An Empire of Clowns

An Empire of Clowns July 21, 2011

We are becoming a nation of barbarian clowns.

I’m speaking the obvious.

Look with clear eyes at television, or any form of mass media. Hell, look critically at lots of your fellow citizens.

We’re crude, crass, money-grubbing, uncouth, violent, predatory, childish clowns.

Do me a favor: go to one of the mainstream online dating sites (e.g., match.com), and pull up, say, 20 random profiles of American female members who are in their 20s. Read the text. I’d bet you a fair amount of money that one recurring sub-text will come up very, very often: a lot of their “what I’m looking for” text can be boiled down to, “Look, guys – I’m lonely and would just like to meet someone and spend a day having fun. Please don’t rape me or beat me up.”

See what I mean?

Good.

Now go to that same dating website, but the version aimed toward…it doesn’t really matter…let’s say Denmark. Use Google translate and read those women’s “what I’m looking for” text. See? Nothing on there pleading with predatory men not to make them a victim – or at least, it is way, way rarer.

It is becoming more and more clear that our society is deeply, deeply sick, and has been for quite some time. It can barely be said to merit the description of “society” at all. More and more, it is just a collection of people who happen to all have the same country on their official documents, who are convinced that the only way to survive is to be even more ruthless than their fellow citizens “competitors.”

The oligarchs who pull the strings in the fading remnants of our “civilization” are some utterly craven and ruthless people – and they set the tone for everyone else.

I believe that economic and social collapse is becoming inevitable. The only thing that will stave it off – breaking the power of the oligarchs – is opposed too intractably by those same oligarchs. They own all the mass media of consequence. They set the agenda, and control the topic of discussion, the Story We Tell Ourselves, so thoroughly that counter-narratives have no real chance of gaining widespread traction.

If I’m right, the price for all of us will be dire – except the uber-rich, of course, who will either employ armies of security people to keep the rabble at a comfortable distance, or else just decamp for greener pastures in the developing world – and will require that we put aside the fetuses-and-gay-people fights that have distracted us, and get serious about helping one another, in very practical ways, to get through the coming collapse. This is the only option that makes sense from a Catholic perspective. Other options are more likely, I believe – there is a significant risk of an authoritarian dictatorship taking over the United States in the next few years, as increasingly desperate and alienated people look for Someone Strong Enough To Fix Everything.

But, just possibly, you and I can build a country that will be serve the interests, and be worthy of the dreams, of the people who’ve been getting shafted the last 30 years. I’d love to help build that country.

"If I am only now scaring you, I need to bring my A game. :-)"

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  • The Pachyderminator

    Dismissing “fetuses and gay people” as a distraction is too facile. Like it or not, those are among the biggest issues of public morality in recent decades. If the collapse you predict comes, those issues – or rather, the broader issues of the decline of marriage and the lack of respect for human life that these political issues instantiate – will have played no small part in bringing it about. It makes sense from a Catholic perspective to address societal problems at the root.

    That said, I’d be interested to hear your practical ideas for how we can help each other. While I think and certainly hope your authoritarian dictatorship clock is a little fast, it’s as well to be prepared.

    • If the collapse you predict comes, those issues – or rather, the broader issues of the decline of marriage and the lack of respect for human life that these political issues instantiate – will have played no small part in bringing it about. It makes sense from a Catholic perspective to address societal problems at the root.

      Our sexually compulsive and abortion-getting society are among the symptoms I might have listed.

      No – the collapse, when it comes, will be the result (as it usually is) of the concentration of wealth and power at the very top, and the resulting desperation and political and social unrest among the people who’ve been screwed. That’s where abortion and our society’s twisted notions of sexuality come from. Desperate people do desperate things.

      We’ll be undone by greed and its consequences, not because of loosened sexual mores and its consequences.

      I’d be interested to hear your practical ideas for how we can help each other. While I think and certainly hope your authoritarian dictatorship clock is a little fast, it’s as well to be prepared.

      You’re asking the right questions.

      Job one would be preventing it from happening in the first place. Tyranny doesn’t just spring forth from nowhere. I mean, Germans didn’t just wake up in 1933 and say to each other, “You know, things are just peachy in the country — let’s elect and serve a brutal dictator who’ll overrun Europe and kill millions.”

      It typically results from crises that profoundly threaten people’s sense of security and stability, and then a person and political party selling himself as The Strong Man Who Will Fix Everything.

  • digbydolben

    That “man on the white horse” is coming. His name is General Petraeus, and he will be the candidate of the Party of the Right in 2016, after the Repugnants’ debacle against the slick and corrupt Obomber in 2012.

  • The Pachyderminator

    It typically results from crises that profoundly threaten people’s sense of security and stability, and then a person and political party selling himself as The Strong Man Who Will Fix Everything.

