Saturday, May 7, 2022

This Is Your Steerage Saturday Update For 3rd Class Passengers

 Another Very Long Howl

When things happen, they come in a waterfall, a cascade, a torrent. If you haven't been paying attention, they will seem to appear as if by magic, out of nowhere.  But they never do.

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On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Weimar Germany. On February 27, the Reichstag was gutted in a fire, set by the nazis* themselves, who claimed it an act by German Communists.

On February 28, Hitler used emergency powers to suspend every part of Weimar's Constitution which ensured personal freedoms, and legalized the arrest of Communists and other political opponents. Many elected members of the Reichstag were arrested, or went on the run, or simply disappeared.

The nazi party was suddenly the majority in parliament. It could rubber-stamp any legislation Hitler and his crew might want.

On March 13, Hitler established the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Joseph Goebbels immediately began to exert control over every form of public expression, all of which would be used to push the nazis' message, demonize anyone the nazis considered enemies -- and to ceaselessly praise Hitler, The Leader, personally.

On March 21, the nazi-dominated Reichstag voted to approve the Enabling Act, giving Chancellor Hitler powers to enact laws, and imprison anyone he declared an enemy of the state.  He issued a decree making it illegal to speak out against the government or criticize its leaders. Also on March 21, the first concentration camp, at Dachau, was opened for Communist and other political prisoners.

On April 1st, citizens in Germany woke up to find their local SA, the nazi Brownshirts, had been up before dawn, out on the streets with brushes and buckets of white paint. They painted Mogen Davids and insults on the windows of businesses owned by Jews, and stood outside on the sidewalks demanding people only shop at "Aryan" stores -- move along, nothing to see here.

Also in April, Jewish and Socialist judges, lawyers, and other court officers were removed. The Academy of German Law called for nazification of statutory law, "cleansing it of Jewish influence". Judges were directed to use a "healthy community [Volk] sentiment" to guide their legal decisions.

On May 1, 1933, all labor unions were outlawed.  On May 6, Goebbels organized the first public burning of books in Berlin, to begin a nationwide action "against the Un-German Spirit.” Libraries across Germany were purged of 'un-German' literature and textbooks in public burnings organized by nazi student organizations.

In June, the SPD was abolished -- in Weimar Germany, the Social Democrats were the nazis only real political threat. By July, all remaining political parties had also been abolished: the nazi party was the only legal political organization in Germany.

And that, friends, is How It Happens.

(* NOTE:  I don't capitalize the term or Noun, 'nazi'. The concept of providing any justification or convention to and for individual nazis or their organized state is personally abhorrent even if a violation of grammatic rules.) 

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The Past Is Present Tense

An aspect of quantum theory has it that reality may be created, moment to moment, in determining one set of conditions of the great cosmic Waveform -- all possible variations in the state of all matter. The world exists in all its multitudinous forms simultaneously: snow falls (hopefully) in the Himalayas, at the same instant billions and billions of other things are happening.

This is where all of us, and novels, live -- and the debate whether Flaubert, or Hemingway, or Gaddis, Tartt or Sebald, or Attwood, or Chelsea Handler, has described Reality more closely in their works to how it's actually experienced. Terrible, beautiful; it's all going down -- whether you see it, acknowledge it, or not.
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Some of this long howl and bark I've said before. Many times before. A portion of what follows was already published, last year -- before everyone seemed to think Covid was over; before Putin's gamble, before the trail of breadcrumbs left by the January 6th Committee was followed, in a disinterested ho-hum way, by the mainstream corporate media -- when it wasn't publishing story after story about the Failed Biden Presidency; and when it wasn't being denounced by the Murdochs.
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After the election in November of 2000, and over the fourteen years I've been sporadically writing this blog, decline and dissolution in America have been both easier to see, but more difficult to convince people to believe that it is happening. And that bothers me more than anything -- the laconic, not-my-problem attitude. 

(Via The Soul Of America) Here is Adolph Reed ("The Whole Country Is The Reichstag"; Nonsite.org, August 23, 2021):

"The right-wing ... [has] a single concrete objective—taking absolute power in the U.S. as soon and as definitively as possible. And [they] even seemingly want, to destroy the social fabric of the country [in taking power] ...

"Discrediting government ... has been a component of the GOP game plan ..  and Democrats have reinforced [that] in their own way. ...Four decades of retrenchment and privatization ... steadily increasing economic inequality and government’s failure to address it in any meaningful way [fuels a] lack of confidence, distrust, and hostility toward government ... and eventually even the idea of the public itself.  And [Right-wing billionaires who] bankroll the ultraright have taken advantage of that, [stoking] frustration and rage into a dangerously authoritarian political force."

