Scene4 Magazine: Michael Bettencourt
Michael Bettencourt
Political Theologies
Scene4 Magazine-inView

March 2012

I don't want to write about this, but it's impossible to remain silent when our politicians, and the whole process that saddles us with them, has become our enemy — or, thanks to the Occupy movement, the enemy of the 99%.

This has to do with the infiltration of corporate DNA into the body politic and the ascendency of "market-think," the theology of an unregulated invisible hand arranging reality in the most efficient way possible, undisturbed by the human suffering caused by the inevitable inequalities that capitalism generates.

Is this not the kind of politics that the current congeries of Republican candidates put forth, with the addendum of a fierce faith in the power of the individual to single-handedly alter reality by sheer will power?  This is a faith, by the way, largely without a basis in fact — as Elizabeth Warren has said, no one makes it entirely on his or her own.  And it's also an effort that these putative masters of the universe have never had to make, given the privileges and access they've enjoyed.

But at even more fine-grained levels, corporatism has infiltrated the process.  In a recent Nation article on redistricting, those in charge of the process gerrymander districts so that they can gather in one place the voters they need to stay in office, just as companies like Apple and Amazon and Google try to commandeer consumers into their "walled gardens."

The Supreme Court, through the Citizens United decision and many other decisions that go unreported, constantly reinforces the authority of corporate institutions over individuals, to the point of alchemizing these institutions into individuals and defining actual individuals as simply adjuncts, not the masters, of these organizations.

The lobbying powerhouses, the money it takes to get elected, etcetera, etcetera — none of this is news or surprising, but its known-ness doesn't diminish how bilious and scurvy the whole business is.

This is not to say that people — actual biological people — are utterly powerless in this process.  When the electorate gets jolted into awareness — the Keystone pipeline, for instance — they can bring transformative power to bear.  But it seems that the situation is one where the electorate must always be in the position of chastising those it has elected to do their job in representing them and not their corporate paymasters — and the minute the pressure is eased, back to their skullduggery they go until the electorate gathers enough voltage to rouse itself again.  It's an exhausting process.

I do have fantasies about things that could throw a wrench into the machine to show off its illegitimacy.  I muse about a "vote strike": what if they gave an election and nobody came?  Or a version of that: everyone writes in "None of the above." Constitutional amendments: making all elections publicly funded at every level and limiting the campaign season to six weeks; abolishing both houses of Congress and replacing them with a unicameral legislature; limiting Congressional sessions to three months out of the year.

But, really, it's all fiddling while Rome burns. I read a book like Tony Judt's Ill Fares The Land and weep because it will never happen here.  I read Terry Eagleton's Why Marx Was Right and realize how limited and rachitic is American thinking about liberation and rebellion. The United States is exceptional, all right, in that we lead in none of the categories that define a healthy and well-cared-for citizenry but take best of show in dealing out death and disaster around the world.  And we can't seem to help ourselves better ourselves.

The city on a hill has turned into a Trump tower.

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©2012 Michael Bettencourt
©2012 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Michael Bettencourt is a produced and published playwright and a Senior Writer and Columnist for Scene4.
Continued thanks to his "prime mate" and wife, Maria-Beatriz

Read his theatre reviews in Scene4's Qreviews
For more of his Scene4 columns and articles, check the Archives


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March 2012

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