Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Random Barking

Wisconsin And Beyond

The Secret Ingredient™ Saving America's Future

In advance of the Wisconsin recall election results (I predict Gauleiter Walker will very probably hold on by the narrowest of margins, but hope I'm proven wrong) and the Transit Of Venus (no, not the sequel to That Book by Miller), I find myself lying passively on my Dog Rug, and growling.

It's not much of a secret to the three people and the superintelligent parakeet those reading this blog that I'm not a happy Dog. Some of that is personal, and some of it just the State O' The Nation and the World.

Nassim Taleb is a successful stock trader and commentator; his book The Black Swan is still widely read, and he's about to launch another book, Antifragile, arguing that for the average citizen in an industrialized society, "as you consume more data, and the ratio of noise to signal increases, the less you know what’s going on and the more inadvertent trouble you are likely to cause."

Taleb, as quoted in this excerpt, appears to argue that access to too much information has pushed us from 'equitable' humans into aggravated neurotics.

I disagree, at least in part. One of our problems (and, this is just one Dog's opinion) may lie in many people (and by that I mean Americans, principally) never having developed much ability in discrimination: The ability to analyze different sources, some offering contradictory or competing information, and determine a conclusion based on logic and experience.

This becomes complicated, aber natürlich, if the most accessible sources of information in a society are edited, sensationalized, delivered at a sixth-grade reading level, or are profoundly influenced by political or religious ideology. If your information sources are limited to, say, the Little Goebbels Rupert Network or The Lard Boy Radio hour, or the barkings of Mikey Wiener... if you live in Wisconsin the chances are high you'll be voting for Little Scotty Walker today.

Last night on PBS' News Hour, one of the editors at The Progressive (founded in Wisconsin during the Robert LaFollette era at the turn of the last century) made the observation that what Walker had done to the state was not a response to its fiscal issues, but to turn Wisconsin into a testing ground for socioeconomic theory of the political Right -- an example and a template for taking over other state governments, and in particular to break a state's labor unions.

The editor also made the observation that what's happened in Wisconsin over the past two years was simple fate: It all could have happened somewhere else, the union-busting and vote rigging and corruption, backed by Brownshirt Republicans and their Tea Partei allies. It happened in Wisconsin because the timing was right; that's all.

The intent of the Right is to dominate, brutalize and control what they perceive as a world dominated by vicious godless Leftists. They fantasize about a hard, bloody struggle to "win back" America for the Gipper and Jesus. The editor didn't say this, but she didn't have to. It's what the Right in this country has been taught to want by the carnival barkers who lead them. They believe in the myth of their victimhood.

The editor didn't say precisely that -- but she added that what's happened in Wisconsin is another escalation in the cultural war between America's Progressive Left and the Xtian-dominated Right; and no matter what the results of the Recall, it was one more step towards... well, who knows what.

So, in advance of today's results, I thought I'd make an egotistical observation and quote myself, from August of last year:
Barbara Tuchman's 1966 book, The Proud Tower, is a history primarily of Europe in the two decades before the First World War; Chapter 6 is entitled, "Neroism Is In The Air" -- a comment by the French pacifist and critic, Romain Rolland, about what he perceived as Europe's then-cultural preoccupation with violence and unease, coupled with complacency, and which he saw as a recipe for destruction, strongman rule, and disaster.

In art and politics, culture and commonplace belief, Europe in the last years of peace before August, 1914, was speeding towards... something. No one knew what it was, but people felt it, like a wind that picks up ahead of a thunderstorm: You can see a peculiar light, the darkened and clotted sky, and smell the dust and the ozone. Even the deaf and the blind can tell something is coming.

Europe in these days is full of signs and portends, too. So is the Middle East. So is our own country. The so-called 'Arab Spring' (gone in the media, now, when the images of masses of people in the streets become tiring to Western eyes)' the mass riots across the UK over the past two weeks; the fact that one (and as of tomorrow, two) self-declared evangelical christians are declared candidates for the Republican presidential nomination; the bizarre shadow-play of the fake debt ceiling crisis manufactured by Rightist Tea Partei bullies which led to S&P's downgrading of U.S. sovereign debt and a $1.5 Trillion dollar loss in the U.S. stock markets in the past five days.

I don't know what you're feeling, but you don't have to be a Dog to see the clouds in the sky, and smell the ozone; Neroism is in the air. But few people are paying any attention, even though everyone knows something is desperately wrong. That common wisdom screams to be heard that things are incredibly out of balance; that jobs are what people need, not forced Austerity; and we must have cooperation rather than the vicious, tribal idiocy that has poisoned our national discourse for almost twenty-five years.
This is what makes me lie on my rug and growl, with the occasional soft bark. More polarization and division will lead to... what, exactly? But even with the major streams of information available to us being badly distorted and overly-commercialized, we can sense it won't be pretty.

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