Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Christmas Carol for 2009

The Uninvited Ghosts of Christmas Come To Call.

No need to change the sheets in the guest room, you'll be moving outside.

For a complete public domain text, including an audio, of Charles Dickens,

A Christmas Carol

November of 2008 found the grotesque wreckage of the autocracy lurching awkwardly to an unseemly ending. It had, apparently, eaten itself -- along with much of the treasure of the rest of the country. The landscape was scarred by the plunder which had raged forward, unabated under the cover of the W.

Between the election and the inauguration, three months would pass amid the collapsed economy, the missing trillions, the wounded 401K accounts, the wars staggering, unmanaged across the Middle East and the horrid, violent rumblings of terrified, desperate dictatorships in North Korea and Iran.

Admittedly, MeanMesa's idea of a good time for that moment had to do with guillotines and proletariat mobs rushing along Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street. Happily, cooler minds prevailed. Happily, cooler minds had been elected and were in charge.

Between November of 2008 and January of 2009 a single question floated about everywhere in the country. We all either knew for certain or suspected mightily that the democracy was in grave peril. Would the Junior Bush and his crime family leave office peacefully? Was there a sufficient remnant of the nation remaining in tact after the looting to spur a momentary reluctance to engage in even greater, even more ambitious, more unbelievably outrageous dreams of power for the unelected incumbent W?

With strange childhood fears still haunting the autocrat, he blinked. The nation and the democracy prevailed, perhaps even in the face of unlikely odds.

However, since the first flicker of actual daylight warmed the wounded and the dead, three unsettling faces have come to visit our table in 2009. We can say what they are right here. We can consider this entire collection of incomplete or artificial mindsets a grisly parody of Dickens' Ghosts of Christmas.

2009 -- the Ghost of Christmas Past

The gravity of those dark moments when this young country teetered on the edge of a permanent descent into oligarchy have passed too quickly. We could be discussing the descent into the purgatorial limbo of a trashed economy, but, looking back, MeanMesa sees the crisis as one with far greater breadth.

The Ghost of Christmas Past carries with it the memory -- or the dream -- or the nightmare -- of the state of the nation before the destruction began. With such a pleasant, calming wraith entreating the survivors with comforting visions of times long ago lost, the gravity of the looting and other destruction slips into a sleepy numbness. Why, in no time we deserve to be right back where we were before!

We dream that our houses will regain their value. We dream that Wall Street will be conveniently distracted by new rushes of money flowing into its bottomless coffers. We dream that our armies will win simple, understandable victories, extracting undefined success from unmanaged catastrophes. We dream that, around the world, the unsuccessfully frightened will once again quake at the mighty countenance of our unquestioned power, shelving their fetal H-Bombs and returning to a quiet subservience.

The Ghost of Christmas Past will tempt us with every delight from petticoats to V-8 Buicks, all shrouded in a pleasing narcotic sauce.

Unfortunately, that vision is not credible, and it shouldn't be. Yet, a large minority of American citizens continue to frame the entire scope of possibilities in the fleeting promises of this Ghost of Christmas Past. This "slippage from reality" is tenderly fostered by those wishing only to prevent Obama from "righting the ship."

Reckless and desperate, these voices of the Ghost of Christmas Past seem, when considered perhaps too generously, to be obsessed with completing the destruction of the country. From ex-Vice Presidents to mindless "dirty shirt preachers" to drawling Southerners in the Congress to inflammatory right wing talk show hosts, they care nothing about "righting the ship" and everything about yet one more, cheap manipulation of every hill billy and bigot who will still listen to them.

All these have a maxim, and that maxim is the chorus behind the Ghost of Christmas Past's every word and thought. The maxim?

"Nothing is real."

Everything is politics. Everything is immediate advantage -- regardless of the cost of neglecting the horrible, impending rush of national collapse. They have become infatuated with remaining the "top dogs" in the "I told you so" crowd, that is, narcotized -- infatuated with an impossible dream of a non-existent Christmas Past even when the cold ocean water pours into the sinking ship, chilling their ankles.

