How does one destroy a Republic? You destroy the very notion of res publica.
You convince the people that there is… no People. No civic space. No public forum. Every square inch of the planet, owned by someone. Every idea, every invention, every thought, every human creation of value, owned by someone.
Every one of us… well, owned, by someone.
You convince them that the notion of banding together in their own common interest is naive and stupid at best, or insidious and evil at worst.
You leverage almost a century’s worth of social engineering to peel away at their very human pieces. Commoditize their religions, their politics, their stories, their History, their fictions. Their dreams.
Train them to identify with some abstract Tribe (their innate biological wiring predisposes them to it, after all) and to instinctively distrust, despise anyone or anything Other. Offer them a limited buffet of (so-called) “Lifestyles”, and they will happily choose, and thank you for the right to do so. Train them to speak in social codes, shibboleth, images, feelings, symbols that are unique to each tribe, until they lose the ability to even communicate across the artificial semiotic fences you’ve built for them.
Give them idols to worship– artists without art. Leaders without leadership. Gods without… godliness. Give them joyless, pointless festivals and rituals to keep them busy, and so they can feel as though they belong. Keep them just well fed enough that they won’t revolt (but not too well– be sure to keep just enough of the poor around to keep the others in permanent fear of losing what little they have).
You convince them that this is the only World. That they are without hope of escape, or improvement, or that the very notion of the possibility of ‘progress’ in the classical sense is a naive illusion, or delusion (and make sure you train them how to laugh at those who do, while you’re at it). That Power is all. That Money is all. That they are nothing more than meat to be cultivated, bought and sold, and finally consumed.
Until one day, they have nothing left but fear and ignorance; distrust and hatred. The useful submission that comes from Quiet Desperation.
You train them to act as their own prison guards, essentially. No need to censor (or censure), at least not publically. Keep the forums open and free, and let the little people speak as much as they want. For have no fear, the others will gladly shout them down.
Black Iron Prison, indeed. Only this time around, enclosed within a Cage of Velvet Rope.
SOTU is in a half hour or so. To my mind, this is when the second Obama Administration begins (everything since the election –Hagel, Brennan, drone memos, the fiscal cliff– has just been the usual noise and aftermath, at this scale). That just seems to be part of the national rhythm. Between that, and exhaustion, I haven’t been paying as much attention to politics since the election as I usually do.
It’s been a bizarre few weeks, outside of politics: Aaron Swartz committed suicide over the JSTOR case. Iran may (or may not) have launched a monkey into space and got it back to Earth safely. North Korea managed to sort of launch a rocket, and then went on to confirm that they could still make Uranium go critical under highly controlled conditions underground. We had a Blizzard of ’78 class storm here. The pope resigned (like many, I didn’t even know he could do that). An ex-cop starts out on an OJ-esque rampage of revengeful murders and multi-cop chase scenes, and (as I write this) ends up in a Waco-esque burning cabin, complete with billowing black smoke (in karmic honor of the upcoming Conclave, I can only assume).
Oh, and Ted Nugent (who has
made physical threats against coined some disturbingly colorful ‘metaphors’ involving POTUS in the past) will attend the SOTU, at the personal invitation of some (to me) obscure Tea-Party House member.
Compare this to the post-2003 career trajectory of the ill-fated, anti-Bush Dixie Chicks.
About ten minutes to SOTU now. And they’re announcing Dorner’s apparent death (and that of at least one deputy). Finishing up just in time for the 9pm speech coverage. Tidy, that.
The title came to me as I was typing my news summary, it really is the Stand on Zanzibar era in some ways… and I really do need to finish that book.
…to the day, I just realized.
Obama and the Quants won. Now we’re four-weeks deep into the ambiguous aftermath, headed towards what has been billed as the ‘fiscal cliff’, a time bomb strapped to economy by the lame-duck Congress of 2010. No one can agree what that means, exactly. All seem to agree that it will change… something.
