Recently I have been reading several books about genetic research that traces the descent of humanity since that moment when our ancestors first dropped from the trees and began walking upright through the veldt until, through sheer persistence, we now are poised on the brink of becoming the only species to consciously choose to risk their own continued existence.
I have now read five books on the subject and several articles. The books, because the unraveling of the human genome that enabled much of the research only occurred within the last 10 years or so, all have been published within the past three years. Although they are “popularizations”, they are for the most part written by the scientists that actually worked on many of the breakthroughs that enabled the current view of human genesis to develop. One book, however, was written by a journalist who has been covering the field for the past twenty years. It is the best written of the lot.
According to the generally agreed upon calculations based upon the analysis of the Y chromosome in males today and something called mitochondria DNA in females, both of which strangely enough remain mostly unchanged throughout the generations, they estimate that the male and female ancestors of just about everyone outside of Africa today lived in East Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia etc) sometime between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years or so (Adam Y and Eve Mitochondria).
It is a fascinating story but one still full of inconsistencies and holes. For example, although I do not for one moment doubt that modern humans first arose in Africa and then spread throughout the world, a mystery surrounding indigenous Australians persists. The generally accepted theory is that about two dozen individuals from a tribe left Africa sometime around 45,000 years ago, most likely by crossing the Red Sea into what is now the country of Aden on the Southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. All of the rest of humanity outside of Africa (not including migrants, forced or otherwise, within the past 600 years) according to DNA analysis appears to be descended from this small but obviously determined and exceptionally fecund band.
At that time because of the various cold spells that sucked moisture from the air and the sea and deposited it in its crystalline form, ice, in great glaciers around the earths higher latitudes, the sea was often much lower, about 100 meters or so, and the climate considerably drier than it is now. The most accepted speculation is that the descendants of this band went walk-about along the sea bed thus exposed until, after what I am sure were many adventures, a group ended up in the Australian outback feasting on kangaroo meat and dingoes.
The problem is that some archeological and anthropological evidence puts the original native Australians in Australia at about 60,000 years ago. Now I figured out that early migration patterns move roughly about a kilometer a year. One kilometer would put the new settlement probably in sight of the old. I pictured one or two of the younger members of the band every year or so sitting around the campfire suddenly announcing they were tired of the same old songs and stories and were moving out down the road a bit. After they have a few children of their own, this little traditional domestic scene would play itself out again, until eventually one disgruntled adolescent stumbled over a platypus, decided he had gone far enough and began the first aboriginal song-line.
“…the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as ‘Dreaming-tracks‘ or ‘Songlines’; to the Aboriginals as the ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’ or the ‘Way of the Law’.Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path – birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes – and so singing the world into existence.””
Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines.
This 1 kilometer or so rate has been confirmed by several scientists and is consistent with every other migration during these initial expansions of humanity (for example, Tierra del Fuego is about 30,000 kilometers from the Red Sea by way of Alaska and the first humans arrived there about 15,000 years ago). So, if it is about 15,000 Kilometers from Ethiopia to Adelaide, the original Australians should have arrived there about 30,000 years ago, not 15,000 years before they even left Africa. That’s a lot of dream time to go walk-about in. Even were one to assume that the notoriously difficult dating methodology was off; to be off by 30,000 years is a pretty broken song-line. (More to come)
Blind Rainbow Serpent is old;
he does not want Law from the
Whirlwind Rainbow Serpent
Whirlwind Rainbow Serpent moves on;
he leaves the Blind Rainbow Serpent
- Secret caves reveal link to dreamtime fossils (rubysworldofpain.com)
- Rapid climate change helped humans to evolve, claims new study: Our ancestors ‘had to adapt quickly to changing habitats’ (dailymail.co.uk)
- Tracing humanity’s African ancestry may mean rewriting ‘out of Africa’ dates (sciencedaily.com)
- Creation Myth Finale (sinsationscakes.wordpress.com)
Yesterday I watched on television the movies Patton, Midway and Apocalypse Now. A television network was having a festival of war movies. While watching for about 8 hours, I began to notice something about the commercials that struck me as strange. Of the over 200 commercials presented during that time, only one was for an American produced manufactured item. All the rest were either ads for financial products, food products, stores that stocked mostly foreign manufactured goods, various entertainment efforts, a few communication companies and four ads for foreign produced automobiles.
War movies are mostly guy things. They are made for men and concerned with men doing men things. Killing each other in great numbers is a man thing. Crying in anguish over the death of a comrade killed by one of the survivors of those he and his comrade have attempted to slaughter is another guy thing.
Women in war movies are rare. They appear only in an attempt to prove that in war movies the men are not, as most sensible people suspect, sleeping with each other.
At least one or two men in the war movies sleep with something that looks, if not acts, like a woman. These are generally portrayed as creatures whose minds are much smaller than their vaginas. Although we are often exposed to the limits of their minds we never actually see their vaginas. The men in the movies pretend their vaginas do not exist. One can surmise however that they must be robust for the men to be so interested in these insipid creatures during their inevitably brief appearances. it is either that or their shoes are too tight.
Apocalypse Now is the ultimate man’s movie. The plot is about a love affair between two men — a psychopathic, depressed, serial murderer and substance abuser goes in search of another psychopathic, depressed serial killer (but alas not a substance abuser) and kills him; a war movie’s version of orgasm.
Another notable feature of the movie is its emphasis on the males speech patterns, or man talk. Speech to a man is not an invitation to a dialog as it is with women but the declaration in a simple laconic statement their world view of the moment as uncontested fact — even if no one else either agrees or has any idea what he is talking about.
For example, The Dennis Hopper character, a war photographer (probably into SM) and to whom Captain Willard had just warned “You take my picture again I am going to kill you.” asks Willard who is tied up in a cage (SM alert) :
“Why would a nice guy like you want to kill a genius?”
Later he announces:
“The man is clear in his mind but his soul is mad.”
Robert Duvall portraying the surfing obsessed battlefield commander who loves waking up with the smell of napalm tickling his nostrils and observes archly that “Charlie don’t surf” comments:
“This war is run by four star clowns who are giving away the whole circus.”
Upon coming upon a platoon guarding a bridge at night during a particularly psychedelic fire fight Willard asks a one of the stoned platoon members, “Soldier who is in charge here? “ The soldier responds, “Aint you?”
“The horror. The horror.”
- Great War Movies You Might Have Missed (mrmovietimes.com)
- Storyboard Art for APOCALYPSE NOW (geektyrant.com)
- Sony open to story changes for God of War movie (destructoid.com)
- 5 Best Cold War Movies (mademan.com)
I recently have experienced a sudden decline in almost everything; vision and hearing, strength and endurance. Perhaps it is temporary and will pass. In the past, during my bouts with depression and its physical effects, I have always been able to convince myself they would soon be gone. Now I feel like a specter or ghost watching life go on around me through an ever darkening scrim, unable to do anything about it until I eventually disappear into the wherever or whatever; something like the ineffectual angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I wonder if I will get my wings after it is all over. (This last is an allusion understandable only by those over 70 years old.)
After finishing Sheldon Siegel‘s book, “The Terrorist Next Door” and being in the mood to read more in the Jewish policeman genre, I began Michael Chabon‘s “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.” It is a novel of dazzling style and inventiveness but lacking a soul. I much prefer Sheldon’s relentless humane optimism to Chabon’s unrelieved cynicism.
I like William Kotzwinkle however. He is an incurable optimist like Sheldon. He wrote “ET.” I do not think he was all that proud of it. But hell, it’s a living.
Like Chabon he could unleash the literary pyrotechnics. In one book, he was able to fill an entire chapter with the single word, “dorky.” Dorky repeated 400 times a page for the 10 pages of the chapter, 4000 dorkys (or is it dorkies?) in all. And this was while everyone was still using word processors.
Chabon, were he the one writing the same chapter after about the first hundred or so dorkys would probably write something like, “Shit, if I have to write dorky one more time, I going to plunge a zhmenye of cyanide up my tokhes” or something like that. Like I said Chabon is a real stylist.
To Kotzwinkle’s character, however, Dorky Day was the day he looked forward to. It was the the day he said nothing except dorky. It was his favorite day, better even that Christmas or Passover or even Presidents day.
Speaking of President’s Day, what’s that all about? Why did we change from honoring two of our greatest presidents, one who wore wooden false teeth and liked riding his horses almost as well as sleeping with his slaves and the other who had a glandular dysfunction and was always hearing voices in his head, to honoring them all, even the non-entities and borderline looneys? Do we really want to honor, Chester A. Arthur, George Bush or James Buchanan at the same time as we honor Washington and Lincoln?
Buchanan by the way was our first openly gay president. He was called “Miss Nancy” by his political enemies and affectionately “Aunt Fancy” by his friends.
