Of Bicycles and Bankers, Of American Arrogance

On Jon Jost’s excellent “Cinema Electronica” blog today, he details yet another American despoiling of territory. For what purpose? The territory described is nowhere near North Korea or any other known military target. Not that this would have excused it, but the outrage this engenders makes one cry out for at least half-way competent theater.

Is there no end to American arrogance? I guess this is the sort of compliance you get when you bombed the last couple places who didn’t follow the script. When the body count and environmental destruction is tallied up, this country is going to be remembered as one of the most savage states that ever existed. How can this constant destruction come from the same place that produced Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Ives, Walt Whitman…

Is it the awfulness that creates a need for them? There seems to be no end to the arrogance of the privileged. Just today in Brooklyn I read about the distinct lines drawn between the police treatment of people in bicycling accidents vs. those in car accidents. The cycling accidents almost never get investigated. The NYC metro system has gotten to the point where using a bicycle isn’t an act of political activism/physical fitness anymore but one taken out of sheer economic necessity. 1/6th of the country is on foodstamps, and with the NYC MTA in dire straits, subway fares aren’t going to get any better. In London a ride on the train already costs roughly $5 each way. Another line is drawn in American law enforcement against the disenfranchised.

In another article echoing similar themes, Matt Taibbi described how the SEC literally has a policy on the books, for 20 years now and counting, to destroy evidence in pretty close to every case they investigate. We see yet again that the people meant to be enforcing the laws are in fact just the gatekeepers at the castle.

Yet to describe this as being purely a matter of elites vs. the disenfranchised is to simplify the issue too much. This feeling of arrogance at the gain of any amount of power can be seen rippling down throughout every American community. To return to the biking example, I’ve been riding my bike recently, out of that economic need that I previously mentioned in the third person. Every car on the road, because they don’t see any potential for injury to themselves, because they take no joy from the act of driving in and of itself, the view like a tape being fast-forwarded, decide they don’t need to look right when they make a right turn. They decide they can double-park wherever and open their doors without looking, with disastrous results. The city gives permits to Frozen Yogurt stands to set up directly in the middle of a bike lane.

And it’s not just the cars. Pedestrians jay-walk through busy streets. Other cyclists ride on the wrong side of the street and when I yell out “You’re on the wrong side of the street” they get arrogant and make obscene gestures. The underlying social contract, the only legitimate reason for traffic laws to exist, has been turned into a grotesque half-hearted theatrical display.

And I know what you’re thinking. “Oh lord, he’s that guy.” Fine, I am. How many horrible things do you unwittingly do and let go for fear of becoming “that guy”? How much better would the world be if we all let go of that ridiculous social stigmatization of being “that guy”? To act with purpose, with underlying reasons beyond fear of shame and embarrassment?

It was something that could have been done long ago in the defense department and saved JEJU Island. It could have been done in the SEC and saved us all the tyranny of the rule by bankers we currently live under. All that has to be done is to act with reason and some sense of consequence.

I quote Jon Jost again, from his speech “Uncommon Senses”:

Ours is a culture, beneath whose surfaces lies an evil, no less, maybe even greater, not of intent, but of sheer mechanical capacity, than that of the Germany of the National Socialist Party or the Russia of Stalin. It lies sleeping beneath the grasses of South Dakota, it lies busy behind the bland architecture which hides the great factories of armaments, it lies insidiously in the warping of the scientist who eagerly looks for a research grant he says, and wishes to think, is for pure science, when he applies for SDI funds. It lies in the politician or citizen who wishes for the economic input of a military base or defense plant nearby. It lies in the large self-deception, almost universally embraced, which averts its eyes and blame from the constant evidence the state spews forth that the state is always deceiving the body politic.”

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