I received some interesting blowback from a supposedly progressive commenter on my recent post, So Are We Britain or Rome? The comment exhibits a mindset that I think contributes to a serious deficiency in our discourse, so it’s worth another post.
The commenter’s identity, by the way, is entirely besides the point. He’s far from alone in his mindset, and it’s the mindset I want to address.
The problem with my post, according to this commenter, was that it was too depressing and my thoughts were too gloomy. I should refrain from writing such posts because I was just depressing him and others, and I wasn’t offering any solutions. I see the “you’re not giving us solutions” line a good bit. Apparently, it’s irresponsible to point out a problem and stop there. It seems there is a moral obligation to end with a hopeful solution.
I would argue that it was not my post, but the comment, and the mindset it embodies, that is depressing. Here’s why:
You could say I’m just a local hack with mediocre writing and critical thinking skills, so silencing me might not be such a big deal. But the impetus for wanting me silent had nothing to do with those shortcomings. The logic for my being silent would apply with equal force to Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, and Patrick L. Smith. And those guys are intellectual giants.
Would it be a good thing for the Hedges’, Chomskys and Smiths of the world to be silenced? No, it’s never good if intellectual giants are silenced. And these guys are the canaries in the coal mine right now. Have they been silenced? They’ve not been in a literal sense, but they’ve been so marginalized that their voices are barely heard.
Is the mindset of folks not wanting to hear too much tough talk about the state of our union a contributing factor here? My guess is yes. So many of us are so unwilling to be confronted with “our side” being part of the rank corruption in America that they’d prefer to shut down than listen. It’s much more hopeful to believe our side of the partisan divide is the side of good. That turns policy debate into sport. How fun!
So, what happens when the voices like those of Hedges, Chomsky and Smith are marginalized? Voices on the other side of the spectrum, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Cruz, for example, are enhanced. This throws everything off-kilter.
This has devolved into what Hedges, quoting Tariq Ali, identifies as the “extreme center.” Hedges, in Tariq Ali: The Time Is Right for a Palace Revolution, explains:
The devolution of the political system through the infusion of corporate money, the rewriting of laws and regulations to remove checks on corporate power, the seizure of the press, especially the electronic press, by a handful of corporations to silence dissent, and the rise of the wholesale security and surveillance state have led to “the death of the party system” and the emergence of what Ali called “an extreme center.” Working people are being ruthlessly sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit—a scenario dramatically on display in Greece. And there is no mechanism or institution left within the structures of the capitalist system to halt or mitigate the reconfiguration of the global economy into merciless neofeudalism, a world of masters and serfs.
“This extreme center, it does not matter which party it is, effectively acts in collusion with the giant corporations, sorts out their interests and makes wars all over the world,” Ali said. “This extreme center extends throughout the Western world. This is why more and more young people are washing their hands of the democratic system as it exists. All this is a direct result of saying to people after the collapse of the Soviet Union, ‘There is no alternative.’ ”
Hedges is rarely bright and cheerful. But the idea of people ignoring him because he’s not as bright and cheerful as they’d like? Now, that’s depressing.