July 17th, 2011
|09:34 am - Become monstrous|
The most famous episode of the BBC series Colditz is about a man who fakes insanity, for escape purposes, but by constantly faking disordered speech and behaviour, he eventually becomes insane for real.
I think a similar thing is happening in the West at the moment. In the 1980s the right wing administrations - and the two I know most about are Reagan's and Thatcher's - put out some half-baked propaganda about economics, which really didn't make sense. For example Reagan famously attributed America's economic ills to 'welfare queens' - young black single mothers who were supposedly draining the economy. This story, and the wider narrative about government spending, gained a lot of popular traction. However Reagan's economic programme (steered by cleverer men than him) was not based on this narrative. It was based on running up international debts, backed up by Military pre-eminence. Similarly Thatcher had some narrative blaming the working class, but her actual programme was to fund tax cuts through sell-offs and the deployment of North Sea oil revenue, and deregulate the financial sector. In both the US and the UK the economic strategy was bound to crash eventually (and both now have) but they were functioning strategies, based on the real world.
But something seems to have happened lately. I am not sure whether it's because the right wing parties are now run by people who grew up under the fake narratives of Reagan and Thatcher and somehow believed them, or whether people have been driven insane like the guy in Colditz by faking insane narratives.
For example the narrative of the right in the UK is that the private sector can run things better than the public sector. There are many obvious examples in the UK which contradict this narrative: the NHS and the BBC are the two most distinctive. So, the right are trying to force public organisations to fail, to match the narrative. For example I was talking to someone recently who works for the National Audit Office (NAO). They are being replaced by private auditors. In order to make NAO fail, she and her colleagues aren't being given any work to do. They are getting paid, and forced to sit idle. This is an insane strategy, and it's going on all over our country right now. Some public sector people are being given impossible amounts of work to do, so that they will fail, and others are being forced to do nothing, so that they will fail. Each person feels isolated and helpless. It's deliberate wrecking, imposed from above.
In a time of national crisis, forcing additional failure is insane, in my opinion.
Which brings me to America, and the Tea Party Republicans, who are currently literally trying to destroy their own economy. Here is an article in today's Observer, by Will Hutton about the breakdown of budget talks in Washington between Obama and the Republican majority in Congress. The leaders of the right are threatening to renege on repaying the US debt.
The biggest economy on Earth will default... The US government will have to start to wind down: soldiers' wages and public pensions alike will be suspended. But in the financial markets there will be mayhem. Interest rates will shoot up and there will be a flight from the dollar. Banks, uncertain about their expected income from their holdings of US Treasury bonds and bills, will call in their loans, creating a second credit crunch. Some may collapse.
This would have serious implications for all of us. At present there is a stand-off.
Obama has tried to fashion a bargain with a collection of rightwing politicians that most in Washington regard as both mad and dangerous. Yet, after months of talking, the Republicans will not offer to bargain... It says a lot about American politics and culture that such a passionate minority believes that it can defy not just American political tradition but also the normal terms of trade that define human association... Nor do many of their number want to build political careers. They have been sent by God and their electors to bring down Washington.
I feel there are people with power who don't realise how fragile and precious human society is, and how vulnerable the systems which sustain us are. Capitalism is going wrong. If we co-operate we could save ourselves, and keep it going while we develop new systems to sustain life. But there is a significant group of people who are trying to hasten the end. Some because they think this will make god come, or the free market will save them. I think it's insane vandalism.
|Date:||July 17th, 2011 08:53 am (UTC)|| |
The problem is that this group of people truly believe that there is no such thing as society.
Two key texts that inadvertently demonstrate the insanity are children's books. The Girl who Owned a City is decades old, but Life as we Knew it is Recent.
In the first a girl organises other kids to build a city, then claims it's hers because she thought of the idea, denying (in a discussion with the girl who set up the hospital) that there is any such thing as sweat equity.
In the second, a family retreats into their house to save their own lives, refusing to help anyone, and when the army comes to rescue them congratulate themselves on their independence from society. Yes, when the army comes to... er, .....
I don't know them, but the first in particular sounds ghastly. According to wikipedia 'Nelson has stated that his intent in writing the novel was to translate the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand into terms children could understand.' hmmm
|Date:||July 17th, 2011 09:15 am (UTC)|| |
Would you believe it's still a class text in many schools? My blog post on it got hate mail.
Some people, it's a compliment to get hate mail from. You wouldn't want the evil, stupid goblins to like you, after all!
Most of Reagan's programmes were steered by cleverer men (after all, there can't have been many stupider men, particularly since he was allegedly already doolally while in office). Apparently he used to get convinced every so often that aliens were landing and ask Colin Powell to see to it, whereon Powell would put down the phone and tell his staff "Oh dear, the little green men are back". Really, it's a wonder we're all still alive.
Yes, but luckily in those days the fools were just the figurehead on the prow. Now they are steering the damn ship.
My view of the Shrub's presidency is that I don't *like* Bush Senior, but at least he was competent evil...
The West Wind blew, and their faces got stuck that way.
That sounds like a horror film
Wow. What state is that? Like so many of these things it sounds like hurting themselves to make a point.
Bloody hell. I suppose the libertarians are in heaven.
I'm kind of hopeful that these absurdities will collapse soon, and we will get a more sensible kind of right wing politician
In What Technology Wants, author Kevin Kelly has a chapter entitled "The Unabomber Was Right." It's a shocking title and premise, and he knows it, but he makes a very good case. It's a bit involved, but in essence he says that Ted Kaczynski, the libertarian-survivalist recluse who sent letter bombs that killed several university professors in the late 70s, was the only representative of the luddite anti-technology movement who understood that if his project to overthrow "the system" were successful, billions of people would die. Kaczynski, of course, felt that he and a select few freedom fighters would survive.
The chapter is central to Kelly's whole point: that technology (a term with which he encompasses all made things, including cities, laws, economies and societies, as well as spearpoints and iPhones) and humanity are so intimately intertwined as to be symbiotic.
The idea that people can survive as independent individuals (and that there's a God who gives a damn about them) is demonstrably false, but these crazies have never read John Donne. Or much of anything else.
The madness you outline in this post is of the Unabomber stripe, I think. There's a sort of frenzy to dismantle structures and play Apocalypse, to call down the lightning and cackle gleefully as (they imagine) it strikes everyone but their own kind.
At the risk of going on forever, it happens that I just watched the Doctor Who episode "The Stolen Earth" in which Davros (I think it was) has the brilliant idea of launching a weapon that will reduce everything in the entire universe to nothingness. One can only think, wow, what a fucking stupid plan.
a frenzy to dismantle structures and play Apocalypse
Yes, so right. It reminds me of the Olaf Stapledon SF book 'Last and First Men' written in the 1930s. In this imagined future the oil runs out, and instead of conserving it and developing alternative technologies, a belief arises that when we have used it all up, Jesus will come. So people drive cars and fly planes, compulsively, to try to burn up the last of the oil. It's a satire but I think it hits quite close to home.