Instead of mouthing the words “liberty” and “democracy”, illiberally and demotively, George W. Bush might consider the universal implications (the ideal lineaments) of Liberty and Democracy. But anyway, please don’t hold your breath.
The so-called president’s limited IQ has some bearing on this conundrum. What in the world have his Yale and Harvard degrees done for him?
One has to wonder in general if political rhetoric is simply political rhetoric, or if there is a possible signified lurking somewhere between the lines. Does the word “liberty” have a concept? Does the word “democracy” have an implied ethical dimension?
If so, then the next question is “Who owns these terminologies?” Our best collective hunch might be absolutely no one, since they are by definition abstractions. Does the merely nominal nature of the terms “liberty” and “democracy” account for the in-one-ear-and-out-the-other quality of political rhetoric? Are these terms, therefore, bankrupt?
Well (as Ronald Reagan used to say quite a lot) … George seems to think he knows what they mean and he has expended quite a lot of words to tell us what he seems to think they mean, including words at war with themselves insofar as he contradicts himself from one minute to the next (from one speech to the next). It is apparent that these two words have a temporal meaning in the nouvelle-vague, Orwellian world of the Bush League.
“Liberty” means, of course, privileges for the elect — a kind of neo-Calvinist school of thought where you are damned in advance if you have not somehow wrested a sizeable income from either: a/ your parents; b/ investments; or c/ crony capitalist machinations and etcetera. This is, after all, the “End of History”, and winner takes all.
“Democracy” means, on the other hand, U.S.-approved puppet regimes as far as the blind eye can see, plus free market cowboy-capitalism with its attendent woes — i.e., currency speculation, capital flight, and round-robin indentured servitude (for “emerging markets”!) to international financial institutions that are merely the stalking horses for the neo-imperial aspirations of the economic elite.
Attending more to rhetoric than the Real Thing, Bush has made almost anyone with a conscience (again an abstract thing) uncomfortable. Clearly more at home with syntactical operations (even though these are, hopelessly, a serious challenge for the president), Bush seems to either not care about semantics or is oblivious that words usually have meanings. Are we to assume that the president is a brilliant post-structuralist? A savvy devotee of circular, nihilist language games?
I don’t think so … Bush only speaks when the words are prepared in advance by his guardians. As ward of the state, the president can only do what he is told. This brings to mind the apparitional (repressed) golem stalking the American republic. This thing, meant to protect us, has turned into a monster prepared to devour our last principles, including “liberty” and “democracy”. This beast is an amalgam of the National Security State, the plutocracy, and corporatism (a.k.a. “globalism”).
Bush was placed in the Oval rocking chair by this amalgam. This amalgam is NOT structural — it is very real — but composed of “spectral” neo-Americans. Neo-Americans are essentially post-modern vampyres. This gang has hijacked the U.S. economy, foreign affairs, all forms of popular media, the Congress, the judiciary, the military, and — tragically — language itself.
This all reminds me of a Robert Heinlein novella, “Magic, Inc.” (1942), wherein demons have taken over the U.S. government, “magic” has been corporatized, and a cadre of independent magicians endeavors to sort things out. The great climax of the novella involves a heroic descent into Hell, led by an Oxford educated African shaman, to do battle with the Evil One himself. Gavin Keeney is a landscape architect in New York, New York. and the author of On the Nature of Things, a book documenting the travails of contemporary American landscape architecture in the 1990s. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org