In my previous post about American democracy, I outlined a pathology that has infected our system of government. The role of government, especially the executive positions in government, is transforming through a mythopoesis in a dialogue between the state and the people. What is the nature of this dialectical mythopoesis? Mythopoesis is the process by which new myths or narratives are created. Bare with me for this: For a myth or narrative to be successful, and all narratives must be successful for us to canonize and remember them, it must fit into the framework, or the world, in which it is written; Zeus, as a random example, must maintain the necessary qualities of Zeus for a story to expand and extend its particular world. If Zeus loses such qualities, the myth cannot be brought into the greater story and is most likely forgotten. A dialectic is the interaction (in a very broad sense) between two entities wholly separate; an example of this could be two people talking.
President Bush upon his creation of the Axis of Evil, for a most apparent example, inflamed and changed the nature of political talk in the US; it was no longer an issue of nation-states in secular pursuit of their “enlightened” interests in the Western, liberalized notion of government, but rather, it became a battle of religious forces -- good versus evil. Many of Bush’s speeches, particularly about the United States’ role in the world community, have been heavily and unapologetically colored by religious tones:
“This time of adversity offers a unique moment of opportunity -- a moment we must seize to change our culture. Through the gathering momentum of millions of acts of service and decency and kindness, I know we can overcome evil with greater good. And we have a great opportunity during this time of war to lead the world toward the values that will bring lasting peace.” (State of the Union Address 2002)
When President Bush gives a speech, he engages in a very significant form of dialogue, or, at its basest, interaction, with the American people. What he delivers is a narrative that, if it is successful, will be brought into the established mythology of the American people.
Bush’s White House harped upon a dormant religious mythology that hides within the shadowy blue fabric of America; this myth-making par excellence captured what is part of the core of American society and has always jeopardized the ideals of secular democracy. The United States was founded by the progeny of Puritans, and many if not most of its greatest historical endeavors, good and bad, have been conceived in concealed providential narratives. I’ll skip on the history book analysis since this is a blog, and we need to keep it reasonably short. But take note that President Bush adheres to a good principle of mythopoesis by bringing his myth-making into place within the preexistent mythology.
With this new dialogue between the state and the people, Americans underwent a transformation in their narrative or mythology, particularly their relationship to their government. Where a history is molded and reshaped, so is the identity which is founded upon it. This new world, this new identity, in which we inhabit has been written by Bush’s state and the American people through a dialogue. In it, Bush is no longer just president, but rather, he is the shepherd and we are his sheep. Much of our side has been a sickeningly silent response -- we are the sheep! Our assistance in the story has been akin to the status of ghost writer, sitting idly by and writing most of the narrative by providing the white space but taking no credit for it. Our inaction is our contribution to the new American identity, and Bush, through his development of what role the state is suppose to take, has helped to further push for an apathetic waiting. President Bush has molded an identity of complacent waiting for him to resolve us of our problems.
My theory can be proven ferociously sound too by considering the unprecedented actions of the White House in the guise of their new paternal identity. For example, the suspension of Habeas Corpus and the establishment of Guantanamo Bay, the suspension of Constitutional rights through the Patriot Act, the vetoing of a ban on Waterboarding, a neoconservative foreign policy with unilateral, preemptive war, etc. The executive branch fully extended its power in a way never seen before, and many Americans see nothing wrong with this. Bush's legacy is really the reinvention of the identity and role of the executive branch of government, and his Constitutional debasements are an apparent example. Many Americans are quite apathetic to this new, unbalanced executive branch that grew during Bush’s eight years in office. How was this so if it was not allowed by a retelling of a narrative to change the identities of the people and the state? The American people have never reacted to this new formation, and significant disapproval only came with the economic recession, the deficit spending and tactical ambiguity in Iraq, and finally, the near-complete collapse of the economy; there was very little outrage and protest to the above mentioned trespasses relative the seriousness of the crimes. Bush weaved his people a myth, allowing for a new American people to accept something more like a religious leader than a secular president in their executive branch of government.
Consider how radically different the narrative was during America’s 1960s and 70s and the identities that emerged out of that. The sheer rebellion was the sign of an unwillingness to allow an American identity to convert into a religious, unquestioning following. The current story is different.
It may shock you, but this narrative has not been written anew with Obama; rather, Obama has won his presidency riding upon the new identities established by Bush. We throw out the old priest for a new one. Upon Barack Obama’s election, there is celebration as if we have finished our jobs, and now, it is Obama’s turn to take up the role that Bush had establish. Our role in the dialogue between us and the state is over; we return to our sheep status, and wait -- wait, wait, devotedly in secular, democratic prayer that Obama will resolve our problems. I’ve already seen suggestions from the news that Obama can single-handedly save the auto-industry by a state-mandated, instantaneous conversion to a fuel-efficient and alternative energy car -- hilarious. Most people, ignorant of the slow, laborious process needed to transform the economy, the environment and our governmental institutions, think Barack Obama will be doing something more similar to anointing them and setting them free of all their political trappings and failures rather than sound, long-term planning.
For some reason all of this reminds me of the Market Place scene in Jesus Christ Superstar -- odd I know. I don’t want to get too serious when I’m writing a blog, and I have yet to use the Internet medium to its fullest. It is perhaps time for a pause. So maybe I’ll embed a video of the scene from the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. The three minute mark and the end make me wonder…