THE VEILS OF DELUSION

13 01 2019

Before I get going with my main topic for tonight, I want to briefly address “the government shutdown,” because what I have to say about it seems obvious to me,  but I haven’t heard it from anybody else: Reactionary political organizer Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wanted to shrink the government down to such a small size that he could drown it in a bathtub, and I think that is exactly what Pres. Turnip and his friends are attempting to do–not shrink the government, but see if it’s been shrunk to the drownable point yet. In all likelihood, we are not at that point, but those attempting the drowning are not prepared to admit failure about this, or it, seems, any other issue. Don’t get all smug, Democrats–in your own way, you’re the same kind of crazy.

That gets us back to the original point of this monologue/essay, so on with the show.

I had one of those spontaneous flashes of political insight the other day, the kind of thing that sometimes pops up when I’m trying to settle in and do my own mental housecleaning. There’s nothing like stumbling knee deep through your own mental trash to hang you up when you’re trying to do something to clean up the planetary garbage crisis. Inasmuch as I don’t feel like I’ve been terribly effective in my efforts to clean up the world outside, I guess I must not have done all that well at straightening my inner world, although I can chalk up a few achievements. I navigated a divorce without my ex and I, or the friend she left me for, hating each other, and I haven’t been pushy with a woman, punched a guy, or helped myself to my friends’ peanut butter in quite a few decades. Peanut butter? Yes, I used to be a compulsive peanut  butter eater. I no longer suffer from that affliction. Long story, actually several of them, but some other time, OK? We’re here to talk politics.

The flash of political insight was, “Climate change denial is to Republicans as Russiagate is to Democrats.” Let me lay out the parallels for you.

They are both readily disprovable, and are frequently refuted by those who are outside the bubble of belief around them, but those within their respective bubbles rely on an echo chamber of affirmation to keep feeding their respective delusions.

The myth that climate change is “a Chinese hoax” allows its believers to go on driving their SUVs and living, or at least aspiring to live, The American Way Of Life As Seen on Television.  It allows them to look down on non-believers as foolish, controlling liberals who want to deprive them of their right to affluence.

The myth of Russiagate allows its believers to see themselves as victims of a sinister foreign plot that beguiled millions of their fellow citizens into voting Republican, voting Green, or not voting at all. Because they are Victims Who Have Been Wronged, they are entitled to be the ones running the government, and taking full advantage of all the perks of kleptocracy associated with control of The Empire. Instead, a bunch of ignorant, selfish bigoted Yahoos are the ones who have been empowered, and anyone who doubts that this happened because of “Russian interference” is a fool or an outright traitor, not to be trusted or listened to. Oh, yeah–while Russiagate believers are more likely to recycle, drive electric cars, and “eat healthy” than their climate change denying counterparts, for the most part they, too, subscribe to the doctrine of The Sacred American Way of Life. Their vision of the future is a culture more or less like the one we live in, only with solar panels and home gardens as well as happy motoring. (Thanks to James Howard Kunstler for that phrase!)

Above these two opposing polities, the leaders who encourage these beliefs do not, in fact, believe in them. In 2009, Donald Turnip and his offspring were among those signing on to a full-page ad in The New York Times urging President Obama to take “radical action” on climate change. While he continues to publicly pooh-pooh sea level rise, he’s been taking steps to keep his many seaside properties from flooding.

“Build that wall!” he said….

Similarly, the oil companies funding the denial movement are building their deep water drilling platforms higher to allow for sea level rise. “Oh, it’s not human-caused,” they may protest, but their own research pointed out the dangers to come forty years ago–and the companies suppressed that research in the name of short-term profit.

