Sunday, March 25, 2007

FOR THE CHILDREN

Over on Shakespeare's Sister (http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2007/03/very-definition-of-grasping-at-straws.html) is a Post about Gonzales now claiming that he can’t resign because he’s “protecting the children”. Paul the Spud, the Poster, opines that this is an unmistakable sign that Quaint Al is circling the drain.

I’d say so and may all the gods hasten the happy day. But let’s not forget that our own ‘liberal’ Darthine Vader – Janet Reno – said exactly the same thing when her prior exploratory bullplop explanations for the murderous pig-up at Waco deflated like so many piñatas. She was afraid that the children were being ‘abused’. Ach so, she therefore had to send in her police-troops and effectively killed them all. The children had to be killed in order to save them from ‘abuse’ – it’s OK, because it worked with villages in Vietnam … or would have if the libbul media hadn’t stabbed the army in the back. It was that ‘Dolchstoss’ that lost the war. Ja. Yah.

Doing it ‘for the children’ is a classic example of how a well-intentioned stampede winds up taking out the whole of Main Street, and maybe the entire damned town.

It began innocently enough, in the late ‘70s when in response to a missing child in New York (if I remember correctly) suddenly led to a wildfire of missing-kids; dozens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, were said – in the media – to be wandering the streets of the country every single day. Pictures began to appear on milk cartons – where they remain even unto now. Children were missing because ‘families’ and ‘parents’ were beating them or emotionally maltreating them – was the way things were put.

Nobody at the time realized that this was the first exercise of a new strategy developed by a new synergy: the media – still riding high after its Watergate days – would ‘adopt’ a particular Cause and give it a full-court press: ‘advocacy journalism’. From now on the serious journalistic work would create floods of selective reporting: all the stuff that puts the Cause and its proponents in the best possible light, none of the stuff – however true – that would de-idealize them; all of the stuff that puts the Cause’s designated ‘enemy’ in a bad light, none of the stuff – however accurate - that would show any complicating nuance or complexity.

Back then most people still thought that – with Vietnam and Watergate now over – the ‘news’ was just that: the media reporting on what of public interest happened during the day. ‘News’ happened on its own, and the media – ever alert and vigilant – simply responded to those developments by reporting them to folks as accurately as they could.

Nobody realized at the time that the media had gotten bored with all that and had quietly decided that ‘news’ and ‘reporting’ would now reflect what the media thought the public should be interested in. After all, just a decade before, the teeny-Boomers had declared the over-30 crowd to be dull, conformist, materialist, obedient, unimaginative, passive drones in grey flannel suits or aprons, willingly allowing their lives to be fenced-in by laws, authority, abstractions, and all the other stuff that would get in the way of spending a nice summer afternoon without many clothes on getting high in the fresh, sun-warmed grass and making various kinds of hay.

And worse, that ‘news’ was now defined as whatever would help this or that Cause. First the public would be channeled down a particular path, and then they would be given no choice about what they would be ‘fed’ – the herd would take what it got and respond only to that fodder.

And since the ‘fodder’, that ‘news’, was kind of not quite accurate or at least complete – then the public’s response could not be one of asking questions, because the ‘news’ really couldn’t stand up to questioning, not to put too fine a point on it. Better that folks just signed over their ‘concern’, their ‘sensitivity’, their ‘outrage’, their ‘approval’ and let the ‘experts’ – the advocacies and the main-stream media – get on with the actual work of dealing with the problem/crisis/outrage du jour.

The ‘lost children’ craze didn’t last too long on the front pages. But within a year or two, in the very early 1980s, there were suddenly the pre-school sex scandals. Things got worse: now the children were not ‘missing’ but were being maltreated – and sexually maltreated.

And and and: if you doubted that numerous cabals of perverted adults were sexually maltreating children, if you asked questions of the children as to the dragons and other mythical creatures, if you questioned the ‘science’ of interpreting children’s playing with anatomical dolls and drawing stuff, then you were not simply behind the times – you were probably one of the cabal members yourself. It wasn’t so far from the way folks had dealt with suspected ‘communists’ in the suburbs in the 1950s. And in terms of the psychology of the society and deformation of jurisprudence, there were some uncomfortable echoes of Salem in 1692 and even Germany in the early 1930s. But those points never got much ‘coverage’; they weren’t ‘news’ – the dragons were the news. Thus went Truth. And the media did it ‘for the children’.

