Aug 12, 2012
|Crisis: More Gore Vidal + some notes by me|
1. Introductory remarks
2. A long 1999 interview with Gore Vidal
3. Notes on Gore Vidal on politics
1. Introductory remarks
This continues yesterday's Crisis: Gore Vidal explains some backgrounds, where you find a selection from Youtube videos with him, all from between 2000 and 2011. My reason to be interested in the man - whom I did not know much about until he died, twelve days ago - is that I found that he had a fine mind and a lot of relevant knowledge plus the personal background to understand the current crisis, that may be said to have started with the thoroughly mistaken decision of the US Supreme Court to award the presidential election to the person who lost it, rather than with 9/11/2001: Another president and vice-president would have reacted in a quite different way.
However that may be, late yesterday I consumed the sound, though not the visual part, of a fine interview + session of answering questions with Vidal in 1999, that I'll provide the link for below, where I also will add some notes.
Here all I need to remark is that I avoided the visual part, because my eyes still give me trouble - which is also why today you get the present text, rather than another, for which I lack the eyes to write.
Then again, the interview that I give the link to and my Notes on Vidal are also quite interesting - or so I think for else I would not put them on my site. And my reason to provide links and comments on Gore Vidal on politics is that I do not know of any other "public intellectual" who says similar things as well.
2. A long 1999 interviews with Gore Vidal
The following is a link to what it says:
Having trouble with my eyes, I switched off the screen, so I did not see much of it, but I heard nearly all of it, and found it quite interesting in itself, also because most of the subjects that then got discussed - such as health care, bad education, the imperialist ambitions of the US governments - still are quite relevant, and Vidal was a witty man.
Then again, if you are not much interested in politics, or not fairly knowledgeable about the U.S., neither the above interview, nor the notes that follow, will be of great interest to you.
But if you are thus interested or knowledgeable, then you may find the interview quite interesting to listen to, if you have the time and like speakers with courage, style, wit and relevant knowledge, which are characteristics that all apply to Vidal on U.S. politics.
As to relevant knowledge of politics: The following is a link to a commented list of books concerned with politics (in a wide sense), that I first prepared some 10 years ago, and that often gets downloaded:
3. Notes on Gore Vidal on politics
The originals of these notes were handwritten on August 11, 2012, and triggered by the videos linked in yesterday's Crisis: Gore Vidal explains some backgrounds, and the above linked interview: 1999 Gore Vidal interview about Smithsonian Institution.
I reproduce them here with a number of links, mostly to Wikipedi lemmas, which do really belong to the text: If you don't grasp the main points in my references, either by reading them or by having read sufficient to know them, you probably don't understand my text:
Gore Vidal (GV) turns out to have been a sensible man who had wit and insight. Short summary of much:
The military-industrial complex has won the battle about who rules Western society: Not the people, not the parliament, not the judiciary, not the government, but those with the greatest power in the richest corporations, who form the ruling elite, that is mostly hidden and not public, and that works indirectly, through lobbying, public relations for corporations, propaganda in the media, and meetings and conferences that happen mostly behind the scenes.
Or rather: This coalition of the rich and powerful has won if they can contain the current economic crisis, which means that probably either there will be a collapse of cilivization or there will be a police-state.
These are my words and phrasings (like the rest of this text) as it also is my summary of points Vidal raised, discussed, touched on, but probably also what Vidal thought. He also mentioned, already in 1999, in the linked interview - though indeed the main concerns, processes, and struggles can be traced much further back - quite a few of the important points of the present:
Anyway - GV insisted that it are that kind of rich folks who effectively rule the US and also that they cannot be beaten without a major collapse of society. Indeed, like me, he thinks it's too late to turn back to the past: You can't undo what has (been) broken down (list of above points, and more) - "it'll take 25, 50 years to undo what the Bush-years" - 2000-2008 presumably - "have ruined". Which is optimistic. (Compare my argument that you need properly educated folks to produce properly educate folks: The condicio sine qua non is now almost wholly extinct. Interestingly, GV said that until ca. 1940 public education in the U.S. was quite good.)
So the future, socially, economically, politically in the West, is bleak, in all probable variants, and indeed in others: Too many people; too few resources; the apparently derailing (for human beings) climate - and much more specifically and here & now, more or less: Greece, Spain, Italy are going down economically; Syria is in civil war; Egypt, Libyia, Tunisia are in considerable internal trouble. It is a major mess & there are hardly competent governors/leaders/politicians. (If any of the countries of the European Union collapses economically, the rest may collapse, and what happens then is anybody's guess, but it won't be pleasant, and it may be horrific.)
