The Talking Dog

December 18, 2011, Meta[mor]pho[r/s][is] (?)

Our jumping point will be a loss for all humanity (observed by me here): former Czech President, playwright, poet, author and "dissident" leader Vaclav Havel has passed away at age 75. Havel, of course, wrote extensively of the lies associated with communist propaganda, and ultimately proceeded to lead the so-called "Velvet Revolution," which is credited with non-violently ending communist rule in Czechoslovakia and ushering in (as it were) democratic rule in both Czechoslovakia and its successor countries (Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the latter of which he served as its first president).

In some sense, as a professional story-teller, particularly in the sphere of "the dramatic," Havel had the perfect metaphor to be the perfect politician. Of course, he also had the help of a couple of broader trends... by the late 1980's, the Soviet Union and its influence were imploding under the weight of an ill-fated military adventure in Afghanistan and an economic malaise/collapse, culminating in an inability to feed its own people. And Czechoslovakia had a history (of which Havel was a part, of course) of challenging its harsh Soviet overlords and their legacy of totalitarian rule. Still... while "the story" wasn't so hard to pitch in one sense-- Soviet propaganda was, although everywhere in its sphere, not accepted by its target audience as anything but a load of crap-- the message that resistance was not futile... that was powerful, and when it finally took hold, [seemingly] changed to world.

I juxtapose (or intermix) the post-title to reflect Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic's other most famous citizen, also from the literary realm, Franz Kafka, to make my seemingly interesting point. Kafka, as you know, wrote such works as "Metamorphosis" (about a man who wakes up as a giant cockroach), "The Castle" (the ultimate bureaucracy), and also relevant to our current state, "The Trial" (endless opaque proceedings ultimately ending in the ultimate punishment). Let me quickly remind the handful of you still reading this that the left/right kabuki game should be dumped into the same "dustbin of history" as the Soviet Union itself...

At least in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and its legacy of central planning and brutality is largely gone now.

But alas, bad ideas never seem to die. Some of the worst aspects (but not the best ones!) of the Soviet system have migrated westward.

Where was I going? Oh yes... Russia itself is now a semi-autocracy, with some components of a free country like "elections" (albeit highly flawed and generally believed to be corrupt), a kleptocratic "free market" system... but a somewhat independent press, and, because of its vast energy resources, if nothing else, a future. The United States, it seems, is hellbent on following the Soviet Union straight to hell, complete with the same playbook of late-Soviet/early post-Soviet military overextension (with good old Imperial Graveyard Afghanistan as primary focal point), economic kleptocratic oligarchy, and a moribund political system garnering less and less confidence among the citizenry... except... we seem to be holding on.

It's not about willingness to use violence against our own people-- God knows, the Soviet Union was far less squeamish than even our over-militarized domestic police services... No, the difference is mostly about the propaganda. Starting with the fact, that Americans don't even believe the propaganda IS propaganda. Now, that's good. After decades of lower living standards resulting from lowering the top marginal tax rates, people still believe in the propaganda that tax cuts will benefit them, instead of just the oligarchs, evidence be damned; not even proof that one in two Americans now live in poverty will get most people off of this one. Or this one: that something called "the American dream" still exists in any meaningful sense. Or that smoking cigarettes is "rebellious" or drinking cola is "cool" or eating factory grown and processed food is "safe and healthy" and small scale farm-raised food is dangerous (keep propping up those corporate bottom lines, peasants!) Or even that we have a functional constitutional democracy, and that the state can't just lock you up without due process of law (unless of course, you're a damned terrorist and deserve it).

Let me give you an example of the power of American propaganda: a meme making its way around left blogistan suggests that the DOD authorization bill, intended, of course, to authorize indefinite detention of citizen and furriner alike... somehow doesn't do this. But the bill explicitly states that it doesn't disturb "existing law." As I've reminded you for years, existing law includes Padilla v. Hanft, a federal appellate decision which explicitly permits indefinite detention of American citizens arrested in the United States. Alrightie then.

To its immense credit, the Occupy movement has started sandpapering the veneer of our American and Western gestalt, and found that it is a thin one indeed-- virtually no provocation at all has resulted in a disproportionately violent backlash that cannot be ignored. And so, while the economic meltdown affects more and more Americans, and those few still huddling near the top (but not quite in the 1% of the 1%) still try to justify the existing system and look down upon "the dirty hippies," the big picture is fraying, and rather quickly. The European financial meltdown may or may not be resolved, but the underlying lunacy of it all (terrible private financial decisions by oligarchs racking up crazy debt levels to finance crazy speculation have now been shifted to public and sovereign accounts to be paid by taxpayers who did not benefit from the upside lest the oligarchs lose a penny, taking public debt to unprecedented and unsustainable levels everywhere)... all remains in full force. Unsustainable... but it still goes on...

Hey, I've been telling you the Imperium has no clothes for a long time. I take great solace in knowing that some of you have caught on, and recognize it to be so. For the rest of you, "Boy, wouldn't it suck if that awful Newt Gingrich/Michelle Bachmann/Rick Perry/Mitt Romney, etc. became President...?"

This has been... "Meta[mor]pho[r/s][is] (?)"