Hell With Centrism: We Must Reclaim The Inspired Edge
By Phil Rockstroh
16 November, 2006
"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes
a revolutionary act".
"I don't want to
be part of your revolution if I can't dance."
Rumsfeld is gone. Mehlman is
gone. Delay is gone. Yet -- let's not have our progressives' version
of a strutting on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier moment. Because
mission has not been accomplished.
For those who haven't noticed:
While we were busy with other concerns, many of our rights and liberties
went missing. Moreover, along with them, have went or are going fast:
our planet's polar ice caps; accountability of the corporate sector
(our nation's true power brokers); as well as, a sense of place, history,
and even a cursory understanding, among a large percent of the populace
of the US, of the precepts of civilization and of democratic discourse.
These circumstances, like
the melting of the polar ice caps, have transpired, incrementally, and
have been going on for longer than that Reign of Terror in Tiny Town
known as the Bush presidency. For example, regarding the increasingly
authoritarian terrain we negotiate our way through daily: In American
work places, bosses routinely snoop into underlings' personal e-mails
and monitor our web-surfing practices. How did it come about that so
many Americans have grown to accept such demeaning intrusions into our
In such a repressive societal
milieu, there is no need to threaten would-be dissidents with old school
totalitarian measures such as forced deportment to Siberian labor camps.
Threats, overt and covert, to one's economic security and social standing
serve to dissuade most of us from political and social dissent. In the
class stratified structure of the US work force, where the personal
consequences borne of financial upheaval are swift, punitive and severe,
the implicit threat of being deported to America's urban gulag archipelago
of homelessness renders most of us compliant to the exploitive dictates
of corporate oligarchy.
Where did this all begin?
How did it all get away from us? Furthermore -- why do we stand for
it -- when these practices are antithetical to everything we claim to
believe in as a nation?
In part, the proto-fascistic
transgressions of corporate rule have made these circumstances all but
inevitable, because our concept of what it means to be a human being
has been incrementally defined downward. There has been much discussion
of the dumbing down of American life. And these assessments are accurate
and unnerving. (How else does one explain that 37% of those Connecticut
voters who cast ballots for Joe Lieberman did so believing he was the
peace candidate?) But there has been little discourse given to the pervasive
corporate blandification of American life -- the manner in which its
criteria both numbs out the personality of an individual and renders
the nation's landscape monotonous and ugly.
The effects of corporatism
are insidious. In such an environment, there is no need for mass rallies
replete with bon fires blazing against the totalitarian darkness: Corporatism
establishes an authoritarian order by way of a series of overt bribes
and tacit threats. This social and cultural criteria causes an individual
to become fearful and cautious -- and, after a time, flattens out one's
inner drives and longings. As a result, a Triumph of the Bland comes
to pass, internally and externally.
Ergo, the oligarchs atop
the present order have no need for reeducation camps nor the ever-vigilant
gaze of neighborhood block captains. We have become our own, ever-vigilant
minders; within us, we have in place vast networks of secret police
informers -- our own personal bully boy enforcers of blandness who leave
us as passionless and empty as the architecture of the corporate nothingscape
that surrounds us.
In addition, corporatism
demands employees render themselves fecklessly pleasant. One doesn't
want to be caught being "negative" nor be accused of the treachery
of not being "a team player." Such accusations bring to an
individual a similar decree of ignominy as being denounced as a counterrevolutionary
under the fallen regime of the former Soviet Union.
Accordingly, despite their
midterm election victory, this problem remains mirrored in the leadership
of the Democratic party -- most of whom are the bought and sold products
of corporatist rule and, therefore, have been trained to act with the
kind of ersatz public congeniality demanded of all underlings in the
corporate state. Apropos, the odd combination of fecklessness and smugness
they delude themselves into believing is conducive to steering a course
of "sensible centrism." From refusing to fight stolen elections
-- right up to the present Democratic leadership of congress stating
they will not press for the impeachment of the most corrupt president
in the history of the republic -- we bear constant witness to it.
In this regard, it's very
considerate of congressional Republicans who, in synergy with the Bush
cartel, perpetrated one of the most vicious, vindictive and exclusionary
reigns in congressional history to now want to play nice and "reconcile."
It's very magnanimous of them to forgive us leftists for being right
on all fronts -- and generous of them to forgive the majority of their
Democratic peers in congress for cowering before them, day in and day
out, for the past four years of one party rule.
Moreover, it was we leftist
outsiders -- not reasonable, accommodating liberals -- who were right
about the disastrous consequences that would befall an invasion of Iraq;
as we were and remain right in our revulsion to the fascistic fraud
that is the Patriot Act and the War on Terror.
This is the reason we're
not let into the closed club of mainstream punditry. Although, to avoid
being cruel, such an event might prove to be unfair to the slow children
therein. We'd be hurling our ninety mile-an-hour, progressive fast balls
past them -- while they're playing tee-ball ... Only the insularity
inherent to a life of privilege can render folks as outright slow to
the realities of the outside world as evinced by our present day pundit
class. Is it any wonder they've enabled Duyba for so long. He's on their
tee-ball team. The little Beltway Oligarchs.
In short, mainstream Democrats
and self-proclaimed centrist pundits have adapted the mandatory mode
of being that is demanded of corporate underlings: self-annihilation
by habitual amiability. It remains to be seen whether this habit can
be broken or modified. I have my doubts.
