Category Archives: Real American Heroes

One Link Shorter: Joe Bageant 1946-2011

Barack promised change — and sure enough, things changed for the worse

-Joe Bageant

It was with immense sadness that I discovered that Joe Bageant had succumbed to cancer and departed this mortal coil the weekend prior to last. I was a huge fan of Joe’s, his writings, especially in recent years as the obvious decline and fall of America into fascist third world status accelerated were poetic, mournful, darkly funny and dead on. He will be missed, as Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “the tribe is smaller by one, the circle is one link shorter and the enemy jacks up the odds by just a little bit more”.

I never knew Joe Bageant yet he was a hero to me. In a time when the very word “hero” has been sickeningly cheapened by every jack-shit fuckball of a politician to feed swill to the idiots, lemmings and mean-spirited moronic bitches and bastards that buy the bullshit. In America today one has to do virtually nothing to be a “hero”, just being in the military makes one a “hero” but not as much as being killed in our ongoing foreign escapades of state-sponsored murder our one of the precious boys in blue and kevlar who happens to be shot down in the line of duty, the police are especially revered in a police state. Politicians of both rotten parties find their bread and butter in paying homage to the doomed victims of U.S. imperialist policy in our viscera and damnation soaked crusades, to the police and fire fighters whose only qualification for exalted status is doing their fucking jobs, Joe was the real deal. Post 9/11/01, when the reset button was officially hit on whatever was once decent about this rancid land of fear and greed the term hero becomes perverse, so Orwellian has the alteration of language become in the New American Century. If evil evil becomes banal in the personifications of efficient little bureaucrats like Eichmann so has heroism in the red, white and blue reich. I renounce it all of course and it takes real honest to Christ accomplishments to qualify for “hero” in my book, Mr. Bageant has been there since the day that I discovered his work and deservedly so.
I doubt that Joe would have been much of a fan of my style of writing, perhaps he would have been repulsed at my vitriol, my lack of compassion and my taste for the fresh blood of the jugular, when dealing with the filthy and deranged pigs who run this sty one must confront them on their own levels and even take it up a notch, the old Untouchables saying comes to mine about pulling a gun if the other guy pulls a knife. Joe Bageant wasn’t about that, he was a damned decent and compassionate man, possessed of the sort of the wisdom of the elders that is treasured in honorable societies unlike this diseased rollerball rink of carnivorous rat-fuckers. His writing of why the poor, white working class and what drove them to continue to vote against their own economic self interests was never judgmental and since Joe came from that place his understanding and his eloquence were his great gift. Nowhere did Joe Bageant do this than with his book Deer Hunting With Jesus, I would recommend it to everybody. His last book Rainbow Pie will soon be available domestically as well and I hope that it sells like crazy so that more people can be exposed to his great work and in some way become enlightened. 
I really wanted to do a long tribute to Joe, but somehow anything that I were to write about the man would not do him justice, therefore I have decided to excerpt some of my favorite bits of his work as my own way to honor him, his loss is all of our loss and in a land where losing is the norm it is only a matter of time until there will be nothing left to lose. 
Two hundred years ago no one would have thought sheer volume of available facts in the digital information age would produce informed Americans. Founders of the republic, steeped in the Enlightenment as they were, and believers in an informed citizenry being vital to freedom and democracy, would be delirious with joy at the prospect. Imagine Jefferson and Franklin high on Google.
The fatal assumption was that Americans would choose to think and learn, instead of cherry picking the blogs and TV channels to reinforce their particular branded choice cultural ignorance, consumer, scientific or political, but especially political. Tom and Ben could never have guessed we would chase prepackaged spectacle, junk science, and titillating rumor such as death panels, Obama as a socialist Muslim and Biblical proof that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs around Eden. In a nation that equates democracy with everyman’s right to an opinion, no matter how ridiculous, this was probably inevitable. After all, dumb people choose dumb stuff. That’s why they are called dumb.
But throw in sixty years of television’s mind puddling effects, and you end up with 24 million Americans watching Bristol Palin thrashing around on Dancing with the Stars, then watch her being interviewed with all seriousness on the networks as major news. The inescapable conclusion of half of heartland America is that her mama must certainly be presidential material, even if Bristol cannot dance. It ain’t a pretty picture out there in Chattanooga and Keokuk.
The other half, the liberal half, concludes that Bristol’s bad dancing is part of her spawn-of-the-Devil mama’s plan to take over the country, and make millions in the process, not to mention make Tina Fey and Jon Stewart richer than they already are. That’s a tall order for a squirrel brained woman who recently asked a black president to “refutiate” the NAACP (though I kinda like refutiate, myself). Cultural stupidity accounts for virtually every aspect of Sarah Palin, both as a person and a political icon. Which, come to think of it, may be a pretty good reason not to “misunderstimate” her. After all, we’re still talking about her in both political camps. And the woman OWNS the Huffington Post, fer Christsake. Not to mention a franchise on cultural ignorance.
Cultural stupidity might not be so bad, were it not self-reproducing and viral, and prone to place stupid people in charge. All of us have, at some point, looked at a boss and asked ourselves how such a numb-nuts could end up in charge of the joint.
 
The most dangerous question in the world
Yet, I dare say that comfort is not the most important thing in most American lives. It is just the only thing we are offered in exchange for our toil and the pain of ordinary existence in such an age. Consequently, it is all we know. Meaningless work, then meaningless comfort and distraction in the too-few hours between sleep and labor. But we settled for that and continue to do so. The day will never come when we stand around the office water cooler and ask one another: “Why in the hell are we even here today?” It’s the most dangerous question in America and the Western world.
Some few of us are in a hellish limbo, simply waiting for total collapse because it is easier to rebuild from nothing than to change billions of minds not even remotely concerned with the looming catastrophe. A minority of the world, the six percent called America, suffers the mass self-delusion of endless plentitude. A much larger portion is less concerned with the moral aspects of consumption because they are brutally engaged in trying to find enough to eat and a drink of clean water. So plentitude on any terms looks damned good. Escape to America because those fuckers over there don’t seem to be suffering at all.
Now it took me one helluva long time to claw my redneck self into the middle class and it took me even longer to figure all this out about its inauthenticity. Always one to fuck up right in front of the whole damned world, I loudly declared American middle class life to be a crock of shit and vowed to kiss it off. Go someplace simpler. Run nekkid in the surf in Saint Kitts or smoke pot in Belize. Catch my own damned salmon on the Galician Coast. But whoaaa hoss! This bad news just in: Not only do you have to buy your way into the American middle class through forceful consumption of the lifestyle, but you have to buy your way out of it. I’m serious. Buy your right to live in poverty. Let’s say you’ve managed to get your kids through college one way or another, usually via a second mortgage and loans, and you decide like I did to say: Fuck this. I’ve done right by my family. Now I’ve got high blood pressure, a bad back, and a million other stress ailments. I’m overweight and have terrible lungs. Now I want to escape the ever rising cost and stress of playing the game, the grinding chase after enough net worth to feel safe about such things as health care and a safe place to shit. Spend a few years in some warm place blinking at blue, unpolluted sky before I go tits up. To my mind, these are completely understandable sentiments for any reasonable person. But, alas dear hearts, the American middle class is a lockdown facility. One that takes a lot of cash bribes and blackmail payoffs to break out of.
Now making complicated plans just to croak has always seemed rather excessive to me. Millions manage to do it without much planning or the need for highly paid experts. I don’t care about financial planners or plans for elder care and such crap in my old age. I’m willing to die wretchedly and maybe even unnecessarily, if doing it the right way means blowing a couple hundred thousand dollars I do not have to buy few extra months drooling and talking out of one side of my mouth following that stroke I so richly deserve, given my debauched life. To hell with health care as we know it in America, which is to say as a tool used to blackmail every working person in this country. Better to work less, own less and escape the plague of blackmailers.
You would think owning jack shit and expecting nothing would allow a guy slightly more freedom from toil, would you not? Yet, even though I never wish to own a car again, or ever own another house, don’t care about clothes, could easily live on grains, fruits and vegetables, and am willing to work maybe 20 hours a week at some mindless occupation so long as it does not contribute to the world’s misery and doesn’t require heavy lifting or good memory, and willing to live in the tiniest of rooms, it’s still impossible to do so inside this nation, once you’ve signed the middle class blood oath. Even if I managed to talk my wife into such a life, this is the one thing I am not free to do in the good old land of the free. In this country, buster, you keep paying the going rate, even if you don’t care about going. Like the Cajuns say, you will know when you are dead because the bills will quit coming in.
One of the most unsettling things about this country is that the following people are considered perfectly sane by American standards: Dick Cheney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Deepak Chopra, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Pat Robertson, Grover Nordquist, and Michelle Malkin. See anybody in that list even remotely normal? Every one of them lives in an egomaniacal la-la-land of his or her imagination and manages to get paid to do it. Believe me when I say that just about any face you see on your television or in the newspaper is a nutjob. I used to interview such freaks for a living. Of course, given that American journalists and interviewers have become mindless suck-asses, I understand that I may have a credibility problem here. But onward!
 “Adolf Eichmann was thoughtful, orderly, and unimaginative. He had a profound respect for system, for law and order. He was obedient, loyal, a faithful officer of a great state. He served his government very well. The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, and destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.”
– Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable
Any culture that spends as much money as we do on ugly cars, fast food and liposuction cannot possibly be sane. Certainly we are not paying attention to cause and effect. Then I consider those Australian aborigines who ritualistically smash their cranks with a heavy rock and conclude that we Eurotrash hog thieves have come at least a little way in the last few hundred years. Despite the aboriginals’ eco-friendly grasp of nature and the planet, we have an edge when it comes to male puberty. There is a certain element of national sanity in a country that grasps the post-pubescent male advantages of football over a heavy rock.
Unfortunately, our national sanity is of the thoroughly dangerous sort — the Third Reich sort. Remember that even Adolf Eichmann was determined to be completely sane by a panel of medical experts. At least as sane as you and me and if you would like to be excluded from this comparison, you may be excused. Like the other good Nazis, ole Eich would have easily made a respected member of American society today, probably as a Republican judicial nominee. He would have fit quite well into a nation of Americans going about its daily business caring for and protecting the homeland’s security and profitability. Eichmann slept well at nights, the same as most of us, unaffected in appetite. He would have made a good carpooler, telling us all about the kids and grandkids as we commute the monotonous asphalt strips to and from our jobs, creating the paper work and the information product, the plastics and the commerce of the fatherland, that great sprawling circuit board one sees from airplanes. Like Eichmann, we are efficient, productive, and most terribly of all, untroubled by guilt. Oblivious as gravestones. Sane.
Joe Bageant’s essays are available in a nice .pdf format here – please take the time to read them and pass them on, his work is important and the greatest honor that one could pay to Joe Bageant would be to turn on as many people as possible to it. 
Adios Joe, you will be missed.
EE
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