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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Frank Rich Scratches the Surface of America's Denial Crisis
Posted by Melina | 3:43 PM

Whats it gonna take to open the eyes of Americans in denial?

Frank Rich scratches that surface, in his Sunday Op-ed, What We Don't Know Will Hurt Us, and all that's clear is that its all unclear.

No one knows, of course, but a bigger question may be whether we really want to know. One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans’ reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly “changed everything,” slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable. Obama’s toughest political problem may not be coping with the increasingly marginalized G.O.P. but with an America-in-denial that must hear warning signs repeatedly, for months and sometimes years, before believing the wolf is actually at the door.

Its starting to sound to me like Americans are slowly backing towards the real rude awakening, and no matter how many years of warnings there have been, the evidence laid out on the table in the hard light of day, and our crushing need, need, need to hold on to the dreams and possibilities; the American Dream, with all of its boring stability, yet promise of how things could change with one lottery ticket or game show win, the reality of the situation is so bad that even considering the alternative of a normal life of making ends meet causes many to cling hopelessly to the chance rather than live in the reality. Its not the safety from the terra that we really want, its our 15 minutes of fame! That's because we're special! I don't know if we know what we want, really. With all that information out there, it seems that we have become more provincial in our tastes than ever. Maybe the menu is too big.

Rich talks about our "cultural pattern of denial," as if it just came about on its own and wasn't born of a system that purely and clearly doesn't work. Yeah, I'm talking about capitalism; the unregulated brand. American Dream Capitalism can only flourish, and then temporarily, in a world where credit companies go hand in hand with advertisers, hand in hand with retailers, paying less and less to workers, who then need more credit to fulfill what the advertisers tell them to want. The media claims that they are just giving the American people what they want, but I don't think that its possible to know what you want with no clear idea of whats out there, relatively, in a world full of differences and possibilities. Its all a big manipulation for which each generation will blame the one before it, but clearly, we have a skewed world view anyway, so infighting isn't going to help. The truth may be that the sham of the American Dream is that its not really enough because we are so spoiled that even if we don't personally need that fame, we need to watch others gaining and losing it on our large screen TV.

The fear that we are traipsing down the path to socialism is very real to many for whom capitalism has done little. Why is that?
We are, in fact, a semi-socialist country with what little that really works here being part of that redistribution thing that is so hated. Most people knee jerk about keeping the money they earn and yet pay private insurance companies a premium level premium only to have to do battle when push comes to shove, and live at the mercy of which doctor takes which.

I'm not against everyone making a fair or comfortable living, but its clear to me that if regulation stopped the money up top from all traveling upwards, like we used to have a rule of thumb to put a certain amount of profits back into the business, and then pay back into the workers, community, society, and the infrastructure, maybe we all would be a little safer and happier.

The problem is really more of a sociological phenomenon in which rather than being angry at the rich, we direct our anger towards the poor for taking up our resources with their neediness. The truth of this is far from whats disseminated and somehow billions more in corporate welfare is OK, but feeding children is not. Its taken so many, many years of this manipulation for the tables to finally turn. It's taken home movies of gold fixtures and multi million dollar birthday parties, empty accounts where hedge funds were supposed to be, and no bid contracts, carried out by crony companies with ties to the government, (to put it mildly;)...companies that carried out their duties so negligently as to feed tainted water bottles to our soldiers fighting their war of profit, build buildings in which pipes burst and shit dripped from ceilings, and that managed to lose truckloads of cash...truckloads...all of this with evidence in front of the American face. Evidence like videos, documents, drawings, and testimony, and all anyone had to do was to dangle the carrot or the threat of losing the carrot that you don't really own, and we went right back in line.

My big disappointment in the past 8 years has been less the crooks that would steal their own country blind and walk away able to sleep at night, because there are some bad people and absolute power corrupts, etc... but that half the American people went along with it because of some shiny, shiny, and a vial of white powder, to lazy to do the research or even open their eyes.

Its probably not that all of those people are bad, but more a sort of cognitive dissonance, where what is accepted societal behavior becomes corrupted by what is the line from the propaganda team, and the actions following go so against what one stands for that the opposition of the two creates a mental vacuum. It becomes a matter of accepting the unacceptable behavior or admission that one has played a part in something that is criminal or wrong. The wrong becomes the new truth and the person clings to it as if it was the gospel truth because the alternative of having been so wrong and acted on it is too much.

Americans are not raised to look at their reality under the light, lest we become dissatisfied with our position in the order of things, so we cling tighter to the truth that we have come to believe, based in fear or denial, and the slightest possibility of joining the monied classes and the belief that they should be able to keep what they have earned. Every successful American CEO has stood on the shoulders of this entire society to get where he or she is, and a society that allows success even one tiny bit as big as many of them have achieved, deserves a kickback into society's pot; not a tax loophole and an offshore account to try to keep the money that they have earned. The regular American, as well as the poor American is expected to kick back in, but its accepted that the loopholes for the rich exist because they somehow deserve them. This is the group that has benefited the most from the Bush years and their tax cuts. Now some of those guys actually sunk their businesses, took bailout money from taxpayers, and managed to give themselves their huge bonuses at the end of last year. What are we supposed to do with that? Let them get away and we've reinforced the helplessness of law abiding citizens everywhere. Rock the boat too much and the corporate influenced government ceases to move forward.

So, yes Obama is up against it, and he may be the one we need right now in that, as much as he skirts around the truth in the interest of not overwhelming the undereducated masses and offending the cronys, he will state the truth, and he will do what has to be done. I believe that because I have to. I believe that because there is nothing else, except that the specter of families with babies on the street and on the soup line may not hit home until that family is your neighbor...or you...and until the post apocalyptic country starts to look too much like a Mad Max scene that even the Reaganomics of the 80's couldn't fully carry out in NYC. That NYC was where I stepped over the AIDS ravaged homeless and the broken glass of car windows every day for years, shouting at a deaf government, and it was heartbreaking. This is much worse, but we no longer have a government with its fingers in its ears and humming.

