“Farewell the tranquil mind! Farewell content!
Farewell the plumed troops and the big wars
That make ambition virtue!” — William Shakespeare (Othello)
“It would be supererogatory for me to list those areas in which thoughtful Americans feel that collapse is coming.” — Anthony Burgess, “Is America Falling Apart?” (1971)
Hard times for the Global Empire: a roasting hot summer of shame in U.S. politics and economics—and America’s worst military defeat in Afghanistan—38 men in a Chinook shot down, following hard on the heels of our greatest War-on-Terror “triumph”—the assassination of an old guy in Pakistan, MSM-reputed to be, Bin Laden.
We stare at the unraveling mise en sceneas at an enveloping blaze caused by a sudden downdraft in a fireplace—a blaze we thought contained– now a whoosh! rippling over our heads. Yet, if we are honest, we conclude: this “collapse” has been like a venereal disease with which we’ve maintained an uneasy armistice; and now it flares, like a cancerous memory.
Some forty years ago, one of Britain’s best modern authors, Anthony Burgess, taught for a while in an America that was napalming and agent-oranging its way through Vietnam; a nation in which racial tensions still threatened to explode into race wars; a nation with the highest murder and incarceration rates in the “developed” world. Yet, in spite of all its defects, Burgess concluded that America’s basic optimism about its future—and even its missionary vision to transform the world into American-style democracies—could, just possibly, with a lot of hard-learned lessons, lead the human race to greener pastures. With luck and pluck, with its bursting drive and energy… America, and the human species, just might make it!
But, not even the author of A Clockwork Orange could forsee the astonishing changes ahead. Forty years on, our luck and pluck have fizzled and our vision suffers from macular degeneration.
Not just in the epicenter of the Anglo-American-Zionist Empire that has dominated the world since the mid 1940s, but in “the limbs and outward flourishes”—farewell content(ment)! In London—the predecessor epicenter of global power—riotous youth burn up blocks of real estate and trash police cars. PM Cameron rushes home from vacation in Berlus-cannoli’s media entity, formerly known as Italy (or povera Italia, as they say in rat-infested Napoli). “Thuggery!” the Murdochian politicans and pundits declaim. And, no doubt, there is much of it. … But from whence comes thuggery and hooliganism—from what failures of the State to educate and to employ the young? From what anomie of mindless TV, video, movie and game fare does rage finally erupt? From what insane immigration policies and forced “multiculturalism”—from what social and economic roots do these boughs of discord burgeon?
And, do the denunciators know how much they echo those who opposed the uprisings in Tahrir Square last spring, or in Hama, Syria this summer? What kind of revolution, what year of global discontent must we bare witness to now? And how participate? In these coveted and coveting “democracies”– are the citizens heard, or herded?
In Israel itself—the source of so much pain and confusion since it was hacked from the British mandate of Palestine back in the 40s–, hundreds of thousands of youths—mostly Jews, and a fair number of Arabs—gather in tents and in the streets to kavetch, to share food, information, and experiences in that garrisoned State, that walled-in entity of permanent-war and exclusion.
In Washington, D.C., the impersonating imperators in Congress and the White House, along with the punditocracy that endlessly interprets and explains nothing, stumble over one another in their eagerness to blame the other guy, and, after weeks of vowing they will not “kick the can down the road”… kick the can down the spaghetti junction, losing our S&P triple-A credit rating. Would you buy a used car from this country? Would you buy a new one? Can you afford to buy bread?
Amidst a swelling chorus of asininities during these preventable debacles, these remarks from the junior freshman senator from the hot and arid, formerly lush and green, great state of Florida may take first prize in the comedy category on America’s Got Talent:
SenatorMarcoRubio on Jun 30, 2011
For those without 2 and 1/2 minutes to deliquesce on the thoroughly risible, I summarize: Junior Senator is lambasting Prez O because in his little pep talk announcing a “deal” had been struck (between the competing bad plans) to avert the US from defaulting on its debts, POTUS had again mentioned the need to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires—even having the chutzpah to urge a tax on the owners of corporate jets! This, according to Senator Marco Rubio, is nothing short of “class warfare.” And, the senator is alarmed because “America does not have a tradition of class warfare.”
To which the only informed response is: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
The American Republic-Empire has stunningly advanced the “tradition of class warfare” from its inception. That warfare has taken various forms, and has often been subsumed into other kinds of warfare, such as racial wars against “Indians,”—stalwartly defending their own inherent rights to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This country built its wealth upon the labor of the lowest classes of indentured servants pouring in from over-populated Europe, and upon the “class-less” Black slaves. In the slave-owning Jeffersonian system, men may be “created equal,” but they soon learn their places in the “aristocracy of talents.”
