Concerning “Stupid,” “Ignorant,” and “Indifferent”

I just watched a two-plus minute video (excerpt) of Noam Chomsky regarding “stupid” people. Actually, the interviewer introduced the words “stupid people,” not Chomsky.

Chomsky had opined that two dire existential threats to humanity are the increasing (apparently) likelihood of nuclear war and the increasing damage inflicted by human-assisted climate change.  The interviewer asked, “Why do you care about stupid people?” Chomsky answered by pointing to those newly elected to Congress [5-7 years ago] who were “climate deniers”: people who cheerfully dismiss the science behind climate-studies and consequently perceived no responsibility to take action, either to reduce carbon emissions or to anticipate/address effects of climate change. He also opined that these same representatives a) have a “fanatical” belief in the “efficient market” (unregulated capitalism and b) front enormous, powerful financial interests.  Here is a link the video: Chomsky

I take “stupid” to mean not so much unlearned as incapable of learning certain things. For instance, I am not gifted in comprehending mathematics beyond basic algebra. My mind took to geometry quite well but recoiled from trigonometry.  Probably if I had set my mind to the tasks with more determination, I could have had more success, but even then, I would not have excelled, I suspect.

I am not “ignorant” of mathematics, and I certainly understand their importance.  I can grasp basic statistical evidence.  I am not indifferent to their (mathematics) central role, nor am I so cynical that I would like to vote for people who oppose mathematics just to–what?–feel comfortable?

The problems Chomsky highlights seem to spring from gleeful ignorance, a view of the world that implies “I know all I ever need to know.”  This ignorance and/or tolerance of ignorance seems to blossom into indifference or cynicism.  For so-called Republicans and Conservatives, the known includes a deep disrespect for government, but not enough disrespect to decline to serve in government. It is a subversiveness far more effective than anarchy.

For example, the EPA has been told by its director to scrub websites of climate-change language and information. The known includes the assumption that white supremacy is tolerable if not preferable and that all personal weaponry ought to be legal. It includes toleration of misogyny, a wish to abolish legal abortion combined with an opposition to contraception and sex education (go figure). Now it also seems to include a surreal combination of bellicosity and isolationism and enthusiasm about mixing greed, Christianity, and government.

I assume Republicans and Conservatives like Jeff Flake and Mitch McConnell are mentally gifted enough to understand the science behind human-assisted climate change. I assume they pretend to oppose the science so as to pander to their supporters–who may or may not be capable of understanding the science. Flake and McConnell and their ilk represent legions and wield enormous power. They tolerate White Supremacy and, in the form of the Southern Strategy, maintain its potency. They sometimes say tepid things to critique Trump, but they do nothing to impede him or his harmful cabinet and cabinet-level appointees.

Why do so many people, white people especially, support such indifference, ignorance, and cynicism when it puts virtually everyone, including them and their families, at risk? There’s the rub. Political scientists and economists often speak/write of “rational actors”: people who at least can be counted on to make decisions based on self-interest. The American train is being driven by irrational actors, at ease with current and impending destruction. From an African American point of view (to select one of many possible examples), I suppose this has always been the case. At any rate, how does one, how do many, fight back against and render ineffective the cynical indifferent and gleeful ignorance? There’s the rub, part deux. 

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Is Trump Mainstream?

Well, if enough people voted for Trump to secure the electoral votes needed, then, yes, he’s mainstream.  It’s a thought from many Americans (and others) who aren’t suffering from one kind of mass psychosis or another recoil.

In what sense is his White Supremacy not mainstream, given the “Southern Strategy” of his Party, actions leading up to the Black Lives Matter movement, continuing Jim Crow voter-suppression (abetted by the Supreme Court),  and the bizarre (if predictable) over-reactions to a middle-of-the road, prepared, pragmatic Black President?  Trump want to fire Sessions, not because the latter is a homophobic segregationist but because a proper investigation continues.

