Can We Fix It? Part II

Last night I wrote about a nagging thought that hangs out in the back of my head these days. Today, I think I’ll bring another one out from the dank recesses and let it see the light of day. I was actually spurred to do so by this bit from a diary at Who Is IOZ:

In any event, the notion that Bush isn’t a moron is a form of national self-flattery. At its root is the belief that he can’t be a moron because if he were, that would mean that the American people, our government and institutions, allowed ourselves to be conquered by a moron. It would mean that the whole edifice of Western Democracy, centuries in the making, is cheaper than a backlot set. It would mean that the fruits of the political Enlightenment were finally plucked and chucked onto the compost heap with no more effort than it takes to nickname some reporters, shamble around, talk with an aw-shucks accent, and produce some decent war pornography. It would mean that the founders were right to fear democracy and their descendents wrong to give it to us.

emphasis mine

The thought that roams around in the back of my head is to wonder whether or not a democratic republic can actually work. To my view, we have already proven that it is not working in this particular time and place. The question for me is if it can ever work – or at least whether or not it can work on the scale of a country the size of the US.

Sometimes I go round and round with blame for why its not working. Is it the public who doesn’t care, is it the media that feeds us dribble, is it the military/industrial complex that just has all the power and we might as well just lay down and accept it? Or maybe its all those things? Or maybe we just have a system whose time has come and gone. And we need to start from scratch and create something new.

I don’t have answers to these questions. But it does make me think of a few lines from the book The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen where he is having a conversation with a friend about the similarities between corporations and hate groups:

He said, “They’re cousins.”
I just listened.
“Nobody talks about this,” he said, “but they’re branches from the same tree, different forms of the same cultural imperative…”
“Which is?”
“To rob the world of its subjectivity.”
“Wait – ” I said.
“Or to put this another way,” he continued, ” to turn everyone and everything into objects.”

As long as our government is so removed from us, we will remain objects. We might think we know those who are representing us – the same way we think we know Brittany or Paris – but its all just an illusion created for us by the media.

I think that in order for any form of government “of the people” to work, we need to re-create the subjectivity that is represented by REAL connections with REAL people. In this case, our “bigger is better” mentality would have to bite the dust.

One thing that I’ve learned professionally over the last 15 years as the director of a small non-profit is that any success we’ve had in meeting our mission has been the result of us staying small enough so that we, as a group, are all connected to one another. I witness those large non-profits where the people and mission become objectified and know that I could never be a part of that. Perhaps that’s just my style, but I have a hunch that its more than that.

Right now this sense of subjectivity seems mysterious and spiritual to me. Perhaps what we have never studied scientifically always seems mysterious and spiritual. But there is clearly a power that comes in KNOWING one another that is lost once we are objectified.

Right now in my line of work we talk alot about children who have “attachment disorder.” This is usually the result of serious neglect and trauma children experience early in their lives that breaks the bonds of trust with caregivers and leads to mental health issues for them as they grow up. As I meld that with our current cultural and political landscape, I often wonder if we aren’t all a bit “attachment disordered” as a result of embracing this kind of objectification. And it is only our real connections with each other and the natural world that will save us.

I’m not sure where that leaves me in wondering about effective political structures. But I do think it might point the way to some basics we need to work on in order to begin the healing that would lead to the answers.


Skip to comment form

  1. thought, wave links most of the last six years.
    I have also come to the conclusion,
    that the government has not changed but that the people have woke up to all the propaganda we have been fead sense World war II.
    At the end of WW II this country stared patting themselves on the back (of witch they had the right) but it has never stopped
    Too my way of thinking. Know one, no how, can be as good and as grate as we have been told for the last 62 years
    So some crooks moved in and took advantage of our blindness

  2. But that does not diminish my thought process
    or maybe it does

    ..^  ^

  3. says a lot about us as a nation.  Although I believe there is ample evidence out there to conclude that both elections were stolen, the election shouldn’t have been close enough to steal. 

    Too many Americans are proud of the fact they “go with their gut” when they vote.  They prefer simple black-and-white “common sense” solutions to complex problems.  I think it is because they can then feel as smart (or smarter) than those “intellectual elites” without having to do any of the hard work of actually studying the issues.

