Editor's Note: Awash in pseudo-facts and snarky commentators (think Rush Limbaugh), Americans continue to drift farther from anything approaching a compassionate and well-informed culture. Indeed, many middle-class Americans have swallowed the Kool-Aid of "free-market" extremism that helps the very rich and hurts almost everyone else.
Yet, the mindless beat goes on. Limbaugh joked on Tuesday that the Japanese tragedy was some divine punishment for Japan's environmentalism. "They've given us the Prius," Limbaugh guffawed. "Even now, refugees are recycling their garbage. And yet, Gaia levels them! Just wipes them out!"
In this guest essay, Phil Rockstroh examines the reasons behind this juvenile disconnect that separates many Americans from the complexities -- and the suffering -- of the real world:
A number of years back, Pauline Kael took Steven Spielberg to task for his depiction of rural Georgia circa 1909 in his movie, "The Color Purple," averring that Spielberg's only field of reference seemed to be images culled from cinematic history, rendering his movie tone deaf regarding the rhythms and cadences of life during the era.
On a cultural level, a great many people in the U.S. evince a similar, media-wrought shallowness of apprehension, and therefore are prone to a contemptible callowness, when faced with tragedy and human suffering.
This trait, coupled with a toxic ignorance about the larger world, is an ugly thing to behold, and does not bode well for our collective destiny as a people.
Even before the floodwaters of the tsunami that inundated eastern Japan had receded -- and as a nuclear crisis loomed engendered by the core breach of multiple nuclear reactors -- Godzilla jokes began trending in the United States on Twitter.
What are the origins of these less than admirable characteristics?
On a cultural and political level, due to
the constant saturation and an attendant internalization of "free
market" platitudes, sans a counter narrative of compassion and social
awareness, many in the U.S. experience acute cognitive dissonance when
confronted by the demonstrable fact that the nation's much heralded
tales of equal opportunity and class mobility are little more than the
self-serving propaganda of a privileged few.
National character traits, such as these, display an always present, ever-vigilant, defiant ignorance -- a pride-ridden predilection best summed up, albeit inadvertently, by that stumble-mouth poet of the American spirit, George H. W. Bush.
During a press conference in August of
1988, when he was asked a question regarding the recent downing of an
Iranian passenger jet, killing 290 civilians on-board, by the U.S.
warship, USS Vincennes, Bush the Elder bandied, "I won't apologize for
the United States. I don't care what the facts are."
A more subtle and compelling intelligence assessed the origin of such utterances with this: "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." - Albert Einstein
An additional aspect of this national obtuseness stems from a collective squeamishness, a revulsion and resultant denial, regarding the truth of the exponential rate of decay of the U.S. Empire.
Of which, the knowledge is avoided for the
same reason one avoids taking a stick and turning over days-dead
road-kill. Because it would be a mortifying sight to glimpse what is
eating, from within, the putrefying remains of the carcass known as the
U.S. political system.
Apropos, for many of the progressive-minded who went round-heeled for the shimmering promise of hope and change, pledged by Barack Obama, the fact of his betrayal is very painful and depressing to face.
Exacerbating the situation is the
mendacity and flat-out lunacy of his right-wing adversaries --
including those spittle-spraying prone legions of racist sub-cretins,
out in the U.S. spleenland, who refuse to accept Obama's legitimacy, as
president, due to the problem they have accepting the darker shade of
his skin pigment.
In this context, the siege mentality of Democratic partisans is understandable, but only to a degree. Ergo, recently, it has been revealed that the Obama administration's new Gitmo policy has a great deal of resemblance to the Bush administration's old Gitmo policy.
So it seems, at last, we have found who
has been concealed within that empty suit known as Barack Obama. Damn,
if it isn't, George W. Bush. We should have taken Bush at his word --
never misunderestimate Dubya.
