Don’t be lazy. Don’t lie. Don’t steal.
-- Inca Empire Code --
NOTE to new readers of this Second American Revolution series: please see the Unfortunate But Necessary Introduction, Part 1, post of August 22, 2011.
1. Carl M.:
C.G. Jung in Answer to Job apologized profusely in the preface for what he was about to do: show that, on a rational basis, Christianity makes little or no sense.
It was not without considerable doubt and self-questioning that I engaged in a similar undertaking with regard to The Great American Illusion.
Myths and legends -- The American Dream, Johnny Appleseed, George Washington and the cherry tree -- are necessary for social cohesion; to rip them apart one stitch at a time is a serious matter. I did so only after concluding that, if Polity = Democracy (presented to the public as Republic = Democracy) began as a Madisonian myth necessary to unify a young nation (as you imply), it is now something else.
The United States change of political systems from a polity to an oligarchy accounts for the difference. That change transformed what had been imagination into lies, ingenuity into opportunism.
Myths and legends are NOT illusions. Myths and legends lead; illusions mislead. See below.
Given the tectonic shift to an oligarchy, the Madisonian myth, if you will, is now an illusion in search of a proper epitaph, a decent burial.
2. Gail L., you asked for another illusion governing America.
Parts 7 and 8 dealt with a major illusion that could cost billions of dollars to already cash-strapped state and local governments. It’s your money that will be tossed out the window. Henceforth, when your county has to lay off teachers or policemen; when the city can’t fix that damned hole in your street or the streetlight the kids shot out, no need to ask where the money went.
So, where did it go?
The buzzards are up,
Once they’re up,
you can’t get them down.
When governments reapportion every 10 years, the law of the land is the One Person, One Vote principle. What is at stake is equal protection under the law provided by the Constitution. The prior post noted:
“At bottom, equal legal protection is a hollow shell unless people’s votes have the same weight. The moment vote inequality is tolerated, a slippery slope begins. As with equal protection, equal weight of votes is a basic contribution by America to democracy.”
The slippery slope is here, now. America is going, going ...
The Supreme Court ordered[i] all state and local governments, when they reapportion, to make raw-body counts determined by the census equal across districts. All over America, states, counties, and cities reapportioned accordingly. Hurray -- the One Person, One Vote principle was realized in America.
In reality, nothing whatsoever was achieved. Sorry, Your Honors, one person, one person reapportionment is not One Person, One Vote reapportionment. In insisting otherwise, however, the Court maintains an illusion. Which means the Court is deceiving you, the people.
Part 7 of this series gave a specific, concrete case showing how, following a federal court order to make population counts equal, voter turnouts across house districts in New Mexico varied to unacceptable extremes. Don’t be fooled -- the real issue is real simple: when it takes 100 voters in District A to elect a state senator, a county commissioner or a city councilor, versus 5,000 in District B, something is wrong.
They say justice is blind. The Second American Revolution says, it sure is...
Picture a weighing scale with empty pans. Put 100 grains of sand (votes) in one pan, 5,000 in the other. The pans move to perfect equilibrium. Question: does each grain of sand have the same weight? The Supreme Court flips a flashcard, No Problem, then skips off to the golf course or fancy dinner; who knows where else. We say, Your Honors, consult the nearest third grader. Unlike the Ivy League law clerks a Texas or Pennsylvanian patrician sent you, any nine-year-old kid will inform you that you have no clothes.
So, too, will sharp-eyed lawyers who have observed the unpardonable discrepancies in votes cast for thousands of public offices across America. Attorneys are testing the waters, collecting names of possible plaintiffs, phoning tacticians, emailing statisticians, eating lunch with expert witnesses.
Along with Beltway buzzards, California sharks are circling. There’s gold in them thar hills ...
The United States has realized the One Person, One Vote principle. Gail L., there you have an illusion if there ever was one. We’ll see in the coming years if, despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary -- lawyers will be happy to furnish it -- the public and the federal courts will still cling to the illusion. If so, it will morph into something else: a delusion (see below).
