Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The distance and the difference.

"Reagan Democrats" were probably mostly two groups: one young, one old. the younger group consisted of follower youth, associated with the hedonistic heyday of the 60's and 70's.

A sense of philosophic conviction opposed to discrimination and in favor of individual liberties ruled the day. This was vague, prone to inconsistancies (such as the sexual objectfication frequently woven into concepts of "sexual liberation") but expected, and so many followed suit. When youthful indiscretions began to pile up, and the reality of personal responsibility for the future pushed people to search for a way to live the rest of their lives, the easiest models involved moves to a much more conservative world view. They moved to the suburbs, moved back to the suburbs, or what have you.

The older group were probably mostly New Deal/JFK Dems who were never interested in cultural revolution, and remembered the iconic days of Camelot and saw Morning in America as an idealistic echo of those themes. That these folks were all too willing to ignore the hypocrisies and failings of the Reagan White House speaks a powerful lesson about what I will call "social consciousness fatigue." This can be expressed as a relatively simple eqution:

Social change is possible proportionately relative to the ratio of present discomfort to social consciousness fatigue, less the percieved immediacy of downward mobility due to social upheaval, but where that factor can be violently flipped towards change if downward mobility becomes percieved as inevitable.
(We are in a very interesting place right now where systemic crisis is becoming perceptble -a dynamic that would be even too much a digression- slowly enough that we may be able to benefit from it, where it has more often historically proved calamitous.)

In any case, it is these older "Reagan Dems" who are now reaping the ill seeds of their willingness to be decieved, for it is they who cannot imagine that we would torure.

The demographic swing much noted lately on the blogs, whereby torture is becoming permissable, is due to the transition of social prominence (think in terms of who gets marketed to) from the elder group of Reagan Democrats to the younger. The elder group ( and their contemporaries would never condone torture because there is a much greater sense of the importance of philosophical underpinnings of a society within this group. This is of course largely due to the awakening to our own capacity for cruelty, post WWII. Call it the "but they're like us" cognitive dissonance of western upper and middle class citizens when Ike brought the cameras into the death camps. This awareness was seen as very important and passed on to the children of this generation- the boomers- but mostly through anti-Soviet propaganda-education.

Of course we went on to win the cold war, but we also underwent a huge shift in the nature of societal thought with the advent of television (and now the net.) It is very difficult to gauge the magnitude of this shift, but its impact can be described.

We think in more segemented packets, jump cuts and loose associative themes that stretch across many topics without permeating into the waking awareness except in terms of glib references and in-jokes. (Knowledge of this dynamic is how Repugs win elections.) Deliberative intelligence, while perhaps never widespread within the populace, has now become even less common. The basic dynamic of an idea or fact having broad reaching implications is now wholly and entirely lost on huge swaths of our culture. Philosophy or its imports is at this point, if not exactly impossible, categorically very limited in scope. And torture is something that has nothing to do with the suburbs and sounds as if it should help us win. What once set us apart has to do with another era, like watching M.A.S.H. in a Desperate Housewives age.

Let loose not the hounds, but the pigs.


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