Miss Nancy was born on April 23rd. Wouldn’t it be appropriate for that to be the day to celebrate gay freedom, or better yet marriage equality day? April 23 is celebrated in England as Shakespeare’s Day. It is also the feast day of St. Adalbert of Prague, National Book Day in Canada and English Language Day in the UN. Unfortunately, I do not know the actual date of Dorky Day, but April 23 would be as good as any.
While I am at it and since I have little to do for most of the day except sit around the coffee-house and fool with my computer writing messages to myself like this,… why do the self-proclaimed serious literary critics appear to so often look down on “genre” fiction? Why do we so often consider the literary pyrotechnics of the borderline depressive, even a humorous one, serious literature while gentle optimism is dismissed as superficial? I am sure my friend Ruth knows. She seems to understand these things. Maybe she will read this some day and decide to tell me.
Is it simply the strictures of plot required of genre fiction somehow make it more artificial than the meanderings through the minutia of life of much of modern “serious” fiction, even if that minutia is outside anyone’s experience, or beggars credulity? I mean, have you read “War in Peace?” Do your really give a shit about Pierre or Prince Andrei? As for other characters in the serious literary pantheon, most were despicable. Roskolnikov, Ahab and even Achilles were assholes. You can add Heathcliff to that list and don’t even mention Dorian Grey. OK, I admit Jane Eyre has something to recommend her, but talk about missing the obvious…. Did the reprobates that peopled Faulkner or Williams’ novels really do anything for you. The characters dreamed up by Elmo Leonard or Carl Hiaasan probably appear just as real, perhaps even more so, to most of us.
If one reads at all, by all means, one should read the classics and as much so-called serious fiction as he or she can digest but not too much. It can give one gas.
Nevertheless one should also read those authors not cursed with seriousness. Authors like Leonard, Hiaasion, Siegel, Weber (the Honor Harrington books, the rest of his books suck), Terry Pratchett, Nora Roberts and on and on; even ,Danielle Steel (well maybe not her). There are thousands and thousands of people out there writing fiction. Even if they have little to say, they say something.
Alas, in the age of u-tube and instant communication among perfect strangers, most of whom appear quite willing to spew out the most intimate and often embarrassing details of their lives, who needs fiction anymore? Maybe we are all becoming ghosts, viewing life through a LED display in a darkened room or an internet cafe somewhere.
Even that may be a passing fad. Given the amount of time we spend on our computers or smart phones socializing and collaborating or whatever, who has the time any more to take a video of oneself trying to jump off a roof into a tea-cup? Will future generations feature prehensile pinkies and double jointed thumbs?
Stay tuned to life, it always surprises.
One night, I spent at my sister’s house in Berkeley, before going to bed I began reading Sheldon Siegel’s newest novel The Terrorist Next Door. Its main character is a cop who, I suspect, to the disappointment of his jewish parents failed to become a doctor, lawyer or famous writer of mystery novels and ended up a Chicago homicide detective. He is teamed up with a black partner in a relationship reminiscent of that between Danny Glover and that famous anti-Semite Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon series of movies.
There are three things I noticed and appreciated about the novel. First, it is an incomparable travelogue of Chicago (one should read the book with a map of the city nearby). Second, is what one learns about Michelle Obama, a girl from the neighborhood. Third, Sheldon in his own good-hearted and upbeat way puts his finger upon the essential flaw in the American character and gives you a glimpse of how good things can be without it and how truly and horribly destructive it really it.
For those of you familiar with and aficionados of the Siegel cannon, he began his writing career trying to write a novel about a young jewish attorney wrongfully accused of the murder of one of his partners, a fictional stand in for a partner of ours at the time whose removal both Sheldon and I agreed probably would immeasurably benefit humanity. Alas, in his writing of the initial drafts, his main character was overwhelmed by a fast talking Irish criminal lawyer and his estranged Chicana attorney wife. This resulted in the beloved character’s prominence being eclipsed. He disappeared entirely by the third novel in the series; even his name is now lost to memory.
My experience is similar to Sheldon’s. I attempted to write a mystery. The main character, a stand for yours truly, managed to come across as a boring jerk. He was ultimately replaced in interest and importance by a musclebound bisexual female deputy sheriff from San Mateo County.
Detective David Gold is made of stronger stuff. I see and hope for Gold’s career to be at least as long and as distinguished as Kaminsky’s Abe Lieberman, also a Chicago detective and also a disappointment to his parents.
