Political Angst

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Last time, I wrote about fear and worry, and the bad effect it has on people – such as the “Thousand-yard Stare”, seen above, a sign of Battle Fatigue and impending PTSD.  I mentioned a great many worries associated with modern life that our evolutionary ancestors could never have known about – things our brains were never evolved to handle …

What I failed to mention was how very few of those things we can actually do something about.

You see, our brains evolved to handle dangers that can be acted on … in fact, our entire response to ‘danger’ is predicated on one of two actions: fight, or flight …

Danger: rattle-snake, response: flee. Danger: belligerent drunk, response: fight. Danger: fire, response: flee. Danger: snarling dog, response: flee. Danger:  enemy soldier, response: fight …

See?  Simple.  Danger, response. Danger activates Amygdala … adrenaline surge commenced … perception of time altered … strength increased … pain receptors numbed … response-time reduced … calculations performed … action taken!

Do that too many times, for too long, as in an extended tour of combat, and there’s a huge risk of permanent damage, usually in the form of PTSD – and, remember, that’s when the system is dealing with a danger that can be reacted to! When the danger is something that you know is out there, but you can’t take any action, things become more damaging, far more quickly – which is one reason why snipers are so incredibly effective:  for every soldier taken down by a sniper, there are several who saw it – saw death just suddenly take a comrade … and saw that there was not one damned thing he could have done to prevent it!

That knowledge eats at you. You want to act … you actually need to act … but you can’t:  can’t fight because the sniper is far off, hidden, and probably changing position after every shot … you can’t find him, and your weapon likely can’t reach him … he’s utterly safe and you are utterly not!  But you also can’t flee:  your duty insists that you hold your position – plus, you make a better target out in the open!

So you cower. Preferably in a deep hole, or behind a boulder. And it eats at you. And eats at you. And eats at you.

Remember Desert Storm?  It began with the well-thought-out “Shock and Awe” campaign; the Iraqi soldiers weren’t very well trained – and had no real idea of the kind of firepower they were facing.  They’d been promised that they would win the “Mother of All Battles” … that they’d cut down the invading infidels like a scythe through wheat …

Then their world exploded. And it kept on exploding, for nearly 2 weeks. Nothing to do but endure it. No action to take to stop it. No way to flee from it.

By the time the tanks got there, the army was a shambles of disorganized, demoralized, leaderless people who just wanted it to freaking stop! Even the elite troops that were still able and ready to fight, were equipped with old T-72 and type 69 tanks, and had no idea of the speed, accuracy, and firepower of the American M-1 Abrams tanks … The largest tank battle of the war, the largest in US history, in fact, was over in two hours, and resulted in one American casualty – from friendly fire.

It was a massacre.

Stay in that situation for too long, and madness is not far away.

Fortunately, most of us will never know the stress of combat. Most of us will never be hunted by a sniper, or have to worry that the thing we just stepped on was a mine, or be concerned about airplanes dropping bombs on us, or a cruise missile coming through our window …

The dangers of modern civilian life are vastly different from those facing soldiers – and yet, they’re still dangers as far as our nervous systems are concerned!  Except we aren’t allowed to shoot at them, and usually can’t run from them, either – most of the dangers faced by modern Americans simply can’t be reacted to … the damage that does is there:  subtly different from what a soldier endures, and much slower in manifesting its effects – and, unlike the dangers facing soldiers, these are widespread issues with our society:  they affect many more people than most military actions do …

I own my home. To be more accurate, Chase owns my home, and I pay a mortgage. The city I live in has a cost of living roughly as high as Manhattan Island:  I bought the house because a mortgage was actually lower than paying rent, in this area.  My entire life is dependent on my house:  without it, I can’t afford to live here, where my job is … I could, perhaps, afford to live somewhere else, but then I’d have to commute, and the cost of gas added to my rent or mortgage someplace else, would be as high as the mortgage I’m paying now … still, I can make it:  no luxuries, no nights out, no concerts or plays, or movies, and my bills will take nearly every dime I’ve got, from every paycheck – but if I’m very careful I can make it …

Trouble is, changes in taxes have made my mortgage go up, by $60. Increases in the price of oil have increased my power-bill, my gas-bill, and the cost of operating my car.  Every paycheck, something will dig into the over-draft protection at my bank – and they charge $30 per overdraft. Soon, I’m nearly $300 down, and the next pay cycle will be worse, and worse, and worse … and then I have a problem with my Air Conditioner, my plumbing, or my health, or I blow a tire and have to replace it …

Can’t fight it. Can’t flee from it.