Through my life, I've kept track of events, but nothing I've read or watched surprised me much. I am very cynical when it comes to the behavior of individuals, and in groups our behavior is too often amazingly stupid.  However, being cynical can also be a dangerous, and stupid, position -- a lazy person's way of abandoning critical judgement.

I'd grown up in the Fifties and Sixties; saw Southeast Asia personally and, as they said about The Fugitive, "toiled at many jobs". In the Seventies I studied history, focusing on interwar Europe --  Germany in particular; Weimar, and after. 

I knew things, but coasted along believing the High School Civics Class view of America -- the long national Narrative of an America, not perfect, but on a constant upward (and of course, liberal) arc into an inevitable, enviable future. Even Vietnam could be seen as a a tragedy, but a regrettable episode, a blip, in that long view. This of course ignored the experience of lives lived by Others -- the great Internationale of White Blindness.

And during Watergate, Liberals rejoiced: America's Great Silent Majority was wrong. Their hero, Nixon, was a Crook -- but he could be explained as an aberration in the American Narrative; an exception. And the political Right was, too: they were the Fringe, on the wrong side of history. Easily dismissed. The future would be a moderate Liberal culture. Always upwards.

Sure. Of course it would be.

Do Not Skip This Part Of The Exam

Please listen to me when I say this -- and I want to be wrong, but:  50 years later, the children and grandchildren of the Silent Majority are back. 

They're bully-mean in their MAGA caps and January 6, 2021 - Civil War T-Shirts, they see the world through small, piggish eyes, and they hate you.

They hate Colored people and Foreigners, and Eggy-heads, and Libs and Gay and Trans People and Ee-lites. The weak and the soft. They love god; yes they do (somebody's god, anyway), and America. They have guns and carry them -- and you have nothing to fear, so long as you do what they and their leaders say. 

Their ultimate leaders, America's Owners, are delusional, and rich. Very, very rich (Read Wharton's Age Of Innocence, or watch "The Daughtsman's Contract" for a notion of their society). You won't see their names in the media; they don't like publicity, and have generations of experience at being nearly invisible. 

They don't like Trump, or the MAGA-caps, or anyone who isn't part of their class. The world belongs to them, naturally -- whether by birth into their old-money, blue-blood family line, by the Will of Somebody's God, and their net worth.

The Owners have useful persons, like Eugene B. Meyer and his Federalist Society, to provide some philosophic framework for the nasty and regrettable decisions they will have to make. Persons like Meyer -- or even the Murdochs, brutes in bespoke suits, arrivistes who think they're in charge-- are useful but are not, and will never be, part of the Owners' class. But they are useful.

And, each in their own way, the MAGA Base and the Owners believe it is the Purity of their Strength, it is Blood and Soil, which calls them on.  The Base don't know they're being manipulated, but they'll do what the Owners want -- which is to Keep The World In Balance. 

The Base will do the bad things, and afterwards sing 'Amazing Grace' in celebration of 'god's great victory', after they dump your battered corpse in some nameless field. 

If you think this is simplistic, or hyperbole, you have that right. But I'm not the only person connecting the dots between the heat of rhetoric, and where that leads
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Top Of The List, Ma

Disease and climate deterioration are at the top of those conditions which frighten me; I suppose we have to put nuclear war back on the list, now. But what is happening in America makes me believe we are close to something horrific: Our own version of the world after Weimar, and What Comes Next. 

We've already had a taste of what that could be -- and an attempted coup. That we can have another seems to be ignored by the DOJ, and Biden's government, and far too many individual Americans who shrug and won't vote to save themselves. Whole fukin' system's corrupt, man.

 When I submit to my own fears, I see my country being dominated -- by the malignant, the vicious, the bestial -- with no cure except The Fire, Next Time; and no guarantee that where it leads will be a happy ending. 

Could America disintegrate into an even more obvious Oligarchy, like the old Soviet Union? Into Lebanon, or Syria? Could it become Atwood's Republic of Gilead? No one knows. The Waveform is always in motion. The Cat In The Box is alive and dead, until you open the lid.

But: I feel certain we can't continue down the same road we've been travelling without paying penalties we can't imagine. Chickens home to roost; and yes, the revolution will be televised.

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Ten-Dimensional Chess

Last year, George Packer (author of "The Unwinding") noted in The Atlantic that America's national narrative, Our Story, is a string of crises -- and about 'how we got out of it'. How we overcame and went on to even greater triumph: Upwards, always upwards.

I understand there are others who believe the world order is played out at a higher level of Weltpolitik -- constant competition between America, Russia, and China, and the dependent allies of each. It involves manipulating economies, technology, currencies, corporate and national intelligence. 

