Monday, January 03, 2011

Third World America…


….will be playing in your neighborhood in the near future.

Original Article

USA a third world country

by DisgruntledCurmudgeon    Sat Jan 01, 2011
Get used to it. The downward slide has begun. The solution? Radical social and economic change to effect social and economic democracy. To to barricades, comrades! Don't freak out. Having the epiphany that you're not "middle class", but one of the downtrodden masses is the first step of raising your political consciousness to the point where rational action is possible.

Sorry to have tipped my hand, but I am now, more than at any other point in my life, convinced that the only thing that will reverse the inexorable descent of this formerly revolutionary people's republic into the clutches of corporatist, oligarchic hegemony is some kind of cataclysmic expression of social discontent that results in a restructuring of society. Yes. I do now fully subscribe to the idea that we need some kind of revolution because without one, there seems to be no practical way for the overwhelming sentiments of the great mass of the population to be realized.

To put this in terms more palatable to "regular Americans" who bridle at the slightest whiff of Marxist dialectic, the people have to be mobilized into a democratic movement to take back their country from those who have stolen it from them. In other words, I'm all for doing what those brain-dead, tea-bagging cretins say they want to do, but I want to rout an entirely different set of "bad people" and extirpate an entirely different component of the current American socio-economic system.

We're thinking the same thing, and our desired end result is markedly similar (a libertarian utopia where we are free to do as we wish and not be constrained by material wants), but our proposed means to that end are at odds. Where we differ is where we get our ideas. I base my strategy on what I learned in university courses in political science, economics, history and other disciplines. I took classes from smart people who know what they are talking about, like noted economist Abba Lerner. (Yes, I really took a course from that guy at UC Berkeley.) I read books by other smart people, like Noam Chomsky, even when they wrote about things that had little to do with their field of study. That's where I get my ideas.

The tea party zombies parrot disingenuous airheads who have garnered notoriety by pandering to the most execrable of anti-democratic forces, the corporate capitalists who control information, and therefore public opinion, in this country. The tinfoil hat crowd is wrong, and they are stupid, because they get their ideas from wrong-headed, smart people who are intentionally duping them into supporting policies that are contrary to the best interests of the most of the people. I can say that they are completely wrong and stupid because it's not hyperbole to state that anyone who agitates against their best interest is an idiot.

By now, you may have pegged me as an arrogant intellectual elitist who has nothing to offer in the social struggle beyond threadbare socialist rhetoric. If so, you are correct, but you have also fallen into the trap laid for you by your corporate masters. You reject out of hand any formulation that casts the contention for power in this country as class struggle. You've been taught that such discourse is "commie talk", and therefore devoid of validity. That kind of knee-jerk reaction gets in the way of rational, reasoned discourse. If the phrases "class struggle" and "capitalist oppressors" cause your brain to shut down and exclude the rest of an idea being expressed from consideration, then you are in dire peril of forever being a dupe of your fascist overlords.  If you can't bear to think of yourself as an exploited wage slave, that is, not being "free", the master of your own fate, able to reap the rewards of your own brilliant mind, then you are forever consigned to averting your attention from truths that give the lie to such illusions.

The problem I have with phrasing the rationale for the need for social and economic change in anything other than class struggle terms is that using conventional American rhetoric leaves any new movement completely exposed to being co-opted by opposing forces. This is what happened to the tea bag folks. They are mostly older, uneducated, low income people who just want a better life. They haven't a clue about how to get that, so they were easy prey to loaded onto cattle cars and taken to the slaughterhouse, where they stormed the the gates demanding to be let in. Is that too rich a metaphor for you? Well, let's tick off the most important issues where they have been duped into cutting their own throats.

