Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Social Studies

A seeming epidemic of eye-rolling, snorting and sneering, and general snarky comment appears to have affected a number of members of the progressive chattering classes. The causus rolleye is the carping of sundry complainants that the gargantuan, and entirely impenetrable to the layperson, new health care bill is unvarnished socialism in its bulk and particulars. Prog. pundies declaim it's no sech of a thing and to aver that it is simply fearmongering by right wing grumps.

Interestingly to declaim such is to concede a major point to conservatives who are more than happy to trot out the word socialism for any legislative agenda that has even a pale tint of collectivist intent. In a post just south of here I ruminated on the banishment of the word communism to the dustbin of historical rhetoric based on the fact that good sober progressives and even wild-eyed liberals could never consider themselves "communists" because they were as horrified as anyone by the messy, brutal, repressive and generally unsavory nature of the two biggest "Communist" nations; the U.S.S.R. and the People's Republic Of China. We's good people so we ain't no commies.

The word socialism seems headed in the same direction but there are some important differences in the shunning of the label as compared to the commie slur. For starters the word socialism conjures up in many conservative noggins not tyrannical despotism but rather economic lassitude and cultural enervation. Donning this dull mantle is a non-starter so leftist salons shun the apellation with gusto preferring to declaim newer more trendy and less rhetorically hoary goals such as multi-cultural vibrance, economic justice, and environmental stewardship.

What's the old saying about things that walk and quack like Donald and Daisy? Well presently the political sky is black with hordes of legislative Order Anseres who upon landing in the marbled halls of Congress are waddling and quacking to raise the roof. Perhaps they have tattoos on their beaks, sport corn-rowed feathers, and drive electric cars when not migrating but their essential socialist duckness still obtains.

Protestations of un-duckiness are merely good PR spin. Embrace of the S-word would not play well in Peoria, sell in Sun City, or tingle the toes of Topekans. Openly socialist rhetoric might be da bomb in Berkely and pop corks in Cambridge but of such perfervidly activist niches is not a national mandate made.

Nah to sell the agenda to the rubes ya gotta go with such indistinct neologia as "efficiency", "fairness", "justice", the now ubiquitous "save the planet" exhortation, and the newly minted incantation "bending the cost curve". Some seriously fancy dancing is going on to label provisions in the health bill anything and everything but socialism. This obfuscatory fandango notwithstanding if the sundry touted wholesale increases in government control of the health care system don't amount to a virtual textbook example of socialism then the word ceases to have any meaning. Expunging meaning from words, or changing the meaning by political fiat, is at the least classic Orwellian doublethink and at the worst simply lying through one's teeth.

A recent Newsweek cover story, "We Are All Socialists Now", avers that "If we fail to acknowledge the reality of the growing role of government in the economy, insisting instead on fighting 21st-century wars with 20th-century terms and tactics, then we are doomed to a fractious and unedifying debate. The sooner we understand where we truly stand, the sooner we can think more clearly about how to use government in today's world."

I choose debate, however unedifying or fractious, over passively lying down as our alleged betters proceed with the task of figuring out how to "use government" in ways more pleasing to nuanced Euro-sensitivities that view increased government control of our lives as an inescapable inevitability.

We all desperately need to honestly ask this question of ourselves. Is there any facet of our lives, of any sort, that we think should be categorically ruled inaccessible to governmental control regardless of any contingent circumstance? This is quite possibly the main question of our age. Think hard about it. Please.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home