Marx made a pretty good case for our heroic Civil War being, in fact, a class war between the interests of the Northern, industrial aristocracy and the Southern, planter aristocracy, concerning which elite would control the “peasants”—blacks and whites—as the Empire expanded into the newly conquered Mexican territory and south to the Caribbean!
When America’s laboring classes began to organize in the late 19th Century and throughout the 1930s, they were met with the “thuggery” of Pinkerton goons hired by railroad barons, steel barons, and sundry other sherbert-eaters from the baronial estates! In the 1950s, when Hollywood dared to be a little progressive, when true artists tried to uncover the real causes of depression and war—within the very nature of our class system—those artists were hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), black-listed, drum-rolled out of their employment or their country! (John Garfield was but one notable example, knouted for having the integrity not to “name names.”)
When Reagan fired the nation’s air-traffic controllers over a pay-dispute, he aligned national and corporate power against union and labor power—and that was class warfare!
When the Wisconsin legislature recently stripped collective bargaining rights from public employees—teachers, firemen, etc.–and Governor Scott Walker called out the National Guard to quell the protests over the action—that was class warfare!
When school budgets are cut, but cuts in the taxes of owners of corporate jets are sustained—that is class warfare!
When Dr. Sue Rabbitt Roff, senior research fellow with the Dundee University Medical School in Scotland, writing for the UK’s most prestigious medical journal, suggests that youth can pay for their student debts of 20-30,000 pounds (32-48,000 dollars) by selling their spare kidneys to the wealthy who can pay for them and need them—what the hell is that but class warfare?
Or, perhaps we need another name for all of this. Forget the “cl.” Let’s just call it “Ass Warfare”—the idea that one person’s ass is worth boatloads more luchre than another’s! (Perhaps in the near future, callipygian co-eds will be urged to sell their “assets” to matronly millionairesses who have fallen behind!)
Ass Warfare. … It has been going on since the founding of this Republic-Empire. It was there in Athens’ Delian League, and in the land of the pharaohs, and in King David’s little imperium. But, it has never been as bad as now because there are 7 billion of us on a crowded planet, running out of food, water and other life-essentials and a growing, restless majority of us don’t want to take this crap any more!
“How high’s the water, mama?
It’s five feet high and risin’”
Water rising into a tsunami in some parts of this embattled and entangled earth, and parching the land with its cry of absence in Somalia and the soon-to-be 7th largest desert on the planet–Texas.
This embattled, entangled—and connected!—fragile, agate stone of a planet!
Is there any hope—that last curse in Pandora’s box that makes us bear all the others? Haven’t we crossed the tipping point? Scientists like James Hansen, alerting the world to our growing, choking CO2 emissions have argued for years that we are dangerously near—or over it!
Forty years ago, Burgess dissected our problems thus:
“American individualism, on the face of it an admirable philosophy, wishes to manifest itself in independence of the community. You don’t share things in common; you have your own things. A family’s strength is signalized by its possessions. Herein lies a paradox. For the desire for possessions must eventually mean dependence on possessions. Freedom is slavery.”
Burgess probably knew he was citing Orwell in that last sentence, and certainly Huxley and Orwell are the two great prophets of our New Feudalism. Another prophet was Einstein, who wrote, “A new kind of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”
And how do we develop that out-of-the-box thinking? Both Burgess and Einstein found some hope in the arts: “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination,” the great Imagineer wrote. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” And Burgess echoes him here: “The guides, as always lie among the writers and artists.” Especially, he thought, in literature, “that most directly human of the arts.”
And so it might have been some forty years ago had we had a forward-looking ethos, based on the preservation of our highest values—to “encircle the world” with a spirit of cooperation and empathy, an all-in-the-same-boat spirit, rather than an everyone-for-him/herself spirit of acquisition, accumulation, possession and possessiveness, hegemony and exclusion.
Writing in the same year of Burgess’s essay, Saul Bellow wrote:
“A powerful nation of unparalleled energy and practicality created an industrial society without precedent in history. The accompanying ugliness, boredom and spiritual trouble are also without precedent. It is essential (as Edgar Wind remarks in Art and Anarchy) that the whole should be less mad than the parts. But Authority has neither the imagination nor the moral capacity to act for the whole.”
Forty years on, and Authority is even less imaginative and the cauldron of “spiritual trouble” is boiling over. Various scientists and trends analysts can make pretty good predicitions, but there’s always the black swan or the white buffalo. We try to find safe harbor, but the whirlpool is widening and the winds are howling.
Our obligation—to ourselves, friends, loved ones and to future generations—is to be as informed as possible, and to act upon our informed convictions.
We are past the tipping point, which means that horrendous consequences of our folly and neglect are now unavoidable. If London can burn, so can New York.
