Wednesday, June 29, 2005
cant and the war president
such disingenuous leadership is a byproduct of plebiscitarian democracy. i don't think any democracy ever existed where the proletariat was not constantly misled, deluded, propagandized and lied into confusion and apathy -- when the childlike mob is empowered, cant is the weapon of necessity. and the mob, for its part, is generally happy to be so abused.
this administration is more effective at propagating cant than any before it, and that has much to do with its militancy in staying on message -- discipline and unity of mind of the highest order on this count is to be seen everywhere. loyalty to the message is sought and rewarded, deviation punished, within and without.
take bush's self-designation as the war president. so assiduously does this get reinforced that bush seems rarely any longer to make a public appearance without wrapping himself in the blood of wars past and future. the more dire his poll numbers get, the more insistent he is on casting himself as a defender of the realm.
for example -- where was he speaking from yesterday? fort bragg in north carolina, amid thousands of military men.
and here? arlington national cemetery, conferring upon himself the gravity of the dead.
here, the naval academy at annapolis -- rejoicing with the new cogs in the military machine which ultimately powers the global democratic revolution.
and here -- well, you see.
low cant can simply be specious reassurances, and certainly the administration all but gushes that. but higher cant is something more -- a tendency toward hyperbole, drama, insistence upon the importance of events and causalities for which the speaker -- though posessed of a genuine abstract belief -- has no evidence, all in an effort to construct, consciously or not, the most favorable self-serving case. it's quite different from cynical hypocrisy, the tool of the unethical salesman; cant is founded in self-elevating belief which transcends objectivity to subliminally justify reinforcing deception and masquerade.
the administration has frequently sought to create deeply emotional connections between events that are causally unrelated and perhaps even opposite -- the specious connectivity of invading iraq and september 11, for example, or privatization of social security as a means of adequately funding the program -- by invoking that which the mass of men cannot consider rationally. in the former example, the abject fear and anger of that awful event is redirected to fuel a preconceived and unrelated war. in the latter, fear of a decrepit old age is manipulated to support a truly massive diversion of funds through the political machinery to wall street.
i say again, this is not pure hypocrisy. the idealists in charge really believe they are doing right, fulfilling their benevolent plan. many of them may not even consciously realize any self-serving nature in their actions -- what they know is that they are struggling to pursue a noble cause which justifies all means, so important is it to their charge. the patent ridiculousness and hyperbole is only observable from the outside. i think the high circle of the administration truly believes that war is the only solution to terrorism, that iraq is a war against september 11, and that bush is a war president -- and if any harbor doubt, they dare not voice it. hence the imagery, presented without a hint of irony or comedy.
such detachment from reality seems extraordinary and frightening, and it is. but one must also realize that cant -- that semiconscious, pretentious self-aggrandizement that puts one's self-interest at the heart of great, necessary and momentous world drama -- is almost ubiquitous in the postmodern west. we should recognize and discourage it for what it is in our leadership; but also, so likewise in our own lives. the loss of our willingness to examine the painful and complex truths about ourselves and our smallness has done much to undermine our decadent society.
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