Thursday, September 01, 2005

Erosion of the Public Sphere

The magnitude of the disaster along the Gulf Coast has no doubt been exacerbated by the diversion of resources to the oil war and the lack of federal money and planning for an entirely predictable disaster. But a fundamental failure of American culture is also substantially to blame. The valorization of cowboy individualism, libertarian capitalism and unfettered development reached it zenith in the South. It has enriched the few by ignoring the future and the common good. It is good illustration of what is sometimes called the tragedy of the commons and it is also a very clear example of what's wrong with libertarianism.

Chris Floyd: 'The perfect storm'

    .... as culpable, criminal and loathsome as the Bush Administration is, it is only the apotheosis of an overarching trend in American society that has been gathering force for decades: the destruction of the idea of a common good, a public sector whose benefits and responsibilities are shared by all, and directed by the consent of the governed. For more than 30 years, the corporate Right has waged a relentless and highly focused campaign against the common good, seeking to atomize individuals into isolated "consumer units" whose political energies - kept deliberately underinformed by the ubiquitous corporate media - can be diverted into emotionalized "hot button" issues (gay marriage, school prayer, intelligent design, flag burning, welfare queens, drugs, porn, abortion, teen sex, commie subversion, terrorist threats, etc., etc.) that never threaten Big Money's bottom line.

    Again deliberately, with smear, spin and sham, they have sought - and succeeded - in poisoning the well of the democratic process, turning it into a tabloid melee where only "character counts" while the rapacious policies of Big Money's bought-and-sold candidates are completely ignored. As Big Money solidified its ascendancy over government, pouring billions - over and under the table - into campaign coffers, politicians could ignore larger and larger swathes of the people. If you can't hook yourself up to a well-funded, coffer-filling interest group, if you can't hire a big-time Beltway player to lobby your cause and get you "a seat at the table," then your voice goes unheard, your concerns are shunted aside. (Apart from a few cynical gestures around election-time, of course.) The poor, the sick, the weak, the vulnerable have become invisible - in the media, in the corporate boardroom, "at the table" of the power players in national, state and local governments. The increasingly marginalized and unstable middle class is also fading from the consciousness of the rulers, whose servicing of the elite gets more brazen and frantic all the time.

    When unbridled commercial development of delicately balanced environments like the Mississippi Delta is bruited "at the table," whose voice is heard? Not the poor, who, as we have seen this week, will overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the overstressed environment. And not the middle class, who might opt for the security of safer, saner development policies to protect their hard-won homes and businesses. No, the only voice that matters is that of the developers themselves, and the elite investors who stand behind them.

    The destruction of New Orleans was a work of nature - but a nature that has been worked upon by human hands and human policies. As global climate change continues its deadly symbiosis with unbridled commercial development for elite profit, we will see more such destruction, far more, on an even more devastating scale. As the harsh, aggressive militarism and brutal corporate ethos that Bush has injected into the mainstream of American society continues to spread its poison, we will see fewer and fewer resources available to nurture the common good. As the political process becomes more and more corrupt, ever more a creation of elite puppetmasters and their craven bagmen, we will see the poor and the weak and even the middle class driven further and further into the low ground of society, where every passing storm - economic, political, natural - will threaten their homes, their livelihoods, their very existence.

1 Comments:

At 9/01/2005 11:53 AM, Blogger Russ said...

The beauty of capitalism is charity. What we are seeing in this great capitalist experiment called America is that the "common good" will be met by giving individuals. No socialist nanny-government needed here. Charitable giving beats state mandated coercion every time.

 

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