February 15, 2013
The Symbol Life
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream!
This is too late for a current event; it's more of an haute courant event, or a living legend, like the unicorn. The date is unimportant, as this specific example repeats endlessly, world without end.
A couple of weeks ago, a high-school kid was suspended from school for possesing a picture of a gun:
A high school student in Florence said he has been suspended because of a picture of a gun.
Daniel McClaine Jr., a freshman at Poston Butte High School, said he saved the picture as his desktop background on his school-issued computer.
A teacher noticed it and turned him in.
The picture shows an AK-47 on top of a flag.
It appears that in today's PoMo/Progresso couture, a picture is exactly the same as the subject pictured, the signifier is the signified, and "Ceci est une pipe" après tout! Rene Magritte, please phone home.
I'm not surprised; I have expected exactly such confusions ever since we entered the era of the symbolic president -- inaugurated posing in front of faux Roman columns, smirking and winking to those "in the know" about his predilections and inclinations, laughing at having fooled enough of the people enough of the time.
But it's not just Barack H. "You didn't build that" Obama; the entire ironical, metrosexual, sensation-seeking, Progressivist world has devolved into a surreality of signifiers without signifieds, arrows pointing towards nothing; words without meaning, but treated as if the word was itself the meaning. An era where we're expected to sit down in a restaurant and eat the menu.
We have symbolic regulations, like Mayor Bloomberg's "ban" on 32 ounce sodas -- which doesn't apply to grocery stores or 7-11s, not to mention that there's no ban on buying two 16 ounce sodas; symbolic laws, like the "military-style" assault weapon ban, in which the distinction between banned and therefore dangerous guns and authorized and presumably harmless guns is whether it has a carrying handle, a pistol grip, or is painted in camouflage colors; and symbolic policy, where it matters not a whit whether the policy works or fails, only that it "sends the right message." The signpost for America's future perpetually points to "Reply hazy, try again."
The creepy Left demands a life not of the mind, nor of phenomena, nor even of reality, but a life of pure symbolism -- messaging, imagery, false front, bravado, bluster, and bluff. Image isn't just everything, it's the only thing.
Obama is the perfect pawn. He lives the symbol life, existing only for the princely pronouncement, the cadence of his own catechism. He speaks, and lo! it is done. Or at least he is done; implementation must fall to others, if at all.
Perfect example: Diplomacy used to mean a working amalgam of sound foreign policy, tough but honest negotiation, military might, allies, and nerve; think of Reagan, Churchill, Lincoln, Franklin, Cardinal Mazarin. This was the operating definition for both Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal; the differences were in the goals of our diplomacy, not an argument about what the word itself meant.
But in the Obamunist nightmare (will we ever awaken?), Diplomacy consists entirely of being photographed with the "right people." It doesn't matter whether it's conducted by Commissar Hillary or Jean le Kerry, le Marquis de Bostonia, because the driving definitional force is the symbolic president himself, "Skeets" Obama, and the powers and thrones that guide his every waking moment.
But why bother to travel, other than perfecting his backswing on every golf course in the eastern hemisphere? He could save time and trouble simply by hiring a central-casting "Indian" from Brooklyn and PhotoShopping a picture of him, Kim Jong-un, and President B.O. literally burying a hatchet. Word crisis solved; take that, Bibi Nut'n'Honey!
It's no less serious (or more hilarious) than Susan Rice announcing that "We'll do the usual drill" anent NoKo's most recent nuku blast. Why not Rice? She is the perfect symbolic spokeschick for the symbolic Sir Galahad, his counterfeit cabinet, and its Potemkin politics.
When all is merely sign and signifier, map and menu, indicator and imagery, then there is no difference between reality and wishful make-believe. Saying it is so is the same as actually making it so; apparently, Obama's words are self-actualizing:
- "I'm a skeet shooter," quoth he just the other day; then he made it retroactively true by posing for a picture shooting a shotgun. (Straight forward, not skywards; who the heck is he shooting at, the poor slob trying to throw the clay pigeons while simultaneously ducking and covering?)