We can see even progressives joining the lament. There are progressives who have begun to drink the Kool-Aid of the Ghost of Christmas Past. For example, Ed Schultz, an AM radio host MeanMesa respects greatly, now voices criticism of the President for not solving the problems which face us. However, these laments of his fall on ears still seeking choices we do not have. The President is doing everything possible to increase the number of choices we have with his administration's policies, and the fact is that the choices Ed Schultz insists upon are simply not choices we actually enjoy.

One more time. The whimsical, immaterial possibilities in the song of the Ghost of Christmas Past are defined by debating choices we do not have at the present moment. Logic tells us that we can either lament the narcotic dream choices we no longer enjoy or begin in earnest to replace them with possibilities which actually exist.

Some of this criticism is "validated" by our memory of something FDR said when confronted by those wishing to remove racism from the country. "Make me do it!" What FDR was actually telling these progressives of his day was that the choice of removing racism was not a choice he had. His response to them was, "Get busy! Put this choice on the table! If you do that, I will make the choice!"

Perhaps Mr. Schultz finds himself -- and the President -- in a similar position as the civil rights proponents and FDR. The deep bite of Mr. Schultz's criticism may actually be vindicated when considered this way. Perhaps, he is only acting "to make Obama do it." MeanMesa is watching both Schultz (and, there are many others...) and the President, hoping that this is the case.

2009 -- The Ghost of Christmas Present

A new President, armed with a formidable pragmatism, finds himself embattled as he tries to sustain what is, very likely, still a sinking ship. To his right, he is standing off the crumbling pillars of an imaginary position of prosperity and strength. To his left, he is trying to frantically re-educate the American public to a minimal state where it might rationally understand its desperate circumstances and become committed to introducing violently necessary, uncomfortable new choices.

On his inauguration day, Obama could not help but see the storm advancing on the nation. As a admirable optimist and idealist, he saw that the country, in some form, really could survive the threats now facing it. However, as he reviewed "his troops," he saw a disturbing confusion, a defect so serious that, if left uncorrected, might permanently destroy the last, fleeting chance for restoring what was left to some kind of viable form which could continue to exist in the future.

It was another case of Primary and Secondary Models. The Primary Model encompassed the entire material scope of the wreckage -- the economy staggering forward denuded of its life blood, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fumbling along in mindless carelessness, health care's potentially bankrupting gravity, the savagery of the brokers and bankers as they continued to extract far more than they deserved, the petulance of Iran and North Korea, and the list went on. The Primary Model comprised the tangible responses to all of this.

The Secondary Model was just as dismal. Setting aside all the tangible threats of the Primary Model, the Secondary Model dealt entirely with the national psychology. After all, it would be the citizens of the United States who would ultimately decide to dedicate themselves to the solutions of all these problems.

However, Obama found himself with great numbers of citizens unwilling to risk anything, unwilling to sacrifice anything. Citizens unwilling to take their turn at bailing water from the sinking ship.

Retreating to the very optimism and ideals which had made him so popular, Obama now faced the reality of the Secondary Model. All these overly selfish citizens, he insisted, were not really crazy or greedy. Once they were given a reasonable chance to understand the nature of the threats we faced, Obama remained hopeful that a new strength could be nurtured, based on a new national rationality.

However, no matter how pressing the immediacy of the threats of the Primary Model, the crippling disadvantage of the Secondary Model would have to be addressed first. A new national psychology would be required before material steps to survive the threats of the Primary Model would become possible. The citizens must be brought into a new state of awareness where their concern and willingness to participate could emerge to face the "meat grinder."

How could the scales of decades of carefully groomed blindness be removed from the faces of those who would, by stark necessity, be required to march in his army?

Obama, had he indulged the role as the Ghost of Christmas Present, might have simply launched out in one revealing diatribe after another, exposing those who perpetually placed personal gain above any national consideration. There might have been massive indictments arising from the Department of Justice, rounding up the scoundrels en mass to face their day in court.

However, the President found the country unable to reasonably "consume" such a terrific correction. The citizens who encountered this Ghost of Christmas Present still gazed through disruptive lenses, still saw all of the possible choices as the artificial ones which had been so meticulously inserted into their understanding of everything.

It is one thing to inspire a soldier to return fire in anger or self-preservation when he is on the battle ground. It is another to inspire him to face that risky uncertainty when he cannot understand or accept that he is on a battle ground. The nation Obama inherited was convinced that there was no battle ground, that bleeding would be unnecessary and that the perpetrators of this disaster were, actually, only slightly misguided in their avarice and ambition.

