8 October 2008

Looking from the outside in

I've recently been talking to friends and family who live in Europe and Asia about the recent U.S. economic crisis and have been struck by their insights. One thing I commonly hear them say is that they're amazed that the American people take all this lying down. I'm told, "If this happened in our country, there would be massive protest and the president and his cabinet would be out of office in a matter of weeks." Another interesting comment I've heard, especially from Asian friends who read American blogs and watch American TV, is surprise at the focus on candidates' "performance" and the corresponding lack of focus on substance and issues. The criticism is well-taken. Americans need to be able to understand our current situation using meaningful and relevant categories of analysis. And when the analysis shows that our hard labor and wealth are being stolen by a self-serving class made up of the ultra-wealthy, we need to do whatever it takes to turn the tables.


ddjango said...

Hmmm. Interesting.

I'm not trying to be snarky, but I have a question: this particular bit of "troubles" is not confined to the US, but is global. Russia's markets have been closed more than open; Iceland's gonna disappear; the EU is headed toward institutionalization; etc. But I don't see the raging horde gathering on the cobblestones anywhere.

What. Is. That?

Karlo said...

Oh I don't know. There have been a horde or two gathered on Thai streets recently, and one can still probably smell some left over tear gas on many a street in Korea following protests about market liberalization. The French have also been pretty vocal. The governments of these countries at least have a healthy fear of their citizenry.

Comrade Kevin said...

You have to take away our ipods, our televisions, our high speed internet connections, our disposable incomes, and our supply of gasoline to get anything in the way of protest from us...in that order.


Karlo said...

The last two might be disappearing as we speak. Although economic downturns might prolong the end of cheap oil.

BadTux said...

The ignorati, the masses of dim-witted proudlyfully ignorant people who are suspicious of anything they view as being dismissive or disdainful of their dim selves, aren't going to get upset as long as one of their own is the dim son in office. Because the ignorati are happy to believe that it's someone else, "them", those evil "liberals" and "demoncraps" and "niggers" and such, who are responsible for their problems. Their leaders could impoverish them to the point where they are dressed in old curtains ripped out of collapsed trailer houses and living in a cardboard box topped with tin ripped off of said collapsed trailer houses, and they'd still blame it all on "those people". Or "that one", as John McCain would put it. (But hey, at least he didn't call Obama "boy"!).

As long as half of America is proud of being ignorant, is suspicious of anything that smells like education and learning, I don't know what to do about that. Sadly, it appears that America is getting exactly what it wants, good and hard. Oh well. America was a good idea, but nothing lasts forever, sigh...

- Badtux the DIsheartened Penguin

Vancouver Voyeur said...

I think this is all connected to the dumbing down of America. Fewer and fewer people understand the issues, catch the subtleties, or can think critically enough to notice the lack of substance. Knowledge is power and we're rapidly becoming a very powerless nation.

wunelle said...

A couple thoughts.

I'd like to think that we're not taking to the streets to demand the government step down in part because we're in the midst of the process that will, in this case, replace the government anyway. (I don't feel very secure in this, as we haven't been very vocal about a whole host of disastrous decisions that preceded this crisis... I feel that we ought to be THROWING them out rather than letting their terms expire.)

Also, very few of us understand this crisis, which is by design. The arcane financial instruments--credit default swaps and the like--which many people believe are not even understood by the banks who have signed off on the poisonous debt, are specifically designed to evade understanding and scrutiny. This is one of the many arms of the unregulated, free-market monster that the right has produced under our noses.

I think we concentrate on candidate performance because it reveals and demonstrates intelligence, and we can get some gauge of sincerity and managerial style by watching the candidates have to think on their feet.

The policy details must necessarily be more nuanced and detailed than a candidate can present to the population in a campaign, and indeed, I'd hope they would rely on the expertise of their well-chosen team. No candidate can be themselves a wide-ranging expert on everything. If we believe the candidates are sympathetic and competent and reasonably transparent, we will trust that when they get to the table they'll do well by us.

ddjango said...

This discussion is an oasis for me. Thank you! - especially badtux and VV.

In my rounds of the blogoswamp these past few days, I've found that clear and reasoned thinking, manifesting in respectful discourse, has almost vanished from even the usually reliable forums like Dark Wraith.

Although I have no faith that electoral politics holds anything positive, wunelle's comment has much merit.

The hundreds of posts and comments I've seen, just in the past week, advocating shooting cops and torching banks and govt. buildings, scare me more, frankly, than the approach of martial law.

I believe that the government would like nothing better than to find, or even provoke, an excuse to lock us all down. From what I'm seeing, they will not need to use false-flagged provocateurs to set us up.

We need to be mature, thoughtful, and very cautious these days. Whatever evil we see on the surface is certainly and infinitely surpassed by the ghastly hosts of Machiavelli underneath.

Thanks again for the fresh air. Be at peace.