Reaping what we sow

Friday, September 09, 2005 at 09:12 AM

It is amazing to watch what I view as "my country" disappear into a haze of propaganda, fundamentalist vitriol, and radical economic fundamentalism that equates any tax with theft and finds no government to be the best government (yet claims to eschew anarchy).

I can't help but think about when this process started.  And it did start somewhere.  We may never know for certain exactly where and when, but if we could achieve omniscience for a moment, we'd spot it.

From readings, it seems that the invisible part of this process--the seed money, the initial recruitment of articulate lunatics to play the front men, etc.)--began shortly after the 1964 election in which Goldwater went down in flames.

But the visible part, the part that really began the repositioning of this country from one in which there was at least some effort to act together as a society to one one in which government was inherently and irredeemably bad, while personal greed and blind short term self interest is viewed as the highest calling of mankind, really started with Reagan.

"He makes people feel good about their worst flaws," Rosalyn Carter said (or something very much like it).  That was true.  It still is.

Reagan sold a portion of the population on the idea that "a rising tide lifts all boats," and people didn't notice that if you had no boat, or a leaky boat, or a decrepit boat, a rising tide just drowned you.  Ask the people left in New Orleans after Katrina.

He sold a portion of the people on the idea that the best way to help poor people is to give more money to rich people.  That's an amazing idea.  Just really think about that for a while.  "The best way to help poor people is to give more money to rich people."

Outside of voodoo economics, is there any other field in which a statement like that would be taken seriously?  Not immediately seen for the self-serving nonsense that it is?

The best way to help poor people is to give more money to rich people.  If that were even close to true, how come it hasn't accomplished much for the poor people in those many countries where the rich have ALL the damn money?  Under the give the money to the rich theory, surely by now there'd be good stuff happening to the poor in Brazil, right?

The best way to help poor people is to give more money to rich people.  What's the best way to help the starving, feed the fat?  Should we help the naked by buying another suit for the well clothed?  Help the homeless by building larger homes in the rich part of town?

Orwellian doesn't even do the concept justice.  The best way to help poor people is by giving more money to rich people is more ludicrous, more evil, than calling laws that damage the environment "clear skies" or the like.

And we've advanced way beyond Goldwater, far beyond Reagan, into space where no American has gone before--at least not since the 19th century.

The extent of our idiocy, now is mind boggling:
---The best way to set a shining example of freedom and democracy is to start a war by lying about the need and purpose for a war.
---The best way to show that American values are far superior to those of our enemies is by treating our enemies as cruelly and contemptuously as our enemies treat their enemies.
---We can match you torture for torture on the way to peace and freedom.
--Shipping work overseas to countries where the standard of living is lower will end up being a boon to employment.
--The best way to "fix" Social Security is to change it in a way that doesn't alleviate the problem.
--The way to stop illegal immigration is to allow
illegal immigration.

We can vehemently oppose abortion yet also oppose almost every policy with a realistic chance of reducing the number of times a pregnant woman wants an abortion: no birth control, no sex education, no affordable day care, no decent-paying jobs, and, by God, no abortions.

Reality is much simpler than it seems when viewed through a thick haze of propaganda, indoctrination, and self-delusion.  Bill Moyers once asked Raoul Walsh his definition of "genius."  After thinking about it briefly, Walsh said, "The ability to see what's there."  When I first heard that, I thought Walsh was being flippant.  The longer I've thought about it, the more convinced I am that Walsh's definition demonstrated his own genius.

If what separates geniuses from the rest of us is that geniuses see what's there, what the hell are the rest of us seeing?  What we've been taught to see.  Or what we have to see in order to keep from feeling hopeless and impotent.  Or what our ignorance allows us to see.

The battle is to see what's there.  That's always the battle.  Everywhere.  When we see things that aren't there, when we act on the sight of things that aren't there, we sow the seeds for corruption, cruelty, disruption, destruction, and a host of other ions.

And right now, the people in charge do not see what's there.  Too few of us below them see what's there.  There are too many forces, and too much money, being devoted to keeping us from seeing what's there.  We're sowing the seeds.

The only tiny ray of hope that I see peeking out from the current miasma is that perhaps, in keeping with all of these Bizarro world contradictions, the way to sanity is to first drive everyone insane.