March 3, 2010

Wrong About Obama II

obama rolling stone.JPG
the sound you just heard is millions of teeth grinding at once

In retrospect an easy call to make; at the time considered sour grapes: a year after the election of the Messiah, the country would instead be more angry and hateful than ever.  Not the Change he planned, but you get what you pay for.

The prediction was specific: not that Obama would ruin us, though he might; or that we were marching towards mercantilism, though we were.

Instead, the prediction was really an observation about Messiahs: no one hates Christ or Mohammed, they hate Christians and Muslims.


"No one is saying what Joe Stack did was right.  But you have to understand the anger, the resentment, there's a lot of people who feel like they're just being pushed around.  Joe Stack is a sort of a symbol..."

Would anyone listen if I pointed out that these are the same words that we hated to hear about the 9-11 hijackers or Palestinian suicide bombers?

But anyway, why do you need a symbol, why do you need him as your symbol?   You're angry that the government is creating a welfare state, with your tax money, that collars poor Americans into service and obedience.    Jeffersonians were in opposition to Hamiltonians (and Lagrangians) not just on the principle of government authority-- Hamilton wanting a strong central power to govern for the benefit of the people-- but also on consequences: strong government meant big increases in public services and public debt, which in turn reinforces the reliance on an ever expanding government.  Sound familiar?  So what do you need Joe Stack for?

Maybe because Joe Stack isn't a symbol for the expansion of the welfare state at the expense of individual freedoms, or somehing; maybe he's just a symbol of an angry man who's not really sure why he's angry, he just knows someone else is to blame.  In which case he's the perfect symbol.

You don't need a symbol to say, "taxes are way too high."  You need a symbol to say, "this is who I am."


James Surowiecki, the writer at The New Yorker  without encephalitis, wote:

Whereas the economic populism of the 1890s and the right wing cultural populism of recent years represented reasonably coherent ideologies, this new populism has stitched together incompatible concerns and goals into one "I'm mad as hell" quilt.  The people may have spoken.  It's just not clear that they're making any sense.

Obama hasn't closed Guantanamo-- and he won't.  He hasn't brought the troops home from Iraq; and he won't.  He's increased those in Afghanistan, saying he'll bring them back in 18 months.  He won't.  He hasn't reduced the opacity of the government, the Patriot Act just got an extension.  But if you were for those things under Bush, why aren't you relieved about those now?  If you were against them under Bush, why aren't you mad now?

The primary thing isn't what you are angry about, the primary thing is your anger. 


This is an example.  After the election-- and anyone who didn't vote for Obama will know exactly what I'm talking about-- you didn't dare say a negative thing about Obama in public.  Certainly not a flippant slander, the kind that are common when discussing Presidents.  If you were in a restaurant, before you said anything about Obama you took a serious look around to see who else was near you, and only if it was safe (read: white) could you quickly whisper some veiled comment.  You weren't even allowed to be pessimistic about Obama.  That was the climate.  Again, if you didn't vote for Obama you will know what I mean, if you did you'll think I'm exaggerating.  I'm not.  Talking negatively about Obama in public was like trying to tell a dirty joke down at Human Resources.

Fast forward to last week.  This is what I heard a guy announce in a crowded downtown restaurant, and I'm quoting:

Fuck him.  Fuck Obama, fuck him, and fuck his horsefaced wife.  I'm sick of his shit.

Agree/disagree if you want, but understand that that guy's anger had nothing to do with Obama at all.  That guy wasn't voicing his opinion, he was looking for a fight.  He was daring someone to say something.  He wasn't saying this loudly despite his better judgment, he was saying it on purpose.  He was throwing the guantlet down, cognitive kill switch style.  "Oh, I can't criticize Obama?  I can't say anything because it means I'm a racist?  Well fuck you too."  That guy did not have an airplane, but if he did I am certain he would have flown it into his sandwich.

This is the point: that man doesn't hate Obama, he hates Obama supporters.


This is what the Angry Joe thinks people thought in Nov 2008:

Red: "I guess McCain.  What other choice do I have?" 

Blue: "Go Obama! Ha!  Who's laughing now, bitches!  Take that!  I hope he raises taxes to 500%, I hope he rapes your daughters.  Time to redistribute the income, all to me!  Payback time! You mother---"

Unfortunately, his crazy paranoic delusion is validated by ten seconds of any episode of the  Rachel Maddow show.


In case you have had a short life or memory, Obama isn't the most hated modern President.  In terms of depth of hatred, Reagan beats them all, even Nixon.  Openly considered a monster, evil, he was going to bring us to nuclear war on purpose just to kill minorities and then he'd forget all about it because he had taken a nap.  The band Genesis made a video with him doing pretty much that, and it won awards.  Imagine if a pop band did that with Obama. 

