Over forty years ago, Pete Townshend wrote a song. It’s a well known tune, one of the better known bits of the recorded work of The Who, and it’s one of those things that’s now a permanent fixture in the prefab standardized playlists of what remains of “rock radio” in the United States in the petrified corporate packaged commodity of “Classic Rock”, that serves as our contemporary form of “oldies” radio musical entertainment, the radio stations the old farts listen to while trying to recall their youth. (In full disclosure, I now fall into the demographic of well into middle age, a late-period Baby Boomer who came into adulthood in the middle/late seventies, one of those old farts. I am not, to be clear, stuck in this permanent nostalgia time warp that I just alluded to.)
The interesting thing here is that the song, Won’t Get Fooled Again, had a pretty basic and profound point that Townshend was trying to get across in the context of what was happening around him at the time, back around 1971. The whole point of the words of the song seem to have been completely missed, forgotten, and for most people, I suspect, they never actually understood what he was talking about to begin with. (It’s probably a good bet that many of these people also think that the song Baba O’Riley, found on the same album, is titled “Teenage Wasteland”, just because they apparently just really are that fucking stupid, and can’t read song titles found right there on the artwork accompanying the recorded work.)
The context of the period when Pete Townshend wrote that song featured lots of chatter about revolution and big change, The People rising up against the injustice of The Man, and all that jazz. Townshend, an intelligent and aware man, with senses and a mind of his own, realized how much of all that was just sheer bullshit, to put it bluntly.
meet the new boss
same as the old boss
We should be able to see that in action now clearly enough, but I’m afraid a great many of us don’t.
Right now, we have the display of Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama acting out the neocon agenda to attack another middle east country that has not attacked us and has never shown any signs of doing so. Dig upon the irony of that for a while. But, then, we’ve had several years now to gauge the current president, and the actual reality was reflected very neatly and accurately by words I came across somewhere a while back, saying Obama talks like he’s from the American Civil Liberties Union, and acts like Dick Cheney.
That sums it up.
To interject what’s happening today, US Secretary of State John Kerry puts on phase two of dog and pony show for Congress to beat the war drum, and flipping over to CNBC to check on the ongoing hallucinations, the big news flash at the moment I switched over was “Samsung introduces new smart-watch”, complete with old Korean businessman modeling a stupid looking watch with a tiny LCD screen on it. Ooh! New shiny object! We must run out and consume these! Your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues might not think you to be sufficiently advanced and prosperous if you don’t have one!
We have been fooled, again, and again, and again, or at least most of us. The ways this has happened are almost beyond counting, at least in any reasonable amount of time and space. There’s a book in this for somebody to write. The consequences and repercussions of this are piling up fast, and it seems that the bigger this pile gets, the more intense the denial and delusion gets.
The circus of American politics as it’s going now just begs for the simplicity of vulgar slang terms to sum it up without excessive time spent on the subject; clusterfuck, SNAFU, FUBAR. [For reference for the innocent reader who might not know the meaning of the last two, they are, as you might have guessed from the capitals, acronyms; situation normal, all fucked up, and fucked up beyond all recognition.]
We’ve had a little over four and a half years now to assess the presidency of Barack Obama (Nobel Peace Prize winner). One thing stands out at this point that is almost bizarre, and would be hilarious if the consequences were not so serious. It’s amazing how little resemblance the reality of Obama and the Obama presidency bears to either the notions and image held by the people who most enthusiastically support and praise him, or the notions and image of people who have been shrieking condemnation of him (since before he was even nominated as the Democratic party candidate in 2008).
And you know what? Telling members of either group that their image of Obama as president does not quite fit with the actual historical reality of the past several years faces, let’s say, high probability of difficulty.
I’ve written before about the running joke of the GOP/Fox News/AM radio honking and general “Conservative” punditry with their theatrical character of fictional cartoon villain Obama, the supposed Leftist radical socialist Kenyan secret Muslim who hates Jesus and America and business and white people, which is so far removed from reality that it’s often flat out hilarious.
