One day not long ago, I turned on the television. Grazing the decay taking hold across the array of American cable and satellite channels, I came across an episode of what was apparently a multi-part mini-series intended as some form of historical review documentary, The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us, on the National Geographic network.
When I saw the program information, showing the title, I sat there for a while pondering that one.
Wait a minute. What?
“Really?… the decade that made us?”.
As I took a look around on the National Geographic website, one item I found, among the batch of pages associated with this miniseries, was some blog page item titled “It’s Official – Everything was Better in the 80s!“. One of the episodes is described on the site with the subheading text “The ’70s are over, and America learns to feel good about itself again.“.
There was an entry posted on the Zero Hedge website that addresses what the writer calls Abnormalcy Bias.
“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited
The purpose I set out for this piece was to try to do a general broad overall glance at the state of what I, and some other people, I have noticed, refer to as the Three E subjects. These are Earth (or ecology, or maybe environment, if you like), energy, and economy. The three all naturally go together, thoroughly intertwined and interactive in complex ways.
In all these things, I see a pervasive abnormalcy bias. A lot of this I trace back to really forming in earnest, taking ahold of people and really getting going, in the eighties. I was watching it happen. The eighties in America was a time when a very large portion of the population seemed a little too willing, even happy, to unhook themselves from reality.
It was there in the phenomenon of people rejecting much of what made it into public consciousness in the seventies as problematic and complicated, and turning to some sort of retro nostalgia trying to turn back to the fifties, because some people thought of that as a golden era when everything was grand and getting better, and so much simpler. It was there in much different cultural settings in the kind of “no future” nihilism of punk/new wave pop culture.
There was a huge, glaring, unavoidable indicator of something very wrong, in the 1980 election when sitting president Carter was rejected in favor of Ronald Reagan. Carter, an educated, technically savvy, thinking, honest character, tried to deal with issues and problems as they were, and talk honestly to the American citizenry about them. The US had reached the all time peak of oil production, the peak and turn into diminishing returns of Hubbert’s curve, as forecast by M.K. Hubbert back around 1956, around 1970 to 1971. What followed was a batch of consequences of this, including the infamous OPEC Arab oil embargo and “energy crisis” of 1973, and the economic effects.
A large portion of the American public reacted to this in a kind of blend of recoiling reflex of denial and large scale pouting tantrum, and voted Reagan in a president, a man who presented a kind of happy delusion and false sense of simplicity. This was a man who had essentially had an entire career in showbiz, a mediocre actor and PR spokesman, who entered the White House to begin his last and biggest show, his ultimate role, starring as the character of “President of the United States”, and people ate it up. The fact that you can find a nonstop stream of people today pontificating about what a great man Reagan was, one of the greatest American presidents, “The Great Communicator”, makes an astounding display of the lasting effects of the eighties turn into unreality.
We might regard today’s dysfunctional politics and state of governance as just a long continuation of that path. You can find it in people who not only still hold some largely illusory and mythical image of President Reagan in their minds, the distortion of past reality and the growth and mutations of myth seem to get more warped over time. We can find problems that are a different divorce from reality regarding views of current President Obama, whether it’s the largely fictional image some factions hold, and incessantly foist on the American citizenry, of some secret Muslim Leftist radical out to take their guns and freedom and destroy America with Sharia Law Marxism, or whatever delusional fucking idiocy they hold, and elsewhere you can find people holding an image of Obama as a golden moment of American history, with neither of these kinds of thing having a solid connection to the actual record to date.
People are so manipulated into letting themselves be defined into neatly opposed pairs of teams playing idiot dodgeball, defined by “are you Democrat or Republican?”, “Conservative or Liberal?”, “on The Left or The Right?”, with accompanying batches of packaged cliches and stereotypes and all sorts of confusing and misleading propaganda obfuscating damned near any matter of importance, that it’s no wonder about how far detached from reality and basic understanding and reason we’ve become here.
In the present day realm of American politics, it seems to me to be gradually but surely becoming more and more clear that in some broad way, there are some basic common phenomena between what we had in the Reagan era, and now, a little less than a year into a second term, with President Barack Obama, in that both men had support from a lot of people who really wanted to believe an image of the man of the time that was much different from reality.
We have problems that trace themselves to a large degree right back to Reagan’s presidency, and to address that seriously is truly a case of a living example of the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, as people avoid even touching the truth of a popular concensus of the Reagan myths. We have some people holding an image of Obama that, supportive or intensely adversarial, is disconnected from reality, and the actual reality is not so good, and matching neither the Fox News and AM radio chattering bullshit nor the praise.
The actual reality has been much different, including what seems to be more and more supported by the evidence of reality, the idea that in actual fact, what we have is a nice appealing showbiz figurehead puppet of plutocracy and what President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about, unsuccessfully, it would appear, what he termed “the military-industrial complex”, which these days should probably be modified to “the military-corporate-banking complex”.
I started out here to do a summary of some form of the state of what I (and some others) think of as the big “Three Es”, the health and conditions of Earth, economy, and energy matters. That will be the subject next time out. Coming across this slightly silly television historical review brought something basic to the forefront in my mind. In these subjects, where we are now, and where we’re still heading, really, fundamentally, profoundly takes us back to directions taken back in the era of eighties America, and it has jack shit nada to do with whether people had hair and clothes that look funny now and questions of whether people were listening to Journey and Spandex clad cheesy metal bands or Thompson Twins and The Clash.
It’s difficult, and runs into all kinds of problems, to suggest to people, namely, most of my fellow Americans, that we now have a whole pile of gnarly problems that can be traced back to, as writer Charles Hugh Smith puts it, An Abundance of Bad Decisions. We all remember the 2008 election campaign slogan of Obama about “change we can believe in”, when the actuality of the past few years has been now President Obama as a custodian of status quo, with much of that status quo tracing back to the Reagan era and turning away from reality and national self reflection and serious review into shallow delusions and pomp and the grandeur of Empire.
Take any serious realistic look at the subjects of the state of the Earth, the economy, the matter of energy sources and how we use (or misuse and squander) them, and all this is dragging along behind us.