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Monthly Archives: April 2010

How Could They Do That in Arizona!

April 27th, 2010 - 11:41 am

The Arizona Hysteria

Racist! Nativist! Profiler! Xenophobe!

Write or say anything about illegal immigration, and one should expect to be called all of that and more—even if a strong supporter of legal immigration. Illegal alien becomes undocumented worker. Anti-immigrant replaces anti-illegal-immigration. “Comprehensive” is a euphemism for amnesty. Triangulation abounds. A fiery op-ed grandstands and deplores the Arizona law, but offers no guidance about illegal immigration — and blames the employer for doing something that the ethnic lobby in fact welcomes.

Nevertheless, here it goes from a supporter of legal immigration: how are we to make sense of the current Arizona debate? One should show concern about some elements of the law, but only in the context of the desperation of the citizens of Arizona. And one should show some skepticism concerning mounting liberal anguish, so often expressed by those whose daily lives are completely unaffected by the revolutionary demographic, cultural, and legal transformations occurring in the American Southwest.

As I understand the opposition to the recent Arizona law, it boils down to something like the following: the federal government’s past decision not to enforce its own law should always trump the state’s right to honor it. That raises interesting questions: Does the state contravene federal authority by exercising it? If the federal government does not protect the borders of a state, does the state have a right to do it itself? The federal government has seemed in the past to be saying that if one circumvented a federal law, and was known to have circumvented federal law with recognized impunity, then there was no longer a law to be enforced.

A Losing Political Issue

The politics of illegal immigration are a losing proposition for liberals (one can see that in the resort to euphemism), even if they don’t quite see it that way. Here are ten considerations why.

Law?—What Law?

First, there is the simplicity of the argument. One either wishes or does not wish existing law to be enforced. If the answer is no, and citizens can pick and chose which laws they would like to obey, in theory why should we have to pay taxes or respect the speed limit? Note that liberal Democrats do not suggest that we overturn immigration law and de jure open the border — only that we continue to do that de facto. Confusion between legal and illegal immigration is essential for the open borders argument, since  a proper distinction between the two makes the present policy  indefensible—especially since it discriminates against those waiting in line to come to America legally (e.g., somehow our attention is turned to the illegal alien’s plight and not the burdensome paperwork and government obstacles that the dutiful legal immigrant must face).

Why Wave the Flag of the Country I Don’t Wish to Return To?

Second, often the protests against enforcement of immigration law are strangely couched within a general climate of anger at the U.S. government (and/or the American people) for some such illiberal transgression (review the placards, flags, etc. at May Day immigration rallies). Fairly or not, the anger at the U.S. and the nostalgia for Mexico distill into the absurd, something like either “I am furious at the country I insist on staying in, and fond of the country I most certainly do not wish to return to” or “I am angry at you so you better let angry me stay with you!” Such mixed messages confuse the electorate. As in the case with the Palestinians, there is an effort to graft a foreign policy issue (protecting an international border) onto domestic identity politics, to inject an inflammatory race/class element into the debate by creating oppressors, victims, and grievances along racial divides.

Big Brother Mexico?

Third, Mexico is no help. Now it weighs in with all sorts of moral censure for Arizonians — this from a corrupt government whose very policies are predicated on exporting a million indigenous people a year, while it seeks to lure wealthy “gringos” to invest in second-homes in Baja. The absence of millions from Oaxaca or Chiapas ensures billions in remittances, less expenditures for social services, and fewer dissident citizens. But the construct of Mexico as the concerned parent of its own lost children is by now so implausible that even its sympathizers do not take it seriously. Mexico has lost all credibility on these issues, expressing concern for its own citizens only when they seem to have crossed the border — and left Mexico.

