End of Days
As we continue to bask in the light of the new day dawning here in the United States, I can’t help but wonder about that woman in Florida who claimed (on PRI’s “The World”) that – “honest to God” – Obama was the Anti-Christ: Does the dawning mark the end of days for her? And if so what will be the signs? Is she reading about the Iranian military’s pronouncements and picturing missiles flying in the Middle East, the final war, and all those pick-up trucks with gun racks suddenly driverless as their owners ascend bodily into heaven with the Rapture?
More generally, Obama’s election is the end of the long election ceasefire, during which we all held our peace (as well as our breath) to see him elected, but now that the election is over – and we won – we want to raise certain issues. There is already muttering about all this talk of “bipartisanship” – with many progressives seeing Obama’s election, and the general strong swing to the Democrats, as a mandate to enact a sweeping range of reforms – the ranting right’s “socialism.”
In the coming days, everyone will be trying to stake a claim on Obama, on his administration and his policies, and looking to his appointments for signals about which way the wind is blowing. Already, it seems to be blowing fairly decisively towards DC, from, and back to, the swamp, with strong indications that there may be a fair amount of partisan politics as usual in the Obama White House. This should piss off both the left and right. The left want politics as never before – they don’t want deal making, they want world shaking. They don’t want bipartisanship, they want (I want) a starship – something to carry us to an entirely new world (hopefully one where the climate stops trying to kill us in retaliation for our mistreatment of the planet). The right seems to genuinely fear the “radical agenda,” but would also be unhappy with a centrist agenda enacted by a partisan Democratic party using their power they way Newt Gingrich tried to do, to achieve unshakable dominance even at the expense of principles.
Dawn of the Dead
But if there are suggestions of the dawning of a new era in politics, where the economy is concerned it is sounding a bit like the dawn of the dead. Consider this doom and gloom remark from The New York Times, a quotation of the day:
“You walk the mall and consumers look like zombies. They’re there in person, but not in spirit.”
– JOHN MORRIS, a retailing analyst with Wachovia
I’ve always felt like there was a certain stupefied, zombie-like quality to mall shopping and mall shoppers, so this doesn’t particularly seem like news to me. Maybe part of why people are walking around zombified in the malls these days is that the collapse of the economy has opened their eyes – what were we thinking about, they might be asking themselves, when we went so deeply into debt for this rubbish? What is there that I really want in here? What is there I need? – and what they are seeing and thinking has crushed their spirits. If the shoppers seem like zombies, it may be because the malls have always been dead: they are where downtowns go to die. The air is dead, the plants are plastic, the light is fake, and the endless parade of identikit corporate stores and franchises – even the order is the same between some malls – is shopping reduced to its most soul-destroying.
Another quotation of the day from The New York Times recently begins to suggest a trend:
“People are grieving. There was a death. Their money died.”
– BARBARA GOLDSMITH, a semiretired psychotherapist in Delray Beach, Fla.
This is Marx’s notion of the fetishization of the commodity, or perhaps reification, in a new form – where the relationship of people to money has taken on a personal and emotional quality, where money has become a friend, a loved one. Who has now died? It is, frankly, sick and disturbing….