By Phil Rockstroh
Witnessing the acts and utterances of Republican presidential candidates can be regarded as a helpful psychological exercise, a type of “exposure therapy” involving the development of methods used to bear the presence of unbearable people who insist on evincing the history of human ignorance, duplicity and insanity.
“I can’t go on; I go on.”–Samuel Beckett
All alive are tasked with the challenge of, not only proceeding through life despite these kinds of insults to common sense and common decency, but to make a stand, in one’s own unique way, against prevailing forms of madness and oppression.
As a case in point, within the mainstream narratives of the corporate media and that of both major political parties, one bears constant witness to palaver involving the nebulous tyrannies of “big government”; although, incongruously, one scarcely receives from those sources focused complaints and critiques (much less probing investigative reports or congressional hearings) directed at the excesses of the national security/police state and Military/Big Media/Prison Industrial Complex. The “big government” narrative is a misdirection campaign–a smoke screen serving to obscure corporate/military dominance of political life and its effects on the social criteria of everyday life in the nation. Accordingly, government is only as big as the 1% who own and operate it will allow it to be.
Therefore, due to the fact that elitist interests all but control the U.S. political class, in order to change government policies, a radical rethinking and revamping of the economic order of the nation must occur. Although, at this late date in the life of empire, change will have to come from the streets, from uprisings–by occupations–by a restructuring of the entire system, from its cracked foundation, to rotting support beams, to corroding particle board, to lousy paint job.
Yet, this will be an organic process…unpredictable, fraught with peril, freighted with the expansiveness of the novel, tinged with apprehensions borne of grief. But upheaval is inevitable because the present system is deep into the process of entropic runaway. And because uncertainty will be our constant companion, one is advised to make it an ally.
The neoliberal capitalist order is on a path towards extinction. And it will, most likely, die ugly. But it has lived ugly as well. The system never worked as advertised…was more sales pitch than substance in its promise to increase innovation and deliver prosperity worldwide. Conversely, the set-up leveled enslavement to powerful interests by means of a 21st century version of company town despotism e.g., workhouses, sweat shops, unhealthy mining towns and industrial wastelands where the laboring classes are shackled by debt-slavery to company store-type coercion.
This global company town criteria has inflicted sub-living wages, no benefit, no future jobs, yet the corporate state’s 24/7, commercial propaganda apparatus has the consumer multitudes of the U.S. convinced that they are “living the dream”. As a result, great numbers still believe their oligarchic oppressors actually believe their own lies about freedom, liberty and equal opportunity for all.
That’s right: Scheming princes simply love the peasants of their kingdom…They do, as long as those wretches continue to bow down in the presence of the powerful, do all they are commanded to do, and unthinkingly serve the interests of their vain, arrogant rulers. Absurdly, large numbers in the U.S. still claim the burdensome economic yoke they bear is a glittering accessory of freedom gifted to them by their privileged betters.
Often, one hears the assertion: Although the U.S. is an empire, it is, in fact, a benign sort of empire…as far as empires go.
To the contrary, the nation’s post-Second World War, empire-building enterprise, as is the case throughout history with exercises in imperium, has leveled deathscapes abroad, corrupted the society’s elite and delivered anomie and alienation to the general population. From the soulless, dehumanizing nothingscapes of the U.S. interstate highway system and its resultant suburban project, to the douchescapes of hyper-commercialized pop culture, empire’s legacy is as pervasive as it is dismal.
And all delivered and maintained by trading in the bartered blood of the innocent abroad by mechanisms of imperial plunder while serving to create a gallery of heartless, authoritarian-minded, consumerism-addicted grotesques at home. One suspects this is the reason discussions involving the true nature of empire are not considered a subject fit for nice company.
Often, by attempting to adapt to the burdensome daily obligations and the spirit crushing, hierarchical structure of neoliberal capitalism, individuals will begin to internalize its pathologies. In the age of corporate state dominated media, to ensure the circular, self-reinforcing nature of the noxious narratives of empire remain in place, faux populist, conservative media talk show hosts, talking heads and rightist pundits–elitist bully boys and gals–i.e., the bigot whispers of the right–continually seed the dismal air with false narratives, contrived to misdirect anger and foment displaced resentments.
