenty of games and circuses – and addictive substances – for the proles; we don't care what they think. Whereas the war on the middle class is, as much as anything, a war of ideas – mainly that any ideas that didn't come out of a middle-school social studies textbook are most unwelcome. The matrix is designed for the bourgeoisie.

So the media, following the lead of the Regime, practices benign neglect when it comes to the Occupiers – looking on in a paternalistic way wherever the tent cities spring up. But when it comes to the tea party, it's total war all the time: These people are evil! Reactionary! Haters! Racists/sexists/homophobes! And all the rest of it. And this is despite the fact that the tea partiers are not really against big government, as I pointed out above. We're talking about what happens when some members of the middle class wake up to the truth about their situation, and about the system. And granted, they are only half awake, and know only half the truth at best – but that's enough to threaten the Regime, and thus to energize the media.

But aside from the media, how else is the Regime responding? One way is through law enforcement – and I guarantee that if the tea partiers were setting up tent cities in public (or private) parks across the land, there would be plenty of push-back on the part of federal, state, and local troops and police. But as it stands, benign neglect seems to be the policy, nearly always – and again, it's because these people are no real threat. The Regime can pretend to look on benignly, the way an indulgent parent surveys the antics of a two-year-old... because the situation is completely under control, not only physically but politically and psychologically. There will be no revolution from this quarter -- not now, not ever.

But now, you might ask, if the Occupiers are not a threat to the Regime, but the tea partiers are, what else is, or would be, a threat? How can one determine where the Regime has vested interests? And the best place to start answering these questions is, once again, with the mainstream media. This is the topic I'll deal with in my next post.

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