November 18, 2008

Mercy for the Merciless

Louisiana sets me off like a rocket every time I come here. My tranquility goes in hiding from my anger at the utter stupidity and hypocrisy of the place. When I’m working alone in an attic cleaning up raccoon destruction and filth, I carry on a diatribe that would make a Nazi blush. Sometimes I want to take most of these people and just beat their asses.

Of course I know and you know if you’ve been reading my blog that it’s mainly due to the stress and anxiety I endured while coming up here in the 1950s. I’m on guard in this place, and am still waiting for one of those old time bullies to reappear and give me any crap so I can pound him into the dirt. Naturally, they all are probably dead or too old to bully anybody around anymore. It’s me, folks it’s purely me, and I know it; but it gets to me anyway. What is it about these people (of all classes and races) that make them so backward, phony and stupid?

Don’t tell me it’s only an inadequate education system. I swear it must be genetic. There’s an inborn stupidity here that simply baffles intelligence and tangles all reason.

I can hear you northerners agreeing. Ha, ha! Yes, I lived mostly in the north for more than 30 years, so it’s not surprising that I developed a certain attitude about people, who seem to live on another planet, and actually are American citizens. But living up north really only validated what I already knew.

Get this: a few days ago at a sidewalk table at this same Starbucks where I come for internet because it is open late—and where the coffee’s always lukewarm--a know-it-all announced to me that, “George Bush is a socialist.”

I gave him an incredulous look and asked why he said such a “dumbass thing.” (I can’t help it.) It turns out that his assertion that the playboy war-dodging born-again warmongering wealthy privileged capitalist son of a CIA director and former President “turning socialist” is current fare on “conservative” blogs, where sore losers are whining about Bush’s trillion-dollar giveaway to our wealthy corporations, and Obama’s unbelievable ascension to the most-important job on the planet.

He is growing the government,” said this guy.

Of course I lit into him and wasn’t very polite about it.

“I see,” I said sarcastically. “That’s your definition of socialism? That it ‘grows the government’? ” He affirmed it. I snorted and asked him what he knew about socialist theory, socialist history, socialist ideas, and socialism itself.

He knew it was bad.

Hmmm. Bad. Not good. I thought about the word for a minute, and then asked him if he had ever in his whole life heard a good word about socialism, about Fidel Castro, about the Soviet Union, about liberals, or about anything left of Jesse Helms or Adolf Hitler. (They think Hitler was a socialist too.) He evaded the question and went to what he thought was the meat of the matter:

Noam Chomsky is a liar,” he announced. I couldn’t figure what that leap of logic had to do with the conversation, so I let it go for a minute.

“How about answering my question?” He might have understood the implication of my question. He ignored it for the second time and began to expand on Noam Chomsky-as-liar but I wouldn’t let him off.

“The fact of the matter is that you have never heard one good word about socialism in your whole life. Doesn’t that tell you anything at all? How can something not have anything good about it, even if it is considered “bad” after all? I mean, how can people around the world desire socialism as much as people in places other than the United States desire it, if there is nothing good about it? WHY haven’t you heard at least one good thing about it? Could it be because the sources of your information are owned by CAPITALISTS?”

Then I told him that the government had been growing as the population has grown since the days of the George Washington Administration; that it had grown larger under every President as far as I knew, so they must all have been socialists. Especially since corporations got on the public dole around 1912, the government has gotten larger, whether the President was a Republican or a Democrat.

“More people mean more services and greater expenditures. More garbage-pickup, more sewers, more roads, more trains, more businesses, more regulations, more bureaucrats to handle it all, more military to defend it all, and so on,” I tried to explain. “More people and more trade and more business and the necessity of keeping check on their natural human dishonesty are the reason for more government. Especially capitalist government,” I concluded. (I had to get that in.)

I learned a long time ago that the unmentionable C-word in the USA isn’t “communist,” but “capitalist.” We aren’t supposed to mention it. It’s okay to say communist, because communist means “bad,” and “capitalist” is supposed to mean “good”; yet the mention of it puts it out there for debate, and capitalism isn’t meant to be debated, but only accepted without question or serious criticism. We’re supposed to accept capitalism the way we accept the weather because there’s nothing we can do about it.

