Tom Engelhardt has a stimulating article at TomDispatch on the many monsters stalking us, both real and imagined. The imagined ones we can deal with; the real ones, well, not so much. As Engelhardt notes:
“we’re living in a country that my parents would barely recognize. It has a frozen, riven, shutdown-driven Congress, professionally gerrymandered into incumbency, endlessly lobbied, and seemingly incapable of actually governing. It has a leader whose presidency appears to be imploding before our eyes and whose single accomplishment (according to most pundits), like the website that goes with it, has been unraveling as we watch. Its 1% elections, with their multi-billion dollar campaign seasons and staggering infusions of money from the upper reaches of wealth and corporate life, are less and less anybody’s definition of ‘democratic.’”
We’ve up-armored our country and our nightmares even as we’ve downsized our jobs and our dreams. The worst nightmare of all, Engelhardt notes, is our continued trashing of the planet in a drive for corporate profits tied to fossil fuel extraction and consumption. We may be making our planet a hell-hole, but it’s hell in slow motion. And since our corporate sponsors are telling us to look away, we hardly notice the descent, even as it gets just a little warmer every day …
“However nameless it may be, tell me the truth,” Engelhardt asks: “Doesn’t the direction we’re heading in leave you with the urge to jump out of your skin?”
Yes, it does. Our real fears are not as Hollywood-ready as vampires or zombies or velociraptors, but they’re equally as frightening and immobilizing. Fears like keeping our jobs, paying the rent or mortgage, not getting an illness that may bankrupt us.
Fear is indeed something to fear. “Fear is the only darkness,” as Master Po explains to the young Kwai Chang Caine in “Kung Fu.” “Fear is the mind-killer,” as Frank Herbert wrote in “Dune.” “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave,” explains the doomed replicant in “Blade Runner,” memorably played by Rutger Hauer.
Today, our fears run at fever pitch. In movies and on TV, they take the form of zombies, vampires, and other “terrorists” out to destroy us. But in real life, our fears are more mundane, even as we’re distracted from the true vampires and zombies – those among us who mindlessly consume without ever reaching satiation.
How are we kept distracted? Because we’re taught that voracious “monsters” are really superheroes. We inhabit a world turned upside down in which victims (the homeless, the jobless, the desperate) are portrayed as despoilers even as zombie capitalists are celebrated for voraciously munching their way through America’s wealth.
What keeps us in line? Our fear. Fear keeps us in the dark. Fear numbs our minds. Fear slaps us in chains.
Change – if it comes to America – will come when Americans master their fear. But before that, we must recognize the true monsters.