In turn, little bullies, out in the U.S. spleenland, rendered resentful and mean of spirit by the incessant humiliation leveled by a class-stratified, exploitive economic system take up these self-defeating talking points that serve the 1%. Accordingly, when, for example, participants in the OWS movement question the present social and economic structure, these downscale denizens of oligarchic rule personalize the critique; their identification with the system is so complete that they feel as though they have been attacked on a personal basis.
As a consequence, all too often, their defenses are raised and they return volleys of ad hominem attacks that serve to defend a status quo that demeans them. This psychological phenomenon could be termed Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS)–a pathology suffered by personalities who have been traumatized by authority, but who endeavor to remedy the wounding and humiliation inflicted by a brutal, degrading order by identification with their oppressors.
To wit, the lack of outrage exhibited by the general public regarding the nations trudge toward a police/national security state. For example, the lack of deference displayed by city officials and local police forces regarding the First Amendment rights of OWS participants.
First off, lets clear the pepper spray-fogged air on the matter: The vast majority of rank and file police officers do not now and, most likely, never will view themselves as part of the 99%. Simply stated, police officers identify with their fellow cops. The vocation, by its institutionalized, militaristic, tribal nature, creates a wall of separation between its insider members and outsiders i.e., the civilian population at large.
It is an act of self-deception to insist that rank and file police officers, the so-called blue shirts, might even be tacit supporters of the 99% movement.
Good luck with that. But don’t be surprised if your entreaties are answered in the form of concentrated mists of pepper spray. In fact, as of late, that is exactly the reply we have received from the police, many times over.
Most police officers do not much identify with civilians. They harbor fealty to their careers and are indoctrinated to evince unquestioning loyalty to the department. Or as Bob Dylan presents the case in verse:
“Because the cops don’t need you and man they expect the same”–from Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
On a cultural basis, after years of hyper-authoritarian indoctrination by mass media sources and political influences, few, among the general public and in the political realm seem willing to demand openness and accountability from law enforcement organizations. All too often, police (and U.S. soldiers as well) are viewed by a large percent of the general public as selfless heroes, noble souls, protecting life and liberty. And no matter how much evidence accumulates to the contrary, this image holds.
How is it that so many can cling to the illusion that cops and soldiers–grownups, armed with deadly weaponry, and who have shown themselves willing to engage in acts of state sanctioned violence and oppression–are innocent victims of circumstance? Have we, in this nation, lost the concept of free will?
How did the perspective of a people become so upside down that heavily armed, body armor-enswathed men and women wearing uniforms of state power are viewed as blameless innocents while those they perpetrate brutality against are somehow regarded as the aggressors in the situation…deserving of the violence inflicted upon them?
Let’s have a reckoning with reality regarding the nature of the forces coalescing against OWS and other global movements aligned against despotism: Authoritarian personality types detest the sight of freedom; its inherent uncertainties make them damn nervous. By reflex, they have a compulsion to lower a jackboot on its neck.
Or, in the words of one officer tasked with the duty of stifling the public’s right to free assembly at a recent OWS protest staged at the Winter Garden atrium of Brookfield Properties, within the World Financial Center located in lower Manhattan, “Don’t get in my face. I have a gun on me, okay? I don’t want any people coming that close to me.”
In acts of social and civic resistance, regardless of whether one evinces a Gandhi-like position of nonviolence or adopts a Malcolm X influenced stance of “by any means necessary”, the enforcers of a corrupt authoritarian order regard any and all displays of dissent as an invitation to force dissenters face down on the pavement, zip-cuffed and bleeding, then be remanded into custody–or worse.
At this critical point, it is imperative we let die our illusions involving the present order. Yet we must do so without becoming so disillusioned that we lack the resolve to remake the world. Often, we cling to fictions involving the benign nature of power because the act spares us angst. To the contrary, we must bear witness to the collisions of our illusions and the realities of the day, because it is from the debris created by these collisions that the world will be built anew.