Umberto Eco some years ago wrote “Chronicles of a Liquid Society.”
“Once this all-seeing Witness has gone, has been taken away, what remains? All that’s left is the eye of society, the eye of the Other, before whom you must reveal yourself so as not to disappear into the black hole of anonymity, into the vortex of oblivion, even at the cost of choosing the role of village idiot who strips down to his underpants and dances on the pub table.”
In the view of Eco a ‘liquid society’ was one stripped of any anchors to anything outside of it self. There is no permanent, no eternal, no future and no past, no concepts of reality outside of the zeitgeist of society.
Village idiots dancing on the table is very likely to be what this era will be known for in future history books.
Ben Boychuk recently wrote in the Sacramento Bee that California has become the definition of a ‘liquid society’ – but it is not just California.
As a society this country is rarely anchored to reality. Some examples from just the debt venue:
The debt obligations of the United States total up to about $2.1 million per household over the next 30 years. People argue, “Yeah but that is over thirty years!” So let us work that out – it is $70,000 a year per household for thirty years. Do you have an extra $70K a year for your household to make these debts whole?
Just one program in Colorado, PERA (the government pension program) is short by $42,000 per household. Have an extra $42K hanging around? Check between the couch cushions. I didn’t think so – but what is more the gap must be made whole by taxing citizens who will have no chance of retiring at all in order to pay government retirement benefits for the privileged few. How well do you think that is going to go over?
In Chicago each taxpayer is on the hook for $41,700 just in city debt! Think the taxpayers of Chicago have that kind of cash on hand to make the city whole? Think they cannot just vote with their feet? Of course they can and will.
As a whole this country is caught in a debt trap – no one even attempts to make a rational argument that we are not caught in a debt trap – they simply ignore that we are in a debt trap while continuing to argue over should we or should we not make using a particular personal pronoun a criminal act. Yes we have become that silly and removed from reality.
By the way that debt trap extends to the corporate, business and personal world as well. The Federal Reserve has hinted that in the next recession it will go to negative interest rates. 5000 years of interest rate history on planet earth and there is no hint in all of that time of negative interest rates until the last handful of years. That illustrates how absurd and distorted and removed from reality our policies have become.
We are a society unanchored from anything in reality. We just make up what we wish to be true – inevitably justifying our own fantasies by doubling and tripling down on the absurd – and then advocate for the belief that we can go down that road endlessly with out any painful consequences. Many of the same people arguing in favor of Roy Moore would be calling for guillotines and calling him a pedophile if Moore were a Democrat. Just truth. People who are excusing Al Franken and saying ‘It was just a joke’ would be wearing pussy hats and holding a million women march if Franken were a Republican. You know it is true.
We have become an absurd people because we have become unanchored from anything real. History used to be used in order to provide context for the present and prevent a society from being swept away in the zeitgeist. Historical knowledge was a limiting factor in how much damage the zeitgeist could do. Currently history is used to justify the absurd by being highly selective in what we consume and regurgitate and often just flat out making it up.
Not only do people no longer have a useful means of applying math and history they no longer have even the most rudimentary understanding of how government works. Ask someone, anyone, what is the monetary policy of the United States? Do you think 1% can answer that? 2%? 5%? Certainly not ten percent of the population understand what the monetary policy of the United States is – but they are just chockfull of opinions on what the government should be doing and how, without the least understanding of any of the mechanics of how that would happen, let alone a useful understanding of who would benefit and who would be devastated by those policies. They are in love with campaign propaganda with no clue about reality. None. Ask them about the Taylor Rule – I dare you. Then ask them how it might effect their daily life.
We have spent decades telling people how smart and educated they are when in reality they are simply well indoctrinated with propaganda and have little to no knowledge of reality – and no desire to acquire that knowledge.
Fortunately we still have people who know history, can apply math and have moral and intellectual standards not tied to popular media. These people still have context around what is happening – and as such are refusing to be swept away by the zeitgeist.
Anyone who knows history, can apply math and understands how the government currently functions also understands there is a social, political and economic reckoning in the foreseeable future. For those indulging in the zeitgeist it will be a shock.
It need not be – but sometimes societies just collectively go insane.