No 240 Posted by fw, August 6, 2011
“There is so much more at stake than simply a “debate” regarding the alleged debt ceiling. . . . Given the degraded quality of life in the nation, why do the people of the U.S. stand for this culture of exploitation and diminished prospects?” —Phil Rockstroh
Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. The above passage is from his essay, Beyond the debt limit fiasco (August 3, 2011), which I have reposted below. Because this is a long essay, I have added sub-headings (in italicized smaller font) to facilitate browsing and tracking the development of Rockstroh’s thesis. Since Phil and others may not appreciate my editing, click on the linked title above to read the original essay.
Beyond the Debit Limit Fiasco by Phil Rockstroh, August 3, 2011
At present, most of us negotiate our days so distracted, disillusioned, dazed, buffeted, bought or marginalized by the corporate state/ mass media hologram — the multi-headed, awareness-addling Hydra that guards contemporary precincts of perception (apropos, the “debate” involving the so-called debt ceiling “crisis”) — it is difficult to apprehend what we are up against i.e., the forces of consolidated and calcified power that degrade almost every aspect of life in the nation.
In contrast, throughout this past year, popular uprisings of varying scope and degree of success have been unfolding worldwide. And the genie is not going back in the neoliberal bottle. The global power elite might not like it, but (unlike the general population of the U.S., whose view of life has been conditioned by the inundating, thus internalized, narcissism proffered by media age hyper-commercialism, and who have come to exist as self-involved consumer state dystopias of one) — large numbers of the people of the world are declaring to their overlords: We’ve had enough of the world you’ve created…time to make it our own.
With this in mind, let us take a moment to pity our own poor, little, economic despots…from the start, so misunderstood . . . they only built the U.S. on the bones of African slaves and watered the soil with the blood of murdered Indians, and, from that time on, proceeded to pile corpses to the sky, only so they could climb atop and look out for us lesser folks.
And from the soil rose a culture of kitsch, unhealthy food, and creepy, over-priced banal distractions. Consequently, the U.S. seems an over-priced, downscale theme Park — Six Flags over Denial and Decay — a grotesque, kitsch-bewitched land of negative enchantment…unprepared for the gathering, denial-sundering storm that, from all indications, will leave the nation devastated. What are the forces and factors that have wrought this circumstance?
One progenitor of the defiant idiocy of the general population of the U.S. can be traced to the tendency of the consumer state to induce impulsivity rather than reflection i.e., rendering individuals self-involved, infantilized monsters of the id…dazzled by and perpetually reaching for the next bright and shiny.
Antithetically, if a critical mass of the populace of the nation ever gained a semblance of self-awareness that included traits of foresight, critical thinking, empathy, self-restraint and a sense of conviction regarding, for example, the dire state of the planet on an ecological basis, as well as an apprehension as to their position as wage slaves/debt serfs to their corporate overlords — the corporate/consumer paradigm would be in danger of collapse. While it is true, government is often behind assaults on common sense and common decency, the slickest, most self-serving ploy monopolistic capitalist pulled off against the tenets and foundation of a just, equitable society has been in their cunning framing of the situation e.g., the sales pitch of one of their most effective salesman, that “government is the problem, not the solution.” (Reagan’s actual words: “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”)
Ronald Reagan was half right; only, he, conveniently, left out the following: In particular, when the politicians who operate the system are beholden, as he was (and, at present, Barack Obama is) by game-rigging operatives of the moneyed elite.
Ergo, the so-called “debt crisis” involved a similar dance of deceit and distraction. As was the case, early into the Obama presidency, with the healthcare “debate,” the deal was struck before the faux rancorous music began. The fix was in. The moneyed class works the system and those without power and influence get worked over.
Regarding the persistent, liberal fallacy: Obama needs to stand up for his convictions. Correction: Throughout his presidency, he has been standing upon his convictions i.e. standing on the throats of the powerless as we’re being mugged by his elitist benefactors.
Moreover, how does he or anyone “change the tone” of political polarization so evident in the nation, when the right is a walking landfill of noxious arrogance and inexplicable self-regard? If contemporary conservatives showed any indication of harboring even a molecule of humanity or self-awareness then a dialog might be possible. But we’re dealing with grownups who believe God is some kind of cosmic CEO — folks who are certain…if one listens closely, one can hear him counting his money.
Therefore, we’re warned: not voting for Democratic Party (lesser-of-two-evils) candidates is a treacherous decision, and we’re advised we must goad President Obama to govern as the man he sold himself as during the 2008 presidential election campaign. Given the realities of political life within the age of corporate dominance, in which reality is defined and distorted by the media hologram, hasn’t the thought occurred to progressive types that the sales pitch is, in fact, inseparable from the product, and, consequently, to the most media-savvy mountebank will go the spoils? O.K. then, you’ve been betrayed. Good. Such a turn of affairs serves as a good vehicle for clearing away toxic innocence.
“We would rather be ruined than changed;
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb across the moment
And let our illusions die.”–W.H. Auden from The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue
Next step: Let the Democratic Party die and allow a true progressive party to rise from the ashes. Although, first, the hidden in plain sight, inverted totalitarian powers at large need to be drawn into the open e.g., as Dr. King did in regard to Jim Crowe in the U.S. Deep South in the 1950s and 60s.