It’s Not a Race Issue

Fourth, there really is a new popular groundswell to close the borders. Most against illegal immigration, especially in the case of minorities and Mexican-American citizens, keep rather mum about their feelings. But that silence should not be interpreted as antagonism to enforcing the law. Many minorities realize that the greatest hindrance to a natural rise in wages for entry level jobs has been the option for an employer to hire illegal aliens, who, at least in their 20s and 30s, will work harder for less pay with fewer complaints (when sick, or disabled, or elderly, the worker is directed by the employer to the social services agencies and replaced by someone younger as a new cycle of exploitation begins). In this context, the old race card is less effective. The general population is beginning to see not that Americans (of all races who oppose illegal immigration) are racist, but that the open borders movement has itself a racially chauvinistic theme to it, albeit articulated honestly only on university campuses and in Chicano-Latino departments, as a sort of “payback” for the Mexican War, where redress for “lost” land is finally to be had through demography.

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The Remains of a California Day

April 23rd, 2010 - 10:26 am

Yesterday I think I understood why California is in deep trouble. Let me walk you through another day out here.

At 7AM I put a few letters in my armored, heavy-duty steel rural mailbox. Four thefts of mail in the last five years have meant my grandfather’s old light gauge unlocked box gave way to a quite impressive, smart-looking sort of locked safe — the armor is a tasteful forest green.

(Ah, you, say, “Well, what would they want with bills and such?” Answer: “they” take a check you wrote to the power company, copy its template, take the router and serial numbers, make new checks with their name on it, and start cashing them at rural groceries. You only learn this when the canceled checks appear on your online banking: perfect replicas except the name at the upper left is some one else’s, the numbers on the lower left unfortunately yours. This too has happened to me on occasion.)

So I bought this armored box after seeing a YouTube ad in which it withstood a barrage from an AK47-like rifle — just what I need in rural Selma. (I understand to suggest that isolated rural mail theft is ipso facto a sign of anything worrisome is methodologically unsound.)

Anyway, back to the roadside: suddenly a car whizzed by the farm when I was putting the red flag up. Out came a huge plastic trash bag of wet garbage, littering the road and bouncing into the vineyard row — bottles, cans, letters, paper, and plastic diapers.

Was it just a coincidence — or a sign of defiance, since the usual trash throwers (e.g., sofas, beds, strollers, even a dead animal now and then) are nocturnal and discreet? The theory is that the tosser saves money by I suppose living in a garage somewhere without paid garbage collection, and sees that most pick up trash, so that those who throw it can’t quite ruin the roadsides as is true elsewhere. This is an age-old truism: The miscreant escapes notice to the degree that there are few miscreants. When too many toss their garbage, then the environment is no longer so conducive to garbage tossing (the one 90  mph driver on the freeway gets away without killing himself or too many others because the others drive 65 mph).

I walked over to pick it up, but the raw food and mess convinced me to wait a few hours until it dried out. I will retrieve it tomorrow when the rain dries up, I promise.

Such unattended trash invites more, and is a health hazard. That the local ravens and blackbirds are feasting on it, is no reason not to pick it up. (No, one does not call the sheriff, the state EPA, or any agency for such incidents, even when the addresses of the bills of the tosser are quite often [I'll see tomorrow] found in the rubbish — been there, done that, no results.) (Yes, critics, I agree that anecdotal evidence like this means nothing much.)

At noon, I drove into the local warehouse supermarket. When I checked out (and I had written about such  incidents like this a near decade ago in Mexifornia), the checker and the woman behind me were trying to communicate in Spanish to instruct a young man and his wife (with four small children) about how to use his food stamp card (an anachronism since they look more like ATM plastic).

But he spoke some sort of Nahuatl indigenous dialect. It did not sound that much differently in its pitched accentuation from modern Greek. No Spanish-speakers could really make out much of what he was saying — and believe me they tried.

I suppose there are indigenous peoples’ translators at the government office, since the quite smiling and friendly family had two full carts and an expectation of paying for it, and (as I saw later) a nice enough car.

But, alas, neither husband nor wife could speak English or Spanish. (Yes, again, I concede that the presence of a few from Mexico who can speak neither Spanish nor English proves little, much less is evidence of the problem of illegal immigration.)

By 2 PM, the air was loud with sonic booms. Local tree managers were trying to  break up hail (I lost two crops in the 1980s to a sudden hail storm)— the current theory being that sonic waves will either smash apart, or at least divert for a few minutes, hail storms that can so scar the appearance of tree fruit to render it unsalable (but with absolutely no effect on its quality or tastiness — go figure).

