Monday, October 29, 2012

As You Undergo Your Surgery

Jim Baca, the former television reporter, former Albuquerque mayor and long time state and federal government official who now writes the popular Only In New Mexico web log, is in the hospital undergoing knee replacement surgery. In his last posting, written just before entering the hospital, in which he includes a link to a video of a surgeon performing the kind of surgery he is undergoing, he commented on the fact that the science and technology that make his surgery possible is under attack by a Republican Party that has become synonymous with religious fundamentalism. In his piece, which you can read here, as in much of his writing, he makes a lot of connections you might not think of, and provides his usual insights, which are founded in his unique life and experience, and does it with a wit that is just dry enough to allow him to express a truly outrageous sense of humor. Anyway, it inspired a comment by me, from my unique perspective, that turned out to be too long to be accepted by the comment form, so I just put it here.

There are a lot of people pulling for you including me, but I suppose by the time you see this you'll have successfully come through surgery, so congratulations!

And that, as you say, will be thanks to science and  technology. It's quite amazing, the tools the surgeon in the video has at his disposal, which include, outside the camera frame, a lot of well trained people and all kinds technology, in the operating room and throughout the hospital.

All of which is in danger of going away, and religious fundamentalism is one prong of the pitch fork because as you say, they see no need for science and technology.

The other is more ominous, I think. It's not about access to health care. It's that the wealthy, who have their own top notch private schools and hospitals, have funded in the last 30 years a coordinated attack on academia, the source of that science and technology, carried out by the think tanks they finance with help from the religious right, under the Neoliberal trickle down counterrevolution initiated by Ronald Reagan.

Google "Powell memo," written by a conservative corporate attorney from Virginia for a friend at the US Chamber of Commerce, which is seen by some as the blueprint for Neoliberalism in the US, Powell being Lewis Powell who Richard Nixon would soon appoint to the Supreme Court.

At the least, the attack on academia was laid out there. It doesn't get as much publicity as the attacks on unions and on the "Middle Class", but the students saddled with debt know about it. College teachers who have seen tenure become a relic of the past know about it -- most college teachers in the US now are adjunct with no job security, no benefits. Much of college is now huge classes taught by graduate students. Much of college research is now funded by corporations and the results quickly patented, hardly the way for technology to blossom and spread as it did when Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine and said the patent belongs "to the people."

Academia was attacked by the reactionary Capitalist class Reagan fronted for because it was seen as a hotbed of Liberalism, Socialism and Communism, and because the wealthy never saw the need to help pay for it. They learned how to control the political system and they no longer have to chip in, and aren't required to contribute to the common good -- let the lower classes pay for all of that. Let colleges become advanced vocational training centers where the children of the working class are trained for the low paying jobs of the future, and an extension of the increasingly prison like public schools where under Reform of the kind being advanced by Governor Martinez, young people are trained to fall in line, where critical thinking isn't taught, where there's nothing but never ending testing, and a war on the last of the well educated union teachers.

It's all happened gradually, over 30 to 40 years. At each stage it's become normalized. We've forgotten what it was like before, and anyway, soon no one will be around to remember the America we grew up in where one person working in a family earned enough to buy a house and one or two cars and retired with Social Security and a pension, and where the kids were guaranteed a good college education if they wanted one, paid for not by borrowing obscene amounts but with government grants, and low tuition subsidized by the government and yes, by the rich through the taxes they used to pay.

Democrats give us vague promises about being for the "Middle Class," but they've gone along with all of it, meanwhile the president's Homeland Security forces coordinate the shutdowns of all the Occupy encampments, where peoples' awareness of what has happened was being raised.

What someone like me says about it doesn't even register with most people. The individual things I cite, yes, OK, but the collective picture doesn't make sense. We're Americans, optimistic. We've always believed in a future that will arrive as soon as the economy improves, and in that we're like people who believe in books written by fishermen and shepherds, because we still believe it in the face of declining wages and living standards and as inequality continues to mushroom.

It's 1920 in America, and it will be left to young people to lead themselves out of this. They have no illusions about jobs and pensions, about things coming back that they've never even had. They see that both major political parties have given up on the common good and that platitudes about fighting for the Middle Class in the absence of actually doing so amount to so much hypocrisy. They'll discover everything for themselves and create a better world than this one.

That's what I believe. That's what I hope, but on a rational level it's what I believe because it's what's always happened in the past. People eventually get enough injustice and they rebel. I believe it because we're Americans, and we were born in revolution.


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