Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two wicked tautologies.

The midterm elections in the United States are two days away. Unfortunately, the importance of these elections is not limited to inhabitants of the US and to its expats (such as myself). The interconnectedness of national economies and political systems that defines the modern world means that insanity in the country I call home can spread and upset affairs all over the world. Moreover, issues such as environmental protection know no such thing as political borders, and have consequences all the world over. Increasingly, the vast majority of the world has been effectively disenfranchised by the disproportionate level of influence wielded by the US in world affairs.

It is thus that I feel justified in saying that what I write of today is of the utmost urgency and importance. As I write this, a group of unqualified and militaristic right-wing candidates is poised to take power in the legislative bodies of the US, which would render the already too-moderate Democratic party completely impotent in solving the myriad problems facing the US and the broader world. The impact of this potential swing in political power has already been addressed by others, perhaps most profoundly by Keith Olbermann in his most recent Special Comment.

There is, however, a point that has largely been missed in much of the discussion so far. I myself have said that the Tea Party has no coherent argument, philosophical basis, policy position or political stance. This is, unfortunately, not completely correct, though. The Tea Party does indeed have a coherent basis; not one of politics or policy, but of theology.

To explain what I mean by this necessarily involves a bit of a tangent. In his beautifully written and profoundly chilling book The Family (affiliate link), Jeff Sharlet documents the rise to power of a secretive group of theocrats, both in the United States and globally. The Family (also known as the Fellowship) is largely characterized by their adherence to a theology of power. According to Family doctrine, the powerful people in the world today are powerful by God's will, and thus are to be followed implicitly in recognition of God's choosing them as his agents. This creates, as Sharlet so eloquently puts it, a tautology of power, in which the powerful are powerful precisely because they are powerful. Their religious belief is thus directly connected to their support of many of the world's most despicable men and women; would the people that they support be powerful if not for some quality that God had identified and chosen them for?

In the Tea Party, we see a parallel theology-- a similarly wicked tautology-- driving their actions. If one takes the efficient market hypothesis extremely literally, then the wealthy are rich because the Free Market has chosen them for some quality that they must possess, even if it is invisible to mere mortals. This tautology of wealth states that the wealthy are wealthy precisely because they are wealthy. This doctrine of the Tea Party betrays the faux populism to their movement. Indeed, adherents of this tautology of wealthy are perhaps better referred to as the Tea and Crumpets Party (TCP), as their every policy action seems driven towards accelerating the expansion of the gap between the wealthy and everyone else. For all their cries against the redistribution of wealth, that is precisely what the TCP wants: that as much wealth be transfered to the already-wealthy as possible.

The primary difference between the TCP and the Family, as far as I can tell, is that the TCP is not in the slightest secretive. It is, after all, not as of yet disreputable to put literal religious faith in the efficient market hypothesis, nor to support the whims of billionaires. That we have as a society progressed to the point of understanding that giving aid to genocidal maniacs (such as the literal Nazis that what would eventually become the Family protected following WWII) necessitates a level of secrecy on the part of the Family that the TCP has no need of.

Of course, wealth and power are not uncorrelated. These two wicked tautologies thus interweave in horrible ways, of which I fear we have seen but the shyest echoes. I would rather not find out the terrifying ends produced through such an interweaving by handing the reins of power over to the TCP.

On Tuesday, however, there is a choice put to voters in the US: whether to endorse a wicked hypothesis that parallels that of the Family's power theology, or whether to stand up for policies formed on a rational basis. Those outside the US also have a part to play in the next two days, for in speaking up and reminding your friends and loved ones what is at stake, a further crisis may yet be averted. Please do not allow these wicked tautologies to win out over rationality.

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