BAGEANT: Live from Planet Norte

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Totalitarian democracy and the politics of plunder

Editor’s Note: As one who has lived abroad at various points in his life—chiefly in Latin America and Europe—and as a person who has also lived most of his adult life in the United States and never ceases to be amazed at what Bageant details here so eloquently, the creepy “frenzied zombieness” of so many of our compatriots, I must say I could have written these words myself, that’s how true and spot -on I find them, painfully so, I should add. Of course, we’re fortunate it was Bageant and not me who wrote this brilliant analysis.  He does it much better.

People born and bred in America’s self-contained world (America if nothing else is a self-contained, self-referential universe) will have trouble truly comprehending what Bageant is talking about in this piece because –ironically–to get the real import of his warnings and analyses requires a measure of deprogramming. And like the old chicken-and-egg question, how or why will a thoroughly programmed person want to deprogram himself or herself while the program is still intact? It defies logic, and that’s perhaps the reason it’s so easy for even otherwise brilliant people to remain inside the “Bubble”, what Bageant himself has often aptly called “the Hologram”. What is this “Hologram”? It’s a “body-snatcher”, a simulacrum, something extremely similar if not quasi identical version of the real thing but which obviously is not the real thing. What’s missing is the essential humanity of truly spontaneous human beings, unmediated in their thoughts and reactions by commercial and political manipulators. Those familiar with Patrick McGoohan’s iconic series The Prisoner may have a workable model to approach what the Hologram is all about, but McGoohan’s vision was too primitive in comparison to what we experience in America every single day, and his message, for all the jabs at the eternal struggle between the individual and an undefined and sinister “collectivism” was too politically murky to be of any use.  Am I confusing you? Well, there’s no way to make this easier to grasp. My advice is read plenty of Bageant and you may start to discern a way to crawl out of the damn Hologram. As you do so, you will be reclaiming more and more of your stealthily highjacked personhood. Good luck. —P. Greanville

By Joe Bageant [print_link]
Dateline: Winchester, Virginia
STARTING WITH THE HOMELAND SECURITY probe at Washington’s Reagan Airport, arrival back in the United States resembles an alien abduction to a planet of bright lights, strange beings and incomprehensible behavior. The featureless mysophobic landscape of DC’s Virginia suburbs seems to indicate that homogeneity and sterility are the native religions. Especially after spending eight months in Mexico’s pungent atmosphere of funky, sensual open air markets, rotting vegetation, smoking street food grills, sweat, agave nectar and ghost orchids. PHOTO: Edmond O’Brien (as Winston Smith) in the 1956 version of Orwell’s 1984. Orwell—a former anarcho-syndicalist who became a virulent anti-communist— meant the book (along with Animal Farm) to be critical visions of the Soviet Union. The great irony is that the dangers of the “collectivized mind” and near universal conformity that he railed against came to find their most refined expression in the capitalist United States, where Big Brother and his Thought Police have found their most pervasive expression.

The uniformity on Planet Norte is striking. Each person is a unit, installed in life support boxes in the suburbs and cities; all are fed, clothed by the same closed-loop corporate industrial system. Everywhere you look, inhabitants are plugged in at the brainstem to screens downloading their state-approved daily consciousness updates. iPods, Blackberries, notebook computers, monitors in cubicles, and the ubiquitous TV screens in lobbies, bars, waiting rooms, even in taxicabs, mentally knead the public brain and condition its reactions to non-Americaness. Which may be defined as anything that does not come from of Washington, DC, Microsoft or Wal-Mart.

For such a big country, the “American experience” is extremely narrow and provincial, leaving its people with approximately the same comprehension of the outside world as an oyster bed. Yet there is that relentless busyness of Nortenians. That sort of constant movement that indicates all parties are busy-busy-busy, but offers no clue as to just what they are busy at.

We can be sure however, that it has to do with consuming. Everything in America has to do with consuming. So much so that we find not the slightest embarrassment in calling ourselves “the consumer society.” Which is probably just as well, since calling ourselves something such as “the just society” might have been aiming a bit too high? Especially for a nation that never did find enough popular support to pass any of the 200 anti-lynching bills brought before its Congress (even Franklin Roosevelt refused to back them).

