Joe Bageant died yesterday. He fought a good fight against cancer the past 4 months and kept writing and posting.
Here is part of a piece he wrote not too long ago:
Ignorance and courage in the age of Lady Gaga
By Joe Bageant
Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico
If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.
One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?
But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don’t even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.
As William Edwards Deming famously demonstrated, no system can understand itself, and why it does what it does, including the American social system. Not knowing shit about why your society does what it makes for a pretty nasty case of existential unease. So we create institutions whose function is to pretend to know, which makes everyone feel better. Unfortunately, it also makes the savviest among us — those elites who run the institutions — very rich, or safe from the vicissitudes that buffet the rest of us.
I will miss the guy.