  • War: Permanent war for economic reasons, the enrichment of large corporations, is enshrined as an untouchable mainstay of government. To advocate for peace and letting other countries manage their own affairs is cast as unpatriotic.
  • Taxation: How do you get people to elect representatives to Congress that will not restore higher taxes to the wealthiest 2% of the population? Obviously, it would be in the best interest of the other 98% to have more money for social programs and to prevent running up more debt, but the dupes of the moneyed elite agitate and vote for policies that could bankrupt the nation. How stupid is that?
  • Health care: Why don't we have it? At least 70% of the population wants free, publicly financed medical care as a social right. Yet, there is enough repulsion to this idea engendered by talk of "socialized medicine", as if that were a bad thing, that enough people lost their minds in November and elected a Republican majority to the House of Representatives that will surely block any attempt to provide health care for everyone. You would think that it would be pointless to try and convince a rational person that health care will kill you. Either that contradictory idea is possible to convey rationally, or a lot of voters are not the least bit rational. It's one or the other, so you decide.
  • Democracy: Is democracy something we can foster abroad or not? In practice, our foreign policy has nothing to do with democratic principles and everything to do with economic advantage for global corporations. If not, then why don't we care about democracy in countries that don't have natural resources to exploit?
  • Freedom: How does preventing someone else from marrying a person of the same sex enhance one's freedom? How does making a woman carry a fetus to term improve your life? What difference does it make in your life if there is a Nativity scene or a bronze copy of the Ten Commandments in front of the courthouse? How does criminalizing marijuana use make you more free, regardless of whether you use marijuana or not not? (This is really an easy one. You can easily convince someone to waste time on pointless wedge issues if they can't distinguish between the abstract concept of personal freedom and their personal tastes. In other words, stupid people can't distinguish between immorality and what they don't like.)
  • Free trade: How could NAFTA possibly do anything good for you if you're an industrial worker in this country? Are you insane? Why wouldn't a rational businessman close down a plant here and start one up in a foreign country, where labor costs are a fraction of what they are here, if they could still import the goods without huge tariffs that would equalize the price to the consumer? Duh.
  • Full employment: Uh.... You're job has been exported and your 99 weeks of unemployment insurance have been exhausted. So, the obvious remedy is to elect Republicans who think unemployed people are lazy and could find a job "if they really wanted to". You would have to be insane to buy that explanation of the labor market. Apparently, plenty of people are that insane. However, it's probably because they still have a job, even if it is not as good a job as they could have if the economy were booming. They don't get the connection between prosperity and everyone having a job doing the most productive type of work they are capable of doing. You may have a job driving a taxi, but if you've got a degree in biochemistry, wouldn't be more productive being a biochemist?
  • Unions: How come union membership as a percentage of the work force has been steadily declining for over 50 years? How did corporations convince workers that their lives would be better without a labor union than with one? How did they convince them that unions hurt productivity? Well, they did. Have you heard ignorant, non-union wage slaves talk about how unions "kill jobs"? That's what they believe. The question is, "Why?"
  • Government regulation: That must be bad, right? That limits capitalism, and we know that capitalism is good, so anything that impinges on it in any way must be bad. How could you convince a rational person that curtailing oversight of corporate activities by the SEC, FAA, FTC, NLRB, EPA, OSHA and other such agencies could do anything other than give cowboy capitalist opportunists carte blanche to plunder at will? Well, they succeeded. The dummies think that letting Wall Street drain off the wealth while driving the rest of us to ruin is "freedom".

The big lie at the heart of most of these weird contortions of reality is truly Orwellian, quite literally, in the sense that people are indoctrinated with the notion the real meaning of catch phrases, the way these slogans are implemented as public policy, is the exact opposite of the literal sense of the words. For instance, "freedom" becomes the curtailment of civil liberty by abandoning the doctrine of habeas corpus and the criminalizing of behavior that some people don't like. The abstract notion of the catch phrase is never delineated in specific detail so the chowder-head who is being targeted by such propaganda only associates it with things that he likes. Thus, to a glue-sniffing, polygamist gun nut who doesn't pay taxes, "freedom" is all the inhalants he can huff, a harem of underage brides, a personal arsenal and no IRS. To an urban bohemian, it's being able to smoke as much pot as he wants, being able to play guitar all day long and have as much sex as he wants, and no IRS, because it's a hassle. To a college professor, it might be something else entirely, but she doesn't like the IRS either. The trick in uniting such disparate parties under the banner of "freedom" is to trick them into curtailing freedoms enjoyed by someone else using the rationale that doing so preserves the freedoms they enjoy.

What? You can unite all of these people by promising them freedom? Sure! All you do is say that you'll get rid of the IRS, or at least reduce their taxes, and carefully avoid the details about what freedom will entail. Hence, the Tea Party movement. They don't know what they are for, but they damned well don't like taxes! Did your Republican/corporate masters mention that they will gun you down when the ATF raids your mountain hideaway? Did they mention that they will spend even more money suppressing marijuana, because they don't get contributions from the pot growers as they do from the distillers? Did they mention that the good professor will lose her job because she expresses views contrary to the party in power? No. You only tell them that you are going to persecute the "other people", you know, "those people".

So, if we institute a repressive police state for the purpose of combating atheist/communist/Muslim/drug-trafficking foreign terrorists, then we can stay free. The trouble is that one day you wake up in a police state and ask, "How did this happen?"

