Monday, November 24, 2014

Civil religion in an age of collapse is for the birds



To understand from where I am coming in this post, it is probably helpful to read John Michael Greer's blog-post on The Fate of Civil Religion. If you don't feel like doing that, what the post is about is how people in the modern world make quasi-religions out of politics and other non-theist ideas, and one major drawback of that sort of religion is that being of this world, it is very brittle and prone to cognitive dissonance because its premises are inherently falsifiable. Greer's classic example is the way communist ideology definitely became such a religion, and when the communist regimes of the previous century proved unable to deliver the promised paradise on Earth, very many people simply stopped believing altogether. These days the only old-fashioned Marxists you tend to find, in the USA anyway, are ivory-tower academic types or splinter-party cultists who get together every now and then and grimly pretend that the very flow of history they revere hasn't left them flat on their backs in a dusty ditch somewhere.

I see the Democratic Party civil religion as now arriving at a similar point in its particular journey. Don't get me wrong, here. I am most certainly not comparing post-World-War-Two American liberal ideology with the ideology of the old USSR and its now-defunct client-states. I'll leave that sort of invidious comparison to the slavering, inbred fuckwits who live in Glenn Beck-istan and need right-wing talk-radio to tell them when to eat, sleep, shit, and play with themselves. The only respect in which I am comparing liberal Democratic-Party faith and Marxist ideology is that the adherents of both have become devotees of a sad ghost of a bygone era that will never be able to deliver a different and better world.

An instructive metaphor may be helpful here. I see supporters of the Democratic Party faith as being a bunch of people, many of them in hipster garb, running down the street chasing after something that passersby can't see because that something simply isn't there. It looks awfully futile and silly to the passersby, but the folks who are doing this clearly have an emotional investment in maintaining their pretense that keeps them existentially intact somehow. Now, just as long as the pursuers aren't interfering with the business of the passersby and the pursuers feel this is something they really need to be doing, the more rational and well-adjusted passersby won't attempt to interfere with the contrived business of the pursuers. After all, any passersby or apostate pursuers who would get all caught up in attempting to stop any of the pursuers and show them the error of their ways would be just as silly and codependent as the pursuers themselves. In fact, such people would certainly turn out to have issues of their own that they might be doing a much better job of managing instead of trying to set other people right.

To extend the metaphor a bit, I can easily imagine an intelligent grade-school-aged boy asking his mother why those people are so frantically engaged in an endeavor that appears to be so imagination-based from everybody else's point of view. The boy's mother would distractedly reply, "That's just their religion, honey" and the young lad would nod in sudden clarifying comprehension. Indeed, if you look at such devotion to the politics of the weak and dying Democratic Party as this devotion exists on the Internet, calling it religion is not just a cute metaphor employed by cynics such as yours truly looking for some clever new way to make our point. This devotion is increasingly using not just the attitude but the language of religion, and it really is old-fashioned, service-attending, heretic-excoriating, demonology-obsessing religion in the truest sense of the word. As such, it is inherently non-falsifiable and more about keeping the psyches of the remaining faithful intact than it is about any concurrent social, political, or economic reality. And I really do think that the only way one can deny this is if one is a devotee of this religion who doesn't wish to admit that it has become a civil religion.

I suppose if I would have realized this sooner, I wouldn't have felt the need to waste all this time commenting on it and simply decided that I'm probably too much of an old-fashioned theist religionist (I suppose it would be not entirely unfair to describe me as a reconstituted or reformed New Ager, even though I don't think there's going to be any freaking "New Age" of goodness and sweetness and light in this world anytime soon) to be able to go there with the Democratic Party civil religionists of my era. Devoting oneself so thoroughly to an entity as manifestly unworthy as the Democratic Party of the USA seems to me to be about as creepy and sad as creepy and sad gets. Besides, I've done the civil-religion thing back when I was a know-it-all denizen of the college PC scene (which is, let's face it, mostly a post-modern reconstitution of Marxist ideology), and to say I ultimately found it unrewarding and untrue would be the understatement of the year. Those idiots including myself were much bigger losers then the Democratic Party's codependent doormat supporters ever could be.

If my "civil atheism" somehow qualifies as a species of civil religion, in the same way that today's atheist-skeptic orthodoxy has become a religion in its own right, I guess I can live with that. I'm not going to sit here and fatuously claim, "What I believe isn't a civil religion because I'm always right about absolutely everything!" in a manner comparable to some sophomoric Richard Dawkins fanboy from Reddit.com.

