Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A United Field Theory of Woe

Maybe it's just the times, or maybe it's because we're in an election cycle. Or maybe it's just that we've been dealing with so much for so long that a critical mass is being reached. But I'm having difficulty compartmentalizing all the areas in which our country -- and the world -- is deteriorating.

A lot of us still judge our nation the old-fashioned way: is the American Dream intact? Are we a nation of laws? Are our constitutional rights just as sacred as they've always been? Can the humblest American still rise to the top, even become president?

We baby boomers were raised this way, to believe that we'd win the Cold War, that it was my country right or wrong, that if we were good, we'd die and go to Heaven. At least we'd all try hard, go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, accumulate wealth, then retire, and, with a bit of luck, not die right away from cancer or heart disease.

How much of that was ever true? Answer: some of it, though really not much. It's not being paranoid at all to feel that all our values and opportunities, however ephemeral to begin with, are either under attack or so seriously degraded as to have become meaningless. In many ways, it's good riddance. A lot of our belief system was tied up in fallacies of American exceptionalism and superstition.

Here's a checklist of 1. it was never real, and 2. it was real and we're screwed:
  • We won the Cold War, but it was unnecessary, extremely costly, and, in the end, a mistaken strategic choice. (Talk amongst yourselves.)
  • There is no Heaven (thankfully, then, no Hell).
  • There is no American Dream apart from the usual menu of choices and outcomes afforded the citizens of any developed nation.
  • We are a nation of laws, well, at least for schlubs. For the elite? Not so much. For perceived terrorists? Forget about it.
  • Our society is deteriorating on an alarming number of levels (reminder: I'm not paranoid). You do the math.
  • If you put Marshall McLuhan and George Orwell together, we're screwed. Case in point: Rupert Murdoch.
  • We live in an ever-increasing surveillance/police state.
  • The predominant direction of the U.S. under the sway of the rich and powerful is for us to become a less healthy society, with rollbacks of environmental law and protections, with declining access to healthcare and public services, as well as diminishing economic security.
  •  Because of the crisis, we're moving from an ownership society to a landlord society.
Captain Kirk for president?
 Okay, I know, a lot of the problems those of us on the left have stem from a belief system that might be called Star Trek Syndrome. We think that the human race is evolving toward a time when there will be a Federation, the ultimate political entity living by a superior ethical consensus, and we will be better than the Klingons or the Romulans, and we will ultimately Defeat Them.

Okay, that's so unrealistic, but that doesn't make Henry Kissinger's Realpolitik moral, where we weigh the pros and cons and conclude that murder and mayhem is acceptable because this is the Real World and the hippies should just fucking grow up.

They hate us for our freedom?
And, hey, what's with the conservatives and their "you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands" brethren and the general conservative "liberal judges are activists hellbent on destroying My Constitution," yeah, what's with the right loving the Patriot Act and anything that does strengthen the expanding police state, or legitimize torture, or indefinite detention without hearings? Really, what's with that obvious disconnect??

The Occupy movement (in danger of shriveling up and dying) and the Tea Party (okay, already shriveled up and dead) are two sides of the same discontent: we've been suckered into giving away whatever freedoms we had while acquiescing to the biggest mass mugging the nation and the world has witnessed since, well, the last mass mugging leading to the crash of 1929.

Oh yeah, right!...
I wish I was paranoid and that the historical record didn't make what I've related factually true. We are approaching a unified field theory of woe, one in which the pieces of the puzzle of our utter and eventual decline are starting to get assembled.

There are ways out of this mess, and though there may not be green shoots economically speaking, there might be green shoots of an emerging Mad as Hell movement that could turn this around. But right now I'm too bummed to talk about it.

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