Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Peasant Mentality

I had been searching for a name for what appears to me to be some sort of psychiatric disorder: the aggressively siding with, the championing the cause of, groups or individuals who are blatantly screwing you, your family, your people over. In the past, I subscribed to the theory that these middle and lower class dreamers saw themselves as potential lottery winners, or brilliant inventors who would one day, one day in the distant future, become rich as Croesus themselves.

I might have been wrong. I do believe that these people who see themselves rolling around in a bed of cash, and are simply preparing for that day by shielding the ultra-rich exist. I just now see them as a minority compared to these folks: the Peasants.

Matt Taibbi, discussing the ridiculous Teabag mini-movement, gave me this lightbulb moment.

" But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated."

Hear this, Teabagging Peasants and Reagan Democrat sympathizers: the richest 1% of society does not give a flying fuck about you. Does not mingle with you, does not share any of your concerns, in fact, does not even notice you unless your strikes shut down their factories, or you come banging at their chateau gates with battering rams, while holding torches. These are people whose ancestors saw slavery and child labor as good business. Anyone recall what Scrooge had to say about workhouses? Know what they were?

Stupidest protests ever.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Let The Sunshine In

I don't often do this, but David Sirota's latest post at Open Left is something I've been feeling for a while, and a question that is it critical to ask oneself periodically. Think of it as mental maintenance...

Existential Question: What The F%$@! Are We Doing?
by: David Sirota
Tue Apr 07, 2009 at 20:46

Over the last decade, I went from idealistic college kid, to idealistic Hill staffer, to cynical political campaign operative, to angry/angsty writer/activist, to full-time journalist, and in this last stage, I've hit an existential question that I think many are struggling with in their own lives, regardless of their age: What the fuck am I doing?

What, for instance, am I doing working in a media/political business that is so often governed with no rhyme or reason, and so often rewards the foolish, the stupid and the immoral? I mean, really: for every Rachel Maddow, there are five Sean Hannitys, but it's not even that - that's just an ideological bias against progressives, and that I can make sense of (even though it disgusts me). The worse truth - the one I simply cannot grasp - is that for every Harold Meyerson (ie. for every legitimately brilliant progressive writer) there are 25 Joe Kleins (ie. braindead megaphones).

This is the kind of thing that makes me want to throw my computer out the window, wear my PJ's and a robe to the supermarket, and play Halo all day. It's not the conservatives that really get me - their existence/success at least has a rationale (ie. serving the corporate masters who pay them). It's the unskilled - the classic No Talent Ass Clowns, if you will. I work in a business that treats Andrew Sullivan and David Broder and Matt Bai and Journolist and the Politico and Tom Friedman as Very Important, Very Serious, Very Newsworthy People - people worthy of not just applause, but of emulation. Scores of the precocious and the ambitious in this business aspire to be these people, scores of youthful college kids head to D.C. dreaming about being the next Joe Klein or David Broder. Indeed, there are entire magazines like the New Republic whose foundational objective is to groom the next Matt Bai.

Though I certainly don't want that for myself (thus, my flee to the sanity of the Rocky Mountain West), I'm struggling with the questions about the system. I wonder: What am I doing working in a system that creates those desires, rewards that idiocy, and creates a gross incentive structure?

That's the question, as I said, I think lots of people are asking about their own lives, whether in the media business or any other field.
David Sirota :: Existential Question: What The F%$@! Are We Doing?
Thanks to the economic meltdown, ensuing AIG bonuses, and promotion of economic criminals to top White House jobs, it has never been more clear that the American economy and political system is one that rewards everything we say we don't want to reward. The media world I work in rewards David Brooks, the economy rewards AIG executives, the political system rewards Larry Summers. It's all the same fucking thing - everything we say we want to punish, but instead systemically cheer on.

So again, what the fuck are we doing? Why do we just sit here and take it? And if we're not going to take it, what the hell should we do? Most of us who have a job are totally overworked - we barely have time for our families. Those of us who are out of work are scratching and clawing to survive - they barely have time for anything else. So what should we do?

I don't have an answer to these existential least not yet. And I certainly don't know what to do in reaction to asking them. One voice in the chorus that is my inner monologue says "you're right, what am I doing? Fuck this, I'm moving to Costa Rica."* Another voice says "I'm not getting out - I'm doing the right thing by keeping the faith that this is important work." And yet another voice says, "Just don't ask those questions - they will only give you heartbreak."

All of the rationales have merit - not just for me, but for society. And I'm sure millions of people are having the same "on the one hand, on the other hand" debates in their minds. Some days we defiantly push on, other days we want to drop out and move to some far away nirvana.

Shit, maybe this is my quarter-life crisis (though that would mean I'd have to live to 120) or my mid-life crisis (that would mean I'd be dead at 66 - that would suck). Whatever it is, all I know right now is that we live not in interesting times - we lived in fucked up times, and that means fucked up questions are going to be asked. Here's hoping we don't fuck up the answers.

* I know, I know - there are definitely serious problems in Costa Rica. But at least its warm and near the ocean...or at least that's what I tell myself as a rationale for seeing that Central American nation as a terrestrial version of heaven.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

More People Not Worth The Price Of The Gunpowder To Blow Them To Hell

It has been a while since I've done a Gunpowder post but I think the liars, fools and idiots on parade the past few weeks warrant it.

A perennial...Bill O' Reilly

The Royal Family likes the Obamas. The Queen hugged Michelle, and the I-Pods contents were thoughtful. Sorry they thought the Bushes were classless jackasses. Get over it right-wing fools.

I saw this man in Grand Central. He ran chills down my spine: he even walks in a manner that is hostile. I hate that he is allowed to vent to the entire world, that he has a paid public forum for tantrums that should be reserved for his therapist.

Glen Beck...again, a man who should be crying to his doctor, not in a PAID forum where his loony ideas can influence the gullible fools who watch him. 9/12?? I love Tina Brown's description of him as a "charlatan evangelist" and "frothing". Curse you Fox News.

Rush. Anal poisoning? His speech at CPAC? His wish for Obama to fail? Ugh. This ass is no longer a mere revolting, so-called entertainer, he now believes his own publicity and imagines himself the leader of the conservative movement, and the Republican party.

President Karzai. Review? He's going to review a law that essentially allows husbands to rape their wives? What the hell was he thinking?