His first steps as he worked on the Secondary Model was to reveal the enemy. A public who remained convinced that there was no "battle ground" and no "enemy" needed to be shown the dismal reality of the situation, and, even though the President faced literal Visigoths at the Gates, he would have to delay the defense of the state until he could credibly convince the citizens that those Vandals were anything more threatening than mere innocent tourists.

Out came Obama's spot lights. The citizens needed to see for themselves the unchecked greed and corruption which had insinuated itself into the congress. The health care debate accomplished that education "in spades." The citizens needed to see for themselves the unthinkable avarice of the brokers and bankers who would take their tax dollars, pause for a moment, then catapult themselves into yet another crippling binge of greed and arrogance. The citizens needed to see for themselves the endless, nauseating temptations offered by the military to mindlessly increase war, always promising some undefined success if the military adventures were just resourced a little more.

Obama's spot lights did not reveal just a few, isolated cases where tax payers had been carefully cast as pigeons, but rather, an epidemic horde of such miscreants who had, it seemed, permanently attached themselves to the necks of the citizenry like vampire bats.

The Ghost of Christmas Present sang the calming song that everything was alright, everything was as it should be. Vast numbers of citizens remained hypnotized under that convenient and comfortable thrall. Yet, Obama bravely faced the necessity that all these sleeping citizens must awake and participate in their own survival. The spell must be broken.

The President has had some significant success at this undertaking, this illumination he must perform before he can actually face the real problems. Many of the uncommitted among us have, if not actually becoming committed, at least begun to be very suspicious about the implied "reality" of that narcotic song of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Obama patiently continues his relentless revelation of the perfidy we face at the hands of these obsessively greedy types, their cynical purchase of the representatives we have always previously trusted and relied upon, and the grave danger they now present to the survival of the nation.

2009 -- The Ghost of Christmas To Come

There are clearly two dreams for the future. One will be a soothing return to the hypnotic avoidance of "everything real" sponsored by the dream that America will, somehow, return to the state of high addiction we were convinced that we enjoyed before. The other will be a rational, clear headed appraisal of what possibilities we actually have, given the wounds which have effectively crippled us during our "period of distraction."

There are, actually, real possibilities for our future, but they are not ones which will simply arrive untended or by gleeful serendipity, the automatic and entitled result of our national "exceptionalism." As Americans we will be required to design these future dreams and commit ourselves to sacrifice and work for their accomplishment.

If the lessons of President Obama and the Ghost of Christmas Present have adequately educated us about the reality of our present moment, we will have the understanding to accomplish this design for the future. Should we, as citizens, remain intoxicated with a dreamy past which never actually existed, employing that "house of shadows" as the foundation of our hope for the future, our possibilities for a future "in reality" -- that is, a future punctuated with "real" goals, "real" work and "real" accomplishments -- fades dramatically.

The ugly fact is that we can, actually, continue along the path we have taken toward our own destruction. There remains still more wealth in the nation which can be thoughtlessly consumed for still a few more months or years until we find ourselves entirely, completely, inescapably and irretrievably bankrupt. We can "privatize" our sidewalks when everything else has been sold, sell the titles to them to the Chinese and throw one last "history bending binge" of a frenzied consumption party, but, after that, we will have to turn off the lights and stagger into the forest, naked.

On the other hand, we can cease "humming along" with the song of the Ghost of Christmas To Come, roll up our sleeves, recapture our hope, defeat those who would enslave us in our own inebriation of mindless consumption and unexamined greed and fear, and design a future for ourselves. We can forever dispatch the drunken fantasy that we will return to an imaginary past because we are entitled to it. We can learn all the moving parts about where, exactly, we are as we begin our reconstruction.

We can base our new definition of our future on choices we actually have.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

For more points of view about America's economic future, Ben Stein in the NY Times

and Trevor Shipp on FinancialNut, a fairly good background article:

Is Hyperinflation Looming in America’s Economic Future?

MeanMesa encourages visitors to "Google around!" We all need to be "up to speed" on this matter because it is happening RIGHT NOW!

and for MeanMesa, eating its own -- Obama's Recovery: Partners or Predators

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