Monday, September 29, 2008

you should be very afraid - but of whom?

me, John, Jim, Bennett, Nancy, Ginnie, Susan, Nelson

Sometime in this past week's accelerating and terrifying dance into fascism* I remembered an episode from childhood when I was faced with fear.

Like all pre-school children, I had been drilled on the danger of getting into the car of a stranger. What would actually happen if I did so was not spelled out. It was just fused in my brain: Never ever get into a vehicle with a stranger.

I was the last of eight children in my family to start kindergarten. My brother John, a fourth grader, walked me to school that first exciting day. If you saw the grid of streets in my home town, you'd see how the streets that run parallel to the river suddenly angle in a new direction after a few streets. My path to school was not 'go straight, turn left, turn right and you're there' but angled confusingly at a couple of junctures. So can you blame me that as a five-year-old (just - I had turned 5 the month before school began), after half-day kindergarten, I lost my way walking back home, alone?

There I stood on the sidewalk, facing a 5-way intersection in a residential neighborhood, utterly confused about which way to turn, crying. A strange (as in unknown, not strange) man in a pickup truck pulled up next to me on the street. He asked me if I was lost. I nodded. He told me he would give me a ride home.

How did this five-year-old face her conflicting fears? A. I am lost; I am alone; I will never get home again. B. A strange man is offering me a ride in his truck; I've been told never ever get in a vehicle with a stranger, but what exactly am I supposed to be afraid of? What could happen?

I got into the truck. He drove the maze of blocks to my house. I got out of his truck and ran inside to my mom. I don't remember what happened after that. Did Mom see my tear-stained face and hug me? Did my parents lecture me, or spank me, for getting in the truck of a stranger? Did they even know?

There wasn't really all that much wrong with the street layout in Grand Ledge. I just didn't know how to maneuver it. Someone I trusted should have shown me the way. We've trusted our leaders for decades that a free market system would work, and that it would somehow guide our economy safely along. As Winter Patriot says, it actually ran our government, but we were taught to ignore that and call it 'democracy.' Now that the free market system is a mile-high roller coaster whose tresses and pillars are crumbling, we are giving one of the guys who built the faulty roller coaster the contract to fix it. It's tantamount to giving a very bad stranger keys to a truck and asking him to go pick up your kid who is lost. And he ain't gonna take her home, folks.

*If you think this isn't starting to look like fascism (I added the italicized words after Loring's comment, since I agree that we are heading into it, and who can say how fast?), here's the Random House definition:

1. a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.


a said...

SPOT ON! I used that very term to describe it when speaking to my brother just the other day. Great post! (no I did not make that sandcastle!) it was part of a competition at the beach that day, one of many:)

Loring Wirbel said...

I don't think we are that close to a Weimar Republic-style state. There will be many more stages of bumbling and fumbling through various worsening conditions. And Americans are too obsessed with TV and online fantasies to be directly concerned with their material and political conditions.

In the post-1929 period, when radicals were organizing in factories in the U.S. while millions of people were literally starving, writers like Larisa were convinced that we were close to fascism. When FDR was elected, he gave the nation the breathing space to have people consider him a benevolent daddy.

It is true that no one pays any attention to the First Combat Brigade being assigned to domestic duty, to expansions of Patriot Act and Posse Comitatus, but I think daily conditions would have to get exponentially worse before I'd really start worrying about fascism in America. (Check out Christopher Hedges' book "American Fascists. He honestly thinks that radicals take their lives in their hands expressing opinions in Colorado Springs. I live there, Chris. That's just not true.)

The thing that worries me about columns like Larisa's is the boy-who-cries-wolf effect. To be sure, we should point out trends in the public's somnanbulism now, while we still can. But we should wait until maybe we've been arrested two or three times and released, and maybe wapped in the face with a billy club, before we say that fascism is imminent. I see months, years, maybe even a decade or two of deterioration, before we get a truly authoritarian government.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Amy. It seems to me if you connect the dots there are some pictures that appear.

Ruth said...

Loring, and that's supposed to make me feel better? :)

Doesn't it feel like this slide is accelerating a bit?

Loring Wirbel said...

Accelerating?? Absolutely, it's past the tipping point! The thing is, we've gotten so used to extraordinarily good conditions for daily living, for exploiting a fragile environment, etc. that we interpret a 10 percent decline in conditions as near-Apocalypse. Think about the daily struggle of getting food among the poor in an African country, and compare it to an American who would think that life was near an end if all the Starbucks closed.