Considering that we're facing some pretty harsh shit as a civilization in terms of exhausting energy and resources, pollution, agricultural exhaustion, and climate-change, it probably is rather uncharitable of me to paint liberal supporters of the decidedly not-liberal modern Democratic Party as being nothing but silly nincompoops because I'm sure that's not all there is to them. They do have some significant awareness that things are changing for the worse and that changing how we do things would be a good idea in the face of that. Even if the approach they continually pursue is based upon an illusion, their wanting to do something about the troubled nature of current human life in this world comes from an essentially good place. I guess where I part company with them is in being of the mind that things have progressed too far to halt or significantly mitigate any consequences of what is charging at us over the horizon, and US society is too locked into the way it now is for it to be anything but too late. Whatever is going to happen is simply going to happen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Well, du-uh!

Princeton [study] makes it official: USA has become [an] oligarchy, [there] is no democracy

This blog will likely fall into increasing disuse in the near future. Things are now at the point where everybody who cares either realizes this or is too addicted to false hope to do anything except just keep right on "shootin' up".

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Collapse is ringing the doorbell and loudly announcing that it ain't going away

As usual, other bloggers do a better job at explaining the omens and portents better than I ever could, so I shall simply link to them.

James Howard Kunstler explains why the surging US Dollar and the falling price of oil are not actually signs of President Obama-sama's brilliant leadership.

Reverse Engineer podcasts about the deflation and currency wars that are now in their early stages.

Steve from Virginia explains how and why we are nearing the apex of what has been labelled his "Triangle of Doom".

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Archdruid Report: Dark Age America: The End of the Market Economy

The Archdruid Report: Dark Age America: The End of the Market Economy

One thing I appreciate about this latest entry from John Michael Greer is the brief section where he explains why Marxist dogma, while providing a decent critique of industrial capitalism's failings, is nonetheless an unnecessary intellectual cage.

What was true twenty years ago remains every bit as true today



US elections: Deja vu all over again by Shamus Cooke writing at the Global Research Centre's Global Research website.

Cooke ends his article with a fairly standard socialist prescription with which I have no real theoretical dispute:

Third parties don’t spring out of the air. They are built by organizations with pre-existing resources and large memberships, like labor unions and other large community organizations. The various failed attempts at creating third parties in the U.S. can be blamed on the lack of any large national working class organization investing in them.

A workers’ party financed and co-organized by the unions has that ability to smash the two-party system. Such a party can’t compete with the Wall Street cash, but it can use its resources and membership to rally the broader country around a progressive platform of green job creation to fight climate change, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and taxing the rich and big corporations to pay for better schools and other vital social programs. Such demands would reverberate across the country in a political landscape where working people’s aspirations are complete ignored.

On a practical level, I'm not sure how realistic this is. Our two parties in this country are as much formal public institutions as they are traditional political parties (that's why if I could scrape together five hundred bucks and collect enough signatures, I could actually run as a Republican candidate for governor or US senator here in Wisconsin), and there are laws in place designed to make it more difficult for a third party to get off the ground. One solution would be for a socialistic third party to do what the Working Families Party of New York state does and back Democrats who mostly agree with their positions but run their own candidates when the Democratic choice is a blow-dried hack in the mold of John Kerry. But a mass-based third party of the left would also likely find itself coming up against the sort of institutional plutocratic harassment that the now-defunct "Occupy" movement did. If the idiot-squad of the college-campus left gets involved in any potential leftist third party the way they did the "Occupy" movement, then there you have a fairly built-in guarantee of failure from the get-go. And also, it's pretty late in the game for any new players to be entering the field. I'm still thinking that whatever is now likely to happen is simply going to happen.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Wisconsin is now officially a red(neck) state



Come on, we all knew it as going to happen.

Much of this stinging defeat, I tend to think, has to do with the fact that the sort of voters upon whom we once upon a time relied to save us from the likes of Scott Walker and ALEC have left the state for greener pastures. Wisconsin simply isn't the culturally and economically "happening" place it used to be, and so intelligent and talented people have been leaving.

As to the main reason why Burke lost, I think a Reddit.com user on the Wisconsin Subreddit known as corduroyblack summed it up best:

I mean, nominate a businesswoman who was handed her position in business thanks to nepotism, has no political experience but a school board position she basically bought in the most liberal city in the state, and her only other experience was two years in the cabinet of the previous democrat governor who just so happen to leave office right before a massive recession. And add in the not so minor detail that she's never been married, has no children, and really has nothing in common with 95% of the people in the state.

And in continuation with this blog's tradition of telling people things they don't want to hear, I'll let you my three or so readers in on some scuttlebutt: There was a user on that subreddit who is a Wisconsin state employee who hates Walker on account of the witch-hunt going on within the ranks of his segment of the state government workforce based on who signed the recall petition back in 2012. According to this employee, a section of his colleagues who feel as he does about Walker decided to just abstain from voting in the gubernatorial race on account of their experience of working for Mary Burke when she was the commerce secretary. These state employees felt she was an incompetent disaster.

