Whither America?

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Crossposted from Antemedius

The other day, on April 15, veteran journalist, war correspondent and truthdig.com columnist Chris Hedges was interviewed on RT News about the state of American society, repeating his oft stated warnings about the long corporate assault on and takeover of politics, the seeming death of reason and critical thinking in public discourse, and the development of a feudalistic “totalitarian democracy” in which the vast majority of the population is reduced through a media manufactured state of ignorance, inability to think clearly, and entertainment dazed complacence to a state of serfdom as a renewable ‘resource’ for a capitalism defined by American and multinational big business, and critiquing from this perspective the US budget developments of the past few days.

The budget is closing American schools and libraries across the country while firing teachers and taking away collective bargaining rights, Hedges notes, while banks and the largest corporations are not paying any taxes, including Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, and GE. Protesters gathered on Saturday April 17 at New York City’s Union Square for the Sound of Resistance protests, part of the US Uncut tax weekend protests challenging the banks, most notably Bank of America, for avoiding paying taxes.

usuncut.org’s about page states that:

US Uncut is a grassroots movement taking direct action against corporate tax cheats and unnecessary and unfair public service cuts across the U.S. Washington’s proposed budget for the coming year sends a clear message: The wrath of budget cuts will fall upon the shoulders of hard-working Americans. That’s unacceptable.

Obama seeks to trim $1.1 trillion from the budget in the next ten years by cutting or eliminating over 200 federal programs, many dedicated to social services and education. For instance, it cuts in half funding to subsidize heating for low-income Americans; limits an expansion of the Pell grant program for students; and decreases Environmental Protection Agency funding by over 12%.

Meanwhile, Republicans are using their new House majority to slash spending even more brutally. The GOP has made it clear that they are bent on raiding funds for Social Security, Medicare, education; determined to kill health care reform; and gut needed investments in infrastructure, climate change and job creation, at a time when America needs it most.

These cuts will come on top of very painful austerity measures made at the state-level across our nation–worth hundreds of billions–since the recession began.

In short, budget cuts demonstrate that Washington has abandoned ordinary Americans.

What is making the situation worse is the ignorance of politicians and others leaping around he fringes. Hedges also reminds that the US is the only industrialized nation in the world that argues over the existence of evolution. Magical thinking, combined with a military superpower, is frightening, he says. “We invest emotional energy on the ridiculous and the sublime… the liberal class has been decimated… what used to be unconstitutional is now legal“, he says, pointing to illegal searches under the Patriot Act and corporate bailouts under the health care legislation. The rights and needs of citizens are being ignored in favor of corporations.

Whither America?

While all across the blogosphere and in mainstream media I watch people argue about which faction of the ‘corporatist party’ to elect in 2012, I’m reminded strongly here of something Chris Floyd wrote nearly four years ago, in September 2007:

Tomorrow is here. The game is over. The crisis has passed – and the patient is dead. Whatever dream you had about what America is, it isn’t that anymore. It’s gone. And not just in some abstract sense, some metaphorical or mythological sense, but down in the nitty-gritty, in the concrete realities of institutional structures and legal frameworks, of policy and process, even down to the physical nature of the landscape and the way that people live.

The Republic you wanted – and at one time might have had the power to take back – is finished. You no longer have the power to keep it; it’s not there.


It won’t come with jackboots and book burnings, with mass rallies and fevered harangues. It won’t come with “black helicopters” or tanks on the street. It won’t come like a storm – but like a break in the weather, that sudden change of season you might feel when the wind shifts on an October evening: everything is the same, but everything has changed. Something has gone, departed from the world, and a new reality has taken its place.

As in Rome, all the old forms will still be there: legislatures, elections, campaigns – plenty of bread and circuses for the folks. But the “consent of the governed” will no longer apply; actual control of the state will have passed to a small group of nobles who rule largely for the benefit of their wealthy peers and corporate patrons.

To be sure, there will be factional conflicts among this elite, and a degree of free debate will be permitted, within limits; but no one outside the privileged circle will be allowed to govern or influence state policy. Dissidents will be marginalized – usually by “the people” themselves. Deprived of historical knowledge by an impoverished educational system designed to produce complacent consumers, not thoughtful citizens, and left ignorant of current events by a media devoted solely to profit, many will internalize the force-fed values of the ruling elite, and act accordingly. There will be little need for overt methods of control.

