Sunday, April 15, 2012

Texas Goes Marxist

Pop on over an have a read at this interesting statement featured on Treehugger from the Texas State legislature. I feature it because it is a fascinating window into where the American mind is headed:

Texas Republicans Attack Agenda 21, Smart Growth, Sustainable Development and All of Europe*

This is not unique to Texas by a long shot, Tennessee passed an almost identical statement, and many red states are following suit. Even in blue states, most Republicans claim fealty to these ideas.

If you twist this statement around a bit, this quasi-religious and absolutist doctrine is indistinguishable from the most radical Communist gobbeldy-gook emanating from Lenin's Soviet Union or Mao's China. If you need proof, substitute "Western running-dog agents of capitalist imperialism" for "Freedom-hating collectivist multinational socialists," and the United States and Great Britain for Europe*, and you have pretty much the same kind of meaningless symbolic drivel that was spewing forth from the Politburos during the heady days of communist expansionism (or modern-day North Korea). Like those statements, it is nothing more than a reassertion of fundamentalist ideology, fighting against nonexistent phantoms in the imagination of a paranoid cult. Just like communism, they need an overarching enemy to fight against to stoke hatred, fear and paranoia in their followers to cover up the fact that their ideology is failing in actual practice. Agenda 21 is to Texas Republicans what the international Zionist banking conspiracy was to the Nazis, or a proletariat-exploiting Western imperialist bourgeoisie was to the Soviets. This sort of hidebound ideology is about as far from true classical conservatism as you can get. And the Nazis and Communists loved their guns, too!

Again, the Texas Doctrine, as I will now refer to it, is simply an inversion of communism. Where communism saw religion is just a tool used by the rulers to enslave the masses, in the Texas Doctrine property rights are sacred and bequeathed by God himself, like the ten commandments from the mountaintop. Whereas in communism everything must be centrally planned and communally managed down to the nearest coffee shop, in Texas there must be no planning or interference by the state whatsoever into the workings of the anarchic free market. Where even a vegetable stand needed to satisfy an army of regulations just to get going under Communism, even the most powerful multinational corporations will do as they please with no regulatory oversight in the Texas Doctrine. Where communism eliminated religion entirely, the Texas Doctrine is absolutely drenched in it. And like communism, anyone not ideologically "pure" is excluded from the leadership hierarchy and shamed and denounced by party apparatchiks. (Mitt Romney: "I am a severe conservative", see also John Huntsman, et. al.) As I've noted before, it sure is odd how a supposedly anticollectivist ideology marches in rigid lock step. It even features the requisite rewriting of all of world history in service of their ideology, just as communism did (compare paragraphs 2 and 3 with "all of history heretofore has been the history of class struggle..." and Marxism's stages of history).

Both the followers of Communism and the Texas doctrine see their absolutist methods as delivering a utopia. Just as communism believed it was inevitably the final stage of history and so logically needed to expand around the globe to fulfill its destiny, so do followers of the Texas Doctrine believe they have reached the end stage of history, with absolute property rights, a "free" market and a weak state. The only problem is they have not expanded enough. Things are still standing in the way of the promised utopia, things like government, which must be abolished by any means necessary (or 'drowned in a bathtub'). According to the Texas Doctrine, once every speck of sand, blade of grass and drop of water are privately owned, taxes eliminated, and the commons completely privatized, a golden age freedom will reign, and prosperity will be unleashed for every man woman and child, free from any coercion or obligations to society. And despite their hatred of the state, they have no compunctions in keeping an enormous military to wage war, state support of religion, burgeoning prisons, or giving the state the ultimate power of life and death over its citizens in the form of the death penalty**. The Texas Doctrine seems to be every bit as expansionist as was communism, with their ideology emanating out and influencing legislatures in every state around the country through various means. Ideologues in Texas, both individual and institutional, are inserting a "heroic" vision of the U.S. in school textbooks, fomenting doubt about climate change, pushing creationism and religion-based social engineering worldwide, and funding political campaigns throughout the fifty states. When George W. Bush was elected president, the Texas Doctrine even reigned supreme in the White House over the entire nation and through that, the world (with predictable results***).