People who like to apply nametags to themselves like Left and Liberal and Progressive like to believe in an image comprised of all kinds of attributes they think of as applying to Obama, which also bear little resemblance to the actual reality of the Obama presidency so far, a situation that now seems to have a very low probability of changing. (See the comment earlier re: ACLU vs. Cheney.)
The reality that has played out shows a president that is either devoted, or captured, as a figurehead of a banking/finance/corporate plutocracy and military empire and police state. For example of something to ponder; several years after the 2008 election campaign, it’s worth recalling the campaign media coverage marveling at how remarkably generous the contributions to Obama’s campaign were from the Wall Street and corporate front. In retrospect, all that takes on a whole new light, and explains a hell of a lot.
But, then, for one thing, for the GOP/Fox News/et al bunch, it serves their purposes to keep hammering into people’s heads the notions about “Obama the Leftist socialist radical coming to take your hard earned money in taxes to give free stuff to Negros, Mexicans, and homos and weaken our national security and destroy America!“. Otherwise, there goes their audience and campaign contributions and so on.
On “the other side” in the game of splitting people into cliches, stereotypes, and dogma of Left/Right, people who like to think of themselves in the Left/Liberal/Progressive camp convince themselves, against all evidence of reality of several years now, that Obama is going to do, and actually has done, all kinds of wonderful things they imagined he would do, when they voted for him, and then voted for him again. Believing that keeps people sitting back thinking Obama is finally going to get with the plan any day now, so just wait, and they need to support him against those Republicans, whatever Obama does, like, say, attack a country on the other side of the world that hasn’t attacked us and is not even remotely likely to do so, and say it’s for, you know, humanitarian reasons.
Right about the time anybody says anything along the lines of what I’m talking about, it’s almost inevitable that some characters under the spell of the Fox News and AM talk radio knuckleheads will start shouting “you see! I was right about Obama!”, upon any kind of criticism of Obama’s less than stellar record, while, in fact, they are not. They’re still as completely, as Harlan Ellison would say, stuffed full of wild blueberry muffins as they ever were on the subject.
For a different view of the kind of problem I’m talking about here today, see all the worship of Ronald Reagan by some Americans. You know the stuff, like the image of Reagan as the great hero of “fiscally responsible and conservative government”, who left office after two terms leaving an accumulated federal government debt that was three times the amount it was when he took office. We can just skim through other stuff, like selling weapons to the Iranians who held people hostage in the American embassy in Tehran for over a year, or enthusiastic support of Saddam Hussein, or support of “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan, the people we now know as the Taliban and al Qaeda.
It’s truly bizarre. If you presented the facts of the Reagan presidency to devoted Reagan worshippers (such as cretins like Sean Hannity, for one example) and could sneak it in somehow in some sort of magic trick in a way that they didn’t recognize them as being of the Reagan presidency, they would shriek in outrage and be barking about impeachment. Now, in the present, a hard objective look at Obama’s presidency should be just plain disturbing to devoted Obama supporters, but it isn’t likely to quite fully register among some people, who are hanging on to their fantasy wishful image of Obama that they really want to believe, just as detached from reality as the bunch hanging on to the ridiculous images of Obama as secret Kenyan Muslim Socialist Leftist radical that are such complete fucking nonsense.
So, here we are, in the massive fog of absurdity where President Barack Obama is essentially now about two thirds of a year into the fourth term of the G.W. Bush presidency (just minus Dick Cheney), while one camp of the bipolar disorder of American politics hail Obama as just so much better than Bush, and the polar opposite camp squawk the nonsense I’ve already covered. The tragedy is how few people seem to break free of all that, and manage to at least get some sense of how things really are, as so much, virtually everything, really, gets shunted into some batch of clichéd nonsense and presumptions and dogma based on whether somebody or something is in one camp or the other between Left/Right, Liberal/Conservative, or flip the switch to D or R at election times.
These are glaring examples that come to mind for me as worth considering, specifically turning the spotlight on Presidents Reagan and Obama, but they are not alone and unique. These two presidents simply stand out as examples of a disturbing phenomenon, where people carry around all kinds of notions about each that simply do not match the actual historical record of reality. It’s astonishing, just beyond belief, and I’ve observed this ugly phenomenon among more than a few people who are otherwise seemingly sensible and good people, with enough functional intelligence to go about their day to day activities, yet, when it comes to this, they dwell in a kind of extreme unreality that practically begs the question “what color is the sky in your world?“.
