March 13, 2010

The Real Great Depression

Back in December, psychologist Bruce E. Levine wrote an article, “Are Americans a Broken People? Why We’ve Stopped Fighting Back against the Forces of Oppression,” where he wrote:
“Yes. It is called the ‘abuse syndrome.’ How do abusive pimps, spouses, bosses, corporations, and governments stay in control? They shove lies, emotional and physical abuses, and injustices in their victims' faces, and when victims are afraid to exit from these relationships, they get weaker. So the abuser then makes their victims eat even more lies, abuses, and injustices, resulting in victims even weaker as they remain in these relationships.”
Levine raises questions about the everyday political effects of living in a dispassionate fascist regime. And he is surely onto something: powerlessness prolonged over time becomes despair which, though anaesthetized now and then by consumptive binges and ego-driven implosions, implicates a “broken” system that is us! It’s not just some Baudrillardean indifference which has neutralized us but a deeper affliction even more disturbing. Because you know most discontent liberals and progressives – who have taken off their lapel pins and taken down their posters, and since gone silent – will probably come around anyway to crawl to the voting booths to vote Democratic anyway!

Though Levine doesn’t seem to consider what and where it is that does give people a hoot these days, he does suggest that too many of us are not simply powerless but also blindly complacent and hypocritical as well. Victims yes – but darkly complicit as well. Why aren’t there more protests and sit-ins in the streets? Why not more planning for future political action? That the best liberals can do these days is get miffed watching Jay Leno interview Sarah Palin, or smugly snark to themselves about Glenn Beck, speaks volumes. What is the real sickness here? Are we trying to act-out some post-political dream-world from the confines of our domestic barricades? Perhaps a perverted engagement as self-parody? Is that what the alternative route has come to? Will the revolution get on Facebook? Politics has indeed become too much of a spectator sport. It’s not just loud and banal but too time-consuming and hackneyed for any of us to give a shit anyway. It’s all show. And who wants to be a mere spectator – or worse, an informed and interested spectator???        

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