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Thursday, January 19, 2006

It's never personal... it's always business

I'm home sick today. I've had this throat thing for about a week now, and it's been slowly getting worse -- from a tickle to a cough to a wet cough to, now, a stage where I'm hacking up a decent sized wad of phlegm about every ten to fifteen minutes. Nobody wants to see that, so I've decided to take a sick day, which I badly need anyway, given how my job's been stressing me out lately.

So, with a day of down time, I might as well try to get the very long political blog entry that's been rumbling around in my brain for the past several weeks out in some kind of vaguely coherent form.

Where to start, where to start...

The contemporary conservative movement -- where did it come from? Essentially, it's a backlash against the fairly steady progress that liberalism has made in industrialized Western society over the past century or so.

That sounds more impressive than it should, so let me boil it down further: The current conservative movement springs from one thing -- white men used to rule the planet. Now they don't. Conservatives (the vast majority of which are, surprise surprise, white men) hate that. They don't know how they lost their global dominance, and they want it back.

It's pretty much that simple. Once upon a time, back in the Golden Age, us male honkeys could pretty much do whatever we felt like. We got all the best jobs. We made the most money. We held all the elected and appointed offices, we had all the power. We ran things. Like any ruling class, us penisized ofays dug on that shit. We thought it was cool. Women and racial minorities cheerfully took subordinate positions to us, at home and in the workplace. Wifey kept house and raised the kids. The secretary was available for the occasional blowjob or weekend fling if you took her along to a convention with you. The darker hued races mopped the floors at the office and cut the lawn at home. Those horrible perverts with non mainstream sexualities kept their bizarre, disgusting antics carefully out of sight, or they got beat down for it... often by white guys with badges and guns.

It's not that conservatives aren't inclusive. There is a place for blacks, Mexicans, and Asians in the Ideal Conservative World; that place comes lavishly furnished with a cart full of cleaning equipment or a lawn mower and gardening tools. They'll even allow disgusting faggots into their utopia, as long as said disgusting faggots either subject themselves to reconditioning, or just agree to lie about their essential natures every second of every day, and be so ashamed they commit suicide if ever their dirty little secret is found out.

This stirring social vision is the foundation beneath all the hatred that conservatives constantly spew. And hatred is irrefutably the essential keystone of conservatism. Where liberalism is all about plurality and tolerance for other ways of life, conservatism is about hatred of everything that doesn't fit into the bizarre, Father Knows Best derived fantasies of the contemporary right wing.

It is important, however, for those of us trying to understand the goals of the modern day conservative that we not get too hung up on these insanely hateful, xenophobic wet dreams. Although they are, indeed, what motivates the vast majority of the 21st Century right wing, those people are stooges and drones. The real agenda is more covert, and considerably more sinister.

It's actually all about big business. Keeping overhead down, and profit margins fat.

Liberalism, with its tolerance for any viewpoint, opinion, or lifestyle that isn't actively hurtful to society as a whole, or demonstrably harmful to other individuals, is bad for big business. Corporations thrive in a segmented, hierarchial society where the wealthy ruling class can pretty much do as it likes. This allows for maximum profits, because the wealthy ruling class owns the businesses, and when they are allowed to do whatever the hell they feel like, they can protect and increase those profits without too much difficulty. In an ideal business environment, the ruling class can hire and fire whoever it wants, pay as much (or as little) as it feels like, and do whatever it likes with the money that comes in.

Liberalism is essentially about eliminating class and leveling the playing field, and it does this, basically, by empowering the formerly powerless. It allows people with little or no money or influence to sue those who have a great deal of it, and even occasionally win. It allows people who care about things besides money and power to get into elected or appointed office, and, while they are there, to propagate intolerably socially progressive laws, like the Federal Minimum Wage. All of these things infuriate Big Business, because, well, they end up costing the guys who own all the toys a lot of money. Worse, when you can sue your boss for treating you badly in the workplace, it places limits on how your boss can behave towards you in the workplace. This takes a great deal of the fun out of being a boss, and never kid yourself... the people who run things do it because they like to run things. They want to do whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it. They don't appreciate anything that says they can't... anything that places limits on their power.