"Our businesses have gone back to basics and created over 4 million jobs in the last 27 months -- more private sector jobs than were created during the entire seven years before this crisis -- in a little over two years." This statement is completely true! And completely meaningless! Because, dig, he mounted the Petal Throne not twenty-seven but forty-nine months ago; and it's only fair to judge his job creation from the beginning of his reign, not from the nadir to the apex.
Thus, we turn to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics tables (scroll down to the historical tables. There we discover (from the A tables, household survey) that when Obama was inaugurated for his first term, labor force participation was 65.7%; last month, at the beginning of his second term, it stood at 63.6%. Total employment is slightly up (142.2 million to 143.3 million); but the population grew in the meantime, so the employment-to-population ratio dropped from 60.6 to 58.6. Unemployment ended up just about where it was when Obama inherited a recession -- starting at 7.8% in January 2009 and ending last month at 7.9%. And those who don't have a job but want one rose from 5.7 million to 6.6 million.
In theory, we're no longer in recession; but we've still got that four-year hangover.
From the B tables (establishment survey) that total non-farm payroll rose from 133 million to 135 million; but the population rose nearly nine million during that same period. He's not even keeping up, let alone catching up.
In short, there has been no net recovery whatsoever from the "horrible" economy that Obama inherited; after four years of Obamunism, we're no better off than we were in 2009; in fact, we're significantly worse off, though not as badly as we were two years into Obama's painful plan for promoting patriotic poverty.
On border security: "We can build on the progress my [Obama's] administration has already made -- putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years." But he must know that he only increased Border Patrol by about a thousand agents; by contrast, George W. Bush increased them by ten thousand, doubling the size he inherited from Bill Clinton. And Obama surely understands that the main reason border arrests are down is that border crossings are down, and every agency that has studied this agrees that crossings are down primarily because Obama's stagnation economy is not as attractive as Bush's robust growth economy was.
But at least we can deduce this much: His claim that the borders are so much more secure now sends the signal that he has no intention of pushing (or signing) any further border-security laws, and likely won't faithfully to execute those border-security laws already in place. Also sprach Obamathustra.
- "So if you have insurance you like, you’ll be able to keep that insurance. If you have a doctor you like, you can keep that doctor. You’ll just pay less for the care that you receive." Did he even know whether that was true? Did he care? He knew passage required such a soothing, reassuring, symbolical claim... so he made it. But he couldn't possibly have known what was in the bill, because Dame Nancy Pelosi hadn't yet passed it.
- "We must ban military-style assault weapons," defined as guns that look really scary to hoplophobic Progressivists. Identical weapons without the cosmetic differences -- i.e., same car, different plastic -- are still allowed. For now. (Which should tell you something about Obama's belief, or lack of, in his own initiatives.
- "I'm a uniter, not a divider!" (Commentary omitted; Big Lizards is a family-friendly blog!)
An admirable list of magic words, like "open sesame" (or more appropriately, "Avada Kedavra") that lefties use in place of actually, you know, doing anything. Fiat obscurum! Thus what we on the Right see as braggadocio (before the fact bragging and braying) or lying in one's teeth (after the fact pretense that all went well) is not so seen by Progressivists; for they have a different metric for truth and falsity, the neologistic oxymoron of "socialist truth."
Socialist truth can be defined operationally as "that which advances world socialism," while socialist falsity is that which retards it, prevents it, or ridicules it (like this post); the literal truth -- lefties would say infantile truth or unraised consciousness -- never enters into the equation.
Literal truth, which those on the Right demand, is probably a minor virtue to the Progressivist Left; all things being equal, most of them would rather not make up a new fib: It's tough to keep their stories straight, and it's a strain for a Progressivist to be creative anyway. But rarely are all things equal; and even the slightest chance of advancing world socialism is enough to tip the scales in favor of socialist truth.