Of course, much like the communists, their utopia is not going exactly to plan. First off, there's that a nasty  drought going on, making entire towns shrivel and die for lack of water. This is not the fault of climate change in Texas, because climate change would disprove the ideology, and therefore must be reasoned away in a modern-day version of Lysenkoism. Instead of the atheist state, there is the pious state, where the chief executive prays for rain, rather than taking any direct governmental action. And boosters of the Texas idea always cite the state's supposed phenomenal economic growth and low jobless rate, without citing the myriad of burgeoning social maladies that are only headed in one direction - up. The child poverty, poor schools, homelessness, drug addiction, violence, desperation, lack of health care, etc. are all swept under the rug in favor of a celebration productivist expansionism, again much like the SU. Still, no amount of failure in the real world will discourage them from doubling down on their ideology, insisting that rather than failing, it simply didn't go far enough.

This absolute rejection of even the most common-sense adjustments to an age of scarcity like smart growth and public transportation are beginning to limn a future for the United States as it loses it's economic and political supremacy: a retreat into ideology and sheer and utter, absolute madness. America seems to be adjusting to a world of hard limits by collectively losing its mind. All of the darkest and most unfortunate elements of the American Id are emerging and coming to the fore as never before. The world can only stand by and watch, mouths agape, as the world's most powerful nation retreats into a quasi-medieval world where creationism is taught in public schools, abortion is illegal in all cases, homosexuality is criminalized, and sex-education is banned, with abstinence the only permitted means of contraception. Scientific conclusions like climate change and Peak Oil are denied, even in the face of record high temperatures, lingering droughts, increasing freak weather events and soaring gas prices. Public transportation projects are cancelled, even as road building continues unabated and car sales are subsidized. Unemployment festers and public debt rises while ever more tax cuts and benefits accrue to the one percent. The current rash of shootings seems to indicate we will take out our troubles by turning on each other, all too easy in a nation wash in guns with absolute freedom to use them with no restrictions (in fact, the recently debated "Castle Doctrine" practically enshrines an incentive to kill). This seemingly points to large areas of the country that will become dystopian war zones, with no checks on the powerful and any sort of cooperative behavior rejected in place of force and raw exercises of power. Texas is enshrining a war of all against all type scenario in their government. This cannot end well.

Sure they're a minority, but history has shown that it only takes a lunatic fringe gaining access to the levers of power to do an enormous amount of damage, even if the greater public is dragged along reluctantly. As the Nazis showed, once you gain power, people by nature want to associate with power and will adjust their thoughts and behavior accordingly. It's a sort of halo-effect of power - if an ideology attains power, the thinking goes, it therefore must be good. The bandwagon effect takes over and people go along to get along until the ideology implodes from its own self-contradictions. Then people will denounce it and say they never believed in it in the first place. Anyone who's read an online comment from one of these people knows that they are full of bile and hatred, impervious to reason and civil debate (or proper spelling), and full of a reliable and predictable cache of epithets and preferred enemies (Muslims, socialists, terrorists). Such people exist in every society, but they're coalescing as never before under one banner for the first time in the United States, and that's what's scary. Can we say that the Republican Party has completed its transformation into a very powerful, nationwide John Birch Society?

What was true for communism is equally true for the Texas Doctrine: a flight to extremism is always the last gasp of a failing ideology. This is because when the facts turn against you, you need to hijack the emotional brain. It's repeatedly been shown that people will predictably disbelieve what is before their own eyes if it conflicts with what they have been indoctrinated to believe. Their psyche is protecting them from cognitive dissonance.

A final shimmer of light: I've obviously focused on the bad here. Many places in America are pulling together and doing what's needed. I have and will continue to feature them on this blog as an example of what to do, and how not all Americans are as lunatic as the Texas Republicans. But their powerful and growing presence casts a dark shadow over the future.


