September 03, 2007

Let the Mourning Bells Toll, for This Is How the Republic Ends...

Here are a few excerpts from your required reading for today, Chris Floyd's essay, "Post-Mortem America: Bush's Year of Triumph and the Hard Way Ahead."

You must read the entire piece.

Chris writes:
The annus horribilis of 2007 has turned out to be a year of triumph for the Bush Faction -- the hit men who delivered the coup de grâce to the long-moribund Republic. Bush was written off as a lame duck after the Democrat's November 2006 election "triumph" (in fact, the narrowest of victories eked out despite an orgy of cheating and fixing by the losers), and the subsequent salvo of Establishment consensus from the Iraq Study Group, advocating a de-escalation of the war in Iraq. Then came a series of scandals, investigations, high-profile resignations, even the criminal conviction of a top White House official. But despite all this -- and abysmal poll ratings as well -- over the past eight months Bush and his coupsters have seen every single element of their violent tyranny confirmed, countenanced and extended.


It is, by any measure, a remarkable achievement, one of the greatest political feats ever. Despite Bush's standing as one of the most despised presidents in American history, despite a Congress in control of the opposition party, despite a solid majority opposed to his policies and his war, despite an Administration riddled with scandal and crime, despite the glaring rot in the nation's infrastructure and the callous abandonment of one of the nation's major cities to natural disaster and crony greed -- despite all of this, and much more that would have brought down or mortally wounded any government in a democratic country, the Bush Administration is now in a far stronger position than it was a year ago.

How can this be? The answer is simple: the United States is no longer a democratic country, or even a degraded semblance of one.


Bush's power has only grown with each new outrageous claim of unchallengeable presidential authority. It is too little understood how vital -- and how fatal -- Congress' acquiescence in all of this has been. By continuing to treat the Bush Administration as a legitimate government, to carry on with business as usual instead of initiating impeachments or refusing to cooperate with a gang of usurpers, Congress instead confirms the New Order day after day. Some Democrats may grumble, whine or bluster -- but they DO nothing, and their very participation in the sinister farce ensures its continuance.


Those who insist on seeing the current situation as "politics as usual" (even if an extreme version of it) will point to peripheral elements that still retain some of the flavor of the old order: such as the Justice Department scandal, with its forced resignations and Congressional probes, or the occasional criminal trial of Bush Regime minions like Scooter Libby. Some will say such things are proof that we don't really live under tyranny, that deep down, the "system works."

But all of this is indeed "politics as usual" -- the kind of politics that occurs under every system of rule. Even the Caesars were subject to such pressures, forced to remove (and sometimes execute) officials who had become too controversial due to scandal, crime, corruption or factional opposition, or even unpopularity with "the rabble." Sometimes the Caesars themselves were removed for such causes -- but the tyrannical system went on. Likewise, the kings and queens of England in their autocratic heyday were forced to give up ministers -- even court favorites -- due to similar pressures. And so too the Russian czars, the Chinese emperors, the Persian monarchs, the Muslim Caliphs, the Egyptian pharaohs, etc. Even Hitler was sometimes thwarted or hampered in his polices by factional strife or public displeasure. "Politics" does not disappear in undemocratic regimes. It is a function of human relations, and carries on regardless of the political system imposed on a society.


"How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it." – Thoreau

Now from all this, what follows?

The time has passed for ordinary political opposition, "within the system." The system itself has been perverted and converted into something else; it is now impossible to "work within the system" in the old understanding of that term, because that old system is gone. To work within the current system is to collaborate with evil, to give it legitimacy.

Thoreau's answer should be taken up by every person in public life, beginning with the Senators and Representatives in Congress, and radiating outward to all other elected officials in the 50 states, and to civil servants and other government employees, law enforcement agencies, judges, universities, contractors, banks, and on and on, throughout the vast, intricate web that binds the lives of so many people directly to the federal government. There should be non-compliance, non-recognition of this illegitimate authority, disassociation from taking part in its workings.
Chris has much, much more -- including a discussion of the responsibility that is now each of ours individually, if we still care at all about liberty and freedom, about peace, and if we still give a damn about fundamental human decency.

Read it.

I will have further thoughts about Chris's magnificent article in the days to come. For the moment, I want to focus on his description of the manner in which this living death has come upon us. (I note that I've spoken about this phenomenon in similar terms in a number of essays; see the opening of "Blinded by the Story," as one example.)

Chris excerpts an article that he wrote almost six years ago, shortly after 9/11. He saw then the implications that escaped almost everyone else, implications that have become realities, and that many Americans absolutely refuse to acknowledge even now. In the earlier piece, he wrote:
It won't come with jackboots and book burnings, with mass rallies and fevered harangues. It won't come with "black helicopters" or tanks on the street. It won't come like a storm – but like a break in the weather, that sudden change of season you might feel when the wind shifts on an October evening: everything is the same, but everything has changed. Something has gone, departed from the world, and a new reality has taken its place.

As in Rome, all the old forms will still be there: legislatures, elections, campaigns – plenty of bread and circuses for the folks. But the "consent of the governed" will no longer apply; actual control of the state will have passed to a small group of nobles who rule largely for the benefit of their wealthy peers and corporate patrons.

To be sure, there will be factional conflicts among this elite, and a degree of free debate will be permitted, within limits; but no one outside the privileged circle will be allowed to govern or influence state policy. Dissidents will be marginalized – usually by "the people" themselves. Deprived of historical knowledge by an impoverished educational system designed to produce complacent consumers, not thoughtful citizens, and left ignorant of current events by a media devoted solely to profit, many will internalize the force-fed values of the ruling elite, and act accordingly. There will be little need for overt methods of control.
This is exactly right. I wrote just recently about this same general mechanism, in "Killing Us Softly -- with the Boot Always Nearby, and Strategically Utilized."

