A predatory culture celebrates a narcissistic hyper-individualism that radiates a near sociopathic lack of interest in—or compassion and responsibility for—others. Anti-public intellectuals who dominate the screen and aural cultures urge us to spend more, indulge more, and make a virtue out of the pursuit of personal gain, while producing a depoliticized culture of consumerism. Undermining life-affirming social solidarities and any viable notion of the public good, politicians trade in forms of idiocy and superstition that seem to mesmerize the undereducated and render the thoughtful cynical and disengaged.
Militarized police forces armed with the latest weapons tested in Afghanistan and Iraq play out their fantasies on the home front by forming robo-SWAT teams that willfully assault protesters and raid neighborhood poker games. Congressional lobbyists hired by big corporations and defense contractors create conditions in which war zones abroad can be re-created at home in order to market military-grade surveillance tools and weapons to a full range of clients, from gated communities to privately owned for-profit prisons.
The stories we tell about ourselves no longer speak to the ideals of justice, equality, liberty, and democracy. The landscape of American politics no longer features towering figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., whose stories interwove moral outrage with courage and vision and inspired us to imagine a society that was never just enough. A culture that once opened our imagination now disables it, overwhelming the populace with nonstop marketing that reduces our sense of agency to the imperatives of ownership, shopping, credit, and debt. But these are not the only narratives that diminish our capacity to imagine a better world.
We are also inundated with stories of cruelty and fear that undermine communal bonds and tarnish any viable visions of the future. Different stories, ones that provided a sense of history, social responsibility, and respect for the public good, were once circulated by our parents, religious institutions, schools, and community leaders.
Today, the stories that define who we are as individuals and as a nation are manufactured by corporate media that broadcast the lifestyles of celebrities, billionaires, and ethically frozen politicians who preach the mutually related virtues of an unbridled free market and a permanent war economy.
As Jonathan Turley points out: “An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.”
Americans are increasingly losing their capacity for connection, community, and a sense of civic engagement.
==The Violence of Organized Forgetting: Thinking Beyond America’s Disimagination Machine (Giroux, Henry A.)
The Great Awakening prior to the Revolutionary War was America’s move from bondage under the British Empire to Spiritual Faith. That faith led our founders to be courageous, and that courage encouraged them to fight the Revolutionary War, and declare independence. The result was liberty, and in any free society, abundance (or prosperity) always follows liberty. With all of that abundance, however, it is now long before selfishness sets in, be it from expectations of success, or demands of the lower economic classes for their fair share.
As their selfish desires are fulfilled, complacency and apathy becomes the norm. With their bellies full, why fight for liberty? Why care about what goes on in government? Why should anyone even notice the creeping incrementalism that is slowly changing the nature of society to one that is dependent upon the government, and ultimately one that leads the sheep back into bondage?
We accept lawless agencies and lawless actions by the federal government because we have been too satisfied to care. Our bellies are full, and politics is a problem for someone else to care about. We have too many distractions to worry about to recognize that bondage is on the horizon.
Mostly likely, there will be more such moments. The hard fact is that we live in an age of systemic disorder. As we might have learned from New York, Madrid, London and Mumbai there is no hiding place from upheavals elsewhere. In much of the Middle East the state system bequeathed a century ago by Europe’s departing imperial powers has broken down. In this part of the world, terrible shootings and bombings such as those in Paris have become almost a commonplace. Globalisation, identity politics and technology have provided the transmission mechanisms to spread the terror across borders and continents.