Oblivion With an Order of Fries

This is why Joe Bageant is becoming one of my favorite writers. Excerpt:

…But it is safe to say most Americans don’t give a damn about the rest of humanity, starving infants, the homeless and whatnot, so long as the unhygienic swarms stay the hell out of our yards and don’t bring up that tired commie stuff about our lifestyle being based upon sweatshop misery. In that way, we all test positive for the devil’s hickey.

Republicans may flaunt their hickeys like high school kids in the locker room, but guilt-plagued Democrats console themselves that they can banish it at the ballot box, if only they close their eyes and wish upon a star. Thus, their comfortable self-delusions that the Tiger Woods of the Democratic Party, the technically black, is somehow blessed with a melanin-based inner moral compass lacking in the rest of society, and therefore does not bear the damnable mark. Wiser souls, who are aware that Barack Obama possesses a net worth of several millions, a Harvard law degree and a career born in that venerable political whorehouse called Chicago, assume the mark is probably located where we cannot see it. Another political wish upon a star is that Hillary Clinton, a woman marked by so many hickeys she looks like a victim of massive subdermal haemorrhaging, will reform the brutal health care system without pulling up her skirt for the insurance industry. She says “there is no possible governmental solution that does not include the insurance industry”.

Well, of course not. Industry is America’s government. Voters merely decide which industries have front spots at the public trough. One’s home is the new debtor’s prison, a place where we sleep while we work off interest payments on the mortgage.

Meanwhile, out there in the vast looms of government-as-corporation, the fast food industry weaves the MacDonald’s Cheeseburger Bill, giving itself immunity to lawsuits as it fattens a nation of steers whose sole purpose is to consume, never to be butchered, except in the wars that protect the corporate cheeseburger. Even on the battlefront, it turns profit on millions of burgers and fries that are served to those who fight America’s oil and cheeseburger wars.

American consumers watch this on TV and see it as comfortably familiar. We cannot possibly be doing so badly in Iraq if a soldier can get a Red Bull energy drink and a Puff Daddy CD on the battlefield.

Right? Which is true enough, if you have been obliviously conditioned to see these as symbols of liberty and the utmost accomplishment of the republic – if you see it as “our way of life”. And indeed our way of life is rapidly coming to that: oblivion with an order of fries.

He loses me a bit with the riff on McDonalds, although I get where he is trying to go.

14 thoughts on “Oblivion With an Order of Fries

  1. Mmm, yes, but….

    What does he ask of us, besides not supporting either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Long on rant (none of it news), short on ideas, in my opinion.

  2. Joe Bageant rocks. I have a fantasy that if he could replace Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage or any of those other squealers, he’d win over their audience quickly and turn the whole South progressive in a flash. If you’re from one of the parts of America that has trailer parks (like me, from San Joaquin Valley Calif.) to understand that he’s nailed the class system in this country more accurately than anyone I’ve ever heard.

  3. joanr16 – you’re obviously right, it’s just the sheer poetry/music of it. Agree with Dave O – imagine Joe Bageant doing Robin Williams in “Good Morning, VietNam” out to the hinterlands of the USA.

  4. joanr16:

    I think Joe might say that as long as the government is run by the current class of corporate dependents who rely on corporate campaign contributions to stay in office, it doesn’t really matter who we support.

    New boss, still a boss, even if it’s not the same as the old boss.

  5. I have been a Joe Bageant addict for a couple years now. I’d give my eye teeth to write as well as he does. His style normally balances rants with snippets of beauty. It reminds me of Aaron Copeland balancing the percussive with the lyrical. You really have to read the essays at his website to get a sense of it. I think the best introduction to the man is a two part interview at counterpunch called “Bageantry”. But, some of his essays about his hometown are like “The Canterbury Tales” set in West Virginia.

    He told me that he used to have recorded spots that were carried on some NPR stations and that he would be interested in doing that again.

    Maybe I am being simplistic, but I think one of Joe’s consistent themes is that it’s not so much the plan or a fresh idea. Hell, “free” markets, NAFTA and deregulation were ideas that were supposed to fix the world. The important thing is remaking the social interdependence and working together for everyone. But, the most important thing, don’t be attached to your model or idealogy, be ready to tweak it when it’s nearly working and toss it when it doesn’t.

    He also farmed out in Idaho for seven years using horses instead of motorized equipment. He has my respect.

  6. Can’t really agree with the guy. I think a great many people care about “the unhygienic swarms”, they just have no clue what they themselves can do about it. And more and more people these days are finding themselves financially able to do nothing but sympathize.

    To paint “most Americans” as nothing but amoral consumer pigs snuffling at the trough is to paint with the very same broad-ass-brush that most Republicans like to use whenever they talk about anything ickily liberal.

