A Dismal Era We Live In

Paul Gottfried has lately published on LRC a "pathologist's report" on his students at the college where he teaches history. What he says about them applies to a lot of the people I know here in West Texas, indeed a great many of my friends. He wishes not to put down his students, and I do not wish to put down my friends. I agree with Gottfried that the real problem is "making constitutional self-government operate in a society that is too unwieldy, politically apathetic, and self-indulgent to care about republican freedom."

Or perhaps I go further and outline an apathy of my own; I no longer think we have the option of "constitutional self-government." It disappeared irrevocably, unnoticed, sometime, somewhere, in the last two centuries.

Perhaps my friends are not so stupid. Perhaps I am the idiot banging his head against the wall in the attempt to eliminate headache. They seem to me to be saying, pretty much en masse, as revealed in their behavior and on a few occasions by their actual comments to me:

"Look, don't bug me about what the boys in Washington are up to. I'm busy with my work and family, and have damn little time left over, and what I have, I intend to enjoy – you know, a few beers, a little TV, some zig-zig, and an occasional trip to change the scenery."

They say further, "And as far as this weird war against terrorism and the police state stuff you want me to get excited about, what the hell can I do about it? I agree with you that the first duty of an intelligent man is to stay out of the hands of the police, but with all your shouting and the shouting of those Net folk you like, you are increasing the likelihood the gendarmerie will be around to check you out. And anyway, Bush is right; those Arabs are bad guys who want to kill us, so what's the harm if Bush and his gang return the compliment?"

"And, oh yes, God bless America."

In other words I conclude that "My Fellow Americans," as FDR used to address us when he was cranking up to a particularly bogus statement, are sound asleep and totally content in their ignorance. I notice that the mainstream pundits are careful to pander to that condition, and to raise no issues or points that might tend to unduly disturb the sleep of the just. They agonize within the borders of "acceptable opinion," whereas I have become addicted, as to a drug, to opinions that hold the entire central government apparatus to be inessential, infinitely troublesome, and fixed in detestation of the citizenry it fleeces with such raw delight. A pox on the lot of them.

Now we learn that Bush has okayed the bumping off of Saddam. Great move for a so-called committed Christian. But this causes no more excitement in the American Heartland than Ariel Sharon's imitation of Mussolini, or any other of the outrages du jour.

Next we hear it proposed, to the usual preternatural calm of the populace, that our military are considering the use of nuclear weapons in going in to "change the regime" in Iraq, since "Americans won't accept" the 80,000 casualties (or so) an invasion would result in.

I have lately felt myself to be living in a kind of Kafkaland, where functionaries stir about, people come and go on their personal errands, and heralds come out like clockwork robots on the hour every hour to tell us, for heaven's sake to look out, the terrorists are everywhere; but the whole thing is quite unreal. We are in a period of suspended animation awaiting a true catastrophe not just another announcement of the danger of one. But, like a sleeper in a nightmare, we are unable to do anything to avert what's coming.

"Our voices when we whisper together are like wind over dry grass or rats’ feet over broken glass."

Charley Reese says we are ruled by a mere 7000 or so people, our controlling elite. I believe it, and I have long believed they are uninterested (except in the way one keeps track of skunks) in what I or any other slobizen of the land thinks foreign or domestic policies should be. They are quite certain that they know better, and that they will prevail. When it comes to self-confidence and unbounded optimism in the face of the direst warnings that trouble lies ahead, these people make Hitler look like a witless namby-pamby tacking and veering wildly in the very lightest winds.

"Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad."

I agree with the irrepressible Murray Rothbard and the equally irrepressible Lew Rockwell that the work of the honest pundit is to establish the intellectual illegitimacy of the state. I hope this piece is another Lego block in that construct. We are not going to convince the gang in Washington, or their masters who are deeper in and higher up in the circles of real power, of anything.

We have to hope that following the catastrophe, whatever it proves to be, there is a framework for rebuilding that will reject the people and policies, all of them, that have brought us to this dismal pass.

June 19, 2002