If you criticize capitalism, you must be a communist or—same thing—the Devil.

He ignored my question and comment and leaped over it all to Karl Marx.

Marx was the Devil,” he said.

“Did you ever hear what Marx liked to do when he came home from studying and writing in the British Museum all day?” I asked.

“No,” he answered. I was almost amazed that he could admit to not-knowing something.

“He liked to take off his shoes and lie on the couch and have his daughters tickle his feet with feathers,” I said. “That isn’t exactly something I picture the Devil doing at the end of a hard day’s plotting to destroy God’s world.”

No, he had never heard that one. But Lenin and Stalin and Castro were “dictators.”

“So, socialism is ‘growing the government’,” I said, going back o the original argument. There was no point in telling him that many had thought Washington, Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Reagan and George W. Bush were dictators too. It wouldn’t have meant a thing to this pretentious, opinionated, know-it-all and ignorant bastard.

“Yes, George Bush is growing the government, and that is what socialists do,” he insisted. “Look, I’ve been studying this intensely for four years! I’ve read a lot of books about it. I know what I’m talking about.”

Again, it was pointless to say that his head was full of the ideas, thoughts and unoriginal concepts of other people who were only human and were probably wrong 90% of the time. I knew it wouldn’t result in a thing if I asked him to produce a list of all those books he had studied so intensely.

“How about Reagan, did he grow the government?” I asked. No, he said, government got smaller under Reagan. This brought a loud guffaw from me, as it would from anyone who remembers the regime of the worst President in the history of the United States.

“You remember Reagan? The one who tripled the national debt to $3 trillion, killed 245 unarmed marines in Lebanon after denying permission for them to carry loaded weapons, then turned tail and invaded defenseless Grenada to show how tough he was, with the excuse that Cuba was helping to build an airstrip as large as the one in Aruba--for tourism? The Reagan who murdered 30,000 Nicaraguans and 250,000 Salvadorans, dismissed 30,000 air traffic controllers for wanting better wages and raised air traffic accidents 25%? The President who expanded the government like a helium balloon and tripled the national debt?”

He didn’t remember any of that. Well, he had actually been a boy at the time. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is as old as me. But everyone had told him that Ronald Reagan the actor was the greatest man since Jesus Christ.

The conversation was exhausting. My equanimity had gone skidding across Lake Ponchatrain at the first stupid statement. I felt like jumping on him and just beating the shit out of him by now. But I held myself back—he was too big--and went back to Chomsky.

“So why is Chomsky a liar?”

“I read his piece on concision,” he said. “And he lied in it.” I admitted that I had not read that one by Chomsky, in fact had never heard of it. I asked him to explain concision.

“Concision is the amount of time one has for a television interview between commercials,” he explained. Hmmm. I didn’t exactly get that. So I asked him again how Chomsky had “lied.”

“I don’t remember the exact lie,” he said. “But he lied.”

I wanted to ask if he had ever told a lie, but figured he would probably lie about it. And the conversation was going nowhere. I knew before I bit on it that there was no chance of convincing this thirty-ish guy of anything, because he already knew so much there probably wasn’t enough room in his super-large brain for more. I refrained from calling him a stupid asshole and went back inside to the internet.

Next day I Googled “concision” and found Chomsky on YouTube talking about it in a speech. (He had published nothing on it.) The unionist, WW II soldier, lifetime antiwar activist, and long-tenured professor of linguistics at M.I.T., considered by many as the world’s leading linguist in the English language, was explaining to a small audience that television interviews were formatted for statements that viewers already accept as true; but controversial statements requiring detailed explanations were unacceptable.

So, if one said, “Fidel Castro is a dictator,” or “The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan,” or “Capitalism is the best economic system in the world,” these oft-repeated statements, requiring no explanation and acceptable to guys like this, were permissible, and people who made them were more welcome than Chomsky, who has different ideas.