On the other hand, there is no disputing that we do reduce all things to consumption. Or acquiring money for consumption. Or paying on the debt for past consumption. It keeps things simple, and stamps them as authentically American.

For example, now faced with what may be the biggest ecological disaster in human history, I’m hearing average Americans up here talk of the Gulf oil “spill” (when they speak of it at all — TV gives the illusion those outside the Gulf region give a shit), in terms of its effect on: (A) the price of seafood; and (B) jobs in tourism and fishing. Only trolls stunted by generations of inbred American style capitalism could do such a thing: reduce a massive ocean dead zone to the cost of a shrimp cocktail or a car payment.

Meanwhile, even as capitalism shows every sign of collapsing upon them under the weight of its sheer non-sustainability, Norteamericanos wait like patient, not-too-bright children for its “recovery.” Recovery, of course, is that time when they can once again run through the malls and outlet stores, the car lots and the fried chicken palaces eating, grabbing and consuming. No doubt, something resembling a recovery will be staged for their benefit, thereby goosing their pocketbooks at least one more time before the rest of the world forecloses on the country.

Let ‘er rip! There’s plenty more where that came from

On Planet Norte nothing is finite. Not even money, which, under the flag of the consumer society, you can keep borrowing forever. Equally limitless is oil, infinite quantities of which are being hidden from us by a consortium of energy companies. Several people here in the States have told me that the size of the Gulf oil spill is proof that there is plenty of oil in still in the ground, and that this “peak oil stuff” is a scare tactic, an excuse to keep the price up. They were dead serious.

Considering the inexhaustibility of Planet Norte, it’s no surprise its inhabitants have never doubted the “American Dream,” the promise that every generation of Americans can be fatter, richer and burn up more resources than the previous one, ad infinitum.

All of which makes folks like me, and probably you too, want to run pulling out our hair and screaming, “What the fuck has happened to these people? From the start, it was clear that Americans were never going to win any prizes for insight. But this is ridiculous. Is it the hormones in the meat? Pollution? A brain eating fungus? How on God’s (once) green earth can a nation so frigging ‘out of it’ manage to survive each day –much less constitute an ongoing threat to the rest of the world?”

However, you must hand it to us that, so far, we have managed to sustain this culture of “I want it all, everything, the whole shebang, and I want it right now!” Except for the liberal and leftie websites and organizations, few seriously question it. When your designated role as a citizen is to live out a round-the-clock materialistic wet dream, why would anybody want to question it? Besides, seeing is believing. So reality is a titty tuck or a Dodge truck, and Ruby Tuesday delivering “falling off the bone tender” manna 24/7. Thank God It’s Friday and go ahead, do it, put another trip to Cancun on the plastic. It’s a limitless world, baby!

In my little casita back in Mexico, limits are very real. Because price per unit escalates with increased usage, we have to pay serious attention to electricity. So does government. Our municipality is so conscious of every kilowatt that traffic lights have no green or orange phase — which saves on expensive bulbs too — and it seems to work out just fine. You get one streetlight per block. Water is available to our village’s neighborhoods only every other day, so it has to be stored in rooftop tanks. Once in the tank, gravity eliminates the need for further electric pumps. Every single plastic bag, large or small, is used for household trash, then hung on the front gate to be collected. You accept limits every day in Mexico and live within them.

But for that twenty percent or so of the planet living in the (over) developed western nations — thanks to colonial plundering for resources, and later, world banking scams — the limits of the natural world have never sunk in. Not really. Oh, ecological limits can be intellectually real to us, and we can have discussions about them. And being comparatively rich, we can build wind turbines and solar panels, and tell ourselves smug lies about “sustainable energy” and “green solutions.” However, in our daily world, the affective one that governs our behavior, the one that tells us what we honestly need to deal with and what we do not, there are no apparent limits or potential end of anything. For example, if you wanted a glass of ice water right now, you could walk over to a refrigerator and get it. Most of the world cannot.

We assume much. We assume that when we get up every morning the coffee maker will come on and the car will start. We assume that everything imaginable is available for a price, even if we cannot come up with that price. But we never really worry about having food or clothing, other than its style and type. Our biggest concerns turn on such things as who will win the World Cup or be eliminated from American Idol. The social and political environment assures us to believe we can afford to be consumed by these trivialities. The world of Americans has been like that for generations. So how could it possibly come to an end? Lest one have doubts, every voice of authority tells us that no matter how bad things may seem at times, they always “return to normal.”