I offered this excerpt from a very perceptive post from IOZ:
If you asked me, "What would a contemporary police state look like?" I'd reply that it would look an awful lot like what America looks like right now. I would tell you that subsidized consumer affluence has proven a far more effective method of social control than centrally planned, faux-egalitarianism. I would tell you that someone finally figured out that breadlines breed rebellion but lines at the multiplex for the midnight opening of the next blockbuster do not. I would tell you that keeping up with the Joneses has proven a more effective enforcer of conformity than any book of Dear Leader's wisdom ever did. I would tell you that hope for Vegas vacations beats fear of the work camps for quashing dissent. I would tell you that subtle is better than overt, seemingly random better than routine, carnivalesque better than somber, colorful better than drab. Look at the billions of dollars and man-hours thrown into deciding between a guy from Massachusetts and a gal from New York who evince no convincingly held differences of belief. Has ever a nation been farther from revolution than the United States in the year 2007?
After noting that neither IOZ nor I prescribe revolution as a desired means of social transformation, I went on to observe:
But look at the paradox suggested by IOZ's accurate portrayal of a significant aspect of contemporary American life, when that portrayal is set beside the preceding examples of an increasingly oppressive government (and those examples could obviously be multiplied many, many times). Americans seemingly are free in almost all the ways that are relevant to our daily lives: for the most part, we can work in whatever field we choose; we can live where we will; we can buy an endless array of consumer goods, most of which are remarkable only for their very short lifespans, at which point the next generation of gadgetry commands those dollars available to us; and so on. Within the limitations of class -- which is to say, those educational and vocational possibilities that are realistically open to us individually -- and acknowledging the further limitations of race, gender and sexual identity (all of which limitations are conspicuously absent from the Disney-Fox-Limbaugh version of "the American Way of Life"), the world would appear to be ours.

But is it? IOZ's final example, the ultimately meaningless charade of elections, provides an important clue. While the Democrats certainly have different, comparatively delimited policy preferences when set against the Republicans (perhaps the Democrats, or at least some of them, are more friendly to environmental concerns, more sympathetic to the dangers of global warming, and of course, are more determined to protect the bulwark of the nineteenth-century, conservative German safety net, Social Security -- and I note only that the crusader's flame burns considerably more brightly when lit less than a hundred and more years ago), both parties agree on the fundamental question: the state must always have more power, and it must always serve the interests of the ruling elites above all else. And both parties fully agree that the militarist-corporatist state needs war, war and more war. In the end, all the rest is superfluity. But how entertaining it is! By such means are the easily distracted and historically ignorant mass of Americans led to believe that their political debates have Significance, and that we will always look forward to The Most Important Election Ever.

With the non-existent importance of our electoral process firmly in mind (as that process affects the ultimate purposes of modern statecraft, which is not at all), we can see the apparent paradox vanish. Certainly, you may do whatever you want, buy whatever you want, go where you will -- so long as your activities do not impinge upon those areas most critical to the burgeoning state. And what is most critical to the state? Anything that gives meaning to your life in particular, or that brings you pleasure of special importance.
The destruction of America has been accomplished in the manner of a particularly skillful and diabolical con game: it has been done completely in the open. No one was fooled or misled. The ruling class has always stated explicitly exactly what they intended to do -- and then they did it. You didn't think they meant it, not really, not all the way down.

But they did. They counted on the great majority of Americans not to believe what was directly before their eyes, or to identify its full, inevitable meaning. Most of you obliged. Most of you still oblige. They could not ask for more.

And most Americans still don't believe the destruction has already occurred, because there is no thunderous crashing of chords, no widespread calamity or destruction (at least, not yet, although we've had some previews) or, as Chris puts it, it won't come "with jackboots and book burnings," or with "tanks on the street." Poor, pitiful, pathetic Americans: it isn't like a movie.

And so it has come to pass. The lives of most Americans will go on as before, for that is the plan and the point. Be careful not to credit the ruling class with too much cleverness or intelligence for having achieved their heinous end, for most of them don't begin to understand what they're doing either. They are moved for the most part by the views of the "consensus," which views come from they not know where, nor do they care about or understand the original reasons. Their concern is much narrower: consolidating and expanding their own power, and that of the State. Their focus is on how power is actualized in the petty, sordid details of their pallid, drab, arid lives. The larger dynamics never concerned them, and they don't give a damn about any of that today.

Even after all this, the Democrats will impeach no one, and they will only accelerate the drive to open conflict with Iran. To do otherwise would be to restrict the power of the State, and their own power. That is the one thing above all else they will never do. And even if, by some undeserved miracle, the Bush administration does not order an attack on Iran, the pattern is now set.

Be sure to understand one critical point: to the extent you grant legitimacy to the United States government in its current form, to the degree you confine opposition "within the system" as it now exists, you are aiding and abetting tyrants, torturers and murderers. If you wish to make that choice, you may certainly do so. Do not expect to be forgiven for your choice in the future. This does not mean you must resort to violence, and I do not advocate such a course. But what is absolutely necessary is what Chris indicates: non-compliance, disassociation, the refusal to obey and the insistence on saying, "No." On that last point, I urge you to read an earlier essay of mine, "You're Either with the Resistance -- or with the Murderers."

All of it is completely remarkable. Ten or twenty years ago, I would never have expected it to come to this in my lifetime, or in this particular form. That failure was undoubtedly due to my own limited understanding, and my own lack of knowledge. And as horrifyingly and horrifically awful as all this is -- and much worse is yet to come -- it is terribly funny, genuinely absurd, from a certain perspective. Soft, seemingly seductive dictatorship accomplished by means of unsurpassed ignorance and unrelenting stupidity. Torture by Wal-Mart. Murder by iPhone.

I can find no further words at the moment.