I am not saying we're all softies and whiners. I am saying that if you read a lot of good Mad Max-style sci-fi about American society in near-Apocalypse conditions, you will realize that we can use ingenuity to go into near barter-style communitarian conditions without electricity or Internet, and still bumble through. Gwen and John are right about the financial crisis (the bailout bill will do very little), you are right about rapidly accelerating deterioration, but I still say we will live through several worsening stages of calamity yet before we experience real fascism. Merely getting your library account analyzed by the FBI doesn't count, that's a mere annoyance. Sending U.S. citizens to Gitmo would be a real sign of slippage. Fasten your seat belts and keep a smile on your face!

Ruth said...

I'm not mainly complaining here about the financial crisis. No way are our conditions close to suffering. I feel we shouldn't go for this bailout. I'm complaining about the gradual giving over of our government checks and balances to dictator-like appointments and policies.

Loring Wirbel said...

Ask yourself how many Americans would prefer a passive existence where someone just told them what to do. I know, it's depressing.

Ruth said...

Are you saying if a big enough group of citizens doesn't have the will to stop it, then we just have to watch? Yeah, that's depressing.

Loring Wirbel said...

No, you just keep making a fool of yourself (going to missile silos on a sunny Saturday, circulating petitions, etc.) as though it made a difference, and grimacing when someone yells out a car window "Get a life!", and hope that maybe, just maybe, someone notices what you do, and says "Gosh, maybe I should be a citizen that cares about a government that operates in my name," and then an entire lifetime of banging your head against the wall will seem worth it!

Ruth said...

Ohh! There you are!!

That's the Loring we brandish in effigy on our car hoods.

Sandy said...

Ruth, this is an excellent post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

I absolutely agree with everything you are saying.

The biggest control IMO is the fear factor and when pressed to the curb, should that happen, what will people choose..

So the bailout didn't happen, ....

the week should be interesting.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Yes I found that very gutsy not to have passed the bail out!

Great analogy! Loved your post and the comments..

John Ackerson said...

If Tricky Dick Cheney hadn't already moved Halliburton to Dubai along with stolen US Army food services monies, or KBR construction & transportation monies; if Bush Jr. hadn't already appointed fellow Texas oil man Hunt - an ol' Bush family friend to the lion's share of the sopping-rich Northern oil fields of Iraq, then I might think that fascism based on psychotic greed was already alive and well, as these two 21st century assholes are providing an insane example from the top down. Long live Capitalism! To the strong (and rich) go the spoils!

Ruth said...

Sandy, no doubt something will happen to bail those crooks out, but hopefully it will be a better plan, and one taxpayers can benefit from. Goodness, the fear they use to make us think it had to happen 10 minutes ago.

Ruth said...

Gwen, it could be seen as gutsy, I thought so too. Until I listened to a journalist who had looked at the vote and said most of the Representatives who voted it down are up for re-election this fall. I can't verify that. The thing is, this was one of the most contested issues I've ever heard of, with I think record numbers of emails and other contacts from citizens to their senators and congress-people. Does that mean that on any issue we could make that kind of difference??

Rauf said...

Ruth, i did my best to understand the post and the comments. i am not an intelligent person.
oh dear the person
i don't like it Ruth
i don't like this person stuff
i don't want to be a person.
a thing ?
yes i am a thing. Like a table ?
Thats good i think, you don't expect a table to be intelligent.

i understood how you connected your childhood incident. Mom or dad must have thanked the truck driver, perhaps invited him for a cup of tea.

i don't understand the rest. Fascism and all
You are talking about money aren't you Ruth ?

water from the lake evaporates and goes up, but goes somewhere and comes down again. So Money can't disappear. It has gone somewhere. some people are having it. Thats how my fat head thinks.
Am i doing a good job Ruth ?

Its not money i want to talk about.

This Rockerfeller chapee had been a major contributor to eugenics research in Nazi Germany long before 2nd world war. Things went horribly wrong. i think the Bush family has something to do with Nazis, they are still getting some benefits ?? read somewhere. i think i told you about mind control through GM food, that research produced positive results. most ferocious breed of dogs were made docile and friendly. Now they can do the same adding chemicals to our daily drinking water. Some flouride. My friends said that i have gone mad. Now others also are talking about world dominations, master and slave classes. In all my posts on environment i kept saying 'they' i have no clue who 'they' are. They could be masons or illuminatis. not the corporates, corporates only want money, they have no philosophy to push. these guys are controlling not just the US UK or other developed nations, they are controlling the corporates as well. They marketed fear successfully by orchestrating 9/11
and terror incidents while G8 summit was going on in UK. that was not a great success in UK. People there never believed their government like the Americans did all these years, to such an extent that the citizens of US are now being taken for granted, that includes me as i keep generalising and you keep objecting. i can't generalise the citizens of UK in the same manner. 'They' yes They are so sure that the citizens of US are lost in their own comforts and games will never take to the streetshat ever happens. October 1917 is unthinkable in the US. They are very confident that the Americans will eat anything the government and the media tells them. They own the media.