There is so much more at stake than simply a “debate” regarding the alleged debt ceiling.
To cite one collective peril: The oceans of the earth are the matrix of life on our planet. As did all life on land, we human beings emerged from ancient seas. And we will not survive for long by dramatically altering its nature by the short sighted greed and hubris of the present time. We will be pulled to our death by its destruction, like Ahab lashed to Moby Dick.
Given the degraded quality of life in the nation, why do the people of the U.S. stand for this culture of exploitation and diminished prospects?
We resist the dread incurred by an attempt to climb our way past the proliferate distractions of the moment thus avoiding this extant state of affairs: Beneath the shimmering sea of the media hologram, a monstrous virulence glides.
Belying our consumerist habit of mind (evinced in traits of feigned insouciance and blithe disregard) yawns a system sustained by the blood and treasure-depleting apparatus of militarism and economic exploitation — a system that is reaping vast destruction upon the ecological balance of the earth, the foundation of community, and upon individual psychological wellbeing.
Accordingly, a gnawing emptiness is the constant companion of the denizens of the corporate/militarist/consumer state. This emptiness is the progenitor of its destructive nature. In a vain attempt to sate the hollow ache and banish the gathering dread, the rapacious appetite of empire rises and is perpetually reinforced.
There is the banality of evil and then there is the evil of banality. Witness: The present banality of our ecocide-inflicting mode of being — one that reduces the world to only those things that can be commodified and thus reduces earth, sky and psyche to controllable (dreamless and dead) bits. We stare at our appliances as exquisite things are extinguished, forever…mistaking configurations of pixels for the breath and brilliance of the world.
On a personal basis, the present system levels this dismal legacy upon the nation: Minds made of internalized shopping malls; bodies built by junk food; libidos informed by celebrity porn; agendas driven by a crass, good versus evil, winners and losers, cartoon cosmology. Congratulations, America, we’ve done the architects of the republic proud.
Some people are fragile, and the system breaks them for life. In contrast, others are resilient, but will grow callous and conformist. Yes, life is a fistfight and a marriage and a dull evening of laundry and a trundle through trivia and a flight of the sublime. The point: Be alive within life…don’t submit to any ass-backwards, assembly line-modeled mode of being, gridded by comforting casuistry, maintained by hierarchies of bullies, and settled for due to fear or convenience.
“When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.” –-Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Insulated in our landscape of silence, we demand the ground beneath us be salted with deceit, begetting the bone-dry wilderness of ignorance and duplicity we know as late, neoliberal empire. Otherwise, fiery incantations of outrage would bloom from within us — a combustive wildfire immolating to ash our tinderbox rationalizations…perhaps, leaving an ash-fall to nourish sleeping seeds of renewal.
“What is to endure light must endure burning.” — Victor Frankl
Yet, this writer is bereft of a plan to redeem humankind. Who can afford such hubris? In contrast, I negotiate the world with my heart and head, and I sing of its joys and sorrows. Apropos, within the kingdom of this breathing moment, I hear arias rising…auguring the decay of this nation. In short, I am a poet and an essayist not a civic planner.
Accordingly, here are a few heart-wrought observations from the personal ash heap of my poetically archaic sensibility and sent out to the fear-bandying cynics of the elitist political and economic classes — to those who reduce all of life to the economic sophistry of Disaster Capitalism (who have been disingenuously warning, “run for your lives; the debt-ceiling is falling”) — who just can’t envisage a world that is not as degraded as their own mindset — to those in positions of insular, arrogant power who inflict great harm upon those bereft of privilege and then proclaim, “this is just the way things have to be.”
False, that is merely the way things exist in the confines of your miserable cosmology. To the contrary, the world is a vast, ever-changing tapestry…that you merely perceive as a dung rag for your exclusive use.
“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.” —Carl Jung
We have a daunting struggle ahead of us. Therefore, I proffer the following short message to those purer-than-thou souls who counsel that art (including the arts of political resistance) should only be uplifting, moderate, and beautiful:
Art (reflecting our world) is often sublimely ugly, monstrously so. The image of a monster opens the soul to awe. Note: The word “awe” is the prefix for both awesome and awful). Often, creating ugliness carries as much purpose as creating beauty.
“Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre’s words notwithstanding, I am often asked by readers “practical” questions such as: “You view the empire to be in a state of profound decay, beyond repair and reclamation — then how should we proceed from here?”
I answer, appropriating a phrase from James Hillman: simply proceed into “the thought of the heart and the soul of the world.” The problem contains the solution. The poison serves as its anecdote. The vastness and complexity of life that (seemingly) endeavors to destroy me (in contrast) renders me more like myself, and therefore I become more fit for the struggle ahead.
Accordingly, Rainer Maria Rilke, from the opening stanza of the Duino Elegies:
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic
Orders? And even if one were to suddenly
take me to its heart, I would vanish into its
greater existence. For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it serenely disdains
to destroy us.