12.04.2007

it can happen, it has happened, it is happening

Allan recently printed out for me a discussion from Rigorous Intuition, a website started by Canadian author and activist Jeff Wells. There's a lot of good stuff on his site, and a lot of strange stuff, and a lot of overlap between the two.

The conversation in question is from a discussion board, not Wells's own writing, and it addresses a long-running wmtc theme.

The American socialist writer Sinclair Lewis gave a sarcastic title to his work about a fascist takeover of the US: It Can't Happen Here. For some years now, progressive Americans have been remaining watchful, wondering if and when "it" is going to happen. Meanwhile, some of us believe it already has happened. As you may know, I believe this. (My posts about this are scattered through the wmtc category "US regression," but perhaps I should break them out into a separate category: "US Fascism"?)

I didn't conclude that the US is no longer a democracy by reading it somewhere and adopting a position. On the contrary, when I first started thinking about it, I felt isolated, or at least in the wrong camp. But conceiving the US as a new kind of fascist state - one that appears on the surface to be a democracy - enabled me to re-frame many issues, and things started falling into place.

As time went on, I found others who felt the same way, and their writing confirmed and strengthened my beliefs. If sometimes these writings appear on sites that also contain ideas I find bizarre or a bit wacko, so be it. Allan's serious 9/11 Truth inquiry taught me not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. (Sometimes cliche is the only way!) We don't have to agree with everything on a discussion board to understand the validity and relevance of any given post. (We can even ignore unnecessary quotation marks and misplaced apostrophes.)

And with that in mind:
What if we have already been "rounded up?"
The pragmatism of a dystopian present-tense.

It seems reasonable to me that politically aware people would be waxing dystopian lately. We're witnessing bizarre and regular shocks to our collective pysche...

- The Katrina Massacre (a city overtaken by paramilitary thugs, mass death and random imprisonment/police violence

- police brutality at shutting down mass demonstrations (such as the LAPD Immigration rally melee)

- tasering civilians practicing free speech in a university setting

- Grand jury subpoenas IP addresses of alt-newsweekly readership

Given these abuses, it's only normal to air our anxiety about what happens next. We worry for our kids: what sort of world they are inheriting? We want to fix it. Instead of paranoid "fantasies," I see worried "parents" are getting over their fear of what happens next and entering a "strategy" phase, as Naomi Klein hopefully posits in The Shock Doctrine: when the shock starts to wear off, we can get down to the business of making life better.

So, it's with alarm and puzzlement, that "worst case scenario" discussions often attract heated debate as to whether or not the worst could really happen "here." Some people seem personally invested in the notion that nothing that bad could ever happen here. Their posts are peppered with tinfoily hats and eyeroll icons. I guess the desire is to claim a moral or intellectual high ground, as if there's an upside to ignoring creeping authoritarianism. Is there a real-world upside to ignoring the temperature rising under our amphibious butts?

I'm puzzled by this response, because, as I see it, no one loses when ideas are freely discussed. If no worse case scenario happens, well, yea. In the meantime, why wouldn't you "reality check" and strategize?

Setting this aside for a moment, I think it's significant that our discussions are evolving from mere anxiety to strategizing. Might we be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, if we are no longer afraid to answer these questions?

I'm going to assert that our worst case scenarios HAVE ALREADY HAPPENED. Consider New Orleans in the wake of the levee failures and the paramilitary takeover.

Doesn't it seem like we had a worst case scenario there? For all the people who died in their attics, or lost their homes, or are forever poisoned from the environment, it doesn't get any worse.

The narrative that has captured our imagination and generated controversy is the "good german" myth, where rights are diminished to the point of non-existence, while everyone looks on. We imagine that we'll know when "it's fascism" by the presence of government troops and concentration camps. But, the founders of this country imagined a different worse case scenario -- tyranny in the form oligarchy and theocracy. Our laws and Constitution were written to protect the people from the concentration of wealth and political power. Who here can say that we are not yet danger regarding these threats? Who here can say that economic and political power haven't ALREADY slipped from our grasp?

What if the shit hit the fan a long time ago and we're not noticing it because we've grown accustomed to the constant stream of poo covering our cultural landscape? "Good german" scenarios warn against the loss of freedom. So, can someone please tell me what freedom it is that you are afraid of losing? Can you put that "freedom" in plain sight so that we can guard it more carefully? Because, think we have basic misunderstanding. The Good German Syndrome is the fear of complicity in the face of loss of freedom. I think our problem is more serious and talk about "freedom" is meaningless. Our problem is that we've lost our POWER, not our FREEDOM.

Our problem is that we've lost our POWER, not our FREEDOM.

We can speak all we want. We can speak in "free speech zones." We can speak if we don't mind being tasered. We can march in mass demonstrations if we aren't too afraid of being caught in the middle of a melee. We can post on DU, as long as we don't mind that the telecomms are keeping track of everything we say. We have freedom of movement as long as we don't mind cavity searches if we show up on a secret "no-fly" list.

We have freedom-in-quotation-marks in spades.

The problem is we have no power to be heard because our government has no interest in speech that doesn't come in an envelope with a large donation.

We have no power to be heard.

Does money equal speech, as the Supreme Court will likely rule 5-to-4 for the rest of our lifetimes? If corporations enjoy "freedom of speech" via money (which I have very little of), then, how likely is it that my speech will be heard?

Earlier this week, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi lamented her inability to arrest those exercising free speech outside her Bay Area mansion. Do you think, if those wishing to be heard, came bearing giant corporate donations, that they'd be outside building buddahs? No, they'd be inside being heard. Forget about having the power to compete against the deafening ka-ching of lobbyist checks being cashed. We no longer even have the commodious tolerance for speech (even in San Francisco!), by our so-called Democratic leadership. Were that we were homeless, indeed.

Freedom is nothing without POWER, and we're starting to realize just how vulnerable this has made us. Discussing "what if" and "worst case" scenarios is a response to our loss of power. It makes perfect sense to take inventory of our assets and formulate a response in the face of another, larger, deeper catastrophe -- such as the "World War 3" Bush says is "worth starting" in Iran.

I think we've already been "rounded up." We're fed-up, and we're not going to take it anymore. Our discussions at this point are about REGAINING POWER -- not pre-empting a disaster.

We have already been "rounded up."

Read more discussion here.

14 comments:

redsock said...

There is a ton of meat in that discussion and I urge everyone to take a look.

Two bits, one on page 1 from Corvidaerex:

To be fair, all of this stuff has been going on for 120+ years in America -- the labor wars and Farm Holiday movements and strikebusters and Pinkertons and concentration camps for socialists, to mention just a few bright moments in American History, make today's America look tame by comparison. And when I say "tame," I mostly mean the level of dissent.

Actually, when you take into consideration such horrors as the slavery of Africans, the genocide of the Native tribes and the crushing of early anarchist and anti-tax crusades such as the Whiskey Rebellion, there was *never* a time when America was "free." This country was simply less oppressive and less class-anchored than the grim starvation of post-serfdom Industrial Revolution Europe.

I had a moment of clarity a few weeks ago, reading some histories of the Great Depression and the wild fever of socialist revolution throughout urban Canada and the USA: It suddenly became clear why the communist witch hunts of the McCarthy era happened. It was because we were *this close* to socialist revolution in America in the 1930s.

Jesus, there were foreclosed farmers showing up with NOOSES at the courthouse, to hang the judges. Working people read all the Red papers, which were distributed across the country by working people riding the boxcars. Rural men -- today's loyal "conservatives" -- would disarm sheriffs and Pinkertons, sometimes violently. Scabs working the ports were literally stomped to death by union men. Millionaires (today's billionaires) would flee to walled compounds while their private armies fought the workers. ...

