Friday, July 06, 2007

Sacrifice Suckers

Having just slammed the Times columnists, it would be helpful to point out that I do think that Frank Rich and Paul Krugman are skilled writers and thinkers, and here Krugman ably discusses a theme which has been on many of our minds for some time -- the differences between Bush's cynical uses of the word "sacrifice", and its actual application to meaning.

On this Fourth of July, President Bush compared the Iraq war to the Revolutionary War, and called for “more patience, more courage and more sacrifice.” Unfortunately, it seems that nobody asked the obvious question: “What sacrifices have you and your friends made, Mr. President?”

On second thought, there would be no point in asking that question. In Mr. Bush’s world, only the little people make sacrifices.

You see, the Iraq war, although Mr. Bush insists that it’s part of a Global War on Terror™, a fight to the death between good and evil, isn’t like America’s other great wars — wars in which the wealthy shared the financial burden through higher taxes and many members of the elite fought for their country.

Exactly. The whole thing's been done on the cheap, in terms of spreading the sacrifice around. As much as Bush enjoys comparing this fiasco to World War 2, the fact is that that was a genuinely existential crisis, for us, for England, for all of Western Europe, Russia, and much of Asia. And it showed in the measure of real sacrifice of all the countries involved.

We have not even been asked to cut into our large-living ways; indeed, we've been encouraged to indulge them. Consumerism is what keeps this Ponzi economy afloat, that and dangerously bundled derivatives on the esoteric hedge-fund market. So instead of conserving and rationing, the way homefront Americans were glad to do in WW2, to be part of the cause, we continue to indulge and consume, and in particular waste oil profligately, as if we weren't over in the Middle East to -- at least in part, whether people can admit it to themselves or not -- secure our access and supply.

This would seem to necessitate even timid half-measures of sacrifice on our parts, yet it apparently does not register, based on the number of giant, penis-compensating prickmobiles and smilf-driven grocery schooners still dominating the roads. Giant vehicles, hauling practially nothing to nowhere, back and forth.

This is replayed day after day, across the country, heedlessly, rhythmically, almost like a ginormous variation of musical chairs -- if they stopped, they would think about what they were doing, and reality might set in. And the heroic Chinese-made ribbon magnet might then not seem to be enough to justify driving a 3-ton, 10-mpg mini-RV to the post office or the Wal-Mart.

Sacrifice should be shared across the board, rich and poor, wherever possible. But mostly it appears to be two classes of people who need to start sacrificing proportionately to what they take -- the profiteering class and the mindless hyper-consumption class. People who, like dogs, figuratively lick their balls because they can, without bothering to wonder if they should.

To even meekly ask if they should perhaps consider the possibility of driving fewer and smaller vehicles less often is to prompt an indignant barrage of retorts, usually encouraging people to take their "self-loathing" to France or some such.

It should be clear by now, but speaking for myself, I am certainly not "self-loathing", nor "America-hating". What I despise is people who don't pay attention to anything but their own id and raw desire, who think that they're entitled to something for nothing, whose every move and statement betrays the damnable notion that for them, gluttony is a skill. Whether such people happen to be American or Estonian is irrelevant; a jerkoff is a jerkoff.

And as for the political class, clearly no sacrifice is too small or too justified for them to weasel out of with their magic powers.

Back when the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity began, Mr. Bush insisted that if anyone in his administration had violated the law, “that person will be taken care of.” Now we know what he meant. Mr. Bush hasn’t challenged the verdict in the Libby case, and other people convicted of similar offenses have spent substantial periods of time in prison. But Mr. Libby goes free.

Oh, and don’t fret about the fact that Mr. Libby still had to pay a fine. Does anyone doubt that his friends will find a way to pick up the tab?

Mr. Bush says that Mr. Libby’s punishment remains “harsh” because his reputation is “forever damaged.” Meanwhile, Mr. Bush employs, as a deputy national security adviser, none other than Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair. Mr. Abrams was one of six Iran-contra defendants pardoned by Mr. Bush’s father, who was himself a subject of the special prosecutor’s investigation of the scandal.

In other words, obstruction of justice when it gets too close to home is a family tradition. And being a loyal Bushie means never having to say you’re sorry.

Yep. Four legs good, two legs Scooter. We're all in this together, except for those of us who, as an esteemed politican once put it, have "other priorities". But for all the whinging about how we're in the battle for our very lives, our civilization, and our sacred honor, the actual scut work of the mission seems to be undertaken by a minute percentage of people, while most do exactly what the hell they feel like doing. Talk loud, slap a ribbon on the guzzler, and bray some incoherent, contradictory, fact-free homilies.

Sounds like a winning strategy.


Marius said...

Right on target, H., but they're not gonna share the sacrificin' at all. Here's the deal: they don't have to. For two reasons, I guess. First, battling a tin-pot dictator in a near-Third World country is feasible on the cheap. No need for a massive mobilization of the national economy, no new Manhattan project required, no massive sacrifices by the general populace, especially in a country that has enjoyed uninterrupted affluence for over half a century. The recent "insurgency" may pose a threat of slow economic attrition, but only in the very long run, and by then the imperial grunts will have been withdrawn from the streets of Messopotamia.

Second, the short-to-medium term ripples of the 400 billion buckaroos thrown down the drain in Iraq will affect only the suckers at home--the lower-middle class, the blue collars (or whatever's left of them) and the bottom feeders who depend in some way on federal and state programs. But the well-off and the patrician rich don't have to worry about that anymore: with the internationalization of capital and the free flow of investment, their portfolios will be barely affected by the foolish colonial adventures of the Maximum Leader. The return on their investment will be more or less unaffected, no matter how much the DoD spends in the Middle East. When the situation threatens their privileges -- in the form of high inflation or global oil prices over $100, as the prediction goes if they invade Iran -- you can be sure they'll call the White House and tell them to stop this nonsense.

spocko said...

I liked this post I commented on it over at Spocko's Brain.