Onward through the 1980s during which there was a little bit of a subject-matter sidetrack, as violence against women became a Cause. Now don’t get me wrong: it was a legitimate problem that needed to be looked at and things needed to be fixed. But the media/advocacy synergy was simultaneously demanding wide and deep changes while revving up public passion and choking off public discourse and deliberation.

A Congress increasingly unable to alter the declining economic status of most voters and unable to take many clear and ‘high’ stands on issues without risk of alienating a crucial fraction of increasingly unstable voter blocs, simply responded to whatever ‘outrage’ the public was perceived to be expressing at the moment, happily deforming law and jurisprudence and accepting as fact some mighty questionable ‘science’, in order to be seen to be earning its keep.

The Democrats – desperate to recover the lost voters of the 1960s (the Southrons and the industrial workers) – hoped that they could spin the assorted Revolutions of the Identities as mere extensions of both the classic New Deal franchise and the Civil Rights promises that had been made in the Civil War period. But too much of what the assorted advocacies demanded was not easily and widely acceptable as ‘progress’, and – having taken a page from the old ‘facts on the ground’ playbook – neither the advocacies nor their media synergists were going to let too much ‘public’ deliberation and discussion get in the way of what had to be done. After all, in a revolution the ‘public’ – by definition not privy to the bright illuminations of the revolutionaries themselves – is there to be led, not to be listened to. The public and its ‘opinion’ is clay, to be shaped by the sculptors of the revolution, who would be acknowledged as visionaries and maybe liberators.

After the passage of the Violence Against Women Acts, the focus suddenly shifted again, back to ‘children’, who were now reported widely as both missing and sexually abused. The perpetrators – with a strategic and synergistic economy – were ‘men’, whether ‘strangers’ or ‘fathers’. Neither public places nor homes were, apparently, ‘safe’ for children now. Soon, schools and then churches – especially Catholic ones – were also cast as sexually unsafe and indeed downright dangerous. All of which might have been meant to remove children from the influence of the now delegitimized traditional loci of societal responsibility and instead drive ‘the children’ into the arms of the advocacies and their Identities and agendas.

In fact, it simply threw them into the arms of the State. As its species always does, the government figured a way to enhance its own power by taking advantage of circumstances. The advocacies and media having delegitimized so many of the traditional non-governmental loci of child-rearing, but not themselves having the means to take care of the children thus set adrift, the government stepped in. And not only to care for children, which gets to be a chore, and an expensive one. Rather, to expand its police power against just about everybody for the sake of ‘protecting the children’. And this was widely seen as a good thing.

And thus in the mid-1990s huge chunks of damage to jurisprudence and Constitutional praxis were wrought by a Congress and a Presidency eager to surf the wave and appear to be ‘strong’. Meanwhile, the Congress was becoming indentured to PAC and lobbyist money, the Presidency was sending jobs overseas or indulging the corporations that wanted to, the media were consuming each other in a frenzy of takeovers and monopolistic aggregations seeking profits and not Truth, and the courts – watching the whole thing – began to just let all the players do whatever they wanted to. But all the foregoing could keep the appearance of righteousness and correctness as long as they supported anything – anything at all – that was being done ‘for the children’, in the name of ‘the children’.

Whatever was done ‘for the children’ had to be ‘good’; whoever opposed something claimed to be ‘for the children’ was ‘insensitive’ and probably a ‘child abuser’ himself (almost always ‘him’). The stampede sustained itself.

