FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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 For all practical purposes the party has been superceded as a functional entity by pseudo-interest groups like MoveOn and their new house organ, MSNBC, which provide daily distractions from and rationalizations for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

 

 

 

More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

Weekend Edition
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail