I have to say that a remarkably intimate, yet expansive, community of thought seems to be forming across television, film, and the Internet. There's a rather quiet, yet intense, movement of thought and expression building. It focuses not so much on any particular ideology ("right" or "left"), but on a common, critical-mass thirst to dispel the deception, irrationality, and utter hubris that has been corroding our proud country for what seems like an eternity.
An undeniable intellectual and social confluence is rapidly gaining momentum and solidarity. This solidarity is amazingly organic, not hierarchical -- its only guide is the sixth sense of skepticism, outrage, and, yes, reason. It transcends party. It is oceanic, atmospheric. An intellectual, moral, societal, and psychological gestalt as ancient as humanity itself, kept underfoot by a long winter, but indelibly germinating once again with the thaw.
It is literally everywhere now. The voices of blindness and rage cannot shake me anymore. I haven't felt such hope in a very long time. Letter from DCLaw1 sent to Glenn Greenwald
Despite the pessimistic brooding that often characterizes my posts on this blog, I am ever hopeful. I'm just not an optimist. Being an optimist means that you believe things always work out for the best, and I don't believe that. I believe that the good is not something that just happens or that truth is just there for the taking. Both have to be striven for, that neither comes easily, and that complacency necessarily leads to regression and delusion. You might describe that as a theological position backed by millennia of human experience.
So I, too, sense what DCLaw1 is talking about. But is this developing consensus born of a saying No or a saying Yes? I think it's the former, and out of a No there's not much to work with that helps you to move forward. A No is only good for resisting being pulled backward.
I don't know that our age is better or worse than any other. I think what makes it difficult is its end-of-an-age characteristics, which make it so difficult to frame a collective sense of future possibility to which sane people can all say Yes. And when the sane people in a society have nothing to which they can say Yes, their society is vulnerable to the forces of insanity and the Yes that comes so easily to them.
For while the forces of common sense and sanity at this time have no Yes to inspire and organize them, the forces of insanity do. That has always been the appeal of the far right in modern societies. Fascism offers people the possibility of saying Yes that gives them a sense of meaning and purpose. Yes to the nationalist identity embodied in the political state. Yes to the strong Leader. Yes to traditionalist values. Yes to the struggle to crush the foe. The great strength of the fascist right is its celebration of the Will and of its love of power, its hatred for weakness. The enormous potency of the political right lies in its ability to tap into the fears and grandiosity of a confused citizenry. When the citizens feel lost, purposeless, adrift, they are attracted to anyone who will give them a sense of national purpose and meaning.
Every society is vulnerable to those factions within it that are in one way or another subsumed by the will to power. America is not immune from their influence. Indeed, huge swaths of the American population are quite receptive to it. If we have learned nothing in the last 6+ years, we should have learned that, and what counterforce have those who would oppose it? What Yes do they have that will inspire them to resist it? The insane right is organized and aroused; the forces of sanity and common sense are disorganized and complacent, and their democratic habits are being slowly eroded.
I think that there are also huge swaths of the American public that are attuned to the kind of thing that DCLaw1 points to. I think there is a growing consensus of revulsion about what the Bush administration represents and how much damage it has caused. But is revulsion enough to counter it with an alternative? It's one thing to say No to the kind of insanity that is the driving force behind this administration, but that force isn't going away. It's part of the warp and woof of our national character, and it can be countered only by a Yes by that other part of our national soul that seeks to move forward together into a a positive future. My pessimism at this moment lies in my inability to see how this consensus about a No can be organized into a Yes potent enough to counter the implacable forces that otherwise drive us to the right.
These forces on the right evolve and adapt. I don't think we'll be seeing brown shirts and swastikas, or the like. Brian in a response to my previous post sent an interesting quote from Michael Lind that makes the point:
The United States may well experience episodes of authoritarian government in the future but these are unlikely to resemble the mobilizing, chauvinistic dictatorships of interwar Europe, all marching bands and banners. Dictatorship in the United States would most likely be demobilizing, seeking to keep people in their homes, rather than putting them on the streets or in uniform. An American dictatorship would clothe itself in constitutional and legal forms; it would cultivate an aura of nonpartisan technocracy and business expertise, not a feverish cult of the genius-leader and the masses. An American Fuehrer would not rant and strut, but crack jokes and adopt the relaxed, ironic, 'cool' style of a television host.
I believe in the long run all shall be well. It's the short run that worries me. Nevertheless, I am willing to admit that my failure to see the counter in the short run to these rightwing forces could be due a lack of imagination or perceptiveness on my part. Maybe something will emerge from the mood that DCLaw1 points to. I truly hope so. But in the meanwhile I think the prevailing attitude among Americans is that what Lind describes "can't happen here." My attitude is the opposite--that it is inevitable that it will happen here unless we find the will and imagination to frame a Yes that will counter it. If readers can envision an alternative Yes scenario, please share it. Saying No is easy. Saying Yes is really hard.