Facing Despair and the Move Towards Authoritarianism

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

There have been a spate of articles in places as varied as the WaPo, Huffington Post, and the usual places where leftists publish articles (CounterPunch, TruthDig, here, and so on) about what is at stake in this election. Most of these articles do not tell us to vote for Obama but rather to seek some kind of alternative at best and something close to despair at worst. One of the best of these articles by Henry Giroux (Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism) has just been posted on CounterPunch. This article should be read by all here and offers about as exhausting an analysis as you could want on where we are at politically at this point in time.

Here Giroux provides a clear statement:

A catalogue of indicting evidence reveals the depth and breadth of the war being waged against the social state, and particularly against young people. Beyond exposing the moral depravity of a nation that fails to protect its young, such a war speaks to nothing less than a perverse death-wish, a barely masked desire for self-annihilation-as the wilful destruction of an entire generation not only transforms U.S. politics into pathology, but is sure to signal the death-knell for America’s future.  How much longer will the American public have to wait before the nightmare comes to an end?

None of these articles provide us with a viable course of action (Giroux may be an exception), not because there isn’t one as I’ve often pointed out, but that, from a cultural perspective it is out of the question. For example, I have, for  years, made the point that power comes from organized, committed and focused communities who are willing to go to the barricades if necessary to assert themselves. I’ve suggested communities, communes, cooperatives, and even creating leftist-oriented corporations either for-profit or non-profit. From that base power can evolve and be used to influence public policy. At this point in history the cultural reality is that people who profess leftist views can’t or won’t cooperate with each other but prefer to live, in large part, fairly atomized lives with occasional bursts of spontaneous chaotic action (Wisconsin and Occupy) during which they fill themselves with fantasies and illusions about their own sense of righteousness.  Much of the fantasy around Occupy went like this: “isn’t it obvious that we represent the 99% and once we get out in the streets most people will join us.” Well that didn’t happen, in fact, most people, on balance, opposed these efforts in part because they were chaotic and disorganized and thus inspired little respect or trust with people who know, as a pragmatic reality, that that is not how the world works.  

I welcome the general sense of gloom that has descended on leftist intellectuals because it is a sign that reality is finally intruding into the world of fantasies the left has been living in since Obama was elected. Most thoughtful intellectuals see that Obama is, basically, a center-right President whose main interest is maintaining the status-quo and recognize that the Republican Party is a party of the extreme right, not much different in terms of its appeal to chauvinism, nativism, selfishness, prejudice, and racism from traditional extremists on the right who feature these attitudes plus, of course, the notion that violence and repression solves all problems. This set of political arrangements re-enforced by the MSM which I prefer to call “propaganda organs” has to lead anyone to despair who truly believes in the future and the general historical trend in Western Civilization that features liberalism (in the old sense), reason, scientific method, and respect for “higher” development of human beings as shown by an appreciation for the arts and those more subtle parts of our nature indicated by those arts.

The the historical movement is not primarily fueled by some evil conspiracy of oligarchs to make slaves of all of us. Sure many of them are always focused on that but in our history there has always been a balance between extreme greed and some sense of public morality among many if not most influential oligarchs. Without those people providing the push there would have been no progressive era, no New Deal, no spectacular narrowing of income differential starting after WWII that went on until the late seventies. But in our globalized age fewer and fewer oligarchs truly have that sense of allegiance to community or country–they, instead, have an affinity for their fellows in other countries.

What most leftist writers, to one degree or another, seem to miss (though Giroux makes this clear) is that this movement toward the totalitarian right is either supported or tacitly supported by at least half the American people and certainly the majority of Americans classified as “white.” Few tend to understand that most Americans do not sympathize with traditional progressive ideas. Few, even Giroux, care to look deeply into why that is the case while I believe that it is essential to understand why the forces of repression and what was once considered evil is now in ascendancy. Without understanding the cause of people wanting to throw out both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution we cannot have the compassion to understand what is driving people into the arms of sociopaths and criminals.

