Mother’s Day 2010

I can’t think of a better thing to post on Mother’s Day, the day that Julia Ward Howe designated as an international day of peace called for by mothers around the world, than this reflection by Joe Bageant, about the political conflict brewing in America these days and apparently, in Canada too:

Most of the liberal thinkers I know still do not grasp that the anxiety working people have, even the Tea Partiers, are rooted in the same things as their own. Yes, the right is definitely cruel. And yes, it can by now be called fascist. However, to deal with what has happened, one must come to grips with what produced the internal distrust upon which fascist empires are built.

The brutal way Americans were forced to internalize the values of a gangster capitalist class continues to elude nearly all Americans. Most foreigners too. This is to say nothing of how our system replaced our humanity with ideology, our liberty with money, and fostered fascist nationalism through profound degeneration of the people’s mind and spirit. It’s not as if one can ever escape that sort of thing, either by going to a place like Mexico, getting drunk or whatever. We are made in Americas’ image, whether we admit it or not, and America’s image is the face on a ten dollar bill

Liberal or conservative, money is what we care about — period. From birth, the empire has made one thing very clear to us: If you do not produce or acquire enough of the green stuff, meet the quota, you will be ground beneath the heel of the machine we call a society. No universal health insurance or higher education, no guaranteed minimum income, no worker rights, nothing for you suckers but the tab. So keep humping.

With such a national ethos, who can blame Americans for caring most profoundly about money? Everything is secondary to money. The future of the world’s children, the planet, everything. I’ve been watching the horrific BP oil spill on CNN (doncha love the way they call it a “spill,” as if it was a cup of coffee?) The first and biggest ongoing question has been, “Who is going to pay for it?” Right off hand I’d say the fish, birds and wetlands will pay for it, along with future generations. One quart of motor oil will pollute 250,000 gallons of water, and already there have been millions of gallons of oil blasted into the earth’s waters from this single spill. Yet the big question has been “Whose money and how much is going to change hands here?”

It is now clear to me that the people’s rage is a tool in the hands of the new electronic and digital corporate state. Its various channels, eddies and pools, regardless of type, can be directed toward all sorts of mischief and profit. Left or right, the angry throngs on both sides can be managed and directed. They can be sent chasing various injustices, denouncing evil characters on Wall Street, Times Square bombers, BP executives, or whatever, worked up into slobbering outrage over Sarah Palin, and thus kept divided and working against each other for the benefit of last gasp capitalism.

Once outside the furious drek of American political and economic life, and having finished the last book I will ever write, I found myself asking: “Why did the good in the American people not triumph? How can it be that so many progressive, justice-loving citizens failed? Their positions were well reasoned. The facts were indisputably on their side. Obviously, there was, and is, more going on than merely losing battles to demagoguery and meanness. Why do we lose the important fights so consistently? What has kept us from establishing a more just kingdom? Something is missing.

I think it is, in a word, the spiritual. The stuff that sustained Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and gave them the kind of calm deliberate guts we are not seeing today. I am not talking about religion, but the spirit in each of us, that solitary non-material essence, none the less shared by all humans because we are human. When we let our capitalist overlords cast everything in a purely material light — as material gain or loss for one group or another — we played the oppressor’s game.

It was always a game with no vision. Just good guys, bad guys, pissed off people, or apathetic disenfranchised ones, amid one helluva lot of money changing hands. Mostly the wrong hands. That game drives us to the petty the larcenies we perform against one another in the name employment, and the atrocities abroad to which none of us lay our rightful claim as beneficiaries of the empire’s pillage. Our purposeful blindness to such things necessarily eliminates any universal vision. All the best ones are universal.

Yet down inside human beings is a love of justice. Honestly. The psyche seeks balance, and therefore seeks justice. Regardless of the perversion of its definition, and therefore the laws, by those who own nearly all of our country and damned well intend to own the rest, we know.

While those elite forces can own everything around us, and have proven they can make life quite miserable if they care to, they cannot own that thing inside us. The one that gives out the last sigh before sleep, and travels the realms of the great human collective consciousness alone. This is the consciousness that ebbs and flows between all external events. There is nothing mystical about it. Go sit in any quiet place with your eyes closed for a half hour or so, and that self will invariably say hello.

This is also the self that our oppressors can never allow a moment’s rest. Because when it finds rest, it finds insight, and can fuse the spiritual, psychological and material worlds into some transcendent vision that can at last seen and sought after. It makes Buddhist monks rebel in Sri Lanka and creates indigenous liberation theologians in Latin America.