Civil disobedience is the only tool we have left” Hedges says in the RT interview. It is a process of years and years and it is unclear what triggers a massive reaction, such as the demonstrations in Egypt. “The tinder is here but what triggers it will probably be fairly innocuous” he predicts…

“My fear is that if those of us who care about an open society and care about protecting democracy don’t begin to carry out acts of civil disobedience, this rage could be hijacked – or it already is being hijacked – by these proto-fascist movements gathered around the Tea Party that speak in the language of violence and bigotry; that celebrate the gun culture; that demonize Muslims, undocumented workers, homosexuals – Look, I’ve watched these kinds of movements grow in the breakdown of Yugoslavia and I don’t take this rhetoric lightly.”


April 15, 2011


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  1. Edger

    Or wither, America?

  2. bigsurtree

    But there’s more to it. Our connection to the past must be

    an intellectual and emotional one, otherwise human culture

    floats randomly into a dizzying, kaleidoscopic hall of mirrors and a dissonant echo chamber. It would be like living in foreground only; no background, no context, no depth, nowhere to go.

    There are seven billion of us living on the head of a pin and lost. Strange physics, strange thoughts/illusions.

    We’ve built the best noose science could create. And we’ve covered our heads with a polyester hood; the strange creature who is both prisoner and executioner at the same time.

    Without and intellectual and emotional connection to the past we have no ancestors who can speak to us, who we can feel. So we end up just worshipping ourselves and those who speak our same language. And we live in modern times anxiously waiting for answers that simply can’t materialize. Like trying to measure the depth of a mirage in the desert with the best scientific equipment available.

    Like putting a monetary value on water, soil, trees and

    fossil residue.

  3. banger

    The basics have been true since Chris Floyd wrote what he wrote.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no hope–we are sliding down this slide and all we can do is watch the slide. No one is listening because reason is leaving the building. At best, we can strengthen our personal networks and just wait and see.

    A very close friend, a wounded veteran of the anti-Vietnam War era movement, told me that it’s up to the young now–they must lead the way with their passion and energy–us older people can just offer guidance and support when asked.

    Hedges has it right, as usual. I think we will have periodic outbreaks of the proto-fascism he describes but it will be, as it is now, inchoate and largely nihilistic. The main drive of the right-wingers is to destroy civilization. Their argument is, strangely, against civilization itself. Personally, I don’t see any great dystopia ahead but more of a general period of political disunion and dissolution.

    People are and will increasingly be losing confidence in all the major institutions and make other arrangements–some of them not very positive.  

  4. CatfishBlues

  5. Edger

    in orange…

  6. RUKind

    Pray for a wake up call for Uhmerica. The American Dream has turned into a soma coma nightmare. Everyone has been brainwashed into passive acceptance.

    You know you’re an Uhmerican if you can name the finalists on Idol and Dancing With The Stars but can’t understand how the repeal of Glass-Steagull in ’98 led directly to the financial meltdown in ’08.

    You’re an Uhmerican if you don’t realize that the death spiral of the middle class began on a January day in 1981 when Ronald Wilson Reagan took the oath of office.

    We’re rapidly becoming a third world oligarchy populated by minimum-wage wage slaves living paycheck to paycheck while the rulers fly private from gated compounds protected by Blackwater equivalents.

    We are fucked and we’re passing a fucking mess on to our children and grandchildren. America is dead. Long live Uhmerica.

  7. banger

    this puts us into a very weird situation where any of the old patterns make no sense. The danger of fascism, for example, is not as strong in this country because of this loss of memory–the United States of Forgetting as Gore Vidal used to say. What we have and will continue to have is a form of moral nihilism that Hedges likes to talk about. The forces of the right are not really on the right any more–they have moved over into nihilism and destruction for the sake of destruction. I sense no vision of a better society from that portion of the population–only a seething anger that is looking of targets and the main target is, in my view, civilization itself.

    The argument is no longer whether we should be a social democracy or not but whether we should be civilized at all or whether we should use reason, science and so on to decide any issue or at least to have a seat at the table. Today that attitude is leaving us. We have a population enamored of magical thinking because that’s what the entertainment media is preaching 24/7 along with the steady diet of misinformation coming from the MSM. It is driving us crazy.

    The one advantage of “crazy” is that it invites and opens up the psyche to other realities and drastically different paths. Dissolution of old structures leaves room to build new structures–that’s where we are.

  8. Edger

    It’s interesting to look  at other experiences, and I suppose the closest ‘parallel’ would be the breakup of the Soviet Union.

    In 1989 ten years after they invaded, the USSR finally was forced to give up it’s dreams of domination of Afghanistan and withdrew… and collapsed.

    The interesting thing though is that although the Soviet Union “collapsed”, and collapse it did… it wasn’t the people who collapsed.

