Wednesday, April 18, 2012

between a rock and a hard place

So Bridget wanted me to write something, and this something kind of sucks. 

It could always be worse, I guess. I could have to choose between Hitler and Stalin running wild through the country, I could have to choose between fundie wackjobs of one stripe and CIA spooks if I lived in Egypt. Instead, my society gives me an option: I get to pick from one who claims to care a lot, and one who makes few bones about caring at all. I hate election season with every fiber of my being because after being stupid in 2004, I can no longer do this whole "lesser of two evils" thing. I remember once looking forward to being old enough to vote, believing that it mattered, that I could change things by punching a card or filling a bubble and wearing a sticker, and then by the time that rolled around, 9/11 happened and everyone claims to love America more than the next guy and blame the other guy for all the problems that they themselves perpetuate.

It hit me for the first time how fucked up things really were when I started reading The Gulag Archipelago and realized that the way that the Soviets treated political prisoners in the gulag was the exact same thing we were doing here in the "free world." Stress positions, sleep deprivations, and so on and so forth, but oh it's not torture when we do it, it's been rebranded as "enhanced interrogation" because those "enemies of the state" are so dangerous just like those dissidents were behind the iron curtain. And that's the black sites. "Oh," people say, well we don't do that anymore because Obama's  president" but I can't buy this because when the previous wrongs aren't dealt with, in the name of looking forward, it was only a harbinger of a continuation of the kinder gentler machine gun hand.

And I wonder if it all boils down to our lack of value for human life on both sides, for when it's inconvenient or deemed not quite our equal, be it people of a different religion/look/orientation/birthplace/place in the gestation period/place in the social hierarchy, because let's be honest, very very few of us believe in real equality of people. We think some people are better and more valuable and more important than others, that others don't have the right to exist or enjoy the same rights that we take for granted, and dehumanize those others, whoever those others may be, and strip them of their dignity and often their existence.

When both resort to cost-benefit analysis when lives are involved, be it with welfare or war. Employers who realize that they can slice and dice, who see humans as resources rather than as souls, who realize that they can have less people do more work or maybe less people do more work somewhere where OSHA and basic living wages don't exist and watch the money roll in.

The overlords don't care about us, and most of the time the unions don't either, so we're caught in this ideological tug of war where the ones in power take turns winning and the rest of us continue to lose. The younger Teamsters at my dad's work are paying into a system from which they will probably not see anything, the middle managers and CEOs everywhere tell us we should be happy because aren't we so lucky to have these jobs where we're undervalued, underemployed, and underpaid while they make six figures and don't see the cognitive dissonance, the yawning divide between our world and theirs. And these are just the first world problems.

Our government has tortured people, our government has outsourced that torture to our friends in strategically located countries. No wonder people hate us. I'd hate us too. And God help you if you're an undocumented immigrant trying to feed your kids because you're dealing both with gun-toting wingnut wackjobs and a merciless state where you can just kind of disappear.

Everyone takes turns getting shrill and flipping out because the other side is always the second coming of Hitler but what it's getting old to blame Bush for a war that's still going on, and one that's supposedly over but  we've got mercenaries and drones there indefinitely, not to mention all the other messes we got in, for all the drones in Pakistan and Yemen and everywhere else. Our biggest export is killing machines. Oh there's less collateral damage for our side, but tell that to the parents and the siblings of those who've lost their kids, though evidently they don't matter if they're far away and practice a different religion or don't look like you, or because it's your president that you want so badly to still believe in, that you'll make any excuse. What I hear out of Democrats in 2012 is what I heard out of Republicans in 2004... we're in too deep, we can't change now, he needs more time to fix this, but remember where we were in 2008? That sucked, and I hope I'm wrong but I think 2016 will suck too.

There's enough of the crazy on both sides of the domestic front of the "keep your rosaries off my ovaries" and vice versa variety that people don't seem to notice that laws and decisions are made that are such that any cop being able to strip you naked and the Powers That Be being able to indefinitely detain you for any nebulous reason related to national security. Hey, we let them do it to people in other countries,, what's to say it won't be done to us too? Hell, it's been going on here in those neighborhoods on the other side of town for awhile now. Inhuman prison conditions, lopsided penalties for crack versus cocaine? Oh but that happens to other people who are bad.

Sure, there are crazy people with guns out there in the hinterlands who really hate The Man or whatever, but I fear them less than I do the state, because most of the survivalists might be crazy but usually want to be left the hell alone, and the other has a lot more structural weight behind it that can destroy your world if you end up on the wrong side. Maybe that's not terribly logical, but it's where I've come to. 

So really, the only people that matter in the world to most of us is us. It's easier not to see, it's easier to blame the other side when they're really two sides of the same coin. Easier to freak out about straw men and endlessly debate intractable issues where this is no middle ground.  I don't know if I believe in revolution because most of the time, it's just a new set of jerks with axes to grind and everyone on the bottom still gets screwed. I don't have faith in humanity, or political systems or much of anything except the big thing. I don't know if it's better anywhere else. I wish I could conjure up non-sucky jobs for the people I know out of work, I wish I could see people held accountable for the suffering they cause in this life. I think I manage to piss off almost anyone when I get going. It's a good thing only 3 people read this because I've probably done that to you too.

When one voice rules the nation
Just because they're top of the pile
Doesn't mean their vision is the clearest
The voices of the people
Are falling on deaf ears
Our politicians all become careerists

They must declare their interests
But not their company cars
Is there more to a seat in parliament
Than sitting on your arse
And the best of all this bad bunch
Is shouting to be heard
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

Outside the patient millions
Who put them into power
Expect a little more back for their taxes
Like school books, beds in hospitals
And peace in our bloody time
All they get is old men grinding axes

Who've built their private fortunes
On the things they can rely
The courts, the secret handshake
The Stock Exchange and the old school tie
For God and Queen and Country
All things they justify
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

God bless the civil service
The nations saving grace
While we expect democracy
They're laughing in our face
And although our cries get louder
The laughter gets louder still
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

Above the sound of ideologies,
Above the sound of ideologies,
Above the sound of ideologies clashing


  1. A light exists in spring
    Not present on the year
    At any other period.
    When March is scarcely here

    A color stands abroad
    On solitary hills
    That science cannot overtake,
    But human nature feels.

    It waits upon the lawn;
    It shows the furthest tree
    Upon the furthest slope we know;
    It almost speaks to me.

    Then, as horizons step,
    Or noons report away,
    Without the formula of sound,
    It passes, and we stay:

    A quality of loss
    Affecting our content,
    As trade had suddenly encroached
    Upon a sacrament.

  2. I would be so pissed off that I'd never come back if I didn't agree with 95.2% of this. Good cop/bad cop play in the same foursome and get blotto at the same 19th hole. If their paymasters want them to exploit something that can be exploited without a danger of torches and pitchforks, i.e. everything, the goopers will righteously rage, the dums will rub their hands in faux sadness, both doing their jobs to perfection and one more thread is pulled out of the rug underneath our feet.

  3. Four people read this if you count me.

    You lay the frustrations out pretty much the way I feel them. If we don't punish the bad actors and we carry on with their bad policies, we haven't really changed anything.

    I'm convinced that one thing is at the root of the problem. Money. As long as it rules our political system, we don't have much hope of seeing anything improve.