In these environs, there are almost no more small farms as I knew them thirty years ago. Either they are like mine — now rented and dependent on off-farm income for expenses, since “rent” does not cover taxes and depreciation — or tesserae in larger vertically integrated corporate mosaics that need “product” (profitable or not) to fuel a vast investment in trucks, packing houses, cold storage, and brokerage.

I made the argument fifteen years ago, in Fields Without Dreams and The Land Was Everything, that the imminent final corporatization of family agriculture would not affect the appearance or productivity of farms, but only end the notion that these 20 and 40 acres homesteads used to grow citizens of a different sort that we see now (I think both prognostications were proven correct). (I agree again that the corporatization of my immediate environs proves nothing really without the latest statistics of corporate ownership versus family managed and owned farms.)

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An Age of Untruth

April 19th, 2010 - 7:31 pm

Five Lies We Live With

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Make no mistake about it, this is a dishonest age. That our daily lies are purportedly advanced in the cause of the common good, nevertheless do not make them any less lies.

Beware of sudden and apparently reasonable “calls for civility.” That pathetic mantra is usually voiced by a liberal administration and its supporters when criticism mounts that they are taking the country too far to the Left — like the Clinton implosion in 1993 or Obama today. I fear “civility” does not mean one should not write novels or produce movies contemplating murdering George Bush — that’s  sort of an understandable agitprop art. “Civility” does not mean the New York Times should not give discounts to run ads in wartime like “General Betray Us.” That’s needed dissidence. Civility does not suggest that a Sen. Durbin, or Sen. Kerry, or Sen. Kennedy not use inflammatory language that compares our own  troops or personnel to terrorists, Nazis, Pol Pot, Stalinists, or Saddam Hussein’s torturers; that most certainly in not uncivil. And it was certainly not impolite for Rep. Stark to call President Bush a “liar.”

“Civility” does not mean that we should not spew hate at anti-war protests; that’s grass-roots popular protest. It doesn’t mean that we should not employ Nazi and fascistic labels to tar the President of the United States like John Glenn or Al Gore or Robert Byrd did. “Civility” does not mean that a shrill Hillary Clinton should not scream that the Bush administration is trying to silence critics, or suggest that the commanding general of an entire theater was lying to Congress in ways that require a “suspension of disbelief.” That’s needed pushback.

O Ye of Little Memory! Do we recall any American shock when the Guardian published Charles Brooker’s lament — “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?” And I don’t recall anyone felt that language was getting too heated when Howard Dean, head of the Democratic Party, fumed, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.” And was it not The New Republic that highlighted Jonathan Chait’s infamous “Why I Hate George W. Bush” article? Of course, there was that thoroughly civil New York play, “I’m Gonna Kill the President.”

So, please, spare us the sanctimonious rot about being shocked by conservative metaphors like “lock and load” or “targeting” vulnerable Democratic districts. Like it or not, “civility” has nothing to do with real civility that is bipartisan in fashion and necessary for tolerance in a politically diverse culture. It simply means that conservatives must be stopped in their Neanderthal opposition to an enlightened agenda by any means necessary — by being uncivil to them when conservatives are in power, and demanding they not do the same when liberals run things. All political parties wish it both ways; but in the present age, the media and a cultural elite really have convinced themselves that speaking out against Barack Obama is a sort of heresy while smearing the Bush “regime” was de rigueur.

Diversity? Not.

Beware of  the ubiquitous “diversity.” Diversity does not mean needed difference, as in a community of religiously diverse people — for example, a Harvard with plentiful booths in the free speech area promoting Mormonism, or ROTC, or support for Israel, or anti-abortion. “Diversity” does not mean 51-49 % votes in the faculty Senate over condemning or supporting the Iraq War of 2003.

“Diversity” does not equate to a faculty department equally divided among Marxists, liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. No, sadly “diversity” is a second-generation word that was by needs reinvented to supplant the Orwellian “affirmative action.”