Fortunately for Wall Street, the world’s bankers, the military industrial complex, there is science, which they love so dearly they purchased it outright. Scientism has successfully sold the notion that spiritual awareness is superstition. By that accounting, the mind is no more than the brain, and love is a body sack of chemicals interacting. (A stunningly successful new public relations campaign by BASF chemical corporation campaign actually declares that love is chemical. Its success both here and in China would give Orwell the heebie jeebies.)

This will in all likelihood be the last philosophical and political battle with capitalist totalitarianism, assuming it can even be called a battle. I am not seeing much thinking and no genuine struggle on the American people’s part. Consumer capitalism’s material gratification has been so grotesquely satisfying, that it has shredded most of thinking in the country and all of willingness to take risks.

The blinking reptilian elites now own our entire material needs hierarchy chain, top to bottom. You eat, shit, work, fuck and die at the pleasure of their Great Machine. The presence of six billion others, most of whom are in the same situation, all but guarantees this as our material destiny on a finite and increasingly poisoned planet, before the big hasta la vista.

Meanwhile, win or lose, we are left with our inner selves to sustain each day (if only because Oprah has not yet gained copyright). In doing so we can discover the only kingdom that was ever ours. The same one gurus, messiahs, martyrs and hairy-assed sages the world over have ever agreed upon. The kingdom within.

Joe says that by this time next year he’ll be focussing more on the kingdom within than without.  Who knows?  Maybe I will too.  Thinking about it.  This is one of those things that fell into my hands in a moment of crisis and says something I wish I could have said.  But now it’s said, I’m a happy camper.

Tres ‘toopid

Eric Jong at the Huff:

Irving Berlin was wrong: you can get a man with a gun.

Not that I think Sarah Palin will make it to VP. But given the repugnicans’ habit of caging votes, it’s certainly one horrid possibility.

White trash America certainly has allure for voters. Some people think rednecks are more American than Harvard educated intellectuals of mixed race. God help us in the next election. The NRA and the oil industry sure won’t. [emphasis mine – which part of this sentence is more offensive?]

Read the whole offensive thing here if you must.

via Feminist Law Professors

Much more important may be Joe Bageant on American “rednecks”:

Can Democrats Learn to Speak Redneck? (apparently not, assuming Jong is a Dem)

and Why Rednecks May Rule the World

UPDATE:  I couldn’t resist coming back to post this bit from “Why Rednecks May …”:

rednecks have never had so many friends or so much attention as in 2008. Contrary to the stereotype, we are not all tobacco chawing, guffawing Southerners, but are scattered from coast to coast. Over 50% of us live in the “cultural south”, which is to say places with white Southern Scots-Irish values — redneck values.

They include western Pennsylvania, central Missouri and southern Illinois, upstate Michigan and Minnesota, eastern Connecticut, northern New Hampshire …

So when you look at what pundits call the red state heartland, you are looking at the Republic of Redneckia.

As to having our delicate beer-sodden feelings protected from the term redneck; well, I appreciate the effort, though I highly suspect that the best way to hide snobbishness is to pose as protector of any class of folks you cannot bear. Thus we are being protected by the very people who look down on us — educated urban progressives.

And let’s face it, there’s plenty to look down on. By any tasteful standard, we ain’t a pretty people.

America’s Hungry Children

From a letter to Joe Bageant:


Reading the letter What will America look like in two years evoked a memory of what America looked like to me two years ago.

At the checkout of grocery store in the US, I came across a food bin by the door, collecting food for children. For children! My being appalled bemused my American born and reared cousin. As I explained to my cousin, in my sheltered life, living on the two relatively wealthy continents of Europe and Australia, I had only ever seen something like that once before. The bin I had formerly encountered collected food … for dogs.

When I relayed this to my cousin, she pointed out that Americans expect parents to look after their children. I got cranky at this point and snapped, “So you let starve children to teach them to have better parents?” Normally with any contentious issue she would argue the toss or concede the point, but this time she didn’t do either. She said nothing. Her eyes glazed over.

Is that survival in a totalist state?

We anglosphere outsiders tend to shrug off this sort of thing with a sardonic, ‘Only in America.’ A few of us fear we are not that far behind our American cousins.

