Monday, January 23, 2012

History for Beginners

After the heady, arguably Revolutionary events of last January, this year's opening month and its absurdist and obsessive media spectacle of the Republican Campaign Clown Car, one cannot be blamed if one longs for... something better. Change the channel, mKay? This is boresome.

Well, I have not watched a single "debate" (they are not debates, they have not been debates for years, for generations, why are they calling them "debates" when they are nothing but sales pitches? I ask you.) in the Republican campaign, and I doubt I will even watch the Incumbent trade sound bites with the Challenger (whomever it may be -- even Romney who now has to overcome so many obstacles -- in the end). It's become a Gong Show with aspects of Survivor thrown in to make it seem up to date.

Entertainment for the masses and revenues (Oh, boy! Big Fucking Revenues! for the Entertainment conglomerates. Talk about revenue sharing and wealth transfers! Yeek!

I did watch Arcade Fire on Austin City Limitsthough. Anyone who was following the Wisconsin Uprising and Occupation last winter is aware of Arcade Fire because of the video below, even if, like me, they didn't know of them beforehand:

Wisconsin "Budget Repair Bill" Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Arcade Fire's "Revolution (Lies)" was hailed at the time as "the soundtrack of a Revolution."

Little did we know then that Wisconsin actually was the spark that would ignite revolutionary fervor throughout the land. Our friends in Egypt knew, though.

They knew that what they had done just days and weeks before and what their colleagues in Tunisia had done and what was igniting in Europe was unstoppable. Once the spark is lit... there you are. It's under way. Hold on, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

And so it has been. Thus the media focus on the Clown Car of the Perpetual Political Campaign is more than a little, erm, stupid. And maybe that's for the best. Our friends at dKos have been absolutely obsessed with Republicans and their maunderings and maneuverings to capture the Throne for months and months, so much so, there has been practically no acknowledgement that there even are "Democrats" in Washington DC and statehouses any more. Whether the honchos over there realize it or not, their almost exclusive focus on Republicans functions as one of those subliminal messages that we all used to understand the media was filling our little heads with: Republicans are the only politicians that matter, the only political party that matters, focus exclusively on the Republicans, no matter how clownish they may be, they are your Rulers and your Buddies... over and over again, repeated endlessly, a mantra, a trance-inducing formula. To my eye, intentional. Let us not forget, Markos, like many other luminaries in the internet's so-called "progressive" political field, is an ex-Republican who converted as it were.

He, like so many others who want to sit at the Big Table and be a Playah in the Palace, has never been much of a liberal/leftist/progressive in any recognizable political sense of those terms. I've said that he, like many others on the lefter side of the internet political dial, is essentially a libertarian entrepreneur. That's not quite the same thing as the "hard left partisan" that he and others have been accused of being.

But then, libertarians have long been angling to capture the leftish mantle. And who's to blame them? The Dems gave it up a long time ago. In fact, I would argue that the Dems have never been a leftist party at all, they are a conservative political party. They are the oldest political party in the country, and they take that status very seriously. They see themselves as the Responsible Party conserving what is best in American culture, society, and politics, in opposition to various radical reactionary parties (like the Republicans) who have arisen from time to time, while simultaneously standing in opposition to the "mob", the vox populi, We the People, whose ravenings and outcries must be kept suppressed at all times and by any means necessary.

Sometimes that means throwing bones to the masses, but for some time now, neither major political party has been the least bit inclined to throw bones (sometimes not even rhetorical ones) to their bases.

Hm. How did that happen? This is not normal American politics.

From what little I can figure out from my experience on the inside of the Federal government "what happened" was Waco and then Oklahoma City. And then the Clinton impeachment, the Bush seizure of the White House and the collapse of Congressional authority, followed in quick succession by the 9/11 attack and the wars of revenge and imperial aggression that followed upon that singular event. Thence the rigorous institutionalization of the National Security State and the New Model Mercenary Militarist that bids to rule the world -- on behalf, it would seem, of a rather small but very powerful cohort of global corporatists. The "People"? Pshaw. What of them?