In the 1980s, American elite culture grasped that the old superstructure of racial preference was both too cumbersome and too narrow all at once: Too cumbersome in the sense that too many were asking uncomfortable questions like, “Why are we giving preference in hiring or admission to a Spanish aristocrat named José Lopes, as if he were a supposedly  underprivileged Mexican-American who suffers from a legacy of racism?,” or “Why is someone in the upper-middle class who is half African-American given preference, and not a poor darker Mohinder Singh from the Punjab who in theory would encounter as much or more discrimination?,” or “Why are all these cynical white-looking kids claiming their grandmothers were one-eighth Cherokee?”

And yet affirmatives action was also all too narrow in the sense that should not upper-class women, and wealthy gays or hyper-achieving, wealthy Asians, likewise, be entitled to help?

In answer to both the contradictions of racial preferences and its narrowness, “diversity” came onto the scene. To the degree that anyone could establish that they were not completely white, male, Christian and heterosexual, they were  “diverse” members of the community and could perhaps find some advantage or boost in the fierce competition for jobs and influence and money.  No one could define diversity, but miraculously all seem to recognize it when they saw it.

The real diversity — that of differences in thinking and independence of opinion — was hardly welcome, and any sort of call for such genuine diversity of thought  was seen as hostile and sometimes had to be dubbed “reactionary,” “racist,” “homophobic,” “sexist,” etc.

So we ended up with “diversity” meaning “university” — a synonym for monolithic intolerance, for everyone worshiping “diversity” without exception. If that seems harsh, it is also the way things are.

Wind and Solar and Millions of Green Jobs!

“Green Power”  and “wind and solar” oddly do not mean that we are going to power our homes and cars with entirely new fuels, at least in our lifetimes.

Instead that entire green lexicon assures us that we can feel good about ourselves by symbolic gestures, like subsidizing a noble wind farm or putting up an impressive solar panel through government subsidies that mask the current non-competitiveness of such alternate power. The truth is that 21st-century internal combustion engines are revolutionary compared with their fossilized predecessors just three decades ago. Like it or not, such engines — preferably in the near future burning natural gas that is becoming more, not less retrievable, and in combination with batteries or biofuel blends — will continue to power our cars. Semi-trucks, earth-moving equipment, and tractors are not going to become electrically powered any time soon.

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We are going to pile up another $3 trillion in national debt in just the first two years of the Obama administration. If the annual deficit should sink below $1.5 trillion, it will be called fiscal sobriety.

Why, when we owe $12 trillion, would the Obama administration set out budgets that will ensure our collective debt climbs to $20 trillion? Why are we borrowing more money, when Medicare, Social Security, the Postal Service, Amtrak, etc. are all insolvent as it is?

What is the logic behind something so clearly unhinged?

I present seven alternative reasons — some overlapping — why the present government is hell-bent on doubling the national debt in eight years. Either one, or all, or some, or none, of the below explain Obama’s peculiar frenzied spending.

1) Absolutely moral and necessary?

The country is in need of massive more entitlements for our destitute and near to poor. Government is not big, but indeed too small to meet its moral obligations. Deficits are merely record-keeping. Throwing trillions into the economy will also help us all recover, by getting us moving again and inflating the currency. And we can pay the interest easily over the next 50 years. Just think another World War II era — all the time.

So big spending and borrowing are genuine efforts of true believers to make us safe, secure, and happy.

2) “Gorge the beast”

The spending per se is not so important, as the idea of deficits in general will ensure higher taxes. Nationalized health care, cap and trade, new initiatives in education, more stimulus — all that and more is less important than the fact that huge defects will require huge new taxes, primarily from the upper-classes. I see no reason why the total bite from state income, federal income, payroll, and health care taxes cannot soon in theory climb to 70% of some incomes (e.g., 10% state, 15.3% FICA, 40% federal, 3-5% health care). In other words, “redistributive change” is the primary goal. This aim is premised on the notion that income is a construct, if not unfairly calibrated, then at least capriciously determined — requiring the more intelligent in the technocracy to even out things and ensure an equality of result. After all, why should the leisured hedge-funder make all that more after taxes than the more noble waitress?

