Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fellow Commandantes,

Yes, I know, it has been an unconscionably long time since I clued all of you in on the underlying cosmic dilemma.  Mostly it has been a series of minor heath problems -- all annoying, none too serious -- that have plagued this New Hampshire summer.  Then there has been a computer replacement and the attendant learning curve.  Perhaps most vital of all -- I am seven chapters into the third and presumably last novel of the Landau trilogy.  To stay with the process it is incumbent on every one of you to go to Amazon and pick up a copy of that most affordable first book in the series, The Hedge Fund, and exult with the wild plot and compounding sensuous thills this book affords.  Then you will be qualified to leap aboard as its two successors make literary history.  Patrons can find this book in Haslams in St. Petersburg, FL. and at Main Street Bookends in Warner, N.H. and Gibsons in Concord, N.H.

Let us turn to the larger world.  It had been my intention in this blog to try and offer a little perspective to our current political attitudes, especially as they pertain to the prevailing tendency to lambaste Obama. The all-persuasive Republican subliminal propaganda machine has been working this incumbent over since he took the oath of office, and this incessant and too often fallacious assault has been taking its toll, judging from the national approval polls.  As always with what passes for Tea-Party thinking -- talk about oxymorons! -- reality and this toxic barrage are connected at very few points.  John Krugman has dealt recently with the durable achievements already coming out of Obamacare and the bailout and subsequent banking reforms that have distinguished the president's domestic policies in recent magazine and newspaper pieces, and deserves to be listened to.

What strikes me is the extent to which the president's judgements in foreign policy suggest at least as much a historian's instincts as those of a law professor.  He seems to understand intuitively the limits of American power and the dangers of habitually overreaching, as he has all along, certainly since he objected publicly to jumping into war in Iraq.  When troops dug Saddam Hussein ont of some rabbit hole and he went on trial and was eliminated, I remember commenting to a shocked friend that we should have intervened and kept the motheaten dictator around.  Given the treacherous politics of the Near East, the time might be coming up when Saddam and the Baath Party could be reinstated and run his country in our interests, as he had before 1991.  His regime was brutal, but under his leadership a substantial middle class came into existence along with primary elements of a modern society.  Something of the same could be said of Gadaffi and General Sisi in Egypt and -- dare I say it?-- President Assad.

It took us hundreds of years, and several failed tries, before we were able to steam together what passes for a working democracy here, and even that has been stalling out recently.  Projecting power, as the Cold War phrase goes, into unstable, sect-ridden, and fundamentally irrational societies has proven impossible, even for the British, over any extended period.  Our success in the Cold War resulted largely from following effective policies of containment, letting structural instability abroad play out and undermine our opponents.  Whenever we attempted to force the issue, as in Viet Nam, the cost to us has been horrific and purposeless and the result was defeat.  To let our policies in the Third World be driven by unspoken special interests -- I notice that the American oil majors and Halliburton are again quietly ensconced in Iraq in a major way -- is to insure another financial and political disaster guaranteed to sap our troubled republic further.

Barack Obama seems to have understood all this all along, in his bones.  That's how he got elected and reelected.  Let's hope his original perceptions stay the course.

Meanwhile, pick up The Hedge Fund.  It will open out your thinking and reinvigorate your private life.


Burton Hersh

1 comment:

  1. Jefe Commandante, all good here, a valid, sensible defense of Obama. Just one thought, though. Where the Reps, as you say, use media for purposes of subliminal propaganda, the Dems could (but never do) use media rationally: to connect and empower Americans of all ages to define and solve intractable problems like youth violence. (This problem may not beset you in New Hampshire but it's killing us in Chicago and in scores of other American cities.) Broadcast media are, after all, the nation's public communications system, licensed by the F.C.C. to serve the public interest.

    I just picked up a copy of your Hedge Fund. I very much look forward to its salubrious effects on my life and thinking. Yet I wonder if it will throw any light whatsoever on what has arguably been America's greatest (and all but overlooked) problem ever since the generation-gap turmoil of the 1960's: the progressive disenfranchisement of successive generations of young Americans in virtually every sector of American life: public health, education, arts and culture, law enforcement, employment opportunities.

    I'm a career educator. My experience has been this: bottom line, the more intelligent young people get - the more they're able to think for themselves, and critically, about the world they live in - the less adults are willing to listen to them.

    Worse yet, over the past fifty years, each generation of young Americans has increasingly been seen by the corporations that set the tone of American culture as existing largely to exploited by commerce.

    Of course you could say that the battle for the mind, waged by advertisers on consumers, victimizes us all, young and old. But the hypnotic power of network TV, beginning in the 1960's, to gain access and take hold of young minds in particular, from infancy onwards, has been the dominant strategy of advertisers ever since. Hook 'em while they're young, before they can think for themselves.

    This, I submit, may well have been THE dominant trend in American society since the 1960's. Parents and educators all all levels have played along. Hook 'em on sports and getting into elite colleges and high paying jobs where they won't cause trouble. Where they won't get hurt trying to change a system that we all know exploits us all. Above all, play it safe.

    That, it seems to me, is the tragedy of America today.

    Smart young people, fighting this trend and wanting an informed voice in government decisions that affect their lives, were instrumental in electing Obama. But the man never returned the favor. No wonder many feel he's let them down: their job futures are even grimmer than during the Bush years. And they remain voiceless, largely neglected, except at election time when Obama (right now) is asking them to bring a friend to the polls.

    Way back in 2009, Barack Obama could have begun to use media directly and sensibly to narrow the generation gap. He had the media tools and the bully pulpit to do so. By making dialogic (not propagandistic) use of media, he could have created ongoing, problem-solving dialogues of young people and adults aimed at unifying America behind a commitment to the nation's future in its most literal sense: the future of its young people.

    Lord, if only I were a novelist, what a book would come of this. Am I correct in thinking that it would dovetail nicely with most anything you write? Let's see what your Hedge Fund has to say. All the best from the Midwest.


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