My thoughts about culture and our present conditions. As Dianne Moore says in Learning to Love a Wounded World, "This requires a willingness to feel everything…. the horror and the beauty of what is here…. the fear and the Love.”

Thoughts on the future of the U.S. political system

Well, we have inaugurated a new president,
finally, and I must admit I am already feeling some dismay while I’m watching this
one as he begins to address our many national problems.  As a
structuralist, the problems I see are deep and will require some serious
reconfigurations, yet I don’t see anything in this president’s choice of
advisers and staff that promises an attitude of understanding for the depth of
all of this.  Without that attitude, I can’t imagine the administration getting around to taking the problems I see seriously.  I fear we are in for more band aid treatments, and then we may
face a recurrence of what’s been promulgated upon us since Reagan as the
Republicans work to regroup, and work also to continue with their propaganda
program that has already deeply embedded itself in the political consciousness
of this nation.

Chris Hedges, with whom I often find myself simpatico (a
Spanish term for which I find no good English equivalent), has brought yet another
version of this structural issue to our attention in a recent article, here’s a
bit of it:

By Chris Hedges

The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic
crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots
that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia,
Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter
of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack
Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United
States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.

At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril
or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life
is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will
never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will
sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future.
There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades
in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion
dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has
collapsed.

How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams
of a superpower and a glorious tomorrow or will we responsibly face our
stark new limitations? Will we heed those who are sober and rational,
those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, or will we follow the
demagogues and charlatans who rise up out of the slime in moments of
crisis to offer fantastic visions? Will we radically transform our
system to one that protects the ordinary citizen and fosters the common
good, that defies the corporate state, or will we employ the brutality
and technology of our internal security and surveillance apparatus to
crush all dissent? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

There are a few isolated individuals who saw it coming. The political philosophers Sheldon S. Wolin, John Ralston Saul and Andrew Bacevich, as well as writers such as Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson,
David Korten and Naomi Klein, along with activists such as Bill
McKibben and Ralph Nader, rang the alarm bells. They were largely
ignored or ridiculed. Our corporate media and corporate universities
proved, when we needed them most, intellectually and morally useless.

For the rest of the article, go to: It’s Not Going to Be OK

In this article, Chris reports on his recent phone interview with
Sheldon Wolin, and provides some commentary on Sheldon’s conclusions of
where things can possibly go for the US under the guidance of the Obama
Administration, and of course the Democratic majority Congress.

I happened upon my old copies of Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent and Necessary Illusions the other day while unpacking some boxes of books, and I find them to be good companions to Wolin’s recent Democracy, Inc., which is the primary substance of Chris’s interview with Wolin.

What I’m noticing is that the vast majority of topics that people are
concerned with has to do with the economic meltdown, it’s causes and
potential effect. What I don’t see is a serious discussion of the topic
Chris Hedges tries to flesh out in this interview, a topic that works
with the critical issues of the future of democracy, what it means and
what the population as a whole is not just willing but able to do about
it. The title, of course, suggests his conclusion.

Just one of the reasons for that might be found in this focus on
economics. Economics has become the primary raison d’etre for our so
called democracy. This is a fairly lengthy and complicated argument to
unveil, but I did find this quote in Chomsky’s Necessary Illusions,
in the chapter he titles "Containing the Enemy" (the "Enemy" being the
ordinary people.). I think it illustrates at least some of the
political theory that has tried to explain how the U.S. has moved away
from the participatory political policies that were just beginning to
be instituted during the Roosevelt Administration, and towards an
economic based, corporatocracy style management system, which some
identify as "conservative." That style is closely associated with the
marketing industry, as spearheaded through much of the last century by
the famous nephew of Sigmund Feud, Edward Bernays. A synonymous term for corporate (and state) marketing would be propaganda, which works off the same principles. Chomsky:

QUOTE:
Operations of domestic thought control are
commonly undertaken in the wake of wars and other crises. Such turmoil
tends to encourage the "crisis of democracy" that is the persistent
fear of privileged elites, requiring measures to revers the thrust of
popular democracy that threatens established power. Wilson’s Red Scare
served the purpose after World War I, and the pattern was re-enacted
when World War II ended. It was necessary not only to overcome the
popular mobilization that took place during the Great depression but
also "to bring people up to [the] realization that the war isn’t over
by any means," as presidential adviser Clark Clifford observed when the
Truman Doctrine was announced in 1947, "the opening gun in [this]
campaign." Necessary Illusions, p. 32.

Chomsky calls it a "crisis of democracy."

QUOTE:
As early as 1947 a State Department public
relations officer remarked that "smart public relations [has] paid off
as it has before and will again." Public opinion ‘is not moving to the
righ, it has been moved — cleverly — to the righ." "While the rest of
the world has moved to the left, has admitted labor into government,
has passed liberalized legislation, the United States has become
anti-social change, anti-economic change, anti-labor." Necessary Illusions, p. 32.

Naomi Kline uses "The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism" as her coined term. Wolin describes the results as "inverted totalitarianism."

The media controls the focus, keeps the focus on economics, raises fears of social stability based on that:

QUOTE:
The model of media as corporate oligopoly is the
natural system for capitalist democracy. It has, accordingly, reached
its highest from in the most advanced of these societies, particularly
the United States where media concentration is high, public radio and
television limited in scope, and elements of the radical democratic
model exist only at the margins, in such phenomena as listener
supported community radio and the alternative or local press, often
with a noteworthy effect on the social and political culture and the
sense of empowerment in the communities that benefit from these
options. In this respect, the United States represents the form towards
which capitalist democracy is tending; related tendencies include the
progressive elimination of unions and other popular organizations that
interfere with private power, an electoral system that is increasingly
stage-managed as public relations exercise, avoidance of welfare
measures such as national health insurance that also impinge on the
prerogatives of the privileged, and so on. Necessary Illusions, p. 21.

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