For the Players, this is ten-dimensional chess, an 'enlightened' upper class against Nihilistic Oligarchs -- a NeoLiberal World Order against Nationalist Autocracy -- one side saying The Greatest Good For The Greatest Number, and the other saying Fuck That, What's In It For Me?

The old High School Civics Class View of America -- that Hurrah! For The Flag National Narrative -- is a bedtime story, a tool to manipulate naïve and powerless fodder for the Leaders' dreams. In other words, We The People. 

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I'll Take 'Restrictive Nationalist Political Narratives' For A Thousand, Alex

There's much about the Neoliberal vs. Autocrat world Narrative that seems true. I also think that vision fails to make a galactically-complex system comprehensible. That may not even be possible. For the sake of this little screed, let's just focus on the National Narrative of America, told within our borders -- common assumptions about Us we've assimilated through time.

Packer said, we don't have one unified Story of America -- we have four, and the one chosen by the political Right is that of a beautiful America, stolen from its people by immigrants, noisy and uppity People of Color, women, Liberals, Socialists; girl-boys and boy-girls, and (the MAGA Base won't say so out loud) Catholics and Jews and all Them Other Religions.

The beautiful America can only return when these Demon-possessed culture-despoilers are destroyed. Then all will be good again. 

Belief in that Narrative shows why "Owning The Libs" is so visceral, so central and necessary, to the political Right. It's the logical culmination of forty years of resentment and hatred. That Narrative only leads out a one-lane gravel road to the open pit in that nameless field. 

The issues Trump had campaigned on waxed and waned ...What remained was the dark energy he unleashed... Trump’s people still talked about freedom, but they meant blood and soil. Their nationalism was like the ethno-nationalisms on the rise in Europe ... Trump abused every American institution ... and his people cheered. Nothing excited them like owning the libs.

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Owning The Libs Is A Team Sport

People can write opinion pieces calling out lying and bullying by the political Right, but it makes no difference. The Left focuses on the historical record. It's important to make certain choices, and make speeches which will be quoted by historians seventy years on. But it will not matter. 

We're in 2022; American democracy is a store that's being mismanaged and looted right in front of us. It's clear we must act.  It shouldn't even be a question.

The Rightist crazies can't be criticized into better behavior by waving "the historical record" at them. McConnell's corruption; Gaetz' degeneracy; Cawthorn's delusions about orgies and flirting with threats of civil war, Boebert's intimations of physical violence; Greene's barely coherent lying; Alito's shrieking hatred in his scribblings. The end of Roe is just the beginning of Owning The Libs.

The lies and pure hatred broadcast by Limbaugh, by the Murdochs through their hand-picked talking heads, for forty years, will be in "the historical record". But for each of them, what they've done are badges of honor. They're Owning The Libs.

Anything is permitted in Owning The Libs -- including reducing human rights to a joke, sedition and treason. It is all about the naked use of power. Consider: There was no penalty for their support of a coup on January 6th. There will be no punishment for them now, or ever. 

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When I first heard the phrase, 'Owning The Libs', it immediately conjured up an image of Slavery -- of another human being treated as chattel. "Owning" something implies possession, domination, the right as an Owner to use your property in whatever way you wish. What it's job is; what it is permitted, and how it will be punished. And that brought an immediate, up-from-the-gut response: Fuck this shit

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"You Made Me Do This"

Last Fall, I saw a video of an anti-masker, anti-vaxxer, holding a list of names and addresses of the local Board of Supervisors in his area, shouting at a small rally. 

The Board of Supes was preparing to vote on a mask mandate. The anti-vaxxer held up a list of names, and was literally screeching (I'll paraphrase), "We know where you [Supervisors] live! We're going to be at your front door -- we're coming for you!" Asked what would happen if the Board voted for a mandate, he shouted back, "Civil war!! Civil war!! Get your guns!!"

This isn't some extremist, Fringe element, like John Birchers of the 1960's, spouting rhetoric that will never go further than a street corner. America's Right wing is pushing for confrontation.  They want a final confrontation -- bloody, retributive; like a battle on the plains of Armageddon. 

America's political Right is a madman with a gun, who keeps taking one step towards you, then another and another -- all while screaming Don't get any closer!! I'm warnin' ya!! I told ya to stop comin' at me!! 

And, when he finally shoots you, he'll say See what you did?? You Libs made me do it!! Told ya!! Told ya!!

