Friday, April 15, 2011

Death of the Liberal Class

Segment taken from "Death of the Liberal Class" written by Christopher Hedges

“I say let the empire collapse; sometimes we must die to be reborn. The political system as it stands offers little hope for influencing real change or social justice.” Ernest Bell, U.S. Military Veteran

Classical liberalism was formulated largely as a response to the dissolution of feudalism and church authoritarianism. It argued for interference or independence under the rule of law. The features outlining classical liberalism are as follows;

four principle features , or perspectives, which give it a recognizable identity, it is individualist, in that it asserts the moral primacy of the person against any collectivity; egalitarian; in that it confers on all human beings the same basic moral status; universalist, affirming the moral unity of the species, an meliorist, in that it asserts the open-ended improvability, by use of critical reason, of human life.

In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality. It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue. It also serves as an attack dog that discredits radical social movements, making the liberal class a useful component within the power elite.

Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. The death of the liberal class means there is no check to a corporate apparatus designed to enrich a tiny elite and plunder the nation. An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope, however remote, or correction or a reversal. It ensures frustration and anger among the working class and middle classes will find expression outside the confines of democratic institutions and civilities of a liberal democracy. The liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. In killing off the liberal class, the corporate state, in its zealous pursuit of profit, has killed off it most integral and important partner.

The anemic liberal class continues to assert, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that human freedom and equality can be achieved through the charade of electoral politics and constitutional reform. It refuses to acknowledge the corporate domination of traditional democratic channels for ensuring broad participatory power.

Journalists, who prize access to the powerful more than they prize truth, report lies and propaganda to propel us into a war in Iraq. Many of these same journalists assured us it was prudent to entrust our life savings to a financial system run by speculators and thieves. Those life savings were gutted. The media, catering to corporate advertisers and sponsors, at the same time renders invisible whole sections of the population whose misery, poverty, and grievances should be the principle focus of journalism.

Universities no longer train students to think critically, to examine and critique systems of power and cultural and political assumptions, to ask the broad questions of meaning and morality once sustained by the humanities. These institutions have transformed into vocational schools. They have become breeding grounds for systems managers to serve the corporate state. In a Faustian bargain with corporate power, many of these universities have swelled their endowments and budgets of many of their departments with billions in corporate and government dollars.

Universities, especially in political science and economic departments, parrot the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and have no new ideas. The arts, just as hungry as the media or academy for corporate money and sponsorship, refuse to address the social and economic disparities that create suffering for tens of millions of citizens. Commercial artists peddle the mythical narrative, one propagated by corporations, self help gurus, Oprah, and the Christian Right, that if we dig deep enough within ourselves, focus on happiness, find our inner strength, or believe in miracles, we can have everything we desire.

Such magical thinking, a staple of the entertainment industry, blinds citizens to corporate structures that have made it impossible for families to lift themselves out of poverty or live dignity. But perhaps the worst offender within the liberal class is the Democratic Party.

The party consciously sold out the working class for corporate money. Bill Clinton, who argued that labor had nowhere else to go in 1994 passed the North American Free Agreement (NAFTA), which betrayed the working class. He went on to destroy welfare and in 1999, ripped down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks to turn the banking system over to speculators. Barack Obama, who raised more than $600 million to run for president, most of it from corporations, has served corporate interests as assiduously as his party. He has continued the looting of the U.S. Treasury by corporations refused to help the millions of Americans who have lost their homes because of bank repossessions or foreclosures, and has failed to address the misery of our permanent class of unemployed.

We have to grasp, as Marx and Adam Smith did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good. They exploit, pollute, impoverish, repress, kill, lie to make money. They throw poor families out of homes, let the uninsured die, wage useless wars to make profits, poison and pollute the ecosystem, slash social assistance programs, gut public education, trash the global economy, plunder the U.S. Treasury and crush all popular movements that seek justice for working men and women. They worship money and power. And, as Marx knew, unfettered capitalism is a revolutionary force that consumes greater and greater numbers of human lives until it finally consumes itself.

The Question: Where and how (as an individual, Washingtonian, and American) do we move forward in a country thats solidifying an oligarchy of large monied corporate power that is stifling the means to achieve social change?

Ideas? Comments? General thoughts? Please do share...

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