Happy Bastille Day

When I was growing up, the leftist material I read had a paranoid style. Things might look good, but I was living in a golden cage, they said. It was pointed out that big companies ran things behind the scenes, that dissent was marginalized, and that wars were created by and for profit. This had to be pointed out because things didn’t look that way. In my comfortable middle-class liberal way I felt that my country was comfortable, middle-class, and liberal, and these writers wanted to shake me out of complacency. Consent is manufactured, they said! Look behind the pleasant exterior and it’s a slaughterhouse! Your country is evil! Resist!

It was a hard sell, because things did look pretty good. I understood the arguments, but I still thought: this isn’t Soviet Russia. Come on, guys.

There’s no need for such arguments now. The people in charge openly tell us that the government is run by and for big corporations, and that this is for the good. The President is an autocrat and does as he pleases after consulting his CEO cabinet. War is considered good in and of itself, and opposition to war is treason. We have a national secret police and civil rights are suspended. The unions are busted and the nation now works part-time for a gigantic supermarket chain. Surveillance is more intrusive and better-organized than ever. Every single bit of 1970s anti-government paranoia from fiction, film, and the fevered imagination of conspiracy theorists is now proven correct, admitted, and heartily endorsed by the people in charge. It happened here.

Happy Bastille Day! Remember: a big enough crowd can dismantle any prison.

9 thoughts on “Happy Bastille Day

  1. I’m glad you noted both the day and the transformation wrought in our own lifetimes. I’m listening to the Coup in celebration of Bastille Day.


  2. I’m still not convinced. There’s absolutely no change in my daily routine–no immediate disruption that would force me into re-imaging the mode of my Daily Life (capitalized as per Prof. Dick Flacks)–and I feel no impulse to go out of my way to further disrupt my way of living, even if doing so might ultimately lead to what you conceive to be a better future.
    Furthermore, absent of an unignorable* disruption, point me to any injustice on the scale of, say, segregation, or, duh, some issue that’s capable of mobilizing more than just niches of citizens. Perhaps we’re getting there with global warming issues (or maybe I’m just still buzzing from the latest Newsweek An Inconvenient Truth. But we’re definitely not with Wal-Mart.
    *unignorable may not be a word — but if it was, then replace it in that sentence with what would be a synonym.


      1. Considering what the French (esp. the bourgoisie) put up with before they finally turfed out the nobility, I think your suspicion is right on target.
        But considering the ferocity of la révolution, I hope for everyone’s sake that it happens in the US earlier and in a … milder form.


  3. Remember: a big enough crowd can dismantle any prison.
    Yes, but the crowd has to care about something other than American Idol and whether or not (insert vapid celebrity here) is pregnant or cheating. I think our prisons are pretty safe.


  4. it’s a compelling argument. but i also remember feeling in the 80’s at least that it was all screwed up the same way. i think the internet just made it all much easier to observe. so they changed their tune a bit. but i’d have to go back before reagan to remember a different message. carter didn’t believe these things. carter believed commercial competition was preferrable to government regulation, but only in the context of an active democracy. and i agree with him.


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