Monday, February 23, 2009

PHOTOS AND PARADIGMS

So now they’re going to reconsider whether to allow photographs of military coffins returning from the war in the East.

As everybody knows now, the Pentagon was involved in ‘spinning’, and in a particular manner: by preventing people from seeing anything that would suggest a vision of events different from what the Pentagoons wanted them to think. It’s all rather manipulative and therefore, willy-nilly, antidemocratic and sort of elitist: ‘we’ want you to ‘think’ this way, we don’t want you to think some other way, and we don’t trust you to come to our conclusion on your own.

And on the further end of that spectrum: ‘we’ know what’ s best for the country, you probably don’t and couldn’t figure it out if you tried, and since it’s all in a good cause, then ‘you’ should just not-think and maybe ‘go shopping’. The upshot is that We should leave the military and the rest of the government alone and let them do things their way. As if it were ‘their’ government, and not Ours.

With serious reporting going the way of the dodo, with education slipping badly, with youth being … well … youth, and with so many of Us now worried about Our own financial survival, it seems a sure bet that the Beltway banditti are going to keep on keeping on, and We are not to interfere.
But it’s been that way for quite some time in these parts.

After all, We’ve been in the middle of a carnival of ‘revolutions’ for 40 years. And like all revolutions, the masses are presumed not to ‘get it’ and not able to ever ‘get it’. Or if they do manage to get it, not to be able to sustain the momentum and keep the revolution in business.

Lenin saw this, and Stalin pretty much gave up on the whole idea of ‘revolution’ and just hunkered down to the business of running a growing empire – at which he was frighteningly good. Poor silly Hitler, that flash-in-the-pan. Stalin knew what it took to ‘build’, and he could work on it with a patient ruthlessness that completely escaped the manic Fuhrer. Hitler was the raging wildfire, but Stalin was the glacier.

Our own ‘revolutions’ have been hampered by the inability to follow Stalin’s path with sufficient ruthlessness. This is the result both of the surviving American political and constitutional limitations on the imposition of revolutionary agendas, and of the revolutions’ own inability to fully ‘own’ what it is they are really up to. Identity Politics requires your ‘identity’ to be that of your ‘identity’ and not of your country. To be fully committed to your ‘identity’ and to your ‘country’ (including all of those citizens who are not your ‘identity’ and perhaps are your ‘oppressors’) is not something most folks can pull off. It would be nice if everybody could, but humans (the memo says you shouldn’t say ‘human nature’) aren’t as a rule that robust, and can’t sustain such a complex stance over time and under pressure.

But over and above her one big political Revolution, America has seen ‘revolutions’ and ‘revolutions’. The auto, the radio – these were scientifically based: the reason that the Model-T transformed American society almost overnight was that the damned thing worked and people liked it. Ditto the radio back in those remarkable ‘20s.

The later Sixties and the Seventies gave Us something else altogether. These were not so much scientifically-based changes based on new and useful inventions. These were ‘paradigm’ changes based on assumptions that nobody could prove or disprove quickly and easily.

That’s what a serious revolution is: it’s a power-play to force people to look at things another way. Whether the new way of looking at things is better than the old way … the whole idea, as Lenin and Goebbels saw, is to prevent anybody from asking that question.

You can ruthlessly control what people see and hear; you can ruthlessly control what they say and write and – if you’re Mao – even what they think; you can wreck some people who try to retain their independence: and you can wreck them twice over: destroy their lives and then ‘spin’ it so that their lives look ‘evil’ or ‘revisionist’ or ‘deviationist’ or any of a hundred other epithets that Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and their lesser demons tacked onto people’s reputations as a way of wrecking their lives in a way useful to the State.

You have to do this. You are trying to peddle, to push, to force, to impose – as a certainty that is beyond question – a ‘vision’ that possesses no immediate, perhaps no inherent, attractiveness to the citizenry.

Is ‘war’ the best response to terrorism? Is it one We can afford? Can the Pentagon and its procurement programs and the forces as currently construed provide for the type of forces required for the 21st century challenges We will face? Or might it be that as a former hyperpower We will be perceived to be in decline by the world’s nations and peoples, so that Our forces will now be faced by challenges that will not so much require Our intervening in other peoples’ affairs but rather require defending Our own?

Can this nation remain a world-class economy if it makes nothing that it can sell to other peoples? Can this nation support itself as a world-class economy of 300 million souls merely by ‘developing’ knowledge and ideas? And even if it can, can it remain a democracy and also offer a decent life to all its citizens? Can it become a ‘knowledge and service society’ and yet avoid becoming some 21st century revenant of an aristocrat-helot state?

Is ‘gender’ merely a social construct that can change just as quickly as people can change the way they look at it? Is it merely a matter of how you ‘look’ at it? Or does ‘gender’ represent something deeper, something with a life of its own, something that is going to be what it is regardless of what mind games people try to play on themselves and each other? And even if ‘gender’ is nothing more than sociological silly-putty … is sex?

It’s impressive that Eric Holder amplifies Obama’s exhortation to start ‘looking’ at the issues that face Us. And the fact that Holder uses blunter and bolder words to describe the situation – such as his use of ‘cowardice’ in describing the American approach to racial matters – is a breath of fresh, if almost bracingly cold, air. We have been in the hot-house of Political Correctness for so long that We have lost the ability to handle ‘being outside’. Generations have been raised in that hot-house. And even those cohorts of the citizenry who remember being told to ‘go outside and play’ – the order thus empowering them to ride bikes without helmets and drink water from garden hoses - have in far too many cases yielded to a life in the hot-house.

Holder is right that We have become a "nation of cowards" when it comes to "race discussions". He neglects to mention, but it's essential to recall, that Our "cowardice" is not simply a failure of moral stamina or of moral courage. The age of "sensitivity"and the conformist and Alice-in-Wonderland impositions of Identity Politics as Congress truckled to pressure groups, resulted in self-censoring by the public: you kept your mouth shut if you weren't prepared to all-hail the Politically Correct line (just as Goebbels and Lenin had anticipated). Otherwise, you could wind up being the object of mau-mau tactics by a 'sensitive' media; or being subject to serious employment problems; or even finding yourself hauled in front of a civil or criminal court.

But Holder is still right. Although 'prudence' may be a major factor, the repressions and 'impossible things' demanded by Political Correctness have resulted in a baffled citizenry that is unable to speak truth, or even recognize it, let alone distinguish truth from the sleazy, exaggerated hard-sell of this or that 'reform'.

It’s not just that there are issues going back decades that need to be ‘talked about’ because they were never talked about before. It’s not just that.

It’s that We need to be able to get back into ‘talking’ mode, into ‘questioning’ mode – so that We can get a grip on the great Ferris wheel in the Beltway that is now careening out of control.

A People in a democracy are held accountable for what their government does. You can feel sorry for the masses of Russians – soldiers and civilians – thrown into the maw of Communism, from the sweat of whose brows that monstrous madness extracted the resources to afflict the world.

But We were born into a democracy, a Republic. We are supposed to exercise the control over its government. We appear to have lost the ability to do it – and just at the time when Our resources are being plundered from within just as Our forces are stretched thin on foreign fields.

There’s much to be done.

Learning to see the truth, and to distinguish reality from fantasy, is a start.

But We’ll need to be ready for what We’re going to see.

If Obama has a task on his hands as great or even greater than Lincoln’s, then We have a task on Our hands as great or even greater than the generations that built the nation and saw it through its glory days.

It has come to this. It stuns to think how far everything has fallen in the space of three or four decades. But the task ahead is clear.

And cannot be avoided.

We shall have to see those photos. We shall have to look at the price-tags now, in every respect.

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