It’s four more years, and if history’s taught us anything, it’s that you can gas a lot of people in four years. American citizens will for the most part not “take to the streets.” Instead, they will go about their daily business while the Statue of Liberty is whored out on the cheap to a roomful of Cheney associates who, with whiskey on their breath, anesthetize the poor green woman with noxious industrial gases and proceed to gangbang her, carcinogens penetrating her bronzed and battered cells. If in fact we are all aboard the wild ride to the Emergency Relocation Camps (whose food and heating contracts will certainly be awarded to the usual suspects), then at least we ought to make the most of it between bouts of mass protest or empty fantasies of expatriation.
In keeping with the language of the so-called Conservatives, who brought us such masterworks of deception as “Trickle-Down Economics” and “No Such Thing As Global Warming,” I am writing to announce a new, highly effective bundle of untruths that will sell the doomsday agenda of the corporatocracy to the average blue-state intelligentsia type, much in the same way that Reagan sold exploitation to blue-collar Americans two decades ago. The new idea is such: regressive policies that concentrate wealth while lowering the standard of living for the vast majority of Americans will actually produce a richer and more meaningful cultural output.
Here on the Princeton campus, the Crusade for Culture that was the Reagan Administration has proven time and again to be a wonderful success that we all endorse and enjoy. Scarface was a Reagan-era movie, as was Top Gun. Eddie Murphy made great movies back then. Clearly the Clinton Administration, with its budget surpluses and policies for middle-class prosperity, had other ideas for the highly gifted screen actor. And if the Gipper didn’t go out there and give a grandfatherly kiss-off to the AIDS crisis, Tony Kushner would never have written Angels in America. The evidence is right there, people: as times get tougher, art gets better.
Where would literature be without World War I? Eliot, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, all those Weimar folks – I think we owe Trans-Atlantic Big Business and Finance a heartfelt thank you. And when Prescott Bush, Standard Oil and other firms all got together to referee World War II in order to spare the people of Earth the embarrassment of fighting a war for ideals and human rights, they bequeathed to those “people” the postwar culture boom that included Abstract Expressionism, high-concept live television, and The Diary of Anne Frank. It’s common knowledge that the French, always on the cutting edge about this sort of thing, surrendered so quickly to the Germans in order to produce as quickly as possible the Sartre play Men Without Chains and other art works concerning a fictitious “French Resistance.” Let’s not forget the Spanish Civil War masterpiece Guernica. The priceless Picasso painting was made possible thanks to the hundreds of thousands of deutschmarks spent on bombing that Falluja-like women-and-children stronghold.
And how can we overlook “The Sixties,” that roughly twenty-year period when the Conservative sponsors of Sending Poor Kids to the Vietnam War, Violently Enforced Segregation, and other social programs helped fund the counter-cultural genius of Hendrix, Ginsberg, LSD, Malcolm X, and Hunter S. Thompson, to name but a few? Albums, books, and movies produced at the time, and those since produced concerning that time, continue to thrill generations of Americans and have ensured marijuana a permanent place among the pantheon of intoxicants. And get this – after they discontinued the Counterculture Program, the powers that be let the youth back into the system as lawyers, diving instructors, and so on. The sky was the limit! A benevolent and magnanimous gesture such as this should not go unappreciated.
With the recent recession, Americans have to have faith – and Lord knows they’ve got plenty – that the long-term cultural programs of the Right will pay off with fantastic, gripping, soul-shaking novels, plays, paintings, music, and museums that all respond to the carefully-timed “horror stimulus” from which society may or may not ever recover. The example of the Sixties’ counter-culture points to another way in which lowering quality of life improves cultural output: the “protest product.” Decreasing the quality of life stimulates demand in the indignation market. The market for “protest” media products that have been carefully filtered by the corporate media to satisfy the indignation of the consumer only amplifies consumer indignation, further driving up consumption. Ingenious.
A brief survey of culture and the arts over the last four years gives every indication that the Bush Administration intends to carry on the Rightist agenda of cultural enrichment. The OC, Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, Paris Hilton- to be sure, some of the items listed here affect the posture of protest against the current regime. But where those on the Left see “dissent,” we on the Right see “meal ticket”: the kind of enterprising spirit that underscores our values. I’m sure we can all agree that a little harmless dissent never hurt anyone, that this kind of ribbing is all in good fun. Heck, it’s downright exciting, like a monster truck show.
When Roe v. Wade is overturned and thousands of women die each year in botched illegal abortions while the daughters of the wealthiest families take one-week “ski trips” to Canada or Switzerland, when the groundwater poisons the soil and the people, when healthcare and jobs both vanish, when more sons and daughters die in haphazard invasions or terror attacks at home and abroad, when Matthew Shepard finds more sullen company at the table of martyrs, when the world stops returning our calls, when all this and more comes to pass, we Americans ought to take comfort in the fact that each outrage has been handed to us as a gift of inspiration. Thanks to the Bush Administration, the upcoming testaments to disaster and disappointment may be some of the best in American history.