St. Clair gave an address which I just read in digest form in Counterpunch. In it he echoes one of the themes I’ve been riffing on for years, OWS, notwithstanding. Though he does not mention Occupy or Wisconsin or any of the rest of the happy face the left has been putting on activism for the past year or two they stand in as silent sentinels–they were the last gasps of a tired and finished movement.
Does the Left exist as an oppositional political, cultural or economic force? Is anyone intimidated or restrained by the Left? Is there a counterforce to the grinding machinery neoliberal capitalism and its political managers?
The answer is, of course, no such movement exists.
This is the politics of exhaustion. We have become a generation of leftovers. We have reached a moment of historical failure that would make even Nietzsche shudder.
St. Clair is a deeply insightful political thinker who is unafraid of the truth, despite the fact he had to work under the shadow of the petty-tyrant Alex Cockburn. His article is a tale of woe. He notes how the American public actually favors many progressive ideas yet the left gets no traction–he doesn’t say why–his article is just a cry of the heart.
I’ve often said the left is essentially dead–or moribund (I love the word). Certainly the old left looks dead very much like Polly Parrot in the Dead Parrot sketch.
But there’s something simmering below the surface that those of us who are veterans of the old left can take heart in–massive numbers of people are unhappy and disillusioned. They lack any framework for their disillusion other than things like buying guns but I think we have a chance to step into an opening.
There are two issues only a new revivified left can work with: 1) massive criminality of all the major actors in the political economy; and 2) the lying mainstream media. That’s the only issues we need. We don’t need to talk about the debt or the deficit or “entitlements” or imperialism or any of that. Yes those are issues that are important, more or less, but not as important as the fact our society is run, at the top, by criminals. And it is not that this is hard to determine. The evidence is overwhelming and we don’t even have to go to the assassinations of the sixties or 9/11 or anything like that. No just the simple facts as they are The government and the media allowed massive fraud to occur in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
In 2006 one third of all lending were “liar’s loans” meaning that these loans were deliberately created out of falsified income statements and property appraisals. Washington Mutual, Andrew Cuomo (when he was AG of NY) found out, had created a blacklist of honest appraisers that were never to be used. Regulators, the FBI and many others consistently warned that there would be a financial crisis because of massive fraud going on. I knew it, though I’m hardly that well-connected I just happened to know a Wall Street guy who tole me in 2005 that the whole thing was going to blow in the next few years because Wall Street was creating fraudulent instruments.
In the S & L crisis there were 1000 FBI agents investigating criminals at the top and there were over 1000 convictions even though many particularly high profile suspects got away due to political influence. But in the more recent crisis that was 70 times greater only 120 agents were assigned to mortgage fraud!!!! On the surface this looks like massive criminality and I can assure you that a clear case with loads of evidence beyond anything that I’m indicating here can prove that the basis of our current political economy is naked criminality in almost every sphere, to be sure, but particularly prevalent in the financial industry. I’m also confident that there is no possible counter-argument.
The fact this is so obvious has to automatically indict the mainstream media from Fox News to PBS for covering up and refusing to cover the truth about the financial crisis which, as I said, is stunningly obvious. It will then quickly be seen how corrupt the media is. Not the reporters who do what they can but who have editors that continually and systematically discourage them to pursue stories that might make powerful people look bad (other than celebs, but they are toys of powerful people so they don’t count). When people understand that, for the most part, they are being fed a pile of turds everyday that they then have to pretend to eat–man, no wonder people are stressed and the U.S. leads the world in mental illness.
All we have to do is hammer away at those two issues ONLY and then the unassailable wall around the imperial court will break. We don’t have to talk about income inequality just criminality–not about class-struggle just criminality–not about the environment just criminality. We don’t have to argue with Tea Baggers about anything–just say that crime is a bad thing dontcha think? No argument. Sure a few will say, but it was Acorn that caused the crash, gov’t bureaucrats who wanted to put people in homes–you say sure AND those banks made a lot of money falsifying information, corrupting appraisers, originators. There’s no absence of proof and no possible counter-argument to the central fact that our problem is not Republicans or Democrats or private enterprise of the government our problem is criminal gangs have taken over–over and out.