This theme of engorgement and spectacle endures, thrives really, year after year, despite even the slowly unfolding world economic collapse. But it is Americans in particular who become stupider by any historical measure of intelligence. Millions pay money to visit Branson, Missouri. Or Holy Land Christian Theme Park, in Orlando, where you can have the improbable experience of “fun with the world’s most popular Biblical characters” (Hmmmm, maybe Mary Magdalene) and watch Jesus get crucified daily. And just when you think you’ve seen every possible insult to the democratic process a degraded society can vomit up, some new one comes hurtling in your direction. Like those fat women in pink sweatpants leering from our TV screens, dangling teabags and vowing revenge for they know not what.

For a thinking person, a low-grade depression settles in, alongside an unspoken fatalism about the future of the human race, particularly the American portion. That’s the point I reached a year or so ago. I would probably be ashamed to admit it, if I did not receive hundreds of emails from readers who feel the same way.

If nothing else though, in the process of building our own gilded rat cage, we have proven that old saw about democracy eventually leading to mediocrity to be true. Especially if you keep dumbing down all the rats. After all, Dan Quayle, Donald Trump and George W. Bush hold advanced degrees from top universities in law, finance and business. The head rats, our “leaders,” (if it is even possible to lead anybody anywhere inside a cage), have proven to be as mediocre and clueless as anyone else. Which is sort of proof we are a democracy, if we want to look at it that way. While it is a myth that virtually anybody can grow up to be president, we have demonstrated that nitwits have more than a fighting chance. During my 40 years writing media ass-wipe for the public, I have interviewed many of “The best of my generation”, and believe me; most of them were not much.

Naturally, they believe they are far superior by virtue of having made it to an elevated point in the gilded cage, closer to the feed, water and sex. Because they believe it, and the media echoes their belief, hovering and quoting them, discussing their every brain fart, we tend to believe it too. Nothing shakes our belief, not even staring directly into the face of a congenital liar and nitwit like Sarah Palin, or a careening set of brainless balls like Donald Trump or a retarded jackal like George W. Bush. Americans are unable to explain why such people “rise to the top” in our country. We just accept that they do, and assume that America’s process of natural selection — survival of the wealthiest — is at work. These people are rich; therefore, they should run the country. God said so. It’s a uniquely American principal of governance, which in itself, makes the case for our stupidity.

If it’s control you want

Yet, despite such intellectual and moral torpor, some of the numbest bozos are beginning to suspect that the wheels are coming off their “have everything” society. One clue is that every time they check, they have less than before. “There’s other signs too,” concludes our bozo. “You gotcher radical Muslims blowing shit up, or plotting to. China holds the mortgage on our asses. Who wuudda ever thunk it? The bodies of our fallen heroes are being tossed out of the revered Arlington Cemetery into the landfill. You got yer freshwater fish with three eyes, obese high school kids droppin dead of heart attacks, meth epidemics out in the boondocks and wild coyotes moving into big cities. It’s all just too godamned much!” And so, right in the middle of the morning commute, our bozo pulls over onto the roadside berm, puts his hands up against the windshield and screams. “AAAAAAAGH! Is anybody in control here, for Christ sake?”

Control huh? Nothing could be easier to obtain. Just sit back allow those who want total control of the government to have it. The GOP is sure to come up a candidate willing to pistol whip this country into shape. And that solution looks more attractive by the day. As violent competition for survival increases and resources diminish, the public demands more government control. Control of borders, drug lords with entire armies of their own, pillaging by banks. Who else but the government is capable of beating all those sociopathic freaks out there into submission?

No less a personage than Thomas Jefferson pointed out that, whether for good or evil, controlling the people is the main thing all governments do best. Both Jefferson and Stalin understood this. They also understood that government control is a one-way street — it never voluntarily contracts, never shrinks. Government grows incrementally in the best of times, and balloons exponentially during the worst. When the people are anxious or fearful, when the have-nots are coming out of the woodwork for their share and there is genuine risk of losing something, the citizens always demand more government control. Given enough time, all government control, regardless of type or stripe, metastasizes — whether it be into the religious control of a theocratic state, or the democratic totalitarianism of the United States.

