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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/18/11

Why the Jokes about Japan's Tragedy

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(1) Have the propitious presence of an enlightened elite in place willing to contribute to the common good by curbing their cupidity and obsession with retaining power;

(2) An aware, civically engaged citizenry willing to risk all to secure their dignity.

Or: We can just wait around for an enlightened monarch or dictator of benighted intent to arrive on the scene.

"We do not know what is happening. And that is what is happening." - Ortega y Gasset

In numerous ways, due to a confluence of constant inundation by distracting media influences and enervating, time-decimating financial burdens, the act of discerning the agendas of veiled corporate power, and the manner by which this nebulous, yet almost implacable structure, impacts one's life becomes difficult.

Still, continually, I'm startled when I hear U.S. citizens state: "It is a free country."

At present, we are at liberty to hold and voice our opinions, as long as doing so has almost no effect on the status quo.

The U.S. corporate media has endowed us with the right to decide for ourselves and voice, unfettered, our opinions on the destructive choices made by celebrity millionaires or wax feckless before our televisions about the devastation wrought by natural disasters.

In our faux republic, we are guaranteed the right to free speech, as long as it remains marginalized and ineffective. The Gnostics had a term germane to the shallowness of thought that passes for discourse in our time, political or otherwise, "hylicism," which means an inability to see below the surface of things.

This is why, over and over, "news consumers" are diverted by news as gossip and, on a political level, fall for the demagogic ploys of Republicans and the phony populism of married-to-the-status-quo Democrats. It is the mode of mind of the duopolistic state.

As a result of the contrivance of powerful mass media interests, combined with a complicity on the part of the general public, the witless indulgences and perpetual excesses of the idiot empire of celebrity news and gossip grip the popular imagination and provoke a greater degree of indignation from the populace than the tearing to tatters of the social contract, ongoing since the Reagan era, by the nation's government and business classes.

The proliferation of news as celebrity gossip serves as a kind of corporate propaganda e.g., Charlie Sheen's private contretemps being hyped to public spectacle and topping the news cycle, as opposed to, let's say, a series of investigative reports exposing the degree of wealth inequity in the U.S., how it was established, and is maintained.

Or why large-scale news events, such as the very likely catastrophic effects of the meltdown of a nuclear power plant, are treated with all the depth of a mindless Hollywood action movie, devoid of a deepening historical context.

To paraphrase Warren Buffett, his side has won the class war. At present, we are experiencing the mopping up operation in progress.

In this cultural milieu, there should be little mystery regarding which stories the ultra-wealthy owners of huge media conglomerates would prefer their underlings to investigate and expose.

Another reason, Charlie Sheen has been placed in the media's electronic stock and pillory is the manner in which a persistent strain of Puritanism in the U.S. endures, and engenders, in the nation's collective psyche, both a compulsive curiosity about excessive behavior merged with an intolerant, punitive reaction to it.

Hence, aberrant behavior seizes the cultural imagination and fosters powerful, repressed desires.
First arrives the secret desire to make a daring, perhaps violent escape from the quotidian prison of everyday obligation and restrictive social nicety, as Pablo Neruda limned in verse, "to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,/or kill a nun with a blow on the ear./It would be great/to go through the streets with a green knife/letting out yells until I died of the cold."
Next, one is seized with the compulsion to make somebody pay for evoking such untoward, vile thoughts in a good person like me -- I'm still a good person"right? That spoiled celebrity should be made to pay for this, damn it.

Conveniently, this situation works out well for those who benefit from the deeply inequitable system now in place: Their agenda is served by having the public direct their animus at the hubris of dim-witted celebrities as opposed to the incompetence and criminality of the powerful.

In the city center-devoid, suburban archipelago of the U.S., there exists scant real estate where an immersion in the mass (for either constructive purpose or odious design) can take place and private rage can be vented as civil disobedience, or rise, in its demented shadow form, as the public psychosis of fascist pageantry.  

Although, in the U.S., our variety of Nuremberg Rally mobs don't throng down wide boulevards, in torch lit processions, culminating with the sweat-lacquered faces of snarling Brown Shirts reflecting the flames of pyres of burning books.
In contrast, the analog in the United States takes place on a hundred million, Cheetos-stained couches, as the corporate media's propaganda by distraction induces fools and tools of the class-stratified, corporate state to gibber about the latest celebrity contretemps.

"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." - Thomas Pynchon (from Gravity's Rainbow).

In this way, the so-called "culture wars" serve the ruling elite. This is a technique the operatives of corporate duopoly have down. Unloose social conservative activists to kick up dirt with divisive issues e.g., the right-wing wants to roast Big Bird on a spit and legislate that every unborn fetus be declared Jesus Christ himself.

All the while, above the obscuring dirt cloud, the financial elite fly off in their private jets, elated as thieves luxuriating on a bed piled high with their loot.  

I don't mean to imply one should not fight extant inanity and prevailing idiocy -- fight it with a vehemence sacred in its fury. Ironically enough, one must allow oneself to be idiot enough to risk the fight against the proliferation of eternal stupid.

Yes, one can win a battle, but the war is endless. But within the fury of the moment, you are fully alive.

Yet every victory is fleeting, and the eternal stupid returns...having no memory of its whipping, and ready for another round. And it will kick your ass from time to time. I have the scars to prove it.

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Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at Facebook:

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