Oprah’s interview with Lance Armstrong was really kind of fun for me to watch. Armstrong is typifies the kind of attitude that all graspers and hustlers have. I’m sure we’ve each known this type of person both male and female. Cold, calculating, assertive, in control. These are the people that run our world, for the most part. Yes, there are noble people who succeed and do well and contribute and keep the world from falling some dark star. It much of our culture is gamed, fixed, how cheating is consistently rewarded and whistle-blowing punished.
In sports cheating is a bit harder than the rest of society but it happens. People get caught more in sports because it really doesn’t matter that much. I mean who cares if doping is common in big-time bicycle racing or baseball? For a fan the game is the same either way. But if Lance Armstrongs populate the hall of Congress, the Pentagon, the CIA, Wall Street, advertising and public relations and so on we suffer. I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve been in Washington big-time and small-time.
Is this new in human history? No, of course not. It’s a question now of balance-do we care enough about society to assert some contrary values to simply winning. WE often talk about “winners” and “losers” not about morality. Morality is essential to keeping society functioning and the more we fall away from some minimal standards of morality the less well society can function. We are voting with our values-every time we cheer torturers on TV getting information out of “bad guys” (meaning people who are a member of the group called “them”) we are making a statement about our values and, maintaining a moral atmosphere where the end always justifies the means.
Without a close examination of our values we cannot hope to solve any of our collective problems. Without a committing to some kind of value system we can’t easily maintain any kind of social system. These values do not have to be rigid and they don’t have to be throwbacks to the morality practiced by a ancient herding people in the Middle East or people who invaded the subcontinent of Asia.
We can come together and gather pieces of our broken conceptual frameworks and build something new. In fact, I’m convinced that we’ll do it-my only concern is will we be able to do it before the darkness gets to thick.
I’ve often said that left and right are both important in any political system (or any other system). Too much order (conservatism) and you get rigidity and an inability to react to changed circumstances. Too much innovation and change and the system looses integrity and tends to overreact to situations and the solutions often become worse than the bad shit we want to change. The French and Russian revolutions point so some of these sorts of problems. But in our system the left/right duality is all confused. The right wants change the left wants to hold on to the status-quo and in some areas the situation is reversed. But today the populist right has descended into lunacy and the left has been living in a world of illusions.
The chief illusion is this: that we live in a society that is, more or less, as described by the system we learn about in government class. In short, even the left in America believes in “American Exceptionalism” that somehow the plots we observe in Shakespeare’s plays or read about in history most graphically in Livy’s history or the history of the late Roman Republic or the machinations that were a deep part of European history over the centuries just don’t happen in America.
Not much going on here. Sad, in a way but I think we are all weary of politics after the election. We dodged a bullet in a way–the Obama win asserted that the majority of the voters and, I believe, a majority of the people prefer not to end Western Civilization yet which a vote for Romney clearly would indicate. I’m happy for that and feel I can now relax a bit.
Life goes on–nothing substantial changed there will be some different seating arrangements in the halls of power but the same basic actors will be there and the same permanent government is in power. There is an cannot be any significant change in those arrangements as any reasonably thorough examination of our institutions, regs, laws and economic/social arrangements would indicate. We will be the land of the con, the scam the hidden deals and the fine-print and the “gotcha.” We are a chaotic society that keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.
What strikes me is what few on the left want to confront–our political arrangements actually reflect who we are on a personal and community-level in an exaggerated way of course–but the general attitude of incoherence, superstition, and the inability to have dialogue may be even worse in the body-politic than in the actual halls of power.
As I have had discussions both online and verbal over the years I find less and less willingness of people to listen to each other, rather, everyone wants to be right and be justified–I can’t say I am that different other than I try to be observant but I like anyone can get on my high horse and hear nothing.
I see no cultural movement moving us into a more “enlightened” point of view politically though I’m happy that there is more acceptance of sexual minorities, a slight turning away from religious fundamentalism due to a real resurgence of “I’m an atheist and I’m proud” movement which I like even though I am a Christian–you know the old fashioned type that actually has read the Gospels–I’m also influenced by Buddhism and Yoga and Sufism and so on it’s all very similar to me–the Perennial Philosophy as Huxley called it.
We need a dialogue on philosophy and spirituality in this country–politics comes from these larger views. We are diseased as a culture because we have not come to terms with philosophy or theology (the Queen of the Sciences in my view) and I think that movement may slowly roll. Being able to admit I’m a Christian or an Atheist or whatever or just that I don’t know is the new liberation movement we need.