However, the hatred was confined to Reagan, not to everyone who liked Reagan.  No one got cut off in traffic and thought, "look at this jerk, I'll bet he voted for Reagan."  But now...

This is probably because of the way we're now trained to discuss politics: me vs. you.  We are encouraged to make the focus be the argument, not the content.  Setting yourself in opposition to someone who appears to have a definable character is a shortcut to your own branding, which is why you're having the argument.


The problem with getting the President you want, only to find that he not only doesn't deliver on his campaign promises, but he's quite uninterested in delivering many of them, is that you don't blame him, you blame the government.

We've become what we dread most: France.  A strong central government that everyone throughout the spectrum hates.  Now what?  Can't punch a government, but you can kill an entirely uninvolved IRS agent with an airplane.  Score one for freedom.

"The country is ungovernable, we need a reform of government!"  Why is it more ungovernable now?  The government is the same one we've had for 2 generations.  Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Dick Durbin-- all your major players from both sides-- have been there for over 20 years.  Ideas and ideology haven't changed since Vietnam.  Obama was the Change guy-- but there aren't any new ideas there.  Hell, he's even copying Bush.

The deep, strong cry of all civilized nations, -- a cry which, every one now sees, must and will be answered, is: Give us a reform of Government! A good structure of legislation, a proper check upon the executive, a wise arrangement of the judiciary, is all that is wanting for human happiness...
If only! 

Were the laws, the government, in good order, all were well with us; the rest would care for itself! Dissentients from this opinion, expressed or implied, are now rarely to be met with; widely and angrily as men differ in its application, the principle is admitted by all.

Just like then, it's nigh impossible to find anyone who doesn't think this is true.   A complete turnover of Congress would be awesome, I'll admit, but don't think for a second that anything can change just because you change your representatives.  The problem isn't the government, the problem is you.  It is always you. 


You can't imagine how you, one guy, can be the problem-- the government is much bigger  than you, isn't it?  But there are millions of people exactly like you.  One byproduct of modern narcissism's reliance on finite media is that countless other people are modeling their lives on the same template you are.  You think you are unique in your thoughts and identity, turns out you are a clone.  You think you're the only guy for whom X was transformative?  The only guy with an iphone?

Most of you are huddled around the same directors feeding you the same lines which you regurgitate with sufficient passion you think you came up with it.  I'll bet you're sure that "tax and spend Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are running this country," or that we need "renewable sources of energy that will also help create new jobs"-- all of which might even be true except that the exact same contentless words are being thought by millions of other people who are all sure they know it.  That doesn't make you pause?

It would be awesome, awesome, if these sound bites were being fed to you with an intent to deceive- as part of a Hearstian conspiracy to make the cattle think one thing so the Elites could do another; in short, awesome if, after all, there was some organized effort leading to a clear goal, no matter how nefarious.  But there isn't.  It's a battle royal,  every man and company and politician fighting to eat and not be eaten.  Even families operate at cross purposes, kids trying to leave, parents holding on to nothing, everyone looking for a "moment to myself." This isn't a war of ideals, it's cannibalism.


Are you teaching your kids that certain people-- the government-- oppose your values?  Why would you teach them that?  By all means teach them your values, but don't communicate it as a battle against other people.  You're turning your kids into you.


You get the politicians you deserve.  Arguing over "cutting spending" polarizes Americans because that soundbite is contentless, but elicits a strong emotional response not to a plan but about an imagined recipient (welfare abusers, etc.)  This kind of a debate is an addictive drug. 

Politicians will give you what you want.  If you say you're for "cutting spending" then they'll be for "cutting spending."   That's all.  If you want them to actually cut spending, you have to tell them what spending you actually want cut.  They're representatives, not leaders, right?

Senator Bunning didn't understand this.  He thought Americans actually wanted spending cut, so he actually blocked the extension of unemployment benefits.  Man, what a square.  Well, he's only been around for a term and a half.  Chalk it up to inexperience.


Required reading for anyone unclear about the stakes is Ferguson's Complexity and Collapse subtitled in the print edition, When The American Empire Goes, It Is Likely To Go Quickly.  But for those who are used to getting their political theory from aviation experts or the people who discuss them, here's the most important line:

Neither interest rates at zero nor fiscal stimulus can achieve a sustainable recovery if people in the United States and abroad collectively decide, overnight, that such measures will lead to much higher inflation rates or outright default... such decisions are self fulfilling. (italics mine, emphasis ours.)
You can't change the government because you don't even know what you want from it.  You have to reconfigure your own mind.  Your current expectations of life aren't just unrealistic, they're not even what you want.  Another byproduct of narcissism is when you model yourself on a template, you'll pursue the goals of the template.  You're chasing someone else's happiness.

I don't think we're on the verge of collapse, but I can predict that unless we turn away from empty political discourse, we are in for more airplanes.