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.
There have been a spate of articles in places as varied as the WaPo, Huffington Post, and the usual places where leftists publish articles (CounterPunch, TruthDig, here, and so on) about what is at stake in this election. Most of these articles do not tell us to vote for Obama but rather to seek some kind of alternative at best and something close to despair at worst. One of the best of these articles by Henry Giroux (Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism) has just been posted on CounterPunch. This article should be read by all here and offers about as exhausting an analysis as you could want on where we are at politically at this point in time.
Here Giroux provides a clear statement:
A catalogue of indicting evidence reveals the depth and breadth of the war being waged against the social state, and particularly against young people. Beyond exposing the moral depravity of a nation that fails to protect its young, such a war speaks to nothing less than a perverse death-wish, a barely masked desire for self-annihilation-as the wilful destruction of an entire generation not only transforms U.S. politics into pathology, but is sure to signal the death-knell for America’s future. How much longer will the American public have to wait before the nightmare comes to an end?
None of these articles provide us with a viable course of action (Giroux may be an exception), not because there isn’t one as I’ve often pointed out, but that, from a cultural perspective it is out of the question. For example, I have, for years, made the point that power comes from organized, committed and focused communities who are willing to go to the barricades if necessary to assert themselves. I’ve suggested communities, communes, cooperatives, and even creating leftist-oriented corporations either for-profit or non-profit. From that base power can evolve and be used to influence public policy. At this point in history the cultural reality is that people who profess leftist views can’t or won’t cooperate with each other but prefer to live, in large part, fairly atomized lives with occasional bursts of spontaneous chaotic action (Wisconsin and Occupy) during which they fill themselves with fantasies and illusions about their own sense of righteousness. Much of the fantasy around Occupy went like this: “isn’t it obvious that we represent the 99% and once we get out in the streets most people will join us.” Well that didn’t happen, in fact, most people, on balance, opposed these efforts in part because they were chaotic and disorganized and thus inspired little respect or trust with people who know, as a pragmatic reality, that that is not how the world works.
Brain Waving / by John Perry Barlow, AlterNet, May 20, 2010
One can make a non-ludicrous case that the most important event in the cultural history of America since the 1860s was the introduction of LSD.
The following is adapted from the Foreword to Birth of a Psychedelic Culture: Conversations about Leary, the Harvard Experiments, Millbrook and the Sixties, by Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner with Gary Bravo, from Synergetic Press.
LSD is a drug that produces fear in people who don’t take it. -Timothy Leary
It’s now almost half a century since that day in September 1961 when a mysterious fellow named Michael Hollingshead made an appointment to meet Professor Timothy Leary over lunch at the Harvard Faculty Club. When they met in the foyer, Hollingshead was carrying with him a quart jar of sugar paste into which he had infused a gram of Sandoz LSD. He had smeared this goo all over his own increasingly abstract consciousness and it still contained, by his own reckoning, 4,975 strong (200 mcg) doses of LSD. The mouth of that jar became perhaps the most significant of the fumaroles from which the ’60s blew forth.
Everybody who continues to obsess on the hilariously terrifying cultural epoch known as the ’60s – which is to say, most everybody from “my gege-generation,” the post-War demographic bulge that achieved permanent adolescence during that era – has his or her own sense of when the ’60s really began. There are a lot of candidates: the blossoming pink cloud in the Zapruder film, Mario Savio’s first speech in Sproul Plaza, the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the Beatles’ first appearance on the the Ed Sullivan Show, the first Acid Test, the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, the release of the song “Good Vibrations,” the day Jerry Garcia got kicked out of the army. But as often as not, if you are a Boomer, the ’60s began for surreal on the day you dropped acid. And if that is when the shit hit your personal fan, you may owe a debt of ambiguous gratitude to the appealingly demonic young sociopath who conveyed the Stark Bolt of Chemical Revelation to the nice young gentlemen of the Harvard Psilocybin Project.
The essential tameness of the group that was to become so notorious is only one fascinating feature of discourse to follow between the Project’s second and third most celebrated veterans: Ram Dass ( who as Richard Alpert, PhD, was Tom Sawyer to Tim Leary’s Huckleberry Finn) and Dr. Ralph Metzner (who began as an acolyte and wound up presiding over the remains).
