Saturday, February 21, 2009

America the irrational

Populism is a term that still gets tossed around in political conversation, most often during election cycles. In today’s political world, where down is up, and bad is good, populism has been defanged, and neutered of much of its power, at least compared to historical populism, which constituted a real anger and backlash towards bankers and other corporate interests of the time, most often seen during the progressive era in America.

A case in point is someone like Rick Santelli, an editor on CNBC, creating political theater with his Thursday morning rant from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, and being considered a “populist” in various quadrants of the mainstream media.

I think Wonkette accurately captured Santelli, and nailed his faux populism when she wrote that “Rick Santelli hates poor people — and by poor people we mean the bottom 50-90% of per capita income earners. How else would you explain the fact that he and his trader friends are *just now* starting to worry about Moral Hazard?” Preach it, sister!

Of course, to the 50 percent out there clinging to God and their guns, no appeal to reason or logic is 'gonna work. They refuse to listen to anything that gets in the way of their desperately held predispositions.

America, for all intents and purposes has become a superstitious, fundamentalist nation. How else would you explain that more than 1/3 of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. Nearly 6 in 10 believe that the portrayal of the Book of Revelation’s bloody massacre of all those who don’t accept Jesus as Messiah, will come true. Hence the amazing popularity of the Left Behind eries of books on end times prophecy.

Our entertainment media, while not necessarily promoting a particular brand of religion, seizes upon our nation’s belief in the supernatural—ghosts, the supernatural, angels and demons, and other forms of paranormal phenomena. More than half of the U.S. population believes in ghosts. Three quarters of Americans believe in angels and another four-fifths are down with miracles. I guess that explains why WCSH-6 had a news story last night on its six o’clock news about a group promoting the paranormal getting an audience before a group of kids at the Bangor Public Library.

As Susan Jacoby writes in her book, The Age of American Unreason, “Indeed popular anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism are now synonymous.”

While many on the left struggle to understand the appeal of demagogues like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and even Michael Savage, much of this emanates from our nation’s 40 year slide into an abyss that is characterized by intellectual laziness, and an almost obsessive need to have everything spoon-fed, and packaged, requiring no cerebral effort. Neither is this limited to those on the right. Many leftists and liberals are every bit as irrational, and anti-intellectual in their pursuit of truth, and supporting their beliefs.

Jacoby posits that what truly set apart our nation’s founding by the amazing group of men directly responsible for America’s birth, was the “presence and influence” of so many intellectuals among the Revolutionary generation. This amazing group of men, many of them signers of our Declaration of Independence, were truly remarkable in their respect for knowledge, and commitment to intellectual integrity. Today, intellectuals are regularly denigrated and marginalized as “pointy-headed.”

Sadly, many of the nitwits out there are fearful that Obama and Co. are going to turn America into a socialist nation, and take away their guns. Idiots like P.G. Douglas, from Darien, Connecticut fire off letters to the editor to the Wall Street Journal, denigrating historians like Alan Brinkley, when they try to put politics in a historical context.

The greatest danger facing our nation isn’t our economic downward spiral, crooked politicians, and the liberal media, it’s the abject intellectual vapidity of the man on the street.

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