I realize that sounds rather like something I'm pulling out of my asshole. That is why I would refer the reader to this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about Burke being dismissed from her position at Trek Bicycle. This isn't about the main topic of the story, because the one of the two witnesses who is way more credible doesn't think Burke was necessarily incompetent as a corporate executive, just that dealing with people from all those different cultures made that job too much for her. But what confirmed what I heard in that bit of admittedly questionable subreddit-gossip was this quote from an individual in state government who worked under Mary Burke when she was commerce secretary:

In a September 2006 email that first surfaced two weeks ago, [Cory] Nettles expressed a far harsher opinion of Burke.

"She's a disaster," Nettles wrote at the time to another political appointee who was still working under Burke at the state Department of Commerce.

Nettles recently said the note does not represent his current view of Burke's two-plus years running the commerce agency.

Nettles's recent denial of what he said previously doesn't sound terribly credible. What, after all, would have made him change his mind about such a strongly-held opinion?

So why did the Wisconsin Democratic Party choose such a weak candidate for such a vital race? One of two possibilities suggest themselves: They are either stupid and incompetent, or they simply took a dive. At this point, I find it fairly easy to believe both. As for Burke herself, I guess I feel about her the way I felt about Tom Barrett in the recall election: Her heart was certainly in the right place, but that wasn't enough to make her a strong choice for the candidacy in question. Both Barrett and Burke, after all, ran on not much more than not being Scott Walker, and as John Kerry learned in 2004, that particular tactic usually just isn't enough to carry the day in an election.

As you would expect, both houses of our well and truly gerrymandered state legislature also remain in Republican hands.

The national results appear equally grim for the inept and clueless Democratic Party. I would attribute at least some of this result to the fact that people aren't really all that enthusiastic about Obamacare now that it's here, all the Democratic-leaning blogs and websites drinking the Kool-Aid about it notwithstanding. President Obama tried to combine providing near-universal health-insurance coverage while also preserving the "for-profit" nature of the US healthcare system. These two goals are simply not compatible, and popping the economic healthcare bubble by instituting national single-payer healthcare isn't going to be an option on the table. I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that we're going to see a lot of this country's contradictions, conflicts, and ugly side come to the surface in a very nasty and obnoxious way now that we no longer have unlimited access to cheap and abundant energy and resources.

The Democratic Party's codependent doormat supporters will, of course, double down and mainline the Kool-Aid (not just about Obamacare) with a syringe and a tourniquet. But that's their choice and really none of my beeswax. As for me, I can now fully accept that whatever is going to happen is simply going to happen, and it will certainly not be good, and just fucking let it go and not feel the least bit bad about it. Going to demonstrations isn't going to help (and will probably backfire in the unlikely event they succeed in drawing any media attention), voting isn't going to help, writing to your elected representatives isn't going to help, because the Democratic Party is a joke, the plutocrats can buy any political race or politician they want to buy, the plutocrats also own the media, and the electorate is flat-out ignorant.

In fact, I intend to celebrate my new-found freedom from the malign influence of the politics industry tonight with some blue corn-chips and habanero picante sauce. Though I have to admit that even though I am accepting this intellectually, on the emotional level, there is part of me that is somewhat "having a cow" that we're really this fucked up of a state and a country now. But then again, any grieving process is bound to a complex and multi-faceted thing. As Reverse Engineer at Doomstead Diner is fond of saying, "See you on the other side!"

Monday, November 03, 2014

The First Honest Cable Company



But surely the Democrats will save us. Because we all know you're a secret Republican if you don't think so.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Th-th-that's all, folks!



Well, according to Nate Silver's generally accurate political website, Scott Walker stands seventy-six percent chance of winning his re-election battle. And I not only early voted for Mary Burke on Monday, October 20, I also donated money despite previously promising myself I was done giving the frauds and fools of the inept Democratic Party political machine any more cash. So I did my part to stop my beloved home state from becoming a "red state", apparently to no avail.

While this certainly isn't a good thing, it's always important to see the silver lining on the cloud. And in this case, the silver lining is a pretty major one, in other words, being done with the sorry-ass politics industry in this country and getting to the point where I can truly accept that whatever is going to happen is simply going to happen. The race looks to be pretty close, so I'll save dumping my usual bucket of piss and vinegar on the hacks of the Democratic Party until Wednesday.

I'll have egg on my face in a pretty major way if it turns out Nate Silver is wrong, but in such a case, it will be good to be wrong.