I'm not talking about the abstract future here; I'm talking about now. We are in a police state now where the DEA can get a no-knock warrant at will and raid your home. If they are mistaken, and you don't have any pot, you can't even get restitution for the damage they do. If you do have some weed, then they can seize your home and property, because, presumably, you were intending to become fabulously wealthy dealing off the surplus of that half ounce of chronic you keep in the baggie of your cookie jar. It happens every day, even though we are two years into an administration by a president who admits that he used to smoke marijuana. If you're on the "no fly" list because someone else with the same name did something naughty in another state decades ago, you can't get on the plane, even if you're only nine years old and couldn't possibly be the person on the list. We've still got guys in jail on a military base that were sold to us by sleazy opportunists in Afghanistan because they might have been fighting against us in our invasion of their country. Is this a nation of law that honors human rights? What exactly is this freedom thing that we have so much of?

You're free only as long as you stay well within the narrow limits of the most arbitrary of laws and conform to the societal norms of your community. That is, you can be a Muslim or gay as long as there are plenty of Muslims or gay people in your neighborhood, but either life style choice could be as perilous in rural Tennessee as being a child molester. (Are child molesters tolerated to varying extents in different regions? I would hope not, but I don't know.) You can openly purchase pornography in most cities, but it's a felony to sell a dildo in some states. Personal safety, an idea that most would consider a basic human right not subject to mitigation, is not universally available in this country. There are far more places than one might think where being shot at, beaten, robbed or otherwise being brutalized is something one can reasonably expect to happen. Some places are not safe to go to, and we are mindful of this when we travel about the country. (This sad reality only hits home when you travel to a foreign country and find that you can feel, and be, safe going anywhere, any time, day or night, alone or in the company of others.) Are you free at all when you can't do things you might want to that harm no one else? Think about that.

So far, I've only made the case that laws and social conditions aren't as good here as some people would have you think they are. That doesn't have any causal relationship to America being a third world country. That was an intentional ploy to foster discontent with the status quo rather dryly citing statistics to show how we're ratcheting down the rankings in comparison to other countries on all fronts. We're not the richest on an individual, per capita basis, and slipping. We're the only industrialized country without a health care system. Our students are not as skilled in mathematics, science or foreign language as those in just about any developed country. None of this matters because Americans don't like numbers and turn off their brains when someone brings out a chart. I had to get you angry to induce you to hanker for change. I had to get you to feel that you, personally, are being screwed over to get you to think about what it might take to get you to do something to change things for the better.

The faltering, anemic punch line of this piece is that things are getting bad, and are destined to get far worse, but social and economic conditions will not trigger dramatic change in government policies until an overwhelmingly majority, somewhere around 70% or so of the people, become outraged and mobilized on an issue. That means that there will never be riots or a regime change because people want health care. Most people don't get terribly sick and the few that do and can't possibly pay for the care they need, well, that's just hard cheese. No one will riot for free higher education; they will just drop out of high school and sell drugs on the street.

The problem with the lack of public outrage is that Americans, for the most part, appear devoid of altruism or social conscience. We don't care what's happening to other people, domestic or foreign, as long as we feel that we are immune from their problems. Nobody cared when Nixon brutalized war protesters and spied on anyone who opposed the Vietnam War. But, when there were just too many flag-draped aluminum coffins coming home, and everyone knew someone who had died or been injured there, it had to end. (We're still short of that point in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the war for oil continues.) Nobody cares about genocide in Bosnia, Sudan or Rwanda because no American corporation has sufficient interest in the country's resources to merit a military incursion to effect regime change. We might send a few troops for show if the UN wants it, but it won't be anything like Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam.

No, things have to get bad, really bad, before you'll do anything at all to get rid of the people in government who are, quite literally, ruining the country. Until then, you'll keep voting for any jackass who panders to your personal quirks and doesn't offend the prevailing sentiments of a majority of the other meat-heads who vote in your district. Heaven help a candidate who mentions class struggle, human rights, social justice or a humane society. We don't care about any of that bleeding heart crap, do we?

For those of you who are still clueless and think everything is just fine, please note. The dollar is about to be devalued. (Read up on "quantitative easing".) The stock market is going to crash soon. Millions are becoming homeless through foreclosure. Employment will remain depressed while we continue to subsidize the export of jobs. Foreign debt will be used to buy our country; we are selling off our own infrastructure to stem the flow of money out of the country. You will get sick, lose your job, not be able to pay for insurance, not be able to pay for education, lose your home to a hurricane or foreclosure, or some combination of such misfortunes. At some point, you will become radicalized and realize that your life has gone down the toilet and the government is responsible. The question is, "What does it take to piss you off?"