Thursday, April 20, 2006

Does anybody care?

"When the American people finally realize what's going on...." I wonder how many times I've started a sentence like that lately. Some part of me, I guess, wants to hold onto the dream that we, the people of the United States, would rise up against any who would oppress us... just as soon as we, the people, turn away from American Idol long enough to witness the American nightmare come to life.

Sometimes, I imagine the glorious rhythm of tens of millions of American feet hitting the pavement. Sometimes, in the darker moments, I imagine red-faced mobs dragging Bush out of the White House by his boots and hanging him in front of the Capitol building. The first image is the daytime dream of a liberal activist who still holds faith in "power to the people." The second some horrific nightmare torn from my mind's most fearful ramblings. After all, isn't that how fascist and quasi-fascist regimes meet their demise?

Now, part of me thinks that the only difference between the two is the timing. How long, after all, does it take for 270 million people to waken to unpleasant truths when pleasant diversions are so much easier to grasp? How far will we travel down the road to totalitarianism before 270 million people decide they want to get off the ride? Will the shock and awe of witnessing the cold death of American democracy spur a renewed commitment to our ideals or a final rage-filled battle before we slip into that dark night? "When" the American people realize makes all the difference.

Until tonight, I have stubbornly refused to admit that "when they realize" might be "if they care" because that "if" challenges one of the few unblemished, virgin territories of a once vast optimism. "Power to the people" and "power of the people" ultimately require "the people" to actually care, to actually value their freedoms so much that they'd be willing to fight for them.

After drowning myself in an ocean of news and analysis in preparation for providing what I'd hoped would be an intelligent, reasonable response to our journey into darkness, I came away with a million contradictory answers too convoluted to figure out after a long day at work and a single question too important not to ask:

What if they don't care?

What if the people don't really care about their freedoms as long as the trains run on time and Starbucks is still serving up the lattes and macchiatos? What if we liberal denizens of the blogosphere and alternative presses are standing on our low-rent soap boxes screaming into an apathetic void? What if they'd really rather keep Chris on American Idol than get Bush and his cohorts out of power? What do we do then?

5 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

A not-uncommon theme in political philosophy over the last half century or so, particularly in the Frankfurst school (especially in Adorno and Marcuse) is that the people don't care, because they don't know to care. As you put it in your last paragraph, they're getting what they believe they need, so they're just fine with how things are. Of course, what they think they need is largely determined by exactly the same system that limits their freedom. As long as you can essentially tell people what they need, and then make sure that most of them have it, you can go on limiting whatever freedoms you like.

To be honest, I don't think the majority of the left-liberals in this country really care that much either. While Bush has been a disaster, Democrats haven't been so great either, and even the ostensibly left wing third party options over the last several decades have been fairly similar to the two major parties, who differ very little in practical ways. They too are stuck in a rut of what Marcuse calls "one-dimensional thinking." Based on your article on "secular whackjobs," I'm skeptical as to whether you would differentiate between radicals and what you call "extremists," but it's hard to imagine that a system -- the system that, in your last paragraph, you suggest may be pulling the wool over our eyes; that defines the political landscape as much as it tells us that if we have a $4 lattes, a nice car, designer jeans, and can come home to American Idol or the Sopranos, we'll be happy -- that is promoted equally by the "liberals" and "conservatives" in this country, can be overcome by anything but a radical movement that awakens people from their slumber.

6:09 AM  
Blogger Dohngothere said...

Melinda--
You certainly have a wide range of insightfulness on major issues. Right after reading your screedrant on militant atheists, here you go with nine-tenths of the question on "Can democracy work?"

The answer is likely "No!"

Here's why I think so: it's one of those Venn diagram concepts: by the time things have gotten so bad that the uninformed are uncomfortable enough to "rise up" and vote, the vote will be gone, vanished in the necessity of the response to the pre-rising-up, which we are already seeing strong precursors of in the Patriot Act and the imperial presidency.

Once you trip over the main response of the voting public from idealism to fear, your sequence of political events changes, as you might guess. The critical sequence change is as above: the uninformed become unreasonable protestors because they were unreasonable sheep.

And strangely enough, and perhaps what is bothering you, is that the faith-based life is such a wonderful excuse to stop thinking, not just about God and the universe, but anything at all that causes discomfort, like "how did we get so rich? could it be we stole it?"

Rational evidence is all we have. The rest is fairtytales, spun of hope.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

People care, but are too apathetic and/or lazy to do anything about it.

One thing I'm sure you understand is that what may seem like freedom to you seems like hell to someone else. It's hard for us to believe, but there are intelligent, cognizent human beings who believe that Bush is one of the greatest presidents we've ever had. *shudder* Freedom really is a relative term - that's why utopia could never happen.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Brou HahHah said...

Remember 1984?(the book, not the year) "Someday the proles willl rise up" was all that Winston had to keep himself grounded to the hopes of a new day. Reflect on that for a moment and what happened to Winston.

Basically, keep figthing, sister.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

"if we have a $4 lattes, a nice car, designer jeans, and can come home to American Idol or the Sopranos, we'll be happy"

I think you guys are forgetting a signifigant demographic here: Poor people.

I live and work with people who are much too poor to afford any of that shit.

In my last job everybody worked as many 11-hour shifts s they could, because they needed the money. For a lot of them, their spouses worked too. They ended up spending maybe two hours a day with their families.

On the list of concerns that these people have (I'm lucky enough to have some money)"The Patriot Act" takes a much lower priority then things like "The car is broken, how am I going to be able to fix it" and "Is there a way I can scrape enough money together to pay for cheerleading supplies formy daughter".

Marching on the capital is right out of the question. Basically, there's no time, and if you ditch work then you're basically signing your family up for the homeless shelter.

People get worked up about things based on how immediately they're affected; Note how thouroughly Social Security reform was thwarted.

I guess what I'm saying is that poor people are a demographic that liberals, of all people, should be aware of.

12:07 AM  

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