    It was the political structure and the power establishment that collapsed. It didn’t involve any mass violence or die off of citizens or anything like that. Just the political and financial elite – the nomenklatura – mostly had to run for cover as the authoritarian fascist power structure folded like a house of cards in the wind. Life may have gotten a little tougher, in the sense that maybe there was less on the store shelves and so forth.

    It was the power structure that collapsed, that’s all. And Russia is still one of the most advanced and powerful countries on earth.  

    I could envision the US breaking up into smaller countries, and personally, living on the west coast, I like the idea of Cascadia.

    Cascadia (commonly called the Republic of Cascadia as a full name) is a proposed name for an independent sovereign state advocated by a grassroots environmental movement in the Pacific Northwest of North America. This state would hypothetically be formed by the union of British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington. Other suggested boundary lines also include Idaho (all or parts), western Montana, Northern California, parts of Alaska, and parts of the Yukon. This type of “federation” would require secession from both the United States and Canada. The boundaries of this proposed republic could incorporate those of the existing province and states.

    At the maximum extent, Cascadia would be home to more than 17 million people and would boast an economy that generates more than $450 billion worth of goods and services annually, which would place Cascadia in the top 20 economies of the world.

    Cascadia would have two of the biggest seaports in the world, more than 20 million people, be among the 20 largest economies in the world, has debateably the most awesome scenery and natural beauty in the world, would be the 20th largest nation in the world, is overflowing with rabid but friendly liberals and progressives, and hippies….

    And would easily be able to supply the world with one of the most the most in demand agricultural products ever….

  9. banger

    Things were very hard in Russia for many years–they were not helped by the infusion of “consultants” who helped themselves, the mafia and the oligarchs loot the country. Russians survived because they had private networks to rely on since things had been falling apart for at least a decade (the U.S. government hid this fact in order to play up the “threat”) there were many private gardens that kept people from starving to death after most official sources of food dried up. We don’t have that kind of resiliency here but I hope we have time to build it and we ought to be working those angles.

    What worries me the most is that Americans seemed to have lost the independent spirit and “can-do” attitude that so many in the world admired. This has happened through generations of the most sophisticated mind-control system ever devised (well, it wasn’t devised it just sprung up as an emergent intelligence) to weaken us and make us utterly dependent on trends, fashion, fads, fantasies and technology for its own sake. We have lost our ability to be pragmatic. One hopes this changes.

  10. RUKind

    Just sayin’.

    I could see a New England, New York, New Jersey (northern) and northeast Pennsylvania plus Nova Scotia forming a new and vastly expanded Northeast Kingdom (the original is northeatern VT).

    That GDP would put it in the top 10 countries. And our buds are from the same seed stock.

  11. wilberforce

    annexes territory and taxes the hell out of the conquered in the mold of the Romans. But, for now (some decades maybe) it can keep raiding social security, etc, as it has been doing for 11 years now.

    I don’t know about Russia, but in the new Poland, people are in debt up to their eyeballs just to survive, at a subsistence level– 100 year mortgages on a crappy concrete block apartment are common.  

    In other words-they last longer than you will. That’s serfdom to the bank really, and your kids and maybe there’s also, are locked into it.  

  12. Edger

    a complicated multifaceted problem, that’s for sure…

  13. RUKind

    About 2700 sq ft on my half-acre lot. Plus fruit trees.

    I’m thinking about turning the front lawn into an orchard. All organic, of course.

    And I’m setting up for a four season harvest here in zone 6b/7a. All passive solar, of course.

    Just don’t take away my Medicare and WiFi. 😉

  14. Edger

    By Philip K. Dick, 1964

    Plot Summary:

    What if you discovered that everything you knew about the world was a lie? That’s the question at the heart of Philip K. Dick’s futuristic novel about political oppression, the show business of politics and the sinister potential of the military industrial complex.

    This wry, paranoid thriller imagines a future in which the earth has been ravaged, and cities are burnt-out wastelands too dangerous for human life. Americans have been shipped underground, where they toil in crowded industrial ant hills and receive a steady diet of inspiring speeches from a President who never seems to age. Nick St. James, like the rest of the masses, believed in the words of his leaders. But that all changes when he travels to the surface-where what he finds is more shocking than anything he could possibly imagine.

    Full text .PDF (136 pages)

  15. RUKind

    How many of his novels have become great movies? I’m off to Amazon right now to get a copy.

    Thx for the tip, Edger.

  16. Edger

    It’s like acid. The world will never look the same again after it… and that’s the best thing about it. 😉

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