08 November 2012

Bill Moyers and Tom Engelhardt On America's 'Supersized Politics' and the Age of Spectacle

The Grandeur That Was Rome
"In the past thirty years it seems that Anglo-American culture has grown increasingly narcissistic. I do not know if there are more narcissistic individuals in society now, and perhaps there are not.

But I do think that narcissism is much more widely tolerated, rewarded, and even admired now than it would have been in the period of 1930 to 1950 for example. And that is what makes all the difference. More people feel free to indulge their selfish and egotistical tendencies, and to cultivate them, in order to be fashionable and competitive.

As an aside, I think this also tends to explain the decline of literature and poetry in American culture, and the rise of reality shows and the preoccupation with extravagance. Literature calls us out of ourselves, ex stasis, in order to fill us with knowledge and the creative impulse, while spectacle merely panders, and flows in to fill the empty and undeveloped voids in our being."

Jesse, Empire of the Exceptional:  The Age of Narcissism

Tom Engelhardt is the founder of TomDispatch.com and author of The End of Victory Culture and co-author, with Nick Turse, of Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare.

The impulse to evil is not the domain of any particular people or time, but a recurrent problem that must be confronted by each generation, and each individual person, in their own way and calling.

There is always the temptation to look upon injustice as insurmountable, and to simply turn away and to wash our hands with the thought that there is no use of trying, and even worse, in a descent into the apathy of relativism and uninvolvement saying, 'what is truth?'

That is the fate of those who who have ceased trying to be human, who have given themselves over to self-absorption, addictions, or despair, who are dying inside, and who when the time comes will make beasts of themselves, to escape the painful fragility of their own insubstantial being.

If there was any good news in the recent elections it is that so many well funded corporate efforts to promote particular candidates and their own agendas failed, despite the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars in slickly deceptive advertising campaigns.

This was a small victory for the American people, as the sputtering Karl Rove and the more cynical among the corporate interests went down to a general defeat, even as they were unable to accept or even comprehend that not everyone will play the fool for money, all the time.

But the more general problem of the corruption of the political parties by big money remains, and reform is the ingredient without which there will be no progress, and no sustainable economic recovery.