So big spending and borrowing mean big deficits, and that means taxing the greedy and giving their ill-gotten gains to the needy.

3) Big Brother?

Or does rampant borrowing for government spending reflect our despair over the inability of millions to know what is best for themselves? For democracy to work, all of us must fully participate. But because of endemic racism, sexism, class bias, and historical prejudices, millions of Americans do not have access to adequate education and enlightenment. Therefore, a particular technocratic class, with requisite skill and singular humanity, has taken it upon themselves to ensure everyone gets a fair shake — if only government at last has the adequate resources to fix things. If it proves problematic for one to register and vote, then there will be a program to make 100% participation possible. If some of us are too heavy and too chair-bound, we can be taught what and how to eat. If some of us do not study, we can adjust academic standards accordingly. In one does something unwise, like buying a plasma TV rather than a catastrophic health care plan, then we still can ensure he is covered. In other words, an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-moral guardian class requires resources to finish the promise of participatory America. After all, why would we allow the concrete contractor to “keep” 70% of his income only to blow it on worthless things like jet skis or a Hummer in his garage or a fountain in his yard — when a far wiser, more ethical someone like Van Jones could far more logically put that now wasted capital to use for the betterment of the far more needy?

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A Tour Through Recession America

April 11th, 2010 - 7:26 pm

The last seven days I tried to jot down what I saw in some slices of America in recession — and much of its seems at odds with our general government narrative.

Let me explain my unscientific methodology of seeking to catch a glimpse of the lower, middle, and upper classes of all races and ethnicities.

I rode a bike about 100 miles on the roads of rural California, in quite poor areas surrounding towns like Selma, Caruthers, and Laton. Then to taste an antithesis, I spent four days at work at tony Palo Alto. I rode a bike there too, as well as walking through the downtown area in a 10-block swath. Finally, for something in the middle, I have been browsing the shopping centers in Fresno — places like Target, Best Buy, Save Mart, and Home Depot.

Are We Parasites?

This week I drove on I-5, the 99, and 101. Except for a few stretches through San Jose to Palo Alto, most of the freeways were unchanged in the last 40 years. The California Water Project of the 1960s hasn’t been improved — indeed, it has been curtailed. My local high school looks about the same as it did in 1971. The roads in rural California are in worse condition than forty years ago.

Private houses are, of course, larger and more opulent. But the state seems not to be investing in infrastructure as before, but more in consumption and redistribution. For all the mega-deficits out here, we are not going broke building upon and improving the material world we inherited. The drive from Selma to Palo Alto is identical to the one I made in 1975 — no quicker, not really safer. The comfort and increased safety come from improved cars (seat belts, air bags, better structures), not from government’s efforts to make super freeways and new routes.

Not Quite the Great Depression

Here  follows some other unscientific observations. This is a funny recession. My grandfather’s stories of the Great Depression — 27 relatives in my current farmhouse and barn — were elemental: trying to find enough food to survive, and saving gasoline by shifting to neutral and gliding to stops or on the downhill.

The problem I saw this week was rampant obesity, across all age and class lines. If anything, the wealthier in Palo Alto/Stanford eat less (yes, I know the liberal critique that they have capital and education to shop for expensive healthier fruits and vegetables while the poor and neglected must turn to fast food, coke, and pop tarts). No matter — a lot of Americans are eating too much and moving too infrequently — and no one, at least if girth matters, is starving.

There is a new beggar. I see him on the intersections now on major urban boulevards. They are never illegal aliens, rarely African-Americans, but almost all white males, and of two sorts. One is someone who looks homeless, not crippled but in a walker or wheelchair (yet he gets up occasionally). He has a sign on cardboard with a wrenching narrative (fill in the blanks: veteran, of course; disabled; will work (not) for food, etc.). Choice corners become almost enclaves, as two or three cluster on islands and stoplights, as if certain franchises are choice and more lucrative than others.