So the average modern day conservative dreams of a time when white men will return to their rightful, natural, God ordained position of utter, unequivocal social dominance over all lesser forms of life. But behind that, the real people who pull the levers of power in the conservative movement are looking for something a bit more horrific than that: they simply want absolute power over everyone else, all the time.

Liberals are deeply concerned with what the conservative movement has been doing in America since it regained political power, and they should be -- but, nonetheless, most liberals seem to be missing the overall pattern. Free speech zones, illegal domestic surveillance, targeting government officials who disagree with the official line for sanctions, making bankruptcy much harder to declare, emasculating every social program from Welfare to Medicaid, privatizing many government functions, the ongoing deregulation of big business, illegal use of military force, channeling more and more tax money directly into corporate coffers, the outright corruption we are seeing as the Republicans consolidate their power using 'soft money'... this isn't really about restoring some lost Shangri La where dark skinned people all tug their forelocks and step off the sidewalk when Whitey walks by.

This is about people losing the ability to say no to corporate exploitation. This is about building a world without options for the working class... a world where the vast majority of people will have to take whatever work is offered to them, at whatever wages and hours and under whatever conditions they can get, and act as if they like it.

As just one example, this is the crux of the current controversy over legalized abortion. It is not, as most people seem to assume, about infanticide vs. a woman's right to choose. It is about, very bluntly, power.

Roe vs. Wade establishes the controversial 'right to privacy'. It states that this right, which is not explicitely enumerated in our Constitution, nonetheless clearly 'emanates' from specific provisions in the Constitution, and that because of this right, individuals specifically have the right to control what happens in and to their bodies. Which means, in the specific case of abortion, a woman has the right to have one, and the government has no right to interfere.

That's the details, and people get all caught up in them, and I understand that. Abortion is a horrific thing, and I hate it, and it's very difficult, sometimes, to try to argue that something abstract, like A Woman's Right To Choose, is more important than a pile of murdered fetuses.

But that's not the abstraction we are actually arguing about at all.

Overturn Roe vs. Wade and you remove the essential keystone of the 'right to privacy'. The logical consequence of this are staggering and scary... and the people who actually run the conservative movement in this country are very aware of them, and they are drooling in their muttonchop whiskers thinking about it.

If you no longer have the right to privacy... if, specifically, an individual no longer has the right to decide what medical procedures they will have... if the government is no longer specifically prohibited from interfering with an individual's decisions about their own medical care...

It's not just abortions. Any medical procedure can now be forbidden, to anyone, for any reason. And... just one step further than that... any medical procedure can now be mandated, for anyone, for any reason.

With no right to privacy, a court of law could order anyone sterilized. Or castrated. Or lobotomized. They can forcibly implant a tracking device under your skin. Or an explosive. Or the equivalent of a shock collar. Or put wires in your brain.

Did I type 'court of law'? Terrifying though that notion is, it's actually much worse than that. We are 'at war', and it's a war with no defined perimeters or goals or limits, a war we've been told by the people in power could well last decades or generations. Because we are 'at war', our current Commander in Chief has declared that he can, essentially, do whatever he wants. He is above and beside the law. He can spy on anyone he wants to spy on. He can, and has, ordered individuals to be held indefinitely without charges, without trial, without any other human contact at all, without any oversight by any other agency. He can have people tortured. He can limit dissenting opinion to certain small, clearly demarked zones. He can reveal official secrets to hurt his political enemies. He can lie to the American public. He can authorize military force for reasons he knew at the time were entirely spurious. He can change the Constitutionally mandated order of Presidential succession. He can sign bills into law, while reserving to himself the right to break those laws at whim.

The history of this Administration is a progression, as well as a steady escalation, of these civil outrages. The current gang in power is like a bunch of rotten kids with a new substitute teacher. They keep pushing and pushing, trying to see where the limits are. Will they put up with free speech zones? Oh my God, we got away with it! Can we send American troops into harm's way for spurious reasons? Absolutely, they love it! Can we lock people up indefinitely without trial? Sure, that's fine. Okay, can we torture them? Yeah, apparently we can! Can we spy on our own people? Sure, the polling data is fine. Can we take bribes, get rid of inconvenient laws, ignore the ones we can't get rid of? Suuuuure, who's going to stop us?

