A Freeway in Hell

My thoughts on the nature of our late capitalist society. The title should give some clue what I think of that! US 101 or I-80 as metaphor for our imperatives. Besides worrying about what sort of black hole we are speeding into, I like airships. One reason being the almost inescapble desire to have one to get out of a traffic jam!

Location: Sonoma County, California

Grew up a military brat, Californian-in-exile, reactionary libertarian-essentially spent the 70s on Mars, for I am hearing impaired and I did not know what the music was saying. Generally still don't unless I listen to it over and over or find the words captioned on a movie or somewhere on line. Came "back" to California to begin my adult life, have not lived elsewhere since. No regrets there despite our problems here. Have studied physics, more math than most human beings will ever need, worked on spaceship projects (well, one) at JPL. Lived with a wonderful disabled person who lives no more--L Natasha Littletree RIP October 2004. I have a life plan, just kind of vague on some of the short-term stuff.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

My sources of passion: a reply to Shakespeare's Sister

Shakespeare's Sister asked "What has stirred in you that fervor for politics that’s brought you to my virtual doorstep?"

Here is my answer:

Hi, first of all what brought me here was skippy.

I was raised in a Catholic military officer's family, mostly at a rotation of Air Force bases in the South. However I always identifed as a middle of the road generic American--always out of step, I considered myself a "yankee" in the South. And of course in California one year I took a lot of abuse as "Florida" because I had finally gotten comfortable in Panama City, Florida. I was always an outsider wherever I went.

The roots of my politics are being raised as a true believer in a moderate vision of the American way, combined with a tendency to be an outsider (perhaps because I am nearly deaf) and to have a bleeding heart for other outsiders and losers.

Nowadays I can only describe my parents as reactionaries (very decent individuals, I owe them plenty including this passion, but they support incredibly vicious causes in almost the worst ways possible.) I think when I was little they were much more in a mainstream that was much more liberal--on the conservative side but they got polarized in the 1970s and for a time I went with them, my own way. But we all still watched CBS News with Walter Cronkite, and I grew up assuming people read the newspaper every day and thought about issues it brought up. How could you get the jokes on Saturday Night Live if you did not after all? When I was little my parents used to watch Smothers Brothers and while comedy got reined in after that, comedy remained the most subversive intellectual influence around. Right wingers are not and never have been funny, because they are too busy hiding from the truth to see the absurdity of things. But when I was young I think even conservative Americans had less insecuirty and more ability to do that than they do now, and so the fatal seed of independent thought was planted to be nurtured by such waters as Mad Magazine! But in the 1970s I still believed that the basically liberal society we had worked well, offered the best hopes of progress, and would be improved with less government interference--from my white suburban military brat position I thought I was a Libertarian and that Reagan was our champion, though it did cross my mind that I had grown up in the very bosom of the government and admired lots of things, from NASA to public libraries, that were governmental. I hoped it would all get sorted out when capitalism was stripped down and revved up--the USSR would collapse under its own weight; the economy would boom and shift away from weapons; freedom would spread and traditional tyrannies wither and private ventures into space would pave the road to the abundant future.

This true belief was outraged when I discovered gradually in the 1980s how much deception there is in the myths Americans live by, and of course that was a time when the ruthlessness of the real rulers of our system against anyone who did not have "clout" became apparent. All of this fed my indignation at the lot of powerless people and admiration of those who take power by standing up bravely to those who consider themselves the "better" people.

It has never gotten better in that respect either; the only progress I have seen is polarization between people who are more and more outraged and indignant, and those who are more and more calloused. Or both; we are all developing some kind of battle armor.

Basically I still believe the deep values reached for by the American Revolution were and are still worthy goals (thus I base my US politics on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address), but their true evolution has been in the direction of other great revolutionary movements. I believe the evidence shows we must all evolve into some kind of populist communitarians, or we are all going to kill each other, by murder, poisoning, or ecological catastrophe in some combination. Socialism or Barbarism, baby! And we have lots of Barbarism and getting more of it all the time.

And that I and I think most people really don't want to be bothered with politics, but we have no choice since those who are outside of systems of power get abused by those inside, and only a balance of power brings about justice and equity, to some rough degree.


Blogger Mimus Pauly said...

Recently, I believed capitalism would work a hell of a lot better if the politicians we keep electing would just do what we elect them to do and regulate the damn thing. Not too much, just enough to keep that sliver minority of robber baron wannabes in check.

However, I just finished reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Now I don't know what to think about capitalism.

But socialism? I don't know about that, either. Maybe if it's regulated to a certain extent. You go too far with it, you wind up with something akin to Soviet communism, and no one wants that.

The search goes on...

3/31/2005 11:22 PM  
Blogger BlondeSense Liz said...

Mark, you sound like me, except for the moving a lot as a kid. I never left Long Island. That was a great post you left at my blog too. Excellent.

Mimus Pauly, I think everything in society needs some regulation in order to keep things fair. Our country really started going to the dogs noticeably when the anti-trust laws started being dismantled and the media becoming corporate empires. Capitalism as a concept gives people a reason to get up in the morning and go to work while communism motivated no one except for those in charge. Capitalism unchecked leads to corporatism/fascism and socialism unchecked can lead to communism. I would still take a sort of socialist country with a touch of capitalism any day. Unfortunately it's comfortable and people stop paying attention. That's when we get in trouble.

4/04/2005 3:37 AM  

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