Although totalitarian democracy is well solidified in the U.S., it is difficult, if not impossible, for its citizens or the outside world to name the beast, due to the outward appearance of freedom. Petty liberties are left intact. The process of orderly elections is maintained, thus retaining the world’s general respect as a free country. After all, the people do “exercise their will” by voting.

Beyond that, the people have no further participation in, or effect upon the government’s decision-making process regarding the public’s will. From that point onward, an economic, political, and military élite interpret the general will as what best fits their own interests. A media elite then sells their decisions, such as war or destruction of the social safety net as the people’s choice. Wars are packaged and marketed as “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” fought by “our heroes.” Policies kicking the slats from under the old, the poor and the weak are sold as “eliminating wasteful, unfair entitlements,” such as elder care and child nutrition. Everybody knows that words such as entitlements, elder care and child nutrition are code words in capitalism speak. Elder care wastes money on worn-out old fuckers who can no longer work and pay their own way. Child nutrition is just a nigger/wetback feeding program that causes them to multiply even more, draining off valuable funds the already rich could have put to better use.

Liberty nonetheless abounds in a totalitarian democracy. Open elections verify majority rule. The slaves are free to elect their masters, and that is enough to satisfy most folks in the land of the free. That, along with 100-plus cable channels to keep us entertained inside the cage. We know we are powerless, but better the devil you know than evil socialism, where you are not allowed to take out a second mortgage on your cage.

What’s a little totalitarian oppression, anyway?

In the big picture however, the hardening of our totalitarian state is a piffle, compared to what drives the people to accept such a state. That driver is the escalating social pressures of six billion humans, and the ecocide caused by our disastrous hydrocarbon culture. Would that the state and its media allow the public enough information to make the connection between things like global warming, peak oil, desertification and the state’s wars we pay for and die in.

From the dawn of agriculture, human civilization has been a net subtraction from the environment on which we depend for life. Consider what once existed, and what little of it is left. Consider the burgeoning hordes everywhere burning, smelting, polluting, and generally devouring what remains. Where is that leading us?

You don’t need to call the Harvard’s environmental science department for the answer (even though the profs and scientists there maintain the charade that we do, to protect their rackets). Despite the rule of scientism and the fashionable modern disdain for human intuition, common sense is still a viable option. Does common sense and experience tell you that all six billion of us are suddenly going to come to Jesus and save the planet? Suddenly be seized by the spirit of universal cooperation and pagan love for Gaia? Are those billions going to quit doing what our species has done for 15,000 years — attacking nature first with the stone axe, then the plow, and later with atomic energy?

Call me a grim old fatalist, but I just do not see the human race turning things around. Not because humans are inherently evil (although pimping Gaia to death comes close), but because we are what we are. In any case, we are not going to stop eating, shitting, burning up stuff to stay warm, or following the genetic imperative to breed. How can we solve the problem when we are the problem, other than by self-extinction?

So here it is, top of the ninth round, and Gaia is on the ropes with cuts over both eyes, and no referee on the mat. Homo sapiens are moving in for the killer punch. It’s been an ugly fight. But the truth is that there will be no winner. Certainly not man, considering that his triumph results in the specter of human self-extinction, dieback or die-off, or at least by massive die-back.

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream

Informed and globally conscious people are sickened, heartbroken by the spectral truth. But to use the same Neal Cassady quote for the second time this year: “To have seen a specter is not everything.”

In fact, it even has a good side. Transformation. Once you honestly accept what you have seen, you are changed, released from the previous stress and fear. Like so many feared experiences, it is its own psychodynamic, and is about “coming out the other side” of the experience. Accepting such a truth — especially for pathologically optimistic, cheer stressed Americans — shatters many painfully held illusions. The chief one is that we are the animating force behind all significant change, and that the massive damage we do is “progress”). In their place grows a new inner awareness. Although it does not conform to any popular definition as such, the easiest way to describe it is “spiritual,” Who in these times, you may ask, believes in the spirit as an animating force of mankind? My answer is: Those who can be still enough to see that spirit moving.

With it comes the awareness and acceptance of forces far more powerful than our puny anthropocentric illusions of planetary authority. We can arrive at this understanding by way of thinking, logic and reason. The mind is a cumbersome and inefficient way to go about escaping traps you build with your mind, but yes, it can be done. Most educated people in this science worshipping age prefer the convoluted path of logic and rational exercise, over calmly opening one’s eyes and heart to the world before us, as wiser men have done for thousands of years.