In what sense are his excesses, profligacy, proud ignorance, environmental nihilism, greed, and grifting not mainstream American?  Judging from what I hear and see at my nondescript liberal arts college, I would guess more than a few academics, even, are okay with Trump’s anti-political-correctness, anti-Obama, nobody-knows-the-trouble-White-folks-have-seen, misogynist persona.

Why would so many American “Christians” vote for and continue to support Trump if he weren’t mainstream?

The idea that if “we” could just get rid of Trump, then everything would get back to “normal,” may be a necessary delusion; who knows?  But the real problem is that “normal” is Trump and Trump is normative,  if more crudely direct.  After all, the GOP Congress and Supreme Court do his bidding.  It’s not like they oppose him in any meaningful way.

A deeper problem is that the U.S. has never truly addressed its White Supremacist core values, its cultish attraction to unregulated capitalism and the long-con of “trickle-down” economics, its unrelenting baiting of the White working class, its military-industrial complex, and its ultimately self-destructive (in addition to destructive) view of its home, Earth.  Now one reads article after article about how “liberals” (whatever that means) must learn how to appeal to White working class people, which is really a way of saying that we need to pretend what many of these people believe is hideous.  Also, the articles overlook the fact that a majority of White suburban men and women went for Trump, so apparently class isn’t the determining variable.

To me, Trump just looks like a inevitable result of American history, economics, and education.  He is America, particularly White America (and in politics, that’s still mostly what matters).

What people who recoil from Trump need to do is to recoil (and then do something about) all the things that make him American, as opposed to making excuses, minimizing, wilting under charges of “political correctness,” and remaining in denial. From its colonial inception, the country/nation has been as sick as a dog that drank anti-freeze.

The Pseudocracy Takes the “Com” Out of “Communication”

Yes, most of us will remember Marshal McLuan’s dictum, “the medium is the message,” the message of which is there is no message except the experience of the medium.  More charming even than this dictum were two examples of it in popular culture: Henry Gibson’s utterance on Laugh In, “Marshal McLuan, what’re you doin’?” and, in a Woody Allen film, Allen’s character and another character in line to see a movie, chatting about McCluan, whereupon McCluan himself appears, as himself.

Electronic media and the pseudocracy, with regard to “political communication,” have . . . . what?  Expanded, perfected, refined (?) the mode McLuan characterized.

Thus, we experience what have been called “dog whistle politics.” Politicians, political machines (literally: computers), surrogates, and consultants utter, by various means, words, phrases, sentences, and memes meant solely to induce masses of people to react, non-rationally, immediately, reflexively. “Government takeover” is such a meme. “Heartless budget,” from the Dem side, is another. All Parties and various parties may seemly evoke panic with “time is running out,” “disaster [in an upcoming election] looms.” After the whistle is blown, we dogs are, in addition to reacting, click on the link to give money, or at least to remain in a state of perpetual, unreflective, simmering rage.

Thus, the “com” in “communication” has been removed. We are not being communicated with. We are being -municated to. Sometimes the phenomenon or mass-practice takes on paradoxical, parodic form. For example, a cable crooner (the political persuasion matters not) may ask “us” (it isn’t personal; it just seems that way) to weigh in on a “poll,” using our phone, which we carry around, more or less like a dog with a toy. “Tell us what YOU think.” Right. We use the phone to communicate with the floating image on a screen. As if!

Consider the extent to which you, as a political pet of one kind or another, are kept barking, are inundated constantly with -municative noises: questions, statements, phrases, words, pictures, “memos,” memes, “messages,” loud music, etc., all operating as jolts of electricity to make your mental tendons contract like one of Frankenstein’s-Monster’s limbs, as he lies on the slab. Please know, as I assume you already do, that no one wants to hear from you. It isn’t an exchange.

All Politics Are (Not) Local

Herein the blog asserts that Governor Chris Christie’s journey from New Jersey (where he is caught in the consequences of using the other kind of bully-pulpit to bully politicians who didn’t support him) to Las Vegas, where he must kiss the ring of a GOP Mega-Funder, is emblematic of the pseudocracy.

