Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Democratic Anxiety

My Dear Barack,

What do you do with an exhausted democratic republic whose citizens are no longer citizens but passive spectators of the assorted media frenzies that pass for news?

The short answer is you militarize it.

An article, yesterday, spotlighted the Pentagon’s plans to deploy 20,000 troops inside the U.S. by 2011. The article cites 9/11 as the catalyst for this deployment. But the truth is the groundwork for this deployment was laid in the closing days of World War II.

The Great Depression, and the New Deal that followed, had badly shaken our elite. Democracy had raised its ugly head and they badly wanted to decapitate it.

Now, it is a truism that anxiety and democracy are mutually exclusive. A healthy republic requires courageous citizens, not cowering spectators, and our leaders soon realized that an overhyped Communist menace gave them the tool they needed create and nurture the atmosphere of anxiety so necessary for the birth of an authoritarian regime.

What wonderful memories I have of being a child of the fifties, frightened of every thought that entered my head for fear it might be symptomatic of subversive thinking. Is it any wonder mine was called the Silent Generation? Penny loafers, belted chinos and a three-button plaid shirt were the uniform of the day, and anyone out of uniform was immediately suspect.

Pop culture fed our anxiety as we were taught to fear bad breath, body odor, acid indigestion, long hair, beards, ring around the collar, unpopularity and yellow teeth. (What child of the fifties will ever forget that ode to social conformity, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!”)

With the passage of decades, our elite become even more adept at feeding our anxieties. The worries of the fifties pale beside the worries of the twenty-first century. Now we sweat attention deficit disorder (ADD), acid reflux, spastic bowel disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), toenail fungus, erectile dysfunction, social affective disorder (SAD), aging, cancer, AIDS, constipation, flatulence and transfats.

Such is our anxiety that we raise nary a whimper as repressive laws are passed restricting what we smoke (cigarettes) and what we eat (transfats), all justified as measures that “save lives”, which is nonsense since no lives are saved; death is simply postponed. These appeals to “healthy living” overlook the fact that the leading cause of death is birth.

Now you know why, in the wake of 9/11, the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act passed so easily. A frightened people care more about their security than they do about their freedom.

America is primed and ready for a military dictatorship. Hell, we’re as deeply in debt and any third-world country, so we might as well have the dictatorship that does with it.

This, I believe, is the change we can believe in. And you are the man to lead America into a new Golden Age as we chant, “Yes we can!”

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones


Anonymous said...

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Case Wagenvoord said...

Your description of clinical anxiety is quite correct. However, what I am describing is a pervasive cultural, or collective anxiety that causes societies to value security over freedom.

Anonymous said...