I suspect Sheldon always wanted to write a novel with Chicago, the city he grew up in, as a setting.
I have visited Chicago only a few times. Nevertheless, for me given my ethnic heritage, it has always been one of the sacred places; like Umberto’s Clam House in New York’s Little Italy. For over a decade the stain remained on the sidewalk where, having staggered out of the restaurant after being shot, Joey Gallo fell down and bled to death. Every year, I would make an annual pilgrimage there until time and the City’s acid laced rains erased every vestige of the epic event.
Chicago was the home of the sainted Scarface Al. Alas, I have never visited any of the pilgrimage sites there; such as SMC Cartage warehouse site of the massacre that occurred on the feast day of the saint of love. I sometime wonder what ever happened to many of the relics of my legendary ethnic heroes. Are they in a museum somewhere? Where now, for example, are the artifacts such as Anastasia’s barber chair, Mo Green’s massage table, St. Frank’s used condoms, Deano’s shot glass and Mario Puzo‘s typewriter? And, while I am at it, where have you really gone Joe DiMaggio? And, why did Tony Benedetto, (nee Bennet), a New Yorker who chose to live in LA, really decide to leave his heart is SF?
- Estate of Mario Puzo Seeks Declaration Permitting Publication of Sequels to “the Godfather” (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
A few mornings ago, I had coffee with Gary, he of the bald head, beloved of God and protected by the deity’s own she-bears (See below (*) 5. Kings 2:23).
We met up at a pub at the corner of Soi Cowboy. It was early morning. I walked through the Soi to get there. At night the street is lit up with an unholy glare and flooded with noise imparting a frisson of excitement that causes your heart to beat as though someone suddenly set off roman candles in your living room. In the tenuous morning light, however, the excitement had long since dribbled away and the street now was seedy looking, quiet and deserted except for those cleaning up the refuse from the night before.
Soi Cowboy is one of Bangkok’s three main “red light” districts originally set up to cater to allied soldiers on RR during the Vietnam War. It now serves the erotic needs of mostly Western and Japanese tourists. The other two are Patpong and Soi Nana. Patpong, built on land owned by the Royal Family, had long ago gone into the sexual voyeurism business; ping-pong balls, darts and balloons, razor blades, frogs, simulated sex acts and the like. Soi Cowboy, a block long alleyway with bars and go-go establishments on each side had more recently graduated from a run of the mill carnal emporium to a required stop on packaged Asian sex tours. Nana for the time being, has remained what it has always been since the soldiers left, a low-class hang-out for the typical ex-pat reprobate.
A girl working on Soi Cowboy, because of its up-scale status, can earn as much as $10,000 or more a month. In the villages they come from the average income is something less than $100 a month. I sometimes wonder what most people would be willing to do to make over 100 times more than they make now. Alas with the upscaling, gone are the independent entrepreneurs working the bars. They have been replaced by employees. And, with that comes the real exploitation.
But this post is not about the Soi, Bangkok’s seamy undersides or the Girls and their clients, but about what Gary told me as we sat there at the tables outside the pub drinking coffee and watching the Green Bay-Detroit Lions football game on television.
During our exchange of stories, recent medical histories and comments on the game, for some reason Gary mentioned that his great-uncle was Sargent Alvin York. This news intrigued me, so I asked him to tell me more.
For those for whom his name is unfamiliar, Sargent York was the US most famous hero of WWI. He received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 32 machine guns, killing 28 German soldiers and capturing 132 others.
From York’s diary:
“The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. They just stopped us dead in our tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn’t tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from… And I’m telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. Our attack just faded out… And there we were, lying down, about halfway across [the valley] and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.”
“And those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And the Germans were yelling orders. You never heard such a racket in all of your life. I didn’t have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush… As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over thirty of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting… All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had.”
Before the war York was a violent alcoholic and prone to bar brawls. Nevertheless, after his best friend was killed in a bar fight, he eventually joined a pacifist church opposed to all forms of violence and reformed his ways. At the time he was drafted he claimed contentious objector status stating:
“I was worried clean through. I didn’t want to go and kill. I believed in my Bible.”
The story of his life was made into a movie starring Gary Cooper. It was nominated for 11 Academy awards and won two, one of which was by Cooper for best actor. Gary said, that he was named after the movie star. I guess because Alvin was already taken.