I can see why. Pay the money and put in enough university time, and it’s relatively easy to end up certified, acceptable, and equipped with the professional jargon necessary to impress yourself and others that you are an expert of some sort. One of society’s answer guys, the kind universities and corporations pay good money to own. But it’s downright hard to be calm, to maintain inner stillness. Beyond that, inner stillness does not much impress or frighten others in the rat fight for a good spot at the feeder. Worse yet, it’s free. No money it.

But stillness of mind opens onto the fathomless void, where we are dwarfed into utter insignificance. It makes clear how little we comprehend — how much we do not know and never will, and that the greater the fire we build, the more darkness is revealed.

Edwin Arnold reminds us that when it comes to sinking the string of thought into that fathomless void, “Who asks doth err, Who answers, errs more,” because, as any searcher by way of mortal mind discovers:

Veil after veil will lift — but there must be
Veil upon veil behind.

Either way, there never was any guarantee that we would like the universal truth. And the truth is that the universe is busy enough hurling toward its destiny, and does not give a rat’s ass what we do or do not like. Or whether a smear of biology on a speck of cosmic dust manages to poison itself to death.

So stay strong. Transcend. Find reasons to love.
Nobody ever gets out of this world alive, anyway.
Joe Bageant is the author of Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War. His newest book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, deals with America’s permanent white underclass, and how it was intentionally created. To be released in September in Australia and October in the United Kingdom. Rainbow Pie is available for preorder from Amazon-UK and Amazon-Canada. In Australia, the book may be pre-ordered at Scribe Publications.
13 comments on “BAGEANT: Live from Planet Norte
  1. Excellent work, but I do find one blindness in the author.

    Like most but like most American ex-pats he waxes poetic about Mexico’s lovely smaller footprint…. but in the only land that has a BIGGER abyss between rich elites and poor than the US, I rather doubt the top echelons only get water delivery every other day. Many blanco Nortes always seem willing to overlook that Mexican Elites also consume so much, there is nothing left for mi gente BUT to share and scramble for the scraps. Something we living in Norte will experience soon enough. But Norteans don’t move to places like the ghettos around Mexico City.

    I would go one further, as always, and say while over-consumption is an enormous part of the problem, were resources shared more equitably, along with a sense of responsibility, there wouldn’t be teeming ghettos outside Mexico City, nor tenements around LA.

    There should be no mansions with teams of gloved dozens serving feasts to bored Billionaires, throwing enough away daily to feed small cities, there or here, or anywhere…. there is NO excuse for people dying crossing our border to look for work, nor people on our own corners with will work for food signs.


    Diane Gee

    (this reply available with images below)

  2. A superb rendition of my own perceptions! And, like Diane Gee, I feel there is no place to relocate away from the challenges of this time wave.

  3. Diane is quite right, of course, but I honestly feel she misreads somewhat the thrust of Bageant’s piece. Bageant is not castigating los “Norteños” from a high horse, like an expat full of himself and oblivious to the surrounding social dysfunctions and injustices. Sure, Mexico has a huge number of problems, many caused by their indigenous super-rich (the richest man on earth is now Carlos Slim, a Mexican trillionaire, and not Bill Gates), but he’s also pointing at the brainwash that allows the United States oligarchy to intervene in favor of such indigenous elites against the interests of the vast majority, which, in the case of Mexicans, end up on our borders. The problem, therefore, is the global power of the superrich, invested primarily in capitalist corporations screwing the average person, killing the environment with impunity, subjugating other nations via commerce or brute force, and kept in place by an enormous system of repression and indoctrination disseminated through their media.

    Mexico, like most nations around the world today, needs drastic, radical political renewals, a revolution. American power is the main obstacle to this indispensable step for humanity. America needs a revolution too. Whether it will be peaceful or bloody I’m afraid will be up to the current elites, and judging from their tone-deaf responses to the innumerable crises they create, the prospect for a civilized transition away from capitalism and imperialism are not good.

    Oh, by the way, quite a nice illustrated commentary, Diane!! Way to go!

  4. Blessings rain on thee, Joe.

    And welcome back!

