Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Why Sometimes I Despair a Little

In the ruinous aftermath of the Killer Clown Administration (a ruin that will be figuratively expressed through the words "Iraq" and "Katrina" but will have literally encompassed incomparably more devastations than that, from the rule of law, to general welfare, to international standing, to material infrastructure, to administrative professions) the word Accountability will be, you can be sure, regularly reiterated.

The free-marketeers of both parties who came into government claiming to despise government and who, inevitably enough, went on then to neglect and loot and sell-off and despoil and disdain the accomplishments and underpinnings of that government will, in the name of "Accountability," likely go on to demand that many of those who knew better and most of those who suffered most from the recklessness and selfishness of the free-marketeers will be the very same ones who then go on to pay most, sacrifice most, suffer most from the modest efforts of reconstruction to come. And if we were actually to manage, miraculously enough, to rebound from the ruin, you can be sure the result would then be seen as ripe pickings for the next generation of slobbering saucer-eyed free-marketeers the moment the remotest semblance of recovery is actually accomplished.

What Accountability would actually demand would be the Impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and then trundling them off, along with the rest of the bloody-minded sticky-fingered Neocon Rogues Gallery, to the Hague to stand trial for War Crimes. The reconstruction in the face of the ruins we are left with should certainly be paid for by the profits of the petrochemical and extractive industries and the money-grubbing death-indifferent war machine of pirates, contractors, bomb-builders, and statisticians all of whom have become obscenely rich in the midst of ballooning deficits and ballooning corpses with their names on them.

Accountability would demand that media consolidation be ended and reversed, so that the manufacture of "consent" to unpopular, manifest disasters like "pre-emptive" wars against actually nonthreatening regimes, however tyrannical, will not be repeated again anytime soon just because moneyed elites who own media corporations also stand to benefit from military contracts or desire ever more deregulation for short-term profits. War profiteering should be made illegal once and for all in fact, so that the desires of greedy and indifferent elites will not usurp the interests of voting majorities. Election campaigns should likewise be publicly financed, so that public servants can devote themselves to the interests of all the people they represent rather than selling themselves in costly contests for corporate-media advertising in exchange for poisonous favors to moneyed minorities. Progressive taxation should be re-instated to levels that at least compare with those of America's so-called Golden Age of economic prosperity (when the top rate was, by the way, 90%), both to circumvent the conspicuously pernicious anti-democratic emergence of an aristocracy as well as to support the democratizing energies of general education, healthcare, and security for a civilization of peers.

Frankly, all of this is actually quite obvious.

But, it is just as obvious that none of this obvious stuff is at all likely to happen, even as everybody will be clamoring in unison for an Accountability few will be willing to embrace in earnest.

I expect neither Bush nor Cheney to be impeached, I expect none of the killer clowns to stand trial for war crimes, I expect everybody on Earth to know what should be done, to know it will not be done, and to know, in consequence, the catastrophic sham of the moneyed elites who would rule us in the name of a law they scorn except when it occasionally avails them in their quest for more money. Urgent, epic, now-proximate problems of technoscientific development (climate change, insanely destructive devices, pandemics, the breakdown of vulnerable infrastructures on which countless millions of people depend for immediate survival, and so on) all of which demand recourse to the legitimacy of legal, lawful, representative, deliberative institutions will be adjudicated instead by moneyed minorities and their gangsters, all fighting in terms of local short term gains structurally incapable of grasping the issues at hand.

It's all so obvious it almost feels too sickeningly facile to have to repeat this stuff over and over and over again to people sleepwalking around in denial or caught up in a frenzy of crypto-racist commie bashing or homosexual panic, or whatever this thing is, this weird pampered American anti-intellectual thing, this towering thick endless wall of dense, opaque syrup that sometimes seems as if nothing can penetrate it, or nudge it, or get under it, or climb over it... And it's all the more maddening, all this obviousness that despite its obviousness just as obviously just won't ever register as real, especially since, well, once one ever managed to get past all this idiot obviousness, there really are actually so many interesting and disputatious topics available for discussion instead, non-obvious but nonetheless urgent topics that so need and would so reward intelligent deliberation.

