We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Politics of Cruelty: America’s Descent Into Madness

Click here to access article by Henry Giroux from CounterPunch.

I have admired this very articulate educator and his periodic soundings of alarm about the deteriorating quality of American life, and have occasionally posted his articles. However, I must confess that I now have run out of patience with the liberal limitations of his views. He poses as being more radical than other liberals because he claims that they are not as concerned as he is.
The general response from progressives and liberals does not take seriously the ways in which the extreme right-wing articulates its increasingly pervasive and destructive view of American society. 
However, I think it is long past the point where we should be exclaiming over the state of American society. It is no longer sufficient to wallow in self-pity for the awful conditions we now find ourselves in. Serious intellectuals should now be brave enough to see what needs to be done in spite of threats to their economic well-being, threats that everyone experiences who stands in the way of the capitalist class and its obsession with accumulating more wealth and power regardless of the social and ecological consequences.

But he and his fellow liberals can only lament about what is the natural evolution of capitalism into neoliberalism. He condemns the themes of the current ruling class dominated by neoliberals and neoconservatives. It is clear that what he only wants is a return to a supposedly kinder, gentler capitalism of earlier periods expressed in the deceptive language of the "social contract" as so well expressed in this Israeli source.
One of the basic assumptions...is that democratic society is based on a tacit social contract between the state and its citizens, according to which, in return for the citizens abiding by the state’s laws and agreeing to fulfill their duties to it (like paying taxes and serving in the armed forces), the state has an obligation to guarantee and actively promote individual and collective social security, social justice and effective forms of social solidarity. Besides direct assistance to the weaker parts of the population, the state is expected to ensure that its middle classes are able to obtain affordable housing and maintain a decent standard of living.
This is the bargain that early capitalists made with workers to get them to submit to their rule. All you need to do is to translate their typical usage of the code word "democratic" into capitalist and "state", and finally into their class rule. Now the meaning of this contract is revealed.

However this "contract" was only a temporary expedient. Now that the ruling capitalist class has overwhelming control of every major institution--media, education, entertainment, government, military, etc, they don't fear us anymore. They are drunk on the vast power they have accumulated. Thus, they are reneging on the contract they made with our ancestors. Giroux like all liberals and most progressives suffer from the delusion that the contract can be renewed.
Instead of promoting a society that embraces a robust and inclusive social contract, they legitimate a social order that shreds social protections, privileges the wealthy and powerful and inflicts a maddening and devastating set of injuries upon workers, women, poor minorities, immigrants, and low- and middle-class young people.
It is a delusion, first of all, because of the current capitalist class's hopeless addiction to power, and secondly because the contract never benefited ordinary workers--only middle class workers (managers, professionals, highly skilled workers) who the ruling capitalist class co-opted. With the advances in technology this class is now also being threatened with being dumped on the scrapheap of surplus labor. The only real solution is to place the capitalist system itself on the scrapheap of history.