December 24, 2007

Wrapping up the Blog

Look, even Thoreau only spent two years and two months at the Pond. It is sometimes incorrectly assumed he always lived there. He wasn't a crank; he was a Harvard educated intellectual who unfortunately could never shake his tuberculosis and died way before his time.

However, more influential even than H.D., in terms of this decision, is Dr. Johnson, who wrote that "nobody but a blockhead ever wrote for anything but money." Besides, to everything there is a season. So I want to say to the NSA, and to the CIA, and the FBI, and the Department of Defense, and the Office of Special Plans, and to the Executive Branch, and to those parts of the Executive Branch which apparently aren't, although I thought they were, such as Dick Cheney's office: no hard feelings, right? After all, you never (okay, rarely) saw me get personal with the Decider, like some other writers I could name. In fact, let me name names, in that fine old American paranoid tradition...okay, I won't. I might criticize policy, or certain teensy-weensy inroads on the Bill of Rights which have occurred in the last seven years. But we still have one or two left; let's not get greedy.

Anyway, increasingly I see that the democratic process in America does not quite work the way it used to, even compared to earlier stages of my lifetime. Is it possible that the almighty Framers, in their matchless wisdom and clairvoyance, designed a system that worked okay when there were about 3 million people (not counting slaves, and who was counting them?), 13 colonies, and a large city (like New York) had about 20,000 people, but doesn't work so well when the system is now so huge and complicated, and the issues so complex, and the general quality of education is declining, and incumbents are personally unknown to the electorate and are sent back to office, or defeated, on the basis of PR campaigns? When the system, in other words, has broken down because of its size and complexity?

As a salutatory note, that's what I think. It's the best explanation I can think of for the apparent irrelevance of government to the real problems of everyday Americans. It's not that government doesn't serve interests; it does, but those interests are the ones with the money and access to get the government to do something for them, and with the cash to run successful PR campaigns for public office, all of it mounted on electronic media using the tricks and tropes of the entertainment industry. Mr. Smith doesn't go to Washington anymore; the CEO of Martin Marietta does. That's a cliche, but like many cliches it's unfortunately true. So the same forces that made America an economic colossus are the forces that have locked the system into an ossified senility that cannot react rationally to obvious problems. It makes sense that such a condition would occur here now, in the late stages of the American empire. We can't respond effectively to crises like climate change, oil shortages, the national debt of $9 trillion, the collapsing dollar, the decrepit infrastructure, unaffordable healthcare, the absence of a national rail network worth anything, the shift from a manufacturing base to a "consumerist" economy, the huge and growing disparities between rich and poor - to anything, really, because it is a mistake to identify the interests of so-called "average" Americans with the political process in Washington, D.C. Note to the NSA: I don't mean anything radical by that. Nor do I propose that we do anything about it, in case you're wondering, because the whole point is that nothing can be done. Now I ask you: just how patriotic is that? A fatalist commitment to the status quo: as American as apple pie.

There will be another election season in which a group of candidates anxious for the perks and power of the nation's highest office traffic in a gaudy set of carefully-managed illusions and catch-phrases, promising great change, etc., and then one of them will go to Washington (or return there) and come up against the immovable inertia of vested interests represented tenaciously by America's uniparty; and most of the discretionary budget will go to the military-industrial complex, and the faltering social programs will limp along toward their eventual bankruptcy, and the cost of living will go higher and higher as the dollar falls, as oil grows inexorably more expensive, as Americans compete to buy American food with foreign purchasers anxious to take the country's last remaining export. I think we'll give up on the idea, after a few more years, of controlling foreign producers of oil by occupying them militarily because we just won't be able to afford it nor sustain the army to do so. And then we'll be at the mercy of the market. I think GW Bush will be the last of the great military adventurists in American history.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:24 PM

    And goodnite sweet knight to you