Thanks in very large part to the subsequent exertions of Drs. Leary, Alpert and Metzner, the experience was one shared over the following decade by tens of millions of Americans, the larger part of whom found it difficult ever after to take seriously the verities that few in Eisenhower’s America would have questioned. Our paradigm got fucking well shifted. At least mine certainly did. And so, I would venture, did that of the United States of America, during the trip we took between 1961 and 1972.
I’ll be mercifully brief. I just listened to a program on KPFA which is an interview with Michelle Alexander speaking of her new book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
Basically, her contention that the 5 fold increase in incarceration in this country is thew way the elites have managed to use prisons as a means of social control as industries have moved away from population centers and left in its wake unsustainable ghettos. Which were invaded, starting under Reagan, by federally subsidized efforts to incarcerate a high proportion of African-American men through the spectacularly disproportionate application of drug laws against the poor and, largely, ignoring the white middle-class. SWAT Teams were sent in and funded to roust people out of their beds, seize and confiscate their property and deprive them of their civil rights.
I want to take a moment to speak about a phenomenon that I have become concerned about since I started reading political websites: the emergence of something that I will call left-authoritarianism. There has always been a trend on the left, a trend quite distinct from what we typically call liberalism or progressivism, that has tended toward authoritarianism. This trend found its fullest and most unfortunate expression in the rise of the Soviet Union and in that country’s betrayal of socialism early in the twentieth century. I am of the firm conviction that the viewpoints of people who think along these lines must be distinguished from those who hold liberal or progressive views.
So, what’s the difference? The United States was founded as a liberal country. The principles of Enlightenment-Rationalism, principles of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the idea that the authority of government derives from the consent of the governed, are at the core of what the Constitution stands for. Liberals, both of the classic 19th century variety, as well as current ones, still hold to these principles.
Left-Authoritarians, however, do not.
Yeah, that title’s probably not the best sidle-in for a first essay, though I did get my account here more than a year ago. Mostly just a reader, until I got banned from DKos.
No, it wasn’t a 9-11 CT diary. I’ve long known better than to get involved in those, kept my opinions about that to myself. It was just an overview of things viral (i.e., influenza), how vaccine research works – and sometimes doesn’t – with a semi-humorous overtone that indeed was sort of conspiratorial in a Tom Cruise-ish way. I’m an auguste clown… tend to see humor in places the pompous white-face takes way too seriously. Occupational hazard.
“Reasonable” people call it Authoritarianism for the sake of “reasonable” conversation. People who are more interested in describing the trend we have seen over the last eight years of “Authoritarian” rule (not governance) allow their alarm and disgust to utter words that once did seem alarmist and unreasonable in reasonable conversation. Words like totalitarianism, tyranny and even the dread and semi-forbidden word….. fascism. Or perhaps even worse….Police State. These words have previously been used in The Land of the Free as part of the Cold War propaganda effeort to describe countries and governments behind the Iron Curtain. The thrust of the propaganda effort of course, was to point to America as a bastion of all things free and just and right, particularly individual and human rights. America MEANS Freedom, especially individual freedom.
I find myself, on some level, torn between my highly strained faith in American democracy and a perception that it no longer exists. I applaud and encourage political activism and cherish the activists that I know, but for all their heroism, commitment and hard work, I see us sliding steadily backwards. This has been my observation for the past 40 years. We progressives have faced unremitting defeat at the hands of the ultra-conservative ‘system’, which clearly serves our super-wealthy overlords – not us.
One day I will write more on “everything connects” but I think it does. FYI, I prefer to use the term “left” rather than “liberal” or “progressive” because I see left, right and center to be a kind of organic whole and those terms are more inclusive. The “center” in fact is made up of two poles–one is where the left and right meet in a kind of compromise and is generally where the social conformists line up and is generally where politics operates (and is the only healthy place for it to operate in a Democracy by definition. On the other end of the center where the extreme left meets the extreme right.
Because our political and cultural system operates under the laws of systems analysis I don’t believe that anyone in our political system is “wrong” just that diffent ideological stances all have a positive function and that is to keep a balance (homeostasis)–the system is only wrong when it is out of balance. Currently we have a kind of cultural/political fever in which the right has become too strong (in fact cancerous) and the left too weak.