Monday, December 14, 2009

Why We've Stopped Fighting Back Against the Forces of Oppression


Shortly before the 2000 U.S. presidential election, millions of Americans saw a clip of George W. Bush joking to a wealthy group of people, "What a crowd tonight: the haves and the haves-more. Some people call you the elite; I call you my base." Yet, even with these kind of inflammatory remarks, the tens of millions of U.S. citizens who had come to despise Bush and his arrogance remained passive in the face of the 2000 non-democratic presidential elections.

Perhaps the "political genius" of the Bush-Cheney regime was in their full realization that Americans were so broken that the regime could get away with damn near anything. And the more people did nothing about the boot slamming on their faces, the weaker people became.


When people become broken, they cannot act on truths of injustice. Furthermore, when people have become broken, more truths about how they have been victimized can lead to shame about how they have allowed it. And shame, like fear, is one more way we become even more psychologically broken.

U.S. citizens do not actively protest obvious injustices for the same reasons that people cannot leave their abusive spouses: They feel helpless to effect change. The more we don't act, the weaker we get. And ultimately to deal with the painful humiliation over inaction in the face of an oppressor, we move to shut-down mode and use escape strategies such as depression, substance abuse, and other diversions, which further keep us from acting. This is the vicious cycle of all abuse syndromes.

Much more

Yeah, I know, it sounds kind of whiny. I'm usually not one who readily embraces victim oriented narratives about politics and society--personally, I'm much more fond of storylines where the oppressed rise up against their oppressors, empowering themselves instead of cowering in dark corners. But if you're able to get past the sort of Lifetime channel metaphor in the essay, it's a great read.

Indeed, it hits on several of the themes about which I write here at Real Art, social isolation, debt and fear of job loss, corporate control of the political class, schools as training for submission to authority, social control through psychiatric meds and institutions, television as a means of normalizing capitalist control over society, commercialization and commodification of everything. Really, the point here is that our collective political life, whatever that means these days, is extraordinarily influenced by forces that we don't really think of as being political, and these forces, when viewed in their entirety, greatly serve the elites at the top of the heap, while rendering the hopes, dreams, and fears of most Americans quite meaningless.

That is, our great democracy is totally fucked up, nobody is doing anything about it, and nobody appears to understand the situation enough to actually do anything about it, even if they wanted to.

Go read this essay. It's good stuff.