3. Susan R., you ask if The Great American Illusion is not The Great American Delusion.
Time to define our terms. What is an illusion? Merriam Webster :
1. Illusion. (1) (i) A misleading image presented to the vision. (ii) Something that deceives or misleads intellectually. (2) The perception of something objective existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature.
For over 200 years, the actual nature of the American system was a polity, i.e., an oligarchy/democracy hybrid moderated by a large middle class. A polity is NOT a democracy; a polity has democratic elements and it TENDS toward more of them.
From the very beginning (see prior post), the perception of the polity was fostered in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature. That way presented the polity as a democracy via an intermediary: the republic. Polity = Democracy: James Madison authored The Great American Illusion, perhaps the greatest ideological maneuver of all times.
To repeat, Madison created an illusion, i.e., a misleading image that deceives intellectually.
He had no choice:
(i) For reasons explained in the prior post, Madison could not openly announce that he and other Founding Fathers were building a polity. To do so would have spelled the death of the Constitution they were proposing to a young and divided nation.
(ii) To have presented the Illusion (Polity = Democracy) directly, without the republic as intermediary, would have destroyed the Illusion, because the statement Polity = Democracy is patently false.
(iii) A polity, in and of itself, is inherently misleading. The trick to a good polity, Aristotle noted; is that it is not identified as such. “A properly mixed ‘polity’ should look as if it contained both democratic and oligarchic elements -- and as if it contained neither.” (See prior post for full quote). Madison took Aristotle’s note and made it into a recipe.
We’re no longer in the 1780s. Times have changed. And they are about to change even more.
Can the American polity exist without resorting to the illusion that it is a democracy? Can the polity openly be called a polity and still succeed? It would be the first time in world history. That open admission is precisely what The Second American Revolution makes. It performs magic without illusions. In so doing, Revolution means what it says, not something else.
Not everybody wants to bury The Great American Illusion:
Oligarchs work day and night to keep the Illusion alive. Like Madison, they have no choice -- but for an entirely different reason. For oligarchs to admit that the United States has an oligarchic political system would invite trouble of a unforeseeable, perhaps unmanageable, magnitude for the oligarchy.
We make that admission here because, like Madison, to protect the Constitution, we have no choice:
As an upcoming post will discuss, the world is entering a new epoch of scarcities of basic necessities -- water, air, food. It will be an era quite unlike anything preceding it.
Oligarchs monetarize the world; such is what they do, how they live, who they are. In the process, they are creating the looming environmental catastrophe. Do you still believe in progress? Read again the ancient Inca code quoted at the top of this post. Manicured hands shamelessly outstretched to receive billions of Bush-Obama freebee dollars showed to astonished eyes everywhere that America’s oligarchs do not practice the simplest moral precepts. It’s not a question of not wanting to be honest: American oligarchs simply don’t know how. What makes you think they will solve impending world shortages of resources essential for life?
There is a second reason that is even more compelling for starting The Second American Revolution and reviving the polity. Forget ill will; even if they wanted to, American oligarchs don’t have the power to do what must be done (see prior post).
I should note that in resurrecting the polity and calling it by its real name, The Second American Revolution would lose none of the public support and emotional appeal that democracy creates and sustains. Under a polity identified as such, Americans would know and experience democracy as a direction, not a place; you can’t arrive at a democracy anymore than you can arrive at a north. However, with work, creativity, and constant vigilance, you can get closer to one. Which is exactly what a polity does; in Aristotle’s words, it tends toward democracy.
The ultimate paradox could turn out to be that, in openly calling a polity a polity, a polity becomes for the first time ever…a real polity.
Only with a change of , not in , the American system of government from an oligarchy to a polity, will the people no longer need The Great American Illusion and subsidiary illusions accompanying it, e.g., One Man, One vote is a reality in America. That is to say, they will no longer need to be misinformed and misled about their government.
2. Delusion. A persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary.
Illusion and delusion are not mutually exclusive: an illusion can, and frequently does, turn into a delusion. You might want to wonder -- in more ways than one -- about the children’s books Obama is writing in the White House.
The Great American Illusion, Polity = Democracy, is already a delusion for huge numbers of people. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers went to Iraq and Afghanistan believing their government -- an object outside the self -- is a democracy. They clung unto death to that belief despite indisputable evidence to the contrary.
