Fleecing the Rubes
| Political Waves
Sometimes it seems there's nothing to say about our political system that I haven't said already. Politics both molds and is molded by our social structure, confirming the notion that politics is personal and proving that we can't escape our choices, however much we'd like to. Remember, too, that no choice IS a choice for the status quo
. We long for someone to correct our social and political ills and bring us back to sanity, so we can continue living our lives in the comfortable humdrum and perpetual competition that define us. We thought that someone might be Obama, but he's proven to be a president in a systemic straightjacket. We need someone whose only vulnerability is Kryptonite.
The American system of democracy, despite its warts, is still head and shoulders above other forms of governance, thanks to the vision of our founders. When Ben Franklin said, "It's a Republic, if we can keep it," he wasn't just whistling Yankee Doodle
. No ideology -- whether socialism, communism, or democracy -- has ever sustained itself without continual adjustment and reinvention. To America's credit, her diverse melting pot of immigrants kept intellectual variables alive and active in the political conversation. The progressive base behind the union and civil rights movements that catapulted FDR into a New Deal could not have existed without the socialists and communists. Along with the industrial growth of World War II, progressivism gave us several decades of stability and prosperity never seen before in America.
The conservatives have been fighting that vision of the nation ever since. In one corrupt decade, they traded an unregulated free market for any last bits of humanism they might have embraced. Taking from the rich to distribute to the middle-class and poor is anathema to conservatives, who happily pour billions of welfare dollars into the pockets of corporations while the 'great unwashed' scramble to keep a roof over their heads. Chaos works in their favor. Cheap labor suits their purpose.
It seems as though the movers and shakers planned this, doesn't it? Essentially, they did. I don't think they were insightful enough to realize how dangerous the game would become; the obsession for wealth seldom takes the long view. As Naomi Klein points out in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
, the successful exploitation of chaos in order to increase wealth and power for a few has produced a pattern of manufactured disasters, such as war and economic upheaval. Klein defines disaster capitalism as "the rapid-fire corporate reengineering of societies still reeling from shock." She contends that although the pieces required to maximize this activity took years to design, it wasn't until the Twin Towers fell that the re-engineering began in earnest.
And after that? According to Klein's webpage
When is enough enough? When do the overload of our adrenal system and wounds to our way of life become unbearable? In short, we've been punked. The President attempts liberal reforms that are unable to survive partisan review, while the false meme that he is 'hostile' to the business community spreads like wildfire. Free-market capitalism -- as so brilliantly defined by Annie Leonard's short film, The Story Of Stuff
-- is like a bloated python swallowing its own tail. What will they sell us when they tap out the planet's resources? Water, sun, air? Certainly they will if we let them.
Think of the shock doctrine when you hear that BP still hasn't fixed its gusher almost 3 months into the disaster
and still won't allow reporters to take pictures of the fouled beaches, or that the energy industry has spent almost 3 BILLION dollars in lobbying money over the last decade. Think of it when you read that the nation's debt is 'cancerous,' and notice that the first projection of things to be sacrificed are Social Security and Medicare. A commission to study this process of belt-tightening is called the Catfood Commission by progressives, who remember what hungry elders have resorted to eating in the past. Think of Naomi Klein when you hear that the new zeitgeist is "tough love" for the nation's millions of unemployed, while Wall Street CEOs and financial gurus still receive blasphemous salaries and bonuses.
When I was a kid, the State Fair was the epitome of grand exposition. As much as I enjoyed the exhibits and entertainments, it was the carnival games that mesmerized me. The carneys hawked their prizes and expertly worked the public who strolled by their booths. When I stayed the week with friends who had daily passes, my father told me I wasn't to spend on games until he got there on the weekend. To my dismay, when Dad arrived, he walked right past the dime pitch with its sparkly pyramid of goldfish-filled glass. He bypassed the hoop toss, steered clear of the dart game, and looked askance at fools pitching baseballs at lead-bottomed milk bottles. "Rigged for suckers," was all he said to my protests.
Eventually we came to the least exciting and least glamorous game, rolling balls down an incline into numbered slots. He studied the angles, hefted the balls and pronounced this "the one you can win." At ten cents a ticket, I walked away with a four-foot stuffed animal for less than fifty cents. It was all quite simple, according to Dad. The attractions themselves were designed to fleece the rubes. In order to win, you had to properly assess the game.
Today, we are all rubes. The shock doctrine we've been exposed to in recent years has us all in a permanent stage of PTSD, looking back with nostalgia at old versions of our life and nervously dodging bullets in this one. We can't find balance until we understand that the current game is designed to take advantage of our fear, confusion and ignorance. Coming off of decades of radical deregulation, psychological manipulation and corporate hubris, we're the rubes, clutching our dime and wondering what to play next.
Disaster capitalism, predatory corporatism, plutarchy -- that's the game. You have to wonder what would happen if we stuffed our money back in our pockets and took it elsewhere; ultimately, that might prove the most effective revolution of all, but we are too confused about the essential nature of money and debt
to act. So long as profit and loss, business and expansion, are considered more important than the principles of democracy, we're all rubes in a giant scam that has no hope of enduring. We might remember that parasites have been known to consume their host.
Politically, we're walking the midway, listening to the pitchmen
hawk their wares. Those pitching austerity want it for us, not for themselves. Those preaching war are opportunists who value profit over life. Those obstructing progress are protecting their personal fortune and power base. The longer we play a rigged and weighted game of ideological politics, the longer and louder the carneys will pitch it, keeping the crowd mesmerized. The only way to win a rigged game is to understand the con and refuse the sucker's bet.