That capital punishment should be eliminated; that informed, nonduressed consensual abortion, drug use, suicide, as well as sexual, medical, artistic experimentation should all be safer, legal, regulated, and protected; that the purchase and use of guns should be at least as regulated as the operation of automobiles; that we should stop giving weapons to future tyrants to fight current tyrants we gave weapons to in the past; that we should support Kyoto and incomparably more international standards to reduce global warming, overpopulation, biodiversity and topsoil loss, toxic and carcinogenic substances; that people in the overexploited regions of the world, especially women and children, who are silenced or killed by neglected but treatable diseases, by poverty, by proliferating arms, by human-exacerbated climate change, or by enforced precarious legal status all represent incomparable losses of creative intelligence from whom everybody on the planet might otherwise be richly rewarded, collaborating toward the solution of shared problems; that we should eliminate the legal fiction of a corporate personhood invested with rights and privileges denied actual persons or as a way of empowering a few people above overabundant majorities of others; that we should make the United Nations more democratic and hence more legitimate and hence a more viable nonviolent recourse for the reconciliation of planetary disputes; that intellectual property regimes should be limited rather than expanded, rendered exceptional rather than normal, to encourage technoscientific progress and multicultural expressivity; that progressive income and property tax revenues should fund universal single-payer healthcare, universal education, and decentralized, renewable, sustainable energy, transportation, communication, and social service infrastructures, as well as biomedical r & d, and even -- in my view -- a basic income guarantee: these are all also sensible positions, and many of them, it seems to me, frankly, indispensable if planetary humanity is to thrive or even survive the century in which we find ourselves.

But, needless to say, I doubt most -- if any -- of these outcomes will happen either, however hard we educate, agitate, and organize to facilitate them.

And so, sometimes, I despair.

Maybe it's just the urgency of the last week of teaching for the spring and my looming grading deadlines. Maybe it's my frustration with the apparently unkillable idiocy of neoliberal/neoconservative market fundamentalist discourse (now taking its toll on France, even in the midst of the conspicuous smoking wreckage of its application literally everywhere on earth that it has been tried for all but a minute fraction of moneyed beneficiaries). Maybe it's all this Reality TV I watch. I don't know.

Silver linings via e-mail or the comment button are welcome, otherwise I'll just wait for my unfailing Inner Mouseketeer to re-emerge as he always has done before to shake me from this present despair in a day or so.


Anonymous said...

Dale, in a fervent attempt (unrelated to my grade, I promise) to commiserate, or, as it likes best, keep you company, I urge you with the gentleness and sublty of all that is lined with silver, don't despair. Reality TV, I admit, can be a source of hyper-anxiety and further fetishistic alienation, but it can also make for a great dissertation which is on the horizon. In REALITY, I couldn't be more pleased to be embarking on such a subjectively dramatic and objectifying project with any other Professor. A dessert-tation to be sure.

Dale Carrico said...

Hah, thanks, there, you know who! I forget that my students sometimes read my blog nowadays. Fear not, folks, when it comes to aggravation and despair, I discovered long ago that venting is half the cure. Hence, a blog.

gf said...

Yeah, I blame reality TV too. I remember watching the republican debate the other night (on the intertubes) and one candidate said something like: "We need a strong president who rules with his conviction, the public only wants to rule by plugging in their TVs!"

Needless to say, the ongoing digital "revolutions" (HDDVD, Ron Paul) have given me some faith in collective action.

*Looks for the digg button*

Robin said...

I get a dose of the despairing all too often myself, so I'm probably the wrong one to point out any silver linings...

But when I get to feeling this way, I remind myself that probably, the only thing standing between us and the next Dark Ages or the next Holocaust is the fact that there are still some reasonable people willing to lay out intelligent arguments for what ought to be done.

So, you know... it's all up to you.

That's bound to make you feel better. (Sorry!)

Dale Carrico said...

Last night I did some stretching and listened to old Cocteau Twins, and this morning, sipping my coffee, things are feeling much better somehow. It occurs to me that whatever my frustration about the French, the countervailing rise of the left in South America is more interesting, and, come what may, it's unlikely that the French street will tolerate much in the way of market fundamentalist idiocy. The same media consolidation that coughs up hairballs of celebrity politics and false consensus in American politics was very much at work in French -- and British -- politics, to the cost of us all. But the very same p2p formations are undermining the monologic discursive and fundraising and organizational machineries of broadcast model media there as is. People powered politics remains a democratizing force of accountability and emancipation. That's where the focus needs to be, as it was not in my despairing snit -- struggle to keep p2p/a2k/FlOSS in play, and then, as you say, just keep making the case for democracy in our writing, our teaching, our conversation. It is up to us. And I do feel better, weirdly enough. Thanks, guys!

Robin said...

I bet you listened to Victorialand. Ever since I was 16 I've known that cd to make the world a better place.

Although the Pink Opaque gives it the ol' college try, too.

Dale Carrico said...

Dag, uncanny. Victorialand it was.