But a statement such as “Castro has done a lot of good for the Cuban people,” or “The Soviet Union actually built some good infrastructure and helped farmers in Afghanistan before destroying most of it fighting CIA-backed Taliban,” or “Socialism is a superior economic system than capitalism,” each requiring detailed explanations to a disbelieving audience, were antithetical to the “concision” a 22-minute program requires between three-minute commercials about six minutes apart.

I didn’t see the lie. I have seen the guy a couple of more times since that night. I’m not getting sucked into any more “debates” with him. Why is it that “conservative” people, who would disagree with the round-earth theory if it came from a liberal mouth, must accuse their foes of lying and insincerity? Can’t they simply disagree without accusing them of dishonesty and deviltry?

No. They can’t. They cannot because everything they see, hear or read must pass through a “moral” filter separating the good from the bad, the divine from the evil. Everything they agree with is good, moral, and just; even divine. Everything else comes from the Devil, and the Devil is a liar.

And that’s part of the South’s problem: religion. Most of their religions have little or nothing to do with spirituality and more to do with politics. In the South (and the North though not as much) religion is politics. And politics is a religion.

These are Americans who are always touting the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, free speech and capitalism, of course.

I didn’t even try to explain to him that capitalism is anti-social, or that socialism tries at least in theory to put people before profits. What’s the use? He thinks this is a wonderful system. He has enough money to hang out at Starbucks half the night, and all those people living in cars and beneath bridges, huddled in doorways or over steam vents in Manhattan on sub-zero nights, the present 10.5 million unemployed, the people now losing their homes because of the stupidity and greed of capitalist bankers and Wall-Streeters, well, that’s their problem.

But George Bush is screwing up capitalism by bailing out corporations. Yet Bush is only trying to do what FDR did: save the inefficient, wasteful, greedy, stupid, insensitive, ignorant, warlike, earth-destroying, hypocritical, anti-social, dictatorial and merciless capitalist system. At Yale as a young drunk, Bush was heard to vow that someday he would undo every social program FDR had developed.

Ha, ha! Now he’s trying to be Roosevelt. But it’s too late. This system has only begun to swirl down the toilet of its own shitty greed and dishonesty. I feel badly for the people who will suffer the coming Depression the country’s leading “experts” are finally admitting is a recession. On the other hand, I’ve been in a depression for at least 50 years.

“When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” (Dylan)

Getting poorer doesn’t scare me a bit. My Treasury is here in my heart and head. Nothing can bankrupt it. It can’t be foreclosed. There’s no mortgage. I didn’t borrow to get it. It was a Gift Outright. I pay with the currency of Gratitude. If I lose my van and Social Security I’ll walk and be grateful to still have feet.

Of course I know that all this ignorance and meanness is the legacy of terrible poverty and suffering that befell the South after the Civil War and the continuing slavery-under-another-name, which denied the South the natural talents and contribution of millions of black citizens. The denial of their right to education stupefied the whites too. There was encyclopedia of true facts that couldn’t be taught or discussed. They’ve had to lie to themselves for 143 years now, so it’s no wonder they can’t think straight.

There were no schools, no businesses, no doctors, and no reasons to plant crops because seeds and harvests bought by predatory northern capitalists made farming unprofitable. There was no money and nobody up north would lend a dime to the defeated “rebels.” The last two generations down here hardly know the true history of suffering that the South (and rural areas in the Midwest and West) endured at least until the 1930s, when FDR—with the People behind him-- ran some of the rich bastards off the stage and sent help.

But now George W. Bush the born-again Christian fundamentalist capitalist politician is a socialist devil.

I once knew a retired US Air Force enlisted man in Alabama who refused to recognize the existence of “human rights or civil rights.” That guy wanted to go back to the jungle and fight tigers barehanded. He had been a desk-jockey for two tours in Vietnam, living in a house in Saigon with two women who cleaned the house and did other things too. He said, “Vietnam was the best time I ever had.”

That’s what we’re up against in the South. It is pure ignorance and meanness, and selfishness wider than the world.

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