There is another factor GV did not much mention: The public power elite - exemplified by e.g. Bush Jr of the US or Balkenende of the Netherlands - consist of fools: incompetent ignoramuses (both spouting talking points of GOP thinktanks, by the way, one of which is "norms and values").
Also - not a GV point - those who are competent, say Cheney, are blinded by ideology or by specific greed (oil, often, though Royal Dutch Shell now desires to drill for water under the sea: scarce resource).
Then again, this is a bit of a problem: Why are the public holders of power so often idiots, morons, incompetents, fools, ideologues, fools? It comes with careerism in political parties, is no doubt a major part of the explanation:
Those (political) funxctions attract those (human) types. And if most of them are incompetent, for various reasons, that may be summarized by saying that almost none of the leading politicians have the kind of mind to be leading academics, leading artists, or leading writers or philosophers, then that is because there aren't any better, at least usually: Among the formally qualified candidates for political leadership usually all or most are incompetent - and see Barbara Tuchman's "The March of Folly", how that unpacks in practice, as soon as "the going gets tough".
This incompetence is no major problem in ordinary times, but it is a major problem in extra-ordinary times. (In ordinary times, most social processes keep hanging together, and keep working together, also with incompetent helmsmen.)
Further question: Is the real elite also mostly incompetent? Well... however competent they are, the public frontmen they get are rarely first class. Also, these elite folks - Vidal mentioned the Mellons and the Rockefellers - probably excel at their kind of being a leading industrial tycoon of a certain type (Maxwell, Murdoch, say) but not at other things, as indeed is normal, also for excellence: Nobody excels at many things.
Another possibility to consider, amidst all the bleak forebodings of police-states: One variant is the muddling through one, where incompetent elites remain in power because the other elites are also incompetent, and errors may balance other errors, but most things keep working, if on a lower level.
Also, another relevant consideration:
The conflict is between Left and Right and is very old in principle (at least as old as the French Revolution and the 18th Century) and in the present form, in the US, arose in the Reagan years, when the power of the media became really clear and also corruption of politicians was started on a large scale: Lobbying and Public Relations (PR), the former mostly secret, the latter mostly public, but often tricked.
Something GV did not remark upon is that it seems to me PR has learned from postmodernism and also has tricks that are often used and rarely seen: Taking the moral vocabulary and ends of the opposition, verbally ("of course we want jobs for the poor as much as you do, that's why we support not taxing Our Jobcreators!"), and using loaded catch-phrases and cant terms ("Job creators", "Obamacare", "evidence based medicine" for pseudo-science etc.), and only admitting sloganized issues phrased in cant terms as talking points in the media, and no others.
But that was an aside: PR is massive - nearly all men get in the media is propaganda/advertisement or amusement/sport, while nearly all men get nearly all there general information from the media. "We The People" can be foxed about almost any issue, in democratic majority, all of the time. See Freedom is Slavery
Lobbying is also massive: Most politicians are bought or owned, if perhaps only for some subjects. This results in legislation, planning, contracts and practices that the large corporations want, and lobby and pay for. From Wkipedia:
An important (but not universal) contemporary feature of a corporation is limited liability. If a corporation fails, shareholders may lose their investments, and employees may lose their jobs, but neither will be liable for debts to the corporation's creditors. Despite not being natural persons, corporations are recognized by the law to have rights and responsibilities like natural persons ("people"). Corporations can exercise human rights against real individuals and the state, and they can themselves be responsible for human rights violations.That corporations can be "responsible" while the core principle of corporations is limited liability (legalized irresponsibility, as far as possible) must happen by miracle: Responsibility of an abstract entity that has been created to make the humans that are members of it not liable for infringements of the law is a contradiction in terms, or as close to it as does not matter in practice and in law - I'd infer.
Finally there is no independent judiciary or legislature, and so no trias politica: Even if judges or lawyers wanted - which they rarely do - to be a countervailing force against political corruption, they have no financial power, no social support, and no police force or army, while also whatever opposes the interests of the large corporations will probably get overruled in a higher court.
So far for the notes I made: You may not agree, and I might have written differently had I written on another time or at another place or in another condition of life, but at least the above is fairly informed and cogent - while, as before, I do hope I am mistaken in being pessimistic (*)
(*) I am not a dogmatic person, and I don't like seeing people in misery, but I should add that I have been right about many things most Dutchmen disagreed with me about, and did not see, notably the corruptions of civilization in Holland that were brought in with the leveling of education, and the "legalized" illegal dealings of drugs, for which also see here.
As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
Short descriptions of the above:
1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understa, but nds ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
7. A space- and
computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.
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