Skeleton Dance

SUBHEAD: The central truth that reflective persons can take away from these shenanigans is that American polity is unreformable.  

By James Kunstler on 11 April 2011 for -  

Image above: Tinted still frame from video below. Cue the xylophone.

Like the dancing skeletons of film history, here come the elected office-holders of the US government cutting their capers in the graveyard of empire, giving the paying customer - er... citizens - a nice case of the Friday night heebie-jeebies in a mock battle over inanities. It made for a few hours of diverting theater, with an emphasis on diversion - since the whole gruesome melodrama of the US budget finally hinged on a ploy to de-fund the Planned Parenthood organization, one of the few useful endeavors left in this land of depravity, monster trucks, and microwaved cheese snacks.

I don't believe for a moment that the political right cares about the well-being of fetuses, anyway. The abortion issue is just a convenient cudgel to bash their political adversaries on the left. Karl Marx, a useful polemicist if a hinky guide in practical politics, had an apt term for what has become the ideology of the American right wing: "rural idiocy."

It included all the familiar superstitions, phobias, obsessions, bugaboos, misconceptions, animosities, and sadistic impulses of simple country folk. Of course, today we'd have to update it as "suburban idiocy," because that is where the simple country folk of yesteryear have transpired to relocate, most traumatically in the Sunbelt, where today's car dealers, franchise moguls, and country clubbers, were only two generations ago digging chiggers out of their bare ankles after long days in the sharecrop furrows.

These folk believe all kinds of things that are not true, in fact lack the mental equipment for measuring the difference between what is true and not true and, having never known it, don't miss it. How else can you account for the burgeoning industry of "creation" museums all across Dixieland? These are the folks who, in the name of "liberty," want to regulate your sex life in accordance with the Southern Baptist Convention, the folks who want to start World War Three in order to promote the mythical "rapture," the folks who don't think twice about destroying the conditions that tend to support life on Planet Earth.

This is not going too end well for us, despite Congressman Paul Ryan's much-applauded "Path to Prosperity" proposal unveiled last week just before the whole battle degenerated into the ruse over abortion. The central truth that reflective persons can take away from these shenanigans is that American polity is unreformable. Nobody elected to congress will have the backbone to manage contraction, especially to cut payments to old people.

The medical system can't be fixed. It is made up of too many rackets benefitting too many enterprises and individuals. It just has to fail completely so that in the rubble of the system doctors and patients can reestablish some meaningful relationship between services rendered and the rate of payment.

The Obama health reform bill only illustrated the fatal weakness of progressive politics these days - the irresistible impulse to address issues of excessive complexity with added complexity. While most of the overt stupidity in our politics resides on the right, an equally disabling hubris and grandiosity reside in the political left. I suppose people who graduate from very selective and expensive colleges, and receive immense reinforcement from colleagues who preceded them there, develop an inflated sense of their ability to effectively manage things, especially complex things.

Many of these young, bright people cannot believe that our creaking and foundering systems won't yield to their managerial tinkering, and the net effect must be to turn them into very cynical careerists with nothing left but personal ladder-climbing and wealth accumulation - hence, the disgusting biographies of figures such as former public servant Lawrence Summers and Mary Shapiro of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The political left in America makes up in cynical cowardly avarice for all the mendacious stupidity on the political right, so we end up at this moment in history with a perfect blend of every bad impulse in human nature and none of the virtues.

Personally, I don't see how breakdown and revolution can be avoided now. Anyway, outside of politics itself is a gigantic realm of other things that are not trending well at all - things that will aggravate and amplify every political blunder we make. The combination of the breakdown in the world's oil allocation system and the disorders in money and banking are sure to obviate any momentary public relations triumph by one political faction over another. Reasonable people should expect turmoil going forward. The spectacles staged in congress are little more than skeleton dances performed by creatures lacking even the verve to be zombies and vampires.

Somewhere - perhaps in the Pentagon, or on some lonely Air Force base in a desolate corner of the nation - a colonel is watching his country collapse and thinking about what can be done. Is it a good thing, or a bad thing, or just something that naturally happens when things are how they are? I don't know.

Media bullshit shout-out of the week goes to the dim James Suroweicki of The New Yorker Magazine, who said, astoundingly, on his political podcast that the nation's dire fiscal condition was "a myth," that "the recovery is underway...things are getting better." Suroweicki, the magazine's economics writer, also sees no problem with rising oil prices.

Video above: "The Skeleton Dance" by Walt Disney, 1929. From (


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