So the question was, “has America gone crazy?”. It’s not exactly all wrapped up with the last note. There’s just too much to cover, once you crack this open and dig in. That’s part of the problem, of course. Given this, excuse me if this note seems to bounce around a lot, barely touching on a great many different items. There’s quite a pile, and this is part of the problem. It’s at least partially a case of attention span problems and sheer overload, obviously. No great insight there, methinks, yet, even recognizing and acknowledging that seems to be a big problem.
It’s becoming more and more apparent, sort of hidden in plain sight, that a hell of a stack of problems are about a kind of secondary layer on top of the primary problems themselves, that are, in the simplest form I can think of to summarize it, all about avoiding seeing and understanding the actual problems at hand as they are, and, instead, people devoting mental energy to trying to ensure that they’re pretending what they’re supposed to pretend. In short, it’s the essence of the old Hans Christian Andersen children’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes, which is so perfectly fitting in describing so much these days that I’ve probably mentioned it here twenty times if I’ve mentioned it once. I’m even being repetitive in mentioning how often it comes up. It’s just too perfect to not use it as a metaphor. Pick a subject, and you’re probably going to find a wall of obstruction in even getting everybody focused on what things are, as they actually are, as everybody struggles to ensure they’re pretending what they’re supposed to pretend, instead of simply looking, seeing, understanding, and being willing to point and say whatever might be the appropriate equivalent of pointing at the Emperor and saying “but he hasn’t got anything on!”.
Even picking one particular subject is a tough task.
I was just sitting here for a minute thinking about where to go next, and I’m pulled between a couple of things, at least.
One is that in this week we will have a whole dog and pony show of “business as usual” pretense in the form of what has become totally useless theater, the event known as the State of the Union address from the president. I don’t know if I can stand watching and listening to it. It can be almost guaranteed to be a farce, a vacuous bit of theater, utterly predictable. There will be the endless rituals of the Washington version of pomp and circumstance as everyone parades in, narrated by noise from the TV talking heads on your network of choice, lots of chatter that says nothing.
[On a side note- one thing about watching this stuff on C-Span is at least you don’t have to listen to that noise, with the extra touch that, with that missing, it becomes more apparent how awfully boring the whole thing is.]
There will be lots of meaningless cheap-applause lines with long stretches of pointless wastes of time as people leap up and slap their hands together for what are deemed appropriate shows following the cues. There will almost certainly be somebody put on display in the audience for the TV cameras as part of the show, probably as a “hero”, whatever their role might be.
You know the stuff (or, maybe, you don’t, because you never take time to pay any attention to this show, which is just as well, if that’s the case).
Part of the show I just mentioned is likely to include a “hero” display that consists of putting somebody on display who had volunteered and made the total commitment required in military service enlistment, and was then left wrecked for life on some mission on the other side of the planet that we’re told is “defending our freedom”.
Stepping away from that swirling vortex of wretchedness and unreality, the other thing that comes to mind is the idea of “business as usual” in terms of, you know, actual business. The thought has occurred to me, as it has for a few other people, that you could reasonably argue that not all that long ago, you might say that “business as usual” involved real work and real stuff, that is, stuff of real value, in exchanges of value for value that benefitted the parties involved.
Now we’re deep into the realm of all kinds of games, in banking and finance and “The Markets”, all the trading games on Wall Street, where all sense of value has been so deranged and distorted that it’s hard to tell who has any sense of the actual value of anything, among other problems. We’re into the realm of what some people have been calling the financialization of everything, with finance actually regarded as an economic world of its own, never mind real work and real stuff, the real economy.
Thinking about this for a minute drags me right back into the politics again, given the State of the Union speech coming up. Part of this is recalling Obama making a proclamation in one of these. In what year, I can’t even remember. It might have been last year, the year before, two years ago, it doesn’t even matter, because it was meaningless. The statement was something to the effect that he made some big proclamation that he was directing the Attorney General to get on the case of misconduct in banking and finance. What happened? Nothing, really. Trying to remember things here, I can’t even remember for sure if it was then, or in a different State of the Union address, that he proclaimed that, in his words, the wreckage of the Financial Crisis had been cleared away, and we were well on the road of economic recovery.
But even raising that subject, as I’ve found, gets loyal Club D members, determined to believe that Obama is their guy and their hero and what he was supposed to be, seeing any suggestion that Obama has not fixed the economy as a Club R attack, and rush to his aid, even as, on “the other side”, the Club R loyalists play their part in the circus of unreality by recycling the nonsense of the straw man fictional Obama they’ve been fed by Club R and their propaganda machine, Fox News, the AM radio blowhards, et al.
The whole circus of unreality is worse than useless, and the more evident it is that it’s a grand theatrical performance in reality avoidance, the more the players involved dig in. You can almost haul out The Emperor’s New Clothes as a story of metaphor and describe the whole thing as a farce of Club D and Club R arguing over fashion critiques of the non-existent fine new suit.
One thing I haven’t mentioned in a while is the whole idea of much of what we’re dealing with now falling into broad categories that you can, if you like, call the Three Es, energy, economy, and ecology, or Earth. That works, but it also has the slight aroma, unfortunately, of the kind of simplistic bumper-sticker sloganeering mentality that kills off awareness and thinking. But, hey, that stuff fits, and with recent events, actually a lot that isn’t so recent, I realize that another theme category that happens to be another letter E (I know, this is almost starting to get a little silly) is Empire.
One of the ugly things about the whole State of the Union theatrical production is how much is likely to be the usual self-righteous chest thumping about some combination of “freedom and democracy” (not only pretending we have that, but that we’re the wonderful “folks” who bring it to the rest of the world) and “national security” and “defense”, regardless of how little that happens is about maintaining a guard and defense of the nation. Even if nobody here in the United States cares about the trouble caused all over the world in our name, with the added outrage of it being committed in our name, with the pretense of it being about us being the good guys making the world safe and free, you might hope that at least people would have at least some sense of self interest for ourselves, and the country as a whole, in not bankrupting the nation in this ongoing exercise.
The noisy nonsense from Washington flows endlessly, and the increasingly useless “news” media passes it all along without question or parrots the stuff. We still hear nothing from those “news” sources about what has really happened in Ukraine, a place completely unconnected to the United States (even if you buy into the notion that the United States government is justified in meddling of all kinds in other nations in the world because of the all-purpose rationalization of “national interests”, whatever that might be). It’s just astounding and completely sickening to watch what has been passed along as news reporting about that situation. I’ve been over this many times in past months, so I won’t do a summary review again here, but anybody paying attention will know what I’m talking about, the almost completely contradictory clash between the reality and what we’re told, between the popular usual news media and our own government, right up to the Secretary of State and the President of the United States himself, between careful manipulations of omissions and distortions, and even just bold-faced outright lying.
That kind of problem seems to apply to damned near anything and everything now. Aside from the problems it causes us here, in all the malfunctions and aggravation of problems by this kind of irrational and deluded detachment from actual reality, we have the thing that prompted the previous note here. It’s apparent to many of us paying attention, swatting aside the half baked nonsense and lying and PR fluff, that much of the rest of the human race are looking our way and increasingly wondering, very seriously, “have you people all lost your minds?“.