America's Good Burghers Living in Debtors' Prison

Joe Bageant

Despite the bad name Jesus has with secular liberals these days, he did have the right idea. He'd get right down there on the street and grunt with the people, feeling them all over and healing their boils, feeding them and preaching his butt off while blind men popped open their eyes and lame folk started doing the Dead Sea Boogie.

No maintaining a professional distance for that guy. He just went out there and "got 'er done" in plain sight of everybody. Including the Hebrew religious mafia and the Roman superstate thugs of the time - which is why he got whacked.

Two thousand years later, the public expects more from their miracles than leprous hides instantly infused with the pink blush of health. Computer animation rendered all that passe decades ago. A wardrobe malfunction by Mary Magdalene might punch up the New Testament a little, but compassion for human suffering is never going to budge American TV ratings, and never going to register unless we see it in the cinema, where Jesus on a pole is occasionally acceptable, providing he spills enough blood a la Mel Gibson, while he is up there.

Call it media conditioned numbness, which it is. But it is safe to say most Americans don't give a damn about the rest of humanity, starving infants, the homeless and whatnot, so long as the unhygienic swarms stay the hell out of our yards and don't bring up that tired commie stuff about our lifestyle being based upon sweatshop misery. In that way, we all test positive for the devil's hickey.

Republicans may flaunt their hickeys like high school kids in the locker room, but guilt-plagued Democrats console themselves that they can banish it at the ballot box, if only they close their eyes and wish upon a star. Thus, their comfortable self-delusions that the Tiger Woods of the Democratic Party, the technically black, is somehow blessed with a melanin-based inner moral compass lacking in the rest of society, and therefore does not bear the damnable mark. Wiser souls, who are aware that Barack Obama possesses a net worth of several millions, a Harvard law degree and a career born in that venerable political whorehouse called Chicago, assume the mark is probably located where we cannot see it. Another political wish upon a star is that Hillary Clinton, a woman marked by so many hickeys she looks like a victim of massive subdermal haemorrhaging, will reform the brutal health care system without pulling up her skirt for the insurance industry. She says "there is no possible governmental solution that does not include the insurance industry".

Well, of course not. Industry is America's government. Voters merely decide which industries have front spots at the public trough. One's home is the new debtor's prison, a place where we sleep while we work off interest payments on the mortgage.

Meanwhile, out there in the vast looms of government-as-corporation, the fast food industry weaves the MacDonald's Cheeseburger Bill, giving itself immunity to lawsuits as it fattens a nation of steers whose sole purpose is to consume, never to be butchered, except in the wars that protect the corporate cheeseburger. Even on the battlefront, it turns profit on millions of burgers and fries that are served to those who fight America's oil and cheeseburger wars.

American consumers watch this on TV and see it as comfortably familiar. We cannot possibly be doing so badly in Iraq if a soldier can get a Red Bull energy drink and a Puff Daddy CD on the battlefield.

Right? Which is true enough, if you have been obliviously conditioned to see these as symbols of liberty and the utmost accomplishment of the republic - if you see it as "our way of life". And indeed our way of life is rapidly coming to that: oblivion with an order of fries.

Joe Bageant is the author of Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches From America's Class War.

Copyright © 2007 The Sydney Morning Herald

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