Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The nasty party

I have just finished reading "Hijacking America: How the Secular and Religious Right Changed What Americans Think" by Susan George. I find it hard to think about American politics without getting depressed. In the book George argues that the swing to the right has been expertly managed by business leaders, lobbyists, religious nuts, thinktanks and right-wing intellectuals - they have managed to thwart responses to climate change, ensured that the poor get poorer while the rich get richer, stymied cell stem research, put the knife in gay marriage and got people believing in Creationism. Congratulations to them - they pulled it off, and George shows exactly how they did it - while the progressives rested on their laurels, complacent that their "sharing is good" ideology would win out because it is inherently nicer, the right-wing were planning, waiting and scheming for the last two decades. The only other book I've read that is equally depressing is George Orwell's 1984 - and at least that's fiction.

Perhaps the most upsetting note in the book is that even if Obama gets elected, it's unlikely to make a huge difference to the direction the country has taken. The damage is done. And it's not just in America, but the shift is happening across the world. Politicalcompass.org lists the current stances of the Conservatives and Labour party as firmly in the authoritarian/right quadrant of their map (although both have shifted slighty towards the centre in the last couple of years). There isn't much in it though, and oddly, if you want a more progressive government, it looks like politicalcompass would advise you vote Tory out of the two.

I wonder how long all this large-scale selfishness and delusion can go on for?

1 comment:

Fin De Fichier said...

"I find it hard to think about American politics without getting depressed."

Try living here, baby!

Yeah, it's bad. You know, when Bush was elected 8 years ago I said to myself with absolute certainty, this will be awful, but we will survive. What else can you believe?
The cynic in me knows that some of the main "tropes" of liberalism are inherently self-destructive. It's not that they are bad, per se, in fact you or George sum it up perfectly: "complacency that their sharing is good ideology would win out..." Look at how the democratic primary became the miasma of identity politics that it was. Only the air-headed democratic party of the US could have managed to pull that off. And as I once wrote on my own blog, the enlightened who do not fear death are less motivated by the urge to procreate than those who do. Hence the enlightened have an unfortunate way of [not] breeding themselves out of existence.
OTOH history has shown that the pendulum of human progress is hard to predict. The end of the world has been predicted many times before, thus far incorrectly. The power structure is always trying to steer people to the right because that is the best way to control them, but within that continuum there are little ripples of positive change. Admittedly I cannot be sure if these will be lasting or not. Take race relations: it really has vastly improved in the past 30-40 years in the country. The last time I was in the south, mind you a progressive part of the south, I saw young children of mixed races playing together. That pretty much invariably means those people will not grow up with the degree of prejudice their parents had. Also, although there is still plenty of idiotic homophobia in this country, there are signs that the younger generation is moving beyond the childishness of that. For example a survey shows a vast majority of the enlisted US military does not oppose admitting gays. Even a large number of so-called "christians" who opposed it on their so-called "moral" grounds. It's the older, higher ranking members who still have a so-called "moral" issue with it to the degree they would not admit gays. Again these kind of changes are mostly irreversible in my opinion. A young man says to himself: oh my god, I stopped hating gays and I didn't become gay. He can't go back to the ridiculous fears he once had after that.