A newer second sort is younger, more upscale. One fellow looked like a fraternity brat with a sign that said “Mom has cancer. No health insurance. Please help!” Another burly lad, well fed and toned, had a placard, “Need gas money. Broke down.” Yet a third waved a card, “Sudden wedding, need money.”

My illiberal side suggests that if we were to investigate, both types have not inconsiderable cash in their pockets. They certainly feel there is no shame in begging. All that is changed from antiquity is that we have eliminated the vocabulary not the act: beggars don’t exist; “homeless” and the “needy” do.

For a recession, there are lots of Mercedes, BMWs, Lexuses, and Volvos around — and in places like Fresno too. Maybe these are just leases (renters who prefer to lease a big car than buy houses), but for depression-era times, our contemporary versions of the Packard or Pierce-Arrow are pretty ubiquitous. (Note: I still can’t see how a Mercedes or Lexus warrants the far higher price over, say, a Camry or Accord that seem as comfortable and reliable). Thirty years ago one saw an upscale car on the Stanford campus; today you see them on an American high school campus.

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The End of Trust

April 8th, 2010 - 8:51 pm

Greek Bonds, Anyone?

The world is getting a little edgy when very few investors are willing to buy Greek bonds — given what they know about Greek politics and productivity. And so the interest rate has soared on ten-year-yields  to above  7.5% — a chase-your-tail scenario, in which the bankrupt Greeks will have to increase the interest rate to attract capital, that in turn will go so high that they, the Greeks, will not be able to pay the debt, that again in turn will frighten bond buyers even more, that, of course, will send rates even higher.

California, take note. Some Stanford economists and analysts just refigured the cooked books at the various California public pensions and found a $500 billion shortfall. The state is already broke. Its taxes are the highest in the nation, the flight of its wealthy per week is unsustainable — and its teachers are apparently (please explain this?) furious that their salaries are the highest in the country and their students among the worst. So we either float more bonds, or ask retirees to take a cut or freeze. The latter is not even being discussed.

Who Said You Owed Anything?

Chris Dodd is pushing a multifaceted credit card bill that probably will up rates on all to allow some more deserving to refigure their debts. (I hope not in the fashion that Chris Dodd gets mortgages, or Timothy Geithner pays his FICA, or Barack Obama buys a lot, or Tom Daschle reports limo perks or Charlie Rangel adds up vacation rent). Dodd’s effort is a sort of relish to the administration’s own plan to ensure that some underwater mortgages (note, I said “some”) won’t have to be quite paid off.

I think you get my drift with these examples. If you don’t, just note whom Obama serially demonizes — doctors who lop off too much, insurers who are just too greedy, CEOs of non-government-run companies who jet to the Super bowl, “fat cat” bankers, and so on — and whom he worries far more about: anyone who was forced by the system to take out a debt and is again forced by the system into not paying it back. No wonder the Greeks are scrambling to find ways not to pay back their gargantuan debt.

Trust — How Quaint?

We are not just in a war on those who have capital and loan it to others, but a war on the entire sinews that hold together the modern system of global finance — trust.

Following the Greek explosion, we heard of everything from fraudulent bookkeeping to the German responsibility to pay more reparations for World War II to the dangers of belt-tightening. All were euphemisms for Greeks to find ways of not having to pay back what the government freely borrowed — essentially to pay millions of unionized Greeks at work and in retirement. So where is all the money? Long ago spent on salaries for millions to do little, who now want more from those who do a lot (e.g., Germany)

The New Versailles

The problem is not just the old “big government.” The public is now more focused. They are reifying “government” into millions of public workers and their technocratic overseers: all are far better tenured, salaried, and pensioned than their counterparts in the private sector. They are the new court hordes at Versailles. And we know their numbers have expanded almost geometrically, far faster than both the rate of inflation and population growth — most as rewards for paying off constituents, expanding the block of loyal entitlement-receiving voters, and in general ensuring a sort of pandemic government dependency in which 20 percent of the nation receives almost all of its monthly money from the government and another 20 percent receives a lot of it.

