Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Escape from freedom and enslave the world.
(Skip to 33:00 on the clip above for a quick dose of insight.)
Because I've been so busy and was planning a post anyway about the religion of hate, in all its sects and disguises, and because in spite of being a Mac fanboy, Mark Morford keeps speaking his heart and conscience, and because again he so uncannily speaks for me in this piece, but words fail me and all I want to do is bitch-slap the smug and militantly blind out of people who back the shit going on around us: I've done what I don't want to do regularly and quoted an entire article.
My TodayInSeven post-title was inspired by a book I read in Cal State, Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm, which psychologically and sociologically gets to the heart of the matter that when enough individuals are scared shitless of the work and courage required to be free, even the most "advanced" and democratic societies spiral.
-- oh yeah, and the YouTubery? That's to cleanse my mind of the Christ-hijacking image of "Kriss-chuns" (as a friend forever nicknamed a spittle-spewing regular haranguer from a fundamentalist church outside the old Planned Parenthood clinic in Indio, whose answer to why he was out there waving photoshopped pics of trashcan fetuses and hollering about "whores of Babylon" to women coming into the clinc was "Cuz imma kriss-CHUN!"). Thank you, Anne.
I know I know I know — we don't exactly have huge platoons of nasty jackbooted soldiers storming through the streets in riot gear and gas masks and large sticks bashing down on the shiny heads of peaceful monks.
We don't exactly have smashed and burning vehicles and dead bodies in the streets and vicious martial law, ethnic cleansings and curfews and media lockouts and blocked Internet access and all sorts of nefarious, disturbing reports of brutality and beatings and death. Well, except for parts of Oakland. And L.A. And Chicago. But never mind that now.
Overall, even under the deformed and wretched Bush regime and despite how much Dick Cheney's dead raisin of a heart leaps with excitement when he sees the videos of those bloodied and dead Tibetan protesters ("Damn hippies had it coming"), America is still far from the brutality and inhumanity happening right now in Lhasa and beyond.
Or maybe not. For here is what we do have: We have torture. We have a frighteningly simpleminded cowboy-wannabe president who supports and endorses the most inhumane treatment of prisoners imaginable despite its utter failure as a tactic, and this violent belief, this dark energy infects the national bloodstream like prehistoric malaria.
We have capital punishment. We remain the only so-called advanced first-world democracy on the planet that legally kills its own, and we top it off by imprisoning tens of thousands more merely for growing or selling a bit of marijuana or Ecstasy or meth, wasting tens of billions of dollars on an overflowing prison system and a failed drug war that no one at the highest levels of government dares speak against because oh my God all drugs are evil! Now go slam a few beers and a fistful of Xanax and forget about it.
We still have a hateful fundamentalist religious right that, despite nicely fracturing itself over the fact that certain chunks of it aren't hateful enough toward women and gays and sex and non-Christian beliefs, still freaks out when kids play dress up, still is horrified by the notion of a black or female president, still honestly believes homosexuality is an abomination and Jesus spoke perfect English and stem cells have feelings and cavemen rode dinosaurs and the vagina is Satan's playground. Which, of course, it totally is. But in a good way.
Thanks to Dubya's disastrous economics, we now have the largest deficit in history, coupled to the widest gap ever between ultra-rich and the poor, with the largest swath of the middle-class no longer really in the middle and now more like hovering just above oh my God how will we make the mortgage payment this month I hope nothing goes wrong with the Civic and please please please no one get sick.
Wait, check that: Bush's economics haven't failed at all. They've worked spectacularly well, and exactly as designed: The rich got richer and, well, f— everyone else.
We are all but officially in a recession, deepening by the day. China and Japan own the vast majority of America's staggering debt, in the form of massive loans with equally massive interest rates, and if their economies so much as sneeze, we're basically screwed. Check that: more screwed.
The housing market is tanking. Has tanked. Is still tanking. And you know it's tanking when even homeowners in normally bulletproof San Francisco are getting nervous, when real estate blogs from here to SocketSite are all posting items about how even ridiculous multi-million dollar Pacific Heights homes and downtown luxo condos are slashing 50 thousand, 100 thousand, 1 million bucks off their sale prices to stimulate interest, and while there are still gobs of dot-com money floating around, most everyone is feeling very edgy indeed. But hey, at least you have that IRS rebate check coming, right? Smell the economic stimulus package! Mmm, futile.
Is there any good news? Why, sure. Hope is bubbling and churning like we haven't seen for nearly a decade. Given how 80 percent of Americans believe/know we're currently on the wrong track, all attention is turning to the Obama/Hillary cavalry riding all-too-slowly toward us in the far distance. But meanwhile, the feral neocon pigs are still rooting what's left of the garden. As Jon Stewart put it, despite all the change in the air, despite the wisps of hope and progress and fluffy bunnies for all, well, Bush is still president.
Yes, Dubya is still being mocked overseas and still raping the English language at every speech and still taking these remaining miserable months of his failed presidency to see if he can't hammer a few more nails into the coffin of the economy, the environment, the soul of the nation. Hey, what's happening in Tibet is horrible, but have you seen the smoking rubble that was the U.S. Treasury?
Gas is four bucks a gallon. Airlines are shutting down. Newspapers are dying. Oh my, yes. Major media is in upheaval and some of it is good and some of it is very ugly and no one seems to have any idea how to create a new kind of business model that will sustain true and invaluable expertise in journalism, deep reportage that we actually count on — and which all those petulant, anti big-media blogs actually depend on for their very existence — to give the nation some sort of reliable collective narrative.
Whoops, sorry. Sidetracked. But then again, not really. You want to know about Bush's various ongoing abuses? You want to know the facts about the failed surge in Iraq? About Darfur? Burma? Tibet? You need major media, flawed and imperfect and biased as it may be. What, you think it's a perfect science?
As for Tibet, it's sort of amazing, really. This Olympics might indeed turn out to be a terrific opportunity for this same beleaguered media — right along with the blogs and the YouTubes and the rest — to shame China for its rampant human rights abuses and abhorrent record of oppression and ethnic cleansing.
But here's the really incredible thing: Intense international scrutiny could actually forcibly reshape the political and moral agenda of this exploding superpower at the perfect moment, just as it enters the big leagues and becomes a true force in the world. Put another way, Bush's America has essentially failed as moral and theological leader of the world. Maybe our turn at the wheel is done. Maybe a revolutionized, liberated, democratic China can do better?
But this is not a column to say we're in the same situation as Tibet/China. There is no real comparison. After all, Bush has yet to order the Army into the streets of Eugene and Austin and San Francisco to crack people's skulls for doing some yoga and lighting incense and for believing that Jesus wasn't actually a warmongering Muslim-hating isolationist jackass like he is. Not yet, anyway.
This is merely to remind, to point out one of the great things about this country. You want dour news? You want heartbreak and disappointment and oppression, people paying 15-grand to have a tiny bump removed from their elbow because the health care system is a disaster? You want to feel enraged at human rights abuses and overflowing prisons and fascist-like government maneuvers? Wave that banner high, protester. Free America! Free America! Free America!