Politics has nothing to offer now–we no longer live in a Constitutional republic so we should stop complaining about a fact that has been a fact for a long time and shows absolutely no sign of changing other than allowing everyone an equal opportunity to kill peasants and so on.
As far as politics and whatever this site is about–we’re running on empty. Sad.
Paul Craig Roberts is, in many ways, one of the most interesting political commentators of our time. I’m not going to say he is always right but he is very happy to think outside the box of our traditional political arrangements. He is on the left and the right–he is an example of the sort of thinking we need that will transcend the traditional “liberal/conservative” categories which have become just our version of competing soccer hooligans. My few years of commenting on Daily Kos showed me how vicious so-called liberals are when confronted with ideas that go beyond slogans.
Robert’s latest essay deserves some attention and is available here. What he is saying, essentially, is what he has been saying for some time that our “recovery” is not really a recovery if you factor in real inflation. He makes the point that current government announcements about the economy are similar to government announcement on the wars we undertake, i.e., they are false.
I would go further I don’t believe we are in a long-term depression or recession in the traditional sense–what we are undergoing is a major structural change in our political economy and our society that reflects the current cultural reality.
The single most important thing to understand about the culture we live in is that it is now not based in creating a vibrant economy or even maintaining and expanding an empire. Its focus is on enabling most Americans to live in a world of custom fantasies because, for a variety of reasons, that is what most Americans want. Most Americans do not want to face reality or think beyond their daily tasks that put them in a position to watch reality shoes, sports, pursue various addictions and create their little interesting dramas. Larger-scale interests where we act in common are devalued. The source of meaning for us, increasingly, lies in fantasy role-playing because, without ever realizing it, the plutocrats have cut off our political legs by creating a system of propaganda and mind-control, sometimes using science and often just creative genius, to make people believe that they need product X or need to vote for candidate Y. The ability for the corporate state to control its subject population through capturing, not so much its consent, but its subconscious is what marks our age. Thus we do not question the phony statistics on inflation or unemployment or anything else. Thus we are unable to put two and two together to make four unless some authority says it’s so.
None of us here believe that we have a healthy political situation. You have to be utterly deluded and living in the Matrix to believe that our Presidential elections are anything but tragic reality shows that are mainly staged and mainly fiction. The candidates are surfing the always slightly shifting mythological frameworks of “the people.” These frameworks are shaped and formed by corporate oligarchs in order to 1) make people insensitive to the sufferings of others; 2) make them confuse fantasy and reality; and 3) tell them that the narrow band of possible opinions and choices is “all there is.” The two Presidential candidates claim to be on the right or the left but are neither. They are both conservatives in the sense that they seek to conserve the power of the current oligarchy with slightly different means.
What this election signifies, however, is important. The election may well be about the strength of our social contract. Should we get on with the process of dismantling the social contract that has been in place since FDR? A vote for Romney is a vote for that process of dismantling. A vote for Obama is a vote for keeping it propped up with duct tape and wire. In fact, either way the world that FDR and his “brain thrust” created will shortly be a thing of the past–the question is whether a majority of Americans clearly wants it to end. If they choose Obama they will choose a “soft landing” of that system and perhaps a new minimalist national system can be created–though I doubt it. The oligarchs are so firmly in control at this time that they can easily create the system that works best for them and what works for them is neo-fuedalism.
There is no grand conspiracy to turn the world into a one-world Empire and destroy democracy and the Enlightenment principles that inform the form of government we once enjoyed. As you know, I no longer believe we live in a Constitutional Republic but, rather, in a transitional state a new combination of neo-feudalism, imperialism, fascism into something utterly new and unprecedented. The source of all this is something we can find by looking in the mirror for long enough.
