"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, September 24, 2021

Fads, Fools, And Grand Guignol In America–The Credulousness Of The Cause-Obsessed

Black Lives Matter has come and gone, a victim of COVID, Afghanistan, the border, and abortion.  It is now at the back of the media bus and relegated to the Style section of the Washington Post. There are still a few weathered BLM signs on lawns in progressive white neighborhoods; but the Black Lives Matter sheets and banners draped from second story windows have all been taken down; and for all intents and purposes the movement never existed.  Not only have its signs been removed in favor of trellises and Halloween decorations, but all traces of BLM are gone.

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Such is the bandwagon nature of America.  Nothing is really that serious or permanent. Causes are Thanksgiving Day parades and big tent revivals.  They come and go, feel good for a time and then are forgotten. Life is too short to hang your hat on the same peg, wear the same suit, or dance the rhumba at every party. 

Buddhists say that there is no change but change – the ephemeral is not worth our attention – but change is a part of the American litany.  Our republican tenure is too short to see history as mattering much.  Our culture is nothing compared to Chartres, Westminster Abbey, Versailles, or the Vatican.  Change is our lifeblood, our meme, our chapter and verse; so it is no surprise that everything comes, gives pause, goes, and is forgotten.

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There are always a few hangers-on, those dyed-in-the-wool progressive partisans who absolutely, truly, and fundamentally believe that the calling out of white supremacy is long overdue.  For too many decades, they say, the black man has suffered under the yoke of racist, backwoods, bass boat crackers.  His struggle can never be ignored.

Most others have given notice.   Black people have had their say.  We get it, now please go home.  And home they went.  The streets are once again quiet, angry black faces are off the front pages, attention has turned elsewhere, and nothing, absolutely nothing has changed. 

The dysfunctionality of the inner city remains the norm.  The problem of racial disparity and social inequality has not disappeared.  The howls of protest and angry demonstrations have done nothing except up the ante for walkin’ around money and lip service.  A local Washington, DC columnist noted that in the 40 years he has lived in the city, the problems of the black community have gotten worse, not better - systemic dysfunction, he said.

Now that COVID is under control, the ‘I Love Dr. Fauci’ signs are coming down in neighborhoods.  He is a has been, a supernumerary, a little doctor with big opinions who has had his day in the sun and his fifteen minutes of fame.  Now that vaccines are everywhere and the pandemic is headed for the corral, Fauci and the CDC are gone.  

Those citizens who were on the front lines of Maskism and social distancing, the first to call out J’accuse! at noncompliant neighbors and stand like sentinels six feet apart in open air parks and gardens (‘An example must be set’) have a new cudgel – the irresponsible anti-vaxxer reprobates who deny science, spit at the majority, reject the commonweal and infect others. 

This cause will soon disappear, but the need for social recognition, an acknowledgement of righteousness and good action will not. There will always be new barriers to storm, and these warriors are as happy as can be that their moral mettle will be tested on yet another existential issue.

Image result for Images Saint Fauci. Size: 127 x 204. Source: cleaverandblade.com

The State of Texas recently took another legal step to limit abortions, and a cause that had been relegated to the back pages was once again front and center.  The same virulent, intemperate, hostile, and vicious attacks that had been launched against Donald Trump were now hurled at the state’s governor, its legislators, and its citizens.  A woman’s right to choose was being abrogated and soon would disappear.  Feminism would suffer, women of the world would be once again in chattels, locked in, abused and shuttered by ignorant men.  

The hysteria was operatic, grand guignol at its best; but Texas remains adamant, choosing to act in the democratic interests of its electorate, reflect its moral judgement and stand firm against liberal cant and political excess.

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Once the fol-de-rol is over, and the issue gets shunted to the courts, put aside and out of the way, Texas and abortion will no longer be news – except for the same inveterate social justice legionaries who cannot let go. 

Greta Thunberg was once a media darling.  A young ingenue with a cause, an adolescent soldier in the fight against global warming, she was everyone’s poster child.  Her image was everywhere, she was global and universal; but then she disappeared.  Her hopes of Hollywood, celebrity, continued fame and fortune dried up.  She was now just a boring, tedious teenager whom most wanted to disappear. 

A good progressive gains status, privilege, and respect the more he belongs to purposeful causes.  Many older progressives cut their teeth on civil rights and the war in Vietnam; but once those causes lost traction, they were quick to embrace new ones.  Race, gender, and ethnicity as part of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ filled the moral void and gave progressives a renewed voice in the name of social justice and moral rectitude.  

Global warming soon followed, and the most politically attuned progressives found ways to fold race, gender, and ethnicity under the climate change umbrella.  If any one issue were to luff, there would be many other to take up the slack.  Such emotional partisans were catholic in their causes – any one would do because investment in it was more a matter of personal validation and self-worth than actual change.  Fads and the variability and temporality of issues makes no difference to the progressive activist.

The Women’s March is a potpourri of faddish progressive demands.  Every issue from equal pay to abortion rights, to sexual abuse, male patriarchy, transgenderism, and the capitalist system itself was represented on the Mall. Collective progressive solidarity.  It matters little whether protests and marches will have any impact.  The point is sharing in a common, philosophical, universal movement.

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When asked about the specific purpose of their protests, demonstrators often answer, “To raise awareness”; but by now all issues have been presented, discussed, vetted, debated, and filed.  There is no more useful awareness to be had.

So it all comes down social collectivity – an expression of concern for a common cause which unites thousands into a community of ideas – an identity community with markers, banners, logos, doctrines, and liturgies.  Belonging feels good, feels important, feels useful, and most importantly reflects one’s own goodness.

It is no wonder that the millions of people who have real, immediate, and often immediately soluble problems have little interest in the protests on the Mall.  As one critic implied, they are forced progressivism, elitist assumptions of righteousness and far from the practical, imperative demands of the community.

Demonstrations on the Mall come and go, the grounds are policed, re-turfed and –sodded for the next round of protests, social media are saturated with images and stories for a few days and then re-calibrated, return to normal while the protesters return home, to school, and to work.

A lot has been written on conspiracy theories and why so many people subscribe to them.  The Freudian school sees ego and superego conflicts ending in external resolution (aliens, Armageddon).  Social psychologists feel that the resort to unproven and improvable theories is a result of alienation, a lack of empowerment, and the loss of a sense of entitlement. Cognitive theorists suggest that those who believe in strange, improbable happenings simply have loose wiring in their hippocampus; and behaviorists predicate a loss of lack of reason on repeated illogical reinforcement.  

Whatever the reason, conspiracy theories add to the feeding frenzy of social causes.  There has to be a conspiracy of white, privileged men behind racism and oppression.   Capitalism has to be at the root of climate change.  Irrational, medieval, homophobia is hardwired and irremediable.   Conspiracy theorists are not just the wackos in their Idaho cabins, but Washington political activists.

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Politicians have always known how to use America’s short attention span and fickle political commitment to their advantage.  Starting a small war has always been de rigeur for American presidents – so much so that a popular Hollywood movie, Wag the Dog, a satirical story of Oval Office shenanigans, was produced. 

In the film after being caught in a scandalous situation days before the election, the President does not seem to have much of a chance of being re-elected. One of his advisers contacts a top Hollywood producer in order to manufacture a war in Albania that the president can heroically end, all through mass media.  If not war, then some other invented crisis to divert the public’s attention – a very easy proposition in such a credulous, desperately cause-needy nation.

And so it goes from one fad to the next – hula hoops, frisbees, pet rocks, and global warming.  America is one great, continuing circus act with a new side show feature every month.  Punch and Judy, grand guignol, and operatic excess to the nines.  Not to be missed.

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