Friday, December 31, 2010

Ending the First Decade of the 21rst Century

David Seaton's News Links
Sometimes after writing a long, rather ponderous piece like my last one, I like to follow it with a shorter and lighter version of more or less the same thing. This is some sort of a parallel text that grows out of its predecessor.

We are at the end of the first decade of a new millennia, something that doesn't happen every day. I've chosen two images to describe the decade we are leaving behind us. I imagine most people who wished to portray these years, would use the Twin Towers in flames, the idea being that "everything changed" when Al Qaida busted up New York. I don't think so. I think that "everything changed" when people began to see that even by running faster they weren't getting anywhere.

The first picture at the top of this piece is of Bernie Madoff, disguised as an Obama poster. By this I don't wish to insinuate that Obama is a crook like Madoff, I am more interested in illustrating disillusionment. Those who hoped that Bernie would  make them rich without their doing a lick of work were bitterly disappointed as were those who thought that by simply casting their vote, when Obama arrived in Washington the waters of  the Potomac would part and Pharaoh's hosts would be engulfed: they too have felt similarly short changed. Since Obama chose to take upon himself the mantle or the  brand, of "Hope", he has also been stuck with the dregs of "Hopelessness", when he  turned out to be such a damp squib. With  Madoff as the "Audacity of Hope" poster boy, I wished to create a poetic image of the wise folk saying that, "hope is not a plan".

The decade we leave behind us was the story of the disasters brought on by the money changers in the temples of Wall Street and by the paralysis of the American political system as it is being dragged helplessly toward Grover Norquist's bathtub.

So Bernie symbolizes the malodorous financial sector and President Obama symbolizes the starved and frozen political system and the poster symbolizes the marketing involved in making some  people think that Bernie Madoff possessed the secret of endlessly multiplying wealth,  while other people thought that Barack Obama had the secret of healing all of  America's defects and disasters and making the lion lie down with the lamb,  all the while feeding the multitude on five loaves and two fishes. When the guy who can do that finally shows up, no poster will be needed to illustrate, that as Bob Marley put it, "There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation"....  We have not gotten that far yet... I hope, I hope, I am still amazed that so many people thought we had.

As far removed as from each other the intentions of both men surely must be, those who gave  Madoff their money and those who gave their votes to Obama, would all probably  rather not be reminded of what a distance there is between what they expected, waited and hoped for and what they finally received.

The next image is simply is graph that illustrates the leitmotif of most working  people's lives today: that even by running faster, they aren't making progress,  that the brass ring is no longer within their grasp no matter how fast the merry-go-round spins. That middle class life is turning out to be  just another Ponzi scheme, like Bernie's.

Hat to: Jon Taplin

There are lot of wonderful graphs around, but I can't think of another that describes the middle class mood so well as this one does. I would like to see some further information to confirm my hunch that, as child labor is still illegal, the slight rise in household median income, while real hourly wages first declined then stagnated, is mostly due to all the housewives and mothers joining the work force.

The next ten years will be colored by the bad taste of so much disillusionment and there will be no lack of demagogues eager to poison the system further. 

Hope? Been there, done that.

Lucidity is the only thing that will save us now. DS


Anonymous said...

Obama was supposed to be a nation whisperer, calming us and elevating at the same time. But politics is not a sedative nor should it be. We fight over real things and incur real wounds. Some people, quite real, shall die while others prosper. Because Obama doesn't want to be a warrior, he ceded the battlefield to those who pillage and plunder the commonweal. And instead of helping Americans understand this outrage, he decided to become complicit in his own emasculation.

We instinctively shy away from concepts like "class warfare", partly because it sounds quaint in post-modern America. In doing so, we also disarm ourselves of any rhetorical weapon that might make sense of this struggle. In the meantime, the right gladly redefines the struggle in terms favorable to its own interests. Thus it's not the financopaths on Wall Street we should loathe but government pensioners, affirmative action hires, and the all-purpose devil, liberalism.

It is odd to fetishize any ordinary human being as heroic in this disenchanted world. Obama played to the magic of our dreams but revealed himself as an ordinary process liberal, neither interested in real reform nor sensing the lurking cataclysm just beyond our view. This is his real failure because you either ride this bronco or you die trying. History will judge us regardless. I wish Obama had a greater sense of the moment he's eager to forfeit.

bailey said...

Gore Vidal gave us lucidity.
Prescient, constant, at the crucible, for 6 decades and look what we did with our own biographer? Vidal will go down saying, "told you so..."

Obama turned out to be so soft, cautious and conservative, but then how could he have become president were he anything but...

lots of interesting thoughts, David, per usual...