/rant on

The previous time I was prompted to blog under this title was regarding the deplorable state of public education in the U.S., handily summarized at Gin and Tacos (formerly on my blogroll). The blogger there is admirable in many respects, but he has turned his attention away from blogging toward podcasting and professional writing with the ambition of becoming a political pundit. (I have disclaimed any desire on my part to be a pundit. Gawd … kill me first.) I check in at Gin and Tacos rarely anymore, politics not really being my focus. However, going back to reread the linked blog post, his excoriation of U.S. public education holds up. Systemic rot has since graduated into institutions of higher learning. Their mission statements, crafted in fine, unvarying academese, may exhibit unchanged idealism but the open secret is that the academy has become a network of brainwashing centers for vulnerable young adults. See this blog post on that subject. What prompts this new reality check is the ongoing buildup of truly awful news, but especially James Howard Kunstler’s recent blog post “The Four Fuckeries” over at Clusterfuck Nation, published somewhat in advance of his annual year-end-summary-and-predictions post. Kunstler pulls no punches, delivering assessments of activities in the public interest that have gone so abysmally wrong it beggars the imagination. I won’t summarize; go read for yourself.

At some point, I realized when linking to my own past blog posts that perhaps too many include the word wrong in the title. By that, I don’t mean merely incorrect or bad or unfortunate but rather purpose-built for comprehensive damage that mere incompetence could not accomplish or explain. Some may believe the severity of damage is the simple product of lies compounding lies, coverups compounding coverups, and crimes compounding crimes. That may well be true in part. But there is far too much evidence of Manichean manipulation and heedless damn-the-torpedoes-full-steam-ahead garbage decision-making to waive off widespread institutional corruptions as mere conspiracy. Thus, Kunstler’s choice of the term fuckeries. Having already reviewed the unmitigated disaster of public education, let me instead turn to other examples.

One totally borked structure is the food system. As a capitalist behemoth, Big Ag has run many small farmers off their land and driven the traditional family farm nearly out of existence, making it impossible to practice good animal husbandry and stewardship of soils, waters, and plants when corporate profitability demands immediate ROI. Big Ag also boxed itself into over-reliance on fuels, fertilizers, and pesticides that probably have a shorter future than soils being depleted via mono-cropping. But wait! There’s more! Foodstuffs that actually make it into the processed foods and fast foods that many Americans consume as their staple diets are known to cause all manner of health problems. PR campaigns to establish, say, sugary soft drinks as the obvious drink to accompany a meal (as opposed to plain water) have been hugely successful at normalizing unhealthy habits the same way Big Tobacco did decades ago with smoking. Plus, the sheer ubiquity of hyperstimuli not part of our ancestral diet makes it nearly impossible to resist or escape to better options even if one has the time to figure out what to select and deselect, which is no easy task. The obesity epidemic is the obvious, initial downstream effect, with the military in particular unable to meet recruitment goals because so many young adults fail basic fitness standards.

Civil society has coarsened considerably (yeah, fuck you, too!) and a fundamental breakdown in lawfulness is sweeping across the nation. Despite the high prevalence of gun ownership in the U.S., the slogan “an armed society is a polite society” has never been demonstrated to be true, not even in Texas or Arizona. Crime statistics (if true and accurate) have fallen continuously over the last 20+ years despite public perception differing markedly. Trends have probably reversed (sorry, no link with a succinct picture or graph) in the past three years, aided in no small part by lockdowns and the ongoing financial destruction of the working class, now impacting the lower rungs of white-collar tiers, too. Accordingly, ne’er-do-wells are realizing they can get away with most anything they have the nerve to undertake. Basically, no one intervenes, police don’t pursue, and civil authorities don’t prosecute. Thus, flash mobs descend upon retailers, traffic disrupters occupy streets and intersections with impunity to play chicken or do donuts, conmen and scammers machine-gun everyone with spam and get-rich-quick schemes, and financial criminals siphon off billions of dollars. Police scarcely bother to show up following a 911 call unless someone is bleeding from a gunshot wound, though stories about police hassling random people for things that aren’t crimes (unattended children in public? my word!) have been circulating more frequently. But wait! There’s more! All this is before consideration of torture, collateral murder, and other war crimes that are established tools of every U.S. presidential administration since Eisenhower. To my knowledge, no war criminal at any level up and down the ranks has been brought to justice, but numerous whistleblowers of government misdeeds (a sizeable rhetorical downgrade from war crime) have been prosecuted mercilessly, sometimes extra-judicially.

