The introduction by Chuck Spinney and article by David Michael Green get at what I say is the biggest crisis in our nation, lack of leaders with strength of character. People who, based on well researched work, present workable and sometimes tough, solutions to our problems. These are people who are willing to sacrifice society’s definition of success: money, power and things in pursuit of what they believe is right and will bring a greater good to the larger group.
Many of the problems we have created anyway, and can, with strong leadership, fix, with sacrifices.
That is the problem, we don’t like “tough” [and smart], we say this style of leadership is to harsh (see our reactions to some sports stars acting human-I wish the President would take lessons from Sarena Williams the tennis star (who in my opinion is competitive as was only acting human once and a while), and treat the assholes to protect special interests for their own self gain the same way). Now the asshole that jumped up on stage, to take from the young singer who won the video award, that is typical self serving America I see today; but he will still sell millions of CDs.
Sacrifice, is fun to talk about in essays and applaud when the President talks about it, but it is no fun when it has to involve “me.” Why should I have to cut back on my RIGHT to drive anywhere I want, or have to take public transportation! And go on and on…watch my health, my weight, not me, I am American, I have to right to do what I want, all that talk about civic duty, what is that?
I agree with both assessments completely. As Dr. Green says at the end of his piece,
“What’s really wrong is the near total absence of prominent political figures willing to sacrifice much of anything to protect their country from these depredations.”
Do I think our nation can be salvaged, returned to the values outlined by the Constitution? Yes, I still have faith, but it is going to take a serious mental adjustment by every citizen to start looking beyond their credit cards and own selfish desires, at least enough set the standard and pull the rest up.
Begin introduction by Chuck Spinney
The attached article in Counterpunch by David Michael Green, “Can America be Salvaged?” is a brilliant expository argument describing what are in effect the destructive outcomes of self-referencing/incestuously amplifying OODA loops that are becoming ever more disconnected from reality.
If these effects continue to multiply, the interaction of chance with necessity will inevitably produce in some kind of evolutionary pathway toward even more confusion and disorder, which will amplify itself into even more doubt, fear and chaos, and will eventually culminate in self destruction, death, or extinction. Indeed, if read in the context of the Colonel John Boyd’s theory of the Observation – Orientation – Decision – Action (OODA) Loop, together with the related idea of incestuous amplification, which I explained in my 10 Sep 2008 essay in Counterpunch, Green’s question answers itself … and that answer is not pretty.
Boyd’s theory explains why and how this ruin is likely to occur; why the key to dodging this fate is to change our collective Orientation, and why changing Orientation is both psychologically painful and very difficult. Changing one’s Orientation involves
(1) destroying utterly cherished belief systems and ideologies flowing out of one’s previous experiences and cultural heritage — which is akin to changing the lens thru which people observe, interpret, make sense of, and act on events in the real world — and then
(2) creating new more relevant ways of looking at that world out of the chaotic rubble of past preconceptions and biases. Of course, the rub is that uncertainty and fear is magnified by the fact that no one can say what the new frame of reference will look like before the existing one is destroyed.
This is what happened until Isaac Newton finally destroyed forever the Ptolemaic view of the Universe, the culmination of a destructive process that was not easy and took hundreds of years. That is what is still happening in the post-Darwininan science of evolution. The intensity of that struggle is obvious for all to see, notwithstanding the overwhelming persuasive power of a growing mountain of scientific evidence in favor of the neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory.
In politics and governance, where ideology and interests play an even larger role than in science, changing the collective Orientation is far more difficult.
The bottom line: It is much easier for a group psychology that increasingly feels threatened by adverse selection pressure, and is in a state of growing confusion, apprehension, and fear, to cling to what it is comfortable and familiar with, while it rides down the slippery slope to ruin as the selection pressure works its grimly ineluctable magic. Only a thoroughly mobilized citizenry can change this outcome, and that is why every thinking American should read Green’s essay.
Niso Lipsi, Greece
Note to readers unfamiliar with Boyd or his theory of the OODA Loop: A brief introduction can be found in my essays Genghis John. More comprehensive but accessible descriptions can be found in the books by Robert Coram and James Fallows, and Chet Richards, among many others. For those readers who are interested in heavy intellectually lifting, see Franz Ozinga’s analysis of Boyd’s strategic thought or even better, they could study Boyd’s original papers, which can be found in the in the form of his original briefings and can be downloaded in various formats from Chet Richards’ website (www.d-n-i.net) here.