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Peter Wehner, Republican New York Times contributor who wrote on November 5, 2016 about his predictions of Trump's presidency, appeared on PBS' News Hour on the eve of Biden's 2021 inauguration, to observe:

We're in an epistemic crisis... there has been an assault on truth and on reality, that [The Leader] has led, and his party was a part of, and his Base was a part of. We now live in a world where we don't just have policy differences -- we're living in different moral universes, different epistemological universes; we don't have a common set of facts, even a common reality. And when you lose that, it's very difficult to put it back together again... 

But if you don't... a free country can't continue. Ultimately, your politics breaks down and your society breaks down... there's no ability to have dialogue. [The Leader] did this... it wasn't just the lies; it was this intentional assault on reality, which ...spreads a kind of disorientation in the public that has tremendously damaging and long-term effects.

Wehner's opinions ignore the development of the American Right since 1974 toward authoritarianism, 'christian' Dominionism and proto-fascism. It also ignores the devolution of both Republican and Democratic parties.  Because the counterpart to this long howl about the Right is the state of America's Left.

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That something will happen seems inevitable. It's what the Right is being told -- by the Murdochs' talking heads, by Trump, by Rightist politicians -- that something must happen, after The Steal. 

It reminds me of a monument, erected by the nazis in the 1930's at Germany's border with Danzig, with an inscription -- "Remember, Germans, What Blind Hatred Has Stolen from Thee" -- which seems to sum up the basic attitude of America's political and cultural Right.

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Ian Welsh  sees the end result of all this as a collapse. He noted last year, when Texas instituted the 'Heartbeat Act' restricting abortion, and asking citizens to inform on each other for potential financial gain: 

"[enactment of the Texas anti-abortion law] is the thin edge: what’s coming to Texas now will be coming to you very soon. Roe vs. Wade is doomed; Republican Trumpists are taking over the party apparatus to ensure the next coup attempt succeeds, and Democrats are doing nothing to stop any of this... 

"The best case scenario is probably the US splitting peacefully. That will be unfortunate for those left-behind, but it beats the entire country falling, or a civil war."
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Kleiner Mann, Was Nun?

America has never been as divided a country since the last time we took up arms against each other. The Right depends on stoking their outrage. There is an actual war, in Ukraine; and after four-plus years of Rightist rule, two-plus years of Pandemic, we are in a wartime of the spirit in America, and on that ground inside ourselves is where it will be fought.

If the future holds a Supreme Court removing Constitutional guarantees to personal liberty and privacy -- if there are elections skewed by obvious fraud, orchestrated by Rightist state governments -- if the demonization of others continues from the Right... then we will have a more violent future, an almost ceaseless negativity.

The future holds events which will come for us, whether we want them or not. How we pay attention to them, how we behave towards each other and the choices we make, may be more important than before. 

I'm deeply grieved for the state of my country. I'm not a nationalist; can surely be accused of naivety -- but Immerhin -- in spite of everything, believe in the possibility of a better world, based on compassion and justice.

I once had the opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama two questions. The second one was: If the essence of the Buddha's teaching could be summed up in one idea, what would it be? He thought for just a moment, then replied, "Just, 'Do your best.' "

I took the Lama's observation to suggest that Existence is too complicated for any person to say why they are, and what the end results of our thoughts and actions will be. Be kind; act with compassion; do the best you can, moment to moment. It seems simple, but is hard. That works for me.

As a comparative comment on purpose and values, I could have asked Albert Camus a similar question.

Camus did not believe in a god, an afterlife, or a higher purpose to existence. He believed the fact of humankind was all the justification necessary for what Buddhists would call Right Action, and for making a demand for Justice -- for a better world. And that works for me, too.
I continue to believe that this world has no ultimate meaning. [That] ... it has no justification but man -- hence he must be saved if we want to save the idea we have of life.

With your scornful smile you will ask me: What do you mean by 'saving man'? And with all my being I shout to you that I mean not mutilating him, and yet giving a chance to the justice that man alone can conceive.

(Resistance, Rebellion and Death)
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MEHR MIT Im Dämmerung Ich Hat Gesehen Die Hühner Fur Ein Landung Zu Kommen

Inequality and polarization have not been this high since the nineteenth century. Democrats are certain that if Donald Trump is reelected, American democracy will not survive. 

Republicans are equally certain that if Trump loses, radical socialists will seize the wealth of elites and distribute it to undeserving poor and minorities, forever destroying the economy of the United States. 

Both sides are also convinced that the other side intends to change the democratic ‘rules of the game’ in ways that will make it impossible for them to compete effectively in future elections.

-- Mathematician Peter Turchin (quoted in "Ginsburg's Passing May Worsen The Crisis Of Our Democracy"; Max Boot, WaPo September 19, 2020)
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