Archive for the Elections Category

Bad Faith 2012: They aren’t out of touch, they’re just not talking to you.

Posted in Bad Faith, Elections, Media, News, Politics, USA with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2012 by Z

The conventional wisdom regarding both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama (according to their respective opponents in the left and right wings of the American neoliberal party with two names) is that they’re “out of touch.”  This is a very appealing explanation, especially in the case of Romney with his alien demeanor and cavalier country club financial sense (bet you how much, Mitt?).  However, there’s a better explanation.   They just aren’t talking to you.  The conversation taking place between candidates, pundits, etc. not only during election years, but all the time doesn’t require input from the American public.  It fact, it doesn’t even want it.  This conversation is about our future, but it isn’t one we’re actually invited to; it’s merely taking place where we can hear it.

 

When Mitt Romney stood in front of a crowd of his loyal followers at a palatial mansion and suggested that everyone should be able to live “like this,” many rightly pointed out that the very suggestion was absurd.  Of course it’s not possible for everyone to have a mansion with a household staff and all the ridiculous luxuries associated with that lifestyle (it’s especially impossible for the members of the household staff).  Yet, the people who pointed this out missed the point.  Mitt knows full well that not everyone can live his lifestyle (again, especially not the household staff).  So what’s the secret that renders this insane attitude comprehensible?  Simple – if you think his statement was strange, he wasn’t talking to you.  He was talking to people who can live “like this.”  He was talking to people who do have the wealth, the connections and the desire to live “like this.”  The household staff, for example, are not included when Mitt says “everyone.”  Neither are most of us.  We aren’t the people in whose interests he wants to run the country, and we don’t have what he needs to get where he wants to go.  Consider also his laughable suggestion that young people borrow money from their parents to start a business.  “Is he serious?” many asked.  Well, yes he was – he just wasn’t talking to you.  How can you tell?  Easy – because either you don’t have enough money to lend your children to enable them to take his advice, or if you’re young, your parents don’t have enough to lend to you.  Or, and this is certainly outside of Mitt’s experience, you do have the necessary capital, but don’t want to be a business owner.  If any of these things are true, Mitt wasn’t talking to you.  In Mitt land, the solution to your problems is to become a business owner.  If your class, your interests or your financial situation prevent you from doing this, Mitt doesn’t think your problems need solving.  You are a non person.

 

Barack Obama may take a slightly different approach, but offers the same result.  He’ll talk to us – I understand we’re meant to hope for change, or some such – but his policies, as noted elsewhere, are more or less the same as his predecessor’s.  Keep hoping, I guess.  The nice boss (Obama) talks to his employees while he exploits them, while the traditional boss (Romney) is content to let the rabble believe he’s talking to them.  Meanwhile, the neoliberal policy agenda marches on.

 

Public political discourse in the US remains confined to a ruling class.  This ruling class is more eclectic than it once was, as it includes both the traditional 1%er types and a class of professional politicians, but in most cases debate about policy remains firmly in the narrow neoliberal frame long laid out for us.  This is because the people participating in this debate don’t want our input.  We are allowed to fool ourselves into believing that we’re included, but the truth is that we’re spectators.  We can observe this public discourse through the mass media, but our input is neither welcomed nor necessary.  The position of the general public is not unlike that of a household servant.  The masters of the house, our employers, are arguing over how best to run their household, including how to treat us.  We are in the room, we can see and hear the discussion, but although we may convince ourselves that we’re involved, we are not.  Our access to the political process is largely coincidental at this point.  We can see it on TV, but attempting to contribute in the traditional way is a bit like yelling at game show contestants.  The folks on Wheel of Fortune can’t hear you, and neither can your political class.  Not only that, they aren’t even talking to you.