And once ‘for the children’ became a trump, then it became an object of attention to any malefactor who needed a quick and fool-proof excuse to cover him/herself whenever they were found-out And that brings us to Quaint Al. Having been ‘caught’ in some mighty bad stuff, he’s now claiming immunity from consequences because he’s a key ‘protector’ of ‘the children’. Yah. We may yet see Bush claiming that he invaded Iraq so that no more ‘children’ would ever lose a parent like the ones in 9/11. To ask about the orphaned, and maimed, and killed Iraqi children will be considered the height of ‘insensitivity’ and ‘bad form’ and ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘treason’ and will prove that the questioner is (or should be) a ‘sex offender’.

Last night I watched (for the umpteenth time in my life) “Judgment at Nuremberg” from 1961. I urgently recommend it to everyone. The events it dealt with – the trial of Nazi –era judges – were less than 15 years back in time when the film was made: it was a world still physically in touch with war and tyranny, and that world was inhabited by people many of whom were still in touch with their own maturity and the seriousness of life.

I particularly invite attention to Burt Lancaster’s speech as the very-talented and morally-aware ex-judge, now a prisoner in the Nuremberg dock: he asks the court to consider what Germany was like in the very early 1930s: beset by many dangers, having lost hope in the processes of democracy (Weimar), “there was a fever in the country” (which Hitler harnessed, shaped, and wielded as the first source of his power).

It hit me last night, before I saw the Post about Quaint Al this afternoon, that there has been a ‘fever’ in this country as well. And there has been a functional – if not clearly expressed – abandonment of ‘democratic process’, of the slow, demanding process of critical thought, public deliberation, and representative decision – that has lasted now for 40 years.

And among all its deep economic and ideological frustrations, and almost as a distraction from its much larger perversities, society vigorously vents itself against a designated ‘evil other’, much as – Lancaster’s character observed – “the perverts and the Gypsies and the Jews were sacrificial lambs”, necessary and acceptable losses to redeem the fortunes of the nation and the people.

It cannot be coincidence – nor redeemable merely by ‘good intention’ – that against our most recent American “sacrificial lambs” – the newly invented category called ‘sex offenders’ – our society and our government have deployed precisely the same steps: mass arrests based on impossibly wide-defined laws unsupported by reputable science but instead justified by ‘politically correct’ ‘science’; registration requirements; residence restrictions; employment restrictions; sterilization; commitment in mental facilities with almost no hope of release … an intensifying list of violations of Western and national ideals as enshrined in centuries of Law and in the Constitution.

All on the basis of an ‘emergency’. And when does it become clear that We are heading down a certain path? That 'things' have taken a certain turn in this country?

And as Spencer Tracy’s American judge, presiding over the court, opines: could the German people actually expect to be forgiven for embracing the fantasy that ‘once the emergency was over’ then Germany and German society and the German people would quickly go back to being ‘normal’ again? That they would remain ‘normal’ even as so many unspeakable and repulsive things began to become ‘normal’ in their society?

Will this country ever be ‘normal’ again? Will it ever return to its mature and serious embrace of the principles upon which We were founded?

Gonzales has been caught rigging the dismissal of US Attorneys and then lying about it. He claims immunity from consequences because he was “protecting the children”. So far so domestic.

But he is merely echoing what his boss has been claiming since the monstrous invasion of Iraq: Bush was doing it to “protect the people” in this “emergency”. And now the evil consequences of that imbecile (if not evil and criminal) binge have so compromised Our position in the world that the generations of Americans now alive might not live long enough to see its recovery.

And in the very essence of our Constitutional ethos huge chunks have been quickly and effortlessly ripped out after 9-11 by a Congress and an Executive and a Court and a media that had all been fundamentally corrupted by the prior decades of anti-democratic and anti-Western ‘government by emergency and outrage’. And We as a People were corrupted, ‘fevered’. And are. Does anyone think that the first Patriot Act was passed so quickly simply on the impetus of 9/11’s events? The slide had already been greased, and any obstructions removed, in the prior 10 years. That’s why the thing not only passed quickly but without any substantive media (or public) objection at all. ‘Let the experts handle it’; ‘they know what they’re doing and they wouldn’t trick us and anyway it’s all in a good cause’. After 9/11 We – We The People – became ‘the children’ on whose behalf great damage would be wrought, and has been wreaked.