Millions are at risk of starvation in Somalia and elsewhere because of wars that were never inevitable… except as we believe human stupidity, greed and lack of foresight are inevitable.
TEPCO has not addressed the problems that led to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown disaster—any more than BP has addressed the problems that led to the Gulf Oil spill.
Our Congress has displayed its infantilism to the world regarding the debt default debate… and now 1/5 of our Congress is spending 8 days of their 5-week “vacation” in Israel!
NATO, established to counter the Warsaw Pact nations (or to provoke them!) is now at war in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan—and the Warsaw Pact is long gone.
Bin Laden is also gone—and most likely “long gone” since dying of renal failure in the early 2000’s. Yet we waste our men and women and treasure fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. … Wasn’t the aim was to defeat Al Qaeda? Even the corrupt Karzai regime recommends some kind of settlement with the Taliban. How many more helicopters of men must we lose, how many more Afghan and Iraqi and Libyan and Palestinian and Pakistani civilians must we kill and maim and torture in our Ass Wars which we cannot win?
The US now has 43 million people surviving on food stamps—the highest number ever.
We’re on a tinderbox, and various human or natural “matches” could set it off!
It’s happening. … All part of a grand cycle, perhaps—Mayan, Hindu, apocalyptic, genetically determined, solar-flare related… God knows what! We’ll find ourselves back in the 60s—only more so now. It will be a global realighnment of power structures and power relationships and basic values. Youth will be joined by seniors The middle classes will align with the poor (and also against the poor!). … Much chaos, confusion, liberation and repression. It will be exciting… and tragic. A testing time for the species.
The Chinese curse—“May you live in interesting times”—will be on us.
We must be very alert and apprehensive, stay informed, and, if we are courageous, act on our highest convictions.
One of the worst crimes of the Global Empire—the Propaganda State—these past forty years has been the dereliction of education: the debasement of this fundamental responsibility of seniors towards the young, this bedrock of democracy. When I was a grad student, some 40 years ago, it was well known that a degree in Education was one of the easiest to obtain—and, once obtained, would assure a life of genteel or proximate poverty. In spite of the obstacles and the disrespect accorded the profession, dedicated reformers who cared about posterity, and those who loved knowledge and wisdom for their own sake, took on the challenges. But our deleterious “System” has gravely wounded the best of them—with standardized testing, “No Child Left Behind,” over-crowded classrooms, expurgated textbooks, the intrusion of religion into the domain of science, literature, etc.
Here in the great state of Georgia, where I live now, we have attained some notoriety because of a “cheating scandal” in our schools. The cheating was not the mis-deeds of students, but of teachers and administrators who changed exam answers and test scores so that their schools and districts could achieve superior results on nationwide, standardized tests. And, with those results, advancement in the “profession” was more attainable.
“Rectify the names!” It is the cri de coeur of the Age.
Of all the words that Christ hates the most, that he utters with most disdain, is the word “Hypocrite!”
We claim to honor our prophet, Martin Luther King, but we scorn his pacifist principles with every predator drone lobbed on a village or wedding party in Pakistan!
We claim to hate war, but we glorify our “fallen heroes.” We berated the German general staff for “just following orders,” but praised our own guys for “just doing their jobs.” That’s no longer enough, though. Now we are assured—by friends and family and fellow operatives—that the men shot down in the Chinook “really enjoyed” what they were doing! This, I suppose, is supposed to mitigate their deaths—and what they do?
Our soldiers are “heroes,” but what about good teachers, or any hard-working professional or laboring man or woman struggling to deal honestly with neighbors and strangers, and bring up the kids with humane values?
Confucius was asked if there was a signal principle upon which to base a good and moral life—a kind of compass for the winding paths, the treacherous ups and downs. “We must rectify the names,” he replied. Call it as it truly is. Unmask the wizard behind the curtain; the fools in Congress; the predatory transnational banksters; the media murdochians; the Moloch and Mammon-loving co-opted “artists”; mis-educators; and all the myrmidons of a decadent, moribund, parasitic System.
The challenges have never been greater. But… the awareness of the challenges is growing exponentially in our connected world. Farewell content! The wars have come home!
Gary Corseri has published/posted work at Dandelion Salad, Dissident Voice, CounterPunch, L.A. (and Hollywood–) Progressive, The New York Times, Village Voice, Global Research and hundreds of other venues. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and at universities. His books include the novels, Holy Grail, Holy Grail and A Fine Excess, and the literary anthology (edited), Manifestations. He has been a professor in the U.S. and Japan, taught in prisons and public schools, worked as a grape-picker and furniture-mover in Australia, a gas station attendant, a door-to-door salesman. He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.