When did our democracy die? When did it irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce and absurd political theater? When did the press, labor, universities and the Democratic Party—which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible—wither and atrophy? When did reform through electoral politics become a form of magical thinking? When did the dead hand of the corporate state become unassailable?
The body politic was mortally wounded during the long, slow strangulation of ideas and priorities during the Red Scare and the Cold War. Its bastard child, the war on terror, inherited the iconography and language of permanent war and fear. The battle against internal and external enemies became the excuse to funnel trillions in taxpayer funds and government resources to the war industry, curtail civil liberties and abandon social welfare. Skeptics, critics and dissenters were ridiculed and ignored. The FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA enforced ideological conformity. Debate over the expansion of empire became taboo. Secrecy, the anointing of specialized elites to run our affairs and the steady intrusion of the state into the private lives of citizens conditioned us to totalitarian practices. Sheldon Wolin points out in “Democracy Incorporated” that this configuration of corporate power, which he calls “inverted totalitarianism,” is not like “Mein Kampf” or “The Communist Manifesto,” the result of a premeditated plot. It grew, Wolin writes, from “a set of effects produced by actions or practices undertaken in ignorance of their lasting consequences.”
Corporate capitalism—because it was trumpeted throughout the Cold War as a bulwark against communism—expanded with fewer and fewer government regulations and legal impediments. Capitalism was seen as an unalloyed good. It was not required to be socially responsible. Any impediment to its growth, whether in the form of trust-busting, union activity or regulation, was condemned as a step toward socialism and capitulation. Every corporation is a despotic fiefdom, a mini-dictatorship. And by the end Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs had grafted their totalitarian structures onto the state.More and more, I feel like I will not be around to see things righten. I do believe they will. I believe that the current generation will fight back against the efforts to destroy democracy and the safety net. And I believe they will be successful.
But I really do think it will take place long after I am gone.
My grandson Eli and I went to the library today. He loves the picture book so we go once a week -- at least once a week. At our library, they have created this little shop. And in there they sell books and films (DVD and videocassette) that they are getting rid of or that people have donated. Eli found many things. All I found was a biography on Jane Wyman. Other than knowing she was once married to Ronald Reagan, I know nothing of her personal life. (I know a great deal of her movies and, of course, her Angela Channing on Falcon Crest.) I did not know people were donating old books and films. We will take some stuff when we go next.
Do you know why my library is doing that?
This may be happening in your area as well so I am encouraging you to find out.
We have already seen serious cut backs in hours at our library.
I cannot believe how long this economic disaster has gone on. And it is our schools and libraries that seem to suffer the most.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today: