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The Sounds of Silence: Reactions to Political Despair

By       Message Bernard Weiner       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

Hello darkness, my old friend...
-- Simon & Garfunkel, "The Sounds of Silence"

By nature, I'm usually an optimist. I've experienced and studied enough history to understand its cyclical nature and its ability to house enormous positive/negative contradictions. The worst of times can also lead to the best of times. What goes around can come around. Every cloud can have a silver lining. Etc.

But those more positive views are overshadowed these days by a quickly darkening horizon. Hemingway's "shitstorm" has arrived, with a vengeance. As with so many citizens dedicated to positive activism, I am politically discouraged, demoralized, depressed. We want to find solace and hope enough to pull us through the pit of despair yet again, but instead we run headlong into a brick wall of voters' voluntary ignorance, a growing authoritarian fascism, continuing imperialist military policies, an appalling lack of backbone in our leaders, politicians and pundits who brazenly lie and get away with it.

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This has happened so often in the past several years that we find ourselves beset by futility, dejection, despondancy. Nothing seems to work to turn our self-destructive system from disaster.

In short, American society seems to be well and truly f'd, with few escape routes evident. Consider just seven examples:


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To a significant degree, it doesn't seem to matter which political party is seemingly in control. The dysfunctional rot is so deep, the habitual patterns so ingrained, the lying and manipulation so widespread, the corporate master$ so powerful that meaningful change seems impossible. To them, a little reform-tinkering around the edges is tolerable, but don't even think about major structural reconstructions.

Of course, it's precisely the major structural changes that are absolutely necessary if the U.S. is somehow to avoid catastrophe and emerge back into the light. Similarly, the world must start moving immediately to try to ameliorate the worst aspects of human-caused global climate change before it's too late. Indeed, it may already be too late. CheneyBush, who effectively turned over the Department of Energy to lobbyists for polluting industries, wasted eight long years doing nothing to diminish the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A huge number of Americans know all this in their bones, but feel powerless to  do anything about it. They're just happy to get through another week, another month, without falling off the economic or psychological cliffs. Anger and resentment roil beneath the surface, and occasionally boil over into the public debate, but little more happens than throwing out the old bums   so the new bums can take over. In this case, even if it's evident that the Democrats are not nearly as bad as the Republicans -- indeed, polls show that most Americans favor Democratic initiatives -- still the system almost seems designed to yield little if any real progress. FUBAR is the new normal. 

The forces of regression, the corporatist elites and their purchased political lackeys, used to talk the talk of compromise and "general welfare." Now, however, they are quite open about their real aim: to take society backwards past the Great Society, past the New Deal, to the Robber Baron days of the late-19th century, a time when government had no regulatory say-so over individual and corporate greed agendas and actions, when taxes on corporate profits were non-existent, when capitalists were allowed (nay, encouraged) to avoid any restraints on their behavior, when the less well-off were left to their own devices to survive, or not.

In his autobiography, President Theodore Roosevelt put his finger on the hidden powers running the county, in this section from his Progressive Party's platform:

"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people....To destroy this invisible government, to befoul this unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of statesmanship."

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Then as now, these corporate forces got the best politicians money could buy. And here we go into that soup again, with an ideological majority on the Supreme Court supplying the legal rationalizations for corporate control  of our political system, with the stenographic mass-media offering unrelenting  agitprop campaigns on behalf of the elite's agenda. In an age where there is  precious little investigative journalism to reveal what the government and corporations are actually doing, is it any wonder that underground outfits such as WikiLeaks step forward to fill the vacuum?


What's transpiring is classical class warfare, domestically and worldwide amidst the worst recession since the catastrophe of the 1930s Great Depression. Capitalism is imploding, and its built-in weaknesses and contradictions are becoming more and more obvious to ordinary citizens.

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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)

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