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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No idiot left behind

Chris Hedges addresses my conscience.  He was on C-Span for three hours Saturday morning where I saw him sporadically as I, in my role of treasurer, tried to fulfill the financial needs of the  Snow Queen Festival being held in Aberdeen this weekend and next.  The young people participating in the festival break my calloused, old heart.  Chris Hedges reminds me of why.  Unless the liberal, progressive movement throws off the tar-and-feather besmirching by the entrenched fascisti who have paralyzed the democratic impulse of America, the dreams and expectations of these bright and talented young people will wither and die as they face the  realities of the char-duties to which the presiding over class consigns the middle and lower economic classes.  Of course, prostitution--or at least the arts that make it profitable--always appeals to an over class that offers special dispensations to those who fawn and grovel and massage the egos and other erectile organs of those who presume themselves the rulers.    And, after all, No Child Left Behind, the enforced indoctrination which rules our children's lives, is about nothing but fawning and groveling.

Chris Hedges

In his recent book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Hedges confronts the reasons why we are a generation of dupes.  The title sets forth the thesis.  America has undergone a conditioning which has purged a large segment of the population of the ability to make literate discernment and is well on the way to becoming a nation of slavering dupes whose mentalities are devoted to the spectacles of celebrity, a pants-drooping sense of fashion which is virulently anti-intellectual and anti-cultural.  It shows in the kind of candidates  the GOP is considering for president.  The minions who comprise the GOP have made a concerted attack on intelligence and have expressed a bitter disdain for anyone who might possess some.  Among there own, they have disparaged Jon Huntsman because he can speak Mandarin Chinese and, as ambassador to China, has served the country in ways that require intelligence and knowledge.  In the current GOP mind, those qualities are fatal demerits.

Chris Hedges explores the subversion and suppression of the thought processes needed to create this class of surly, menacing anti-intellectuals who will do the bidding of their handlers anytime their anger buttons are hit.  In Empire of Illusion, he details the conditioning that shapes the generation of dolts:
Life is about the personal humiliation of those who oppose us. Those who win are the best.  Those who lose deserve to be erased.  Compassion, competence, intelligence, and solidarity with others are forms of weakness.  And those who do not achieve celebrity status, who do not win the prize money or make millions in Wall Street firms, deserve to lose.  Those who are denigrated and ridiculed on reality television, often as they sob in front of the camera, are branded as failures.  They are responsible for their rejection.  They are deficient.

Chris Hedges examines the conditioning processes defined by George Orwell.  The use of popular media as the instruments of operant conditioning have come to pass, and Hedges examines them in detailed specifics. 

In The Death of the Liberal Class,  Hedges summarizes the role of the media in this conditioning process:

The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions—the pillars of the liberal class—have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power. Journalists, who prize access to the powerful more than they prize truth, report lies and propaganda to propel us into a war in Iraq. Many of these same journalists assured us it was prudent to entrust our life savings to a financial system run by speculators and thieves. Those life savings were gutted. The media, catering to corporate advertisers and sponsors, at the same time renders invisible whole sections of the population whose misery, poverty, and grievances should be the principal focus of journalism. 
The GOP mission to make America a corporatocracy adheres closely to the way Mussolini envisioned fascism

  Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it, whether in its theoretical premises or in its practical application. Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequality of mankind, which can never be permanently leveled through the mere operation of a mechanical process such as universal suffrage....
...Fascism denies, in democracy, the absur[d] conventional untruth of political equality dressed out in the garb of collective irresponsibility, and the myth of "happiness" and indefinite progress....

...For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence. Peoples which are rising, or rising again after a period of decadence, are always imperialist; and renunciation is a sign of decay and of death. Fascism is the doctrine best adapted to represent the tendencies and the aspirations of a people, like the people of Italy, who are rising again after many centuries of abasement and foreign servitude. But empire demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply felt sense of duty and sacrifice: this fact explains many aspects of the practical working of the regime, the character of many forces in the State, and the necessarily severe measures which must be taken against those who would oppose this spontaneous and inevitable movement ...
This is not to suggest that Obama represents an alternative to the incipient fascist direction of the GOP.  In his 2008 campaign, he promised change and that change included a pledge to deal with the partisan paralysis and bitterness.  He tried to do this by attempting to utilize the old traditions of discourse that leads to acceptable compromise.  However, from the outset, the GOP indicated that it would not consider any compromises and that its single concern was defeating Obama and removing him from office.  It made clear that Obama would be treated with some amiability only if he shuffled, shucked, and muttered "yes, massa" in obsequious subservience.  The signal moment came when during the attempts to come to an agreement on the debt ceiling, Speaker John Boehner walked out and refused to acknowledge or return telephone calls.  Only those GOP loyalists who are dedicated to foolery and self-delusion cannot see the overt racism in this tactic and many other instances in which GOP leaders have demanded deference and have heaped on denigrations about Obama's personal worth.  