    So we should just keep an eye out for this and be prepared to reject anything that looks like it? I certainly agree with that. Or do you mean such a person (e.g. Obama) could be on the scene already?

    His name is General Petraeus, and he will be the candidate of the Party of the Right in 2016, after the Repugnants’ debacle against the slick and corrupt Obomber in 2012.

    I’ll keep that in mind.

    • So we should just keep an eye out for this and be prepared to reject anything that looks like it? I certainly agree with that. Or do you mean such a person (e.g. Obama) could be on the scene already?

      To the extent that Obama serves the interests of Wall Street and the rich, he’s making the situation worse. He and his party have been corrupted by Wall Street; the Republicans, though? This is Who They Are. The most worrying signs of fascism are all on the American political right these days. There’s the Cult of Masculinity; the glorification of militarism; the presentation of the empowerment of women as some sort of Threat To Civilization; the scapegoating of ethnic and social minorities – and much else. The American right has gone completely and totally insane, in my view.

      The simple truth is this: Obama is what would pass for a moderately conservative Republican of a few decades ago – he’s…Gerald Ford with way more charisma.

      But the current Republican Party narrative is that he’s a Radically Dangerous Interloper, because…well, why, exactly? Is it because he essentially passed Mitt Romney’s Healthcare plan? Proposed (didn’t succeed at, but merely mentioned) raising top marginal tax rates to a point still lower than under that notorious Leninist radical, Ronald Reagan? Is it that he’s moving the country toward an Ayn Rand “heaven” of economic ruthlessness…more slowly than their guy would? Is it that he’s not whiter than a Norwegian glacier?

  • Phillip

    “the presentation of the empowerment of women as some sort of Threat To Civilization…”

    It seems most of the demonization of powerful women the past couple of years has come from the left.

    • That’s the “I know you are but what am I” / tu quoque play. Try harder, Phillip.

  • Phillip

    “No – the collapse, when it comes, will be the result (as it usually is) of the concentration of wealth and power at the very top, and the resulting desperation and political and social unrest among the people who’ve been screwed. That’s where abortion and our society’s twisted notions of sexuality come from. Desperate people do desperate things.”

    In a study by Torres and Forrest (1998)

    The vast majority (in excess of 90%) of abortions are sought for personal reasons:
    21% feel that they do not have the financial resources to bring up a child.
    21% feel that they are not ready for the responsibility of raising a child.
    16% feel that their life would be changed too much. She might have a plan for her future (education, developing a career, etc.) that does not allow for having a child at the present time. She might be looking after an elderly parent and does not have sufficient time or energy to commit to a baby.
    12% feel that her relationship with her partner is in difficulty.
    11% feel that they are too young, and not sufficiently mature to become a mother.
    In 8% of the cases, her children are grown and she does not want to start another family, or she has all the children that she wants.

    From this older study, only one-fifth of abortions are for economic reasons. Its not clear how income distrubution contribute to this fifth of abortions as there are no studies of the connection. It is even unclear if income inequality contributes to crime:

    http://www.ou.edu/cls/online/lstd2333/pdfs/unit4_income_inequality.pdf

    Given these, it seems you statement is weak at best.

    • Phillip – you’re proving my point.

      • Phillip

        I’m not sure how. You claim income inequality is a cause of abortion. But only a minority of abortions are for economic reasons and there is no connection of income inequality with those.

      • Phillip

        Sorry, the comment was in response to your comment.

  • brettsalkeld

    I’ll admit the “fetuses-and-gay-people” comment caught me off guard, but when I reread the sentence I saw something more. It’s not that these issues need to be bypassed, but that the way we “fight” about them is completely unproductive. In this sense, I agree with Matt, who did say “fetuses-and-gay-people fights.” The way we conduct ourselves on these issues (roughly, anyone who doesn’t see it just the way I do is both stupid and evil) ensures we will never make any progress on them and that we will fail to discern the deeper crisis underlying them.

    • Right, Brett. I could have been clearer on that.

  • Francisco

    I think you’ve been reading too much Chris Hedges.

  • Francisco

    Well his whole shtick is that we are headed for economic and social collapse because too much power is in the hands of our greed corporate overlords. It’s an attractive narrative, but here’s the thing. I have no idea whether it’s true or not. No one does. The future is incredibly hard to predict.

    That being said, I like Chris Hedges. He is fun to read. And, I think the moral outrage over rich people with lots of power consistently screwing over ordinary folks is probably appropriate. But, rich powerful people screwing-over ordinary people isn’t exactly a recent phenomenon. So, you’ll need to show me more than that to convince me that society is inevitably headed toward collapse.

    Plus, your style just sounded like his in this post.