They need a lot of money for further research and for 'THE NEW WORLD ORDER' so the money has gone there.
i would be a slave towards the end of my life. No i am old and useless consuming food which is a waste, i think i would be shot Ruth, That is a wasted bullet, i think i would be gassed along with thousands of other useless people like me.

Ruth said...

John, remember the good ole days when a country and its citizens prospered during war? Now only a few rich guys are profiting from it. Is this the first war in American history that hasn't bettered our economy?

Rauf said...

in a nut shell Ruth, your money has gone to the NEW WORLD ORDER. Reasons were created to spend money. Out of every 100 dollars alloted for the war only 10 dollars were actually spent. These guys are not Americans, there could be a couple of Americans in them. They must be sitting somewhere in Switzerland or Austria. They control your corporates, your government your media. Even Bush is not aware whom he is working for.

Ruth said...

rauf, I think I was confusing in my post, because my point about fascism was not about the financial crisis per se. The financial crisis does not frighten me the way the plan to fix it does. The plan was to hand over the financial disaster to the Secretary of the Treasury, without any oversight by anyone. And that man, the Secretary of the Treasury, was one of the guys who got us into the mess. So I'm trying to say that what feels fascist is not the financial crisis itself, or how we got into it. It’s giving the control of it to an appointee of the President, not an elected official. Like since 9/11 when the Patriot Act was passed, and immigrants were illegally detained. Or when our phones could be surveilled without warrant. It’s just another effort to get rid of the supposed balance of power and allow the president to do just what he wants. Maybe he doesn't know how our government is supposed to work, and he doesn't mean it intentionally? So yes, I don't want to talk about money either.

I don't have any idea who is at work. I don't know if your theory about creating a slave society is true, but it almost doesn't matter which theory anyone believes, since as you say, so many Americans (most? I don't know, could be) mindlessly follow and believe what they are told.

I guess we just have to keep being suspicious, which is a crummy way to live, but that's the way it is. We can't believe what the media shove at us. We have to take time to dig, as much as we can. We each find truth as it makes sense to us, and we have to live with it. Maybe this suspicion will grow. The response to this bailout was huge, and it seems to have made a difference. I don't know if October 1917 is possible yet, but maybe if we inch closer to fascism, more American citizens will take to the streets and revolt. I am pleased with the little bit of power we demonstrated this week. I wrote my senators and Congressman, and it sounds as though a lot of others did too. And those Congressmen were afraid of losing their jobs in November. Yay! I hope we can get a taste for that and keep the ball rolling!

Ruth said...

I just tried to go to bed and my brain started working on reasons we don't take to the streets, and why October 1917 wouldn't be possible now. Here are some things:

1. We do not have a foreign oppressor here as we had in 1776 and as Ireland did in 1917. Some would have us believe that there is a foreign oppressor that threatens us. So in a way many are revolting against them vicariously through the 'war against terror' in Iraq. It's the wrong revolt. We have to revolt against 'ourselves' - and that's frightening.

2. We aren't desperate enough. In the 1920s and 30s things got bad enough for the working and non-working poor that people joined forces and started unions. Maybe if people's circumstances get actually threatened enough, they would revolt as we edge closer to fascism.

3. We aren't bonded with each other. I am not bonded with my neighbor, my townspeople, let alone my countrymen. In other parts of the world, it's brother against brother, until the family is threatened, then brothers join against the outside threat. Same with tribe, and country.

There are more, no doubt, but I'm going to try to sleep now.

Rauf said...

NEW WORLD ORDER is not fiction Ruth, research on Eugenics is still on. And these people exist. That is not a theory but the money part is a theory.

d. chedwick said...

but you must have known your address, so at least you had some info. now we don;t even have that much.

Ruth said...

I don't know anything about it, rauf. Just Dan Brown's books, and those are fiction. But it wouldn't surprise me about the NEW WORLD ORDER.

Ruth said...

D. Chedwick, I can't say I knew my address then. But even if I did, it didn't do me any good by myself. Maybe the guy in the truck asked. I don't remember.