Begin Dr. Green’s essay
Weekened Edition September 18-20, 2009 Politics in the Past Tense Can America be Salvaged? By DAVID MICHAEL GREEN Counterpunch http://www.counterpunch.com/green09182009.html
I really don’t know what to say anymore, about a country in which proposing a new and better version of corporate-plunder masquerading as national healthcare gets you burned in effigy for being a socialist stooge by gun-toting angry mobs.
I really don’t know what to say anymore, about a country in which the same people who hate you for being a socialist simultaneously hate you for being a fascist. I really don’t know what to say anymore, about a country in which angry mobs of supposed anti-socialist demonstrators scream at their congressional representatives to “keep your government hands off my Medicare”.
I really don’t know what to say anymore, about a country in which claims that the government is going to start killing off seniors are taken seriously by tens of millions of people.
I really don’t know what to say anymore, about a country in which people are all worked up about government czars, but sat silently while the Bush administration destroyed the Bill of Rights and used a thousand signing statements to write Congress out of the Constitution.
I really don’t know what to say anymore, about a country in which deficits have all of a sudden become the source of enormous anger among people who said nothing about them previously, as the tax cuts for the wealthy, off-budget wars based on lies, and unfunded prescription drug Big Pharma giveaway transmogrified the biggest surplus in American history into the biggest deficit ever.
I really don’t know what to say anymore, about a country in which politicians can rant incessantly about other peoples’ sexual morality, get caught screwing prostitutes, and then still be reelected to the highest ranks of government by trashing the president.
I could go on and on, but what would be the point? The positions of so many Americans on so many policy questions are truly inane – yes, for sure.
I wish that was all that concerned me. But it all goes so much deeper than that. The entire premise of a self-ruling democracy rests on some reasonable degree of rationality and some reasonable degree of an ability to discriminate between real information and falsehoods.
Today’s American democracy seems to lack these qualities in increasingly abundant amounts. And yet it goes deeper than that still. The entire premise of a society – any society, democracy or not – is that it possesses a certain degree of shared community, a ‘we-ness’ that transcends narrower tribalisms and self-interest in critical ways and at critical moments.
That too has unraveled of late.
Think of the nice white men with shotguns blocking the exit from flooded New Orleans during the worst moments of Hurricane Katrina. Looking at America today, it all feels so very past tense to me. In some very profound ways, this is not the place nor the time you’d expect the implosion of an established democracy and society.
To be an American is to be a member of the richest and most powerful nation on Earth. If they’re not whining so much in Botswana these days, who the hell are we to?
On the other hand, though, it makes a lot of sense. The moment correlates precisely with the peaking of the empire several decades ago, now further exacerbated as the deep wells of remedial pillaging – our credit cards, our mortgages, our children, a rising Chinese middle class, brown people everywhere, the environment – have disappeared entirely, with nothing but despair and moral dessication left in their place.
Moreover, the folks most aggrieved and most estranged from their senses of late are precisely the people who were bought off of their sanity at every turn with the latest form of bigotry du jour, used to assuage their ever-diminishing sense of relative social status.
Over and over again, the people I see on my television screen acting absolutely and incoherently stupid in their senseless rage seem to be little more than fat, white, Southern, sixty-something racist good ol’ boys. Well past their sell-by dates, they’ve of course gotten tremendous help cranking it up again.
That’s no surprise. I’m not sure these crackers are smart enough to even be stupid without coaching. As Lyndon Johnson used to say: “Couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel”. Lucky for them, those marching orders come from a host of politicians and media whores who, in an even moderately just world, would receive a wee taste of Abu Ghraib in repayment for the reckless destructiveness they’ve fomented upon the always precarious edifice of liberal democracy.
There’s special place in Hell reserved for these shouters of “Fire!” in crowded theaters, these bloodsucking bottom-feeders, especially since they are being paid so handsomely for their faithful service as prolocutors for predators. I doubt anyone has ever reminded us of this ongoing danger more eloquently than did the famous American diplomat, George Kennan, when he wrote:
“The counsels of impatience and hatred can always be supported by the crudest and cheapest symbols; for the counsels of moderation, the reasons are often intricate, rather than emotional, and difficult to explain. And so the chauvinists of all times and places go their appointed way: plucking the easy fruits, reaping the little triumphs of the day at the expense of someone else tomorrow, deluging in noise and filth anyone who gets in their way, dancing their reckless dance on the prospects for human progress, drawing the shadow of a great doubt over the validity of democratic institutions. And until peoples learn to spot the fanning of mass emotions and the sowing of bitterness, suspicion, and intolerance as crimes in themselves – as perhaps the greatest disservice that can be done to the cause of popular government – this sort of thing will continue to occur.”
