The Broken Republic – A Reflection on the Death of Reason

I was raised on TV,
Like so many of you I see around me.
Nothing to live or die for,
No religion too…
Here…?
Now…?
Why…!?!

Gord Downie

The United States is broken.

It’s broke too.

And reason has taken a holiday.

When the most rational people a State can produce spend an inordinate amount of time arguing trivialities and tangents with reactionary fools, the political system is hopelessly broken.

And, seeing as hindsight is always 20-20, we can see the view from 2011 looks bleak. Facing backwards we see a dim light far off in the distance, bittersweet memories of simpler times in back in the mid-1990s. We’re fooling ourselves though – despite our nostalgia the view behind us is bleak past Bush the First, and the kindly old men and women we knew as ‘Leaders of the Free World’ back in our youth were criminals, war-mongers and masters of manipulation – setting the tone more than thirty years ago. Reagan may have looked good to a child watching CNN when the Soviet Union was dying, but his historical record speaks for itself – the man very nearly caused the Third World War, and his economic and social agenda triggered a major destabilization of the American middle-class, and an all-out war against the poor and labouring class in its own right. Many of the problems President Obama is trying to deal with today with have roots stretching all the way back to the heady days of the early and mid-1980s. And a good number of the crackpot lunatics running the RNC and GOP today know Reagan, through their own self-imposed myopia and outright arrogant ignorance, as perhaps the greatest modern American president. He has been idolized and made both Alpha and Omega in an ungodly union of so-called fiscal Conservatives, moralist-libertarians and corporate-evangelical Christians – all the major Conservative pundits praise his name and record as if it was unblemished. I say they’ve damn near made a false idol of this Reagan, and though I’m no Christian, I really wish they’d follow their own god-dammed commandments once in a while.

And reason? Gone. Poof! It disappeared because the People of the First World weren’t paying attention to what really mattered. They voted in governments that took money out of schools, hospitals and social services, and invested heavily in building new weapons to continue fighting wars (this despite the fact that by the late-1980s, it was clear the Cold War was over). They decided to simply equate being a Conservative with knowing something about how economics work. And our disinterest in really knowing whether or not our leaders knew what the hell they were talking about was recognized by the media, who realized in turn that the only thing that drives news coverage is scandal, bickering and punditry. Information wasn’t coming in quickly enough for the cable news outlets, so they had to start making news up – inventing a story to drive up ad revenue. And before we knew it our disinterest in actively participating in the democratic process had produced a new corporate policy for the Media Giants: if it’s not infotainment, it’s not news.

Therefore, out go the boring in-depth analyses of social and economic policy, and in come the actors. Starting with Reagan, the original b-movie actor turned politician, our political reality was radically transformed for the worse. The New Right united the RNC/GOP establishment with a massive voter base of special interest groups and special-ed students; those who could use the newly sensationalistic corporate media to press their agenda and distract from government economic planning, and those too stupid to care about government economic planning, but who want you to know that Jesus wants ‘Mer-ri-ca to kill the Ayatollah because of 9-11, and Obama is a secret al-Qaeda operative.

It’s bullshit – we are living in the Golden Age of Bullshit. No Gilded Age mind you – not even an attempt to hide the rotting soul within – it’s out there for all to see. Bullshit is currency now, and an unfortunately large number of people buy it. They buy into Goldline. They fall for Nigerian Prince Schemes. They don’t care that about healthcare – those obnoxious camera-whores from New Jersey are fighting each other again! What fun!

And don’t kid yourselves, we’re all partially responsible for this mess, or at the very least have been significantly conditioned whether we like it or not – the commercialization of information, media and facts has left an indelible stain on our collective society. So many of us are the exploited, the misguided mass that votes Republican, or Conservative or doesn’t vote at all. And we have been mislead by the exploitation of our general preference to be passively entertained rather than to actively participate in our society. As a result, the once progressive but now decadent West seems to be very quickly losing one of its core societies, as the American Civilization crumbles with the weight of its own accumulated inertia. If we’re not next to fall, perhaps there is a legitimate strength to the Canadian culture after all – and wouldn’t it be wise to get to know what specifically has minimized the impact of this kind of blatant exploitation of the People’s will. To be fooled by those who can afford to do so ad infinitum for their own selfish gain is one thing, but to have a significant amount of what constitutes your initial worldview so expertly tainted you need to dig yourself out of an ignorance pit just to realize what reason means is a horrifying imposed intellectual handicap. We’re not just being mislead, we’re being actively dumbed-down.

A few nights ago, trying to deal with my own angst-fuelled insomnia, I began reading the preferred copy of Plato’s Republic used by my Alma Matter, Concordia’s Liberal Arts College. Doing as I had been so trained, I picked it up and started on page one – no skipping to the Parable of the Cave for me. I was astounded at how expertly the editor’s introduction framed the contents of the Republic as an intellectual reaction to the decline of the once-great Athenian State. Undone by a seemingly endless war and a resurgent paganism that the state used to its own advantage, Athens slipped from an enlightened state to one of barbarity, avarice, corruption and a total disinclination towards what an individual can teach himself. Socrates was murdered because he was an atheist, and refused to believe that man was incapable of thinking and doing for himself and for others. After the fall of Athens, those who led did so by venerating the once-forgotten Gods, and reminded the people that they themselves were not responsible for their actions. ‘Tis only the will of the Gods you know…
And where are we now?

Back to basics, and not much further along than back when Socrates gave his version of The Last Lecture. We exist in a fearful, crumbling collection of dying societies, expert at carving out differences and distinctions between men whilst simultaneously encouraging the notion that we are all equally helpless. A society that has turned its back on our individual free-will and ability to think for ourselves – a dangerous situation for the Elites of Plato’s day inasmuch as it is a danger to the ruling classes that keep modern man in a brand-new cave. What war will save us now? What revolution of mind, body and soul will free us from our bondage?

Haven’t we been down this road before?

You’d think we’d have learned something by now…

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