(An old rant, from sometime in 2009 or 2010)
My head’s in a spin.
Reading George Lakoff’s 2006 book, “Whose Freedom?”, his take on U.S. politics in recent years (post-911, and pre-economic debacle). I’m trying to digest it.
It’s disturbing for me, as politics always is. He’s describing & giving his personal/ professional analysis of the whirl of ideas, words and meanings that have been found in the politics of what I deem the Reagan Age (1981-present).
Unlike Lakoff, I find that a certain amount of the Progressive notions he holds dear are flawed. For example, it is not true that the “economic safety net” fails to lull people into complacency; it tends to. While the various Conservatives louldly assert that it does so in all cases (and so become liars or fools, just like the men who, during the Depression & the New Deal kept saying that same thing), a lot of Lefties simply think that that in itself is a non-issue (which is equally false). It is not human or humane to simply condone failure and foolishness. To re-phrase an old maxim, “Moderation and prudence, in all things.”
These occasional epiphanies nudge me back toward the GOP/Conservative side of things. But that can’t last – for every time a GOP/Conservative smear-artist opens his mouth and sounds off in the unmistakable tones of “We’re right, you’re wrong – anyone who disagrees with us is a Traitor!” I find myself thrown back to the Liberal/Progressive side of things. A “Winners-Only” Wall Street world, surrounded by struggling poor – the object of modern, Neo-Conservative, GOP policies, is simply not a humane or desirable one.
The political center – a conventional wisdom positing that people are (more or less) still people, despite political differences, and that Moderation and Toleration are the key virtues in Society, along with Prudence * – seems to have become a thing of the past, to judge from the media. Everyone – Left and Right – is clinging to his or her Pole, and the poles of the media are more and more articulated, as Lakoff correctly points out, by the lusty, violent, demagogic idiots of ‘talk radio’ and its much bigger younger brother, Fox News.
I think that the Left has a lot to answer for, even if they do see the world through culturally amoral spectacles. I think there is no doubt that the 60s destroyed the functionality of American private life, shredding traditions and restraints and self-esteem. Its critical thrust may have been overdue in intellectual terms or in terms of enfranchising people held back by prejudice, but it also required a suspension of self-worth in everyone else.
But that was something that rowdies and hotshots are never willing to do.
White Americans (especially men) found themselves saddled with a permanent general burden of putative guilt based on things that other men had done in other times. The conventional wisdom had shifted to: men are bad, families are bad, white people are bad, heterosexuality is bad, restraint of any kind is bad, etc. That, along with increased drug-addiction, was the negative legacyof the 1960s. White American men were seen simply as ‘the bad guys’, or even as ‘the defective guys’, in favor of every other group imaginable. To be ‘okay’, the media and schools implied, you had to be non-white, non-male, or – if a white male – you had to be queer. So after years of that implicit denial of human value to plain old white guys, there came – from Reagan forward – a re-reaction, an insistence and a rebuke, an assertion that decent men should hold up their heads as people.
Surprise! – harassed native virtue joined with vicious ignorance & barbarism – and rebounded as anti-Liberal rage, and the GOP’s Neo-Conservative & Wall Street & Bible Belt coalition was born. (At least that’s as far as I understand it.)
* It’s interesting that even the word “Society” has become a dirty word for the Right. Apparently, in their mental universe, Society and Freedom cannot co-exist.