So it’s plain to see, for anyone with an IQ over Pi (rounded to ten decimal places, anyway), that the Republican party platform includes some of the most undeniable ignorance the world has seen in at least fifty years. Between the abortion stance held by Todd Akin and Paul Ryan (all based on the bible, of course), denying that climate change has any veracity (again based on the bible, because God would never let that happen to mankind; He’s changed after the last dozen civilizations he destroyed, just like an abusive spouse, but I digress yet again), refusing equal rights to all citizens because they’re “icky” (more bible there, I think I’m seeing a pattern here), and all the other crazy nonsense, it just seems like the party of stupid and ignorant. It might seem that way to you, gentle reader, and in many ways you’d be right.
The people who primarily vote for this kind of platform are indeed ignorant. Of science. Of history. Of economics. Of any number of things deemed “elitist” or “liberal” by the party elite, who set the tone for the party faithful. But, regardless of how it may appear on YouTube comment threads or FOX News discussion panels, the majority of Americans are not willfully ignorant or hostile to knowledge. We liberals would do well to remember that, if only because of image and branding.
That’s right. I’m about to go all Mad Men on your ass.
See, there’s an image associated with liberal intellectuals specifically, and liberals in general. It’s not a nice image…
Just add a beret and one of those long, skinny cigarette holders, and you have what damn near every “conservative” voter thinks of damn near every liberal. But what’s the image of the conservative voter?
Granted, Toby Kieth is more offensive to me than shaken baby syndrome, but you have to admit there are a lot of people who’d rather be associated with a strapping guy in a military garb and an American flag than that pussy liberal V.I. Lenin up there (if they could, in fact, recognize Lenin’s face, what with all their edumacation and all, but I digress). Plus he plays guitar? Dude, the guys in high school who played guitar got all the chicks. I want to be him!
It’s a pretty noticeable difference, wouldn’t you say? It’s the choice between a sullen, weak-chinned nerdlinger and a big, strong, American patriot. How is it that liberals and progressives got stuck with the image they did, when this guy…
… is more closely aligned with the progressive world view?
It’s all a matter of marketing. And who can afford all that? I’ll give you a hint: it ain’t the workin’ man.
When faced with what appears to be a crisis, people tend to gravitate toward those they perceive as the strongest, and try to emulate them. This behavior was a safe bet back in the stone age, when the crisis was an angry bear and you needed someone who could wrestle its ass into submission. So if you want people to gravitate toward a certain mindset, you portray that mindset as the “strong” one, and create an air of crisis around them. Then you can pretty well bank on those same people trying to be like that character, as they try to show how strong they are in the face of the impending disaster.
So, when some people (who could afford multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns) decided that they wanted the masses to emulate a pro-business, pro-war, anti-education meathead, they poured their resources into convincing the people that liberals are pussies and conservatives are tough guys, and then set about exploiting (if not completely manufacturing) a crisis or two (or three, or whatever number we’re on now after 9/11, two wars, a couple of economic catastrophes, and holy shit the debt ceiling debacle, and others disasters). It’s like a permanent crisis mode any more. People’s fight-or-flight mechanisms are permanently engaged, thus cutting off their propensity for rational thought, and making them want to appear as strong as possible to scare away that angry bear.
So, they try to be like Mr. “Boot in your ass courtesy of the USA” Kieth up there. The epitome of the backward, gap-toothed redneck, just dying for a reason to show how American and bad-ass they are by blowing up a Planned Parenthood or beating some unsuspecting gay dude within an inch of his life, because they’ve been told (by the Pat Robertsons and Glenn Becks of the world) that those people are the reason there’s a crisis in the first place. Since it’s liberals, progressives, intellectuals, socialists, homosexuals, trade unionists, etc. (I swear I’ve seen this somewhere before) that have somehow caused this problem, then acting in direct opposition to them, in the strongest possible way, is the way to solve the crisis. But somehow, no matter how many teachers you fire, unions you bust, and intellectuals you marginalize, the crisis only seems to get worse. Because thinking has already been linked to weakness in the minds of these people, and we have to be strong in the face of adversity, they flat refuse to analyze the relationship to their own behavior and their difficulties. This is only strengthened by the fact that people have a natural distaste of blaming themselves for their own problems. So, they continue doing the same thing, doubling down on ignorance and hostility, in the hopes that somehow doing more of the same will yield different results this time. And the less it works, the more effort they put into it. Yee-fucking-haw.