Such is the pseudocracy that ancient adages may be threatened.  Probably the adage, “You can’t beat something with nothing,” remains reliable, although didn’t John Ashcroft lose to a dead person in Missouri? Oh, well: the exception that tests the rule.

The blog believes (here I imitate Bill O’Reilly: “The Factor believes . . .”) that the adage “all politics is [are] local” is endangered. True, Chris Christie has his eye on the White House, so it is expected that he would suck up to a national Mega-Funder. That said, Mega-Funders such as the Koch Brothers pour money into House elections, flooding Congressional districts, and those elections frequently feature state officials wishing to climb, but they don’t climb based on how they brought farm-money home; they run on how well they conform to a nationalized Tea Party formula.

Moreover, the “issues” seem increasingly national. That is, if you associate with or want to please the Tea Party, you must be rabid about the budget in a Tea Party sort of way, viciously anti-Obama (not merely anti-Democratic), nativist, Randian, and NRA-friendly. You must, essentially, run on the implied promise of getting nothing done. “I will do nothing about immigration. I will do nothing about health-care, except oppose ways to deliver it. I will not work on the budget. I will work against it. I will not soil my hands with policy. I will vote regularly on symbolic ‘legislation.’ I will make government not work.”

And the idea of a New Jersey Governor flying to Vegas–Vegas: how perfect is that?–to perform for cash somehow captures what the Citizens United decision not so much did to politics in the U.S. but what it completed. The coup de grace.

Of course, candidates in both Parties must suck up to Big Funders, although it must be said that one way Obama and Democrats fought back against oligarchical money was to raise money online from “small” donors–three bucks a pop, even. Nonetheless, the Dems have their bundlers and Mega-Donors. In this sense, it is a one-Party system.

And even the online appeals to small donors have a national character, so that (for example) if a citizen gave money to Obama’s campaign, he or she will be asked every day to contribute to election-campaigns in a wide variety of states and Congressional districts, however far-flung.

There may come a time when Democratic candidates must fit themselves to a constrictive mold. For the moment, it seems as if only the GOP is functioning that way, so that experienced politicians (like Dick Lugar) get undercut by primary-challengers who have agreed to shape themselves according to assembly-line specifications. Model Tea Party.

Christie is in trouble because of painfully provincial, local, and stupid politics. Shutting down a bridge? Really? But he hopes to escape by doing a pole-dance (block that image) in our real national capital, Vegas. Viva, Chris Christie!

Meanwhile, the blog sentimentally longs for the old days of moderately corrupt pork-barreling, when at least we could count on incumbents to bring home money for roads, bridges, and buildings, and thereby (wait for it) put people to work. What a quaint idea. Horse-and-buggy thinking. Dear Blog: Grow up! Way too local and pragmatic for the pseudocracy, which, like our data, lives in a Cloud and cannot, must not, concern itself with what might be productive for a state, a district, a county, a city, or some people.

All politics are vaporously national. Does the assertion hold up? The Blog must ask some political scientists.

Short Con, Long Con: More Advice for the GOP

My imaginary friends ask me, “Why are you giving advice to the GOP? You’re not of the GOP.”

Two answers: I’m so old that I remember sane GOPers–like Eisenhower! Second, I like to help people. Why, just this evening, I was behind a guy in line at the grocery store who had beer, a bag of potatoes, a whole chicken, and carrots. He didn’t have enough cash for the spuds. So I covered it. He was wearing a Green Bay Packers hat. The Packers beat my Raiders in Super Bowl II. That was not block to doing the right thing. I gave him a fist-bump, and he went on his way, with a bag of spuds, which, being of Swedish extraction, I worship.

