Friday, March 11, 2011

The Government is Here To Help You

Their policies will not work. A lot of people have heard lots of bloviation about the deficit, and accepted it at face value because it's presented in a manner that confirms their prejudices while denying common humanity to others during tough economic times. Traditional, all this, happens again and again. But implement those policies, and a lot of people are going to notice that, in fact, government supplies a lot of things they need and count upon. People will get hurt. It'll be a lot less abstract. That, too, is traditional, and will result in change, as it has in the past. But many people will be hurt, for years if not decades. And they should meet far more resistance than they are.

The Wisconsin affair, and those such as in Michigan who emulate Walker's program, will mobilize opposition, perhaps revitalize the labor movement, which has historically been a wellspring of the left. If it doesn't, then we'll just have to wait until the consequences become so unendurable that it'll happen. People forget that liberal social policies didn't come out of thin air, or out of a malevolent socialist conspiracy, but in response to actual social needs. It'd be nice were it not to take catastrophe to remind them of the fact.

The Japanese Eathquake/Tsunami

Japan still has a social contract, effective government and a world-class infrastructure. Imagine if it happened here. We'd be hearing about all those nasty poor folk looting, and how they deserved to drown because they didn't prepare for it. Not the government's responsibility. Nebraskans shouldn't have to pay for it.

Sad, isn't it?

Oh, and let's remember that the average life span in Japan is amongst the world's longest. Primary care is freely available in Japan, where docs make some of their money by selling prescription medications as well. Japan's per capita health expenditure was $2293 in 2007. That year, America's was $6096. So Japan has more money to spend on infrastructure, even before America's military spending is taken into account, while maintaining a responsive, inclusive health care system. And you don't hear about their governments being bankrupted by rapidly escalating medical expenses.

Odd, that...

Modesty, Blazing

So here's David Brooks this morning:

Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise. Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert fiscal catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a national project...

It’s possible... that some of the current political problems are influenced by fundamental shifts in culture, involving things as fundamental as how we appraise ourselves. Addressing them would require a more comprehensive shift in values.

Now, you might ask, did Brooks take note at all in his column of the increasingly insane, reality-challenged, narcissistic dismissal of a common humanity with the less fortunate, or merely different, that ever more obviously undergirds right wing politics in this country? And does he observe that possibly, just possibly, that economic thinking alone, exalting profit and a mythical freedom arising out of an equally mythical 'free market', might be insufficient in understanding or bettering the human condition?

Not so fast, class, not so fast...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Godwin's Law: You Are What You Wear

A fascinating piece in the Times this morning linking fashion with fascism, in the context of Dior's firing of John Galliano for drunken anti-Semitic ranting:

The link is clear: like a fascist demagogue of yore, he was declaring that she did not belong to the gilded group who wear the right boots, and from this Mr. Galliano slid effortlessly to a condemnation of her very flesh, and a wish for her death.

Last week the French daily Le Monde declared that by firing Mr. Galliano, Dior had sounded the “death knell for the myth of the omnipotent designer.” That may be premature, given the myth’s deep roots. But the drunken ramblings of one man in a bar may have set off an important discussion about a less pretty undercurrent in a multibillion-dollar industry. Happy Fashion Week.

The reason Godwin's Law resonates as truth is that fascism/Naziism are entirely, totally human, Nazi acts were perpetrated by humans, and that, once you accept that, you find acts compatible with fascism far more widely scattered than is usually assumed. I was astonished, on rereading space operas I loved as a kid, to find them sometimes outright fascist. Consider the two most influential and popular science fiction universes, for instance: the 'Star Trek' United Federation of Planets with 'Star Wars' Jedi Knights, wearing brown shirts, keeping the peace in the galaxy via an unaccountable triumph of the trained will, most effective when used against the 'weak minded'.

And the reason it's crucially necessary to think of fascism in broader contexts is that we're all capable of it, being human, and have to fight it in ourselves. You are what others make you think you are, and what you're willing to accept in yourself. If we, as individuals and as a society, question neither of those, we're in for it.