Here’s a hope that everyone enjoys the weekend. That you, Dear Reader, can tune out the media led fixation on the ankle biters downtown.
It’s an unholy brew. A rootless media seeks any form of self-generating narrative for lazy producing, story selection, Nielsens and click throughs. And the Movement? It follows centuries of Counter Enlightenment impulsive tradition using public theater to create false narratives and communal identity. All fodder for the 15 minute news cycle and shallow tweets.
We chose to visit Annapolis to start off the weekend. Sure, it’s long been a tourist trap. And like nearby D.C. it’s self-satisfied, bloated and keenly aware of its wealth. Still, it’s not far up Route 50. The Severn River retains echoes of boating memories many decades ago. Plus, traffic to the overcrowded (and even more overbuilt) Delaware beaches too daunting. One notable thing – young men in their twenties lounging around the Naval Academy entrance wearing the old ‘Blackwater’ paw t-shirts and Oakleys. Without irony, too.
Where were we? Oh right. The high school play downtown.
The Movement today and over the past months recycles predictable motions from centuries of Continental Counter-Reformation, anti-Enlightenment history. Movements throughout history inherently must act out their inner narratives in public to survive. Why? Visual, ‘tangible’ public rituals are crucial theater and alternatives to actual pluralistic political organization. A public theater event is concrete manifestation of their inner monologues. The inherent unpredictability and malleability of public drama is an escape from dreary details of consistency, process and ‘facts’. The Tea Party and Rightists generally are stumbling through stale, predictable motions.
If we could ask a reader to leave with one memory from this post, it’d be this: it’s the theater that matters. Political theater confirms via *participatory* acting out both belonging and the intangible triumph of their shared irrational. Recall the shopkeeper’s words from a public ritual 76 years ago. They’re instructive. ‘Before I felt I was alone. And now I belong.’ That’s the Movement’s fundamental – belonging. Not ‘facts’, ‘accuracy’ or ‘truth’. If one gets only one thing about Movements across time, that should be it.
Substituting political theater for organized political structure allows Movements throughout history to surmount the *always* present contradictions. Anti-Englightenment Movements almost uniformly purport to be about ‘renewing’, ‘restoring’ and ‘rebuilding’. For example, all of them always offer an idealized, betrayed past to be reclaimed. Or a new millennium tantalizingly close but for enemies.
Movements market themselves in different guises but the above fundamentals are always present. For example, some Movements present a ne plus ultra modern facade and modernist progress. Regardless, once in power Movements always prove incompetent, incapable of rational management. The promised ‘renewal’ or ‘new Millennium’ lurched for through the destructive, ‘creating’ only by tearing down or revoking. The Bush Administration’s rejection of empirical governmental management for irrational incompetence par for the course in a tradition going back centuries.
Bartlett’s famous quote about the Bush Administration could have come from any Continental Movement:
We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’ re studying that reality — -judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again.
Our media and the undisciplined (and let’s face it, largely ahistorical) blogosphere fail us. This rawer, cruder Movement in 2010 is nothing new. It’s core was always a major element of the Bush Administration 2001-2008. Yet all flail about clucking at this ‘new’ phenomenon.
Certainly Steele helps marginalize the Republican National Committee. The RNC and the party itself are irrelevant anyway — as we predicted years ago to you, Dear Reader. The parasite rejects now the need to wear the host’s ‘we play by the same rules’ institutional facade. Today’s public theater is merely an exclamation point that the Movement is an entity apart from and rejects the enfeebled pluralistic political GOP host.
America’s veneer of civilization, rationality and liberal democracy has always been remarkably thin and brittle. 2001-2008 only the most glaring and recent example. Our economic decline surely activates latent Movement tendency in some. And it provides vectors for viral contagion and recruitment for new comers. Some who are not ‘infected’ with the viral ideology itself will support the Movement anyway as a protest to a gloomy today and frightful future. These add percentages to the Movement’s presence. It, however, has always been and will be here. Consider: the unified Movement in power 2001-2008 was as nihilistic and irrational during a bubble of false prosperity. The anti-liberal democratic identity remains either way.
Still, things are not what they seem. That’s good news. This particular Movement in 2010 is mostly secular in its overt manifestations. It lacks the added anti-Enlightenment ferment from Values Voters and radicalized religious right. Both are equally as hostile to liberal democracy today as they were 2001-2008. Today, they are content to be grudgingly, passively supportive of the Movement’s current public persona. All want to see Democrats defeated and Obama erased. The 2010 Movement’s ‘secularist’ tint still is not enough to tap their enthusiasm. That’s a blessing.
The old Movement coalition awaits a truly gifted demagogue. One who can weave a larger, more inclusive irrational narrative. Newt toys with trying. Romney wouldn’t have a clue. Regardless, the rejection of regular, organized pluralistic politics means one should expect more public acting out – and escalation in ‘intensity’. Debates within the political apparatchik Republican ranks whether ‘wedge issues’ like nativist hatred of the Other (Muslims, gays, etc.) are distractions from the economic message are operational chit chat by professional mercenaries looking at polling data, get out the vote, etc. The Movement already rejected the apparatchiks’ dictate to focus on the economy. It slipped the leash long ago.
How heart breaking that non-radicalized American governing classes are just as befuddled and useless today as 2001-08. They still don’t understand what they’re facing, its historical roots and implications. Nor have a clue how to combat it. We’re all that proverbial movie going audience, watching helplessly as a character walks into the basement alone, knowing a monster’s in the house. Shouting warnings at the screen never change the outcome.
We need to change *our narrative.* Don’t we deserve better?