Ain't no use jivin'
Ain't no use jokin'
Everything is broken.
- Bob Dylan
Anyone of a certain age — and not a very great one at that — knows perfectly well from their own experience how the country's infrastructure has been allowed to wither and rot over the past three decades. They can see with their own eyes how the absolute ascendancy of crony capitalism — the rigged "free market" feasting on gargantuan pork and sweetheart laws laid out by well-bribed pols — has transformed the country into an ugly, crumbling, slap-dash monoculture laid over broken roads, abandoned cities and hard, harsh lives. As Dylan put it in a recent interview:
Well, America's a different place than it was when those [older] records were made. It was more like Europe used to be, where every territory was different — every country was different, every state was different. A different culture, different architecture, different food. You could go 100 miles in the States and it would be like going from Stalingrad to Paris or something. It’s just not that way anymore. It's all homogenized. People wear the same clothes, eat the same food, think the same things.
And one of the "same things" they think is that the brutal ascendancy of Money Power is just the natural order of things, that there's nothing to be done about it: you just vote for one slickly earnest Bible-quoting goober after another, knowing all the while that he will steer the contracts for roads and bridges and sewer pipes and health inspections and safety checks and schools and hospitals to some crony or contributor who will cut every corner he can to fill his pockets. What does he care? He'll take a helicopter, he doesn't need the highway. He's got the finest doctors on call, his house is custom-made, his children go to the best private schools, and if one of the meat-packing plants he and his fellow venture capitalists own blows up and kills a bunch of locked-in workers, so what? The insurance will cover it, and if it doesn't, you can just slice and dice another deal to get an extra wad: maybe some crony pol will sell you the city water system for peanuts, and you can jack up the rates.
People think that the rapidly expanding gap between the richest rich and everybody else is just the way things are, when in fact, it is totally unprecedented in America. Again, you don't have to be very old to remember when things weren't this way. And I'm not talking about some kind of nostalgic utopia where corruption and cronyism was never known. Such things we have had and will have with us always. What is different today is the vastly magnified scale of the corruption and cronyism, and its active, ruthless, relentless augmentation by government — and the ever-growing cumulative effect of year after year of this rot on our infrastructure, our politics and our lives. But the bright, garish diversions and carefully cultivated, corporate-skewed media misinformation that have swallowed our civic society have induced a kind of amnesia amongst the older populace, who are led at every turn to distrust and reject the historical evidence of their own lives.
And of course, there are now generations of Americans who have lived well into adulthood in the "shambling catastrophe" that the Money Power has made of the country. For them, it really is the way of the world, and it takes a conscious, determined, continuous effort on their part to see beyond the grotesque carnival they've been born into. Fortunately, there are many such young people; but of course, the default position of most people (of all ages) is, quite naturally, just to get on with their lives as best they can in the world in which they find themselves.
At any rate, for whatever reason, beyond expressing displeasure at the state of the nation in an occasional poll, the majority of Americans seem to have sunk into a strangely apathetic state. I have seen some remarks around the blogosphere expressing hope that the Minneapolis bridge collapse will at last spark some productive anger in Americans, cause them to rise up and demand that their communities and nation be rebuilt and properly maintained, that corruption and incompetence will no longer be tolerated, and so on. But of course there is very little hope of that. We're talking about a nation that countenanced the destruction and abandonment of one of its greatest cities, New Orleans, that still sits by as the Bush Regime and its cronies gorge themselves on "reconstruction" pork while thousands upon thousands of people remain refugees in their own land. (See here, here , here and here, all via Buzzflash.) Will such a people swallow the destruction of a whole city but strain at the loss of a bridge? I doubt it.
Maybe the fact that most of the people affected by the bridge collapse are white might give the catastrophe a little extra political oomph; we probably won't see jowly white Republican congressman from the Midwest breezily suggesting we just forget about rebuilding the bridge and leave the people to their fate. (Hey, it's a free country; if they can't cross the Mississippi there, they can always up sticks and move somewhere else where the bridges are still standing, right?) And no doubt we will see the Bush Regime and state governments move to slip fat, no-bid contracts to favored cronies to "upgrade" bridges around the country, in the same corner-cutting, pocket-filling manner described above. But a mass movement to stem the accelerating decay of the country by putting a brake on the rigged-game Money Power and its many sniveling helpers in government? That's one thing we won't be seeing any time soon.
(For more, see Jon Schwarz' excellent piece: Our Crumbling America.)
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