Posts Tagged ‘Arguing’


September 4, 2008


Everybody has become highly critical of Bush, but one man does not a republic make. Nor does one man a republic dismantle. Following Bush like bleating sheep was a cop-out, excoriating Bush another. Sheep do not a republic make. All they can do is graze.

The increasing system failure in the USA did not just spring from Bush’s cluelessness, plutocratic preferences, and desire to switch the conversation from his business association with Osama bin Laden’s family to Saddam Hussein, bin Laden’s enemy. The failure did not spring just from the Supreme Court deciding who should be president. No, it’s more like a failure of the American mind, as an American mind.

The crumbling infrastructure of the USA can be traced at the very least to Bill Clinton’s choice of Robert Rubin over Robert Reich. Rubin behaved as if an obsession with money was the only infrastructure worth having, whereas Reich advocated infrastructure in the conventional, material sense of the term. Thanks to Rubin, the tail of finance wagged the dog of the entire American economy. Bush was just the next chapter of that degenerated tale.

Even now people go around like chicken on the left, cackling; “change!, change!, change!” But nothing more concrete than a change of methodology can be proposed to them. Indeed real change is a no-no for those little ones. It would frighten them, and they would fly away, cackling louder than ever. They are going to have to be tricked into change.

Real change would mean redirecting the economy in different directions. The so called “great generation” that won W.W.II in three years from a tremendous effort, military and industrial, was the fruit of the socioeconomic redirection Roosevelt accomplished with the “New Deal”. When the war came, Roosevelt accentuated that redirection by nominating a young Canadian academic as economic czar with full powers. The young czar decided what all and any company would do, throughout the US economy.

In a non war situation, how does one redirect socioeconomic activity? With taxes. The tax debate so far has been restricted to whether one should go back to the tax structure of Clinton’s rule. Supposedly the economy was doing great under Clinton, when one measures it in a rather naive way, that of the height of GDP. But GDP is crude, and height a false indicator. Verily, a plane that is going to stall also gains altitude, in a last gasp, when vital dynamic energy going forward is transformed into a fatal hiccup. The bubble economy started under Clinton, and Rubin’s wild financial engineering is no stranger to it.

What’s the essence of democracy? Making arguments. An argument is a logicalo-emotional presentation made to clarify to oneself and to others a model of a piece of the universe. It often boils down into a plan of action. Arguments are elaborated in strenuous back and forth with others. It is both crucial to develop arguments inside oneself, to insure originality, and with others, to insure mental wealth. The Greeks made refined distinctions between diverse aspects of democracy, and equal capability to make discourses (“isogeria”) was viewed as crucial. In other words, equal access to public argument making was viewed as essential to democracy. The Greeks of Athens’ apogee did not envision that a race would evolve that did not like to argue. Greek democracy took centuries to die, and died fighting (against Persia first, then Macedonia, then finally against the fascizing Roman republic). The Greeks resisted decerebration until the drastic holocaust inflicted by the Christian dictatorship. This makes the mental evolution in the present day USA more similar to what happened in Rome: death by plutocracy.

Democracy is strong because all minds are used in parallel, all bringing their own ideas, to form a gigantic set of ideas. Anti-intellectuals view this as idle. Their motivation is in general clear: they are from the plutocracy, or in its service. US President Bush Senior, the famous billionaire, used to talk derisively about “the vision thing”. But vision from ideas is what allows to not fly into walls blindly, as the USA did with Muslim Fundamentalism, Afghanistan, and Iraq (the former two walls were multi generational American mistakes where democrats were as involved as the worst Republicans). (I will not mention Hitler and Stalin, who were both extensively supported by the USA, before, and during (!) W.W.II, because I do not want to stress out further those poor cackling chicken… that led to some problems that were as many opportunities to US plutocracy, including the Bush family.)

Democracy’s power and definition is in the love of arguments. But “arguments” and “arguing” have become pejorative in the USA. Now even joking is becoming criminal. One starts with airports, and with the Latin word for “black”, but where will it stop? What happened to “the pursuit of happiness”, one of the “inalienable rights”? Are those who can’t joke happy? Does that mean their “inalienable right” has been alienated?

The opposite of democracy, fascism, is weaker than democracy, on a historical scale, because the fascist mindset is all about minds operating in series. As the Qur’an orders it, “obey your superior”.

In fascism, political, social or intellectual, all minds ultimately take their orders from just one mind, “The Decider” (as Bush calls himself), or the “Guide” (as Hitler called himself; “Fuehrer”), or the “Messenger” (transmitting “God” violent elucubrations). As Hitler pointed out, this “guiding principle” (“Fuehrerprinzip”) allows to take decisions quickly, and as shockingly as needed (Hitler illustrated this with glee, by making an alliance with Poland in 1934, after running a hateful, and threatening election campaign against it in 1933). As Hitler demonstrated, fascism also allows to take the most stupid and criminal decisions, because there are very few true geniuses of wisdom and benevolence, and many evil morons (especially in high places). If of one mind a country depends, chances are it will be moronic and violent (those who like to contemplate butterflies and fields of flowers tend not to not make it to the top of the crab heap).

If the USA wants to be strong it will have to consist of many original minds contributing. It used to, and the country was strong and modern (in spite of being founded by rabid plutocracy and boosted by the primitivism of slavery). Now, after W.W.II, the USA has been victim of a burst of plutocracy, similar to the one Rome knew after vanquishing Carthage in the Second Punic War (and for similar reasons). That there was such a burst of inequality is beyond doubt: look at the US GINI index, and how it is picking up. The plutocrats don’t mind that the country is falling apart: not only do they not fly “commercial”, but the lower the people below them, the greater their perceived glory (we have seen it all before: remember how Rome went from democracy to plutocracy!).

In any case, if the USA wants to stop the rot, it will have to look at Europe. What it will see there first, is a very different tax structure… And also much more critical minds, who love to be critical, thus no joke, or no information, is left unturned.

Patrice Ayme.

P/S: Within days of a murderous ambush on French marines in Afghanistan, a blonde reporter from Paris Match met with the assailants, and she transmitted their pictures, partly in captured French uniforms, and, skeptically, their view of the world. France took it calmly, remembering that piece of wisdom from her history: before acting well, it’s necessary to know well.

Learning about the world is perhaps the main French past time. Another French reporter, using the same mix of amazing courage and female innocence, besides excellent Russian and knowledge of the region, charmed her way deep in Ossetia through the Russian lines.  This sort of very long shows are very popular in France, and feed the conversations that are the core of social interactions there. Conversations being the occasion to roll out arguments, and the more original, the more esteemed and appreciated by all. This compares favorably, democracy speaking, with the American social past time of watching some sport teams on TV, and keeping scores. Minds are born at home, and if all there is at home is watching guys on steroids getting excited by banging into each other, the minds one will get will have more to do with an aggressive version of cows watching trains pass by, than the masterful minds democracy live by, and for.