Swans Commentary » swans.com May 7, 2007  



Making Sense


by Michael Doliner





(Swans - May 7, 2007)   I've got an idea. Let's try to make sense out of what the politicians are doing! Let's see. Last November the electorate chose Democrats over Republicans to end the war in Iraq. However, the Democrats carefully selected pro-war candidates who masqueraded as antiwar candidates. So now they are pretending to pass an antiwar bill that is actually a non-binding toothless secretly pro war-funding resolution. Bush pretends to be outraged and threatens to veto it even though it does just what he wants. Then they all pontificate. The pols look good to an audience of nobody because any half-wit knows he or she is watching a circus. Just Karl Rove's presence in the building should be a tip-off. The spin doctor is in, but the patients aren't. Meanwhile, like the commentators who chew over the blather the pols spew out, we critique the quality of the goofiness. Who looked more presidential, who gaffed, who wibble-wabbled, who made me puke. Looking ahead, will it be Hillary or Barack or John? Stay tuned. They pretend to fool us; we critique their style doing it; and the infernal machine grinds on. Nobody believes a word. We are watching a show where we already know the magician's tricks, the salesman's pitch, and the comedian's jokes, and we watch just to see how well they pull it off. Everybody knows that crouching behind this entertainment is apocalypse.

Of course, between this gobbledygook and the apocalyptic disaster is a pile of secret purposes, the real plan. But what is it? What is the real reason for the war? Oil? Of course. War profiteering? Of course. Geopolitical control? Yes, that too. But just how is it supposed to work out? Skipping past the WMDs and blah, blah, blah, why did we destroy Iraq? What was the plan? Originally we ousted Saddam and installed the Shiite government, but now, it seems, we want to oust the Shiites, who are closely allied with Iran, and reinstall the Ba'athists, that is Sunnis, whom we originally ousted. We changed sides! Or maybe we didn't.

This war, as everyone knows, is already lost, or is it? Oops, we dismembered Iraq. My bad. We destroyed an ancient civilization because...gee, I forget. Some say the present utter desolation in Iraq is a palpable catastrophe, others that it is just what was intended all along. Divide and conquer. Clever us. So the war is either a megahistorical failure or a resounding metahistorical success, depending upon which commentator you happen to watch at the moment. Of course there are those real reasons, and the ruin of the world is not even a factor in their nefarious calculations. It looks stupid on top, but underneath it's stupider, even if you happen to be a billionaire imperialist neocon. Unless, of course, atomic annihilation is your cup of tea. We are being led by a bunch of idiots whispering secrets to each other that some megalomaniac clown told them.

In any case we fight on to achieve a "success" that nobody bothers to describe. Everybody knows we don't know what the fuck we are doing, but nobody seems to care. Not that anybody is in the dark about the new war aims being foggy. On the contrary, fogginess is obvious and intentional. That's it. I've got it! Their clever plan is not to win the war, but to make fog. Foggy war aims are now cleverly being realized. The whole purpose is to not know what we are doing. In that way we can fight forever, thus exorcise the Vietnam demons, and turn America into a glorious post-modern neocon fantasy of Sparta. So we win if we can neither win nor lose, or even if we lose, as long as we don't admit it. In fact, losing is part of the clever plan for winning because those we are fighting against we are secretly fighting for, now that we have changed sides, if we actually have.

Actually, the great blundering beast has been reeling for some time. For example, back in 1983 the Department of Education published an alarming report called "A Nation at Risk" that warned of the dire condition of our schools. That spurred some people to make reforms. They studied how children learn, they wrote new curricula, they encouraged bright young people to go into teaching, and it all came to bupkis. The schools were worse than ever. Every now and then they sound the alarm again. Schools only get worse. Or again, Clinton came in vowing to fix health care. The same crap. Katrina, Walter Reed, energy, climate change, campaign finance reform, any real problem is beyond the scope of the government. The whole country is falling apart, but anybody in his right mind knows that if there is really something that needs doing, forget about it. The government is just not up to the job. It used to be, but not any more. If we want to torment ourselves we can watch the whole tired rigmarole enact itself again and again. Alarm, hearings, commissions, proposals, laws, failure. The wheels turn but do no work. All is to no avail, except of course when it comes to blowing people to bits or torturing them. That it can do.