People are, in fact, fooled, again, and again, and again, and the worst examples are a real dilemma, being absolutely impervious to any correction based in actual reality. They’re often seemingly beyond reach. Facts don’t matter to them. Reason has no effect. They believe what they believe, and that’s that. People say things like “Reagan brought us together, and made America feel good about ourselves again”, and they really absolutely mean it (that was an exact quote from somebody that stuck in memory, by the way). They bought into a whole epic of theater that saturated the American national psyche that disposed of troublesome reality and replaced it with a false illusion of warm fuzzies. The unavoidable operative word here is delusion. That still holds a scary portion of the nation in its spell. As I’ve said before, trying to break people free of that spell is likely to just offend people, like you’re insulting their grandpa or something.
The same people are likely to absolutely adamantly insist that “Obama is taking all our money in taxes and giving away Free Stuff to lazy communists”, regardless of actual reality, just believing the bullshit fed to them via the usual suspects (Fox, AM radio, et al), or having it fed to them daily. Fiction and nonsense and blatant lying is propagated by people who soak themselves in that nonsense, and then saturate their friends, family, neighbors, and associates who might not waste their time on giving those noise sources their attention, but get doses of it from the people who spend hours watching Fox News in the evening and hearing AM radio blowhards honking in their ears all day. People soak that in, and just accept it as fact, and collect in their minds an unquestioned image of Obama as evil villain that’s just as deluded as the images of Reagan as great American hero leader and champion of “fiscally responsible government”.
Other people buy into notions of President Barack Obama as all kinds of things that have little to no support from the record of actual reality, with their images being the opposite of the cartoon villain Obama. They think of Obama as a brilliant shining moment in American government and politics, bringing enlightenment and justice and fairness and bringing the government back to being the government of the people, by the people, for the people, Obama the Peacemaker reining in the war machine, correcting the insanity and fraud of Wall Street and the banksters, righting the massive bankrupting dysfunction of American medical care and insurance, and so on, despite all evidence indicating that in any of the subject areas you can examine, he’s really done little to nothing to correct and improve matters, and in fact might be party to making things even worse.
I saw something a few days ago that neatly displayed some of the purely deluded mental processes of a large part of the American body politic. Bouncing around on Facebook was another example of “photo sharing” that takes a quotation and makes some digital image faux poster to waste bandwidth and memory. The words were a quotation from President John F. Kennedy, some comment about his thought that excessive burdens of income tax were bad for the people and bad economically as a result. What followed was a comment from some stranger I don’t know (due to the Facebook processes involved in the “News Feed”), that was revealing. They said “… and to think, he was a Democrat!… my, how times have changed!“.
I wanted to ask this person to explain that, but it reveals a mindset that is now so pervasively common that I don’t regard it as the tiniest bit presumptuous to state what they were thinking. Basically, this batch of nonsense holds the premise that goes like “Democratic party politicians today are this out of control government spending tax-and-spend liberal socialists killing jobs and destroying us by taxing us to death, raising our taxes, raising our taxes, and raising our taxes more!“. The reality here is that over the course of the Obama presidency so far, federal income tax rates have not so much as even returned to the rates as they were at the end of the Clinton administration, before the famous two different “Bush tax cuts”. Furthermore, even those income tax rates, as of 2000, were much lower than the federal income tax rates in effect during the Kennedy presidency. People can look this stuff up and see it for themselves. But the key point here is, reality has nothing to do with the thought processes of people like this commenter online. If you even try to straighten that out, people get really angsty about it, going off on a tear of chattering about what they “know“, that is not knowledge by any stretch of definition of the word at all.
And, in all this, whatever variety of pretense and even full delusion might cloud matters in public issues, it seems way too common that the most basic problem is that people don’t want to actually know, because that would complicate things, all that messy and difficult reality. People are too fond of hanging on to some neat simplistic narrative that seems to make the world simpler and clear, even if it’s complete bullshit.