    The first 3/4 of this article reveals you in top-notch form as King of Gallows Humor–an honored position sanctified by the likes of George Carlin and Jonathan Swift. Then–as they often did, too–you take it to another level, the “spiritual.”

    Any way you slice and dice it, this Global Empire of consumption’s going down. In the Romantic Age, poets like Blake, Keats, Shelley, Byron warned against the encroachments of the “Enclosure Acts,” etc. And too many gave up their lives to the “consumption” of their day–T.B. (caused by nascent factory pollution, etc.?).

    You’re in the great tradition of rebel-poets. Keep singing your beautiful song: “Stay strong. Transcend. Find reasons to love.”

  5. But what recourse do we in the US have? Just listening to his speech in Toronto at the G-20 news conference by our dear president the lies are so utterly shameless that their pure idiocy gives them authenticity. The bigger these untruths, the more plausible they seem and that is no small achievement and with a very intelligent man like our dear leader, this is apparently not such a large effort. The US is truly a blessed land and as the chosen people we are especially in our Lord’s favor and we do not need to be forever watchful and suspicious. So we can indulge in whatever our fancy and our wallet allows us to do and really is that not democracy and the free pursuit of our happiness? Did God not give man dominion over land and animals (women and children included for that matter?). So why complain? In the Old European countries they feared retribution for hubristic self-indulgence (mene mene tekel upharsin), but what an old-fashioned thought that was, we are the masters of the universe after all, spreading our spores into the void. And with our technology we will overcome whatever unnecessary obstacles nature will place in our path to attain full dominance over the earth and ourselves! That is progress and nothing will stop us, so we have the right to secure our country, to make sure that no dangerous resistance will arise in near Asia, to fully mechanize husbandry and the production of our food and who cares if we are told some untruths as long as we can pursue our mindless consumerism in an atmosphere of self righteousness, competitiveness and outward belligerence? USA ! USA ! USA !

  6. Tryon….

    I did not mean to say Joe felt superior, but I do know many ex-pats, and most of them live in either ex-pat communities like San Miguel de Allende or in lovely Pacific coastal regions near enough their yacht clubs where they do not really “see” the deepest poverty.

    Instead they see the closer-to-middle class Mexicans making a living peripherally off of the great Norte American dollars that retirees take with them, since they go soooo much further than they would here.

    It is, in a way, another form of exploitation. I have very mixed feelings about “getting out” … I could live quite happily in a more village-based community, removed from the psychopathia that has infected the US.

    I guess I see things more globally, and think while the US wags much of the World, it has become a Global problem. From the Saudis in their Palaces to the poverty stricken areas in Ethiopia, we have to realize it is now all related.

    China has almost surpassed us in consumption; yet factories are already moving away from there in order to go places like VietNam, for in their opinion communist countries are less likely to have protests and demand wage increases or better working conditions. International Corporations move country to country, exploiting things like drought, famine and overpopulation to create wage slaves for ever decreasing wages in the name of maximized profits. India is one, and there are always others.

    We are taught to demonize anything resembling REAL democracies, places like Venezuela who at least try and Nationalize Oil and make it serve all the People rather than a few Elites.

    I think Mr. Bageant absolutely nailed American brainwashing.

    I just feel the need to think bigger… it is a class war gone global, and we have to be aware that everything every American does leaves ripples. No exploitation gets a pass, from Mexico to Palestine…

    If there ever is going to be a true revolutionary evolution in Human Thinking, we are going to have to look further South, to our South American brothers and sisters.

    Thanks for your kind reply.


  7. Dear Diane:

    Your reply above is simply formidable, and I think it should be read widely (I sure hope the people who visit this site don’t miss it!). Your comments about retiree American expats living in Mexico, and, in a way, becoming exploiters by virtue of sheer economic power is absolutely spot on. Having visited such areas—San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato sticks out for the sheer numbers of “gringos”— I can vouch for your analysis. It’s the truth and surely it’s going to sting, as it should. These people exists in Mexico on the surface of that nation, really in self-contained communities such as San Miguel that could be the equivalent of “gated communities” in the States. More pernicious, although many learn to appreciate and respect Mexico and Mexicans, the majority do not, in large measure because the “Hologram” values are deeply embedded in them already, so the infection continues. In fact, some of them eventually develop a clannish, chauvinist attitude toward anything “non-American”. It does not help that many of these “gringos” —a sizable share coming from the South—were not terribly cultured or politically progressive in the first place.