You don't know your address?

Ruth said...

On the topic of the money, if you have time, Winter Patriot has a very good piece today on why a bailout isn't the answer:

The problems include: an insane level of military spending; repeated cuts to the funding of our social systems and physical infrastructure; excessive tax cuts, especially for the excessively rich; extreme deregulation, especially of the financial "industry"; the movement of formerly American industries to foreign countries; increasing global population; limited global resources; increasing destruction of our natural environment; and the strain of committing multiple war crimes simultaneously. All these forces acting together mean that things are getting more expensive, and that we are becoming less able to afford them.

Read the whole piece here, you'll need to scroll down the page:

Ruth said...

Just to give one more sentence connected to that last bit:

"We can't change any of this by giving hundreds of billions of dollars to the banks that have done the worst job of managing their investments, no matter how many hundreds of billions of dollars we give them."

Rauf said...

oh no ! eugenics, the new world order is not Dan Brown fiction Ruth
the Masons and illuminati are not his fiction toos.

Ruth said...

Oh! ok. See, I don't know nuttin. Don't even know what I thought I knowed.

Bob Johnson said...

Wow, love reading the comments, I've learned more here then any article I've read on the topic,whatever topic it ended up being, anywho, I am so glad I live in Canada, we are so far removed from you guys and when it falls or changes to fascism or the new world order it won't hurt us at all, we'll continue on our merry way, happy happy joy joy, that's us Canadians.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Sorry to jump back in here but you are kidding, right Bob???... .. make no mistake, whatever happens to the States, our neighbors, will affect us greatly!!!!!

Ruth said...

Bob, hahahahahahaha. I know you'd rather be on the moon anyway, and you're pretty close up there, eh?

Ruth said...

Gwen! :D

Actually, I'm always impressed with how much you know about our daily dramas Stateside. What is there for the world but to watch us make fools of ourselves?

Gwen Buchanan said...

Oh I know he was joking now!!!

I guess when you're a little mouse sleeping by a big fuzzy cat you sleep with one eye open...

Actually it's not hard to know what is happening in the states as it is on our CBC radio station practically 24/7... It is a constant topic of discussion...

Rauf said...

Ruth, if i want to know what is happening in the US i would ask a Canadian

Ruth said...

Gwen, how kind!! A big fuzzy cat!! Wow, that's the nicest description I've heard of America in a while.

Since I've blogged these last two years, I've 'met' more Canadians than I've known in my life, and so I've witnessed more of how some of you view your own government, but especially how you view your southern neighbor, us.

I'm sorry about your PM (I only know what I hear and read, which isn't much), I thought our allies would continue to vote in leaders of a different persuasion, as happened in Australia, Italy and France.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Funny thing is ... I think the US gov't affects us more than our gov't does... we are the 51st state after all...

Ruth said...

rauf, ain't it the truth!

I might have told you when I was leaving Ireland in 2006, the taxi driver on the way to the airport talked non-stop about American politics. He was much more knowledgeable about our issues than our students were, I'm sorry to say.

Rauf said...

i am a dangerous person when alone Ruth, i nearly burnt the house twice. so my sisters don't leave me alone. or they give instructions to the neighbours to keep an eye on me.
so i look for a sugar bowl, i can't find it, i go to the neighbour Chandra Akka and ask her, she comes and says,here is the sugar bowl.
i open the kitchen tap but can't close it.
water keeps running. i rush out and ask my other neighbour raani akka, she comes and closes the tap, which needs a whack at the top to close it. My neighbours knew everything about my house. i knew nothing.
The first lady Chandra akka is here now sitting with my sister, they have sold the house and moved away, she is very old now in her 80's my sisters help her. she has lot of affection Ruth., she's nearly blind now.

Ruth said...

I'm smiling, rauf.

That's actually quite wonderful. Most of us are reluctant to depend on anyone, neighbors or anyone else. We don't like to feel that vulnerable. But without it we are becoming less enlightened people. I am always impressed when professors tell me they learn from their students, rauf. Imagine a professor who has read maybe 150 books on a specific topic or author, written a few, receiving fresh insights from young minds.

Oh I'm sorry that Chandra Akka is going blind. I'm sure she can feel your affection for her too, and your sisters'. We need to open up to each other more like that.

Ginnie said...

I had tears in my eyes, Ruth, after reading your kindergarten story. I had never heard it before.

Ruth said...

Boots, it's frightening to think what might have happened.

sm said...