I have been mulling over this question for the last few days, especially in light of the recent presidential debate wherein Mitt the Twit lied for 90 minutes straight without breaking his phony smile. How do we stand it? especially when pundits laud his winning attitude—which is to say, his ability to lie and convey his pretend concern for the poor, and make it sound sincere?
The question comes up all the time, in every forum imaginable. How do African Americans stand it when they contemplate the history of their enslavement, their continuous disenfranchisement even up to and including today’s so-called Voter ID Laws? How do they keep from murdering the white power structure responsible for all this, a structure which is still, in huge swaths of this country, the dominant power? How do Native Americans stand it; how keep from murdering the heirs of those who stole their whole continent, slaughtered them like dogs especially when they fought back, and then put the remnants on so-called reservations deprived of language and culture to the extent that their only recourse is to drown in alcohol and despair?
Closer to average white experience, how do abused children stand it when their innocence is ripped from them—by fathers or grandfathers or stepfathers or boyfriends or, increasingly, by Catholic priests? How do such children keep from murdering their abusers? And if we, personally, haven’t been physically abused, how do the rest of us keep from cutting the throats of those who are abusing our democracy (actually, we’ve never had a real democracy much less a direct one; we’ve got a representative republic, with the direct vote filtered by such institutions as the electoral college, and the power of the senate which ensures that a few yahoos from under-populated states can block any legislation that might give the masses a real voice in governance)? I’m referring to what has become plain for all to see in recent years—the now overwhelming power of the corporate rich to exploit the common heritage, expropriate and destroy the natural environment (blow off the top of a mountain to get at the coal no longer accessible to conventional mines?), and then with the obscene wealth derived from such depredations, determine what laws are written by bought-off legislators. How do we stand it? How do we accommodate ourselves to the gutting of laws meant to protect us, to the rewriting of tax laws and health laws and environmental laws and financial-control laws and labor laws in such obvious ways as to have, in the past 40 years alone, diverted more wealth to the top 0.1% than in all the years of this republic up to then? How do we stand it? even when we learn about how it has been done (see “The Measure of a Nation Challenges Illusions of American Superiority,” truthout.org, 7 October) even when we see that we’re being screwed left and right and center? How is it that most of us simply shrug and conclude that there’s nothing to be done—it’s simply the way of the world; or, perhaps, tell ourselves that correcting it all would be too hard and might put the same or similar scoundrels in place anyway, so why struggle? The comfort we know, even as it’s steadily reduced, is better than the revolution we don’t know.
Most of us prefer to play it safe, in other words. It’s what the thugs at the top always count on. Most people simply want to stay alive and reasonably healthy for as long as possible. Raise the kids and watch the tube. Have a few drinks and laugh and enjoy whatever is left of a reasonable life. Scream at the televised bullshit coming at us 24-7, or at a surrogate punching bag like a compliant spouse or small kids or a timorous dog, and muddle on. And rationalize that though we don’t have it quite as good as we once did, we’re still, in the USA, better off than three-quarters of the rest of the poor bastards on the planet, and so able to bear a bit more of the humiliation each day, a bit more of the invasion of our bodies and our minds by poisons geared to make billions for the lords at the top, a bit more of the waning of any hope for a truly satisfying solution to the problems of existence.
And one more thing. Maybe, just maybe, there really is some inner sense on the part of at least some of us, that the world goes up and the world goes down no matter what little games our alleged “leaders” play. That there is a balance to things and that we in the United States, having been “blessed” with that enormous expanse of rich land our forebears stole outright, actually do have a debt to pay, and that kind of debt does not ever go away. Empires rise. Empires fall. Sooner or later, as Joseph Tainter points out in his Collapse of Complex Societies, the marginal returns on investments in farming, in technology, in education, in health care, in infrastructure become too little to justify the maintenance of such complexity. Too many bureaucrats are required, too many administrators are needed, and once the low-hanging fruit has been picked (as with drilling for oil or mining for coal or solving the problem of illness—the investment to find penicillin was about $20,000! Compare that to what it cost to even begin to control AIDS), the costs to produce or control or solve everything else rises so exponentially that at some point, abandoning complexity becomes a rational, even economic decision.
And even beyond that, whether Obama gets elected and continues to peck away at a watered-down solution here and there, or whether Romney steals the whole thing and we are openly subjected once more to the government-destroying mandarins intent on enslaving the masses to increase their profits and keep themselves in multiple homes behind their platinum gates of hell—it really doesn’t matter. Because whether we thrive or whether we sink, in the end we are all saved no matter what, all equal no matter what, all equally fucked no matter what. We live and we die. And there’s no solution to that except to exult in the wonder that the sun, 93,000,000 miles away, somehow is placed at exactly the right distance for its thermonuclear furnace to warm our faces during the day, and relieve us with revivifying darkness at night. And that somehow, miraculously, we are in communion with that, and much more than that living and dead, no matter how many tax shelters assholes like Romney can hide their gold in, or how many lies they can put over on our gullible nation.
Maybe that’s how we stand it.