****************

And this bit from the original poster on page 3 is quite good:

... people unconsciously and automatically approach everything as consumers now. The whole notion of "personal choices" being what politics is about is one very destructive manifestation of this. Listen to what people say - "I'm not buying it" and "what are you selling?" people say when rejecting someone else's ideas. Everything is judged in a context of whether or not people are buying it - as though it were a consumer item - and the more people who buy it, the more important it must be. To change society, we think that we need to advertise and market and sell a different product and change people's buying habits.

Since everyone has the God-given freedom to their own little personal choices, and since that is presumed to be the only valid type of freedom, the only way we can think of social change is to change people's preferences so that they will make different choices - exactly the approach that corporate marketers use. This ensures that no collective action can every be considered, let alone organized. We have been bombarded by advertising for decades now promoting this "have it your way" and "where do you want to go today?" and "you deserve a break" and your won personal this, and your own personal that, and the products and ideas that "fit your lifestyle" way of looking at everything. We have internalized it and become unaware of it.

Every consumer choice is as valid as any other - "I like Pepsi, you may like Coke" - and that has led to every philosophy and belief being seen as supposedly equally valid as well to any other, as well. Since in each case the choice is a personal preference rather than a rational thought, if it is criticized people are outraged and feel personally attacked.

Most of what we call political ideas, or ideologies, or philosophies, are not. They are personal preferences, likes and dislikes, that we are "choosing." That is consumerism, and it has permeated every aspect of our lives and all of our thinking. We can only think of politics in terms of sales, marketing, advertising and consumerism models. That context - unique to this time and place - is accepted by most people as "the truth" about how life works: one big marketplace where everything is for sale, everything has a price, and where our only freedom or power lies in making personal choices from the merchandise on the shelf.

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L-girl said...

Thanks, Allan!

It suddenly became clear why the communist witch hunts of the McCarthy era happened. It was because we were *this close* to socialist revolution in America in the 1930s.

I wouldn't necessarily link these two, as McCarthyism wasn't about a credible socialist threat, and that so-called threat was completely dead by the 50s.

But there certainly was a time in the US when socialism was a powerful social force. It was mostly in the early 20th Century, and then again in the 30s. I recommend the book It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the US. I learned a lot about the US from reading this.

L-girl said...

Excellent post about consumerism! That's a very smart articulation of one of the ways consumer culture has deadened political thought and action.

M@ said...

The idea of consumerism in American political discourse is really interesting. Unfortunately similar ideas do pervade the border, with the tide of American culture rolling into Canada constantly.

Do you guys see the same extent of that mindset in Canada? I don't think Canada's national mythos includes the same ideas of rugged individualism, the Lone Ranger and such, that the USA's does, and while we're probably similarly consumerist, I don't know if I would extend that to politics. Otherwise, why would programs like universal health care, national day care, and employment insurance and leave for new parents be so readily accepted and defended by Canadians? Maybe I'm being naive. (It can't happen here!)

As to whether the USA is a fascist state under its (thinner and thinner) veneer of democracy... a lot of oppressive countries make a big show of how "democratic" they are (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, anyone?). Why would the USA be any different?

L-girl said...

Do you guys see the same extent of that mindset in Canada?

Not to the same extent, no - but as with so many differences between the two cultures, it's often a matter of degree.

I hear very apolitical, unaware people talk about all the great shopping they think they're missing in the US - and imply that that makes the US so much better than Canada.

It's one of the recurrent patterns I encounter when I say I'm from the US. They say "Why would you want to move here? We all want to move there!" Then they laugh like it's so hilarious.

When I ask them why they say that, it's always about shopping.

I politely ask them if they'd rather have more places to shop or guaranteed free health care. Or live in a country that spends all its money on useless wars.

Then they laugh like that is so hilarious.

If I can break through to seriousness, they will agree that Canada seems to be a better place for the average person to live than the US. They are always pro health care and anti war! But it takes a while to get to that. Their first focus is the cheap shopping they did while visiting relatives in Florida.

I hear this from co-workers, people in stores, neighbours. I guess I should post about it sometime.

