I survive the degradation that has become America–a land that exalts itself as a bastion of freedom and liberty while it tortures human beings, stripped of their rights, in offshore penal colonies, a land that wages wars defined under international law as criminal wars of aggression, a land that turns its back on its poor, its weak, its mentally ill, in a relentless drive to embrace totalitarian capitalism–because I read books.
The fundamental problem in the Middle East is not a degenerate and corrupt Islam. The fundamental problem is a degenerate and corrupt Christendom. We have not brought freedom and democracy and enlightenment to the Muslim world. We have brought the opposite.
We have used the iron fist of the American military to implant our oil companies in Iraq, occupy Afghanistan, and ensure that the region is submissive and cowed. We have supported a government in Israel that has carried out egregious war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza and is daily stealing ever-greater portions of Palestinian Land. We have established a network of military bases, some the size of small cities, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait, and we have secured basing rights in the Gulf states of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
We have expanded our military operations to Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, Egypt, Algeria and Yemen. And no one naively believes, except parts us, that we have any intention of leaving.
Nothing in my view is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming controversial; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is to be asked back, to consult, to be on a board or prestigious committee, and so to remain within the responsible mainstream; someday you hope to get an honorary degree, a big prize, perhaps even an ambassadorship.
Can anyone following the Israeli air attacks on Gaza–the buildings blown to rubble, the children killed on their way to school, the long rows of mutilated corpses, the wailing mothers and wives, the crowds of terrified Palestinians not knowing where to flee, the hospitals so overburdened and out of supplies they cannot treat the wounded, and our studied, callous indifference to this widespread suffering–wonder why we are hated?
… will leave at least twenty-three million people without insurance, a figure that translates into an estimated twenty-three thousand unnecessary deaths a year among people who cannot afford care. It will permit prices to climb so that many of us will soon be paying close to ten percent of our annual income to buy commercial health insurance, although this coverage will pay for only about seventy percent of our medical expenses. Those who become seriously ill, lose their incomes, and cannot pay skyrocketing premiums will be denied coverage. And at least $447 billion in taxpayer subsidies will now be handed to insurance firms.
We will be forced by law to buy their defective products.
“This legislation moves us further into the direction of the commodification of health care,” Margaret Flowers said:
“It requires people to purchase health insurance. It takes public dollars to subsidize the purchase of that private insurance. It not only forces people to purchase this private product, but uses public dollars and gives them directly to these corporations. In return there are no caps on premiums. We estimate that because they are required to cover people with preexisting conditions, they will argue that they will have to raise premiums.”
The robber barons of the late nineteenth century used goons and thugs to beat up workers and retain control. The corporations, employing the science of public relations, have used actors, artists, writers, scholars and filmmakers to manipulate and shape public opinion. Corporations employ the college-educated liberal elite to saturate the culture with lies.
The liberal class should have defied the emasculation of radical organizations, including the Communist Party. Instead it was lured into the corporate embrace. It became a class of collaborators. National cohesion, because our intellectual life has become so impoverished, revolves around the empty pursuits of mass culture, brands, consumption, status, and the bland uniformity of opinions disseminated by corporate-friendly courtiers. We speak and think in the empty slogans and cliches we are given. And they are given to us by the liberal class.
“The truly powerless people are those intellectuals–the new realists–who attach themselves to the seats of power, where they surrender their freedom of expression without gaining any significance as political figures,” Irving Howe wrote:
“For it is crucial to the history of the American intellectuals in the past few decades–as well as to the relationship between “wealth” and “intellect”–that whenever they become absorbed into the accredited institutions of society they not only lose their traditional rebelliousness but to one extent or another they cease to function as intellectuals.
The institutional world needs intellectuals because they are intellectuals, but it does not want them as intellectuals. It beckons to them because of what they are but it will not allow them, at least within its sphere of articulation, either to remain or entirely cease being what they are. It needs them for their knowledge, their talent, their inclinations and passions; it insists that they retain a measure of these endowments, which it means to employ for its own ends, and without which the intellectuals would be of no use to it whatever. A simplified but useful equation suggests itself: the relation of the institutional world to the intellects is as the relation of middlebrow culture to serious culture; the one battens the other, absorbs and raids it with increasing frequency and skill, subsidizes and encourages it enough to make further raids possible–at times the parasite will support its victim.
Surely this relationship must be one reason for the high incidence of neurosis that is supposed to prevail among intellectuals. A total estrangement from the sources of power and prestige, even a blind unreasoning rejection of every aspect of our culture, would be far healthier if only because it would permit a free discharge of aggression.”
The liberal class prefers comfort to confrontation. It will not challenge the decaying structures of the corporate state. It is intolerant within its ranks of those who do. It clings pathetically to the carcass of the Obama presidency. It has been exposed as a dead force in American politics.
We must find our way back to the old radicals, to the discredited Marxists, socialists and anarchists, including Dwight Macdonald and Dorothy Day.
Language is our first step toward salvation. We cannot fight what we cannot describe.
Our ruling class of technocrats, as John Ralston Saul points out, is effectively illiterate. “One of the reasons that he is unable to recognize the necessary relationship between power and morality is that moral traditions are the product of civilization and he has little knowledge of his own civilization,” Saul writes of the technocrat. Saul calls these technocrats “hedonists of power,” and warns that their “obsession with structures and their inability or unwillingness to link these to the public good make this power an abstract force–a force that works, more often than not, at cross-purposes to the real needs of a painfully real world.”