Maybe people who had survived the Great Depression and World War II were a little more wary, spent a little more time looking over their shoulders. The postwar years gave rise to a period of insight and enlightenment that was abruptly arrested in the late 70's, early 80's with the arrival on the world scene of leaders like Reagan and Thatcher. According to professor and renowned culture critic, Henry Giroux, they and their minions ushered in what has become the era of public stupidity.
Here are a few excerpts from Giroux's timely warning. I hope they will pique your interest enough that you follow the link above and read the piece in its entirety.
"America has become amnesiac - a country in which forms of
historical, political, and moral forgetting are not only willfully
practiced but celebrated. The United States has degenerated into a
social order that is awash in public stupidity and views critical
thought as both a liability and a threat. Not only is this obvious in
the presence of a celebrity culture that embraces the banal and idiotic,
but also in the prevailing discourses and policies of a range of
politicians and anti-public intellectuals who believe that the legacy of
the Enlightenment needs to be reversed.
...Under a neoliberal regime, the language of authority, power and
command is divorced from ethics, social responsibility, critical
analysis and social costs.
These anti-public intellectuals [Bachmann, Santorum, O'Reilly, Beck, Coulter] are
part of a disimagination machine that solidifies the power of the rich
and the structures of the military-industrial-surveillance-academic
complex by presenting the ideologies, institutions and relations of the
powerful as commonsense.
...The pedagogy of authoritarianism is alive and well in the United
States, and its repression of public memory takes place not only through
the screen culture and institutional apparatuses of conformity, but is
also reproduced through a culture of fear and a carceral state that
imprisons more people than any other country in the world.
...Since the late 1970s, there has been an intensification in the United
States, Canada and Europe of neoliberal modes of governance, ideology
and policies - a historical period in which the foundations for
democratic public spheres have been dismantled. Schools, public radio,
the media and other critical cultural apparatuses have been under siege,
viewed as dangerous to a market-driven society that considers critical
thought, dialogue, and civic engagement a threat to its basic values,
ideologies, and structures of power. This was the beginning of an
historical era in which the discourse of democracy, public values, and
the common good came crashing to the ground. ...Democracy and the political process were all but sacrificed to the power
of corporations and the emerging financial service industries, just as
hope was appropriated as an advertisement for the whitewashed world, a
culture whose capacity to critique oppressive social practices was
greatly diminished. Large social movements fragmented into isolated
pockets of resistance mostly organized around a form of identity
politics that largely ignored a much-needed conversation about the
attack on the social and the broader issues affecting society such as
the growing inequality in wealth, power and income.
...What has changed about an entire generation of young people includes not
only neoliberal society's disinvestment in youth and the lasting fate
of downward mobility, but also the fact that youth live in a
commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment that is unlike
anything experienced by those of previous generations. Nothing has
prepared this generation for the inhospitable and savage new world of
commodification, privatization, joblessness, frustrated hopes and
...At the start of the second decade of the 21st century, young people all
over the world are demonstrating against a variety of issues ranging
from economic injustice and massive inequality to drastic cuts in
education and public services. These demonstrations have and currently
are being met with state-sanctioned violence and an almost pathological
refusal to hear their demands.
...Within the existing neoliberal historical conjuncture, there is a
merging of violence and governance and the systemic disinvestment in and
breakdown of institutions and public spheres that have provided the
minimal conditions for democracy. This becomes obvious in the emergence
of a surveillance state in which the social media not only become new
platforms for the invasion of privacy, but further legitimate a culture
in which monitoring functions are viewed as benign while the
state-sponsored society of hyper-fear increasingly defines everyone as
either a snitch or a terrorist. Everyone, especially minorities of race
and ethnicity, now live under a surveillance panoptican in which "living
under constant surveillance means living as criminals."
These excerpts offer just a glimpse into the wonderful and important message Giroux conveys and I urge you to read it in its entirety.
The point is clear, democracy is not safe - not in the United States nor is it safe in Canada. In fact, democracy is being suppressed, incrementally but relentlessly, by the authoritarian Right aided by centrist political parties that seem unwilling to stand up to them, to fight back. We're losing this war and we don't have a lot of time left to turn that around.