 

The (Oval) Office

Posted in Elections, Politics, USA, Web Satire Round Up with tags , , , on February 13, 2012 by Z

These have been floating around the net for some time now, but I thought I’d post them anyway in case someone somehow missed them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So…. American right, tell me again why you think nations should be run like businesses?  If nothing else, these visual one liners have influenced my thinking about empire, in that the current American Empire is remarkably like The Office – a more persistently marketed knockoff of a British original.   (Quick – someone find out if Italy produced an office themed sitcom in the 50s.  If the pattern holds, it should be really funny.)

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this primary stuff later, as Mitt “the banality of evil” Romney, Newt “the unbearable lightness of being a douchebag” Gingrich and Rick “Santorum” Santorum keep at it.  Until then, remember to …

Yes, this one is old too.  Perhaps I should have updated it to read: “Hope you don’t get executed without trial.”

In the event that I have more to put up here regarding elections, I think I’ll take a little inspiration from the last post and call it “Bad Faith 2012.”

Lesser Evilism and Bad Faith

Posted in Bad Faith, Elections, Media, Politics, Sartre, USA with tags , on January 18, 2012 by Z

Given that this corner of the web is named for Jean-Paul Sartre, I thought it would make sense to take a moment to address the ideas of the man himself.  One of Sartre’s best known and arguably most importnant concepts is that of Bad Faith.  Bad Faith is, at its core, a form of self-deception made possible by the very freedom it denies.  It is the use of freedom (freedom being inescapable) to deceive oneself into believing one is not free, and/or not responsible for a choice.  One of the favorite examples of existentialist philosophy professors is of a young man in occupied France who comes to Sartre to ask for advice: should he join the resistance, or stay at home to take care of his mother?  The young man acts as though he is earnestly seeking advice, but as Sartre points out, the young man is well aware that Sartre himself is a supporter of the resistance.  The young man therefore knows that Sartre will advise him to join the resistance.  He came seeking the advice he wanted in an effort to convince himself that his choice was not his, but Sartre’s.  Had he not wanted to join the resistance, he would have asked for the advice of a collaborator.  The young man has used his freedom to orchestrate a situation in which he can deny his freedom and his own inner knowledge that he has decieved himself.  In Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground, the protagonist observes that all the works of man have been to convince himself that he is a man and not a piano key (ie that he is free, not determined, in his purpose).  In the case of Bad Faith, it is exactly the opposite; the individual seeks to convince himself that he is not free, but must use his freedom to do so.

If anyone reads the above and immediately thinks “Hey, that sounds a lot like the “lesser evilism” that characterizes American elections,” guess what – you’re exactly correct.  Lesser evilism, along with all the faux concern and hand wringing attached to it by the mainstream media, is a national exercise in Bad Faith.  By engaging in lesser evilism, we engage a two party duopoly that does not have our interests in mind.  This by itself is not Bad Faith; we even acknowledge the inadequacy of the two party system by noting that we seek the lesser evil.  There is no pretension that we are doing the right thing.  No, this practice becomes Bad Faith because by engaging in it, we implicitly deny that there are choices outside of the established system.  Acting on this self-imposed denial, we then throw our hands in the air and proclaim “Well, what can you do?”  We get to “admit” that the system is flawed, which only helps us convince ourselves that we have no choice but to go along.  Of course we have no choice, right?  If we did, clearly we wouldn’t choose evil at all!  We’ve constructed a national self deception by choosing to heed the advice, both explicit and implicit, of a system that offers us only evil options.  We act in Bad Faith just like Sartre’s young friend.  We use our inescapable freedom in an attempt to deny that we are free and responsible for the walking garbage for which we vote, then we refuse to admit it.  This is like asking a loan shark for financial advice, getting your legs broken when you can’t repay the loan he advised you to take, then asking him for another loan because he told you there was nowhere else to go.  Most people would easily recognize this as the behavior of a total moron, but in election years it’s “pragmatism.”  This is, of course, exactly the behavior our political elite loves to see.  How else can we maintain a plutocratic oligarchy in the skin of a representative government?