So:

Dear GOPers,

Here is an example of a short con. A man rings your doorbell one morning, and he’s dressed sparklingly as some kind of landscape professional. He has a box of what look like sprinkler-parts. He says he’s stranded and needs 10 dollars, cash, of cab fare, and he’s willing to leave the “parts” as collateral. You’re sleepy, he looks impressive, you don’t really care, whatever. You give him the 10 bucks and take the “parts.” About 20 minutes later, your spouse informs you that you’re an idiot. The guy is running a short con. You think, okay, lesson learned, 10 bucks.

The long con keeps you coming back and coming back–chiefly with this bullshit: Hey, we got unlucky (a hurricane), the enemy is everywhere (Governor Christie!, gays, hippies, people with less than ivory skin!), Obama is still a radical Muslim spy from Mars (be afraid!).

Thus, on Fox, Dick Morris, whom I call Morris Dick, blabs about how he got certain demographics wrong. If a contractor built a house for you, and the whole main floor were out of plumb, and the contractor said, hey, my plumb-bob had a knot in it, would you believe him or her?

In the Wall Street Journal, Rove blames Hurricane Sandy on Obama’s victory. First of all, WTF happened to the WSJ? Make that a mantra, my Republican friends: WTF WTJ? Secondly, if a lot of rain and wind can disrupt several billion of dollars (10 or 20 per cent of which goes to a dough-necked huckster), then what, exactly, were you spending your money on? Ask your spouse, “Honey, was I conned?”

Not literally (emphasis: not literally), take Grover Norquist, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and so many others out, attach cement slippers, and invite them to take a dip in Lake Erie.

Seriously. YOU’RE PAYING HARD COLD CASH for this shit?

The short con is the fault of the con artist.

The long con is the fault of the conned.

One last piece of advice: Mitch McConnell is part of the long con. What has he helped you to do? What is HIS net worth? If you were in a poker game in Las Vegas, would you trust a short, “mild mannered” Kentuckian with perfect hair and oyster-shell spectacles? Of course not.

My GOPer friends, don’t allow yourself to be pimped one more time. Imagine you are out of cash, and imagine I just paid for your bag of spuds.

My Advice to the GOP

I like to give advice to people who would never, in a million years, take it because then I can’t be held responsible. So, after what seems to have been a mild debacle (oxymoron?) yesterday for the GOP, here is my advice:

1. Vary the haircuts. Seriously. Both GOP men and women have that look–the men’s hair is too perfect, with that kind of Trent-Lott helmet thing going on, and too many of the women have that Texas, big-hair look (which in Texas looks just fine). Nothing like a fresh new “do” to make you feel better and to project the sense that you are not all in lockstep.

2. Realize that President Obama is just a guy. Sure, he’s president, and that has to piss you off. Yes, he’s Black, and that may bug you. Why, who the hell knows. Blacks have been Americans since 1619.

But seriously. He went to high school in Hawaii. He was rather handsome, but still, he looked like we all did in high school: kind of goofy. He married his sweet-heart, and they have two kids. He’s very ambitious, but then so are you. He drinks beer and smokes cigarettes and, like most men, knows way too much about the minutiae of the NCAA basketball brackets. He likes the blues, R&B, and country. He’s a little tedious when he gets wonky, but so are you. He eats hamburgers.

Assert yourself against him politically if you will. That’s entertainment! But just flat-out give up on the socialism, Muslim, Kenya, Manchurian candidate stuff. It didn’t work, for one thing. And it’s silly, for another. Read any definition of socialism. Then check how closely Obama resembles Eisenhower re: policies. He’s just a guy.

3. Don’t elevate guys like Paul Ryan to be your intellectual leaders. Ryan seems like a good politician, but he’s not an intellectual. Nothing wrong with that. He just isn’t.

4. Tell the people who act like they’re Rip Van Winkle and have awakened in an unfamiliar century to chill out or get out. You know who they were. Invite Bachmann to get help, and hint to Palin that the gig is over. Send her to Hollywood. After all, what has either of them done for you lately? End Rove’s long confidence-game. Hasn’t he bilked you enough? Haven’t you bought quite enough vinyl siding?

5. Go back to basics: Make deals and bring home the pork. Be corrupt in the usual American congressional ways; drop the new ways. If Demo Senator X will vote for fixing your highway, then vote for Demo Senator X’s microscopic tax-increase on millionaires. Get in touch with your inner Everett Dirksen.

6. More broadly, fix stuff. The place is falling apart. Highways, bridges, sea-walls, the electrical grid, schools, universities. Your job is not to bore people with Ayn Rand’s philosophy, just as no one wants to read some Dem’s latest book of verse. You’re supposed to fix stuff in your state and in the country. How did you forget that?

7. Get out more. Go clubbing. Hang out with a broader range of people. Have some laughs–laughs that don’t hinge on racist jokes, anti-woman “humor,” or gay-bashing. Surprise yourself. Go to some festival in your state that no one would expect you to attend. Show off that new hair cut.

How to Freak Out Politicians: Agree

Imagine, citizens, if there were a vast bi-wing and head-to-tail conspiracy among us to agree on a few things that politicians hope and pray we never agree on. To induce us to watch them, give them money, and vote for them, politicians need there to be at least the appearance of difference.

True, some politicians go out of their way(s) to convince us, that, all right, you really are different, Pal, and more is the pity: Akin in Missouri. Paul Rand Ryan. Roseanne Barr (she ran for governor).

Nonetheless, please allow me to forge on in this fantasy-of-agreement by listing some things on which we could agree if we just shifted our angles of perception slightly.

1. “Gay marriage,” so called. Let’s assume you oppose two gay persons’ being able to marry. You do so for religious reasons. Let us then assume that two gay persons get married and live in some part of your city. You will never see them, or, if you do, you won’t know they’re married. At the same time, they will have no effect on your religious beliefs, nor will the State, which may not, according to the Constitution, interfere with your place of worship. They will have no effect on your marriage, if you are married. You don’t have to approve of gay marriage, and you may oppose it in your church. You’ll never have to attend a gay marriage, nor will a married gay couple ever visit your church or come to your home. Now imagine that you regularly drive on a section of Interstate highway that is in terrible shape. Wouldn’t you rather that your representative(s) get that thing fixed than touching your “gay-marriage” nerve so they can get money out of you?

2. The deficit. I don’t know anyone in our wing-to-wing conspiracy who doesn’t want this thing fixed. The GOP will have you believe that President Obama is a profligate liberal, and the DEMS will have you believe that the GOP wants to push old women off cliffs. All of that is pure distraction. Obama is prudent to the point of being an Eisenhower Republican, and most of the GOP wants to fix the thing. What if we all agreed that we wanted some prudent cuts in federal spending, some mild increases in revenue (from the upper-brackets), and some practical, non-ideological adjustments to Social Security and Medicare? I’m talking about the kind of pragmatic approach to a budget that you and I have to practice every day in our lives. And what if we all “said” to our representatives: get it done.

3. Global warming. I suggest that if we accept scientific conclusions on other settled matters (smoking increases the likelihood of getting lung cancer), that we should accept the conclusions about global warming and humans’ contribution to it. If you can’t go so far as the latter (humans’ role it in), you can still probably agree that certain steps need to be taken. If you live in farm country, you need the government to help deal with a greater likelihood of droughts and flash-bloods. If you live in the path of hurricanes, you’re going to need more infrastructure, an efficient and effective FEMA, and so on. People are now building machines to suck the carbon out of the air. It doesn’t matter what their politics are. Also, we know we’re running of of oil, so it’s in all our interests to cultivate others sources. Again, our message should be, across the board, get it done.

Maybe you can think of additional and/or better examples of these. Meeting places. Common ground. Issues we can work out, problems we can define differently.

But mainly, just think of the extent to which the politicians would freak out, and just think how much they have it coming.

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