Israel almost invaded Gaza, then decided not to with a little help from the new (post Arab Spring) Egypt. Meanwhile, Morsi starts strange post-revolutionary parliamentary maneuvers we haven’t seen since the 1970s. Gen. Petraeus resigns his CIA post amid some scandal. We’re still trying to figure out WTF is going on in Libya. Assad contemplates using chemical weapons on his own people, knowing that will start a major war with US/NATO/etc.
Few people here in the US have had the time or energy to follow any of this. I haven’t. I’ve been too exhausted, myself, which is why I haven’t written anything.
With regards to the election, the one big, long-lasting takeaway from last month is this: They were True Believers, after all. Karl Rove refused to believe that his team had lost Ohio. Skeptics like me assumed that Karl Rove “knew” he had Ohio in the bag, for nefarious reasons. Turns out that, no, Karl Rove literally inhabits a different universe where the electorate was whiter, older, more conservative. He really did have alternative math.
But it wasn’t just Turd Blossom. Turns out that Romney himself had been so certain of victory that he’d ordered up some celebratory fireworks for Boston Harbor, and neglected to write a concession speech. His own team’s polls had him up in NH, OH, CO, FL and VA. Polls that weren’t so much unscientific, as colored by “personal expectation” on the part of the interpreters. (Because, after all, any damned geek in a white lab coat can take a poll, that’s just sissy mathematics– you’re paying for the interpretation, aren’t you?)
That scares me, frankly: These Reality-Creators had, in fact, gotten trapped in the very world they had built for us. So they were unable to see what was plainly there before them. Unable to see and process uncomfortable truths. Unable to make decisions based on real data.
Imagine what magnificent foreign policy blunders such a mindset could have accomplished. Imagine how much collateral damage to the social safety net and the working class such a mindset could have accomplished.
These people almost got to run the country.
So Biden did, indeed, win the debate as only he could have. Triumph and rejoicing in many circles, though he apparently laughed and grinned more than allowed for a Democratic VP during a debate. Accusations that the tea-totaling Biden was ‘drunk’, or ‘losing control’ were the GOP spin of the day today. Offensive, frankly: You lost this one, deal with it. When Obama lost last week, Democrats could see that, and were among the first to say it. (Yet another anecdote against the alleged false symmetry between the two parties).
Any change in the poll numbers remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Romney’s (to me) mysteriously long-lived debate bump has all but tied the race. Some trendlines now favor him. Odd for a debate to make such a difference. Even more odd for there to be no apparent effect on any downticket races.
And yet– the arbitrary 8% unemployment number as re-election threshold was beat just a week ago (7.8%). Suddenly doesn’t matter. The long-collapsed housing market, starting to seem a little less collapsed. Suddenly doesn’t matter. Deficits starting to come down. Suddenly doesn’t matter.
And so on. Not good. I remember 1980, how it felt like this sudden turning away from Reality. The Turnips out there are apparently liking the sound of this new Comfortable Lie they’re being sold.
But in 1980 the US was a net creditor nation. Our nearest competitor nation was at least a decade behind us technologically. We still had a manufacturing sector (albeit one still reeling from the 1970s Oil Shock), more natural resources, and a very stable legal/political system. None of these things are true anymore. She could take it then. I don’t think she could take it now… we still haven’t recovered from the last Republican President.
Folks really should know better than to do this to themselves. Or to the rest of us.
Just realized that I pick up exactly where I left off at the old place. Symmetry is always an omen.
We’ve built up these debates to the level of gladiatorial combat. It must have started with the Republican primary debates. The energy (and expectations) built up there carried over to this current cycle of cross-party debates. And everyone, including me (and except perhaps Romney, ironically) was shocked by this.
Romney’s plan all along was to surf his way into the White House upon a Tsunami of Bullshit, Reagan-style. And we all acted surprised when he did his best in the debate last week.
And so here we are, in the odd position of having Joe Biden as our new Rhetorical Champion of Democracy. With Paul Ryan, Dual-in-One Avatar of both Christ and Rand as the opponent.
I buy into these debates as much as anybody else does, if not more. But somehow I’ve grown tired (exhausted) of the stakes being so high.
Of course I’ll watch. Of course I’ll be part of whatever freakout or triumph comes in the aftermath.
What else could I do?