This very moment, everywhere they go, American soldiers carry The Great American Illusion in their backpacks. You call it good for morale. I call it extra weight -- a weight that doesn’t go away once the backpacks are put down. The heavy price is borne most visibly by walking dead veterans. In hospitals, drug rehab clinics, jails, divorce courts, and unemployment lines, these used and discarded men and women are living, breathing testimony to the reality/belief discrepancy.
That reality is not going away. In fact, with the change from a polity to an oligarchy, the absence of democracy is increasing. Which means you can look for more walking dead in the future among soldiers of all sorts, not just ones in uniform.
In the end, not all illusions are delusions. However, all delusions are illusions. As the oligarchic political system tightens its grip, as the contradictions in income and power grow, as the police state required to protect the new system becomes more blatant, the belief that America has a democracy will become more tenuously and desperately held. At some point The Great American Illusion will morph into The Great American Delusion, i.e., a persistent, false psychotic belief.
I don’t know where that point is. I do know that, as a nation, we’re getting there.
While we’re at it:
3. Allusion. (1) an implied or indirect reference especially in literature. (2) the act of making an indirect reference to something.
Illusion and allusion: again, the one does not preclude the other. The Great American Illusion operates via The Great American Allusion: Polity = Republic = Democracy. Republic is the indirect reference to the polity.
Don’t leave out the literature. The prior post noted: “Why it captured millions of hearts and minds is not difficult to discern. Polity = Democracy is one of the greatest poetic works of all times, i.e., you wish it were true. But it isn’t.”
When it comes to perceptions, then, the United States is government by allusion -- a highly poetically-charged one. Presidential candidate Barack Obama intuited it; it appeared in his adult fairytales about “unity.” Watch, in particular, his speech to the Democratic Convention in 2004, that set in motion his meteoric political career. What were those unity excretions but a direct appeal to democracy -- a democracy that did not and does not exist? They enabled him to capture millions of hearts and minds and to leapfrog over thousands of more seasoned politicos, notably Hillary Clinton. In short, fairytales won him the presidency. You don’t believe it? Take away the unity appeals and you have…well, what exactly?
Chicago politico that he is, Obama did not coldly, callously manipulate those fairytales to gain the White House. Watch his facial expressions when he talked about unity in 2004; they say it all, he is digging down deep. Which means Obama is as unconscious as 99% of Americans about such things. In that respect, he truly represents them.
The bottom line: his fairytales manipulated him more than he manipulated them. The truth is in the pudding: (i) the children’s books he continues to write in the White House. Perfect soldier that he is, he still believes. (ii) The next time Obama appears on TV, watch his eyes glued to the teleprompter, his deadpan delivery of predigested lines spoon-fed by media consultants. This is a man going through the motions. He is not acting; he is posing. The last remaining drop of spontaneity evaporated long ago and quickly, under the heat of the Guantanamo sun. A fighter out cold on his feet, don’t be surprised if Obama does not run for re-election, or if he does, he does so half-heartedly. In either case, Americans will effuse a collective sigh, Good night sweet prince -- push the button and change channels.
Nobody can be disillusioned without having an illusion in the first place. It’s impossible. Barack Obama is a disillusioned man, but that, tragically, does not mean he will be coming down to earth anytime soon. He shakes his head, grasps at straws. Again, the children’s stories. Foreign leaders have noticed the same thing, and are taking advantage of it.
There is precious little that is poetic on a practical level about the federal government. A trip to any of their offices will confirm that observation. There, one will see only gray on gray. Unless, of course, one is delusional.
[i] As Part 7 noted, the Supreme Court has overtly denied that raw body counts are all that matter in reapportionment: see Gaffney v. Cummings (1973) and Burns v. Richardson (1966). Granted the Court makes such common sense declarations from time to time, nevertheless, it fails to incorporate them into practice, e.g., it refused to hear the New Mexico case which reapportioned solely on raw body counts. The Court thereby let that ruling stand. The concrete upshot of saying one thing and doing another: the Court fosters the illusion that One Person, One Vote is a reality in America.