Why Are Some Americans More Concerned About Consuming Than Preserving Their Democracy?

The excerpts below are from a recent article by Henry Giroux, titled “Why Don’t Americans Care About Democracy at Home?”

The basic answer is “economic Darwinism,” which “promotes a politics of cruelty,” “undermines all forms of solidarity capable of challenging market-driven values and social relations,” while it also “promotes the virtues of an unbridled individualism that is almost pathological in its disdain for community, social responsibility, public values and the public good.” In other words, it’s all about me and to hell with those who are not like me.

Social Darwinism, as promoted by conservatives without conscience like authoritarians Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, has had harsh effects on America’s social conscience:

… social problems are increasingly criminalized, while social protections are either eliminated or fatally weakened. … it thrives on a kind of social amnesia that erases critical thought, historical analyses and any understanding of broader systemic relations. … [it] unleashes a mode of thinking in which social problems are reduced to individual flaws and political considerations collapse into the injurious and self-indicting discourse of character. … the anti-public philosophy of economic Darwinism makes a parody of democracy by defining freedom as “the liberty to seek one’s own interests and well-being, without being responsible for the interests or well-being of anyone else. It’s a morality of personal, but not social, responsibility. The only freedom you should have is what you can provide for yourself, not what the Public provides for you to start out.”

… Economic Darwinism has produced a legitimating ideology in which the conditions for critical inquiry, moral responsibility and social and economic justice disappear.

Economic Darwinism leaves no room for compassion or ethical considerations, which makes it[s] use of power much worse than more liberal models of a market-based society.

The not-so-hidden order of politics underlying the second Gilded Age and its heartless version of economic Darwinism is that some populations, primarily the elderly, young people, the unemployed, immigrants and poor whites and minorities of color, now constitute a form of human waste or excess. … Left unchecked, economic Darwinism will not only destroy the social fabric and undermine democracy; it will also ensure the marginalization and eventual elimination of those intellectuals willing to fight for public values, rights, spaces and institutions not wedded to the logic of privatization, commodification, deregulation, militarization, hyper-masculinity and a ruthless “competitive struggle in which only the fittest could survive.”[39] Clearly, this new politics of disposability and culture of cruelty will wreak destruction in ways not yet imaginable, despite the horrific outcomes of the economic and financial crisis brought on by economic Darwinism.

And so, the ONE%, Romney/Ryan, promote social Darwinism at the expense of everyone else.

How is it that economic Darwinism has become so significant in America?

Part of the answer is the tools of the far right (hate radio and Fox News), and the lack of confrontation from mainstream media. Henry Giroux points out the authoritarianism that is behind the use of these tools.

Unfortunately, the American public has remained largely silent, if not also complicitous with the rise of a neoliberal version of authoritarianism. …

… Critical learning is now reduced to mastering test-taking, memorizing facts, and learning how not to question knowledge and authority. …

… the financialization of the economy and culture has resulted in the poisonous growth of monopoly power, predatory lending, abusive credit card practices and misuses of CEO pay. The false but central neoliberal tenet that markets can solve all of society’s problems has no way of limiting the power of money and has given rise to “a politics in which policies that favor the rich … have allowed the financial sector to amass vast economic and political power.”[24] As Joseph Stiglitz points out, there is more at work in this form of [corporate] governance than a pandering to the wealthy and powerful: There is also the specter of an authoritarian society “where people live in gated communities,” large segments of the population are impoverished or locked up in prison and Americans live in a state of constant fear as they face growing “economic insecurity, health care insecurity [and] a sense of physical insecurity.”[25] In other words, the authoritarian nature of neoliberal political governance and economic power is also visible in the rise of a national security state in which civil liberties are being drastically abridged and violated.

The anti-democratic practices at work … also include the US government’s use of state secrecy to provide a cover or prevent being embarrassed by practices that range from the illegal use of torture to the abduction of innocent foreign nationals. Under the rubric of national security, a shadow state has emerged that eschews transparency and commits unlawful acts. Given the power of the government to engage in a range of illegalities and to make them disappear through an appeal to state secrecy, it should come as no surprise that warrantless wiretapping, justified in the name of national security, is on the rise at both the federal and state levels. For instance, the New York City Police Department “implemented surveillance programs that violate the civil liberties of that city’s Muslim-American citizens [by infiltrating] mosques and universities [and] collecting information on individuals suspected of no crimes.”[29] And the American public barely acknowledged this shocking abuse of power. Such anti-democratic policies and practices have become the new norm in American society and reveal a frightening and dangerous move toward a 21st century version of authoritarianism.

… What is particularly disturbing is how little opposition … there is among the American public to this view of particular social groups as disposable – this, perhaps more than anything else, signals the presence of a rising authoritarianism in the United States. …

… Hannah Arendt’s warning that “it was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think” at the heart of authoritarian regimes is now embraced as a fundamental tenet of Republican Party politics.

Right-wing, strict father, authoritarian, promoters-of-punishment-as-a-teaching-tool, or conservatives without conscience, have been pushing social Darwinism for decades and are succeeding in converting critical thinking citizens into obedient consumers, who care more about their consumption and less about those who weren’t as lucky.

 

 

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About Andy Hailey

Vietnam Vet, UT El Paso Grad, Retired Aerospace Engineer, former union rep, 60's Republican now progressive, web admin, blogger.

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