Odd Times in the U.S.


Life
is always odd in the U.S., but now it seems to have gone over the
top. 

If
you pay attention to TV these days, beyond railing at the many really
inane shows, you may be surprised to notice plenty of content that
reveals a complete disdain for corporate values. For instance, “Playmakers”
is a new series on ESPN—the 24-hour sports channel. The show,
very well acted and written, is a devastating attack on professional
football, exposing the sexism, corporate greed, and authoritarianism
at the heart of the matter…and, implicitly, at the heart of all
corporate matters. 

“Peacemakers”
is a summer replacement show—a western—on the USA network.
It takes place around the turn of the 20th century and incorporates
then-bourgeoning forensic science into the plot by having the sheriff
solve murder mysteries with the help of a scientist using these
new methods. A recent episode featured Standard Oil as the villain.
When the company’s hired thugs failed to steal the patents
for a solar power invention, they tried to kill the inventor. When
that failed, they hired him to work in their research department
where, as the sheriff speculated, the inventor would soon give up
his dreams of solar power, co-opted by Standard Oil’s steady
paycheck. The sheriff and the scientist also think the company will
fold sooner or later, as there will be little use for their product.
At that moment, someone drives through town in a Model T automobile
and the credits roll. Although westerns have a tradition of wealthy
land owners as bad guys, this show breaks new ground by explicitly
dramatizing a corporation’s motives to obstruct clean and cheap
alternative technologies in favor of monopoly, profit, and pollution.
 

The
fiction bestseller list also has a surprising number of books critical
of corporate greed and the environmental degradation and death that
often results from inhumane corporate policies. This evidence (and
numerous other examples) from popular culture suggests that at some
level the public knows that everything is broken. No one trusts
or sees reason to trust most agents of power and wealth. People
assume the worst about others, particularly about authority and
institutions. Looking at that as evidence, we might want to prepare
to celebrate an imminent storming of the palace, so to speak. 

Stage
right, however, lurks California—a beautiful state in which
a muscle-bound, talent-challenged actor runs for governor. He is
apparently grossly misogynist, subject to endless accusations of
abuse. He is an agent of the party of power and wealth—of course,
most candidates are, but he is more so. He is reputed to be a closet
Nazi. Even if it isn’t true, why would anyone want to risk
finding out? Yet he wins. Worse, the turnout is a record 80 percent.
Plus, the state is over half people of color: Black, Latino, Native
American, and immigrant. Looking at that ugly picture as evidence,
we might want to buy plane tickets out of here or something equally
 self-serving and desperate. 

Meanwhile,
Bush speaks almost exclusively at military gatherings—the only
place he is sure he can whip up serious applause as the audience
is under orders to oblige. Is this a sign of desperation or a sign
we are headed ever more surely toward a total militarization of
Washington? On the military-industrial complex front, instead of
lobbyists going to government officials, government officials now
routinely go to meetings of CEO’s and owners to beg for support
and to offer policy as the bribe, not the payoff. 

Why
is the public both broadly aware of what is transpiring, but still
so passive about doing anything serious to try to improve life in
the U.S. and U.S. imposed oppressions  abroad? Why do people
in the U.S. know the horrors that define their position to such
an extent that it forms a backdrop for their entertainment, and
yet also get enjoyment out of Arnold’s idiotic one-liners,
voting against the old thugs only to enshrine new ones? 

Is
the answer mostly because, while not significantly deluded, the
U.S. population is significantly hopeless? If that is the case,
then to tear down the walls of empire, don’t we need to generate
hope rather than point out the extreme height and profound depth
of those walls? Imagine what would be happen if we all believed
that some course of action could, in fact, tear down the walls,
however long it might take.