Okay... can we withhold medical treatment from people, if we feel like it? Can we operate on them, if we need to, to make them more useful to us?

Well... let's see...

It's important to see all this for what it really is... not just a naked grab for political power, but an utterly depraved and amoral attempt to seize social and economic power, as well. There is nothing that the big corporations (who have always donated generously to both political parties, remember) would like better than an environment in which their potential worker bees have no rights. Where you can't declare bankruptcy to escape your debts, you can't switch jobs, you can't sue your bosses, you have no resources... you have no options, besides getting up and going to work every day, showing a good attitude, being a Do Be.

Or going to prison, because you can't pay your bills... and in prison, you'll still be working, you just won't be getting paid for it. Even the token wages you'd be getting paid at your job outside.

It's important to note: a working class without rights is a slave class, pure and simple. And slavery is the cheapest form of labor there is.

Imagine a world where you cannot say no to a doctor who wants to give you, or your child, an injection. Where you can't turn down a surgical procedure if someone in authority somewhere decides you should have it. Where no one can demand to see their medical records. Where no one can change jobs without permission. Where everyone has a tracking device embedded in their calf, or their ass. Where no one can go on strike for better working conditions. Where no one can afford to move, or take a vacation. Where every blog post, every email, every phone call is monitored. Where every street corner and every public place has a camera in it. Where you, your significant other, your brother, your sister, your mother or your father, your son or your daughter, your buddy from work, that woman you ride on the bus with every day, any or all of these people, can be picked up by government agents at any time, and imprisoned indefinitely, and tortured. For no reason anyone ever has to tell anyone else, or maybe no reason at all.

Actually, we don't have to imagine the world described in the last few sentences. We do live in a world where every blog post, every email, every phone call is monitored, and you, or I, or anyone we know, can be picked up at any time by men in suits with obscure ID cards, and taken somewhere, and locked up forever, and tortured. All the guy in the Oval Office has to do is decide you, or I, or anyone we know, is an 'enemy combatant', and any or all of that can happen... right now.

We've let it get that bad.

Overturn Roe vs. Wade... remove the 'right to privacy'... and it gets much, much worse. And make no mistake -- the 'baby killers' stuff, the 'woman's right to choose' rhetoric, that's all just a red herring. It's a distraction. What's at stake is much, much more important than any of that.

I don't know if there's anything that can really be done about it, either. I've always thought, all my life, that tyranny was possible... all it would take was someone unscrupulous enough to get into high office, and declare war, and take on war powers... and never give them up.

We're all still hoping... telling ourselves that Bush only has one more term, that he can't run again, that we can throw the Republicans out at the mid-terms, that we can put people who are less power-crazy into office, that we can undo all this nonsense and make ourselves free again.

What if we can't?

We're at war.

What if our Commander in Chief decides we don't need elections anymore? That polling data indicates that elections would simply weaken our ability to combat terrorism? That to keep America strong and safe, he has to suspend our democratic processes temporarily?

It's just a few more steps... just another couple of pushes... just one or two more nibbles. Can we get away with it? They gave up free speech... they've let us lock them up indefinitely... given us permission to torture... they're holding still for us spying on them... we're about to get rid of that goddam 'right to privacy'... Can we really just get rid of elections and stay in power forever? Will they let us do it?

Let's find out...


At 11:06 AM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

Too many issues, too little time to do more than give a quick, brief scatter of reactions.

Actually, much of what you posit in the "Imagine" paragraph is already true to some degree, not just the final few sentences. For instance, parents whose religious beliefs prohibit medical treatment for their children have seen court-directed treatment administered. (I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but simply that it's already a reality for some.) The ability to strike for better working conditions is probably tougher now than it was in the early days of the worker's rights movement, too.

The right to privacy angle is definitely one of the levers being used in attempts to overturn Roe v Wade, though I doubt that most of the people pushing for it have any intention of eliminating anything more than abortion on demand. That's just to say they don't realize the broader damage such a success would mean. The GOP and Conservative movement has mobilized many this way under false pretenses, as many a Libertarian-minded Republican voter has found out via the Bush administration's fiscal policies. Amazingly, though, a great many of them appear to still be fooled by warnings about the GOP being the only viable defense against the "tax and spend Liberal" boogeyman.