Hear, hear. Sorry to say it, George, but you’re lucky to have died when you did. It’s only gotten so much worse in just the last few years. And while the O’Reillys and the Reagans of our time have joined forces to turn “the counsels of impatience and hatred” into an entire political party and more, they are, of course, mere conscious tools of the Big Green Greed that ultimately drives the system.
They know they are prostitutes, but the money’s good. And so is the fame and adulation – no small thing for these sorry critters. Look at the Becks and Limbaughs and Gingriches of this country. Were there ever people in this world with so much self-esteem ground to be made up from the transparent ostracization of their younger days?
Were there ever individuals so obviously motivated by retribution against everyone who treated them like the jerks they were in their formative years?
Was there ever a walking warning sign more brightly flashing about the costs to society of youthful bullying?
I’m sorry Glenn, I’m sorry Rush, I’m sorry Newt. I know when you were younger you were pudgy fast-talking smart-ass petulant pricks who made up in wedgies from bigger guys what you never got in attention from attractive women.
But isn’t about time you stopped taking it out on America?
I’m sorry you got your ass kicked on a weekly basis, but I didn’t do it. Though I’m thinking about it now. It takes a willful act of ignorance (something we see a lot of these days) not to perceive the United States as the latest in history’s falling empires.
Like Rome, the true contribution of its sometimes great ideas has ultimately been substantially buried under the rubble of its ill-fated decision to greedily grasp the nettle of empire.
Unlike Rome, this puppy is taking decades, rather than centuries, to collapse. Empires come and go, of course. Rising and falling is what they do. It’s their job in life.
What is truly frightening to contemplate, however, is what happens when an empire falls in the era when technological capacity absolutely dwarfs political maturity?
And what happens if that occurs not just anywhere, but in arguably the most immature, self-serving and self-indulgent of developed societies on the planet?
The only model we have for this so far is the Soviet implosion of two decades ago, though even that is only a partial representation, since the Soviet bear was no match for the American boor in piggishness.
Even so, that history does not bode so well, outward appearances notwithstanding. We should all collectively be walking on eggshells thinking about the tens of thousands of strategic and smaller tactical nuclear warheads that may or may not be accounted for. Nor is the renascent and rather irredentist new Russia necessarily a pretty picture either, a fact that may become increasingly relevant in the coming decades.
Still, all this noted, the Russian imperial collapse has to be said to have been relatively uneventful, closer to the post-war British and French experiences than to any cataclysmic end of days scenario.
I wish I could be so sanguine about the implosion of the American empire. In one sense, it was probably a good thing for the Russians to go through this experience with only a fake democracy and repressed civil liberties in place, and some serious if undemocratic quasi-dictators running the show. It might have saved the country from the worst elements seizing control.
I don’t much care for the product of American democracy and political discourse as things now stand. Imagine how it might all turn out under real duress, with the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs further egging on both the angry rabble on the ground and the Sarah Palins in the political sphere.
I’m tired of overused Nazi references these days, but the most salient analogy has to be to 1930s Weimar Germany. The economy is broken, the political system is broken, the public is struggling, angry and full of nationalistic rage at their country’s failure to possess all the riches and glory it and they deserve.
And so say bombastic demagogues, backed by a small army of street thugs, and offering both a scapegoat and a solution. Given a democratic election in which voters can choose between a dynamic, assured and energetic salvation figure, on the one hand, and an enervated, inept and passionately passionless status quo government, on the other, it’s not hard to figure what will happen.
And what did. Above all, what is wrong with this country (and what therefore inevitably becomes the world’s problem too – just ask the people of Iraq), is not so much the vicious thugs who would just as soon vacuum it free of any piece of wealth they can get into their hands as take their next breath. Nor is it the existentially petrified Confederate Crackers for Jesus who find that hate and violence is a pretty decent emollient to mitigate for the moment their otherwise completely debilitating fears.
That stuff always happens, though admittedly not often quite like this. What’s really wrong is the near total absence of prominent political figures willing to sacrifice much of anything to protect their country from these depredations.
It’s been so long now that I’ve forgotten for sure, but didn’t they used to call that patriotism?
David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (firstname.lastname@example.org), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, http://www.regressiveantidote.net.