But is this failure or success? After all the conservatives always insist that government is helpless, then get themselves elected, reveal their helplessness, and prove themselves geniuses. Their failure proves their wisdom-failure is success. Failure is part of the plan to dismantle the government. Obviously politicians care only about filling their purses for their next campaign while squirreling just a taste away for themselves on the side. They only pretend to care about your problems. It's all total bullshit, obvious to everybody, but for some reason they have to keep intoning their gobbledygook. Well, it's the same with the war. Bullshit that fools nobody to cover catastrophe and theft.

It's funny and it isn't, it's tragic and farcical. It's a new genre! The goofball catastrophe. You do a burlesque act in front of the play. Waiting for Godot at the same time and in front of Macbeth. Never mind catharsis. At the end you're supposed to laugh, weep, beat your head against the wall, and kick your neighbor in the balls. Ha, Aristotle, this one is off your charts! When was the last time a president in a movie didn't look like a complete impotent nincompoop? I can't remember one.

Out front the shit is hitting the fan, or is it? People are losing their jobs, failing to make ends meet, getting divorced, going homeless, committing suicide, getting new diseases, blasting each other in school, committing unspeakable atrocities all over the world, burning up the planet, wiping out other species like gangbusters, but, hey, the economy is looking good, up 3% or whatever. Nobody believes it for a second, but that doesn't stop Ben Bernanke from going all enigmatic on us in his attempt to imitate Alan Greenspan. A little tweak here, tighten up this over there and voilà. Never mind that little subprime bubble bursting. Never mind that the country can't produce diddly. Never mind the eight or whatever trillion dollars in debt. Never mind the growing homeless population. No problemo.

Of course war with Iran is on the table, or maybe it isn't. We've got secret evidence....secret evidence? Oh well, what's an oxymoron among friends? Nobody notices. Nobody. That's OK. We're Americans here. We don't want war. We're ready to talk, just not with the Iranians. They are within their rights but, tough shit, we'll bomb them anyway. Of course war will be an utter disaster for everybody. It might be atomic war. Bush is trying to decide. He's leaning back and forth. Will he, won't he? But why sweat the small stuff? Perhaps this will be eye tee IT! Oops, sorry I mentioned IT.

It's quite clear that to the rest of the world we are the berserker in the basement. Just relax, just relax, put down the gun. Nobody is going to hurt you. It's all right. You want sanctions? Fine, fine. Just put down the gun! The problem is the Israelis are whispering in our ears and they are deep into the pit of holocaust paranoia. Hey, it happened, you can't deny it. Everybody is Hitler.

Frankly, the whole stumbling blind beast thing seems a bit dangerous. It's just not fun any more. Maybe I just lost my taste for the good old American gonzo party. Don't get me wrong, I am an American. I liked the Constitution while it lasted. Democracy is fo' shizzle ma nizzle, but you can't exactly call this two party one party system a democracy! Gee, ma, can't I have a parliament? All the other guys have one. Sorry, pumpkin, this is what your father left us. But to make up for it we're going to Disneyland with Ann Coulter. Oh goody. Will we get to see Donald and Goofy? Perhaps, if Congress is in session.

All right, living under the Constitution was certainly better than this wild, gung-ho, torture-happy toboggan ride into the abyss Alberto Gonzales is taking us on. In a sane and sober world he would long ago have been kicked off the sled, placed on that ribbon of highway, and made to walk across the fruited plain and over the purple mountains majesty while anyone along the way had the opportunity to kick his ass from sea to shining sea. Alas, it's not a sane and sober world.

We're way out there folks, so far out there we don't even know how far out there we are. It's space travel like you always dreamed it would be. Too bad nothing on the bloody ship works. None of the buttons except the blasters seem to do anything. We've shoved off not only from the country and its Constitution, but from the very idea of law, and beyond that, the idea of language itself. Don't believe me? Read this. What can you say when words don't mean anything any more? And it's not going to quiet down. That's the hardest part to understand. Once the language is gone you're in deep whatever. Hey, am I being too optimistic?

Can this continue? Who knows? I myself am not sure it's wise. The good news is the whole idea of the nation state is beginning to look a bit dubious. Not just the wonderful leaders like George "the genius" Bush and Tony "the tiger" Blair, but the whole crew waiting in the wings and the creaking bureaucracy behind them are looking rather, well, passé. Lots of people are just not buying it anymore. Of course the mechanical beast is gigantic and there are plenty of people still dutifully turning the knobs. But, I don't know, maybe, it seems to me, there might be a chance that people are beginning to see that it just ain't workin'. Of course I could be wrong.


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About the Author

Michael Doliner has taught at Valparaiso University and Ithaca College. He lives with his family in Ithaca, N.Y.



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Published May 7, 2007