I grew up in a time before bullying was fashionable, at least among country people. I sometimes feel as if I may have, like Wendell Berrys old farmer Jack Beechum, slept long and waked up in a land of talking monkeys.
In my youth a bully was someone to stand up against; today bullies are to be admired, trusted and followed.
We are quite simply infested with bullies of all kinds. The two governors preceding the current one in the state of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty were both bullies.
George W. Bush certainly was, as was his Vice President Cheney and his Secretary of Defense Rumsfield, as well as National Security Advisor Condeleeza Rice and United Nations representative John Bolton. Obama, himself not a natural bully, has become so impressed with the need to come off as one that his tone in the conduct of foreign affairs has changed from that of a statesman to that of a bully in just his first two years.
Television brims with the type. It contains a steady stream of previews of cop and spook shows that feature a cop type verbally abusing and threatening violence toward a suspect type.
The suspect is generally not black, which would be politically incorrect of course, though accurate, given the racial makeup of our prison population.
The reality shows and even the dancing contests are full of analysis about whether so and so has enough of the killer instinct to succeed and narrators wonder constantly whether he or she wants to win badly enough. Talk radio, of course, elevates the bully to an art form.
Bullies appeal to weak people, both those that are naturally so, and those made so by circumstance. Certainly right wing radio is a culprit.
So is the non-functioning government, a so-called representative system that can ignore a 70% majority of the public which wants government hands off Social Security and Medicare.
Jobs are insecure, start up businesses face nearly impossible hurdles in a system tilted so sharply toward huge multinational corporations, students increasingly cannot afford college, which is increasingly incapable of opening a door for them into the middle class anyway.
Meanwhile good jobs are being exported and the working class itself is being demeaned by the kinds of work, essentially serving the wealthy, that it is left with.
The bullies of right wing media, along with the celluloid bullies we applaud on television are of course the puppets of the real bullies of the piece which are the corporate elite. And the government supported market capitalism they espouse thrives by increasing the level of insecurity and unease in the population as a whole.
Widespread insecurity for everyone but the corporate elite is pretty much the driving principle of the system.
It is pretty easy to see then, the fundamentals of the right wing bill of goods. It takes panicky unthinking dispossessed people and pits them against anyone who can think clearly, seeing an issue from all sides and following an argument to its logical conclusions.
In other words, real bullies are manipulating pretend bullies to lead the unthinking and scared in a political ambush of anyone who might be able to lay out logical reasons to suspect that our current troubles are due to the people who really run the world, the corporate elite.
The wealthy mean to rule the world by threatening all the rest of us into silence.
Jim Van Der Pol farms near Kerkhoven, Minn.
From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2011
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