But this is a constitutional republic, and Our name is on the front door. We are the ultimate Authority for the wreakage. We cannot come before the ‘Nuremberg’ court of Consequences and claim that We were only ‘the victims’. Our army, Our indulgence, and even – Our children in uniform. We can no more blame it all on Bush than the German people could blame it all on Hitler.

What defense can We make? Not only for what We have permitted to be done overseas in Our name (and paid for by the blood of Our own children in uniform). But also for the assaults upon the heritage and the structures bequeathed and entrusted to Us , assaults that We have lustily or lackadaisically approved.

In the last two lines of the film, as the Lancaster and Tracy meet alone, Lancaster says that none of his type of people, the educated and the well-intentioned and the respectable, “ever thought that it would turn out this way”. To which, without blinking an eye, and after a grave and gravid pause, Tracy’s judge responds: It turned out that way the first time you sentenced to death a man you knew to be innocent.

What has been sentenced to death here in this country is a wide seriousness and acceptance of the responsibilities of managing the power that History and events have placed in Our keeping. We abdicated Our responsibility to civic and even individual Maturity and to Truth, and before long – in more practical ways – We abdicated Our responsibility to People this government and the awesome power that History and generations of forebears had placed in Our hands.

Everything was being done ‘in a good cause’; we needn’t worry; we shouldn’t try to interfere; we must never doubt; we could go shopping or spectate some sports.

Gonzales is now turning to Us for Our forgiveness – or at least support; to whom will We turn? The buck stops here – the buck stops with Us. Harry Truman didn’t take it quite far enough: We hired Bush, or at least acquiesced when the Supreme Court hired him.

Do We think that nothing as ‘good’ as the United States can screw it all up? Didn’t folks think that no matter what might happen, nothing as ‘big’ and as ‘modern’ as the “Titanic” could ever sink, especially on her first trip out?

The Empire That Does It For Children has had its first major voyage. Notice the milk cartons tipping on the tables in steerage?

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2 Comments:

Blogger David said...

Your reminder of the day care wars was seconded this morning (3-26-07) in the NY Times which carried an account of the largest longitudinal study ever done on children in daycare showing that harmful effects of early exposure to institutional care - no matter how 'rich' the experience - often don't play themselves out until around the sixth grade.

The multinational corporations needed women in the work force to suppress wages. Paying a living wage to a single working (male) head of household was just not making it in the era of globalization which kicked into high gear with the takeoff of quality conscious Japanese industry in the early sixties.

The Japanese had exorcised the demon of nuclear annihilation by making cheesy movies in which monsters created by American nuclear testing (Godzilla et al.) were ritually slain or at least banished from Japan.

Americans made satanic monsters of private daycare owners, black pimps who drugged blond, middle class throwaway kids from the heartland into inner city harlotry, hippie svengalis and a host of other personifications of 'stranger danger' to exorcise their own fears about the implosion of the single breadwinner American family caused by the need of corporate capital to suppress wages and compete with cheap, quality conscious, overseas labor.

Government leapt into the breach with (sub-standard) state daycare centers and a continent wide 'war-on-crime' when resistant ghettoes would not be pacified by 'war-on-poverty' AFDC payments.

Wholesale integration of underpaid and under-married women into the workforce began in the mid-sixties and was accomplished in less than a decade.

Ever wonder how slick, upscale magazines like 'Ms.' got to the newsstands so quickly? American capital was well served by the 'liberation' of the postwar Cosmo mom into the trammels of wage slavery and uber-consumption.

Revolt against this socioeconomic dislocation is now being led by crypto-fascists who run up the flag of family values in a rearguard action against this economic fait accompli which continues to breed dysfunctional families.

A new demonology has metastasized to consiolidate the agendas of abortionists, homosexuals, condom providing NGO's, corporate-sponsored illegal braceros, stem cell resarchers, polygamist Arabs even secular cosmologists who undermine the biblical warrant for patriarchy.

Reason is in retreat in this demon haunted world. In the absence of a restoration of economic security born of environmentally conscious sustainable development, we are not far from the tipping-point into full-blown irrationality.

