FLOTSAM & JETSAM: The collapse of conscience and concern

Monday, July 15, 2013

The collapse of conscience and concern

Sam Smith

Let's review the bidding:

We are still engaged in our longest, and one of our most pointless, wars.

The federal government is electronically spying on whomever it wants and wherever it wants. It accomplishes this with the aid of a totally un-American secret court.

Our current government has repealed or reduced funding for more good programs than at any time in our history.

The Democrats haven't advocated a major, truly progressive policy in several decades.

Our two most recent Democratic presidents have been the most conservative ones in nearly a century.

Liberals have become indifferent to the sort of economic policies that once characterized the Democratic Party. They have redefined themselves as an elite demographic rather than as a political movement, one that has impermeable faith in its own virtue, and holds in contempt those who do not share its values or accept its hegemony. But given their small numbers, even their good policies stand little chance of success.

The Democrats are planning to nominate for president a candidate who was, according to an assistant special prosecutor, almost indicted, who was in business with two friends who went to prison, and was a partner with her husband in a number of sleazy deals.

Neither major party is showing much interest in climate change and other major ecological problems.

Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, among other things, our political campaigns and their results are controlled by corporations and other sources of big money.

For the first time in over two hundred years, a cabal of government, corporate and rightwing forces are engaged in a successful full scale attack on public education, attempting to return it to a state once marked by what were called public "pauper schools."

Add it all up and the American government has never been so corrupt, misguided, incompetent and disloyal to the Constitution and to other principles upon which the country was founded.

It is comfortable and common to lay the major blame on the most reactionary Republican Party in our history and while this argument has merit, it also serves to ignore and excuse factors over which other groups and cultures have control, factors that that create an environment in which political evil flourishes.

For example, the rise of gay marriage and abortion to the status of key issues directly reflects the failure of Democrats to offer anything more politically compelling - such as cures for economic inequity.

The influence of the Koch brothers on conservative candidates is encouraged by the Democrats' willingness to be funded by similar if less wealthy sources.

And if honesty is to have any chance of survival, it is not aided by a Democratic president who repeatedly lies about such things as electronic spying on citizens. By a president so deep into the false agenda of government intelligence that he doesn't even bother to make believable arguments to defend himself.

What has gone unnoted in the current miserable failings of our land is the absence of voices with both power and integrity, status and wisdom, influence and decency. With few such respected individuals and institutions offering alternatives, it is small wonder that amongst the people as a whole, concern and conscience have collapsed, giving way to the most primitive forms of survival.

While America's liberal, intellectual and media establishment may not be anywhere near as corrupt as the right, it has basically surrendered to that right by failing to speak effectively in even measured tones against it.

We live in a state of value disintegration worse than during the depression, the civil rights era or the Vietnam war.

To be sure, then as now, real change was instigated and agitated by those the establishment called radicals for having the gall to advocate a more decent normalcy, but their success was ultimately heavily dependent upon  a moderately rational elite that helped translate the message to average Americans.

As just one example, the church is now barely visible in the movements of today. Where are the nuns one once saw at peace rallies, the rabbis raising their voices for civil rights, or Episcopalian bishops offering sermons on economic equality?

The same is true of academia and the media. Such once hot spots of cultural intelligence and decency have become either silent or quiet partners in corrupt disintegration. Our universities are so much on the payroll of the military industrial complex that many have lost most of their honor. Our professors are either too scared or too indifferent to give a hand.

The evils of the right are just major extensions of what has always lurked in their agenda. But the apathy, fear and avoidance of an elite that pretends to be our moral and intellectual leaders is unprecedented.

We will recover little by just attacking John Boehner and the Koch brothers.  We must replace the Obama, the Larry Summers, the Bill Gates, the Tom Friedmans and Fareed Zakarias with those who, while not progressive, at least have enough human empathy and  understanding to form a gateway politics to a better America. We need those who are not cynical opportunists and manipulators but who, while still behind the curve of the future, at least are not – as our elite are today -  de facto co-conspirators with the most reactionary forces of our time.