* Western Europe can't win. The Russians and Chinese accused them of attempting to ram capitalism down their throats. Western Europe was part of NATO - the front line of defense in opposition to communist expansion. The Chinese were occupied by Western nations for a century, and the Opium war was one of history's most blatant attempts to exploit a population for mercantile gain. Now, according the U.S. Republicans, Western Europe is attempting to make us all into Communists. *Sigh.*

** Ron Paul fans excluded, of course. However, The success, or lack thereof, of Paul's presidential bid should indicate that his ideas are hardly the majority in the Republican party. And even Paul has expressed support for religion in public life.

*** Ironically, both attempted to rebuild Afghanistan on the basis of their respective ideologies. Both failed.

7 comments:

  1. "...even the most powerful multinational corporations will do as they please with no regulatory oversight in the Texas Doctrine"

    "This seemingly points to large areas of the country that will become dystopian war zones, with no checks on the powerful and any sort of cooperative behavior rejected in place of force and raw exercises of power."

    Just like the world William Gibson and Bruce Sterling envisioned in their apex cyberpunk works, which are turning out to be the prescient literature of the 21st Century.

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  2. It's not just Texas and Tennessee. The belief that Agenda 21 is the new black helicopter goes all the way to the top of the GOP. In January, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution against what it called “the destructive and insidious nature” of Agenda 21. It declared, “The United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called ‘sustainable development’ views the American way of life of private property ownership, single family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, and privately owned farms; all as destructive to the environment.”

    It's not just the state and national Republican committees, either. There are plenty of Republican candidates this year who are, in Kunstler's words, playing the roles of maniacs/corn pone Fascists promising people can keep their cars, McMansions, and commutes. For example, Newt Gingrich has been explicitly campaigning against Agenda 21 since last November, vowing that he'll reverse all the sustainable development initiatives during the past 3 years that he claims are evidence of Obama implementing Agenda 21. It's a major part of the reason why he's been hating on New Yorkers and residents of D.C. who live in high rises and take the subway, saying that one can't put a gun rack on a Volt, and promoting his candidacy with a vaporware program to reduce gas to $2.50/ gallon. Newt is even putting the $2.50 gas logo on his campaign signs. He thinks this issue is a winner.

    Over at Crazy Eddie's Motie News, I've been blogging about the GOP/Tea Party campaign against Agenda 21 since it was Tea Partiers vs. Manatees last summer. I'm amazed at the traction this conspiracy theory has gotten and how much this fringe meme has grown.

    http://crazyeddiethemotie.blogspot.com/search/label/Agenda%2021

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  3. This might be a bit nitpicky, but are you sure that it's fair to call Marx's conception of history revisionist? I'm not especially familiar with dialectical materialism, but I always thought it was just a way of viewing history through an economic lens. Either way it's minor and I enjoyed reading. Thanks.

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  4. This essay is actually quite brilliant. In the age of scarcity, the lunatic fringe come out to play. This emergence of craziness, cults, and extremism is just the beginning of what we will see in regards to the social breakdown that will occur as industrial civilization comes to an end. Sad to see this, but it's very predictable.

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  5. I take perverse pleasure in pointing out how similar the American right has become to the Marxists they supposedly hate. The maxim that you become the enemy you seek to destroy seems prescient.

    It's not a right/left thing, whatever that means. Although I didn't mention it in the article, I've noted previously that most of Europe is under the control of their respective conservative parties. And yet look at the massive steps they're taking to deal with Peak Oil. In Europe, no one would think twice about the need for rail transport or universal health care. Here, entire political campaigns are predicated upon stopping them.

    It's not so much the conservative philosophy, although I disagree with much of it. It's that we've seen this before - militarism, a worship of guns, a belief in being sanctioned by God, a messianic mission to restore lost "greatness", seeing one's political enemies as traitors to be exterminated, scapegoating enemies and blaming them for national decline, a belief in international conspiracies, a reliance on an alternate universe promoted by constant propaganda, the use of violence and intimidation for political ends (Brooks Brothers riots, guns at town hall meetings, buses full of Tea Party 'Patriots,' citizen border patrols, etc.), an obsession with internal security and surveillance, prisons, etc. And all following military defeat and economic devastation. But we are absolutely incapable of believing that it can happen here, even as it is happening. Whenever I hear talk radio, I can't help but think that it sounded better in the original German.