Yet, one aspect of election
day 2006 was indisputably salubrious for us -- the powerless rabble
crushed beneath the corporate class: Owing to the fact, that, at least,
for one day, the act of voting served to pry our sagging asses off our
sofas and out of our office cubicles -- and into the soul-reviving vastness
And this point gets to the
heartless center of the tragedy of corporate hegemony: The manner in
which the system's monomaniacal drive for excessive profits and the
habitual consumerism mandatory to sustain it serves to usurp our essential
longings and passions. The absence, in contemporary life, of (non virtual)
public space, wherein human to human discourse can flourish has created
the social conditions inherent to the rise and pernicious influence
of anti-democratic institutions such as so-called megachurches. This
loss of communal connection, in confluence with consumerism and the
influences of American Puritanism and Calvinism, has wrought, within
the US populace, a desperate longing for group involvement -- even for
those ecstatic states involving the immersion of one's rational mind
found within the excesses of a totalitarian mob.
Likewise, the phenomenon
plays into the pernicious sin/shame continuum, psychologically, at the
root of the present genus of Protestant fundamentalism arising from
the toxic soil of the corporate state.
Huge, corrupt and bloated
out, like Elvis in his final years, this is how religions die. As was
the case with Elvis, Christian Fundamentalists believe they're bigger
than ever, but the course they've taken begets self-destructive behavior:
Given the fact that being a consummate consumer/religious zealot implicitly
demands one be prone to excess (from their enormous, Graceland-gaudy
churches to their over-the-top myths of world-wide, time-ending wars)
-- a scenario plays out, time and time again -- whereby a Saved*Mart
devotee breaches the rigid moral code of the group, then, overwhelmed
by shame must submit and surrender to public confession and other exhibitionistic
displays of phony redemption.
Within this paradoxical dynamic,
the corporate/consumer/quasi-theocratic state compels one to live excessively,
yet, simultaneously, dictates one suppress one's lusts and passions,
hence creating an unbridgeable psychological splitting process. As a
consequence, many are bound to stray into the realm of the forbidden
(because almost everything is forbidden) and with this comes the aforementioned
need for a come-to-Jesus repentance. Conveniently, the whole sick symmetry
serves as a means by which the individual can be controlled by the unscrupulous
personalities at the head of fundamentalist organizations -- who play
Colonel Tom Parker to the hapless flock's Elvis.
These ruthless phonies, in
combination with the cunning apparatchik of the UberCulture, have become
adroit at controlling any untidy outbursts of freedom of expression
that might threaten their cultural hegemony. They have far too much
at stake -- too much money and power might be lost, if freedom's voice
were to be heard unfettered; hence, they serve up the spurious ecstatic
states proffered by both pop culture and megachurch hucksterism.
These are the regions of
the national soul we on the left must reclaim. Traditionally, music
has aided progressives in the struggle. Accordingly, Woody Guthrie believed
all songs are political. Songs take up residence in our hearts and in
the non-verbal areas of our minds where we harbor our deepest longings.
There, they inform our perceptions of the world. It is this sublime
terrain, existing beyond the material, that progressives have abandoned
to the frauds and flimflammers.
Lost, in our retreat, has
been our affinity with the spirit of defiant longing for release from
hard labor beneath the unforgiving Mississippi sun that found voice
in the late night, crossroads barroom freedom of Delta Blues -- or the
likes of our finding refuge from the dehumanizing, daylight demands
of mid-twentieth century, industrial, urban existence in the midnight
transcendence of Bebop and Free Jazz. Also missing has been an atmosphere
(cultural and personal) of creative risk and abandon, whereby Jimi Hendrix
would conjure and fuse the urban and rural spirits of Robert Johnson
and John Coltrane, plus toss some Malcolm X into the mix -- and, a short
time later and further down a southbound road, Duane Allman would resurrect
a redneck hippie, guitar Jesus who fed the post-honkey tonk multitudes
Orange Sunshine as he delivered an electric guitar Sermon On The Georgia
Red Dirt Mount fusing the spirits of Tim Leary, Martin Luther King,
and the Carter Family. Then, a few years later, across the gray Atlantic,
the Sex Pistols would howl like Post-Industrial Age demons, trapped
within the detritus of the crumbling British Empire ... much like, nearly
a decade and a half later, Kurt Cobain would have his short, Icarian
flight across the flaming-out sun of the American Empire.
In addition, the realm of
sexuality has been claimed and exploited by moralizing hypocrites and
opportunists. Hence, it's high time, we progressives ceased to be such
priggish ninnies -- and challenged the Puritan/Calvinistic delusion
that the worst aspects of sinfulness can be traced to the fleshy themeparks
of the human genitals. It's time we addressed and confronted the (mundane
but far more deadly) sin of obliviousness to the larger world existing
beyond one's immediate shallow, self-serving needs, concerns, and compulsions
-- the outright careless disregard of anything on this living earth
that does not serve the cravings of a culture overrun by overgrown infant
tyrants dropped from the poisonous womb of corporatism. Possibly, in
this light, the words sin and sinners are too loaded with cretinous
religious connotations and, accordingly, their meanings should be reinterpreted
more along the lines of "self-centered fuck-ups."
In order to bring freedom
and its full range of ecstasies and excesses back to American life,
we must not only wrest back ecstatic states from the bible-brandishing,
brown shirt-prone class -- but the very definition of what constitutes
spirituality, passion and sin as well. We’re not talking about
so-called blue states or red states here -- but states of inspiration.
Very few folks are ever moved to change their lives by the promulgating
of wonky statistics or even well reasoned arguments. That's not how
human beings are made up -- Praise be! -- to the happenstance of evolutionary
In conclusion, we must strive
to live with the same degree of passion and fervor as fundamentalist
Christian preachers do -- when they're seeking out converts and hookers.
Phil Rockstroh, a self-described auto-didactic, gasbag
monologist, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York
City. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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