The Shutdown and What It’s Leading To


As the government shutdown continues we’re seeing a lot of articles about the radical Republicans and why they’re doing this. I think the answer is because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Not all of them. Some are totally cynical about it, but a lot are true believers.
Dualism is seeing the world divided between good and evil. Some things absolutely good, others absolutely evil. It’s not hard to fall into that mindset, and some subcultures absolutely require it, but it’s not a very accurate way to see things. There are many ways to see the world, some with little truth to them, some a lot. Comparing different views can be a real learning experience.
To those of us of a liberal persuasion belief in a God who punishes people for being homosexual, for abortion, for wrong religious beliefs, for having dark skin, is foolish. It isn’t foolish for the people who really believe those things. They may not be able to explain WHY they believe them, and some of them may be persuaded otherwise, but a lot of them really do believe, and feel threatened when anyone disagrees.
One of my acquaintences at work is like that, though he doesn’t believe in all the things mentioned above. He’s a strong Christian, though, veering into the fundamentalist way of seeing things, and sometimes feels threatened by my views, though I try not to make them threatening.
I’ve written in a previous post how I asked him to read a science fiction story that I thought was Christian in the best sense. He didn’t like the idea of reading a science fiction story, so I suggested he read the post I’d written about it. He did do that, and found something to take offense at.
The story is set in the far future, when servants are artifically made from animals. They look like humans, and act like them, but don’t have the privileges “real” humans do. The story was published in 1965, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, so it’s obvious what it’s about.
The story is also a retelling of the story of Joan of Arc. What my friend took offense at was that the Joan in this story was made from a dog, and called d’Joan. He said that meant she was a bitch, and the author was thus disrespecting her. The author died not long after the story was published, which my friend took to be punishment for this disrespect. I didn’t see it that way, but my friend wasn’t listening to what I said about it.
There are a lot of people like that in this country, and with a lot more distasteful views than my friend’s. Many people equate Christianity with hating Muslims, people with dark skins, homosexuals, and etc. They see the election of President Obama as the end of power for white people, which is why so many fear and hate him.
Henry Giroux, in an article, The Ghost of Authoritarianism, also says this is what many people believe, and that they’re willing to back what the radical Republicans are doing, and to go to extremes to end the current government, and put a different one in place. Religion, says Giroux, has become part of the political landscape, and we’re unlikely to change these people’s minds about anything. Fundamentalist religion instructs them not to believe what anyone from the mainstream says, and they don’t. They believe Fox News, and all the other conservative outlets. So they’re willing to buy into the narrative that the poor and unemployed are just lazy, that concern about the environment means the loss of jobs, and that they are being oppressed because everyone doesn’t agree with their views. This is going to be part of our political landscape for a long time to come.
So what do we do about it? I don’t know that I have specific remedies, except that we have to work harder to get our message about the value of individuals, no matter their religious beliefs, sexual orientation or color of skin. We already have powers that care nothing for any of that, the powers that allow us to be watched by the NSA and other agencies, the powers that authorize imprisoning people in other countries, the powers that allow industries to exploit the earth and anything and anyone that they can profit by. Profit has become the only value, and anything that threatens it will be dealt with harshly.
So no more unions, no more defense of free speech, no more Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Big business doesn’t like those things, and enough people in big business are aligned with the radical Republicans that those things won’t be allowed anymore.
It would probably be tempting to use the tactics that extremists would use on us, that are already being used on people called terrorists, whether they really are or not. But that would make us just as bad as the extremists. If they successfully tempt us to do things we disapprove of, like having secret police hunt down the extremists we disagree with, they’ll have won, because we will have compromised our principles.
So the things we can do is work as hard as possible to realize the things we think most necessary. Give people wages they can live on. Clean up pollution. Work on changing from petrochemicals to renewable energies. Make justice more equal, along with income. Give EVERYONE a chance to be a productive citizen, not just those we happen to agree with, or those the extremists do.
Giroux says the shutdown may fail at what those driving it have aimed, but it’s just a rehearsal for an actual coup to take this country over. That’s what all this really is about, and “Obamacare”, though the activists don’t like it, is really little more than an excuse. You and I might see the shutdown as irresponsible, but it’s not from the view of the people running it. They feel no loyalty to the present government, and are actively trying to get rid of it. They don’t care about doing it Constitutionally. They just care about ending it.
Giroux quotes Theodor Adorno in saying that National Socialism and other forms of fascism didn’t die with the end of the Second World War. He expected other antidemocratic forces to threaten democracy–not that they’d be exactly like Nazism, but would threaten individual freedom and that of groups those in power disapproved of. We have to realize that what Adorno prophesied has arrived. Not that our government is perfect, but its adversaries, most publicaly the radical Republicans, really are trying to overthrow it.
The leaders of the shutdown don’t have much to worry about, even if the USA does default. They either have money already, or access to money, so they’ll survive, and will likely be paid well by the Koch brothers or someone else, for services rendered. The people who have to worry are the ordinary people, who don’t have access to much money, and who do depend on government services because they can’t make enough money to support their families. In the extremist narrative, they’re “lazy”, or otherwise evil, so it won’t matter if they suffer or die. The Republican elite won’t suffer, and neither will other elites. It’s the poor and helpless who will.
P.D. Ouspensky, one of George Gurdjieff’s more famous students, witnessed the takeover of Russia by Communism. He said that the Communists promised things not only they, but no one could deliver. He also said that a society’s potential for destruction grows along with its creativity, and one destruction gains the upper hand, the result is horror.
We saw what happened in the last century when fear and rage overcame whole countries, and broke out into war that left very few parts of the world untouched. The thing we thought could never happen here has begun. We have to find a way to stop it, if we want any of the good things our country stands for to survive.


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