We are in such an emotional panic that, for all our geopolitical 'power', small detonations in a couple of major American cities could put us over the edge into national psychosis no matter who is president.

A sane fiscal and monetary policy and a painful roll-back of Reagan-era 'deregulation' and voodoo economics is the only solution. It's going to hurt as the corporations have had their way with us for decades but the only other alternative is madness and irreparable decay.

11:27 AM  
Blogger publion said...

You raise a point I hadn’t considered before but which – like the theory of ‘dark matter’ - explains the furious rapidity of the assorted ‘revolutions’, especially the early stages of the feminist ‘liberations’ of the 1970s and 1980s: the Corporate interest. If an organized Advocacy combined with Government is a powerful engine of ‘change’, then to add the Corporate power is to create a juggernaut.

So from its very beginning the Emma Goldman-esque feminista thinkers and activists were being co-opted by the abiding Power of the Interests. And just as the heyday climb of the American industrial pre-eminence (and energy independence) was quietly ending, this country went and doubled – more or less – the labor pool for what was going to be a shrinking number of decent jobs. And the whole thing – cloaked in ‘sensitivity’ – was cast as a huge step forward, as ‘progress’.

But the Goldman-disabusement has yet to come: the moment, in 1921 or so when she actually went to Russia to dwell in the sunlit uplands of the Bolshevism she had espoused “a longe”; when she sat down with Lenin and urged ‘freedom of speech’ he thought her a naïf, and explained that with Russia beset by enemies within and without free speech and civil liberties were not merely naïve but suicidal – a point later made by the Israeli state and by its student and(it would certainly seem) lapdog, the Bushist Imperium. (To her everlasting credit, Goldman left Russia and publicly retracted her support, and reported soberly and without pulling punches what she had seen while bethump’d in ‘paradise’.)

And so the assorted ‘deconstructions’ of the revolutions – the Family, the Father, Men, Religion and Church, Truth, Objectivity, Virtue, Excellence, Natural Law, God – all served as a double (if unintended) trahison: they dismantled the frame and the foundation of the edifice of American (and any human) culture and society and civilization, and they thus laid the groundwork for the Unitarium – under the tutelage of neocon and fundamentalist whackjobs – to ignore Truth and Law in order to pursue its hydra-headed hyperial (hyper-power plus imperial) objectives through pre-emptive war, torture, and lying on a scale that equals Goebbels on his good days.

And – as if a race-riot had been started to distract “Titanic’s” passengers from their real problem – the culture/religion wars continue to suck down a lion’s share of such ‘serious’ current-events reportage as manages to squeak through Anna-Nicole and lurid crime scenes.

I understand and support your urge for re-regulation. TR and Wilson and FDR and even Jennings Bryan (and some of Goldman’s political insights, short of outright anarchism) all saw that the government was indispensable to protect the individual and collective Citizen from the awesome (and publicly-created) power of the Corporation.

But we have seen that if a government is not well-Peopled, and strongly, it will kick over the traces and pursue its own interests, which are never naturally benevolent toward its citizens. So a People – grounded in the upper-levels of their Interiority and capacities, fruitfully connected to the Beyond – is essential to hold the reins of so powerful an animal as the regulatory state. Don’t forget, the ‘Progressives’ of 1890-1915 were top-downers: the vanguard elite of Progressives would lead the Great Unwashed. Either they watered down Lenin or Lenin took their insight to its ‘logical conclusion’. Neither was actually fundamentally friendly to democracy or to The People.

So we need to build The People or else even the more successful possibilities of our current (very serious) difficulty will merely have a ‘choice’ between a Fundamentalist/neocon and a ‘Progressive’ anti-democracy.

And lastly, in terms of the social-abnormal psychology of creating ‘dangerous others’ and ‘sacrificial lambs’, we have to note clearly the young, dapper, square-jawed but doe-eyed J. Edgar Hoover building his own ladder and climbing it by declaring himself an enemy of all ‘intellectual perverts” (such as anarchists and socialists and ‘Reds’ and ‘pinks’) in 1919. And Freud was alive and practicing at the time!

7:23 AM  

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