Saturday, November 8, 2014

(#38-1) November 8 2014. Current traumatic stress disorder.





NOTE: The above cartoon courtesy of Joe Galloway’s (We Were Soldiers) mailing from his Facebook page.

Two of the prime attributes of punditry are a thick skin and a complete indifference to the accuracy of your predictions. If it were otherwise, very few of the current crop of pundits would still be in action. In truth, pundits are mostly there for little more than their entertainment value (or is it just because they fill air-time?).

Since I’m not a pundit, I can freely admit I was entirely wrong in relation to the Mid-Terms. Based on the near overwhelming evidence that existed just prior to the elections I thought I probably would be—but I proceeded with my contrarian forecast just for “divillment” (as we are supposed to say in Ireland). In short, I projected what I hoped would be the outcome—not what I thought it would be. It was a case of heart over intellect—and it was fun. As in writing, when sometime you don’t know whether a particular approach will work or not, you only push the envelope if you are prepared to take risks. I was; I did; and I still am.

My more serious thought is that American voters are deeply mentally traumatized by recent events, their current situation, and future prospects to the point where they are lashing out rather than thinking. Certainly, based on their recent track record, anyone who hopes the Republicans will save the day must be on something a great deal stronger than marijuana. Individual Republicans  (just like individual Democrats) may do a good job—because the dictates of a situation can cause pragmatism to over-ride ideology—but the party’s current policies are murky. This is a sad thing because traditional Republicanism had a great deal of merit. Backing the ultra rich regardless of the issues—in order to secure your own advancement—does not.

As far as rational consideration of the issues is concerned, it is disconcerting to note that a great many Americans are drugged—and legally at that—and meds certainly do dull the mind. If there is any thinking time left—why, there is always distraction (something at which we excel). I joke about this, but I have to wonder whether it may not be a deadly serious issue. In effect, we have created a culture of mass manipulation which actively discourages rational thought.

The evidence suggests than most Americans have every right to feel mentally traumatized because we are finding out the hard way that the America (at least in terms of the economy) we thought we lived in is primarily a myth—and reality is now intruding with a vengeance. If it had been a typical cyclical recession, the effects of the Great Recession would have been over years ago. As it is, as far as most of us are concerned, we are still losing ground—even as the stock market climbs to new heights.

Worse still, the future looks no better—and shows every sign of deteriorating further. Positive economic indicators like rising GDP, a booming stock market, falling unemployment,and improving productivity (I’m suspicious of some of those figures) are of scant use use if you have no innate job security, few employee rights, your personal costs are going up, and your income is in decline in real terms. And they are—for most of us—and it is.

When people lash out without thought, matters normally get worse before they get better—and particularly so when nations are involved. And economic troubles have a tendency to lead to more serious outcomes—severe social unrest; violence in various forms; and wars. Wars are a great distraction—and have become pretty much a staple of the American Way of Life. Sometimes they are big; sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are cold—but they are ever present and ever a debilitating drain on our substantial, but limited, national resources.

We are the strongest country in the world, but a fifth of our children go hungry.

We are the strongest country in the world, capable of sweeping aside governments with minimal effort—yet we can scarcely contain Islamic terrorists let alone defeat them. In fact, despite our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and our infliction of carnage upon our enemies, we now face more of them than ever before.

Financialization, excessive militarization, out out of line medical costs, the corporatization of third level education (which has increased  such costs way in excess of inflation) and ever more expensive housing—coupled with low pay—are crucifying most Americans economically. The corporate Big Squeeze on labor is working with a vengeance. In fact this corporate victory is so complete that its consequences are sapping home market demand to the point where corporate profits are being endangered.

The generally accepted term for such a costly victory is a Pyrhric victory. The definition:

A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost that it is tantamount to defeat.

Well, the cost of the Big Squeeze is certainly devastating as far as most Americans are concerned—and it continues to be so.

Some Republicans are treating the results of the Mid-Terms as a mandate for a “Republican Revolution.” 

Rubbish. Most Republican gains were marginal in terms of extra votes—which means nearly as many Americans hold contrary views—voter turnout reflected the normal pattern of fewer Democrats rather than Republicans voting—and the positive results where social issues were concerned—are extremely significant.

So where does that leave us?

Under the banner of “The government is the enemy,” the Republicans still argue that an economic system that demonstrably favors the rich—and the ultra rich at that (and we have an abundance of data to support that statement) is the optimum solution, but needs worker rights to be largely eliminated, regulations to be largely done away with, and climate change to be ignored, for it to function at full efficiency. As for healthcare, they remain totally committed to a free enterprise solution even though decades of free enterprise has led to an entirely inadequate system which costs nearly twice as much as anyone else’s, whose quality is highly variable (unless you are rich) and which delivers lifespans which are three years shorter than those of most other developed nations.

So what do the Democrats argue for? Well, we know in fuzzy terms—very fuzzy terms—and we know on individual issues, but the remarkable thing about the Democrats right now is how poorly they they make their case. Individual politicians like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders do have a clear and consistent progressive vision, but the Democrats, as a whole, do not. What does Hilary Clinton stand for? I have absolutely no idea.

Why don’t they? Well, there are many reasons, but a fundamental one is that they are largely financed by the same people who finance the Republicans—so they don’t dare become the party of social reform because they will alienate their paymasters.  

Frankly, it’s a grim picture. It shouldn’t be because this is a country of enormous strengths and resources, whose problems are eminently resolvable—and fairly speedily at that.

But, its political system has been hijacked. The influence of money is now so overwhelming, and so pervasive, that the U.S. is no longer a democracy—as most Americans would understand it. The U.S. is now a plutocracy run by the ultra rich for their own benefit and employing a business model which is decidedly not free market capitalism. If anything, it is crony capitalism where the spoils are divided amongst the few. Many, who serve the few—such as politicians and corporate CEOs—do well out of this situation. Most Americans do not—and whether they admit it, even to them selves, or not—they are frightened. Frighten people badly enough, and for long enough, and they become traumatized.

We have reached that unhappy state—and it is evident.

As far as we writers are concerned, it’s all material. But for what? A story of redemption—or a tragedy? Humor will feature either way.

Humor is such a pleasure to write—but then so is just about anything.

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