But the Jedi masters of Progressivism, like our symbolic president, are in such a zen state that they no longer even care whether they keep straight their improvised fantasies; they have absorbed the teachings of the Sufis of Socialism that nobody keeps track of conflicting stories, so long as they comfort -- "foma," as Kurt Vonnegut dubbed such ostensibly harmless or useful lies.
But foma are not always harmless, useful though they may be. And a symbolic presidency can cause a brutal, blunt-force impact upon very real aspects of life, from jobs to wealth to health to safety. Kids sent into Obama's symbolic "universal pre-K" fabrication will gain no lasting improvement in learning and education. But the children will come away with the belief that they're better than everybody else... hence have little reason to learn or even tolerate opposing points of view. They will become little Obamlets. We shall have many more low-information voters than in the previous administration, because the current one incubates and encourages the citizen's complete disengagement from government and its policy. Party like it's 1999 -- again! But on the plus side, the Left will pick off a few more votes from the low-information voters who think, "Free universal kiddie care, yippee ki yay!"
And every act of gun control has the effect of removing the best means of self defense from those most likely to need it and least likely to be able to replace it. Career criminals prey upon the weak and defenseless; they're not interested in a shoot out, they just want to rob you. Gang bangers and serial assaulters also pick out the weak, because they enjoy inflicting pain, terror, and death; it makes them feel powerful.
Without ready access to guns, the weak become prey for the thuggish strong; but with firearms, even Granny can fight off an intruder, as proved virtually every issue of American Rifleman. There is good reason why the Colt .45 revolver was called the "great equalizer," as anyone will eventually discover who accepts Obama's symbolic message and turns in all his guns to the government. (Even quicker if he proudly displays a "Gun-free zone!" placard.)
Sidebar: What's the real reason the symbolic president wants a ban on "military-style" assault weapons du jour? Because they symbolize independence, liberty, and government of, by, and for the people. With a "military-style" weapon, you are daily reminded that the foremost reason for the Second Amendment was to have an unorganized but well-regulated (that is, trained) militia to keep the peace and restore order if necessary, suppress insurrection and insurgency, repel foreign invaders, and to keep our own federal and state governments in check.
But without regularly reminding Americans that they are all Minutemen (male or female), the sense of personal responsibility for defending the homeland dissipates and can evaporate entirely. Hunting, sport shooting, and even home defense, the "lesser included" rights, become the whole; and the primary right (and duty!) to defend liberty, both individual and societal is tossed into the dustbin of history. What a boon to any would-be tyrant!
Thus to a cunning gun-banner, the difference between ordinary guns and "military-style" is not "cosmetic," it is cosmic.
The world of symbol is simple, even simplistic: To say is to make true; so mote it be. It is magical thinking: Forget the hard work of actual governance, all that matters is sending the politically correct message. It reassures and confirms membership of the "ins" and frightens the "outs" into joining. It's impossible for things to go wrong, because error has been abolished by order of the Dear Leader.
Foma is soma, the mind-dulling narcotic of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World; the poisonous purpose of "harmless lies" is to suppress thought itself. The dictator always prefers docile sheep to wily foxes, because they are easier to control; pure selflessness of his loyal subjects is his great desire, for only the selfless will give themselves over, body and soul, to the One, the Lightbringer, the benevolent dictator.
Thus the real danger of a presidency of sentiment, statement, superficial scholarship, and substandard statesmanship: It establishes a symbolic citizenry to worship a symbolizing presidency.
Liberty can survive and surmount much but probably not that. Baa! Baa! Baa!
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 15, 2013, at the time of 10:15 PM
The following hissed in response by: Dishman
Perhaps the most dangerous symbol to mistake for the thing is money. Money is not value, it is just a symbol or token we use.
When we speak of nations, while it may look like the money works out, that is not the underlying reality. When money and value diverge, either up or down, the results can be painful or even cataclysmic.
The following hissed in response by: GW
The above hissed in response by: GW at February 17, 2013 11:30 PM
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