Friday, June 12, 2020
Has Anyone Seen Chris? The Rise of Ubermensch America.
I wish Chris Hedges was still writing his column. He's made a few appearances on Twitter and YouTube but it's not the same. He's still teaching and he's doing his prison work. Apparently he will run for the Green Party in November. Not too sure what that's about.
A lot of the turmoil we're witnessing today comes pretty close to what he has foreseen. It'd be interesting to see Hedges relate these events in an essay. Oh well.
His last regular venue, Truthdig, is down. The owner went to war with pretty much everybody who wrote for the website. They went on strike. She put it into what appears to be a receivership. She's calling it a "hiatus" but there doesn't seem to be any life left in the body.
The events of the past few months, the pandemic and all the rest, have been stomach-churning for me. Then came the execution of George Floyd and the unrest that, unlike all the other killings in this same mold, became a spark that caught fire, sweeping the United States, Europe, Canada, even New Zealand and Australia. Mr. Floyd's life, it turned out, "mattered."
What bothers me most about the pandemic is how thoroughly, almost instantly, it became politicized. It was transformed into just more fodder for our already deeply malignant culture war. A medical problem is subsumed into a political joust. Climate change. A truly existential threat not just to human civilization but most life on Earth has become a political front in the culture war. This is how we deal with the great challenges of the day. We don't. It is how we will deal with the even bigger challenges that are set to roll out during this decade. We won't. We will reduce them to political arguments and consign them to the culture war.
Democracy is an illusion. Democracy is supposed to serve the welfare and security of the people but those days are gone.
That's especially true in the United States.
Democracy in America is a smoking hole in the ground. That's not going to change even if Joe Biden unseats Donald Trump in November. The US today comprises layers of corruption, each reinforcing the others, collectively ensuring their continuation.
America's vaunted system of checks and balances was intended to thwart any one co-equal branch of government - legislative, executive, judicial - from going rogue. The idea was that one may go bad but the other two would intervene and stop it. It never contemplated a situation where they had all been corrupted.
It began with America's thoroughly "bought and paid for" Congress. John McCain and Russ Feingold tried to arrest the corruption of big money with a Hail Mary attempt at campaign finance reform. That failed and, with it, all notion of a Congress in service to the American public was extinguished.
An autopsy on American democracy was held. It came in the form of a study out of Princeton in 2014 by professors Gillens (Princeton) and Page (Northwestern). They went back years, poring over how Congress voted when the public interest clashed with special interests. (read the report. it's only 18 pages PDF) Their conclusion was that America had succumbed to plutocracy. Democracy was only an illusion. That body on the slab, democracy, was dead - bled out.
The fingerprints at the crime scene, there's plenty of them.
Gerrymandering. Engineering electoral districts to favour the powerful minority over the powerless majority - where 40 per cent of the overall vote can capture 60 per cent of the districts (wait a damned second, does that sound familiar?) is a telltale of democracy subverted.
Voter suppression - knocking eligible people off voting lists, raising ID and other hurdles, a sea of technical requirements to make it all but impossible to recover legitimate votes - they've got it all.
How about some districts where there's just an unfortunate shortage of polls, in some cases so bad that you may have to wait 7 hours in line just to cast your ballot? Can you guess where that inadvertent oversight happens? Sure you can.
What about politically "groomed" courts, carefully stacked with reliable partisan judges, including the United States Supreme Court itself? Justice for all? Sure, justice for all on this side over here. Voting Rights Act? "Ka-ching" - gone.
This is the goddess, Themis, as she stands in the Vancouver courthouse. In her upraised hand she holds the scales of justice, symbolizing fairness. Over her eyes she wears a blindfold, symbolizing equality before the law. If the law isn't fair and honest; if it isn't equal, it's not justice. If it's not justice then it's injustice. Once you have a groomed judiciary all that's left is injustice. Without equality before the law and an unbiased judiciary the law is corrupted and democracy is on death watch.
Corruption is the black mold of America and it's in every wall, beneath the floorboards, up in the rafters. But what about that "fourth estate," journalism, the watchdog of government? The media that are supposed to keep the public informed, supposed to hold the political caste to account. They've been subverted too. In a land where so many get their news from people named Limbaugh or Hannity or Alex Jones, Facebook or Twitter, the public is groomed, conditioned. All they need is a steady diet of fear, lies and persistent appeals to their basest instincts and they'll do whatever is asked of them, just as in The Lord of the Flies or Germany in the late 30s.
And this isn't just about the November elections. Would that it was. Hitler's contagion didn't stop when he dismissed the German parliament and outlawed political parties, or when he occupied the Rhineland or when he annexed Austria, anschluss, or when he dismembered Czechoslovakia in the name of lebensraum. His followers rejoiced when their armies rolled into Poland, swept through the low countries, conquered France, even poured into the Rodina, Russia.
We will all have to watch America's still embedded corruption as the state confronts what nature is bringing this decade. Sea level rise, storm surges, retreat from the sea, floods and crop killing droughts, parts of the south that become seasonally inhabitable, food insecurity, internally displaced populations requiring relocation, mass migration out of the south, Central America, fleeing destruction yet also facing destruction in their only refuge.
What will become of America, the "indispensable" nation, American exceptionalism, America the Land of Perpetual Grievance, the oligarchy, ubermensch Amerika?
Think about these things when you contemplate where Canada is heading and what forces may sweep us up in their path. We're going to need to find a spine and time is not on our side.