This has all happened with, more or less, the consent of people around the world. The chief feature is Orwellian version of a Brave New World. The Global War on Terror is the most clear example of this. We wish to eliminate terrorism by using terrorism and making sure that terror is used to subjugate peoples abroad and to subjugate people here. They can do that here in this country because of its radically anti-intellectual tendencies (due to the failure of public schools to educate anyone and, instead, pretend to educate) and a stunning flight away from even the concept of virtue for which we were warned in the seventies by Christopher Lasch’s prescient book The Culture of Narcissism. This allows people to be unashamed to be cowards. You can only describe the American public’s reaction to 9/11 as cowardly–in going to war against weak countries who had no capacity to fight back and were not the cause of the terrorist attacks. In fact, it was Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (and perhaps Israel) who were involved directly in 9/11 even if you accept the notion that the American gov’t had nothing to do with the attacks (highly improbable). Even if the gov’t story were true the reaction is still cowardly and the way those wars were fought were deeply dishonorable–wantonly killing civilians because maybe there were some insurgents among them. Estimates of deaths in Iraq go from around a hundred thousand to more than a million–most of it due to U.S. saturation bombing of neighborhoods and communities which was largely unreported in the American press. In Afghanistan the violence was not as bad because the U.S. uses direct terrorist tactics against civilian populations like the people in the border regions (see Chris Floyd’s latest post).
There is no conspiracy only the ongoing wheel of history moving away from the unstable mythological frameworks brought on by the modernist project (the general movement away from uncomprehending belief in a particular world-view towards an intellectual openness to new ideas) and it’s inability to take into account the needs and requirements of human beings. People need to belong, people need to feel they are a part of something larger than themselves, people need to have some kind of spiritual framework and modernism doesn’t seem to be able to provide for these needs. It has brought fantastic riches and technological marvels but has done very little for the human spirit and, if anyhthing, has caused us to devolve rather than evolve as human beings. Cowardice, self-indulgence and narcissism are the main features of society today–and BTW I include myself in that critique.
And, at the same time, there never was a time when the nature of existence of life, of human nature were better known–we truly live in an age of not just information but wisdom that is flying all around us yet we cannot, fore some reason, take the medicine that will move us out of our problems.
The conspiracy we face it made in the collective unconscious, as I alluded to above. It is we who are resisting opening up our lives to the new and who want to return to authoritarian systems where our place in the world is clear and unambiguous. This is now possible for us. I think the social contract is that as long as the corporate system supplies most people with a Matrix-like system of amusements and entertainments that the people will go along with anything–endless wars, an hereditary aristocracy and a neo-feudal future where their children will inherit a world where they will be serfs if they’re lucky, slavery or death if they’re not.
In order to break out of this we need to open up our conscious minds to the knowledge of how deep our unconscious is and how much we are dominated by it. Once we understand that we can begin to take steps in life that are more reasonable. It all starts with each one of us and has nothing to do with politics as such–our problems are cultural and philosophical. While those who read this may be dissenters most of our fellows believe in a world of winners and losers. Winners should glory in their success and indulge in excesses while losers should suffer mightily and sing the blues.
Americans are, generally, averse to “big” issues and thinking in the long-term. History is bunk (as Henry Ford famously said) to most Americans which is why exactly the same patterns in policy and execution of that policy are manifest in Afghanistan and Iraq as were shown in Vietnam. We, collectively, have learned nothing. At a time when people distrust government when it comes to the military or military actions believe absolutely everything the government says. 9/11 was a case and point. The government offered no evidence and, in fact, destroyed or seized any evidence that there was for the events with the excuse that we were “at war” though no war was declared and there was no country that we were at war with–rather, Americans swallowed whole that we were at war with “terror” which is completely impossible and irrational. This “War on Terror” which was to last, essentially, forever was swallowed by most of the left despite abundant evidence that the U.S. government has consistently deceived the public particularly since the national security state was established during the Truman administration. Some people on the left did object to this war on terror nonsense but no great figures on the left were the least bit skeptical of the government accounts of 9/11! Chomsky accepted that the government tended to lie about everything concerning war and foreign policy but not about 9/11! Somehow they found their hidden ability to tell the truth during that fateful date. Regardless of how any of us feel about the mechanics and cause of 9/11 I think we can agree that the government was hiding something.
The reaction to the events of 9/11 is why I have no faith in the American left–but I believe a real left can emerge but it must emerge out of what I call the Main Event. I don’t mean 9/11 either–it is just a milestone something that was, I believe, inevitable one way or the other. The Main Event is not actually an event but the ongoing horror of climate change. All the issues we talk about are important but they are candles in the sun of what is happening to our environment.
