The Talking Dog

June 14, 2011, Accidental truths

We'll "jump off" with this hit-piece on Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), the "R" seemingly for "religious nut" as Perry once again invites other governors to a revival meeting with a gay-bashing group. The Think Progress piece notes occasions where Perry riffs on the Old Testament (apparently the Pharaoh's Dream story) and otherwise suggest that current economic misery is "God's plan" and the rest of us shouldn't be too dependent on the government (and he's doing his part by trying to slash Texas's) and of course, misery lets us be "closer to God" or "God's plan" or thereabouts.

Well then. I observed the other day as I got up, got the little one off to school, fed the kitty cats (and emptied their litter box), climbed up to the roof to water the vegetables, jogged around the neighborhood, showered, packed my lunch (which I had cooked the evening before) and then walked over the Brooklyn Bridge... to work that I, someone who once campaigned for and then voted for the Libertarians (and one of the reviled Koch Brothers was probably on the ballot)... but in my middle age have come to realize that unbridled capitalism is just another synonym for "law of the jungle" where the powerful run things for their own benefit, with no semblance of "fair play," or even "decency"... have pretty much realized that European-style socialism (see also Canada, Australia, Japan), while flawed, of course, is a damned site better than allowing 90-plus per cent of the population to work in effective peonage, without dignity or hope, while a few well-connected insiders (barely 1% of the population if that) literally suck out the marrow of life from our economy, and indeed, our planet, all while lauding themselves as "entrepreneurs"and "value creators"... as if they could win so much as a game of solitaire without cheating, let alone honestly achieve their vaunted and oversized lifestyles and incomes on their own.

Where was I? Oh yes... I was going to say something about the American "rugged individualist" persona. We all know it's utter horsesh**, of course... as Hillary tells us, "it takes a village" (or in her case, The Village)... and none of us (save, maybe the occasional mountain man/woman, or remote hermits like the Unibomber) can really function absent a (functioning) society. And a functioning society, alas, needs government services, like public health, sanitation, education, environmental protection, and pretty much all the things we will be losing amidst austerities now imposed on us by our betters as the economy slows to a crawl (and glossed with religious overtones by the Rick Perry's of the world). And this sort of misery has a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy, as underemployed people become more underemployed, a slow economy accelerates down, and so forth.

But I was talking about the rugged individualist myth (we'll note that the American West [including large parts of Texas], home of that myth, amounts to the biggest "welfare queen" region of them all, with its near total dependence on federal water projects just to be able to live, federal highway projects to get there, defense spending to make a living, etc., etc.), I was actually trying to do this at the "atomic" level, that is to say, at the level of the societal atom, the individual man or woman.

You see, the average American gets up bleary-eyed after staying up too long watching television, having eaten a high-fat meal probably prepared in a fast-food restaurant (but which was apparently inexpensive at least), and perhaps having had a beer or two, after a most unsatisfying day at the service job (assuming he or she even has a job), hopping in the car to drive over the now pitted roads and highways to the next unsatisfying day at the job... which may be sufficiently stressful as to generate an illness, or which a quick trip to the doc will result in a prescription or two (hopefully paid for by the company health plan)... where was I going?

I was trying to make a point about "self-reliance." We're not self-reliant: we're Americans. At a basic level, while collectively we rail against teh excesses of "the nanny state"... we nonetheless expect the world to be our mother, and not in a Mother Earth or Gaia sense, but in the "clean up after ourselves" sense. I was trying to describe my morning (and the activities are starting to become sufficiently ingrained as to become unconscious habits) not to highlight my personal virtue (which should be obvious to you all by this point!), but to demonstrate it's numerous elements of self-reliance, even if they are largely symbolic. Our American existences are perilously close to those of the dormant Earthlings in the brilliant film Wall-E, where people are totally dependent on the mechanisms they have constructed, and the individual human is fat, lethargic, forever dependent, forever talking on some personal electronic device and sucking down a Big Gulp, and being wheeled around. Tres charmant, non?

And so... we are dependent on others to select and cook our food for us, notwithstanding the fact that they will do so in the most expeditious (read: cheap and probably unhealthy) manner, and that this will probably make us overweight (along with taking the car everywhere, rather than walking or bicycling), which will make us sick and have to go to the physician, who will not counsel us to improve our lifestyle other than cursorily, but will prescribe for us the latest bad-ass wonder drug or two or three, which we will gladly overpay for because it's on our prescription plan, and we'll work at our mindless job, come home and watch our mindless programming, perhaps spend a few hours of idle time electronically "talking" to others similarly situated... lather, rinse, repeat, not thinking for one moment about the fact that NONE OF THIS is "individualism" of any kind, but wholly dependent on an energy-intensive infrastructure to keep it going. Yes-- we live our lives UNCONSCIOUSLY. Only not being conscious of what's going on in our lives would ever let Americans fantasize that "rugged individualism" of any kind was remotely possible, or that any of us could even survive a full 24 hours without some kind of "governmental intervention."

But there we are. Forgetting that "the system" is wholly created, and "natural law" has nothing to do with any of it, we are freed up to fantasize about "rugged individualism" and "if only government would get off our backs." Fine. Let's start removing services, Governor Perry. We'll start with the police, and your security team... let's see how long you last. Chump. Thing is: he is ultimately correct. We'll all have to learn to deal with less government-- not because it's God's plan (God has nothing to do with any of this, of course), but because there's just going to be less government. The insistence that our beloved super-rich (the darlings!) cannot be made to pay taxes (notwithstanding they benefit more from government and the system than everyone else combined) means that as the beloved super-rich suck more and more life-blood from the rest of us, there will just be less from the rest of us to tax, and governmental services will contract as we go to permanent austerity.

Which means... as I keep trying to tell you... that we'll just have to look out for ourselves. Government won't... because it largely won't be able to. It'd be nice if Gov. Perry observed that "God helps those who help themselves." He didn't... so I will. Consciousness, people. Zombies may like brains... but not because they have any themselves. This has been... "Accidental truths."