I’ve made references before, more than once, about a more personal story. As I’ve said before, it’s a long term running problematic set of circumstances that I’ve had to deal with, that I won’t discuss in any specifics because it involves other people in the domain of the private and personal. I raise it again because of the way that it strikes me as having so many similarities to problems of a public nature, and it comes to mind for me because of a new conversation I had with someone involved, that was an exercise in complete futility and frustration, total absurdity. Just impossible.
There is many a tangled tale revolving around that long running saga, but what’s more to the point here is how other people involved in the circumstances, or around it, deal with it, which is, simply put, to avoid dealing with it. This means not just avoiding dealing with the situations that come up, but worse than that, avoiding and evading even recognizing and acknowledging the problems occurring as being what they are.
I’ve found, repeatedly, that it’s virtually impossible to get it across to other people involved, who miss experiencing quite a few things, and manage to miss what they do experience, which is the strangest part. Talking to them about it just runs into constant interruptions, with the interruptions consisting of all kinds of odd digressions, statements of obvious things that aren’t actually really relevant, non sequiturs, absurd tangents, abrupt odd changes of subject, vague platitudes that sometimes aren’t even relevant, anything except listening and following something explained from start to finish. All of it basically boils down to a common That adds a whole extra layer of aggravation and general impossibility, on top of the actual problem at hand. It just gets really bizarre.
At this point astute readers will very likely have already arrived at a conclusion about what I’m describing, thinking “dude, it’s obvious, they don’t want to know“, and that would be correct.
That’s from the realm of people’s lives in the personal and private, but I see the same crazy dysfunction of reality evasion in the public realm. Constantly. Like that crazy drama, people will just jump through all kinds of hoops and start chattering distractions and diversions from something that starts looking unpleasant and hard, preferring to just dismiss something or fall back to some “easy answer” that’s just nonsense.
Getting stuck in all the cliches and presumptions about Left and Right in matters of politics and government is just one area where the American public psyche has some real profound problems of cognitive dissonance, trying to resolve what they believe they’re supposed to think, about anything, with what actually is, actual true reality as it exists.
That’s never going to make anything any better, and it’s almost guaranteed to make things worse.
Now, some people who are just determined to ignore all evidence and still insist that Barack Obama is a great president (he could have been great, and still could redeem himself, but that’s not looking good) are now finding themselves in a truly deranged position. Thinking “we must support Obama!”, no matter what, they are backing this insane contention that the United States must launch a military attack on a country in the midst of a civil war on the other side of the planet, for humanitarian reasons. (Hey, remember, a Nobel Peace Prize winner here!)
At the same time, a bunch of Republican politicians, who would normally be tugging at the chain just lunging at any possible opportunity to go have a war somewhere to show the rest of the world and our own country what a mighty empire we are, now seem to find themselves with that chronic and nasty urge fighting against their other prime directive of always seeking, as a matter of dogmatic principle, “whatever is opposite of what Obama wants!”. You kids have fun with that.
I always cringe when I read and hear the stuff we’ve been hearing for years and years tossing out terms like “bipartisan” and “our two party system”. It’s worth repeating that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the legal foundations of the United States government, or in the philosophical discussions that led to it, about a “two party system”, or even assigning any kind of power and role to political parties at all.
Having tossed in that reminder, it’s interesting to see what’s happening in recent events in the realm of American national politics. We see “bipartisan” response to things like revelations of severe misconduct and outright malevolence of our own government, supporting the bad behavior, attacking and persecuting the people bringing it to public light as “traitors” and “spies”, people from “both sides” of Republican and Democratic parties, and people from both parties banging the war drum of Empire to go attack another country on the other side of the world that is not threat to us, and certainly has not attacked us.
While that happens, people from both parties, that bipartisan thing, are rightly horrified and outraged by the revelations of full on police state surveillance and grandiose behavior of military empire, and voicing their objections… this must stop.
There might be something of a sign here, of the shock of events of actual reality maybe breaking more people free of this long running absurd and contrived game of Left/Right and sports contests of Team D versus Team R that people are told is The American Way of Things, something propagated and perpetuated by people fully invested in the game of My Team versus The Other Team.