I want to talk about an article I read on the Counterpunch site. The article was written by the brilliant thinker Morris Berman and is entitled: Time to Abolish the American Dream: The Waning of the Modern Ages. He was musing about the issues we face when he came across something Naomi Klein wrote:
….she chastises the Left for not understanding what the Right does correctly perceive: that the whole climate change debate is a serious threat to capitalism. The Left, she says, wants to soft-pedal the implications; it wants to say that environmental protection is compatible with economic growth, that it is not a threat to capital or labor. It wants to get everyone to buy a hybrid car, for example (which I have personally compared to diet cheesecake), or use more efficient light bulbs, or recycle, as if these things were adequate to the crisis at hand. But the Right is not fooled: it sees Green as a Trojan horse for Red, the attempt “to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism.” It believes-correctly-that the politics of global warming is inevitably an attack on the American Dream, on the whole capitalist structure.
Effectively, the end of the USA occurred on 9/11/01. Two major forces collided that day. The first was a group of oligarchs who wanted to institute authoritarian rule on an unruly and increasingly (form their POV) immoral nation. The second group was the majority of citizens in the American Republic who were basking in the glow of vast technological change that was providing them with an enormous playground full of toys and cheap baubles who had lost practically all interest in the responsibilities of citizenship–who wanted, in short, a blue pill. During the course of the day many reports came in, no one knew what was happening. Buildings collapsed that were designed to withstand plane crashes at near free-fall speed, explosions were heard and recorded before those collapses. Commentators noted that the collapse of WTC 1 and 2 were eerily similar to controlled demolitions. People like me, who knew Washington DC very well, were stunned at the plane crash into the Pentagon knowing that the building was surrounded by anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles confusion reigned. Then somehow the government let it be known that Al-Qaida was responsible and that was the explanation.
The contrast, stylistically, of the two Party Conventions stuck me very powerfully. The Democratic Convention had each evening main speakers offered one brilliant speech after another. These speeches were well-put together, well-delivered and proved to me that the Democratic Paty (DP) is fit to rule the Empire. Here are people with skillz–compared to the lame-ola speeches the Republican Party (RP) trotted out that could only appeal to the very stupid or the very greedy. The contest should be over right here right now but it isn’t. Why? Because we live in an authoritarian society that is in danger of devolving into tribalism and this seems to be the historical trend.
The contrast was clear. Exclusivity and tribalism on the right, inclusion and a constant plea for unity and civilized behavior on the “left.” Yes, I believe much of what the Dems were saying was clear bullshit but it was bullshit based on some facts even if they were cherry-picked. The Republicans had no argument to convince anyone to vote for them unless you were one of “them.” The Dems offered good reasons (even if most of those reason hid deep corruption) why any of us should vote for Obama and the Dems and this coming from someone that genuinely mainly revulsion for the DP.
There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt – until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.
What Vidal describes has been the case for much of our post-WWII history. But quite honestly, I think the quote no longer quite works for today’s Republican Party (RP) has changed dramatically since Vidal wrote the above though the essential political arrangements are the same-both are part of the Property Party and very specifically the Property Party of the very, very rich, not any of the rest of us who happen to won a little property. The Property Party is the only political party and will always be the political party barring environmental disaster of the worst kind with galloping positive feedback loops which is possible.
The Republican and Democratic parties have accomplished an amazing feat with the red state/blue state paradigm. They’ve convinced everyone that regardless of how bad they are, the other guy is worse. So even with 11 percent of the public supporting Congress most incumbents will be returned to Congress. They have so structured and defined the question that people no longer look at the actual principles and instead vote on this false dichotomy.
John Cusack’s interview with Jonathan Turley is a good read if you like intelligent discussions by smart people who put what is important about an issue to the fore. This is in marked contrast with the Mainstream Media that puts trivial, ephemeral concerns front and center of any discussion and utterly ignore the underlying issues that do underlie all our major issues. In a way, it is not their fault since they see their job as merely to mirror the concerns of ordinary citizens who don’t want to think too deeply about anything whether it is the world of national and international affairs or even personal issues. Once there was a notion that the media would serve three important purposes, inform us on significant events that are bound to affect our lives, provide education about the world, and to keep track of the truth and hold politicians accountable. This has not even come close to be its role in recent years and is unlikely to be because the general consensus reality that this media has been presenting to us is the normal American consensus reality. This is the world we live in. Thus Obama is on the left and Romney is on the right. Never mind what left and right means or whether these people really fit the mold-they actually don’t because they are both opportunists-essentially, guns for hire who will pretty much represent their clients’ interest and guess what? We will never be their clients.