The bailout of Wall Street and the corporatist coup of the kleptocratic class in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Obama administration's continuation of U.S. foreign policy (i.e., the same, blood-soaked stupid empire tricks) as that of his predecessors, should serve as an object lesson and wakeup call to Democratic Party-promoting progressive types regarding whose interests the two parties of duopoly represent.
Moreover, the U.S. public has been willfully ignorant, habitually self-centered, and so easily manipulated by the PR specialists of the corporate controlled state, for so long, they don't even know what a democratic republic is -- much less that they lost one.
With wages stagnant for more than thirty years now, it is maddening to hear economically besieged, debt-beholden members of the U.S. middle- and laboring-classes, who, because they have had their heads up their corporate master's privileged rear ends for so long now, continue to convince themselves they're viewing the glens, glades and fruited bowers of a free-market paradise.
The hand of the right-wing intellectual berserker cult of the Chicago School of Economics can be seen in this. At present, we're witnessing the entire repertoire of the neo-con clown school of misdirection and mendacity.
What is unfolding is straight out of the
Leo Strauss playbook for the intellectually bankrupt: First, employ a
Reagan/Bush/Walker-type manque, and have these ambulatory Pez Dispensers
shower the public at large with candied covered "noble lies," i.e.,
promulgating faux populist sound bites serving to conceal the
machinations of a corrupt elite, thereby ensuring the retention and
expansion of elitist power.
The fairness-phobic and freedom-defying tendencies of these sorts of toxic alliances are woven into the very DNA of contemporary conservatism and have left their adherents devoid of a compass of common sense and civic responsibility.
Again and again, I'm astonished to witness the manner that U.S. citizens mistake this smoke and mirrors casuistry for a political mandate. Over the last three decades, anyone (who has been even nominally conscious) can see how destructive to the health and well-being of the general population of the nation, conservative, "market-driven" economic dominance has been.
And how the cynical manipulation of
factions within the Republican base, comprised of Christ fantasists and
states' rights fetishists, by the neo-con and corporate wing of the
so-called "conservative movement," have weakened both the civil
libertarian contract of government and its social safety net
obligations to its citizenry almost to the breaking point.
The Koch Brothers and their quisling, Governor Walker, are an object lesson in this personal pathology being played out as public tragedy.
The Koch Brothers were born into a family of oil-rich multi-millionaires. They have never known anything but wealth beyond any reasonable measure. Yet it is never enough.
The brothers seem akin in character to a
spoiled malicious brat whose greed for gifts can never be sated, a
nightmare child, who not only breaks the expensive toys he demands and
receives, but breaks the toys of other children, simply because they're
In deranged opposition to both common sense and common decency, the actual children of the U.S., those who were careless enough to be born into poverty, will just have to suck it up -- and give up their school lunch programs so that the billionaires of the plundering class can continue to receive tax write-offs.
That's right, good people of the U.S., it is high time we nipped this problem in the bud: Those damn spoiled brats have just gotten too damn fond of eating. Fortunately, the roar of the engines of fleets of private Gulfstream jets will drone out the rumblings of those entitlement-maddened little monsters bellies.
What is equally disheartening is the public at large has internalized the narrative of the dissemblers of the ruling elite, to such a great degree, that: Even before being defeated by legislative weasel maneuvers in Wisconsin, union members were willing to give up their benefits; they only agitated to keep "the right" to go to the table and ask for their master's scraps.
This is a "rock bottom" situation. Liberals working within the system are like drunks who need to be told, just go out there and do some "controlled drinking." Perhaps when the situation grows painful enough, then we'll talk about the problem.
"Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation." - Oscar Wilde
Short of a mass awakening on the part of the U.S. public (one can have ones little fantasies, right?) and an attendant Islamic world style uprising against the soft totalitarian structure of oligarchic rule in the U.S., the consolidation of power by the plundering class will continue unabated.
A couple of circumstances have to be present for freedom to flourish and economic exploitation to be mitigated:
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