“Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in the world?” the anarchist Alexander Berkman wrote in his essay “The Idea Is the Thing.” “If you did, then your answer must have been that it is because the people support those institutions, and that they support them because they believe in them.”
Berkman was right. As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden.
Widespread ignorance of objective reality poses a genuine threat to democracy. The people of the United States have ignorance in abundance.
The way representative democracy is supposed to work is pretty simple: you protect the fundamental rights of the minority (so it doesn’t become two wolfs and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner), and then the majority of citizens, acting in their own rational self-interest, elect representatives who will pursue the greatest good for the greatest number of citizens.
That’s the theory, but “rational” is a key word in that formulation. What happens when lots of citizens don’t have a solid grasp of what’s going on in the real world?
Consider some examples that are especially relevant to our current political scene.
– People Don’t Recognize Their Lack of Competence, Can’t Judge the Competence of Politicians
– Politicians Think Their Constituents Are Much Further to the Right Than Polls Suggest
– The Wealthy Think the Wealthy Should Pay More Taxes, But They Don’t Think They’re Wealthy
– Americans Like Sweden’s Distribution of Wealth, and Think They Already Have
– Government Spending Has Decreased Under Obama, But Nobody Knows It
– The Deficit Has Been Stabilized and Is Shrinking, But Only 6 Percent of Americans Know It
– Foreign Aid Is Pocket Change
– So, Should We Just Give Up On Democracy?
There is a very widely shared myth about “Washington.” Accordingly, there are two camps, the right-wing GOP and the left-leaning Democrats, who are more or less matched. Each control one house of Congress, and command about half of the electorate. Hence, the gridlock.
Actually, much of American politics over the last four years or longer should be understood as a contest between the conservative “party” (most of the GOP and good part of the Democrats) and a liberal minority party. . . .
Gridlock exists when one party pulls east and the other party pulls west and, hence, nothing budges. This is not the case in Washington. Here, most times, one party wants to move east and the other wants to stay put. Thus, what appears as gridlock is actually one conservative blocking victory after another. The fact that the last Congress passed only half as many bills as most previous ones does not trouble the conservatives one bit.
Southerners love trashing the rest of the country (when did you last hear a kind Rebel word for New York, Detroit or San Francisco?), but when their blood is really up the go-to move down South is to dismiss their fellow citizens as un-American.
Until enough Southerners are able to examine their society honestly—until they can begin to withstand external criticism without collapsing into blind hysteria—nothing will change.
The majority of Southerners are not uneducated rednecks flying Confederate flags from the backs of their pickups.
I never claimed they were, in the book or elsewhere.
However good and polite they may be, what the majority of Southerners are, and have always been, is willing to allow the most angry and “patriotic” firebrands among them to remain in control of their society’s most powerful and influential positions, be they in the realms of politics, business, education, religion or media.
As far back as 1941, Southern journalist W.J. Cash was remarking on “the ancient incapacity of the great body of Southerners to examine and analyze a case realistically even when their own fate hinged upon it, the tendency to take the easiest answer as explaining all their ills.”
- Books of The Times: ‘Better Off Without ‘Em,’ by Chuck Thompson (nytimes.com)
- Should the South secede? (salon.com)
Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican who represents East Baton Rouge and Livingston, now says she wishes she hadn’t voted for the Jindal voucher bill.
“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” Hodges told theLivingston Parish News.
Where to begin? Hodges’ bigotry is perhaps only rivaled by her ignorance of constitutional and legal principles. Of course Muslim schools will qualify for funding under a voucher plan. When programs like this are set up that dole out benefits to religious schools, the government can’t play favorites. That’s basic.
- Louisiana Republican: When I Voted for State Funds to go to Religious Schools, I Didn’t Mean Muslim Ones (patheos.com)
- Louisiana Revelation: School voucher funding isn’t just for Christians? (secularnewsdaily.com)
- ‘Religion’ is not a synonym for ‘Christianity’ – The Wild Hunt (patheos.com)
- ‘Muddying up the narrative’ on vouchers (maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com)