What I witnessed was the government barricading itself against the People.

From the inside, these events were all of a piece, almost seamless; they altered government's relationship with the People, and they fundamentally altered politics in ways that I don't think more than a few people have fully come to recognize.

Politics has always been a spectacle and a show, that's it's nature. But now it is one that is completely meaningless at the federal level. Once in office, elected representatives do not serve you and me, they can't or they wouldn't be there, not for long anyway. They serve a ruling class, one that is rather more shadowy than we may think. This is not to go all CT, but the people who are actually pulling the strings in the DC Palaces, and more and more in the provinces as well, are people we've probably never heard of; at the top there is no separation between these people and their interests and the government. It's all the same.

We the People are simply irrelevant at that level. We exist to the extent we can be manipulated when need be to follow the commands and desires of a ruling elite. But as we've seen, there are "too many" of us, by many millions. Way too many. Must cull the herd one way or another. It seems that the preferred method is relatively simple: dismissal from society and neglect.

Though I have long railed about it, there is still very little general recognition of what has happened and is happening to tens of millions of Americans who have been jettisoned, not just from the so-called middle class but from any class at all. They've become essentially non-people, by the tens of millions. They have no jobs and they cannot get jobs because there aren't any openings and there won't ever be again. They have no homes because their homes have been seized and will be given to others at pennies on the dollar. There are few and diminishing social services available to them -- or anyone for that matter -- and so American poverty rates are skyrocketing, hunger stalks the land, people are suffering quite openly, and some are dying. Very little is done by our policy-makers to alleviate this suffering, because it's standard policy not to. And in America, it has always been standard policy to blame the victim.

But things are different this time. The cruelty that policy-makers are exhibiting is remarkable, for one thing. Nothing quite like this has been seen and known in this country for decades, not since the Hoover era, and even then, policy-makers were more circumspect about their contempt for the common herd. The current social/political/economic situation is being used by policy-makers as an opportunity -- yet another in a long string of them -- to take away customary rights, benefits, and privileges that Americans thought were guaranteed by contract or the Constitution.

Benefits are being cut, or they are not available at all. Access to basic services like health care and education is being denied. Rights that workers earned long ago are being withdrawn. Pension obligations are being refused. Contracts are abrogated. Homes are seized and sold to others for a tiny percentage of what had been demanded from the debtor. On and on.

This American model of cruelty is like something out of a 19th Century novel -- a nightmare of despair that we thought we overcame... but it turns out our policy makers never got the message.

I trace it back to Waco, one of the cruelest -- and most spectacular -- domestic policing actions our federal government has ever engaged in. Once under way, it seemed impossible to stop. Why that should be is still a matter of controversy, but the upshot was almost too horrible to contemplate, not just the miserable deaths of scores of innocents in the holocaust of Branch Davidian compound, but in the armed rebellion that commenced soon thereafter.

In fact, according to reports, the action at the Branch Davidian compound was intended to thwart armed rebellion by certain shadowy crypto-religious forces that were arming and aligning with one another in preparation for the coming Apocalypse (or something of the sort). The Davidians were among the many armed Apocalyptic Believers who were being tracked at the time, and the action itself was planned -- if you want to call what the incompetents in charge were doing "planning" -- during the latter days of the Bush (Senior) administration, apparently without the knowledge of headquarters. The action itself was put in motion under the authority of the Clinton Justice Department. The point of it was to neutralize this particular armed camp and to intimidate anyone else who might be contemplating armed insurrection in preparation for the Return of the Lord.

It didn't go well.

This all happened at a time when the domestic security state apparatus was relatively primitive though quite extensive, built as it was on a Drug War platform. That's a whole other topic in itself.

Waco was a catastrophic failure. And I cannot imagine we would be in such a horrible mess now if it weren't for that catastrophe. There are plenty of people who would disagree with my assessment, who would see the origins of our current pickle elsewhere. There is no single source, of course. But Waco was the catalyst for what was to come.