    Also .. while I certainly have as many doubts as the next guy about Hillary’s integrity and ability to get real health care reform passed, it also happens to be true that realistically speaking, “there is no possible governmental solution that does not include the insurance industry”. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is only one major model of universal health care that I’m aware of that does NOT include a private insurance industry, and that model kinda sucks (hi kanuckistan!)

    Yup, our society is currently tilted way, way towards corporate control, it’s true. But sitting back and smugly saying that both parties are new boss same as the old boss, and mocking anybody who actually has any hope for change by associating them with star-wishing and such nonsense, accomplishes precisely zero.

    The goal should be to take the party that SHOULD stand for the common man, that USED TO stand for the common man, and remake it so that it once again stands where it’s supposed to. And the way we do that is by gradually replacing the spineless wimps currently in office with spineful he-persons of OUR choosing. The only way to do that is to stay in the fight, encourage our congress-critters when they do good and diss them when they do bad, but never, ever, EVER give in to the seductively depowering siren song of “both parties bad, a fuck you on both your houses” … the past seven years have been absolute, utter disgustingly thorough proof that “conservative” republicans with authoritah are ininitely worse than anything our guys can do when they’re in power, even at their spinelessiest wimpynessiest.

    Heh. Apologies for the rant. The guy pissed me off.


  7. And now I appear to be stuttering. Great. Maha, a delete of the second two of my three posts here, bitte? Danke.


  8. I got it that this Bageant person thinks the Democratic frontrunners are corporate shills. I already knew that they are. I want to know what we can do about it.

    Let’s imagine I’m one of those poor souls in Southern California whose house is threatened as a wall of flame is, first, two miles off, then one mile, then a half mile, then a quarter mile. All this time I’m hauling my family heirlooms and pets and pet food and bottled water out to the driveway, and loading the car as fast as I can. And also, all this time, one after another, a line of Bageants, a veritable Bageant pageant, passes by on the sidewalk and says to me: “Hey, there’s a big fire coming…. Whoa, your house is gonna get burned up…. Wow, that’s getting really close…. Man, are you about to get screwed.” The Bageants don’t help me load the car, don’t tell me where the nearest shelter is, don’t have anything useful to contribute except an observation on something that I freaking already know.

    And who is Joe Bageant, again, to decide that Barack Obama, or any other person of African ancestry for that matter, is merely “technically black”? Or condemn with one swipe everyone who attended Harvard, or was born in Chicago? I should think that would make him God, or at the very least a Yale man.

    So, not a big fan of the unhelpful ranters, no matter how glibly they string together their words. If I want poetry or music, I’ll turn to Emily Dickinson or Bruce Springsteen. I want more than a “side of fries” passing as political commentary.

  9. I’ll correct myself on the Chicago point: Mr. Bageant apparently only despises people whose political careers were born in Chicago. So he’s either God, a Yale man, or stuck in the year 1968, poor guy.

  10. So, not a big fan of the unhelpful ranters, no matter how glibly they string together their words. If I want poetry or music, I’ll turn to Emily Dickinson or Bruce Springsteen. I want more than a “side of fries” passing as political commentary.

    Then Joe is probably not your guy. I admire anyone who can cut through the noise and deftly summarize what’s going on. Poetry is one of the tightest forms of communication, and Bageant’s talent at times rises into this rarefied space. Bageant reminds me almost of Bob Dylan, who likewise didn’t propose any remedies, but who galvanized a generation. Joe has that kind of potential. If he can reach one person who “hates libruls” and can get them to think, he’s done good in my book.

    As Dave O pointed out upthread, there is a huge, abandoned demographic waiting to hear from people like Bageant.

  11. Ian,
    There are two health care/insurance programs (Medicare and Tricare) that are very effectively run by the Gov’t that do not include the “private” insurance industry. Maybe, Clinton is just saying that to keep the wolves at bay.

    Begeant sure seems to be able to cut to the chase. Love the line about her raising her skirts. Similar to Georgie bending over and grabbing his ankles.

  12. Joe’s unseen demographic are the “leftnecks”. I see potential leftnecks all around me. They may have a southern accent and a bumper sticker with a verse from the Bible. But if you talk to them honestly and LISTEN honestly, without buzzwords and talking points, you may find that they hunger for justice and society as much as you do. They may romanticize the “Lost Cause” and accept what they hear from their preacher or Fox News more readily than they should. But, we’re all free of confirmation bias, aren’t we?

    I guess it’s pretty obvious that Joe’s writing isn’t for everyone. But, I admire his work even more than James Walcott’s.

    And yes, Moonbat, there is a “Subterranean Homesick Blues” kind of rhythm about some of his work.

    Leftnecks of the world unite!

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