The Yorks lived in the Town of Pall Mall deep in the hollows of Tennessee, Smokey and the Bandit country were moonshine was king and law non-existent. In fact, the only law that existed in that county was provided by the York’s kin since out of respect to York, they were usually not run out of the county like all other representatives of law-enforcement.
As Gary explained:
“The lawless county would not tolerate any law officers whatsoever, although York thought he could (uphold the law and maintain order), he was wrong . Moonshine whiskey and marijuana came along in the late sixties there in the poverty-stricken mountainous area.”
“My grandmother, Vicey ( Frogg) Williams mothered her first when she was fourteen and all of them had first names beginning with L and middle names of Presidents . One was actually shot and killed in a feud. All of their middle names were names of presidents..”
York married Gracie Williams (played by Joan Leslie in the movie), Gary’s grandfather’s sister.
Gracie and Sgt. Alvin York taken when Gary was about 6 years old.
“I recall Aunt Gracie had three boys . Andrew Jackson York, Woodrow Wilson York , and Thomas Jefferson York… I heard , but never verified as I never went down again after 1970, that Thomas Jefferson may of been killed by moonshiners. They were serious about that stuff..
…it would be interesting to know if the Jamestown , Pall Mall area still is lawless. It certainly was in 1970… My mom told me that Thomas thought he could bring law and order to the hill country…”
My grand father, Wesley was a teasing fun skinny guy who had been a share cropper. Many of those folks down there were… they would have many children hoping to use the children to ease their labors…Pensions are not big in lawless counties in America.”
After York’s death, Gracie, his widow, kept a shotgun in every room in the house because of the practice in that county of raiding any large home soon after the dominant male departs those good green hills.
York himself as Gary remembered him was a quiet soft-spoken man who looked nothing at all like Gary Cooper.
In Gary’s own words:
“…he (York) was a classic Mountain Democrat and that was a bone of contention in those days with the Froggs ( my grandmother’s family )…
York refused to benefit from the honors awarded to him including the funds received from the movie and book about his life, choosing instead to donate the money to charities he favored. Most of the money and York’s efforts went into educating the children of his home county. Despite, donating the money from the movie to charity, the IRS rejected his claim and hounded York for several years, until shortly before both their deaths then President John F. Kennedy cancelled the debt calling the IRS actions in the matter a “national disgrace.”
“I was there that summer (the summer that York died) at fourteen..we lived in Springfield, Illinois and had (many) seemingly endless drives down to north central Tennessee ..”
Sargent York bed-ridden. The boy is Gary’s cousin. Gary was between 10 and 12 years old at the time this photograph was taken.
“In Springfield I was a page-boy in the State Senate and developed my disdain for Illinois politicians… In 1965 , I was 19 and got my draft notice then left those assholes in August . I delivered their hookers, drove their wives around shopping, fixed little logistic issues for them and realized they never did their homework, only what the lobbyist paid them to say and do. I still remember a slick haired guy walking up to me back then and saying, “Hi, I’m Al Green with the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association.” He put a five dollar bill in my hand. I vividly remember his features. A few months later I was earning $78 per month in the USAF…
In 1970, I returned from the military and worked there again as a bill clerk. Across the hall from my parent’s apartment lived Paul Simon who I often walked to work with, a very nice man who always wore a bow tie and had terrific dandruff…he had risen in politics after being a newspaper editor down south in Troy, Illinois … I was 25, (when) I did the bill clerk thing and walked with Paul to work at 9 AM. I considered him among the kindest of those characters…”
Most of York’s male descendants as well as Gary’s uncles served in WWII with the 82th Airborne, the successor to York’s old outfit. None of them, even York himself, would talk to Gary about their experiences during the war, even when Gary specifically asked them to. Finally shortly before he died one of his uncles opened up to him.
“My father’s twin brother served in the 82nd when it was known as Airborne . It was only the 82nd division in WWI ..Uncle Lloyd is still alive living across the river from St. Louis . He still has hair and blue eyes .. My father was bald and had brown eyes.. In college they told me not to worry about baldness as it is a gene that comes from mothers. My mom had thick dense hair, so I figured I would never face the dreaded cue ball look. When it came I didn’t care as I could not see it anyway…”
Gary told me some of what Uncle Lloyd told him. Two images stood out in my mind:
One day Gary and his Uncle Lloyd went together to see the movie Saving Private Ryan. A cow roaming in a pasture appeared in one battle scene. His uncle laughed. After the movie Gary asked him why he laughed at that particular scene. He said because,“in the war there were no cows, there were no birds they were all dead. After the armies came through there was nothing left alive for people to eat and so they starved.”