    Bush reminds me of Chance the Gardener in “Being There”.  (Or maybe more accurately, he reminds me of Chance’s evil twin.)  Bush says something decidedly simple, stupid, and moronic…and people take it as some sort of gospel message to be repeated over and over as the new mantra du jour.  –Although I do think he finally jumped the shark with ‘return on success.’  I don’t think anyone can even pretend to understand what that one means!

  4. since 1776. They had the printing press. We have mass media and multinational corporations that have been granted personhood. The system as now stands is rigged and is heavily insulated from us, with double and triple redundancy built in. George was not elected, he was appointed in 2000. In 2004 I do not think he won either (see Iowa and Kenneth Blackwell). He was put there by larger forces, Rove and Cheney among them.

    It’s realistic that Democracies perish and rise with huge social, ecological, and technical changes that we’ve had. The problem is, we haven’t seen anything yet. The rate of change is going off the chart as we speak.

  5. … is what you say here:

    I think that in order for any form of government “of the people” to work, we need to re-create the subjectivity that is represented by REAL connections with REAL people. In this case, our “bigger is better” mentality would have to bite the dust.

    I think one of the reasons so many of us get into blogging is because we miss that real connection with real people.  Our government and media have failed us, as well as our workplaces and even the markeplace (i.e., giant malls, chain stores and restaurants, etc.).

    I found IOZ’s post to be shallow — I don’t agree with that kind of “faux angry” writing.  It presumes the author is somehow outside of the culture from which s/he is writing, and that’s simply untrue.  Sure, we’re all angry.  But the piece you linked to above does not take into account the reality of how a stupid person like George W. Bush was put in to office.

    It certainly wasn’t his leadership ability.  It was the end result of 30 years of steady and well financed work by the neocons, and Bush is their figurehead — much as Reagan was in the ’80’s.  Hell, we had a senile President, why not a stupid one?  The IOZ post simply calls everyone fools and idiots — except, of course, for some mythical group of hipper-than-thou folks who always knew exactly what was going on.  No, I don’t think that’s the case.  Even the hippest of us was flattened by the stealthy rise of the neocon billion-dollar plan that brought us to where we are now.

    I think you have a better take on what is going on.  The lack of real connection between real people.  I can indulge in snark and sarcasm as well as anyone else — but this problem transcends clever retorts, imo.  We need to connect with each other — individually and in groups.

    And I think the way things are set up now in our country, making those connection is deliberately made difficult by the powers that be whose best interests lie in keeping us divided, whether that be by ethnicity, class, or culture.

  6. I’ve been wrestling with ideas about “tall poppy syndrome” and enforced mediocrity, but hadn’t quite yet come to understand how a theft of the Subjective–of Self–actually prevents meaningful connection, while suggesting that people are interchangeable. Powerful action by small groups becomes impossible if we can’t find each other, and we can’t find each other if we’re afraid to show true colors.

    Corporate power and money–something which (arguably) has never existed before in quite this it exists today–seems to systematize and promote mediocrity above and beyond what nature dictates. Instead of organic, natural mediocrity corresponding to the bell curve of people, we have a kind of enforced, glorified focus on it.

    Pandering to the hump of the bell curve makes money because that’s where all the people are. It’s just market economics, love it or loathe it. But systematically pulling down educational systems, proclaiming through all media that Crap is indeed King, that Moronic is the New Cool (and furthermore, that excellence is for sissy liberal queers and girls), really starts sucking the life and resources away from the marginal excellence and uniqueness that nature produces and society might otherwise nurture.

    Without clear markers of individuality–including intellect and talent–how on earth do we find each other? We’re not modular, plug-and-play parts in a machine. No one is completely average. To be effective in groups, we must self-select, and we can’t do that without our subjectivity.

  7. … attachment disorder. The technical term for this in a society, as opposed to an individual person, is “suburb”.

  8. nasty stuff, I’ve been immersing myself in finance media for months.

    Two comments elsewhere to consider, as to the stuckness of it all:
    here and here.

    People aren’t following the money enough yet.  That is where it really becomes intractable.

Comments have been disabled.