Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Down with the Kakistocracy

Here’s a multiple-choice quiz for you.

In 1829, the English writer, Thomas Love Peacock, a close friend of Percy Bysshe Shelley, coined the term kakistocracy, to mean “government by the least qualified and most unprincipled citizens.”  What is the origin of the term?

1.     Radio station KAKI in Juneau, Alaska (88.1 FM)
2.     The city of Kaki, in the Iranian province of Bushehr
3.     The village of Kaki, in the French Polynesian Tuamotu Archipelago
4.     The name used by the residents of the town of Kaltenkirchen to refer to the place where they live, when they don’t want to take the time to say all four syllables
5.     Abubaker Kaki, the Sudanese runner
6.     Kaki King, the musician
7.     a misspelling of khaki
8.     the Telegu word for crow
9.     the Maori word for the world’s rarest wading bird, the black stilt
10.  the Hungarian word for shit
11.  the Japanese word for persimmon…()
12.  …or fence or hedge or wall ( or sometimes , a variant writing of )
13.  …or oyster (牡蠣)
14.  …or firearms (火器)
15.  …or summertime (lit. “the flowering season”) (夏季)
16.  …or flower vase (花器)
17.  …or “as follows” (下記) (and there you see one of the main arguments for retaining kanji - to disambiguate the many homonyms)
18.  the ancient Greek word κάκιστος – kakistos – meaning “the worst”

Whatever the origin, I am joining in spirit the 40 democratic members of Congress who have committed themselves to skipping out on the inauguration of a colossal American kakistocracy on Friday.  And I am joining with a number of friends in body and spirit the Women’s March the following day in Oakland, California.  For those of you who can make it, it begins at Madison and 9th (by the Lake Merritt BART Station).  It will go up Oak to Lake Merritt, then along the lake past Snow Park and the Cathedral, left on Grand Avenue to Broadway, then down Broadway to the City Center.  Gathering time is 10 a.m. 

If I weren’t 99% certain that’s about all the walking I can do for one day, I would then hop BART over to San Francisco and join in their candlelight march on the same day, starting with a rally at 3 at the Civic Center and a march at some point down Market St. to the Embarcadero.  For those of you in the South Bay, there is also a march in San Jose starting at 10 a.m. in front of City Hall and ending at Cesar Chavez Plaza.  And if you live elsewhere in the country, word has it there are some 600 others to choose from!

What can we do, at this point, but register our dismay at the takeover of government by people willing to throw up to thirty-two million people off their health care insurance plans by 2026 and 18 million within the coming year, give preference to charter schools over public schools, deny climate change? To a gaggle of folk led by a pathologically narcissistic leader who uses language to rouse crowds and then denies having made his own statements in spite of incontrovertible evidence that he has made them, the presence of millions of eyes and ears.  A leader who promised to “drain the swamp,” leading most Americans to believe that meant rule by the 1% and then pulled a switch and proceeded to increase and tighten the very oligarchic control people thought he was freeing them from.  A man who tells the great civil rights leader John Lewis, who fought for the rights of blacks to vote his entire life, and got a cracked skull for his efforts, that he is “all talk and no action.”  A man who feuds with traditional media outlets and reaches out to the white supremacist organization Breitbart as its propaganda organ.  A man who has thrown his support behind the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.

I hope the marches will highlight the fact that despite the technical legitimacy of Trump’s win (I disagree with Lewis on that), the way the election was managed is highly suspect.   Our intelligence agencies assure us there was Russian interference; there is a strong argument to be made that the FBI chief sabotaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign at a crucial final moment; and he actually came in behind by nearly three million votes, but won anyway, thanks to a bizarre and outdated electoral system kept in place in part by the gerrymandering of voting districts.

I support Oakland’s decision to refer to this march not as a “protest” march, but a march of support for the rights of women and minorities, a movement, in the organizers words, “to unify and empower everyone who stands for human rights, civil liberties, and social justice for all… to find healing and strength through tolerance, civility, and compassion.”

But at the same time, I think most people marching will share my conviction that, whether you call it one or not, it is a protest march.  And not just against the assumption of power by a superrich bunch of self-serving bastards.  But over the seriously messed up American way of doing business and running ourselves as a society. While Lewis's claim that Trump is illegitimate is controversial, what is not arguable is that the election brought out in clear relief how thoroughly corrupted America’s political system has become.  How terribly far we have strayed off the path toward democracy to a rule by oligarchs, with the widest gap between rich and poor since 1928. And a tax plan that would give 99.6% of tax cuts to people in the top 1%. 

So much is seriously wrong.  The pitiful sight of watching Americans run from the frying pan that was Hillary Clinton to the fire that is Donald Trump has only revealed the danger of believing what you want to believe, rather than insisting on facts supported by evidence.

I’m marching mostly because I don't know what else to do and I'm so pissed off that I have to move my arms and legs or go crazy.  And I'm hoping it will serve as an impetus for consciousness raising.  For some sign that we can get off this "Make America great again" bullshit train.  Again?  You mean we were a better place once than we are now? When was that?  When we had slaves and committed genocide against the native population?  Before women could vote?  When children worked in factories?  When a black man could be lynched with impunity?  When gays learned self-loathing with their mother's milk?  Just what the hell are we supposed to be going back to?

I know, I know.  I'm getting carried away with the liberal lefty crap.  I know they're referring to a time when we had more manufacturing jobs, and I appreciate that it has been heartbreaking to watch jobs dry up.  And watch your country develop more wealth than ever before, but not get your fair share of it.  But it's not foreigners who took the jobs; it's technology.  Not Mexicans. Robots. And the robots are not going to give them back to you. 

This scapegoating of foreigners has some people (like me) wondering if this isn't opening the door to fascism.

I heard Michelle Malkin tell an audience at UC Berkeley some time ago that we were right to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II.  The audience consisted in large part of Japanese-Americans, some of whom had vivid memories of those camps. Because they're Japanese, they internalized their rage. Instead of storming the stage and ripping her heart out, they sat in their chairs and cried quietly. I consoled myself by saying she was part of the lunatic fringe.

Until I heard her speak again, and tell us this time we should be using that experience to isolate Muslims.  And I realized her lunacy was now a policy advocated by the soon to be inaugurated president-elect.

I'll tell you what I'd like to go back to.  To a time before Republicans began sneering when they uttered the word "progressive." 

Progress is going from good to better and hoping to eventually get to the best.  

Best.  You know.  That's the opposite of the worst.


No comments: