Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Saying is nothing without listening

http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/03/24/the_dumbing_down_of_americas_economic_and_foreign_policy_elites#comment-68985

John, if 'reputable', mainstream folks had been shouting from the rooftops vis-à-vis the imminent economic crisis and the disaster of Iraq/Afghanistan who would have listened?

On Iraq/Afghanistan MOST people with half an ounce of sense realised that it would be an utter disaster. The question is why the foreign policy elites were so completely removed from the overwhelming civil society, academic and public opinion.

On the economic crisis, who would have listened when things were still going well? Who would it have benefited to hear that sort of thing? They would have been written off as naysayers, pessimists. And there is nothing American political culture detests more than a pessimist. Its all about hard work, 'can do attitude', motherhood and apple pie ain't it?

The fundamental misunderstanding here seems to be that democratic political culture is attuned to intelligent, rational, objective and longsighted thought. Politicians (and the advisers that say yes to them were in no position to think, say or do anything contrary to the pathological positivity that accompanies a democracy when things are going alright.

On Iraq/Afghanistan i'd say the problem was ultimately a corrupt and out of touch elite that believed its own hype about American hyper-supremacy.

On the economic crisis i'd say the problem was ultimately a corrupt and out of touch elite that couldn't possibly do anything about it anyway. Anyone who spoke up would've been shot down by the logic of the short-termist political culture.

Driverless locomotive metaphors abound.

Its shocking to realise that the most powerful individuals and organisations in the world were by no means even remotely in control of the economy but until something went severely wrong (i.e. for rich/middle class rather than poor people who've been getting screwed for years) nobody COULD do anything about it.

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