"Deliver us from Drought!"
Free market Capitalism inevitably produces massive inequality, thrives in political corruption and imbecility. Texas is a good example of the disease, as the state confronts climate change and its inevitable effects. This episode of VICE, the excellent HBO documentary series, encapsulates the tragedy of Texas, and the threat that its culture represents for the nation as a whole.
America is a nation of profound contradictions. A leader in technology, the nation that put men on the moon also has (by far) the largest percentage of science illiterates and fierce nonbelievers. (In science, that is.)
The US, whose middle class once was the envy of the world, is also a nation deeply divided by class: Thanks to Wall Street Americans today enjoy the dubious distinction of having the worst income inequality in the developed world.
The Texas drought as chronicled by Shane Smith's VICE Documentary team (HBO)
Numerous studies confirm this. But what is Wall Street if not an offshoot, a creature of capitalism? Thus, just as Disraeli found in the industrial England of the 1840s a people divided into two nations, one of masters and exploiters, the other of the exploited masses, with a huge chasm separating them, so it is with America today.
While the billionaire plague keeps gaining momentum as a result of the control this class exercises over government, education and media, the people find it hard to fight back, having lost most of their self-defense organizations--unions, parties, and an effective press. In fact, the only thing that the nation has in common today is the existence of an utterly corrupt leadership at the top, or simply a lack of positive leadership, and the unrelenting growth of imbecility and inequality--the natural product of such wretched condition, at the bottom. Under these circumstances, the US now more than ever leads the world in the export of inequality.
The alarming degree of citizens' stupidity and naivete is not a new phenomenon in America. Many foreign observers have mentioned this in their diaries as a defining trait of the culture, and even native sociologists and historians have written tomes explaining its existence in our midst. Richard Hofstadter
won the Pulitzer for nonfiction in 1963 for his uncomfortably titled Anti-intellectualism in American Life.
Hofstadter saw the rejection of intellectualism as a form of misguided "democratization of knowledge", and "historically embedded in America's national fabric, an outcome of its colonial
European and evangelical Protestant heritage
." He correctly saw this rarely challenged characteristic of the national psyche as a threat to democracy
I agree with most of Hofstadter's theses, especially the notion that the evangelical Protestant strains have done and continue to do considerable damage to the United States. This is not to exempt Catholicism or Judaism--themselves pestilences of a different sort. As the reader may have gathered I have little use for most religions and less so for fanatical brands, considering them all a form of self-inflicted mental rot and prime exemplars of barbarism.
Politicians, the media, and the educated classes--the "adults in the room"--should have put up a fight to push back against such nonsense. But politicians as a rule lack any principles, many in the educated classes have been themselves victims of the religiosity disease (witness Mary Baker Eddy, for example), and the media, being engines of commerce and not social improvement, like politicians, cater to the lowest common denominator. In sum, in a society in which prostitution, opportunism and cowardice are the the generally admitted ways to forge ahead and protect privileges, few have dared rise in defense of reason.
The ugly upshot of all this is that America today is an improbable union; a civilization born with a profound injection of religious fanaticism--not uncommon for the 17th century--but which, unlike most nations in the modern world, including England--never got over this poisonous legacy. The effects of backward religiosity on public policy and the lives of the ordinary citizen are perfectly exemplified in the political and social culture of Texas, a state where not only has religiosity won the day, but where rabid capitalism has found its most loyal champions and political mercenaries.
Media critic and former economist P. Greanville is The Greanville Post's founding editor (http://www.greanvillepost.com/).
He also serves as publisher for Cyrano's Journal Today. He has a lifelong interest in the triumph of justice and (more...