American Samizdat

Thursday, November 29, 2007. *
What if we have already been "rounded up?"
The pragmatism of a dystopian present-tense.

It seems reasonable to me that politically aware people would be waxing dystopian lately. We're witnessing bizarre and regular shocks to our collective pysche...

  • The Katrina Massacre (a city overtaken by paramilitary thugs, mass death and random imprisonment/police violence

  • police brutality at shutting down mass demonstrations (such as the LAPD Immigration rally melee)

  • tasering civilians practicing free speech in a university setting

  • Grand jury subpoenas IP addresses of alt-newsweekly readership

Given these abuses, it's only normal to air our anxiety about what happens next. We worry for our kids: what sort of world they are inheriting? We want to fix it. Instead of paranoid "fantasies," I see worried "parents" are getting over their fear of what happens next and entering a "strategy" phase, as Naomi Klein hopefully posits in The Shock Doctrine:
when the shock starts to wear off, we can get down to the business of making life better.

So, it's with alarm and puzzlement, that "worst case scenario" discussions often attract heated debate as to whether or not the worst could really happen "here." Some people seem personally invested in the notion that nothing that bad could ever happen here. Their posts are peppered with tinfoily hats and eyeroll icons. I guess the desire is to claim a moral or intellectual high ground, as if there's an upside to ignoring creeping authoritarianism. Is there a real-world upside to ignoring the temperature rising under our amphibious butts?

I'm puzzled by this response, because, as I see it, no one loses when ideas are freely discussed. If no worse case scenario happens, well, yea. In the meantime, why wouldn't you "reality check" and strategize?

Setting this aside for a moment, I think it's significant that our discussions are evolving from mere anxiety to strategizing. Might we be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, if we are no longer afraid to answer these questions?

I'm going to assert that our worst case scenarios HAVE ALREADY HAPPENED. Consider New Orleans in the wake of the levee failures and the paramilitary takeover.

Doesn't it seem like we had a worst case scenario there? For all the people who died in their attics, or lost their homes, or are forever poisoned from the environment, it doesn't get any worse.

The narrative that has captured our imagination and generated controversy is the "good german" myth, where rights are diminished to the point of non-existence, while everyone looks on. We imagine that we'll know when "it's fascism" by the presence of government troops and concentration camps. But, the founders of this country imagined a different worse case scenario -- tyranny in the form oligarchy and theocracy. Our laws and Constitution were written to protect the people from the concentration of wealth and political power. Who here can say that we are not yet danger regarding these threats? Who here can say that economic and political power haven't ALREADY slipped from our grasp?

What if the shit hit the fan a long time ago and we're not noticing it because we've grown accustomed to the constant stream of poo covering our cultural landscape? "Good german" scenarios warn against the loss of freedom. So, can someone please tell me what freedom it is that you are afraid of losing? Can you put that "freedom" in plain sight so that we can guard it more carefully? Because, think we have basic misunderstanding. The Good German Syndrome is the fear of complicity in the face of loss of freedom. I think our problem is more serious and talk about "freedom" is meaningless. Our problem is that we've lost our POWER, not our FREEDOM.

Our problem is that we've lost our POWER, not our FREEDOM.

We can speak all we want. We can speak in "free speech zones." We can speak if we don't mind being tasered. We can march in mass demonstrations if we aren't too afraid of being caught in the middle of a melee. We can post on DU, as long as we don't mind that the telecomms are keeping track of everything we say. We have freedom of movement as long as we don't mind cavity searches if we show up on a secret "no-fly" list.

We have freedom-in-quotation-marks in spades.

The problem is we have no power to be heard because our government has no interest in speech that doesn't come in an envelope with a large donation.

We have no power to be heard.

Does money equal speech, as the Supreme Court will likely rule 5-to-4 for the rest of our lifetimes? If corporations enjoy "freedom of speech" via money (which I have very little of), then, how likely is it that my speech will be heard?

Earlier this week, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi lamented her inability to arrest those exercising free speech outside her Bay Area mansion. Do you think, if those wishing to be heard, came bearing giant corporporate donations, that they'd be outside building buddahs? No, they'd be inside being heard. Forget about having the power to compete against the deafening ka-ching of lobbyist checks being cashed. We no longer even have the commodious tolerance for speech (even in San Francisco!), by our so-called Democratic leadership. Were that we were homeless, indeed.

Freedom is nothing without POWER, and we're starting to realize just how vulnerable this has made us. Discussing "what if" and "worst case" scenarios is a response to our loss of power. It makes perfect sense to take inventory of our assets and formulate a response in the face of another, larger, deeper catastrophe -- such as the "World War 3" Bush says is "worth starting" in Iran.

I think we've already been "rounded up." We're fed-up, and we're not going to take it anymore. Our discussions at this point are about REGAINING POWER -- not pre-empting a disaster.

We have already been "rounded up."

To be fair, all of this stuff has been going on for 120+ years in America -- the labor wars and Farm Holiday movements and strikebusters and Pinkertons and concentration camps for socialists, to mention just a few bright moments in American History, make today's America look tame by comparison. And when I say "tame," I mostly mean the level of dissent.

Actually, when you take into consideration such horrors as the slavery of Africans, the genocide of the Native tribes and the crushing of early anarchist and anti-tax crusades such as the Whiskey Rebellion, there was *never* a time when America was "free." This country was simply less oppressive and less class-anchored than the grim starvation of post-serfdom Industrial Revolution Europe.

I had a moment of clarity a few weeks ago, reading some histories of the Great Depression and the wild fever of socialist revolution throughout urban Canada and the USA: It suddenly became clear why the communist witch hunts of the McCarthy era happened. It was because we were *this close* to socialist revolution in America in the 1930s.

Jesus, there were foreclosed farmers showing up with NOOSES at the courthouse, to hang the judges. Working people read all the Red papers, which were distributed across the country by working people riding the boxcars. Rural men -- today's loyal "conservatives" -- would disarm sheriffs and Pinkertons, sometimes violently. Scabs working the ports were literally stomped to death by union men. Millionaires (today's billionaires) would flee to walled compounds while their private armies fought the workers.

Goddamn. People used to have a *spine.* Now, the people are fat and dull, obedient to a dead god, obedient to aristocrats and kleptocrats, retarded by Pavlovian responses to things they don't even comprehend: socialism, left, anarchism, communism, revolution.

You want keyword hijinx that matter? "Red" was the proudest thing a North American worker could claim, just a century ago. Now, if the anti-union service worker with $30K in credit card debt and a foreclosed tract home even knows what "Red" means, he's against it.

Worse to come, so says Dante.
posted by Uncle $cam at 10:35 PM
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