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General News    H4'ed 9/30/15

The Wages of the American Character

Message Herbert Calhoun
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This is a book review by the award-winning author, Chris Hedges, called "Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt"
In it, the author makes a case for why the current economic and political conditions within America, inexorably will soon lead to the next American Revolution. The reviewer, challenges the author's premise giving reasons having to do with the American Character, as to why there may never be another revolution in America.
Although the author marshals some heavy historical artillery to make his case, I believe he nevertheless builds a rather thin case for a revolution occurring in the U.S. -- at least not in the classical way revolutions have occurred in his historical examples.
In fact I would argue that if we "factor-in" what we know about the uniqueness of the American character and how that character has affected the stability of American society, and the unique course the history of the American nation has taken as a result of it -- especially in the face of severe hardship -- I think one may come to an entirely different set of conclusions about just how imminent another American revolution may really be?
While what the author says about the present economic and political conditions, and the instability of U.S. society that they portent, is all devastatingly true. (Which, greatly summarized, is essentially that there is a crisis of disappointing expectations within the American middle class.) It is also true that the difference between the way stability is created and maintained in the U.S. and the way it was created and maintained in societies that led to revolutions in the past, while subtle, is still vast. And this subtlety is way more than just a difference in the political and economic nuances suggested in this book.
Thus, I would argue that when the uniqueness of the effects of the American character on the stability of American society is fully taken into account, a revolution of the historical type is much less imminent than the author makes it seem. However, that said, this of course does not preclude the possibility of a revolution "American style" being just as imminent as the author's suggestions. But in that case, the constellation of reasons would be vastly different than those given in this book.
Thus, to know just how imminent a revolution may be in America, of course revolves around knowing precisely how stability is forged and maintained in U.S.society rather than on textbook historical examples. I believe the author's narrative and the examples he used to support his case, actually, and subtly, skirted this very important issue. And therefore the book, perhaps unwittingly, but subtly, only begs the question of just how societal stability is actually created and maintained within the U.S.
Getting right to the crux of this matter, I wished that Mr. Hedges, one of my intellectual heroes, would have argued that stability in U.S. society, unlike in most other Western societies, does not depend on the normal political and economic factors, but instead rests heavily on a peculiar hierarchy of emotional issues that point to an embarrassing hierarchy of U.S. values, values that are as often as not acted out subconsciously, and reflect the peculiarities of the American character that go all the way back to the way the American nation was founded and has evolved ever since.
It is no accident that much more of American politics today revolve around emotional issues than around normal political and economic issues. That they do so, more than any other reason, is why the author's formulas derived from historical examples of how revolutions evolve, do not always apply to the U.S.?
The American character still rests heavily on the fetish of having been established as an exclusively "white run nation," one that conquered the colored peoples that once owned the land --as well as those that were brought here to "service" it. And whether or not white America admits and acknowledges it, it is this fetish about race and the collection of related issues, that serve as the cornerstone to the stability of the American nation.
As long as the fetish of race remains a wedge issue, you will never get a soldier or policeman to side with revolutionaries against a white run government, no matter how corrupt that government might be, or how economically devastated those soldiers may be. It simply will not happen, period. End of the Hedges paradigm for an American revolution that overthrows a bankrupt immoral, mean-spirited capitalist system.
The fetish of race is still a value that dwarfs and trumps all others. It is such a juvenile value, that rightly so, most Americans are embarrassed by it and by the fact that it still remains at the top of the American tribal totem pole. Yet, it is what it is. And for anyone who would like to dismiss this as being an exaggeration of the post-modern American character, with its mulatto president, I challenge you to show me a single decade since 1619, when race was not one of the most, if not the most important issue on the American agenda?
All other values are subordinate to this one. Thus, so long as the racist status quo remains essentially undisturbed: all is seen as being right with the American way of life -- no matter what else happens on the political or economic fronts. Another way of saying this is that there is a lot of "play" left in the way the other variables that affect the stability of American culture can be arranged and can get played out when the racist status quo remains undisturbed. In fact I would argue that the amount of play is darn near infinite!
For instance, so long as race remains in a steady state, whites on all sides of the political spectrum have virtually infinite faith and confidence in the magic of the capitalist free enterprise system. This is so in part because built into the Protestant Ethic of Capitalism, the catechism of American capitalists, is the hint of white supremacy, just enough to send a "dog whistle" to anyone of the least bit of the Ayn Rand Libertarian persuasion to know what side of the bread is buttered white. That is why "the government" (as if the government is not just We the people") and not the evils of capitalism is always the target of white America's angst.
Here is a guaranteed formula for the next American revolution: Allow equality between the races to break out in such a way that blacks actually can, through their own efforts, pull even with whites. Now that is a guaranteed formula for the next American Revolution. All hell will break loose if that ever happens.
All we have today is a situation where the political elite and the ruling classes have discovered that it is equally profitable to them to continue the racist wedge by spreading the "benign-neglect" once only reserved for blacks, upwards to the rest of the population all the way up through the middle class. That way they no longer have to help pay for any social services, no schools, no infrastructure, no healthcare, no nothing.
They can quietly dismantle the country as they have been doing, without fear of a collective negative reaction because there is no such thing in a racially divided America as a "collective reaction:" We are a nation split right down the middle into three parts by race: On one side there are the whites. On another side there are those who are "trying not to be black;" and then there are the blacks.
There is no way this triangle of racism, America's highest value since its inception, will ever become a collective. So the ruling class can relax: The revolution after all, will be televised. It will be a "reality show" disseminated via "social media," and Donald Trump with be our next white President, and America will be great again. Amen
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Herbert Calhoun Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Retired Foreign Service Officer and past Manager of Political and Military Affairs at the US Department of State. For a brief time an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver and the University of Washington at (more...)
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