But on the other hand, I see lots and lots that contradicts this, that shows Canadians much more engaged in their government than people in the US, and their efforts reinforced by seeing that for the most part, their system is working.

So it's a mixed bag, IMO.

L-girl said...

As to whether the USA is a fascist state under its (thinner and thinner) veneer of democracy... a lot of oppressive countries make a big show of how "democratic" they are (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, anyone?). Why would the USA be any different?

Indeed. But Americans are so utterly indoctrinated to believe in American exceptionalism. They can't conceive of it any other way.

M@ said...

When I ask them why they say that, it's always about shopping.

I'm actually a little surprised about that. I know that attitude exists but I wouldn't have expected anyone to say they'd move to the USA for the shopping. I guess on the minor, personal level, that's what the USA is to most Canadians -- a giant, inconvenient to get to, and cheaper mall.

I guess I should post about it sometime.

Indeed!

But Americans are so utterly indoctrinated to believe in American exceptionalism. They can't conceive of it any other way.

It's truly amazing to see how deeply held this whole construct is.

L-girl said...

I guess I should post about it sometime.

Indeed!


In fact, tomorrow. :)

But Americans are so utterly indoctrinated to believe in American exceptionalism. They can't conceive of it any other way.

It's truly amazing to see how deeply held this whole construct is.


I wish I could put into words how pervasive it is. It is the very air they breathe.

M said...

What Jeff says about consumerism is what I see to be a huge part of the problem (although it all goes back to extreme capitalism). Not only does all this emphasis on materialism sort of replace actual democratic representation (for everyone, not just those who can afford it) with "consumer choice" but I also think it has degraded the social fabric of the US in many ways. I think that's part of why we're more susceptable to believing all this fake news (and be further advertised to and be further scared into whatever).

If you are a liberal you are a commie-pinko-whacko-moonbat and made to feel like you're betraying America and people think you want to turn the US into the USSR so it makes it that much harder to speak out/have power (and of course white men don't want to be "faggy" like the left...kind of ironic). People are talking through the net and figuring some things out but buying power is social survival and many think that's the way it should be apparently (the just-world myth?). I'm shocked at how many people (once again, a high percentage of older white men) seem to believe that bad things happen to people who deserve them and anyone and everyone could be a millionaire if only they tried.

We have been kept stupid and ego-centric and even when we do wake up and try to participate our representatives have this idea that their jobs are to make decisions FOR us, do what's in our best interest, like a parent-child dynamic. We make it easy to ignore us because we've given up expecting to be heard or because we're too busy shopping or working. Our psyche is broken, not just our system.

lucie said...

Hi l-girl, this has nothing to do with the post but I just wanted to let you know that I finally got PR, after 19 months (14 of them while in Canada with a work permit). I hope one day we'll meet because your blog was a great inspiration when I first started thinking that I could live in Canada one day!

lucie.

L-girl said...

M, thanks for the very insightful comment.

L-girl said...

Lucie, congratulations!!! That's terrific news!

I hope one day we'll meet because your blog was a great inspiration when I first started thinking that I could live in Canada one day!

Wow, thank you so much for saying so. Hopefully we'll see you at wmtc3 this June.

redsock said...

Just a note that Jeff Wells (Mr. RI) did not start that thread. He posts as Jeff (and is listed as an administrator) -- I don't think he even commented in that discussion.

Further to the consumer angle, the discussion of presidential campaigns always centers on "who won today" or "who scored points on his/her opponent" or "who made the best quip of the day" -- the handicapping of the race has become the totality of the coverage.

L-girl said...

the handicapping of the race has become the totality of the coverage

I wonder if Canadians realize this. There is no coverage of issues anymore in the MSM - it's only coverage of the campaigns themselves.

So many Americans have grown up with this that they don't even realize how inappropriate and meaningless it is.

Allan, thank you for clarifying that re Jeff Wells. I was wondering why a commenter mentioned the name Jeff, when I hadn't seen that name in the stuff I quoted. Ah-ha.