Tuesday, August 08, 2006

All The Bad News Is True

Special Feature: Guest Post By LEN HART, of Existentialist Cowboy.

How did we get here? I don't know —but I have some theories, some hunches, some "off-the-wall" insights. First of all: what is meant by the term here when there is defined as being something somewhere between Thomas Jefferson's near utopian vision of agrarian Democracy and Alexander Hamilton's dreams of an industrialized north? Roughly, Hamilton's dreams have ended in the American version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis found inside Manhattan, Houston, Chicago et al. Jefferson's vision, however, is all but dead and Democracy, like the Constitution under Bush, is quaint. From an IMD review of Fritz Lang's classic: Metropolis:
In the future, the society of Metropolis is divided in two social classes: the workers, who live in the underground below the machines level, and the dominant classes that lives in the surface. The workers are controlled by their leader Maria (Brigitte Helm), who wants to find a mediator between the upper class lords and the workers, since she believes that a heart would be necessary between brains and muscles. Maria meets Freder Fredersen (Gustav Fröhlich), the son of the Lord of Metropolis Johhan Fredersen (Alfred Abel), in a meeting of the workers, and they fall in love for each other. Meanwhile, Johhan decides that the workers are no longer necessary for Metropolis, and uses a robot pretending to be Maria to promote a revolution of the working class and eliminate them. —Claudio Carvalho, Brazil
Ironically, while Hamilton's dreams of industrialization must surely exceed Hamilton's expectations, it is there, I suspect, that in the midst of Bush's assaults upon the rule of law, due process, and presumptions of innocence, that Democracy seems most alive. It is no accident that Bushco pulled off a most un-democratic coup d'etat in Florida. Go figure!

Presently, democracy is like fireflies' flight —winking, blinking, and sometimes disappearing altogether in the darkness. Here and there are easily confused in darkness. But it is possible to outline some characteristics of here. As a nation we have never been more crowded and at the same time more isolated. Even as demographers predict votes with house to house accuracy, the broader picture of ourselves is hidden in plain sight. That is: we are divided along many lines the most pernicious being wealth, on the one hand, and the lack of it on the other. In the past, this dramatic division might have precipitated violent revolution —but not in America where the extremely wealthy have literally hidden themselves away inside ever smaller concentric rings of gated communities —security inside security inside security. This must surely be the domain of dull conversation, duller wit, and misplaced super-materialism.

The rest of us are reduced to being mere consuming machines inside a bigger machine which requires of us our total obeisance. There is no room for Abraham Maslow's "self-actualized" individual in this unfeeling super-structure of corporate bureaucracies and machine designed skyscrapers. Maslow is remembered for having created the human potential movement, for having ranked human needs from the most basic — air, water, food, sex, security, stability —to the more complex: acceptance and love. At the very top: the self-actualizing needs i.e., the need to fulfill oneself, presumably upon criteria of our choosing, our making. But, in fact, we labor not in Maslow's vision of truly free individuals, but in the dark canyons of Metropolis. The only function left us is to create the wealth that trickles up to an un-elected, neo-fascist priesthood. All the bad news has come true!

How do those who cower behind concentric rings of super security rationalize the existence of their regressive, recursive society? Among super sized fries we are sold a myth: that by acquiring the latest gewgaw, we, too, can become truly self realized! We can buy hip; we can buy cool; we can buy self-realization! It comes in a bottle, a pill, an SUV. And it's cheap: your soul!

Thanks to Len Hart for permission to reproduce this here. The original is from Existentialist Cowboy, one of the finest blogs on the web.