Monday, May 19, 2008

Don't Get Smug, We're Really Not That Much Better

A few observations from Bill Moyers taken from his new book, "Moyers on Democracy":

"Democracy in America is a series of narrow escapes, and we may be running out of luck. Now all bets are off. We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power -and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions. A sense of political impotence pervades the country - a mass resignation defined by Goodwyn as "believing the dogma of 'democracy' on a superficial public level but not believing it privately." We hold elections, knowing they are unlikely to bring the corporate state under popular control.

The earth we share as our common gift, to be passed on in good condition to our children's children, is being despoiled. Private wealth is growing as public needs increase apace. Our Constitution is perilously close to being consigned to the valley of the shadow of death, betrayed by a powerful cabal of secrecy-obsessed authoritarians. Terms like "liberty" and "individual freedom" invoked by generations of Americans who battled to widen the 1787 promise to "promote the general welfare" have been perverted to create a government primarily dedicated to the welfare of the state and the political class that runs it. Yes, Virginia, there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it.

The conclusion that we are in trouble is unavoidable. I report the assault on nature evidenced in coal mining that tears the tops off mountains and dumps them into rivers, sacrificing the health and lives of those in the river valleys to short-term profit, and I see a link between that process and the stock-market frenzy which scorns long-term investments - genuine savings - in favor of quick turnovers and speculative bubbles whose inevitable bursting leaves insiders with stuffed pockets and millions of small stockholders, pensioners, and employees out of work, out of luck, and out of hope.

When the state becomes the guardian of power and privilege to the neglect of justice for the people as a whole, it mocks the very concept of government as proclaimed in the preamble to our Constitution; mocks Lincoln's sacred belief in "government of the people, by the people, and for the people"; mocks the democratic notion of government as "a voluntary union for the common good" embodied in the great wave of reform that produced the Progressive Era and the two Roosevelts. In contrast, the philosophy popularized in the last quarter century that "freedom" simply means freedom to choose among competing brands of consumer goods, that taxes are an unfair theft from the pockets of the successful to reward the incompetent, and that the market will meet all human needs while government itself becomes the enabler of privilege - the philosophy of an earlier social Darwinism and laissez-faire capitalism dressed in new togs - is as subversive as Benedict Arnold's betrayal of the Revolution he had once served."


Northern PoV said...

We are better off. But I sure ain't smug anymore ....
We got
* paper ballots and Elections Canada (at least for now).
* A center-left tradition.
for how much longer?

Our media has the same disease as the US media ... it just hasn't progressed as far.

LeDaro said...

Bill Moyers is a great mind. He is so right.

If mediocre like Bush can become president, who otherwise will not be hired as a shoeshine boy, that reveals it all that only wealth and privilege matters in the current ‘democracy’.

We have Harper who parrots everything Bush says and waits for Bush's lead for every action; gives us some idea where we are heading in Canada. Abe Lincolns of the world have left the stage of this planet for good – I hope I am wrong on this.

laura k said...

There's never any need to be smug, but Canada truly is much, much better. The only way to say "we're really not that much better" is to not really grasp what's going on in the US.

Canada still has a functioning democracy. The US has a dictatorship with a fake democracy maintained for show. There hasn't been a real presidential election there since 1996.

And that's just the beginning.

We should never be smug. But things are much better here.

The Mound of Sound said...

I agree that democracy is healthier in Canada but the past decade has shown us how the confluence of a traumatic incident, an unscrupulous government and a complacent media can shake an entire people into the wholesale capitulation of their democratic institutions and traditions.

When I was a kid I used to wonder how the German people came to embrace the Nazis. Were they really that different than us? More to the point, could we actually follow their path in the right circumstances?

I no longer have any doubt on that. I've seen how readily we can be manipulated and herded into positions we would normally abhor.

In Canada we've never come particularly close to that edge but we fail to appreciate that it's never as far off as we'd like to imagine.