It has been a revealing week for hierarchy. Rebecca Solnit treats International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid as a metaphor for the IMF’s treatment of developing nations, tragic for the maid and the countries, but with benefits for Strauss-Kahn and the wealthy whose attitude she sums up brilliantly when she writes,
Her name was Asia. His was Europe. Her name was silence. His was power. Her name was poverty. His was wealth. Her name was Her, but what was hers? His name was His, and he presumed everything was his, including her, and he thought he could take her without asking and without consequences.
Meanwhile, the powers that be secretly negotiated a four-year extension to the USA PATRIOT Act, a civil rights abomination passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Glenn Greenwald
note[s] the rationale for why it was done in secret bipartisan meetings: to ensure “as little debate as possible” and “to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government.” Indeed, we wouldn’t want to have any messy, unpleasant democratic debates over “the expanded power the law gives to the government.” Here we find yet again the central myth of our political culture: that there is too little bipartisanship when the truth is there is little in Washington but that. And here we also find — yet again — that the killing of Osama bin Laden is being exploited to justify a continuation, rather than a reduction, in the powers of the National Security and Surveillance States.
As I attempted to illustrate on the 18th, the hotel maid is a metaphor for all of the rest of us, those of us who lost our jobs while Bill Clinton and the rest of the elite experimented with so-called “free trade,” those of us who are to accept “free trade” as a success because it has brought more wealth to more already-wealthy people than ever before, those of us who are to accept that the economy is improving even as we remain unemployed. and those of us who are to lose our privacy and our civil liberties lest we raise even a whimper of protest.
But the highlight of the week had to have been yesterday, when all of us sinners were to be left behind to face tribulation on earth while the “chosen” were lifted into the clouds. Those of us who have ever been enchanted by quantitative methods must surely have taken note as
[Harold] Camping — the octogenarian numerologist whose calculations spawned a worldwide movement (of indeterminate size) devoted to warning non-believers to prepare for the return of Christ, or else — recently told a reporter that the end of the world would begin at exactly 6 p.m. on May 21 in each time zone around the globe.
It didn’t happen, of course—and, of course, I can say, “of course,” because it is now May 22nd, and there were no newsworthy earthquakes, let alone unprecedented earthquakes that were to release the dead from their graves—and the recriminations and disillusionment have set in as a church in Sacramento was vandalized and a deacon from Milpitas calls Camping a “false prophet” who “set up a system that will destroy some people’s lives.” Likewise, Solnit takes solace in that Strauss-Kahn was taken off his plane and arrested, in a movement that began with the Seattle World Trade Organization protests, and in that countries have increasingly resisted IMF policies.
But believers in the rapture will now join the rest of us in acquiescing to an increasingly totalitarian regime that serves the rich and ignores the reality which afflicts us. At least some of their money went to help a deluded and relatively harmless old man. The rest of us have been paying to reward greed and to go to war. And to this, there is no end in sight.
- Rebecca Solnit, “Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite,” TomDispatch, May 22, 2011, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175395/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit%2C_when_ins↩
- Glenn Greenwald, “The always-expanding bipartisan Surveillance State,” Salon, May 20, 2011, http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/05/20/surveillance/index.html↩
- David Benfell, “Power, patriarchy, and hubris,” DisUnitedStates.org, May 18, 2011, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=3624↩
- Mike Konczal, “Our Problem is Bigger than ‘Structural’ Unemployment,” New Deal 2.0, May 10, 2011, http://www.newdeal20.org/2011/05/10/our-problem-is-bigger-than-structural-unemployment-44387/; Paul Krugman, “The Unwisdom of Elites,” New York Times, May 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/09/opinion/09krugman.html; Floyd Norris, “A Recovery Less Robust Than in the ’70s,” New York Times, May 6, 2011, ; Michael D. Shear, “Town Hall Participants Ask Obama for Help,” New York Times, May 12, 2011, http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/12/town-hall-participants-to-obama-help-us-please/↩
- Justin Elliott, “Waiting for the end of the world…” Salon, May 21, 2011, http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/05/21/may_21_is_here/index.html↩
- Bonnie Malkin and David Barrett, “Apocalypse not right now: ‘Rapture’ end of world fails to materialise,” Telegraph, May 21, 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8527582/Apocalypse-not-right-now-Rapture-end-of-world-fails-to-materialise.html↩
- Christopher Goffard, “In the end, rapture believers weren’t going anywhere,” Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2011, http://www.latimes.com/news/la-me-rapture-20110522,0,6738410.story↩
- Solnit, “Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite.”↩