Bill Totten's Weblog

Thursday, September 02, 2010

One Lump or Two?

by James Howard Kunstler

Comment on current events by the author of
The Long Emergency
(2005) (August 30 2010)

Here come the Corn Pone Nazis!

Fox News entertainer, former drug addict, and professional weeper Glenn Beck took center stage at the Lincoln Memorial exactly forty-seven years to the day after Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech for a rally dedicated to "restoring honor", which is tea party code for the otherwise unutterable idea: get that nigger out of the White House! (despite the attendance of a few African-American shills on the scene).

Eighty-seven thousand disoriented citizens lined the DC Mall reflecting pool and adjoining lawns to witness Beck overstep his role as a television clown and don the mantle of an evangelist-savior battling the dark forces working insidiously to put the America of WalMart, Walt Disney World, Nascar, and Burger King into the Collapsed Society Hall of Fame - where it's heading anyway, due to the bad choices these self-same citizens made during an extraordinary bonanza era of cheap oil that is now drawing to a close whether anyone likes it or not. Naturally, Beck invoked prayer against this prospect, which is what people resort to when they don't understand what is happening to them.

Beck himself just seems to be following a career arc more than really answering "a call". The emptiness of his platitudes and the confusion of his ideas shows that he is just flexing his demagogic muscles in a moment when weepy bluster passes for heroism. Ten years ago he was a cringing drunk contemplating suicide. Then he went shopping in America's Mall of Utopias for something to believe in and found Mormonism, a "religion" dreamed up by an imaginative young man on the agricultural frontier of western New York during an earlier age of ferment which - guess what - coincided with a decade of economic turbulence. (Anyone interested in the bizarre subject is advised to read Fawn Brodie's excellent biography of Smith, No Man Knows My History [Knoph,1945].)

Of course, what has allowed Beck to occupy center stage is the failure of rational political figures to articulate the terms of the convulsion that American society faces, brought about not by communists and other John Bircher hobgoblins but by the forces of history. The failure at the political center is a conscious one of nerve and will, of elected officials in both major parties playing desperately for advantage in defiance of the truth - this truth being that the USA went broke trying to swindle itself into prosperity. Add to this the failure of the law to go after the swindlers, which has undermined the fundamental belief in the rule of law that enabled this society to function as well as it did previously.

Barack Obama personifies this failure these days, a politician proclaiming "change" who not only managed to change nothing, but promoted a continuation of the national self-swindling with legislation so dazzlingly prolix and complicated that no one can claim to have read either the Health Care Reform Act or the Financial Regulation bill, the two hallmarks of his tenure so far, neither of which will change anything about how we do these things. Why Mr Obama has turned out to be such a weenie remains a mystery. Even the former communists at Russia Today laugh at the idea that he is a "communist" or a "socialist" and so do I. He certainly appears to be hostage of the more malign forces in society these days - the medical insurance racket, the too-big-to-fail banks, the multi-national corporations. But I don't believe it's because he wants to suck up to them, or join their country clubs when his current job ends.

My own guess is that he's been informed that the system is so fragile that if he dares to disturb even one teensy-weensy part of it - for instance, by throwing some executives from Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, et cetera, into federal prison - that said system will fly to pieces in a fortnight. So Obama's main task for a year and a half has been to desperately apply baling wire and duct tape to the banking system while telling fibs to the public about a wished-for recovery to a prior state. Unfortunately that prior state is the ecstasy of a self-swindle in the moments before it unravels ... the sublime feeling of having gotten something wonderful for nothing. We're beyond that now and nothing on the age-old shelf of nostrums, spells, prayers, and miracle-cures will avail to bring that moment back, though the public does not know this.

This is what allows a faker like Glenn Beck to shine. The masses still truly believe that prayer will save them from bankruptcy, foreclosure, penury, the loss of status, and the cut-off of precious air-conditioning, so Glenn steps onto a national monument like an Aztec priest ascending the Pyramid of Huitzilopochtli to soothe the angry god with worshipful incantations, and incidentally maybe a few dozen sacrificial hearts cut out - just as the tea-bagger right-wing glorifies the sacrifices of US soldiers blown up by roadside bombs for the sake of American military adventuring in lost causes like the war to turn Afghanistan into a functioning western-style democracy.

Glenn Beck's sidekick nowadays, Sarah Palin, is exactly the kind of corn pone Hitler that America deserves: a badly-educated, child-like, war-mongering opportunist easily manipulated by backstage extremist billionaires who think they don't have enough money yet. Sarah Palin is going to run for president in 2012. In the process she'll turn the sad remnants of the Republican party into a suicide cult, but she might just get elected and you can kiss the 230-year-long experiment in representative government goodbye for good.

In the meantime, the financial markets are getting ready to puke, the housing market has yet a million frauds left to unwind, the commercial real estate and retail sectors are crashing, the projects in Afghanistan, and Iraq, too (despite the current hype about the end of the combat mission there), are set to suck a few billion a day out of the system, indefinitely, and the season leading into the holidays is taking shape as a major amplification of all the converging clusterfucks that make these such interesting times. The tea-bagger faction will only get more desperately crazy as a result.

The bigger mystery in all this - if I may perhaps engage in some nostalgia of my own - is: what happened to reasonable, rational, educated people of purpose in this country to drive them into such burrow of cowardice that they can't speak the truth, or act decisively, or even defend themselves against such a host of vicious morons in a time of troubles?


A sequel to my 2008 novel of post-oil America, World Made By Hand, will be published in September 2010 by The Atlantic Monthly Press. The title is The Witch of Hebron.

Mr Kunstler's biography is at

Bill Totten


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