Unlike most (all others? I dunno) mammals that mature relatively quickly after birth, humans experience an extended period of complete helplessness before development is sufficiently advanced to survive without protection. Childhood is the critical period of human development, and accordingly, child-rearing has strong roots in tradition borne out of human evolutionary history. Yet childhood is being pushed later and later into life as the sophistication required to manage the modern world as an adult increases with each generation. Significantly, sociologists, psychologists, and medical practitioners are discovering that psychological and physiological development outside the womb (i.e., long after birth) are routinely thwarted. For instance, eyes, jaws, and teeth require specific conditions from our ancestral past to be present to develop properly. Psychological (ontological) security and parental bonding (with the mother in particular) require sustained attention and responsiveness. Language, consciousness, and upright locomotion take years to appear. But in the mad retreat from tradition into an uncharted leap into new child-rearing configurations — often a product of heedless market forces — former developmental conditions that delivered children successfully at least into adolescence have been undone. Indeed, the myriad ways children are now being hobbled compared to, say, 150 years ago is astonishing. Hard to imagine a concatenation of causes and effects — the way societies organize themselves — better designed to ruin so many people before even getting started in life. Whereas humans have improved technics in the Industrial Era by leaps and bounds, basic human relations have gotten so badly screwed up that I wonder if this failure isn’t another death spiral (leading to species extinction) parallel to others unfolding with respect to energy use (fossil fuels) and the environmental degradation (a completely idiotic yet obvious communal act of ecocide occurring within industrial civilization).

Optimists continue to cross my path who insist that this is the greatest era in human history to be alive. Hard to argue with the abundance of material goods, services, information, and know-how. (Also hard to argue against the abolition of slavery, though it’s clear that servitude in various incarnations is decidedly not yet over.) Novocaine as a remedy for toothache in particular is trotted out, partially as a joke. Sorta ironic that modern dentistry is a response to having messed up proper development of facial structure by abandoning traditional foods (and with them, lots of chewing!) and introducing sugary processed foods that corrode tooth enamel. But mere or sheer abundance is not typically a source of human fulfillment unless one’s value system is badly distorted, meaning craven. (Isn’t that the nugget of wisdom embedded in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? We never learn.) The lack of imagination demonstrated by cheerleaders for the modern era regarding how people in the past might have lived fulfilling lives (if not subjugated somehow — big if) is roughly equivalent to a failure of Internet-age youth to conceptualize how anyone managed before the advent of cellphones and the Internet — even though the absence of both is well within living memory (mine, for instance). As I’ve admitted before, my deep pessimism and misanthropy are not attitudes I seek to instill in others. If others get along better without having checked reality against their illusions and delusions, who am I to dispel their innocence happiness?

/rant off

  1. notabilia says:

    JHK has gone off his rocker – he is both contemptible and pathetic. Your post, supposedly based on his wacko Trumpian babble, is mostly worthy, despite the disagreements I would have here and there. I can’t account for this radical disjuncture, so I guess I won’t even try.
    You might want to read a post by Andy Kroll at Counterpunch today skimming over the tragedy of a populace gone stupid and worthless due to too much time locked in Internet rabbit holes. His solution to the crisis he winningly describes is to go out and talk to the gibbering hordes face-to- face. Maybe more radical measures would give more promise.

    • Brutus says:

      We have disagreed in our assessments of JHK before. I certainly don’t swallow everything JHK says/writes but he doesn’t track for me like, say, Alex Jones or even Tucker Carlson (neither of whom I give any attention). I also recognize your disputation is more name-calling than argument and acknowledge that there’s something there, too, but absent better reasons on offer I take your dismissing assessment with a grain of salt. If you object to my own assessments here and there, there’s lots of ways for me to support my contentions that don’t really go into the body of the blog post. We don’t have to agree, BTW.

      I’ll check out Andy Kroll. His solution to fouled human relations — talk to each other — does seem to me a little foolhardy. We don’t simply need more words, we need better thinking and more generous attitudes. Otherwise, why would there be so many news reports about dudes in bars ending up shooting each other after dick-measuring contests go sideways?

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