Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Triumph of Apathy

I want to believe in people, that the human race is capable to taking care of itself and cleaning up after our own messes. I want to believe in democracy, or at least a responsible, representative government. It just seems now that the prevailing sentiment is "every man for himself". It's all about the individual, everyone looking out for No. 1. There seems to be this cynical, anti-government, arch-reactionary movement that seems to have taken over the conservative mindset, which would be tolerable if they hadn't elected someone like Donald Trump to the highest political office in the world.

Yes, the American Revolution is generally considered to be a conservative revolution, but their Founding Fathers had some ingenious ideas about how to keep government from becoming too powerful (keeping government branches separate and independent of each other being just two examples). Of course, there were times that different levels of government knowingly violated the Constitution, denied doing so, and tried to cover it up, but for over 200 years, law, order, and justice did prevail overall. The Republic is still standing; the biggest question now is:  for how much longer?

How did it come to this? How was it possible for a man like this to be elected president? The common thread that I can see is sheer stupidity. How did so many middle and working-class Americans become so stupid, so politically illiterate, and in effect, voting against their own interests, not even counting the interests of people abroad? (Please note:  there is plenty of stupidity to go around in the Western world, here in Canada, and England [cough: Brexit]) We have SO many people and things to blame for this (in no particular order).

  • Television (particularly so-called "reality TV")
  • neo-conservatives/neo-liberals
  • liberals
  • this medium

When I first saw the Robert Redford directed film "Quiz Show" about the TV game show fixes of the 1950s, John Tutorro's character Herb Stempel said something near the end about how television was "going to get us", I had no idea how that was possible. Yes, I know that that particular medium has made people stupider over time, and I even think I watched that movie just as "Survivor" became a thing (I only watched the second season in the Australian Outback just out of curiosity) and was somewhat aware that that and so-called "reality TV" in general is mostly fakery and as scripted as professional wrestling, but who could have foreseen that it would make everyone so much stupider and easier to deceive and mislead? This is what government and corporate interests have tried to do for so long, and it would appear that they have ultimately succeeded. And of course, the fact that just about everyone who has been around since the late 1980s and has had access to a TV knows who Donald Trump is.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks seemed to unleash a volcanic eruption of anger that had been building up for years among the American people. The conservative movement seemed to have had tempered their collective rage until then, and when George W. Bush and Tony Blair decided to invade Iraq, the conservative movement became hyper-defensive; they were finally raging back at all the America-bashing that had been going on throughout the world for decades, among allied countries as well as communist countries. This time though, the ruling American conservatives seemed so completely full of themselves like I had never seen before, and I had lived through the Reagan years. Their stated goals were to basically establish free-market liberal democracies all over the world starting in Iraq and Afghanistan, because the American way was the best way (not a direct quote, but that in a nutshell was the ethos they were operating under). Basically, it was 'freedom and capitalism for all races, religions and creeds, and if you disagree with us, you hate freedom and are guilty of the soft bigotry of lower expectations' (again, I'm paraphrasing). 

After the Iraq invasion, things did not go as the allies had hoped. Even though the U.S. and England overthrew a brutal dictator, the situation in Iraq did not improve overall in spite of some apparent turns of good fortune earlier on. Some have even said that the current situation is worse than it ever was under Saddam Hussein. The American Right has seemed to react in a sort of indignation towards helping anyone anymore. These days, they stress individualism and national sovereignty, and have a deep-seated loathing for government and all things political, taking to heart an extreme and new-fangled form of libertarianism where anyone who works for any level of government is automatically tainted with corruption. But people who run their own businesses, particularly if they're successful, are not nearly as bad; and some conservatives would rather be governed by them than actual politicians. In fact, one of the surest ways for anyone wanting to get elected to public office these days is if they express sheer contempt for not just the current administration, but for politics in general. It's like people want to vote people into office who will basically shut down the government altogether. The best thing to be for someone these days, who wants to run for President, is someone who had never run for public office before and is a "successful" businessman. Someone who is completely untainted by politics, and is a living testament to everything we can hope for in a capitalist society. The conservative movement, even those who profess to be religious, seem to have lowered their standards for people who run for office, just as long as they do not fit the current political mode, and wilfully overlook his blatant rudeness, thin-skin, and generally sleazy ways.

Liberals themselves have little to be proud of. All they could offer against Trump was Hilary Clinton. Putting aside for a moment that she seems to embody everything wrong with politics, I like to think that if the Democrats had chosen anyone else who did not have all the baggage that Mrs. Clinton had, the world would be a much safer, saner place today. Liberals also need to heighten their standards as well. The fact that her husband Bill definitely had sexual relations with "that woman" while he was in office was not the worst part of that sordid affair, but the fact that he had lied to Congress about it under oath, and to the American people in a televised address as well. That was a major contributor to the cynicism we are seeing today for politics and politicians. Nobody's word is good for anything anymore. We expect people to swear to things up and down and know that they're lying. Also, there is the issue of "political correctness". It was a good idea at the time, but like any good idea, it was taken too far, and people were tainted with accusations of racism if they disagreed with liberals on certain points.Remember that old fable about the Boy Who Cried Wolf? It seems that these days, the wolves have come out of hiding and have taken control of the entire farm.

On a side note, you know liberal California? There seems to be some serious talk about them seceding from the Union, but how soon have we forgotten? They had elected their own non-politician as governor. You know, that guy who was a movie star (ok, it had worked before), who was foreign-born, but had married into the Kennedy family, and was an "alleged" serial groper? You had voted him in TWICE.

Then there is this:  the thing where you are most likely reading this post from. The Internet. Where people get most of their 'information' these days. You can pretty much look up anything that corresponds with your point of view, and find "proof" that it is true. First we had "alternative science", particularly when it comes to medicine, now we have "alternative facts". It's all there online, and you can find "proof" of just about anything you can imagine. If the official word is that thing you believe in is false, then it's some kind of conspiracy, either by government, Big Pharma, or George Soros. There are so many different interpretations of facts and outright disinformation out there, it seems impossible to know where to start. People these days seem to have given up on independent verification of facts, or even if anything is true. So we may as well elect that guy who was on TV because we are familiar with his face (particularly the hair).

As I said in the beginning, I want to believe that people en masse are able to take care of themselves; and I want to add that people do not need to be ruled by any kind of dictatorship or have everything we do regulated and monitored, and have all of our important decisions made for us by an unaccountable or possibly hidden body. For over 200 years, the United States of America has come as close as any nation ever has to achieving what I thought until recently were relatively modest goals. But when enough people have become so ill-educated and easily fooled, have given up on the search for truth and watch people tell blatant lies with total impunity, think that "no one's word is good for nothin'", and lose the ability to care about anything outside their own country, city, or even outside themselves:  life will turn into a survivalist Hobbesian free-for-all ruled by the stupid and ignorant. It seems to be happening throughout the Western world, civilization is crumbling at an accelerated pace. Is it too late for people to smarten up? It would be wonderful if there were actually a "cure for stupid".

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