America done lost its mind
It took 1,200 police to clear a roughly equal amount of Occupy LA protesters the other night. (One of those arrested was BEAST literary critic Michael Caigoy.) Occupy Philly was also shut down. More than 400 people were arrested in total. And the journalists who weren’t arrested weren’t allowed to stay, for fake reasons.
There’s an internet censorship bill up in the Senate; it’s being promoted by entertainers called Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dog; a piece of legislation that passed in the Senate 93-7 yesterday, the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 1867., makes it legal for the Feds to indefinitely imprison Americans in offshore torture chambers; people now communicate with each other using sexist little robots, which the government predictably uses to spy on us; “anti-terror” police actively suppress dissent; the top Google News story today is about a preposterously named, fork-tongued villain called “Newt”; the military makes online personas that sway public opinion; our executive branch already has the legal authority to assassinate citizens accused of terrorism; we’ve basically lost our minds.
I saw this slide Wednesday at a talk by world renowned philosopher, author, atheist, and beard-haver Daniel Dennett:
On the left is a termite hill; on the right is Gaudí’s Sagrada Família cathedral in Barcelona.
Dennett used the comparison as a metaphor, for his theory of consciousness, which is that from the mindless hardware of the brain comes the mind, and from the mind-software comes our soul. Or something like that. If you’re careful, he once told me, you can apply the same concept to humans. When we get together in certain organizations, economic markets, corporations, religions, regimes, or any “informational structure” to use Dennett’s “deliberately very abstract and noncommittal term”, we create meta-organisms — with a sort-of mind of its own.
This seems an appropriate thing to ponder as America loses its collective mind and soul. What else do you call it when the media is far more interested in college sport’s pedos, and the latest Herman Cain philandering, than some of the above stories? And what else could you call it, but societal madness, when journalists and protesters are treated like criminals while not one wealthy thief has yet to be charged in the ’08 financial collapse?
Our national consciousness is out of whack — like a mental patient, an addict, a compulsive personality. Some national impulses have gained an unhealthy ascendancy — like fear, and corporate greed. There’s big profit in “fighting terrorism,” and as we literally run out of terrorists, we clearly need to make more. Greed is so insatiable that we’re cannibalizing ourselves.
That’s in some ways what fascism is. It’s when people give up their freedom — their freewill to an institution, or an “informational structure.” Like in an addict’s, or a crazy person’s brain, some bit of our society is rewarded for carrying out acts which harm the country’s total health. And a few major “informational structures” — a few rules, laws, societal algorithms ensure this madness.
The first is corporate governance. It is illegal for a corporation’s board of directors to not maximize profit, for its shareholders. That means if it’s cheaper to cut corners, and pay the ensuing regulatory slap on the wrist, that’s what they do. It’s easy math. It also demands that companies spend big on influencing government regulation, or any legislation that could affect their bottom-line. In the case of fascism, it’s the bottom-line of the DoD/anti-terrorism contractors, the for-profit detention industry, the armored vehicle industry, the pepper spray & rubber bullet manufacturers…you get the idea. And since Citizens United opened the door to unlimited spending, the act of shaping legislation with money has gotten easier.
Basically what we have is the DHS funneling corporate money into legislation and the militarization of local police forces. (Not to mention the apparent legality of congressional insider trading.)
We’ve tilted slightly toward sanity over the past few months. We began to think, “Are we mad?” The more persistently we asked, the more apparent the answer became. The crazy fought back pretty hard. I mean, the Mayor of New York now says, “I have my own army”. CEO bankers donated huge to that army. The media did its best to ignore and confuse the questions, and berate the questioners. “We don’t have a problem!” they insisted. “What are they even asking!”
The powers-that-be are scared, so they’re creating new Luntz-approved language to obfuscate the questions, to circumvent the conversation. It’s crazy.
I wonder how crazy it’s going to get. It got so crazy during Bush, but we all thought things would change. We hoped they would. The more realistic among us never believed Barack Obama would fix our fundamentally broken system, but we had the notions that the “War on Terror” would abate — that the crazy would go away. The more astutely cynical saw the defense industry spending more on Obama than McCain — a co-creator, along the with Dem Carl Levin, of the habeas corpus-nullifying portions of S.1867 — and worried. We saw him stack the Treasury with Goldman Sachs execs, and we knew.
Typically abysmal on the terrorism front, Obama’s threatened to veto S.1867, but for the worst possible reasons — that it may interfere with his ability to break other constitutional laws. That’s the thing that threw people about Obama and terrorism: he was a constitutional lawyer; he was supposed to have some clue on civil liberties. He said he’d close GITMO. He was a lying politician. This isn’t all on Obama, but he is terribly grating:
“I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”
- Barack Obama, January 28, 2011
His silence over dousing UC Davis* students in pepper spray is blinding.
This isn’t even about politics anymore. The Right and what passes for the Left these days are mere symptoms of the disease. That seems clear when 93 of 100 Senators vote to strip you of your right to trial. Fascism is always a bipartisan, corporate effort.
It’s a bleak time for America. We’re an ill society. We don’t really know what the medicine tastes like. And many won’t even concede that we’re sick.
*Originally read Berkeley. They weren’t sprayed, they were just bludgeoned with clubs. We regret the error.