Looking For Joseph Smith

            Well, it looks like in a few days the American dollar will be worthless (backed by the full faith and confidence of the United States government). “In God we trust” is all that will be left (but out on the street they want to see that dollar first). Boy, things will be different.

            The US political leadership were agreed on cutting spending, some more than others, in their legislative endeavors to “head off” this “debt crisis”. The hang up seemed to have been taxing the rich. The “representatives” of the American people have taken it upon themselves to interpret their constituents’ political will as being to not raise any taxes. The ostensible reason is that “you don’t raise taxes during a depression,” er, recession. The cynical reason would read more like these representatives are the very ones who would end up paying some of that tax. The self same who would lay off government workers, cut pay and benefits, and end programs while not reducing the size of their own staff, cutting their own pay and benefits, or eliminating any of their own programs.

            Previous blog postings have sited numerous sources for the economic composition of the US electorate, the 20/80 statistics, etc. (20% of the folks own 80% of the wealth, etc.). These are all figures from BEFORE the 21st century depression, er, recession (image is everything in the politics of visualization). The financial well being of the representatives of American democracy is also nothing new. The current and former speaker of the house could both be lifted straight out of some large corporate advertising agency. Like it or not, when given the choice, Americans love mad men.

            That has always puzzled me. Years ago a relative came home from serving in the war and was apathetic to vote (to end the war). Later, stuck in a low paying job with new mouths to feed, the veteran vehemently supported the candidate embracing the solutions favoring the wealthy. Later still, when that family’s life improved through employment in a union job, the political embrace was for those espousing the evils of unions! I meet folks who are hourly workers at Mickey D’s or Wally World and identify themselves as staunch tea baggers. Perhaps it can be attributed to religion and a family tradition of wearing the “Sunday best”; past generations who, though they owned little or next to nothing, always identified politically with the party of wealth as they could appear with them, looking like them, once a week at their religious gatherings. After all, progressive modernism relies on the successive sequence of time, so this bias is quite attractive. Even Marx was intoxicated by this (describing it as intoxicating!).

            More sobering is the essay Theater and Democratic Thought: Arendt to Ranciere by Richard Halpern appearing in the recent Spring Critical Inquiry. Mr. Halpern writes of “the system of charis or “gratitude for a material benefaction.”” within the Greek city state democracy of the 5th through 3rd century BCE. He references Josiah Ober’s book Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens: Rhetoric, Ideology, and the Power of the People regarding this. “As Josiah Ober notes, “the Athenian public seems to have expected politicians to perform significant liturgies,” and those politicians would in turn draw on the gratitude produced by voluntary and generous public works to reinforce their standing as speakers. Indeed, “the hope for gratitude from the demos and especially from jurors was the motive behind many liturgists’ acts of public generosity to the state, and some of them were not reticent about admitting it”. Conversely, it was perfectly acceptable for politicians to benefit materially from their political activities, since this would supposedly cause them to feel a reciprocal charis toward the people: “The politician who took from the state had conjoined his personal financial interests with the interests of the demos. As the state prospered, so did he. He could therefore be expected to propose legislation that would be of benefit to the state as a whole.”” (Critical Inquiry Vol. 37 No. 3 Pg. 559-560)

        Contemporary with the Athenian democracy were the religious temples. Sacrifices were made there, appealing to the charis of the Olympian immortals for a propitious response. Corporate think’s need for “visionary leadership” has deeper roots than ever imagined!

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