A Letter to and response from Joe Bageant
It seems as if the drunken frat boys have mismanaged our society into imminent collapse, and I think sooner than your four decade projection, but why quibble. The point is that most Americans don't know why, will be plenty upset, and the house of cards will tumble according to the old class and ethnic hatreds, stoked by fevered religion and televised bathos. I've been thinking of the collapse of the Evil Empire, that military colossus that stood astride Eurasia for seventy years or so. There was plenty of chaos when it fell, but somehow the people had kept each other alive for all those years in a sort of shadow society. The difference: regional/ethnic integrity. The Russians had always been held together by a czar by any other name, and when the doo-doo hit the blower, they reverted to those old political units. Our country is much more of a construct, with some regional cohesion, but with an ugly possibility of civil war developing everywhere.
When Senator Obama gets elected, and he bolts to the corporate "center", that may be the last straw. I sure hope not, but face it, America hasn't experienced the trauma of invasion, or the payback the Empire so richly deserves. Red Dawn fantasies notwithstanding, I'll bet there will be quislings and finks too numerous to count should the various regions and municipalities form alliances with foreign powers (think Southwest, think Northern New England).
In 1981, a journalist named Joel Garreau wrote a book entitled The Nine Nations of North America where he postulated that very acute regional differences have created de facto semi-autonomous regions, or at least areas of common culture and interest (Quebec is one, Dixie another) that make the current borders meaningless. I am a guy who believes in more local control, along an anarchist model, but there is bound to be trouble, and armed militias forming like the Mahdi Army or the Minutemen. Meanwhile, the thugs with the power neckties will have split to the Alps or the Caymans, with private mercenaries to protect their shit.
Guys like you can help reduce the confusion by keeping the information, history and messages of truth coming. The best we can do, I think, is to keep bridges to the other regions, free cities and hinterlands informed that other humans are alive and willing to talk. Music, art and the kids who inhabit the Internet may be able to chill the old fogies' paranoia, and hopefully some of the enlightened of the military will keep a lid on the nukes. All empires fall, some more violently than others. Here's hoping that the people will get the big picture sooner than I expect, and quit falling for the violent hypocrisies of the greed-heads, bigots and fascists.
Please keep up the important work.
I think there is a far more likely chance that America will be sold out from under its citizens before what you describe comes to pass. In fact, the sale has been underway for a while now in myriad forms, as non-elected corporate bodies write legislation for Department of Commerce and other bureaucrats to implement with little or no Congressional participation, but a big wet kiss from the Bush administration. (Let's not digress into the delusion that a 30-year trend is gonna change if we get a different administration or the "other party" returns to power. OK?)
One example is the sale of the American highway system in the form of the Trans Texas Highway, the NAFTA super highway (which officials deny exists because they do not call it by that name) connecting Canada, the U.S, and Mexico and over a dozen other similar planned projects that are supposed to create a North American open trade entity resembling the European Union. Supposedly this will benefit the American people. In reality it benefits the corporate elites in that it is a closed -- or in some cases toll -- system that allows the transport of cheap labor across the border, the shipping of goods from cheaper non-union, non-US ports, and so many pother goodies for corporations I cannot list them all.
According to the government's own Department of Commerce websites, entry onto and exit from these corporate highways (which we never the less get to pay for despite that we do not publicly own them, and in some cases are actually to be owned and maintained by foreign corporate entities. (My, my, my, why does China spring to mind?) would be monitored through biometric devices by Homeland Security and corporate agencies, thereby TA! TA! protecting us from terrorists.
In the end what you get is cheaper labor and materials moving through, and cheaper goods moving toward Asia, etc. We get to pay for it, and do what production or service work there is is left to do, if we want, at an incredibly low wage in zones alongside the corridors. Or we can just watch it all go by if we choose -- from under the blue plastic tarp roofed cardboard storage containers we will be living in. Me, I ain't even gonna watch. Aware citizens in all three countries are pissed. All six of them. The rest do not know or care.
Now if these goddamned thugs can pull this off without much resistance, I'm pretty sure they can keep on sacking the joint as they please, while the people are purposefully distracted with regional, cultural and ethnic identity issues. Or phony politics. (Lemme see, do I want the cute black guy for president, the brainy middle aged woman or the senile white guy who looks like grandpa? Hmmmm.)
By the time all the various "people's movements" are done with such things as getting halal food in the schools, more firepower for the gun freaks, gay floor shows in the workplace, public stonings to keep the fundamentalist Christians happy, cross species marriage licenses for animals, stem cell youth cocktails, and all the rest of the distractions that supposedly are our most important "public issues," the nation will have been monetized, commoditized and horse traded right out from under us by the elites. If George Carlin were here he'd call it "taking it up the ass."
But this being America, in the end the people of this free nation always triumph. So as we are marched from our storage container housing to our assigned work stations wiping the asses of the elites (or standing alongside the road sporting "Will fondle for food" signs) and polishing the brass corporate logos, we may take comfort in having accomplished a thousand meaningless freedoms in a land of corpo-financial dominion.
As for me, buddy, I plan ahead. I've already picked out a real nice storage container with a view.
In art and labor,