We need to chase the money lenders and other riff-raff from the temple again. The corruption in Washington resonates through our whole society. Political corruption is one aspect of a more general immorality. If we want to tackle it, we have to understand how it works.
Sober, personal virtues of honesty, willpower, honor, and high-mindedness have given way to “the most important single factor, the effective personality,” which “commands attention by charm,” and “radiates self-confidence.” George W. Bush is a prime example of the phenomenon; Sarah Palin is another. Personal relations – image, in short – have become part of public relations, a sacrifice of selfhood on a personality market, to the sole end of individual success in the corporate way of life.
In the corporate era, economic relations are impersonal – and executives feel little personal responsibility (witness NAFTA, GATT and the WTO). Within the corporate worlds of business, war making and politics, the private conscience is attenuated and immorality is institutionalized. Many of the problems of white-collar crime and of relaxed public morality, of high-priced vice and fading personal integrity, are problems of this structural immorality. Its acceptance is an essential feature of our mass society.
In economic and political institutions the corporate rich now wield enormous power, but they have never had to win the moral consent of those over whom they hold this power. The general immorality, the general weakening of older values, and the organization of irresponsibility have not involved public crisis; they result from creeping indifference and a silent hollowing out.
The images of the powerful that prevail are of the elite as celebrities. They share it with the frivolous or sultry creatures of the world of celebrity, which is a dazzling blind of their true power.
Two things are needed in a democracy: articulate and knowledgeable publics, and political leaders who, if not men of reason, are at least reasonably responsible to such knowledgeable publics as exist. Such a public and such leaders – either of power or of knowledge – do not now prevail, and knowledge does not now have democratic relevance in America.
The lack of knowledge as an experience among the elite ties in with the malign tendency of the expert, not only as fact but also as legitimization. Our national debate has become timid. The tyranny of experts disguises our true best interest. The trend has been abdication of debate and the collapse of opposition under the easy slogan of bipartisanship. Public relations displace reasoned argument; manipulation and undebated decisions of power replace democratic authority.
Status, no longer rooted in local communities, follows the big hierarchies. Status follows big money, even if it has a touch of the gangster. Status follows power, even if it be without background. Below, in the mass society, old moral and traditional barriers to status break down and Americans look to standards of excellence above them, to model themselves and judge self-esteem.
Those in the higher circles are not truly representative; their high position is not a result of moral virtue. They sit in the seats of the high and the mighty selected and formed by the means of power, the sources of wealth, and the mechanics of celebrity. They are not shaped by nationally responsible parties that debate openly and clearly the issues this nation now so unintelligently confronts. They are not held in check by a plurality of voluntary associations, which connect debating publics with the pinnacles of decision. Commanders of power unequalled in history, they have succeeded within the American system of organized irresponsibility.
PEASANTS and MASTERS
University of Wisconsin law professor Joel Rogers says, “Public opinion in the United States is conventionally mapped on a liberal-conservative axis understood to run from government do-gooders without values on one end to free marketeering rich people without hearts at the other end. Most people in America place themselves in the middle. They don’t find either end particularly attractive. Today, the fight isn’t really between liberals and conservatives but between the workers/consumers/citizens who actually want the economy to reflect our values and those who want to keep things the way they are with a few irresponsible corporations running the country for their own benefit. In that fight we can win. It’s our country. Let’s run it for the people.”
We cannot make minor process changes, but must deal with the value system, which powers our economic engine to the divorce of all other concerns. Social Darwinism supposedly died after striking U.S. Steel workers were murdered by union-busting toughs while Andrew Carnegie played golf in Scotland. Carnegie turned a blind eye to what his managers were doing at the Homestead Mines. It seemed good business to lower labor costs. It got out of hand. Carnegie learned that individual action, even when the most rational and best for the individual or stockholders, may be a terrible disaster for other individuals.
The only way to resolve the problem is to:
GO STRAIGHT AT THEM
I reluctantly support the President. If we want positive change in America, he’s the man we should back. He comes nearest to my own philosophy and that of people I respect and care about most. However, I feel he is being “reasonable” with his opposition to the point of timidity, if not self-deception. What should he do?
- Go straight at them.
- Eschew any advice from Wall Street chameleon Robert Rubin and his clones who brought us NAFTA, GATT and WTO, and mentored Clinton, Bush, and now Obama with the same advice that created the present fiscal disaster. Prosecute Goldman Sachs for their very real thefts and confidence rackets.
- Speak Keynesian economics again. Emphasize we the people, public issues, community, human rights, common sense, and the common good; not the bottomline for a gaggle of avaricious stockholders. Practice economics as if PEOPLE mattered.
- Seek new, innovative solutions – not stock reprises of old routines; that’s the pattern of alcoholics and addicts.
- Make Corporations pay their fair share to support the system that enabled their success; stop treating them as “individuals” in the legal system; hold executives and stock holders personally accountable for their corporate actions.
- Protect the planet. JOB ONE. Everything else is subordinate in priority.
- Educate the children – dump top-heavy, discriminatory Trojan Horse Standards obstacles; eliminate public subsidies (vouchers) for boondoggle separatist, religionist, preferential, and elitist “home” schooling; insist upon a democratic public education, scholarship, and scientific rationalism.
- Call the generation to service: “Let’s get our hands on these problems and solve them. We can do it, if we stop procrastinating and move on.”
- Tell Republicans they can worry about haircuts, dirty words, and hurting people by making money from wage slavery, exploitation, lies and violence. The rest of us will go to work to end two disastrous wars and fix the nation’s now critical issues: environment, health care, and the economy (thanks to years of flagrant and cynical Republican corporatist neoconservative neglect, abuse, misuse, cynicism, and outright unabashed destruction).
We can’t let the Republican monarchists kill the real American dream: freedom and a better life for all our people, children, posterity, and not just ourselves.
We’re not in this life for the next quarterly report, we’re here to build a lasting rule of law that we can be proud of again; and that means saving it from the Republican cabal that brought us this fiasco, before it collapses us in an economy of chaos and death, as they smugly profit off our bones.
How’d that be? I’d like it fine. And, we need to dump the Bluedog Democrats and give President Barak Obama an overwhelming progressive majority in both houses of congress, too, or we will spend generations suffering from the harm of the Bushies and their corporate neocon masters.
If it will be done, it must be done soon, or I fear it will not be done at all (although the planet will outlive us, barren as the moon, perhaps).
G.W. Bush’s recent efforts to rewrite his history remind me of Ramses the Great (pharaoh of the biblical exodus, if you believe). He is called “great” because he managed to live longer than any other pharaoh and used the time to build more monuments to himself than all his predecessors and successors combined. He had a factory that just turned out busts of his head so that he could knock the heads off other pharaohs’ statues and put his in their place; thus, half the monuments in the Nile Valley are his. He advertised himself shamelessly: painting and carving the story of the Battle of Kadesh on every wall and pillar in sight. Kadesh was not even a draw and Rameses quickly signed a peace treaty with the victorious Hittite King, and went back to Egypt. He nearly got himself killed and almost lost his army due to egotistical rash actions as an inexperienced military leader, but he declared victory from near defeat, and covered up the fact that he came precious close to losing the farm – not just for himself, but for the whole kingdom of Egypt. And that’s why G.W. Bush’s recent rewrite of his history reminds me of Ramses the Great, pharaoh of the biblical exodus, if you believe. G.W. became president of the United States by the skin of his teeth and the lies on his lips: the same way Ramses II became “Great.”