When people ask me what I thought of America, the phrase ‘bloody awful’ is never far from my lips. I am not anti-American but the image of a place that begrudges feeding it’s children’s saddens me immensely.


See Joe’s answer here

Audacious Depression

From “The Audacity of Depression” by Joe Bageant:


Lately though, I don’t hear so much outrage. In fact, the readers seem to be suffering from what someone aptly called “rage fatigue.” Which is another way of saying the bastards have simply worn us out. And it’s true.

I am not kidding when I say rage fatigue victims have fallen into an ongoing mid-level depression. (Looks to me like the whole country has, but then I’m no mental health expert.) The less depressed victims can be found lurking near the edges of the Obama cult, consoling themselves that a soothing and/or charismatic orator is better than nothing. Obama may yet be borne through the White House portico by a Democratic host of seraphim, but he cannot do much without the consent of a bought and paid for Congress. Only George Bush can do that, and we can only hope God broke the mold after he made George. And like whoever else wins the presidency, Obama can never acknowledge any significant truth, such as that the nation is waaaaay beyond being just broke, and is even a net debtor nation to Mexico, or that the greatest touch-me-not in the U.S. political flower garden, the “American lifestyle,” is toast. But then, we really do not expect political truth, but rather entertainment in a system where, as Frank Zappa said, politics is merely “the entertainment branch of industry.”

Still, millions of Americans do grasp at The Audacity of Hope, a meaningless marketing slogan of the publishing industry if ever there was one. At least it has the word Audacity in it, something millions of folks are having trouble conjuring up the least shred of these days. And there is good old fashioned “Hope” of course — that murky, undefined belief that some unknown force or magical unseen power will reverse the national condition — will deliver us from what every bit of evidence indicates is irreversible, if not politically, then economically and ecologically: Collapse.

Compounding everything is the fact that it is quite human and even pragmatic to passively accept reality as it is. Until it’s too late to do anything. As my late friend Virgil the philosophical backhoe operator summed it up: “If we fucked everything up so bad tryin’ to do our best, maybe we oughtta just leave’er be for a while. Quit thinking about it so much.”

More Band-Aids for the trained chickens, please!

Virgil may be popping open a Keystone Light lager somewhere in heaven, or in maybe a much warmer venue. I dunno. But people are thinking about it more than ever. Among sentient people everywhere there is a deep, visceral unease, and among those most aware there is genuinely acute suffering. I hear this expressed quite articulately not only in places such as this Omni Hotel “writers’ lounge,” but in working and middle class living rooms and in emails from Americans and around the world.

Naturally, the bunny and cupcake set of Americans are still oblivious, or at least pretend to be, but even at the more inchoate and private level, there is a growing awareness that things are going very wrong, and doing so on an incomprehensively massive and complex scale. There is the feeling that even if what is happening could be made comprehensible to the majority of humanity, to all those people just trying to keep afloat on the planet, from Zimbabwe to Flint, Michigan, overall it is unstoppable. Unfixable except in the fleeting media/politics Band-Aid sense, and then only in locales rich enough to afford the illusionary Band-Aid fixes politicians dream up when they write their campaign “plans for change.” 

All of which is horseshit, of course, since real change would entail undoing most of the machinery of planetary destruction and extreme pressure to standardize humanity that we have come to know as modern civilization and mass society — halting, then reversing the momentum this monolith has achieved.

We now live as the technoculture’s subjects, not its masters and will from here on out as viral technology mediates, homogenizes and monetizes human experience worldwide, in ever more remote corners. I watch it regularly in the Third World, where the power of gadgets such as cell phones is wiping out the core foundations of indigenous or longstanding cultures within a decade or two. The global machine’s technological nervous system and production musculature, the techno grid now embedded in the world, grows in quantum fashion to control every aspect of our lives deeper and more thoroughly than is imaginable by the folks living those lives. It’s so pervasive we don’t feel it at all. 


… we are left to play out the game day by day. That being the case, we should elect to play it out with the best among us, the ones on humanity’s side, that hidden and unheralded aristocracy — those quiet lamp lighters making their way through the deepening dusk of American civilization.

E. M. Forster described them as,

“Not an aristocracy of power, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes and through the ages, and they know each other when they meet. … Authority, seeing their value, tries to net them and to utilize them. … But they slip through the net and are gone; when the door is shut they are no longer in the room; Their temple is the Holiness of the Heart’s Imagination, and their kingdom, though they never possess it, is the wide open world.”

In this they are deathless.

  more here