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"Forget the Rest" blog



MIA ‘leaders’ fiddle as society falls apart

By Greg Mello / Los Alamos Study Group

PUBLISHED: Sunday, August 16, 2015 at 12:02 am

New Mexico consistently ranks nearly last among states in almost every important social and economic indicator. There has been no improvement, which is only to be expected since there have been no serious attempts to improve.

Of course the U.S. polity and society as a whole grossly underachieves, so comparing New Mexico to other states uses a low standard.

The U.S. does however outrank all other countries in incarceration, military spending, nations attacked, school shootings, teen pregnancies, obesity, and climate denialism, to pick a few measures of U.S. decline.

These outcomes are to be expected, given that our democracy is gone. No less a figure than former President Jimmy Carter recently described the U.S. as an “oligarchy” with “unlimited political bribery” that is “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Politicians of both parties “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”

Our collective response to this is – what?

The state’s political, business, and opinion leaders have no real response. There are no programs of sufficient scale and seriousness to improve these outcomes. None are discussed.

There are a few tiny gestures of course, which fit the definition of insanity often attributed to Einstein (“doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”), to the extent they “do” anything at all.

New Mexico is an economically peripheral state in a declining empire. Young people are leaving because our missing-in-action leadership provides little worthwhile for them here, despite their eagerness to contribute and despite our abundant renewable energy resources and vast unmet social needs.

Our political leaders, and the donors and party organizations who put them in office, simply don’t care enough to build on what could be a winning hand, primarily because caring about people and the environment would mean spending money instead of just talking, and that would mean raising taxes.

Our bought-and-paid-for economic prognosticators, to the extent we have any, have been unable to grasp the nettle. Invariably discussion tends toward rose-colored visions of “innovation,” of attracting the “right kind” of people, with yawning gaps of faith where logic should be, and never a discussion of how precisely these miracles would help the people of this state.

The problem is not just nonexistent, lame or insufficient policies. Behind these lies something more crippling: a delusive belief in the wonders of free-market capitalism, which supports a level of personal narcissism in the consuming classes that denies any sort of social contract.

Margaret Thatcher famously said: “There is no such thing as society … people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbor.”

A far wiser person taught something very different: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The difference made Western civilization possible.

Neoliberalism, our dominant economic ideology, fosters psychic regression to a more primitive, infantile self, which makes “our neighbor” a forgettable afterthought and a burden, rather than an opportunity and a delight.

In the U.S. it has freed the upper classes from the progressive taxation that was a necessary foundation of postwar America. The resulting vast inequality feeds on itself in every sphere. In business and politics, we select for sociopathic leaders who lack conscience and empathy.

The price we pay for tolerating leaders who effectively deny the existence of society is easy to see. Society, as such, is ending. What is replacing it? Propaganda and spectacles; mass stupefaction; debt peonage; the surveillance panopticon; police; and prisons.

More or less these same business and political leaders effectively deny, in their actions and inactions, the dangers of climate change and resource crises, denials which will also destroy society if we continue to tolerate them. They do this for the sake of their own careers, prestige, and income. They do have choices.

We mustn’t imagine that any candidate can fix this. Just to survive, we ourselves and our families must change, perhaps radically.

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