Some Personal Thoughts
Recently I had a day where I burned out on anger. Oh yes, when it comes to public affairs I’ve been angry for years, though I think rage is the more applicable word. I don’t think this rage was misplaced, and I still get spasms of it.
The reason for the rage is simple enough: we’re killing and making a lot of people suffer who don’t need to with our political policies, economic policies just being a subset of politics. The financial collapse was forseen by many, myself included and we told the powers that be what to do to avoid it. The rise of economic inequality, which is correlated with pretty much every bad thing you can imagine, from heart attacks to infant mortality to bad performance in school and crime (read the Spirit Level if you need this proved in tedious detail), has been going on since the mid 70s at the latest, and was clearly visible by the mid eighties. It was, and is a clear policy choice. It was chosen in response to a real problem, the end of cheap oil and the rise of the oilarchy rich, but it was a choice, there were other ways of dealing with the problem available. First the Brits, then the Americans, then the Canadians and then various other nations chose the policy option which would lead to increased inequality. This was combined with a concerted assault on civil liberties, in this case I believe starting in America with the War on Drugs. Society became more totalitarian, whatever the trappings, and less free, not just in government, but in every part of our lives. I find the way we treat our children today, with virtually no freedom, particularly odious (no your precious children are not in more danger than children in the 60s and 70s who were allowed to run free). Police in schools are routine now, we imprison people in stunningly cruel prisons for minor crimes and so on. Visiting Britain was like visiting a starter project for Orwell’s 1984, with CCTV cameras everywhere.
Our response to the financial crisis, a totally optional crisis which was based almost entirely on fraud, was to make the poor and the middle class pay through austerity, while bailing out the rich with trillions and trillions of dollars. We gutted property rights completely so that banks could easily foreclose on homeowners and four years in, the economy, for ordinary people, has never recovered. We are now in a depression, and if it’s not yet a Great Depression, it’s bad enough. Now when I say pay, I mean suffer. People died, wives and children were beaten, people became homeless, lost their jobs, their health and their self respect because of a completely optional crisis and the criminals who caused the crisis were not just let off, they were rewarded with a huge bailout.
This was done in a bipartisan manner, but it could not have happened in the form it did without Obama. To give just one example, TARP was going to not pass the House. Nancy Pelosi was going to let it fail if the Republicans wouldn’t vote for it in equal proportion to Democrats. This is a fact, I was following it closely at the time as it was my job to do so. Calls were running between a 100:1 to 1200:1 against TARP. Obama got down and dirty and twisted arms, and I do mean twisted. Serious threats were made. TARP would not have passed without Obama. This policy of bailing out criminals who caused death and suffering continued throughout Obama’s reign.
Meanwhile there is the drone program. The drone program is not the worst thing Obama has ever done, not even close. What it is is completely unnecessary and counterproductive evil. Bombing weddings and funerals and killing innocent civilians, including women and children, is not making America safe, it is doing the exact opposite. The next great terrorist attack on the US, and there will be one, will be done by someone outraged by the wanton murder of the drone program.
We could go on and on, the point is simple enough. Evil has been done, and it is unnecessary evil. There were other options, I’ve written of them many times, and I’m not going to bother going over it again. Obama and Dems in Congress could have instituted different policies if that’s what they wanted to do. They didn’t. Bush and his Congress could have if they wanted to, they didn’t. Clinton, well, you get the idea.
Ok then, enough about politicians. They are what they are, and with the amount of money they stand to earn in their post-political career from carrying financial interests water it would take significant incentives to change their actions. Those incentives would be primarily social, and I believe they could be applied if Americans, or Brits, or Canadians really wanted to, but that’s neither here nor there, and not the subject of this post.
The people who sadden me are left-wingers who carried Obama’s water, who I know know better. I know they know his record. I know they know where this is all leading. I know because I was a professional blogger for years. I’ve met these people in person, I have corresponded with them, and I have talked to many of them. I have worked with many of them.
They know what Obama is, and they lied about him.
I know of only one rule of writing, which is that you tell the truth as you know it. I may be wrong, I may be full of shit (many people think so), but I tell the truth as I know it at the time I write to my readers.
What I have seen, from many lefties, bloggers and non-bloggers, is that they have become compromised. One needs the Supreme Court to stay as it is for his career, another works for a union think tank, and the policy is to carry Obama’s water, so he carries their water. Another got the words on gay rights he wanted, so he carries Obama’s water as he did in 2008, acting as Obama’s outlet for rumors they couldn’t plant in the media directly. A few are honest sellouts, admitting why they are carrying the water, others aren’t. Some make the lesser evil argument honestly, most don’t.
And what I realized one sad day is that most of them are limited. I am a left winger, and what academic training I have is in sociology. I believe that people are, largely, a product of their environment. If we want better people, we need a better environment. To blame the poor as a group for their own travails is stupid, if they had richer parents, they would have different outcomes and be different people The same is true of the rich, the middle class, and so on. They are products of their environment, and most people are little more than that. Nothing is more pathetic than people acclaiming their identity through the TV shows they consume, the branded clothes they wear and so on. They are simply choosing from a menu created by others. They are limited people, products of their environment, claiming they are something more.
I thought many of my ex-colleagues were more. I really did. I believed that they had some ability to stand outside society, even a little bit, and see it for what it was, and that in that detachment they could find honesty and an ability to see the world beyond the lens of their own place and their own needs. Upton Sinclair’s comment, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” is the perfect description of a limited person, intellectually and morally. If we cannot see beyond our own self-interest, or beyond our own need to feel good about ourselves, then we will never seen the world with anything even approaching clarity. If we cannot separate our interests from the interests of other people and from the interests of society, we are not fit to play any role in running society or commenting on it.
The error, in the end, was mine, I realize. I thought certain people were more than a product of their environment, more than a base need to do whatever it took to pay their bills and believe themselves still good people while doing so. I was wrong. The number is far fewer than I thought. Far, far fewer.
The consequence of a debased class of influentials, which is what we are talking about, is a debased understanding of the world. The more incorrect peoples understanding of the world, the more they will make incorrect decisions about what to do, and the more they do that the worse off they, and society, will be. When even people who know Obama’s record lie for him, when even people who understand the glide path that America is on pretend Obama is going to fix that, Americans live in a world of delusion. Of course they don’t make correct decisions, they are getting constant incorrect information. This isn’t just about what used to be called the MSM, this about the alternatives, the people who are the outliers.
I was part of political blogging when it was new, and a big deal, and intellectually exciting. When bloggers thought that their job was to tell truth both to power and to the masses. That world is gone, and the people who remain, with a few exceptions, no longer do that, no longer even believe in doing that.
Some will say this is a very self-congratulatory post, and that I’m patting myself on the back as truth teller, and oh, there are so few of us. Whatever. This is the world I see, and it is a world I lived in, worked in, was a senior member of. And this is not about self-congratulation, it is about sadness. I am saddened at the way people I knew, people I had respect for, have debased themselves for so very, very little.
If society is to function again for the benefit of all a lot of things need to be done. One of them is to fix the world of influentials, of whom bloggers are very minor members. To be an influential should be to be an intellectual, and to be an intellectual is to be able to stand outside ones own society, to see it through the dual eyes of an outsider and a member, then report the truth of what one sees.
One must be, then, more than product of one’s circumstances, more than a function of one’s personal interests.
Perhaps there is no place for such people in society today, perhaps the audience doesn’t want those people. But I don’t believe that, because I personally never had any problem generating traffic. The problem is that at a certain point, in blogging, traffic stopped paying, because the amount advertisers paid to the content creators on the web dropped through the floor, in large part because Google figured out how be the middle man and take almost all the money. So if you want to make money online you either need to exploit your contributors (not pay most of them) or you need to sell out.
But I’ve moved away from my main point. People respond to incentives like Pavlov’s dogs. If you want to be more than a dog, you have to train yourself to overcome your conditioning. It’s hard, and you won’t be able to do it all the time (and if you did, you’d be thrown in an insane asylum or be so non functional in society you’d be ostracized), but it is what is required to be an honest, useful influential. But knowing and believing something is only one part of it, you must then tell it.
A lot more people are going to suffer and die due to policies which are evil. Part of what makes that happen are the people who know better and lie, part of that is due to the people who convince themselves that evil is necessary because it is in their interests. They are not the most responsible, no. But they are responsible.
And I really did think better of so many of them.
Become more than your background, more than a function of the incentives placed in front of you. See the evil you yourself do, your society does, and stop needing to feel good about yourself.
Stop being someone else’s dog.