(Yes, I know that technically it's supposed to be "bogeyman", but I'm all for supporting a spelling that reflects the pronunciation. Next on the agenda could be this Brent "Favre" nonsense. How anyone could get farv from that is inane. Sure, some etymologies will result in silent letters and odd blends, but a transposed pronunciation? Puh-leeze.)

Oh, one last note, it's almost alarming seeing how many blog entries for the past day or so in a random stroll across the 'Net find people who are down with colds.

At 2:29 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

With kids, it's a little trickier... parents already have authority over children, and courts can legally usurp that authority if it's felt that the parents are being irresponsible.

I don't think that's the same thing as a court being able to force medical treatment on an adult Christian Scientist who is clearly rational (though perhaps that should be in quotes) and who is refusing a blood transfusion.

And, yes, the point of the post is, essentially, to point out that the ideological issue that we 'pro choicers' are placing in juxtaposition to a pile of dead fetuses isn't simply, as it is often put, 'a woman's right to choose'. This case affects ALL our rights to choose. Prefacing it with a phrase denoting it only impacts women tends to trivialize it, especially in the eyes of conservatives, who are, again, mostly white males (and the women who belong to them).

And, yeah, where I work everyone has some kind of cough right now. It's like being in a Stephen King novel. But I can recall similarly widespread waves of cold and flu in past winters, as well. Until the bodies start piling up, and I start getting horrible dreams about some faceless guy hanging liberals from telephone poles in Las Vegas, I'm not going to worry about it too much. ;)

At 5:07 PM , Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

Highlander, no wonder you got sick with all that stuff swirling around inside you. This gives me a lot to think about, but I don't know, I have trouble with arguments that put people into boxes. There are power-hungry, rich liberals (say, Ted Kennedy) and middle-class, do-gooder conservatives (say, about half of the guys who plan on running for governor of New York). And conveniently, people forget that Clinton and company did a lot of this stuff, too. But I know you can argue me under the table about politics so I'm not even going to start.

But the idea of losing our rights to privacy does shake me down to my toes. I've signed more HIPA forms in the last nine months than anyone should have to in a lifetime, but I still have trouble believing that all of it is really kept private (all it seems to really result in are stupid things like doctors can't tell my husband my blood test results, if he happens to pick up the phone first. They legally are permitted to say "it looks good" but they can't say "it's negative." Which is ridiculous.

And a friend of mine had to make a case for religious objection when she refused to have her 5 year old immunized. He's a highly allergic child and she's extremely health-conscious. The school wouldn't permit him to enter kindergarten without immunization even though she had a note from his pediatrician.

At 12:38 AM , Anonymous Asshole said...

Don't you love having two great choices?

Bladerunner or Harrison Bergeron, take your pick.

At 8:15 AM , Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Excellent, if frightening, post, dear. It reminded me of a few points that I felt obligated to make.

The government hijacking of the medical industry reminds me of renegade pharmacists who, for individual religious reasons, want to withhold legal drugs from patients who hold valid prescriptions from their doctor. That the government isn't doing something to stop this from happening appalls me. It shocks me to my core. And, honestly, it frightens me. And it makes me want to send one of my kids to pharmacology school to ensure access to medicines our family may need.

Roe v. Wade and the entire pro-choice/pro-life argument has always struck me as more an issue of control, rather than the safe-keeping of children. Hence my post about how wanted America's children really are. No single religious doctrine should have the authority...the control...over others who do not voluntarily subscribe to it. I'm not going to get into what could very easily turn into an ugly debate here. (I've seen your previous warnings.) So, let me just add that when control (or power) is exercised, at the expense of your citizens, and against the will of the majority, democracy takes a big hit.

Lastly...yes, I am feeling very much "nickel and dimed" lately. Losing rights quietly and quickly. But I think the party in power is counting on the numbness to last long enough to do as much damage as possible. I long for the anesthesia to wear off. I'm just not sure what it will take to do it.


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