What it is ain't exactly clear


“We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future. … Spaceship earth is still operated by railway conductors, just as NASA is managed by men with Newtonian goals.” Marshall McLuhan

The day after Thanksgiving once again saw the gathering of The Owls (Above) down at the lodge for our annual free exchange of ideas. One of our members, The Proprietor has long been engaged in the civic sphere as he believes that salt and thatch are still sources of municipal revenue. This year he kickoff our gathering of mind by reading aloud from an article which appeared in the Adbusters circular. Near the start the item’s author states:

Our culture of flagrant self-exaltation, hardwired in the American character, permits the humiliation of all those who oppose us. We believe, after all, that because we have the capacity to wage war we have a right to wage war. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Those who fail, those who are deemed ugly, ignorant or poor, should be belittled and mocked. Human beings are used and discarded like Styrofoam boxes that held junk food. And the numbers of superfluous human beings are swelling the unemployment offices, the prisons and the soup kitchens.

The timeliness of the article can’t be faulted as it arrives after Pope Francis took issue with free-market capitalism. The article also arrives about a month after this video first appeared on the libertarian house organ, Reason.

As we approach the first anniversary of The End of the World it seems, at least to me, that there’s a large shift in context going on and we’re only getting glimpses of the change. But having said that I do have to take the air our of Adbusters tires.

I first became aware of Adbusters about 20 years ago as I flipped through one at a Vancouver newsstand, put it back, and washed my hands. For those of you who have never seen one, Adbusters is the hellfire-and-brimstone sermon of the Left. Adbusters routinely uses ol’ devil consumerism to leave the congregation to feel deflated or smug. Since most of its readers don’t know the difference between public policy that is dependent on economics and economics itself, this sermon gets trotted out a few times a year. Three’s never any consideration of what would happen if everyone stopped buying anything more than food. Also it fails to note that the Frankfurt School long, long ago identified the consumer economy as the modern version of the industrial state.

That aside – there are points to be considered within the article.

– Yes, the media is out of control and it will be for some time. The celebrity culture and the old mass media were symbiotes. Their job was to see you could yell the loudest to get attention. Back in the four-channel and two-paper town that worked quite well. Now there’s so many ways to derive information that yelling real loud is not longer effective, but that hasn’t sunk in yet so we’re going to have to live with this for another decade or so.

– We still live in a heightened state of security without justification.

– There’s not much to say here that I already didn’t say when The End of the World arrived for the holidays last year – it’s so very, very special to be alive during the End Times. Of all the people who lived you can claim to be unique because you were there at the end. But if the end doesn’t come you’re then forced to feel your way around, climb out of that hole, and move on. Certainly things could go south at any minute with either a bang or a whimper, but until then, and assuming you live long enough to see it, we have to move on if this is not the end.

– The same conclusion is shaping up for free-market capitalism. It’s handmaiden, monetarist policy went as far as it could go in late 2008. The Pope is complaining about the tyranny of the markets and while consumerisms lord regent WalMart now is rife with striking workers and protests. In the truly American manner the recent obsession with the markets is no different than the Millerites or any of the groups that have dotted our history. The conclusion those groups sought were no less romantic and hyperbolic than Grover Nordquist’s famous dictum.

– Meanwhile the libertarians look seek context in queer theory which I take as a positive sign that some one is trying to crawl from the wreckage and move forward.

But you know, the music these kids listen to today – it’s just noise.

There, I’m done.

BTW – there was supposed to be a podcast in this space, but the longer I worked on it the more disgusted I became.

Maybe for New Year’s.

One Comment

  1. Fearless Lieder

    Since I operate under the assumption that nothing is ever as bad as it seems, or as good, I took that article with a grain of salt.

    Our current form of capitalism seems extreme only to those who never heard of the Gilded Age: a period of large disparities between rich and poor, banks (and bankers) out of control, sudden recessions and a middle class in a constant state of worry. Things got better.

    Add to that the fact that I live at Ground Zero for the “New Pragmatism”: Chris Christie’s New Jersey.

    Every one of my daughter’s friends has a job that would qualify as one of “public service” rather than career advancement. (OK, except for the guy who working on his knighthood…) How much of this is for real and how much is because nothing else is out there remains to be seen. They do seem genuinely concerned.

    And of course my own personal fiefdom is a beacon of hope to the less well-governed…

    So, I remain of good cheer, secure in the knowledge that I will probably be dead before the really bad stuff happens.

    Hope you had a great holiday.

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