Tuesday 14 November 2000
A ramble with little direction about a culture with little direction.
In any country on Earth other than the United States, George Bush and Al Gore would be members of the same political party. There are so many "undecided" voters this year because there’s no material difference between these two fools.
They’re both in favor of law and order, they both support the War on Some Drugs and capital punishment, they’re both in favor of "reforming" and protecting Social Security and Medicare, they both think that children ought to be protected from the world at all costs, they both believe that anti-smoking programs are an important way for the government to spend its time and our money, they have essentially identical views on religion, war, peace, and "character", they both support protectionist immigration policies. At least, they have the same views and think the same things to the extent that they have views and think things at all. Mostly, they just tell us what they think we want to hear, according to the most recent poll.
And this, we are told, is our choice for president this time round. The slightly more "conservative" police-state stooge, or the slightly more "liberal" police-state stooge.
Me, I’ll be voting for Harry Browne, of the Libertarian Party. I think that Browne himself is a bit of a nut, and I think that a lot of the LP’s platform, while politically sound, would be almost impossible to put into action in anything less than fifty years (like the abolition of most of the federal government and the elimination of the income tax), but at least there is a philosophy behind the Libertarian Party, and it’s a decidedly modest one.
My views, it seems, are not those of the majority, though. Polls regularly indicate that the average American believes that our children need to be protected from everything that comes down the pike (and then that we need to be protected from them when they become "super-predators" as soon as they hit puberty), that "Drugs" is what’s wrong with our society, and that they feel safer with more cops around. They also seem to be in favor of gun-control, neatly ignoring the fact that someone intent on committing a criminal act isn’t going to particularly care whether the gun he’s carrying is legal or not.
I am worried about the state of the USA, mainly because we as a people seem to be afraid all the time now. Politicians are afraid of having an opinion, lest it alienate someone. Women are afraid of men. Parents are afraid lest their children will see certain parts of the human body, and everyone, it seems, is afraid of teenagers generally.
And people who are afraid generally turn to authority. The nation that Jefferson and Madison crafted is becoming more and more of a police state every day, and I don’t see either of the two major-party candidates for president concerned about this. They think it’s a good thing that we’ve now got random checkpoints along the roads to check for miscreants and drunks. They think it’s a good thing that kids in some schools have to carry mesh bags, so they can’t conceal anything in them. They think it’s a good thing that (fill in your own anti-democratic horror here).
I keep waiting for the backlash, for the rebellion of people who pride themselves on their freedom against a society in which you’ve got to show your ID to buy a drink or get into certain movies, against a society where we’ve got police checkpoints on the roads. I keep waiting for people to question why we spent billions of dollars to win the cold war for the forces of liberty, only to rapidly turn our own country into a police state.
I’m encouraged every so often by someone like Gary Johnson, the Republican governor of New Mexico, who has spoken out against the drug war. But these encouragements are all too few and far between. The majority are still afraid of everyone and everything, and regularly assenting to new laws, new cops, and new prisons to protect us from the drug/Internet/teenager/sex bogeyman.
No good will come of any of this. No nation prospers under authoritarian government, even an ostensibly democratic one. Police states always degenerate into fighting in the streets.
Did I call it, or what? As I write this, CNN is reporting that the difference in the popular vote between Bush and Gore is about 222,000 people, or less than 1%. My suspicion is that this is actually within the margin of error for the election, so there’s effectively no preference.
Ever watch foreign TV ads? In the USA, Fox regularly puts on prime-time shows that consist of nothing but TV advertisements from other countries.
Think about it: they can use television ads from other countries as bait to get viewers for the American TV ads that pay the bills. And since they haven’t stopped making new versions of the show, I’d say that it has to work.
It works because advertisements in most countries are designed to engage the viewer, to draw him in, and to get him to identify with the product being advertised. The advertisement seeks the advertisee’s agreement.
Advertisements in the USA, on the other hand, seek above all else to avoid disagreement. If an ad makes 90% of the audience laugh and have a favorable impression of the product, and offends the other 10%, the ad will never see the light of day.
I suspect that this is at least in part caused by the fact that there’s much more at stake in a market the size of the USA; putting a product in the market here means putting it within reach of almost 300 million people, and everything from manufacturing to distribution to advertising involves a lot more money and risk.
And so it is with our politics.
The Republicrats have so much at stake, and have to appeal to so many people, that to hold any serious opinions, to take a serious position on anything (other than those positions endorsed by the Permanent Corporate Government, see also my campaign finance screed) is too much of a risk.
And, as Mark Twain is so famously supposed to have said, ‘If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.’
So I applaud my fellow Americans for not favoring either one of those stooges over the other. I hope that the current election mess will result in the mainstream culture realizing that being able to disagree with someone at least shows that he’s capable of conscious thought.Posted by tino at 22:38 14.11.00