MacCruiskeen » Sat Feb 27, 2010 11:26 pm wrote:One of the big difficulties is that people have been so thoroughly socialised over at least the last 40 years to isolate and atomise themselves in pursuit of a solo career. More and more people's lives allow them less and less time with friends or family, or even workmates they can trust, to say nothing of any broader solidarity. Their only real affective identification is with themselves in some current-or-future (real-or-imaginary) successful form, or with the TV and movie avatars that embody and promote that image of Lone Wolf striving & struggle and eventual, inevitable success.
We can all be as uniquely brave and handsome as this, if we only make the effort. Or are you scared to pull your gun?
The more that paradigm begins to crumble, as it must (because capitalism is not sustainable), the more frightened and anxious people become, especially if they're no longer young and already have everything invested in that fragile self-image. The investment is not just emotional & psychological, of course, but also very heavily material: college loans, mortgage, car[s], credit cards, and all the other building-blocks of the permanent-debt prison. It therefore becomes all the more likely that this "middle class" will vote for anyone who promises to ease their own personal tax burden. (If they pay less in tax, then their inevitable permanent debt will indeed become marginally less worrying, at least for a while. Hence the triumph of selfishness in the one-voter-at-a-time ballot-box [very like an office cubicle, or an Internet café, or a peepshow], and the triumph of short-termism in election politics.)
Democracy in action. They'll be staring at a different screen tonight, in the privacy of their own homes.
So, however ludicrous it may be, your average Republican- or Tory-voting taxi driver or call-centre manager still identifies more closely with Clint Eastwood and Warren Buffett than with his only slightly lower-earning colleagues and neighbours. (After all, he might yet get fabulously rich - it's a logical possibility, if not an empirical one.) Anything beyond those maybe-genial but always-competitive personal contacts is an abstract field populated solely by unknown and abstract Winners and Losers, and the entire culture permits only one possible identification. The alternative is too grim to contemplate and therefore to be avoided, exactly like the plague. Clint Eastwood is not a cowardly barkeep; Clint Eastwood is a man who creates his own destiny, all on his own. (What do you mean "fictional"? Get real!)
The horrible word "losers" has only gained currency in the last 20 years. No solidarity is possible with "the losers", for they too could have been Warren or Clint had they only had the guts and grit to make that minimal effort. When the going got tough, they could have got on that horse and pulled that gun. The world was their oyster. They are guilty of moral and purely personal failure, or so we're told, incessantly. In essence, that incredibly useful epithet denotes nothing other than what used to be known as the working class and the unemployed, and the culture holds them solely responsible for their own fate -- just as all those "self-made" zillionaires allegedly forged their own heroic destiny entirely through their own honest efforts. (It's all smoke and mirrors, of course: If anyone is a parasite or a moral failure, then Warren Buffett is, and not the millions of impoverished wage-slaves who make his cunning "investments" so obscenely profitable without him ever having to break sweat.)
Work overtime for nothing, you whingeing pricks.
Joe Bageant said recently that one of the most amazing achievements of the American Right was to have persuaded the average citizen [now: consumer] that everyone is middle class. "Middle-class" means on the make, going places, forging ahead, beholden to no man, on the up and up. Thatcher and Blair performed the same conjuring trick in Britain while the same transfer of wealth to the top 2% was being craftily effected. Meanwhile, unions were smashed, real wages depressed, student grants replaced by student loans, a living wage supplanted by endless ruinous credit, savings made way for permanent debt, and former workers (and strikers) were forced into the isolation of unemployment while their sons and daughters entered the isolation of the office cubicle. At long last, they were "middle class".
A clean working environment, where no one needs overalls.
Instead of actually being able to make things, people were suddenly expected to take pride in just selling the things now being made for a fraction of the price by the new invisible proletariat in the "rationalized" Dickensian sweatshops of the Phillippines and Haiti, where strikes were also far less likely and much more easily suppressed. The UK and the USA were now "service economies" (sic), like the stately homes of old England. Wise men had decided that.
Modern and flexible: the 21st-century British working class.
[Insert Here: 5,000 words about the rise of Prozac, the triumph of cable TV, the fragmentization of dissent, the normalization of precarity, the enthronement of the cryptocrats, and the ever-increasing importance of the gazillion-dollar global Terror Industry. Oh yeah, plus the extinction of the biosphere, incidentally.]
- I've just noticed I'm ranting. Worse, I'm ranting to (or at) the converted, and in an electronic vacuum to boot. Well, I don't know how to conclude this rant briefly or elegantly, so I'm just going to wind up with the hopeless invocation, "Smash your TV."
Maybe we should all smash our computers too, while we're at it, if possible by throwing them through the nearest bank window. Sometimes I think the best thing that could happen would be a sudden and total blackout of all electronic communications media, including the phone. Within a month I think you'd see something very like a social revolution.
First Global Convention of Former Bloggers, Washington D.C., December 21, 2012.
Ah the days of quality writing on RI. Done?