On another occasion he told Gary that there was nothing good in war. At the end, he said, he saw children and old men dressed in German uniforms because all the young men had been killed and they were all that was left of the German Army. What choice did he have? Kill them or be killed.
(*) – 5. Kings 2:23 – “Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you bald head! Go up, you bald head!” So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the Lord. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.”
- On August 25th, 1942: the 82nd became Airborne (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
- Exhibit tells story of World War I hero Alvin York (timesfreepress.com)
- Medal of Honor Roll Call: Alvin C. York (givemeliberty01.com)
A recent report indicated that President Obama has received 43,830 death threats during his first four years in office.If true, this would make him the most threatened president in the Nation’s history.
Included in those threats was the plot by white supremacists in Tennessee to rob a gun store, shoot 88 black people, decapitate another 14 and then assassinate the first black president in American history.
Some people say that these threats have nothing to do with race but merely reflect ravings of the deranged or an unfortunate over exuberant disagreement about policy. They accuse those that disagree with this assessment of “playing the race card.”
“[O]n economic issues the modern Democratic party is what we would once have considered “centrist”, or even center-right. Obama’s Heritage-Foundation-inspired health care plan is to the right of Richard Nixon’s. Nobody with political influence is suggesting a return to pre-Reagan tax rates on the wealthy. Fantasies about Obama as a socialist, redistributionist hater of capitalism bear no more resemblance to reality than fantasies about his birthplace or religion.
Second, today’s Republican party is an alliance between the plutocrats and the preachers, plus some opportunists along for the ride — full stop…. Someday there may emerge another party with the same name standing for a quite different agenda…. But that will take a long time… Finally, it’s true that there are some Republican intellectuals and pundits who seem to be truly open-minded…. But… “seem to be”… they’re professional seemers. When it matters, they can always be counted on — after making a big show of stroking their chins and agonizing — to follow the party line, and reject anything that doesn’t go along with the preacher-plutocrat agenda…. Anyone who imagines that there is any real soul-searching going on is deluding himself or herself.
It should be noted that beginning with Franklin Roosevelt‘s election, in the next fifty years we went from the probably worst economic calamity in our nation’s history to witnessing the greatest growth of income and widest and most equitable distribution of wealth we ever achieved. During this period, both Republicans and Democrats accepted the basic concepts of what became standard economic thought.
During the thirty years following Ronald Reagan‘s election on the other hand we have seen our nation tumble from from that period of broad, equitable and high economic growth into the second greatest economic contraction in our history accompanied by the largest divergence of wealth between the fortunate few and the rest of us since the heyday of the Southern plantation economies. During that time, both Republican and Democratic administrations grew to accept the new economic and fiscal paradigm introduced in Reagan Administration.
What caused this change from a seemingly workable beneficent economic consensus to one so manifestly deficient? The only political event that bridges the transition from one paradigm to the other that I can see that makes sense as a cause is the emergence of civil rights movement. Not that it, in itself, engendered a simple reaction by racists who then swept away 50 years of economic agreement. But it did encourage the rural white southern and working class Northern poor who for the most part benefited (and supported) the New Deal, to make a political alliance with those who hated it in an effort to roll back the threats to their precarious existence that they imagined the civil rights movement. Many of them, the working class and the southern white voter believed it generated. They were told by those who stood the most to gain financially by reversing the progressive economic consensus, that that economic consensus was responsible for financing “welfare state.” That the “welfare state” allowed the civil rights and other progressive movements to threaten their precarious hold on their newly won social and economic stability.
The tragedy for those folks who joined on to the bandwagon, was that while this alliance has been very successful in rolling back the previous economic consensus, it abjectly has failed in halting the ever-expanding tide civil rights and other progressive programs. This result has thrown that wing (that we now call “social conservatives”) of the alliance into ever-increasing paroxysms of insanity even to the point of lashing out against virtually all science and their own self-interest.
The irrationality of this wing has grown so outlandish, that recently some of the more insightful of those most opposed to the old New Deal economic paradigm see in them, their allies, a greater danger to their interests, than all but the most radical wing of their traditional opponents in the Democratic Party. They, these few, seem to be beginning to see in the current Democratic Party, the Reagan economic consensus without the socio-theologic crap.
After all, they may now reason, a few years of diminished expectations is a small price to pay for fattening up the pig again.
- Paul Krugman: Democrats Are the New Republicans (delong.typepad.com)