From what the administration announces almost daily, from the radio ads blaring now in the popular culture, and from congressional promising, I think I get the new narrative. “Trust” is an archaic construct established by capitalists to ensnare the more noble poor. When you buy that blue-ray DVD player or plasma TV (saw lots of that today at Best Buy in Fresno), in lieu of a catastrophic insurance plan, and add to it a night out at the  Macaroni Grill and the multiplex, it is not all that certain you will have to pay all of that charge back. As you go from one maxed-up credit card to another, there will be a new company waiting to renegotiate your debt, and a demagogic congressperson to explain why you were snookered into doing what you did.

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A Postmodern Presidency

April 4th, 2010 - 2:24 pm

A Pretentious Word for a World Without Rules

Given thirty years of postmodern relativism in our universities, we were bound to get a postmodern president at some point.

Postmodernism is a fancy word — in terms of culture, nihilist; in terms of politics, an equality of result and the ends justifying the means — that a lot of people throw around to describe the present world of presumed wisdom that evolved in the last part of the 20th century.

“After modernism” or “beyond modernism” can mean almost anything — nihilistic art that goes well beyond modern art (think a crucifix in urine rather than the splashes of modernist Jackson Pollock). Or think of the current English Department doggerel that is declared “poetry” (no transcendent references, echoes of classicism, no cadence, rhyme, meter, particular poetic language, theme, structure, etc.) versus Eliot’s or Pound’s non-traditional modern poetry of the 1920s and 1930. In politics, there is something of the absurd. The modern age saw life and death civil rights marches and the commemoration of resistance to venomous racial oppression; the postmodern civil rights marches are staged events at the DC tea party rally, as elites troll in search of a slur, or Prof. Gates’s offer to donate his “cuffs” to the Smithsonian as proof of his racial “ordeal.”

Genres, rules, and protocols in art, music, or in much of anything vanish as the unnecessary obstructions they are deemed to be — constructed by those with privilege to perpetuate their own entrenched received authority and power.  The courage, sacrifice, and suffering of past American generations that account for our present bounty are simply constructs, significant only to the degree that we use the past to deconstruct the race, class, and gender power machinations that pervade contemporary American exploitive society. History is melodrama, a morality tale, not tragedy.

Relativism Everywhere

But the chief characteristic of postmodern thinking is the notion of relativism and the primacy of language over reality. What we signify and brand as “real,” in essence, is no more valid than another’s “truth,” even if we retreat to specious claims of “evidence”— especially if our aim is to perpetuate the nation state, or the primacy of the white male capitalist Westerner who long ago manufactured norms in his own interests.

“Alternate” realities instead reflect those without power speaking a “truth,” one just as valid as the so-called empirical tradition that hinged on inherited privilege.

The New National Creed

OK, so how does this affect Obama?

He was schooled in the postmodern university and operates on hand-me-down principles from postmodernism. One does not need to read Foucault or Derrida, or to be acquainted with Heidegger, to see how relativism enhances contemporary multiculturalism. Keep that in mind and everything else makes sense.

Try health care. By traditional standards, Obama prevaricates on most of the main issues revolving health care reform — from the fundamental about its costs and effects, to the more superficial such as airing the entire process on C-SPAN or promising not to push through a major bill like this on narrow majoritism. And recall the blatant bribes for votes to politicians from Nebraska to Louisiana. Look also at the enormous borrowing and cuts from Medicare that will be involved.

Well, those were not misstatements or misdeeds at all. You, children of privilege, only think they are, since you use antiquated norms like “abstract” truth to adjudicate the discomforting efforts of a progressive president.

He, on the other hand, is trying to force the privileged at last to account for their past oppressions (insurance companies that gouge, surgeons that lop off legs or tear out tonsils for profit, investors who private jet to the Super Bowl, or the lesser but equally selfish Joe the Plumber types who do not wish to “spread the wealth”) by extending care to the underprivileged. Your “Truth” about his past statements is something reactionaries evoke to thwart such progressive change; in fact, the constructed truth of Obama’s is that a child will now have regular check-ups. All the other “gotcha” games about abstract truth and falsehood are just semantics.

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