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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 03/08/2004
Volume 2, #116

What's This About History Repeating Itself?

It is not that history tends to repeat itself. More to the point is the fact that nothing ever changes. Not really. There's only a change in costume. But this world that was once governed by an aristocracy whose rights were merely birthrights and not the ability to do anything special for those they governed, besides taxing the governed to support the luxurious life-style of the governors, well, it's still the same old world. The American revolution was supposed to have ended purposeless rights for good. All it actually did was gradually reshape those same purposeless rights into a new kind of aristocracy who today run our largest corporations without either the ability or the talent to perform the most menial of jobs in those same corporations. Most corporations of today are not the same kind of thing that were produced by the Protestant ethic. so-called, of the nineteenth and very early 20th centuries.

So this fact has been making headlines lately, that the CEO's of America's largest and most powerful corporations are literally getting paid millions, for incompetence. This is made possible by boards of directors who are CEOs of other corporations who don't want to upset the applecart. So the useless who run our gigantic businesses are held in place by an aristocracy of other useless CEOs, while the corporations continue to dominate world commerce by political means rather than commercial or personal skills, always allowing for a few minor exceptions, but never exceptional enough to overturn the whole system.

Here's how it works. This aristocracy of CEOs and their ilk, with the huge treasuries they control, also pay for and maintain the political parties that uphold the system that keeps the CEOs in place. Elections are clearly won or lost on the amount of money the candidates receive from the corporations the CEO's feed on. I use the term "feed-on" advisedly, since there's nothing much in the record to show that they contribute anything.

As I said, there are a few exceptions, but in toto, the system runs because it's fed by the useless to maintain a mostly sycophantic Washington bureaucracy, from the President on down. And they do the same dance, regale history with the same comedy of errors that aristocracies of yesterday performed and provided, whether under the name of King, Emperor, Dictator, President or Prime Minister, with levels of cruelty minimized according to levels of wealth. That is, the richer the country, the fewer cruelties inflicted on the populace, which, sometimes, when the riches are great enough, even provide certain emoluments to select members of its subservient populations.

Go back in the daily press and read stories of incompetent and munificently paid corporate leadership. Every day provides a new example. Yesterday it was Eisner, the incompetent who's been messing up the Disney entertainment empire for years. We recently had the story of the incompetent Case, owner of AOL taking over from the incompetents at Time-Warner. Well, they finally got that one straightened out. Now the original Time-Warner incompetents are back in the saddle again. As I see it, the only one who can help them is Superman. What a property. But they can't get their fat heads together enough to make another Superman movie, and this is surely one of the best assets they've got.

Now, in this country, the doddering son of one of the great American corporate families, one George W Bush, son of George Herbert Walker Bush, himself once accurately described by a leading journalist and staunch supporter of the elder Bush's political party, the columnist George Will, as "incoherent", has turned incoherency into a kind of confusion that makes it difficult to sort among the various kinds of incompetence our language provides to describe him.

And now, the race is on again. Between two men, Republican and Democrat? Or shall we say between fundraiser and fundraiser, to fund an event in which George Jr. is pitted against Senator Kerry. the man who was among those who voted to support Bush's declaration of war against Iraq, and himself a true war hero because, well, can we just say he wasn't quite smart enough to stay out of the absurd mess of Vietnam like, say, Clinton? But, like many others who were a little late, he had the smarts and the courage to protest the war when he realized what a terrible mistake it had been.

Yes, I do think people should think twice before letting themselves get dragged into a war, and I consider such thinking more patriotic than those who go without question. And much as I mourn the lives and suffering of those who did go, I cheer the vision and courage of those who were intelligent enough to see through the whole Vietnam charade and resist it. Away with sheep-minded patriotism and cheers for a thinking, reflective citizenry. In fact, isn't that what citizenship is really about?

Let me add that I support Kerry in the hope that his presidency will at least reduce the number of deaths and restore some of our shattered civil liberties. So I still think we have to get out there and vote Literacy helps, and Kerry is at least literate.

But in the end, it's the same old story again. And I have to confess, if I were still writing Superman today, I wouldn't have the least notion what he could do to make things different.. No, today belongs to Bizarro. Perhaps, in the end, it always has.

<< 03/01/2004 | 03/08/2004 | 03/15/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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