Some Thoughts on Tea Parties and American Conservatism
Watching snippets from CPAC, this revival circus of fundamentalist conservatism, was, for me, an accelerated lesson in the American culture -- and one I could do without, I admit. As a European transplant of only a few decades, and one slow to learn, I had no idea this level of psychopathic-like hatred and ignorance existed in such a large segment of American society. Yes, I am surprised -- shocked, really, though perhaps I shouldn't be.
This vehement ultra-conservatism is a logical outgrowth of several uniquely American phenomena: the US is a new and relatively isolated nation, built largely through force and oppression by assorted rebels and troublemakers (aka pioneers), who propagated their "pioneering" genes along with their misguided and grandiose beliefs in their exceptionalism onto subsequent generations. While doing so, they have managed to ignore or dismiss the reality of human existence, which is made possible (and livable) only through employing empathy and cooperation, and, dare I say, love, care, and justice.
The American myth of self-made man, and the unfettered, rabid capitalism it spawned (or was it the other way around?), is a prime example of this misguided ideology that continues to wreak havoc on our society. It promotes an untrue and distorted vision of man and life that's brutal, selfish and merciless, a life where we are forced to engage in cut-throat competition for dwindling resources and where might always makes right. Unfortunately, the myth is alive and thriving in the Beckland and vicinity, despite its toxic influences. It will take generations, better educated and traveled, I suspect, to finally weed it out.
I watched recently an interview with David Cameron, a leader of the British conservative party, widely considered a rabid right-winger among his natives. I watched and listened -- and waited for the punchline, which didn't come. This British "rabid right-winger" sounded more progressive than many so-called progressive Dems in the US: he extolled his love for and undying committment to NHS and went on at length about securing equal educational opportunities for all, among other things. I still don't understand where his "rabid right-wingerism" is hiding. What a difference an ocean makes! I wish American conservatives were as humane.
If there is any consolation, I think, it is the fact that the myths of American dream, self-made man, and (I hope) fake glory of the unbridled capitalism are on their way to the dustbin of history. This is at least one reason behind the sudden resurgence of the crazies -- i.e., Glenn Beck and his ilk (angry white men, by and large). While many of their complaints are legitimate, listening to the emotions behind them makes one notice intolerance and hatred. These people feel that their cherished delusions are slipping away (thus their calls to "get my country baack!") and they are frightened out of their minds (some literally, as we can see in the most extreme cases, e.g., Beck).
But there is no way of stopping social progress, no matter how hard the reactionary demagogues may try. We know that social and political systems based on injustice and gross inequalities are doomed to fail sooner or later, taking with them their discredited and inhumane ideologies.
We are evolving and people like Beck&Co. are scared of this change -- they are even able to say so directly, bless their small hearts and overheated minds. Granted, Americans take longer than others to make this journey out of the dark ages, but they do make it nevertheless.
I look at the younger generations and see that they are more egalitarian, more open and eager to learn, hungry for meaningful lives based on genuine, higher human -- and humane -- values. They have seen what the old order has done to their parents (or what their parents did with it -- or both) and they don't want that for themselves. They are more idealistic, but at the same time more sophisticated, better educated and informed, and able to transcend various cultural and other limitations that bound their elders (this thanks, in no small measure, to being more in step with progress in informational technology).
We are witnessing the last -- and because of that so violent -- paroxysms of a dying ideology, may it rest in peace (and sooner than later, let's hope). I'd even say that American society is undergoing positive disintegration on a massive scale. So I am hopeful.