    Remember who backed Hitler - the big industrialists, who saw him as a bulwark against communism (the real kind). Yet they could not control the demons they unleashed. In America, big business used to claim the hearts and minds of most of Middle America by promising upward mobility. Now that that's gone, the only way they can stop populism from coming to the fore and limiting their power is to stoke the fear and paranoia in Middle America, something that has always been there, as Hofstadter so exhaustively described. And I think they are unleashing demons they cannot control as well. And these are demons with nukes. They're desperate to avoid a repeat of the 1930's, when government took control over much of the economy and things actually got better, not worse. I should note that this was clean, honest government, a far cry from what we have today. They must maintain the illusion at all costs that government is bad. Thus, 'leftism' must be demonized at every turn - leftism being any activity that limits the power of corporations and the unfettered free market.

    @Philcotonics:

    Maybe revisionism isn't the right word - my understanding of Marx's version of history was that is was a linear progression, from primitive communism to primitive accumulation, etc., with global communism as an "end stage," much as Neocons saw their vision of history as an end stage, with no improvement possible. So less of a revision, and more of a shoehorning a complex series of historical events into a Hegelian dialectic that didn't quite fit.

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  6. The Republicans in America are not insane, they are just talking code language. It's the liberals, who aren't liberal at all in the sense of being open to truth, who are delusional, so I'll call them such. Delusionals think the world can come to an agreement that the suffering to come will be shared and we'll all sing kumbaya together before going to bed with an empty stomach. Republican realists plan to hog the food for themselves and let the rest of the world die. They know perfectly well there is global warming and peak oil. All the more reason to burn fossil fuels as fast as possible before someone else does, and build up a massive military advantage while we still can, so as to protect our food. When it comes to actions, rather than words, it's the Republicans who show they really do believe in evolution and the Delusionals who don't. Evolution means we are animals. Animals defend their territory, animals fight for territory, animals don't share when food is short. This is how Republicans act. Delusionals are the ones who expect us to act like angels of some sort. The Republican rank-and-file knows they are getting screwed by their bosses, but the deal they are being offered is still better than what most people in the world get. The Republicans have no plan to starve the proletariat. They just want them to fall into line and obey, and to act as loyal soldiers in the coming worldwide scramble for resources. Do what you're told, and you'll be decently provided for.

    Same thing in Russia. The communists were the realists. Western Europe has been overpopulated for a long time and Russia is a treasure trove of raw materials. They had good reason to be paranoid. Communism was a bad system, but there was no attempt by the bosses to starve the masses in Russia. Compare with the Germans, who actually did plan to exterminate all people of Slavic descent.

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  7. In fact, I made a similar point here. It's obvious that the powers that be know what's going on - otherwise their actions make no logical sense. As I heard in a podcast today, if you think someone is doing something that makes no sense, you just don't really understand it. Austerity in Europe and the elimination of social safety nets and public infrastructure in the US makes perfect sense if you think the elites see most of us as redundant, and the preservation of their own genetic material as paramount.

    Of course, humans aren't angels or demons. Some of the stuff I hear about "changes in consciousness" makes me cringe. Humans are a species - what you see is what you get. Still, government makes a difference. Dos anyone not believe the citizens of Western Europe will be better off than us, despite austerity, and despite having equivalent wealth and less natural resources? They will benefit from investments in renewable, rail transport, smaller-scale farming, nationalized health care and equitable societies, flawed those things are. You just need to look at the contrasts between the US and Europe during the last Great Depression. We're still benefiting from investments made then. Now it looks like the situation is flipped.

    I still believe was can theoretically get through a shrinking economy without it becoming dog-against-dog. But unfortunately, that is now Americans see society. It's why I'm not a fan of heterogeneous societies - it's too easy for malevolent leaders to turn the people against each other for their own gain.

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