Gimme a break

I am dismayed at Douglas Rushkoff’s utter eyeoreishness as he uses Katrina as his platform to issue a manifesto of depression and societal self-loathing (hysterical italics and exclamation marks his):

What those who are afraid of civil society breaking down don’t realize is that civil society has already broken down! This is not a civil society we live in, but a profiteering, every-man-for-himself, oligarchy. The democratic process is broken if not rigged; the largest-ever redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich occurred over the last six years under the guise of economic stimulus; fear and disinformation were used to put the poorest of Americans onto a battlefield under false pretenses; those who seek to engage the current administration in meaningful dialogue are terminated.

It is in the midst of a crisis that you learn the most about someone or something….

Yes, Douglas, and I’d say we’re certainly learning a lot about your worldview. Yes, Katrina brought out and worsened injustices and inequities. It exposed government incompetence. But it also inspired courage, care, concern, generosity and humanity. And I would say that the outrage the country showed over those injustices and failures were the very proof of our civil order.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I think you’re missing his point. In the midst of every tragedy, there are always individual acts of profound charity (“courage, care, concern, generosity and humanity”). But civil society – meaning the GOVERNMENT, the *ORGANIZED* SOCIETY, here – has been wanting.

    You seem to think he’s saying Americans are bad people (false, as a statement itself, and as a view of what he’s addressing). He’s saying Americans are badly socially-organized people (true).

    “Outrage” doesn’t disprove this. Outrage is easy. Actually dealing with a hurricane is hard.

  • http://jonnygoldstein.com jonny goldstein

    I think he is on the money with much of his critique. That’s not to say that there are not a lot of people with good hearts who are doing their best to help, but our society is deeply messed up, and has left a huge segment of our population to fend for itself in a way that no other rich, industrialized, democratic country has, while favoring the super rich in a way that no other comparable country has. And if Rushkoff is missing some of the silver linings to the massive dark clouds of this disaster, I think you should cut him some slack given the immense magnitude of this horrific event.

  • Rob

    I find it odd that Jeff always claims to be a liberal, but in cases like this, he always sounds like a staunch and very old-fashioned conservative, desperately defending the status quo of the society he’s a part of. Weird. That and his full-fledged support for the war in Iraq from the get-go. “Liberal.” You keep saying that word, Jeff. I do not think you know what it means. I know you defend free speech and Howard Stern and all and your liberal in many other social areas . . . maybe you’re a hawkish Liberterian and you just don’t know it?

  • Marina Architect

    I would say Rushkoff is on target. In particular this line was a poignant reflection of our current flawed state of affairs: “We’re learning a lot about our government, and ourselves, this week. Those black faces seem just a little bit closer to home when they’re in Louisiana than when they’re in Darfur. Should they? Maybe not. But they should remind us of just how real the inequity and opportunity divide in this country really are, and how readily so many of us are to blame those being flooded and starved for our crimes against them.” I would add that right now–today, in Darfur, people are being abused and killed and nobody wants to help? Where’s the celebrity donations for Darfur. Sad reality of our television culture and media echo chamber. Another shit fact of reality is that the levees is old news. This was predictable. Let’s uncover the other foreseable tragedies and get action on them.

  • PR

    Jeff,
    The actions (tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, the attmpted dismantling of social security, etc.) from the top (Bush et cronies) are what set the tone of our country as a “profiteering, every-man-for-himself, oligarchy.” No amount of compassionate conservative blather can cover that up completely. The outpouring of “courage, care, concern, generosity and humanity” is a result of the sudden magnitude of the tragedy… if such an outpouring or attitude were the norm, we would still have hurricanes, but without such horrific results (think of the scenes in the Superdome and Convention Center).

  • Jeffrey

    “redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich”?

    How, exactly? By way of tax cuts? In other words, letting the “wealthy” keep a greater percentage of their “wealth” rather than confiscating it and giving a little to the “poorest”?

    “those who seek to engage the current administration in meaningful dialogue are terminated”

    Where are the hit squads? The snipers? Why is Michael Moore still alive?

  • Lynn

    Rob wrote: I find it odd that Jeff always claims to be a liberal, but in cases like this, he always sounds like a staunch and very old-fashioned conservative, desperately defending the status quo of the society he’s a part of. Weird. That and his full-fledged support for the war in Iraq from the get-go. “Liberal.” You keep saying that word, Jeff. I do not think you know what it means. I know you defend free speech and Howard Stern and all and your liberal in many other social areas . . . maybe you’re a hawkish Liberterian and you just don’t know it?

    I don’t always agree with Jeff, particularly when it comes to Stern. But he is one of the ones whose opinions I trust are sincere, and so become an audience to for possible consideration…. for the exact reason Rob, you see as a negative. He absolutely won’t stand up or down for something he can’t believe as truth; simply because it’s one party or another’s stance.

    And when he doesn’t know enough about something to choose, he’s upfront about that also.

  • http://pylb.blogspot.com pylbug

    I have to agree with Seth. Isn’t the outrage actually proof that Americans are realizing they are in plain fact “badly socially-organized people”? It is. The altruism ultimately comes from our survival instincts; we realize that America is ill-prepared and terribly organized, and we know in the backs our our minds that all of our municipalities are equally ill-prepared. The outrage is simply a natural reaction to the helplessness one feels at this realization. We donate because we would want the same assistance were we in such dire straights ourselves. It’s that simple.

    It’s a shame that this topic spun out into the same old inane “liberal vs. conservative” pap here, but I guess that’s where you get with a post that’s basically picking a fight in the first place.