Empire of the Senseless

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the following to be true: Barack Obama is not a stooge, a cipher, an empty suit, or a puppet. He is not incompetent, indecisive, or deranged. He is, in fact, intelligent, purposeful, and rational. Let us further assume that Obama is sincere in his actions, if not always his rhetoric, and that his actions, from the persecution of whistleblowers to the assassination of American citizens, are premeditated, planned, intentional and taken without ambivalence.

What do we make of this? On the surface, it means that Obama is as culpable as he is capable. His icy certitude has always been his most grating affectation. Yet there is no one to hold him accountable for his crimes against the Constitution, high and low, not even the Visigoths of the House.  Despite the daily hysterics fulminating from the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, Obama is the choice of the elites, the man they want at the helm at this fraught moment for global capitalism. It’s his competence that makes him so dangerous.

Obama is the executive manager of what the British punk band the Mekons called the “Empire of the Senseless”. By this, I don’t mean an empire that is inchoate, but a government that doesn’t sense, that doesn’t feel, that is immune to the conditions and desires of the governed. America has degenerated into a sham state, a republic of the observed and monitored, where government operations are opaque and menacing. A pervasive dread seems to envelope the nation.

So, in the face of this reality, we confront, once more, Lenin’s piercing question: what is to be done? This is not a metaphysical exercise any more, but an existential and practical one of the most extreme urgency. How do we respond to an ossified state that serves abstract interests yet remains chillingly indifferent to human suffering? Moreover, where do we turn when the institutions that once served as forces of social change are now largely kaput.

The politics of lesser evilism remains a crippling idée fixe for most of the Left, despite the carnage strewn across the landscape by the politicians they have enabled over the last two decades: from the Clintons to John Kerry and Obama. The Democratic Party itself has become a parody of a political enterprise, a corporate-financed ghost ship for the gullible, the deluded and the parasitical. For all practical purposes the party has been superceded as a functional entity by pseudo-interest groups like MoveOn and their new house organ, MSNBC, which provide daily distractions from and rationalizations for each new Obama transgression.

To a great measure, the responsibility for the fatal ease with which Obama has been able to implement his draconian policies, from domestic spying to drone strikes, must be borne by the timid response of the political left, who have serially denied what they knew to be Obama’s true agenda, an agenda of neoliberal austerity at home and imperial aggression abroad—an agenda that was incubating from the moment the young senator hand-picked Joseph Lieberman to be his ideological mentor in the US Senate.

Predictably, the more they indulge Obama, the more he tends to ignore, if not psychologically resent, their existence. For most of us, the economy is still crashing. A recent analysis by UC Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics, revealed that 95 percent of the economic gains since the recession began have been captured by the top one percent. This was not an accidental outcome. Obama’s economic plan was geared to generate precisely this result. But no one wants to talk about it on the Left.

Witness the president’s rare conclave with the Congressional Black Caucus. With black poverty and unemployment rates at startling highs, Obama swatted away meek queries about the savage toll his economic policies have inflicted on urban America and pressed the delegation to publicly cheerlead for his scheme to shower Syria with cruise missiles. The CBC members sat mutely, soaking in Obama’s humiliating lecture, while black America remains under a state of economic siege.

This brazen act was soon followed by Obama’s announcement that he had picked Jeffrey Zients to head the National Economic Council. Who is Zients you ask? Well, he was a top executive at Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, plotting takeovers, mass firings, raids on pensions and de-unionization of factories. He did so well at this grim job that his net worth now tops $100 million. One might view this appointment as an act of casual sadism, rubbing salt in the wounds of progressives. But the Left is so moribund, so deeply immured in a political coma that the insult didn’t even prompt the slightest protest, not even a vestigial yelp for old time’s sake.

Liberals seem to have finally come to terms with their own vacuity.

What about the rest of us? What do we do? Here we must turn to the heroic revelations of Edward Snowden, which denuded the government’s aspirations toward a kind of roving omniscience, probing and recording the most intimate beliefs and intentions of its citizens. After the initial tingles of paranoia fade, we might be able to view this as a perversely liberating condition. What a relief! We no longer have to hide our discontent, our efforts to make sense of the senseless. We are free to become the sovereigns of our own actions without fear of disclosure.

And so we remain, nearly all of us, left and right, clinging stubbornly to the tiny freedoms that remain: to object, to denounce and to resist, until a real oppositional force emerges. Or SEAL Team Six shows up at the back door.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of NatureGrand Theft Pentagon and Born Under a Bad Sky. His latest book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net

 

 

 

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future