But if we here in Denver learned anything from Tim Tebow practicing the same terrible throwing motion 5,000 time a week, it’s that increasing effort without correcting direction only serves to take you further and faster away from your goal. Einstein is proved right once again, and everything just keeps going downhill. For most of us, anyway…
Roman consul Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla was credited with popularizing the phrase “cui bono?” This refers to the practice of determining who benefits, when attempting to discover the partie(s) behind an act, and it’s an integral practice in criminal investigation to this day (means, motive, opportunity). The single most successful politician in American history (you may or may not like his policies, but the guy did get elected President four freaking times), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, adds a crucial observation to this scenario…
So we have a situation where we’re in constant crisis mode, with many of our citizens convinced that the way to solve it is to do the same thing they’ve been doing, but harder and with less thinking. And things just seem to keep getting worse. It happened, and it’s no accident, everything is going exactly according to plan. But whose plan? Well, we must ask, “cui bono?”
This should shed some light on the subject:
Who benefits, indeed. If you’re looking at that graph and reading it correctly, you’ll notice that while productivity has increased drastically since 1979, the top 1% of incomes are the only ones who saw any significant growth in their share of national income. In fact, the bottom 80% saw a fairly sizable reduction in their share. Who’s benefiting there, I can’t help but wonder (sarcasm intended)?
Obviously, it’s those who are already fabulously wealthy who are benefiting from this cycle of crisis, at the expense on everyone else.
Now, the most important thing to take away from all this is the last phrase: at the expense of everyone else. I’ve often wondered why anyone would ever need to make more than $100 million. Like, ever. The difference in lifestyle between $100 million and $1 billion is so miniscule that it’s nigh on impossible to tell them apart, yet one is 100 times more than the other. I can guarantee you that my lifestyle would drastically change if my income so much as doubled, much less increased 100-fold. So what’s the point? Why bother making so much more if it won’t change your lifestyle in any discernible way? The answer is contained in that all important phrase: at the expense of everyone else. It’s not about having more money. It’s never been about having more money. What it’s about is making sure everyone else doesn’t have it.
We’re only talking about 1% of the population, though, right? Well, if incomes were capped at $100 million (I’m not advocating that, by the way, because people will always find a way to hide their money, just ask Mitt Romney), we’d be looking at a couple hundred billion dollars (probably more actually, considering that Bill Gates would account for about $60 billion by himself). That’s quite a chunk of change. How much more flexibility in life would the bottom 80% have if they had that extra $1100 every year? A lot, actually (and that’s if it were evenly distributed among 180 million workers, which is actually more than are currently in the labor force). That’s about a 5% raise for the average American household.
Same with taxes. I’m on the lower end of upper-middle-class, based on my household income. Why, then, do my wife and I pay roughly twice the taxes paid by Romney? It’s not because he needs the extra money to create jobs, because that’s been his tax rate for over a decade, without any jobs being created. There’s no public benefit to that, and it hasn’t increased Romney’s standard of living one iota. But, such low taxes do have an effect. Without tax revenues, government services must at some point be cut. Safety nets removed. Benefits stripped. Soon, working people have nowhere to go but their employer for all the benefits they used to be entitled to by virtue of their citizenship. Benefits become tied to life in service of the upper class. and you’ll only receive their largesse if you’re one of the “good ones.”
Access to additional resources means additional freedom. Contrary to popular belief, freedom is not the ability to drive a hummer and call people faggots with no repercussions. No, freedom lies in the ability to say “no.” The more people have that ability, the more free a society is. Redistributing wealth and income to the top 1% is not done because they really need the ability to buy another gulf stream. The problem is not the destination of the redistributed wealth, the problem is the source. It has nothing to do with money, it’s all about power and control, as we’re subconsciously guided down the road to serfdom (ironically, we follow that path by doing exactly what Hayek recommended to avoid it).
The Republican party has been pushing this agenda, openly, for decades. For their part, the Democrats have played an all too willing patsy, rolling over with suspicious ease when it comes to right wing tax and economic demands, claiming they do it to save things like a woman’s right to choose, or marriage equality, or any number of other issues falling in that vein. And they still lose ground on that front, too, again with suspicious ease.
We’re being molded. When birth control is illegal, education is based solely on easily disproved biblical premises that must be accepted on faith in denial of rational thought, and it is just a fact of life that we have to keep going this route to get out of the slump those liberal intellectuals put us in, power will be sufficiently consolidated in the hands of those who fund and control both sides of the public debate. Most people will be all to happy to join in, believing the propaganda that’s assaulted their senses for a lifetime.
And the only freedom we’ll be able to exercise will be the right to die if we say “no.”