    I don’t profess to know Joe Bageant closely, but after reading materials on his own site, I came away with the impression he lives a very very simple life, at “the native level” in Belize, where the locals treat him as an integral part of the community. According to Cyrano’s Editor Patric Greanville, Joe has often said he wants to leave all his money (certainly not much as Joe is far from rich) to these poor communities. So in that sense, we can say safely that while the “Americano feo” continues to exist and pollute the world, Joe, part-time expat though he may be, has remained a breed apart.

    By the way, I really liked your site. Most original and valuable.


  8. Good exchange, people!

    Just wanted to say that, although Mr. Bagent does not use the term (see para below), what we have in the US today is a “formal democracy” firmly hitched to the criminal and degenerate (full-fledged) imperial phase of its evolution. While you can have a formal democracy without empire, you can;t have empire without democracy because the imperial phase necessitates near total falsehood in the content of “democracy”.

    “Although totalitarian democracy is well solidified in the U.S., it is difficult, if not impossible, for its citizens or the outside world to name the beast, due to the outward appearance of freedom. Petty liberties are left intact. The process of orderly elections is maintained, thus retaining the world’s general respect as a free country. After all, the people do “exercise their will” by voting.”

    Check out the precise meaning of formal democracy on the Wiki.

  9. Frankly the American expatriates are often far from the more obnoxious kind. They come because of lower living expenses and often try to learn something about the countries they settle in and they were not the butt of Bageant’s diatribe. To the natives who certainly do not want to be our brothers or sisters, the influx of richer people is rather welcomed in the hope some crumbs may fall of their tables. Worse are the so-called diplomats, the military ‘advisors’ and the economic apostles of Strauss of Chicago university, not to speak of the graduates from the School of the Americas in Georgia (WHISC) who are there to bolster up oppressive regimes, kill ‘insurgents’ and make sure that the USA prevails. Bageant addressed the alienation of the US populus in their own conquered and settled territories, a very damaged species indeed….

  10. Thanks TC

    And to Gui as well… I did not think my offhand comment would generate conversation, and the intent of my thoughts are not to detract or side-track this wonderful work, but to expand on it.

    Agreed that the Chicago boys are far more a nefarious blight on the Americas…

    I do read a few gringo-blogs that show small signs of exceptionalism, that they are so self absorbed they do not even see.

    There is one couple living near Manzanillo who seem to think they are well integrated with their neighbors… but have installed copious walls and security. Then they have one of their bi-lingual friends stay with them and give the neighbors English lessons. Let me see, after 5-10 years of being there you cannot speak Spanish worth a darn, and rather than have her teach YOU, you teach local kids English, so someday they can come to Amerry-ca and do well? (that is their stated premise) … it again reinforces how superior they think OUR culture is, and rather than immerse in the culture they CHOSE to live in, they try and change that culture to their music/language/values.

    As I said, this is merely a side-bar to the broader point of expanding the dialogue to include the assumption that Nortean-ese is by no means the measure of a balanced society. Truly, we need to start seeing ourselves as the brainwashed enablers we are to the Class War being waged globally in our names… and our own greed and complacency in having so done.

    Great discussion, everyone.

    Thanks again!


  11. We cannot change others or the society, each of are a part of society.
    And yes, stillness of mind is most important. To stop reacting to the inner addiction to greed, to more and more. It is hard work, but it is possible. Try this:

  12. “How on God’s (once) green earth can a nation so frigging ‘out of it’ manage to survive each day –much less constitute an ongoing threat to the rest of the world?”, said Joe.

    I think being out of it is part of the trick, said Jerry. Avoids revolutions, fights in Congress over right and what is wrong. And siding with the right guys to overthrow the CIA’s overthrows. Kinda go with the flow and everything will be cool. Although it isn’t. Getting hot as hell. But who’s to know. The shadow do, or so they say.

    In some strange way, America’s chaos of indifference is its strong point and keeps it whirling like a Dervish into nowhere, a dancing in the dark epilogue to real life. Someday, maybe, we’ll hit the wall and be tuna fish salad for eternity. Meanwhile, pass the cheese. I’m hungry, again.


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