Contrary to the Russiagate belief system, it was the Democrats, not the Russians, who manipulated the media to push the Republican public towards Donald Turnip as a candidate. Remember them showing Turnip’s empty podium instead of Bernie Sanders’ victory speech to a huge, cheering crowd, far larger than any Turnip or Ms. Clinton ever mustered, the night Sanders pulled off multiple upset victories in the primaries? While Democrats started tarring Turnip with a Russian brush early on, they doubled down on it after Wikileaks published a trove of email communications that disclosed their machinations to elevate Turnip and derail Bernie. Such a timetable seems to indicate that screaming “Russia! Russia! Russia!” is a cynically adopted diversionary tactic, not a genuine belief, on the part of those at the center of “the Russiagate-industrial complex,” as one commentator recently dubbed it.

As for climate change denialsim….

Look, Republicans: when I was in grade school, our science teacher lit a candle in a gallon jar and closed the lid. While we watched, the candle flame burned low and quickly went out. The teacher explained to us that this was because the candle flame, which only took up a small part of the gallon jar, had burned all the oxygen in the jar. That candle flame is your SUV, the oil wells that supply it, and the global supply chain that supplies you with everything from your “smart phone” to your underwear. The Earth is the closed gallon jar. Does that sound like “a Chinese hoax”?

Listen, Democrats. In the early nineties, you elected a couple of fresh-faced baby boomers as President and Vice-President. We all expected great things. But what we got, instead, was, as one commentator put it “the best Republican President we ever had.” He approved a trade deal, crafted by his Republican predecessors, that destroyed millions of middle-class manufacturing jobs in the US. He signed a crime bill that sent record numbers of African-Americans, a group that had strongly supported his candidacy, to jail, mostly on drug charges, destroying families and neighborhoods along with the futures of the individuals incarcerated, while his wife referred to those young African-Americans as “super predators.”  Then he signed off on”the end of welfare as we know it,” a further blow to the Democrats’ African-American constituency, albeit even more so to the now NAFTA-crippled white working class voters who had been a Foundation of the Democratic Party Coalition since The New Deal. Then, on the way out the door, he signed off on loosening up the banking regulations in a way that demonstrably set up the next Wall Street boom years–and the resounding bust that followed.

Being caught getting a blow job from a young intern didn’t help, either, although I can’t help but think how different things would have been if it was Hllary who had been discovered in a back room off The Oval Office playing Slick Willie’s flute…oh, we’re not supposed to go there–the heresy! The horror!

And, gee….Al Gore, his Vice President, had written one of the first major books on climate change before becoming VP, but not a thing was done to counter it during those eight years.

As so often happens, the voters were ready to try the other party after eight years of that treatment, and voted in the GOP in 2000, though the race was close enough that the GOP had to cheat a little to win. No Russians being in sight, the Democrats blamed this loss on a small party, The Greens, and our candidate for President, who offered a serious change of direction and real solutions to the problems at hand, in strong contrast to the Democrats’ and Republicans slightly varying versions of the same old same old. In spite of the fact that far more people stayed home, uninspired by either major party, than voted Green, the Democrats’ propaganda machine succeeded in convincing a whole lot of Americans that it was The Greens, not the insipid, if not actually retrograde, nature of the Democrats’ record in the past and promises for the future, that was the problem. But the lesson for the Democrat was that they succeeded in blaming their loss on a scapegoat, and were thus free to maintain their own shortcomings.

Then, with nary a whimper after the GOP cheated them out of winning the 2004 election, the Democrats came up with a charismatic candidate in 2008, who offered hope and promised change. Since the eight years of Republican rule had culminated in a massive economic crash that threw millions of Americans out of homes, jobs, or both, the voters were very ready for a change. Barack Obama was swept into power.

But the “hopes” of ordinary citizens were dashed as he bailed out the big banks and left their victims to fend for themselves. For most Americans, Obama’s “change” turned out to be chump change. He passed a “health insurance plan” that basically subsidized the private insurance industry that is such a big part of what’s problematic about America’s health care system, and then, just before the election, announced that the premiums to individuals for that medical insurance, already high for most peoples’ pocketbooks, were going up. What a way to energize the base!

