by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ August 18, 2020
While everyone watches the collapse of the US, presented by the media as just another political horserace, what remains of American culture is eaten away by stress, fear, and loathing. The inherent superficiality of United States culture has always been a defining characteristic, but this acted as an aid to maintain minimal community in a vast landmass with millions of immigrants and a mobile population. Extensive industrialization and resource exploitation in the wake of WWII made growing wages and available work the reward for all who came.
The lack of depth in American culture was balanced by effortless movement and upward mobility. With young families often moving three or four times for better jobs or opportunities, there was no need for roots or more than a few criteria for a good life. But that withered away with capitalist exploitation and neoliberal outsourcing to the cheapest wage markets.
I grew up in the fifties and sixties when the US was, we thought, a troubled but working model for the future. It was then that the criticism of conceit and superficiality showed us the “ugly American” and the visions of Philip Roth and others. People moved around; immigrants came, the superficiality as cool indifference was a lubricant making it easy to insert yourself and your family into communities across the land. Many of us mistook this for fundamental respect for other’s diversity and rights, but it was more pragmatic and superficial with less invested than we imagined.
Sports, weather, local politics were the topics of conversation that glossed over the illusions and myths that hid the racism of an evolving imperialist monstrosity. No one noticed the similarities of the beloved Norman Rockwell paintings, Soviet (Socialist) Realism established by Stalin, and Heroic Realism of Nazi Germany. Rockwell was not heroic, of course, except when he was, but family-oriented for clean, white, Caucasian people who were the real Americans.
After fifty years, exhausted by endless versions of Realism, culminating in racist fascism for the sociopathic minority and a hollowed-out emptiness of the majority, I have realized that there is nothing left of America but a tissue-thin tattered remnant. The void in the heart of America so long hidden was again quickly filled with shoddy fascist illusions for the willing minority. The ease of this change, for many, shows the absence of concrete cultural supports for the human rights we claimed as our foundation.
We can see now how our cherished 18th-century ideals were always a façade, but even the light structure of that façade was eaten away by racism, greed, and willful ignorance. In the sixties, we began to see the illusion with the fight for civil rights and the cynical joke of wars fought for the benefit of the political elite and the military-industrial complex. We began to re-understand our past with Joseph Heller and Catch-22 that it was not at all what we had thought.
The last citizen-soldiers fought in the Vietnam War, and too many learned the truth, so the military was made professional heavily manned by willing immigrants. Another reenactment of the rise of the Roman Empire with, now, similar consequences in its decline and fall.
But part of the stage illusion held. Enough of the long corrupted political system believed enough to keep the core ideals causing the worst abuses to fail (the last being Nixon and Watergate). At the same time, the white population accepted a new pretense of minority rights as if it were real. But as the elite burned up planetary resources, claimed victory over the Soviet enemy that had died from the same disease first, and turned on the entire US population with extreme capitalism, oppression, and open racism, the future of America was lost.
The success of neofascism in the guise of a mentally disabled opportunist is the final joke. Opportunists never care about the future as their goals are immediate loot and escape, even if their escapes typically fail. Criminals always think themselves unbeatable until their world ends.
But for the people prone to these forms of psychosis can maintain mindless and absolute faith because they have nothing else. Facts mean nothing, and the highest scientific knowledge must be a lie because it fails to conform to the cheap fantasies they have purchased. They continue to act based on these illusions.
For the mass of Americans forced to face the yawning emptiness under the floor of the US when we remove the rotted wood of slavery, racism, and genocide, there is no choice but to, finally, accept the real cultural structures that kept us going. Our culture is gone just as the white Western civilization built on massive exploitation is dead. Finally, we see the surviving structural resources are from our diversity and the power of our ethnic, sexual, continuously oppressed minorities. A racially or ethnically defined elite is inherently weak and becomes more oppressive as its weakness grows.
Our diversity links us to the new/old world of communal strength, protecting us from rapacious elites and brutal oppression. The people who have always lived with an America the rest of us learned to ignore must now teach us. And they are.
Neofascist America is an endless set of lies built on far older lies. No wonder it is so easy to fall back on racism, misogyny, ignorance, exclusion, and denial as the lies always collapse n fear and self-hatred. The foundation that we should have was hollowed out and destroyed while being replaced with more lies. The concept of nation-states as sovereign is now unsustainable. That became a tool only to exploit all resources without any plan for the future.
We gave up our communal sharing and responsibility for an endlessly repeated set of shyster promises. The dawning of the age of climate disaster and pandemics made those lies glaringly visible to the population struggling with decades of suspicion. The energy required to deny the lies by those still captured by them is producing the exhaustion that creates death cults. Denial becomes the sole end, and that end is death.
We must get beyond that and build new communities completely integrated and sustainable that are dedicated to well being for every living thing. That is nothing like what we had. It’s time to deal with it and make it happen, however painful. We must now build a firm, cultural foundation that can support our planet through the difficult centuries ahead.
These communities are taking shape around us, but they are different. They are also marked for death by the owners of the old lies who’s growing weakness and fear are producing violent threats and will produce brutal oppression if allowed. Our situation is not simple and simple explanations are the result of fear, ignorance, and weakness. Our future is not hanging from a tree. It now requires decades of work and thought to sort our knowledge, ideas, and options into something that can survive.
We see these future communities that will replace the old nation-states and regional empires of military oppression struggling to be born. In the collapse of America, we see it in Seattle, Portland, Chicago, wherever Black Lives Matter is written in the streets, and a diverse population stands against the police state and its racism. We see it the international support for Hong Kong fighting against the old police oppression that the new China has been unable to end even as it moves to planetary leadership.
It’s visible in Belarus and the Middle East where people, not as armies, but as residents demand direct control to remove oppression and corruption. The links are between cities, not nations. The call for support to other nation-states for oppressed peoples is not just counterproductive but dangerous. Who would ask help from the US lead by an insane monster? Nation-states are the problem and, now, a deadly one.
We know that politics is a sham. Political parties represent only different factions of the elite exploiters. They are institutionally corrupt, and they always block us from trying anything else. But that is also visible now. The facades are falling by the day.
We need to risk the new. That is visible, finally, in the transformative policies of the Biden and Harris, but these are tentative and paper only. The police state and the old oligarchs are struggling to kill these changes before they can happen. They will fail, but the suffering they produce we must face.