Liberals became restive when Obama did not call a spade a spade by objecting to his, in effect, being called a spade.   By trying to stay above the partisan fray, which resonates so strongly of Mussolini's vision of fascism, Obama allowed the GOP to designate him "a loser" and to appeal to that  callow winner-loser mentality upon which the GOP is dependent for its support.  The little playground bullies were able to cower behind their leaders and call names of denigration and chant the slogans of insult and abuse that they have been taught is political discourse.  

The process that Hedges describes of de-mentalizing the populace eliminates any possibility of thought and discussion.  The only possibility for expression is, as in Orwell's daily five minutes of hate, for the obedient minions to stand before their leaders and repeat the chants and slogans in which they are led.  There is no possibility of arguing with minds that have been sealed and can be reached only through those behavioral triggers to which they have been conditioned to respond.  This eliminates liberals from any part in what passes for the political dialogue.  The objective is to condition a majority of the populace to this mindless state.  The mindless will become the voting majority.

That majority is being carefully constructed by the GOP agenda.  The No Child Left Behind law was implemented in a way to purge the education curriculum of the literate arts and sciences, and transform it into a process of conditioning and rote memory which is what is assessed by the standardized tests.  Those schools which do not score sufficiently on teaching-to-the-test subservience will be punished, and those teachers who show insufficiency in conditioning their students away from literacy will be fired.  No Child Left Behind defines educational success in terms of mindless subservience.  

Then other sources of political diversity are purged.  Collective bargaining is taken away from labor unions, funds are denied from Planned Parenthood, and religious freedom is granted only to those denominations that speak and act against diversity that does not conform to social and behavioral norms dictated by the GOP.

Liberals who try to accommodate what passes for conservatism in their considerations are doomed.  Nowhere is that fact more apparent than in the lose of Rep. Herseth Sandlin to Kristi Noem.  Nancy Pelosi became the object of the GOP five minutes of hate and because Noem could identify them as being in the same party, the gullible minions voted against Herseth Sandlin to register their hatred for Pelosi.  In trying to address what she thought were the conservative concerns of her constituency,  Herseth Sandlin lost the confidence of the more liberal segments of her own party.  The result is Kristi Noem, who like her colleague John Thune in the Senate, is a puppet who gives voice to whoever is pulling her strings at the moment and can only produce sham legislation against the regulation of farm dust, which never was an issue to be regulated, just as Thune's signal legislation was against the regulation of cow farts.  But with those conditioned to the GOP agenda, these are issues of passion, which divert attention from matters like health care, poverty, and the fact that the lack of jobs stems from corporate policies that the U.S. government is to weakened to change. 

Chris Hedges is among those who find refuge from the idiocracy in the Occupy movement.  On one hand, he identifies the massive ills that the one percent is responsible for in the country and the world.  On the other hand, he addresses how the traditional institutions of liberalism have failed to counter the corporatocracy and the disease it spreads to shrivel the collective brain pans.   

The greatest hope for an informed, intelligent and free and equal society that once comprised the American dream is enough people refusing to participate in a political system that can only defeat those who cling to that dream.  Perhaps, we can do nothing but say no, and refuse, at least, to be conditioned into idiots.   


1 comment:

Bob Newland said...

For about 20 years I have been steadily acquiring the opinion that the perception that the liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican divide frames the argument is misplaced.

It is really a libertarian/authoritarian divide.

The dividing question is: "Under what circumstances does an individual or a group of individuals (a "government") have the moral right to initiate aggression?"

Lewis Lapham once said: "'Politics' is the continuous argument over who can do what to whom, for how long, and against what degree of dissent?"

Can anyone define the word better?

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