Define OK. We’re not — and it’s unlikely we will be.
At least two people are aware that what I am going to say is true, that years ago I proposed total civil and political collapse was not only possible in the United States and throughout the world, it was highly probable. I had been struggling to find some way to put the prediction in novel form, but at last concluded such was beyond my feeble reach.
The title, No Law, was a play on words with multiple meanings. There existed no law that could make it rain, that could end drought. Both the US’ Southeast and West had been suffering one for the greater part of a decade. Forest fires and crop failures had become common. Entire lakes had dried to the point that ground that once had been well below the water surface had turned to cracked cakes.
I premised that prolonged drought would before long lead to catastrophic worldwide food shortages. Prices would escalate beyond the means of all but a few. Grocery shelves would become barren. And facing such total disaster, cataclysm — “no law” — would be the end product.
In other words, there just is no superceding natural law guaranteeing democracy; American or otherwise. Through human history brutal despotism has been the predominant form of governance. The American experiment, or fling, if you will, has ever been no more than just that. No more.
This is precisely why I have looked with unfettered alarm and genuine outrage at what we have quite willingly allowed to brew in our midst, the kind of swirling down the drain of every democratic principle that Chris Hedges articulates in the February 4 Alternet piece, “It’s Not Going to be OK.” (http://www.alternet.org/workplace/125192/?page=entire) The only difference, one without a consequent distinction, between what he suggests and what I did inheres in the provocation to totalitarianism. Mr. Hedges points to today’s near, and likely soon to be, complete economic collapse. The products we predicted were the same.
Here is where I bow to Hedges’ superior insight, however. It will not be a drought that proves the death knell of American democracy; no ominous foreboding or calamity from the skies or heavens or stars. Rather, to borrow from Shakespeare, two quotes. “The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” And, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
For decades we have eschewed serious civic responsibility. Quite apart from our Founding Fathers, rather than commit ourselves to the sort of earnest quest for knowledge that was liberal Enlightenment, and the willingness to suffer privation, even death for liberty, if that was what was required, we have been content to believe what those who would lead us told us: “We are great,” “We are intelligent,” and “We are brave.” Kind of like, “just add water and heat” could make of us great cooks. We believed all those television commercials because we wanted to. And now, to be a great cook, by the commercials that bombard us, an eager populace, it’s not even necessary to add water, just plop the meal in the microwave!
As a people, we don’t even want to learn the truth via serious news, from serious newspapers or from serious television newscasts. In 1960, Edward R. Murrow, on CBS Reports, presented a documentary, “Harvest of Shame.” The 55-minute piece illustrated the desperate plight of the migrant farm workers who toiled so that an American public might dine sumptuously. It also angered hell out of powerful corporate interests; a reactive response that presaged the corporate takeover of the news that, for all intents, has resulted in a near completely dumb and compliant public.
In the place of a Murrow, of a Cronkite, of a Huntley and Brinkley, of a Dan Rather, of a John Chancellor, none of whom ever smiled while delivering the news, all of which was serious, even grave, for serious and grave audiences, we’ve a coterie of smiling, talking heads, all to make us feel good about ourselves. Not in a one of those much earlier newscasts was there a “Person of the Week,” or anything trivial. We weren’t condescended to or patronized. We were regarded with respect, entitled to know the truth of an issue that would enable us to form our own opinions.
For more than 30 years, I lived in the Bay area. News was delivered seriously by the likes of Dave Mc Elhatten on KPIX, by Pete Wilson on KGO, and by Dennis Richmond on KTVU in Oakland. All serious, intelligent and devoted, they are gone now, they have been replaced with twittering nincompoops who chitchat, laugh, and make everything seem just so damned merry. “Thanks for that Bambi.” “Oh, you’re welcome, Bret,” Bambi smiles back.
The message we’ve sopped up like some wonder towel hyped by “Billy Mays here!” is, “No need to worry your pretty heads over all that boring stuff.” In the stead are titillating stories about Hollywood entertainers, amazing stories “You just won’t believe” about a dog who rescued his family from fire, and some gruesome murder, in some town, some thousand miles distant. (I’ve yet to discern why anyone outside the Bay area might have given the first damn concerning Scott and Lacy Peterson.)
And rather than trouble ourselves the least, gathering even a most rudimentary outline of history, of basic economics, of fundamental geography, of even the Constitution and some understanding how our own government works, we sate ourselves in mind-numbing amusement: House, Lost, Scrubs, The Biggest Loser, CSI, Ugly Betty, and much, much even more insulting fare; exactly what the corporate powers intend. And we laugh about our ignorance; not an embarrassed laugh, but a laugh that says, almost proudly, we just don’t care that we’ve become tragically ignorant. More important, likely most important to us, is whether the question, “Are we having fun?” can be answered affirmatively, or negatively. Iconic of our laconic disregard for much that doesn’t amuse was President Bush’s press secretary, Dana Perino, when she unembarrased announced, “I knew the Cuban Missile Crisis had something to do with Cuba and missiles.”
Are there any other usual suspects?
Three short paragraphs on that, and you may not like the last one.
Not counting the over-the-cliff mess we’re facing, all of the very worst — defined as the deepest and most protracted — recessions since the Great Depression occurred during Republican administrations: Eisenhower, and the two most destructive, both of which took place under Reagan. Now of course we have what commenced as a blind devotion to Reaganomics and the truly don’t ask/don’t tell, the “market” is self-correcting nonsense that was George W. Bush and his GOP sycophants in the House and Senate.