Monday, September 24, 2007

"Our impenetrable national narcissism"

The following quote is from Chris Floyd's blog, Empire Burqlesque, which I recently added to my blogroll. The quote in the title above, though, is from an article by Arthur Silber.

The latter is quoted by Floyd in an article that begins by mentioning the civil rights march in support of the Jena 6. Fifty years ago, the civil rights movement cut through the Cold War demagogy of the post-WWII anti-communist consensus, which swaddled the nation with lies and militarism, until the country was almost suffocated. But now, as Floyd points out, even a large civil rights protest is lost among the sewer detritus that is the current political situation in the United States.

The recent news that the Iraq War death count has reached something like a million human beings rippled through American society like a feather dropped into an empty ocean. -- Have we all become the "good Germans" now?

Likewise, last week's peaceful rally against Jim Crow justice in Jena, Louisiana, was indeed heartening; but as we have seen, not even years of the civil rights movement at its strongest, widest and deepest impact was able to break the power of the conglomeration: the empire of bases kept growing, the militarization of the economy and society accelerated, millions of people were massacred in Indochina.... The half-century of hope that dawned on a Montgomery bus ended with the illegal installation of George W. Bush and his bloodthirsty clique in the White House.

In any case, the history of the past six years has shown that the American people, as a whole, cannot be stirred even by the most brazen outrages. Not by the wholesale assault on their liberties; not by the rot of their roads, bridges, towns and cities; not by the massive perversion of their electoral system; not by the deaths of their sons and daughters, their friends and neighbors, in a war of aggression they were tricked into by deliberate lies; not by their government's embrace of torture, concentration camps, secret prisons, and death squads; not even by the murder – in their own name – of more than one million Iraqis. Not even this genocidal fury – powerfully evoked here by Arthur Silber and here by Lew Rockwell – has shaken them from the half-sleep of what Silber calls "our impenetrable national narcissism."

The only problem with the narcissism charge is the old one of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Even back in 1979, Christopher Lasch noted the American retreat "to purely personal preoccupations", which included "a retreat from politics and a repudiation of the recent past". (The Culture of Narcissism, W. W Norton & Co., p. 4-5). The "past" in question was the Sixties and Seventies, years of social and political turmoil dominated by the Vietnam War, the fight for African-American civil rights, and the political revelations, post-Vietnam, of the crimes of the American executive branch and its agencies in the Pentagon and at the CIA.

I am assured by some of the politically quiescent that I know that their withdrawal is based upon fear of repression, and upon a sense of politically futility, a futility only accentuated by the cowardice of the ostensible opposition party, the Democrats.

In psychology, there used to be quite a row over what mattered more in behavior, the stimulus or the response. That artificial dichotomy was shattered in a famous essay by American pragmatist John Dewey.

What was true of static, overly idealized views a hundred years ago of psycholgical and physiological functioning in an organism is true of simplistic political analyses today. And here, I am not arguing against either Floyd or Silber, but with the mainstream punditry of our large circulation press, the networks and cable news channels, of the respectable magazines, etc.

The "dialecticians" among Marxist thinkers had deconstructed it all long ago: power and the people ruled by power exist in an unstable relationship to each other. It may only seem stable when viewed up close, by the measuring stick of a life span, or of two, or even three life spans -- rarely more than that.

Viewed with any historical perspective, we can see that a lulled population and its political somnolence can only last so long. That's why the creeps at NSA work night and day to record everything we say or write. They even want to know what we think (and would if they could).

There is still time for the American people to take their rightful place on the stage of history. And their role will be to expose and bring down one of the most corrupt and criminal organizations to ever find their way to control of an ostensibly democratic state.

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