How bad does it have to get before we take action? It has to come right to the front door and maybe inside the house! Its gotta take a camera into the Willowbrook asylum and drop a microphone down the well so that we can hear the stuck baby wailing. Its beyond 9-11, obviously and way past Katrina....Being out of work may the the thing that creates time for Americans to reassess whats been happening and to get back to basics.

The same people who very gravely told me in the past 2 presidential elections "I'm not sure if your guy can keep us safe," have to realize that this is not something that any individual can figure out, but rather a broad policy of base belief that got us into or is gonna get us out of the current can o' worms; that base belief should probably start with at least following the constitution and laws, and then turn to how our neighbors are treated. If we give up our base beliefs out of fear, then we have nothing.

Rather, what I was seeing in those frightened voters was the wielding of the power of the vote in the direction of the possibility of winning the lotto and joining the Halliburton class, or remembering some Pearl Harbor memory of America as the Hero, in the right, which was just laughable in its gravity and sincerity, considering what was going on in the world and how we were acting. The same people who wouldn't know a Thief from a Socialist if they hit them in the bank account, thought that they were influencing the halls of power with their belief in a Bush or a McCain or a Palin as a way to stay safe and right; because if the simplistic neocon view of things could keep us safe, then any working stiff espousing at the local bar could make it big, and there is a certain leveling in that bluster, as much as its totally nonsensical.

Americans may need to be slowly led into the harsh reality of what lies ahead. But hopefully it will be done before its too late in a world of tipping points. We may see Obama nationalize the banks and we may see a "socialist" turn to how things are done in this country. The alternative has been tried and it doesn't work, so get ready for something new and maybe even a little familiar.
If its not dawning on the other half by now, then it may never. That doest stop the necessity of moving forward before things get worse.

If in light of the bailouts already put out there, the executives at the huge corporations and banks cant see the path ahead, then they have to go; and not with their golden parachutes either! If the credit companies are only using the bailouts and reorganization to put the screws to their customers rather than stop offering up new credit at every turn and make a sane way to get out of debt, then they will go too, and along the way they will see many more Americans in straight default, rather than honestly trying to pay their debt down.

The real point of this illustrated lesson for the American people and the world is that the dream that you were promised is earned, not promised, and you were bamboozled into a position where you can't earn, beg, borrow, or steal it anymore...its dead! and no matter what anyone says, you cant get anything for free. If the credit industry had to fold and stop offering credit to individuals, how would we live? well, we'd learn. If that effected the world economy horribly and the CEO couldn't get the corporate jet he wanted this year along with his 20 million dollar bonus, well, we would go on and dig out. What we are seeing may be the collapse of unregulated capitalism, and surely, if America doesn't hold those responsible accountable right up to the top, then we are doomed to repeat our mistakes over and over. Laws are no good if they are only for the rabble, especially if everyone right up to the president and his VP get away with murder.

Industry in this country may be based at this point on the vinyl to CD, CD to MP3 player model, just as the digitization of the television signal, (our airwaves,) serves to force new equipment onto Americans credit cards at a time when people just don't have the money to pay that debt back. But at some point, the camel's back breaks; especially when the paying jobs to make that new equipment are long gone to other countries that have entered their own cycle of Americanized mistakes.

So I look forward to hearing a little hard truth. As I said, frank Rich barely scratched the surface of the problem here. Its a problem of growing up and getting with a reality based model, and having the government carry that out in regulating how much these companies can lie to us and entice us to get in too deep, while they stab us in the back, and blame us for being negligent for not reading the print so fine as to serve the smaller denizens of the doll house world. I'd like to see simple terms in normal layman's print, and I'd like to see the country get back on a track that is livable and from which we can recover to a sensible level of realistic living where everyone has a chance and the worker is once again valued as much as the CEO.
c/p RIP Coco

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Brilliant commentary and especially pungent for those of us writing about this collapse since 9/11. It clearly is not enough to know the truth; it's been out there for years. Watching the roadkill of American democracy and the Apollonian revolution that will inform the new post America is a vigorous challenge. The power of one starts at home. Thanks for the post and all the other insightful observations you always present.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
What a sorry little specimen you are. Bitch-slapped by life? Serial failure?

Capitalism is the only thing that separates bitter losers like you from those filthy street creatures in a Dickens novel. You lefties may just perfectly hate it that there are those so much wealthier and successful than you.

But capitalist countries are the wealthiest countries and take care of unimagined numbers of the poor, stupid, lazy and incompetent. Just picture your hag self in some scene from David Copperfield being informed that 200 years from now, there will be a magical land in which useless items of social detritus such as yourself will be larded with government cheese, section 8 housing, regular cash payments to your door, free medical care and the right to vote for the guy who promises to keep it comin'.

.......along with tax cuts....but since you are among the 50% of filers who don't pay any federal taxes at all.....you'll get a "tax cut".

Hahahahaha.......you laugh aloud outside the warm pub on a cold night....hahahaha, I pay no taxes and yet I get a tax cut. I had thought your story was insane, but you have tripped yourself up.

No, I answer. They only call it a "tax cut" to fool the rest of the sheep who will be paying for it.

You will get a check with money plucked forcibly out of the hands of those who actually take risks, work hard and earn more than you.

While that person whose money was taken and given to you might have had a productive use for that money that would have created jobs and therefore more taxpayers, you now have a chance to go buy a bag of pork rinds and some beer.


When you rob Peter to pay Paul.......you can always count upon the support of Paul.