As the global economy tanks and wealth flows to those at the apex, ripped out of the paychecks, pensions, and credit card debts of the working class, the ugly old stereotypes of race and sex are floating to the surface, aided both by politicians and the corporate media.
The loathsome antics of Rush Limbaugh are just one example of a much broader scenario, in which the attention of the public is diverted from the real evils plaguing society by inflaming sentiment with images of ancient bogeymen.
There’s a certain natural human tendency in times of crisis to invoke images of seemingly less-troubled times, the days when things followed “the natural order.”
The real causes of the crisis are ignored, in part because real solutions would require a major transformation of the existing order, including real and sweeping changes in the fundamental patterns of our lives.
Because we’re creatures of habit, change is threatening, especially when the mass media offer no real alternative visions of ways we could transform our world into a place that’s both richer and more fundamentally satisfying to a species that evolved in small groups charactierized by rich, intense relationships.
Libertarianism and the cult of greed
Libertarianism, especially the Ayn Rand version so popular with the neoliberal set [Alan Greenspan was a member of her inner circle], denies the mutual interdependence of Homo sapiens, and celebrates naked opportunism and seeks to profit by destroying the very institutions that bind us together.
The brilliance of the demonizing strategy is that it strikes at very deep instincts, so deep and unthinking that they transform the people who are being most victimized by their manipulations into the system’s most vocal proponents.
The very things the angry right deplores — destruction of their lives and livelihoods, the loss of community, the sense of invasion — are fundamental attributes of the agenda they so stridently support.
Take Limbaugh for example. At the heart of his rant is a carefully contrived construct of commodified women, in his example, and system which institutionalizes paying women for their sexuality — insurance-provided birth control] for having sex.
Workers and small business owners who trumpet the Limbaugh line also damn the liberal [sic] media for commodifying women, both in their programming to draw viewers/listeners/readers and in their advertisements, where sex sells.
But Limbaugh, his brothers and sisters of the airwaves, as well as their corporate backers, cleverly subvert a legitimate concern and focus the ensuing outrage against other people who are just as unhappy with very same system and for many of the same deeply instinctual causes.
Similarly, their liberal counterparts are distracted from notions of fundamental structural change and diverted into playing the rivals of the Limbaugh set, debating the issues set by an agenda in which neither side had a role in crafting the rules.
Defining the rules of the game
So who does set the rules? And what is the real object of the game?
Think “too big to fail.”
One brilliant given, a de facto part of American politics since the rise of the Republican Party in the 1860 presidential election, occurred with the transformation of American political system into a duopoly. Third parties have merely served to tip control from one dominant party to the other, and have no role in legislation, unlike countries with a parliamentary system.
The duopoly system enables the same forces to control both sides of the game. All that remains at stake is the shifting of resources among alliances within the closed circle of the real players, the corporateers and the banksters.
The end game is austerity, disaster capitalism, the gutting of the commons, and its aim is the complete capture of all the world’s resources — global privatization.
And at the heart of the game is debt.
The global game would collapse without growth, because growth is the only mechanism for paying debt, and debt, in turn, is the only way the modern machine can keep running. If that sounds like a vicious circle, it is. Rather, it’s an odious system, a system made possible by odious debt.
And what is odious debt?
Wikipedia’s definition is a good one:
In international law, odious debt is a legal theory that holds that the national debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the best interests of the nation, should not be enforceable. Such debts are, thus, considered by this doctrine to be personal debts of the regime that incurred them and not debts of the state. In some respects, the concept is analogous to the invalidity of contracts signed under coercion.
Just as many Greeks feel isolated from their government and its subservience to the Troika, what typical American voter had a hand in crafting out the Bush/Obama bankster bailouts?
Well, you might argue, those decisions were made by officials we elected.
Who, then, gave you the candidates? And how were they presented? Did Barack Obama campaign on a promise to give the more money to the banksters, as well as de facto immunity from their legal and moral crimes?
And in what arena does political discourse occur? Who owns the news media and hires the news managers who provide the platform for community debate? Is it the same small clique who also fund political campaigns? And, if so, how can any government elected through such a venue claim to serve in the best interests of a family living in poverty and headed by a single mother? Or a unionized factory worker? A janitor?
Excluded form political discourse is anything more than fleeting coverage to critics who come from outside the system, who offer alternative visions grounded in deep fact and historical insight?
But the harsh realities cannot be denied. The earth simply cannot provide for the endless growth of a species grown dependent on ruthless exploitation of its finite and increasingly scarce resources while poisoning the planet with its toxic byproducts. But only such a model can hope to sustain a system financed by debt and remorselessly compounding interest.
We would argue that humanity’s greatest talent is for living creatively, not consuming endlessly.
We have the opportunity to create fuller lives, lives less dependent on material possessions and made richer by the freeing of our imaginations from the carefully crafted channels of the corporate media on which we have become dependent.
The happiest people we’ve ever met were men and women who had relatively few possessions and found true wealth in the community and the natural world around them. They have lessons to teach us all.