Archive for December 29th, 2013

by lizard

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve had a crash course in the dystopian narratives that have dominated the American cultural landscape for the last 5 years. It started with Breaking Bad. From there, I moved on to The Walking Dead, House of Cards, and now Sons of Anarchy.

The popularity of these serial narratives suggests a collective catharsis for the anxiety I think most of us feel about the future. Corruption, violence, and deceit have become the bedrock of our institutions. The hope of 2008 has been obliterated. Where do we go from here?

For too many, we descend into fear and anger, potent emotions that suspend rational thought.

I watched the December 16th City Council meeting again on MCAT, and Dick Haines spoke at length about the fear of his constituents, and his own unsettling emotions when in the proximity of “those people” the council voted 7-3 to keep from sitting/sleeping/lying on the sidewalks of downtown Missoula. Fear seemed to be the dominant theme, something I tried to understand in this post written the day after the council meeting.

We are descending, as a country, into a very dark place. This descent is not unknown. Dr. Lawrence Britt, for example, describes 14 characteristics that are becoming unsettling familiar in America:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

4. Supremacy of the Military

5. Rampant Sexism

6. Controlled Mass Media

7. Obsession with National Security

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

9. Corporate Power is Protected

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

14. Fraudulent Elections

We are not immune in America from repeating the mistakes of countries like Germany, Spain, and Italy. I am intentionally not using the F-word the 14 characteristics describe because I think readers of this blog know what I’m talking about.

Take number 3. Fighting Communism used to be the unifying cause for America. When the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a real risk of losing that potent boogeyman, so terrorism—a tactic, not an ideology—took the place of Communism after the attacks of September 11th.

I think we, as Americans, need to pay closer attention to how a damaged economy and fear can combine to justify targeting specific populations for removal.

A few months ago I linked to this article about how Columbia, South Carolina, tried to address their chronic homeless population:

City council members in Columbia, S.C., recently voted unanimously to criminalize homelessness.

Concerned that Columbia has become a “magnet for homeless people,” and that businesses and the area’s safety are suffering as a result, council members agreed on Aug. 14 to give people on the streets the option to either relocate, or get arrested, according to the city’s “Emergency Homeless Response” report.

Cooperative homeless people will be given the option to go to a remote 240-person bed emergency shelter, which will be open from September to March. The shelter will also be used as a drop-off for people recently released from prison and jail, too.

A hotline will be set up for passersby to “report” a homeless person that needs to be removed, additional police will be dispensed to monitor the streets and vans will escort the homeless to the shelter.

Fear and economic decline can be exploited, and “good” citizens can be brought along to do awful things. If you are offended at my comparison of targeting homeless people for removal with Nazi Germany, good. Fear is opening a door that we are willingly walking through, without stopping and really thinking about the big picture dynamics creating the environment of joblessness and hopelessness where addiction and mental illness fester.

2014 will be more of the same, further descent into a dystopia of cruelty and exploitation. Sorry if that’s bleak and depressing, but that’s where I’m at right now. I don’t think anything can change the path we’re on. I hope I’m wrong.




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