The Goblin Speaks
July fourth is perhaps the most thoroughly clichéd of American holidays.
On no other day in the course of a year do American pundits, shills and flunkies, in the media and in politics most especially, regurgitate more hackneyed, jingoistic and often bogus gibberish for the consumption of their hapless viewers and erstwhile constituents. The recent historical fumbling by conservative darling Sarah Palin are but the most recent and high-profile examples of what is a fairly standard rhetorical current among the reactionary American right.
So I will spare you, my long suffering readers, any more loose talk about our apparently monolithic “Founding Fathers” or “Framers,” and I will not subject you to any more painful analysis of the glaringly “liberal” interpretation of early pre-GovCorp American history put forth as fact by Palin and other fascist dingbats. I’m sure you’ve had your fill already, and if you’re smart enough to be poking around here on the left-ish side of the internet, it’s a good bet that you’ve already got most of the right’s bullshit figured out.
Instead, I’d like to challenge the American ideal of independence itself.
The Declaration of Independence, which we today celebrate, made the case for rebellion and political independence from England, one of the great European empires of the age. It asserted that the empire, personified in the person of King George III, was guilty of numerous crimes against the liberty and rights of the then colonists and therefore it was not only the right but indeed the duty of the colonists to remove the King’s government and and establish the colonies as independent states. It’s principles and language have been invoked nearly constantly throughout American history. Americans cling steadfastly to their ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” even as those natural rights are constantly suborned and eroded under the apparatuses of state and capitalism.
It is the concept of private property that runs most counter to these ideals, and ironically most of the laws and institutions of the state are dedicated to maintaining private property. In this context, private property might best be understood as not so much a legal concept, but as a euphemism for privilege.
Despite all of our self-righteous posturing about equality and opportunity, both the state and capitalism have clung steadfastly to privilege, both as a concept and as a reality. Our structure of government, enshrined in the US Constitution, is (perhaps intentionally) constructed to virtually guarantee the existence of a ruling elite, both in state and capitalism. Whatever the system which installs such an elite, whether democratic in form or not, such an entrenched hierarchy is not conducive to anything virtuous, and deprives the general population of their right to instant and unbending accountability for those who are responsible for carrying out their will.
What a sad and unfortunate irony that we now celebrate Independence Day completely and utterly dependent upon a new empire, one with even more far-reaching powers, predations and ambitions. Neoliberal capitalism keeps the political power structures in Washington and other capitals around the world in it’s thrall, providing both the false promises of prosperity for all and it’s accompanying political stability, and the very real threats of economic ruin and political chaos as it’s reward and punishment.
But as always the real rewards come to the masters, the capitalist elites themselves and their reliable allies and servants in the state. Poles of power will generally collude between themselves, and the state grants legal legitimacy to private property, the essential ethic of capitalism, while also providing the coercive force to insure the smooth operation of the system as a whole. Capital, for it’s part, provides means and resources to the state and especially the governing elites to retain their favor and motivate them to fine-tune the system for increasing benefits to themselves, which of course means not prosperity for the general population, but increasing hardship and exploitation.
While our ancestors freed themselves from colonial rule, it is up to us to free ourselves from the new empire, the empire of money. It is time, indeed long past time, to seize for ourselves, directly, the responsibility for governing ourselves and for looking after the needs of humanity. Rather than live within a system which arrogantly claims to “rule with the consent of the governed,” we must now accept that the “governed” should damn well rule themselves.
So let us go forth, with vigor, and reclaim our independence, from greed, materialism, despair, deceit, and all other trappings of capitalism, consumerism, and state despotism. We still have nothing to lose but our chains, and the world to gain. That should be worth our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.