If there’s any interest here I would like to explore the results of my observations on what is driving Americans crazy–because that is what I think is happening. In fact, the WHO pronounced the U.S. to be the most mentally unhealthy major country in the world. This isn’t just a product of national policies but is a product of our everyday life and the values we hold.

Having said that I’d like to move to some moves towards solutions and I feature Giroux here because he’s one of the few who actually have produced realistic avenues for change:

Addressing such challenges suggests that progressives will invariably need to take on the role of educational activists. One option would be to create micro-spheres of public education that further modes of critical learning and civic agency, and thus enable young people and others to learn how to govern rather than be governed. This could be accomplished through a network of free educational spaces developed among diverse faith communities and public schools, as well as in secular and religious organizations affiliated with higher educational institutions.

As background Giroux quotes Aranowitz on a major reason the left has abandoned its post:

Stanley Aronowitz rightly insists that the current “system survives on the eclipse of the radical imagination, the absence of a viable political opposition with roots in the general population, and the conformity of its intellectuals who, to a large extent, are subjugated by their secure berths in the academy; less secure private sector corporate jobs, and centrist and center-left media institutions.”


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    • banger on August 27, 2012 at 18:51


  1. “At this point in history the cultural reality is that people who profess leftist views can’t or won’t cooperate with each other but prefer to live, in large part, fairly atomized lives with occasional bursts of spontaneous chaotic action (Wisconsin and Occupy)…”

    The physical and economic structures of the suburban nightmare represent basic life support systems, inherently hard to abandon, for those few willing to entertain the idea of abandonment of their narrative.  Relative newcomers to politics may become cognizant of the nightmare of Bernanke and yet root for him nonetheless.  They cannot turn their mortgage into a farm, anymore than they can turn a job writing software into blacksmithy.

    I know this mortgage broker couple from SoCal who went flat-ass broke…I told them 4+ years ago over a campfire that real estate was not coming back, but they ended up spending all their savings until it did not come back.  I graduated from idiot to idiot-savant in their eyes.  My brother the retired cop hasn’t a worry in the world about his pension.  I’m still in idiot territory as far as he is concerned.

    Even when you can convince that rare individual that things are “haywire,” they feel glued to the devil narrative they know.  

    Look at Daily Kos, full of aware, competent people, and yet it’s a fucking partisan disgrace.  William Catton referred to the phenomenon of “hemi-neglect,”


    as an analogy to denial.  I was thinking exactly the same thing that day I read Catton’s article.  Except I suspect that “hemi-neglect” is more than an analogy for denial; i.e., it’s the same mechanism, emitted from narratives/belief systems.

    The history of evolution is the history of extinction.  Those who do change may form daughter populations in the great die-off.  Or not.

    Things will play out by elimination.  

    This is not a knock against the cooperative spirit, or group selection.  I’m in favor, for what it’s worth.

    Good to see you around, Banger.

  2. because I think it’s very good.  

    Our candidates are not selected by the people, they are selected by the bankers, the military/industrial complex, Big Pharma, Big Oil, AIPAC, CFR and their minions in the media. They control BOTH parties and supposedly we get to choose either of their selections. Whomever wins is subservient to these power brokers and will do their bidding. In the last six decades the will of the people is thwarted when it comes up against the power elite. The great majority of people opposed getting into WWII, getting into Korea, getting into Vietnam, the Panama Canal giveaway, the Kelo Decision, NAFTA, the banker bailout, open borders, removing the Ten Commandments from public venues, etc, etc.Currently, about 66% oppose the war in Afghanistan but no matter which puppet wins, the wars will continue. Flip-Flop, who was a missionary to stay out of Vietnam and whose offspring never wore a uniform, wants to increase the military budget by 20% and attack Iran. Chickenhawks like him, Ghoul-ianni, and Dickhead Cheney did everything they could to keep their fannies out of Nam while becoming these warmongers when they became too old to get drafted.


    h/t Beamer200

    “removing the Ten Commandments from public venues,” is the only item I’m not sure I agree with — I believe strongly in separation of church and state.

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