If I lose my house, I pretty much lose everything:  furniture, computer, pets, room-mate (who doesn’t make nearly enough money to help) …

I lose my life. Not to a bullet, but to an Economic Disruption. And I’m not alone, sadly:  one friend lost her job 5 months ago. Unemployment is running out, and there are no jobs … another faced a “re-organization” at work, and got to worry for several months that she might lose her job … another friend makes all the money she can, and her husband works his ass off, but her medications are expensive, and they have bills that are harder and harder to pay … yet another friend has a husband dying of cancer:  it’s not even a question of saving his life, anymore, but of making the time he has left as pain-free as possible – but health-care is expensive in America, and she just had her computer re-possessed … my mother is two months behind on her mortgage payment, and can barely afford to live, even at that …

The screws keep turning. The pressure mounts. Our options narrow, and narrow, and narrow.  And, mostly, all we can do is work as hard as we can, and watch things get worse

The whole country is like this. Everyone has friends in pretty much the same situations as mine. Everyone struggles, except the very, very wealthy … and, because we live in America, we actually have it better than most countries! Look at Greece, ripping itself apart at the seams – and as the people become more hopeless, more hungry, more angry, the extremist groups move in, with wild claims about who’s at fault, and a bizarre plan to set things right, and enormous, gigantic lies about how great things will be, when they’re in power …

Greece is going through what Germany did, at the advent of the Nazis – quite literally:  the new Nazi party there is becoming very strong.  Because when people have no hope, and can’t act to defend themselves, they’ll believe whatever bullshit you spout at them – provided it gives them something to be against! Provided it gives them some action that can be taken! Hitler claimed the Jews were to blame for Germany’s troubles … well, Jews can be identified! They can be rounded-up! Deported! Killed!

Exterminated.

It’s beginning now, in Greece. And it can be smelled in America, the first wiffs of the stench of panic … The extremists have never been so powerful, not since the 50’s:  some of us listen to some of the laughable bullshit spouted by Tea Partiests, and think “God that’s absurd on the face of it! How can anyone buy into that shit???”

They buy into it because they’re hopeless – in the sense that they have literally lost all hope that things will get better … because the Tea Party offers them an enemy who’s to blame for all the nation’s ills:  the Economy? Well, that was caused by Godless, Atheist, Tax-and-Spend Liberals! (Except that it wasn’t:  it was caused by conservatives launching 2 simultaneous wars, with no clear goal, meaning there was no way to achieve victory, and end them, coupled with a reckless lack of regulation of the banking industry, and the home-financing industry … )  American values are eroding! Blame the Gays, Abortionists, Atheists, Hispanics, Blacks! The country has to be cleansed of these evils, and made fit for God’s Chosen People! (Also known as “Right-Thinking-Folk” who can clearly be identified because they go to a Christian Church, fuck only people of the opposite gender, won’t tolerate queer-marriages, wear american flag pins on their lapels, praise our boys over there (except the gay ones), and listen to Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and holiest of holies, Fox News!!!)

They are the ignorant, led by extremists … they have NO idea how to fix the economy, or fix any other of America’s problems, but they think they’re achieving good things by obstructing every attempt by responsible leaders to get anything done in congress! They can’t explain how allowing Gays to Marry hurts them – except that it erodes the Leave-it-to-Beaver values of the freaking 1950’s … they can’t explain exactly why a woman shouldn’t be able to decide what happens to her body, except to claim that Abortion is murder, because a few little cells are obviously a fully developed human being from the very beginning! They can’t explain why our children shouldn’t learn about evolution is school, but should  be taught the bible story of creation, or why they shouldn’t be taught about sex, but should be told to be good little boys and girls and not have any! Most of all, they can’t explain why Muslim extremism targeting all non-muslims is intolerant and wrong, but it’s ok to insist on Christian Values, Christian Creationism in school, Christian Prayers, there (“We’ll pray aloud to the one true God, while any Muslims, Jews, or Buddhists, can be respectfully silent, and later bullied by everyone who didn’t see their lips moving!”)

The Tea Party isn’t the problem:  there have always been extremist idiots, and they’ve never been much more than an annoyance – the problem is the hopelessness, and the need to act, that’s driving people into the embrace of the crazies …

The worst of all this is the outcome:  imagine a Tea Party President, Tea Party Cabinet, Tea Party Congress – in possession of the last and most powerful stockpile of nuclear weapons on the planet!

Fear and worry do bad things to people. And later those people use phrases like “We didn’t know it was happening!” or “We were only following orders!”

We stopped the Nazis. Who will stop us?

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~ by dourscot on July 5, 2013.

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