Sunday, June 12, 2022

A Pause For Reflection

      I let Friday's post stand, in the faint hope that it might sink in with those who need it most: the folks begging for a gimcrack Caesar to ride in on a white horse -- or a gold-painted Caddy -- and "fix everything."

      But it's a very faint hope indeed.  The present psychopolitical climate imagines dire conspiracies under every bed, and even the most prosaic and predictable of events, like the direct and ripple effects of a destructive war in a breadbasket country that also supplies oil and natural gas to Europe, get filtered though a distorting lens to emerge as an American government jacking up (global!) gasoline, oil and heating-fuel prices or bizarre claims of "engineered" food shortages.

      I am perplexed how people purporting to be good capitalists, heirs to the legacy of Adam Smith, fall into such an essentially Marxist view of business as a predator on the common man.  While this Red-Leftist take also has strong ties to pre-WW II fascist notions that have persisted on the very far and loony Right in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere, it is demonstrably false, as evidenced by the touchscreen supercomputer in your pocket, the fresh fruits and vegetables you enjoy every Winter, and overall prosperity that has anyone above the (ever-rising) poverty line enjoying luxuries like air-conditioners, dishwashers and automatic washing machines.  (I grew up middle-class in the 1960s and '70s.  My family had one TV, two telephones, no air-conditioning and no dishwasher; my father always bought cars a year or two old, never new -- and we counted ourselves well-off.)

      In a world that offers more and more, even small bobbles in the supply chain loom large; but in a globally-connected economy, demand and supply are closely matched.  Trip them up -- and there's nothing man-made that does so more quickly than a war -- and we'll all feel the pinch.  When a war starts while a global pandemic is waning, it's even worse.  That's not a sign of evil forces pulling strings behind the scenes.  It's right in front of you, playing out in headlines and on every newscast.

      Circling back to the January 6 committee hearings: even one of the worst political conspiracies of our times, then-President Trump's efforts to hang on to power after losing the 2020 election, seems to be fairly loose, a matter of throwing everything possible at the wall in the hopes that something would stick -- lawsuits, wild allegations, pressure on state election officials, mob violence, procedural tricks.  None of it worked.  All the bluff, bluster and bullshit came up against the cold, hard reality of honest counts and men and women who took their oaths of office seriously, or who simply didn't want fall in with obvious fantasy.  Most of it played out in plain sight -- and many people refused to see it for what it was.

      The allure of a Caesar or a Napoleon is difficult for many to resist.  Such leaders arrive to glorious acclamation, offering easy solutions and a glittering future.  History reveals otherwise -- and too often, the "man on horseback" is a Mussolini or a Hugo Chavez, sweeping in with grand promises only to bring the very hunger and ruin they promised to avert.

     Be careful what you believe.  Be careful what you wish for.  Dramatic narratives are appealing, but emotional engagement is no assurance of truth.  It's just the easiest way to manipulate people.  Distrust all cheering crowds, and distrust even more the men and women for whom they shout.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You make excellent points, all of which will be either ignored or, worse, held up as evidence of the vast all-consuming conspiracy against the "common man". Interesting times, indeed.