After the shock wore off, the response to the slaughter at Waco was an intensification not a diminution of the armed insurrectionist movements around the country, exactly the opposite of the intent of action itself.

This culminated in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. While directly related to Waco, that reaction seemed to come from an even deeper animosity against The Government due to what McVeigh witnessed and participated in during the First Gulf War. As awful as the slaughter in Waco was, it had eerie echoes of Iraq where hundreds of mostly women and children were burnt alive in a shelter in Baghdad, where surrendered prisoners were machine gunned down in the field because they were inconvenient, and where McVeigh himself was ordered to bury hundreds of Iraqi soldiers alive. On their retreat from Kuwait, tens of thousands of Iraqi troops -- conscripts almost all -- were ruthlessly slaughtered from above in an action that had no modern precedent.

The First Gulf War has been largely forgotten thanks to subsequent events in the region but at the time it was seen as one of the most barbaric campaigns the United States had ever conducted, of such surpassing brutality and cruelty that it was practically unimaginable.

The sight of Schwartzkopf, Cheney, Powell, et al, lying on teevee and celebrating this disgusting slaughter still turns my stomach, and I know people who were involved in it who were emotionally shattered by what they did or what they witnessed, and who were physically sickened as well and still suffer from complications.

Hundreds of thousands of American troops paid a heavy price for the momentary glory of the warrior-policy-makers who just kept right on strutting and puffing out their chests while the rest of us languished.

Here we are, two decades on, and the cruelty on display overseas that thence was made manifest domestically has borne extraordinarily foul fruit given the global economic collapse and further overseas war-making that has made it so gosh-darn hard to fund even the basic domestic social services Americans have already paid for like Social Security and Medicare and so forth.

The question, as always, is what do we do about it?

We see that the political/electoral system does not work on behalf of the People, and under the current circumstances, it cannot. The government itself is absent, barricaded away from you and me, and We the People do not have access to it. We are subjects -- when we are considered at all which is ever less often. The rituals of politics and elections still continue, of course, as they did in Rome for hundreds of years after the Republic was extinguished. Roman elections were part of panem et circenses that kept the lower orders entertained while their betters got on with the important matters of state and empire that simply didn't involve the plebeians -- except to the extent they could be a revenue source and be manipulated.

When there were too many, the herd was culled. When they rebelled...

The situation now, however, is far more complex -- and yet in some ways, simpler -- than historical parallels. We are facing a global onslaught against the People and the Earth by what is really a tiny fragment of hyper-wealthy and powerful individuals who are competing against one another to be King of the World. We largely don't know who these people are; even if we know some of their names, we have little or no idea what their political/social/moral points of view are, and those few we do know something of are so surpassingly benighted and cruel it's almost unimaginable.

The People rising up against this fragment of quasi-humanity should have overwhelmed them long ago, but it hasn't happened, not even close. Oh no, the struggle has barely begun.


Yesterday, I posted a few movies, one of which was Frank Lopez's "END:CIV," which I think I've posted before. It's one of those "earth is dying/we are dying" manifesto movies you see from time to time. Typically, I don't much care for doomer-gloomer stuff, and I stay away from it on principle, but this is Frank Lopez, AKA, "The Stimulator" on, who I became interested in when Global Revolution would run his "End of the World (As We Know It) and I feel fine" anarchist shit during the frequent outages of the Occupy Wall Street live feeds. I'm becoming more and more fond of him and his ideas and his work. "The Stimulator" is linked at right. Below is a link to a Q and A in Troy, NY, last April after a screening of "END:CIV". It gets pretty intense as some of the audience takes him to task over his views of non-violence, Gandhi, King, et al, and I think it is worth listening to the exchanges. As he says, we don't have a lot of time, and unless we have an honest and open discussion about tactics, we aren't going to get anywhere...

Q&A with activist media maker Frank Lopez

We may still be at the Beginning of the Beginning, but there is a lot of history behind it.

Lot of history....

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