The candidate the Democrats nominated in 2016 was the wife of the disappointing Bill Clinton, she who had called African-Americans, part of the Democratic Party’s base, “natural-born predators,” and she promised more of what Obama had provided, which, in spite of strong spin from the mainstream media, had been a distinct disappointment to a great many Americans. After eight years, it was in the cards for the Presidency to flip parties again.  (Note that, in the last seventy-some years, only once has a party held on to the Presidency for more than eight years.) Even though the Democrats had done all they could to engineer the nomination of someone they considered the worst possible Republican candidate, “more of the same” was not attractive enough to enough people in the right states for even the billion-plus dollars the Democrats spent on their campaign to create a victory for themselves.

What they could do, with help from their allies in the mainstream media and the “intelligence services,” was create the Big Lie that they lost, not due to their own ineptness, but because of “Russian interference,” even though that influence has been hard to find and easy to refute when something does turn up. Four thousand dollars for Google ads?  Non-political Facebook clickbait seen by a fraction of one percent of Facebook users, much of it after the election? It sounds like a joke, but it’s been used as a pretext for heavily censoring both Facebook and Google in a way that makes dissident content much more difficult to find. Gee, how convenient!

some things just don’t seem to change….

So, we have two deluded groups of people dominating American politics, both seemingly equally resistant to reason. What is at play, here, I think, is a psychological phenomenon called “displacement.” Another name for it is “defence mechanism.” There is something that a person, or, in this case, a whole society, doesn’t want to deal with, and so the person, or millions of persons, get all bent out of shape about something else, so that there is no time, context, or energy for dealing with the real problem.

In our case, there are several real problems, although they are interrelated. In the material realm, we are at the point of “peak everything,” and the odds are not looking good for science  to come up with a fix for that, but nobody wants to admit it. “Nobody ever got elected by promising the American people less,” as they say. Inability to accept loss and change is not a healthy habit of mind.

Societally our country’s middle class, the bastion of any society’s stability, has been devastated, and something is about to give. We don’t know what and we don’t know when, but it’s the kind of anxiety that drives people deep into Angry Birds and Pokemon Go, into unreality TV and Game Of Thrones. It’s endless summer  that’s coming, not endless winter, and not the kind of “endless summer” The Beach Boys celebrated.

On the world stage, American hegemony is as rickety as the stuff supply or domestic society, and some day soon, the Chinese and the Russians, in spite of all our government’s efforts to isolate and demonize them, will emerge as the leading powers on the planet. Some warfare, and the loss of some American naval vessels and overseas bases, may be involved. Hopefully, nobody will get upset enough to start tossing nukes around.

The planet, meanwhile, has plans of its own, which it is not sharing with us, although it’s giving us strong, and worrisome, hints. The planet’s plans may make any kind of human “hegemony” over a global economy the stuff of legends told around camp fires, or deep in cool caves, as whatever remains of the human race scrambles for survival on a hotter, more unstable planet than the one on which our species evolved.

What kind of therapy might bring us to our senses?

That’s a tough question. Mental conditions are not as easy to treat as physical ones. If somebody has a broken leg, an infection, or something of the sort, setting the broken bone or treating the infection will work, with or without the belief or even consent of the person being treated. On the other hand, someone with a delusional view of reality has to recognize that they have a problem. “Re-education camps” just don’t work all that well.  A well-financed advertising campaign might help, as would a strong initiative from the government, but those seems unlikely. Questioning peoples’ expressed delusions mostly just produces annoyance, although a certain amount of challenging must be done in order to maintain intellectual honesty. Basically, people have to start questioning their beliefs themselves. It’s only when people are asking questions that they are amenable to new ideas.

Will banging hard up against climate reality, economic reality, or political reality bring our society  to its senses in time to stop our self-destructive tailspin? We are now told we have a about a decade in which to do that. It’s going to be quite a decade. Top of the ninth, and it seems like The One Percent, the one percent who think they have enough toys to survive what their greed has begotten, are ahead. Or are they? We’ll find out soon enough.

Patty SmithWithin You/Without You

Dr. John and Willie Nelson, “Promises, Promises

Dr. John and Eric Clapton “Time for  a Change


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