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Friday, February 10, 2006

Detroit Dialectic

The Irony of the Super Bowl in a Supercilious Nation

by Zbignew Zingh

Dissident Voice (February 6 2006)

General Motors has announced that it lost billions of dollars last quarter. Delphi, GM's primary parts supplier, has demanded that its workers cut their salaries by half or more and reduce their health care benefits. Ford will lay off 30,000 blue collar employees and close factories. Daimler-Chrysler will lay off 6,000 white collar employees. Throughout the country, American industry is curtailing pension funds or eliminating them altogether.

The naked pursuit of profit causes companies to cannibalize themselves and to decimate their work forces. Wall Street cheers while business cuts labor to the bone in the name of shareholder value.

But while it rains pink slips on the workingmen and women of Motor City, Detroit hosts the Super Bowl. The Chief Executive Officers, the captains of industry, the bankers, the politicians, the financiers, the business gurus and show biz glitterati, the movers and shakers of our times, will pack the luxury boxes dining and wining like Roman patricians. The proles, sitting in the bleachers or at their big screen televisions (purchased on revolving credit at eighteen percent interest), will watch the spectacle and lustily indulge in the party.

Eat. Drink. Be merry. For tomorrow we lose everything.

There is nothing wrong with a good party. In fact, the harder times are, the better the reasons to party. There were so many speakeasies and dance marathons during the Great Depression. People needed to make merry to forget. The current political and economic circumstances portend, perhaps, an even greater party time ahead.

So let us ignore the irony of Detroit. Let us ignore the fabulously wealthy ascending to heights of luxury contrasted with the working middle class descending into the lower class. Let us ignore the contrast of the easy-living owners in the box seats with the workers down below who will have no retirement, no affordable health care, no good education for their children. Like in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, it is Super Bowl time as much as it is Soma Bowl time.

As the ranks of the unemployed swell, let us all have a good time. Let us cheer on "our" teams - these outlandishly proportioned gladiator-mercenaries who are emblems of 21st Century American excess. Let us enjoy the spectacle of Consumption, Power, Beauty, Sex and Violence, and ignore the irony that most of the cities that host these itinerant professional sports teams actually rent them from the teams' corporate owners for the hollow pride of calling them the city's own.

I enjoy sports and good health as much as anyone else. At the professional level, however, the visceral pleasure of watching powerful, well-chiseled men and women perform at their physical peak is destroyed by the irony that these people are now icons for Imperial America. These super-sized athletes and their cheerleaders, are they naturally strong, lithesome and beautiful, or are they products of surgery, medical manipulation, and steroids? Are they big by nature, or is that bovine look due to eating too much rbGH-growth hormone in their meat and dairy? Will they live long and healthful lives, as you might expect, or will they die young, like so many high-performance athletes, whose over-doped cardiovascular systems burn out in their middle years?

The players wear helmets and armor. They mouth off, they strut, they talk trash to their opponents. In short, they talk and act like America's occupation storm troopers. Both soldiers and pro athletes have been trained to hit, gang tackle and diss their opponents. Off the field of play, the players abuse women, get in fights, hurt innocents; on the field, they do anything and everything to win. Ironically, they often play like America's military fights: cruel and dirty. Is it "courage" when a bigger man in padded armor crushes a smaller man on the field of play, or is it just plain mean? Is it "courage" when a bigger, better equipped, high-tech soldiery crushes a smaller, low-tech opponent on the battlefield, or is it savagery? Do our athletes run amok on the field of play like America's military runs amok in the Middle East?

We are asked to support our troops.

We are asked to support our teams.

The irony takes the pleasure out of pro sports.

But the ironies do not begin or end in Detroit.

America's leadership force-feeds "democracy" to a skeptical world with all the subtlety of a tube shoved down humankind's throat. Democracy, American style, apparently means the American form of limited selection, controlled choice "democracy" (little "d"), such as in dictatorial Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, the former Soviet Union, and the United States. Meanwhile, where Democracy really has broken out - in pre-coup Haiti, in pre-Shah Iran, in Palestine, Venezuela, Bolivia, Iran and Chile, for instance - America declares that the people are not sufficiently politically mature. It then browbeats the winners and subverts the "immature" body politic with bribes, false NGOs, faux rebellions, covert plots and economic coercion.

How ironic that America castigates theocratic Iran, denounces militant Hamas and frets about Islamic terrorists and fundamentalism. America itself, however, packs its courts and its government with its own brand of religious fundamentalists, and who can deny the irony of America's own terrorism unleashed on the world? America's Religious Right preaches political
assassination in the cause of peace, violence in the name of love, exceptionalism in the name of universal truth - how ironic, therefore, that America's Religious Right denounces other religious zealots for its very own vices.

How ironic that while America strives to prevent any other nation from building nuclear power generators, from North Korea to Iran, America's president embarks on the construction of many more nuclear reactors. No more countries shall build nuclear weapons, preach America's leaders, while, in self-parody, it itself secretly funds research into new, more powerful, more devastating nuclear weapons.

America touts itself as the protector of liberty and freedom of speech. Ironically, it defends its liberty with torture, kidnaps in the name of the law, and incarcerates without trial for the sake of freedom.

America promotes human rights and civil rights ... for China and Russia. In America, however, the politicians promote "security" uber alles. America supports separatism for Taiwan, Korea, the Ukraine, Georgia and the Kurds. Ironically, it will never allow independence for its own colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, Iraq or American Samoa.

America touts itself as the high priest of free enterprise. Nevertheless, America's economy is dominated by the few, paid for by the many, and regulated with the intention to throttle any enterprise not beholden to the capital markets. The Stock Market, still widely regarded as a leading economic indicator, no longer serves its primary purpose as an indicator of corporate bond value and strength. Bond prices move up, gold prices jump higher, oil future prices and natural gas prices skyrocket, the economy "recovers" but no jobs are created, short and long term interest rates converge - but the Stock Market, counter-intuitively, as if lifted by an Invisible Hand, rises as well. Like in Oz, the people believe in the miracle of The Market and they will not look for the manipulation behind the curtain. Their paper stock wealth goes up while their quality of life goes down. How ironic.

Yet, through it all Americans seem to be happy, or at least, oblivious. We strive to be happy, or at least, oblivious. The media, the advertisers, the sportscasters, the ministers and politicians and pundits all promote happiness, or oblivion. It is a national past-time, being happy, or oblivious, even when, objectively, our make-believe world of rights and liberties and prosperity and moral piety is crashing all around us.

It is Super Bowel time. A time of communal myth, making merry and make-believe.

A supercilious nation watches the Super Bowel. It is the cathedral of our values. It is the metaphor for everything 21st Century America has come to stand for. How ironic.

Zbignew Zingh can be reached at This Article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, et cetera to your heart's content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at copyleft 2006 Totten


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