A Third-Rate Bankrupt Dictatorship


In 2003, as we moved toward war, I read The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman, which I discussed briefly in this post on the bad popes of the Renaissance. As I mentioned there, Tuchman's discussion of Vietnam served as an excellent analogy for the "conflict" in Iraq, and served as well as good notice that the whole affair was going to be a MISTAKE.

Lately I've been watching (for the umpteenth time) something that I believe also serves as an analogy for the current political situation in the US: Simon Schama's 15-hour documentary History of Britain. In particular, episode # 8, "The British Wars," which discusses the revolution by which Britain briefly became a monarch-free republic, seems relevant. Armies were raised--many of them. There was a protracted civil war, a fight started because of a ruler who thought he deserved absolute obedience. Watching the episode, I have wondered what weapons ordinary citizens have against the despots who are seizing the country. I don't think we have many.

I hope I'm wrong, but I believe we are heading towards a revolution. I think it will be bloody. I think it will be brutal. I think it will bankrupt the country even more than the war in Iraq and the bailouts of Wall Street have done, and I think in a generation or two we'll be a third-rate bankrupt dictatorship somewhere between the current Zimbabwe and the old Soviet Union in terms of its repressiveness, its inability to provide its citizens with their basic needs, its misery and its blight.

Naomi Klein's article The Battle Plan II: Sarah "Evita" Palin and the Coming Police State adds to my dread. Read the whole thing. Read it carefully, especially the bit about our preparations for a homeland army that will fight in American streets against threats like natural disasters and terrorists. I hope you'll have more guts than I did and will send it to your Republican relatives. I don't dare, because I've been told that if I want certain members of my family to continue to talk to me, I won't discuss politics. But I know that I can't just sit by and watch as this happens. I don't really have much faith that the upcoming election will be anything but rigged, but I have to do what I can to affect the outcome. I've got to volunteer.


Oh god, I hope you're wrong.

I hope I'm wrong. I really, really hope I'm wrong. But I think it's important to be realistic about really-bad-case scenarios, because I don't know that any of us can even imagine the worst-case scenario.

I read that Klein article last night (and gave it to my husband who oh-my-godded all the way through it) and I think she has a point.

Before the RepubNatConvention, they were making a big deal about how members of the party had fashioned the platform in such a way that McCain would have to pay attention to certain things that he'd disagreed with before. I remember wondering why they'd put forward a candidate that they had to grab by the short hairs and beat about the head and shoulders with the platform. And then yesterday, I read that article and It All Made Sense.

My husband kept saying "with all of this attention they're giving to Palin, McCain and the rest of the party must be up to something, must be hiding something. She must be a smokescreen." And now it makes sense.

I'm not sure I agree with everything Klein wrote but I do think she's onto something.

I think a bloody revolution is not outside the realm of possibility. And you're probably right about what the outcome would be. I had one commenter say that since the system is broken beyond repair, we might as well encourage its demise. But, as broken as people may think the system is, it is unwise to imagine that a shoot-out would lead to something better (eg. a wonderful new Constitutional Convention!). Keep in mind who has the most guns.

On an unrelated note, have you ever read Reading Lolita in Teheran? The author/protagonist is an English Lit professor, and I'd be curious to have your opinion/perspective on some of the points she makes.

Hi Juti--

I'm not sure I agree with everything Klein wrote but I do think she's onto something.

Yes. If nothing else, the level of harassment and surveillance she's been subjected to indicates that she's on to something.

Hi CL--

Keep in mind who has the most guns.

EXACTLY. As well as tanks, riot gears, etc.

On an unrelated note, have you ever read Reading Lolita in Teheran?

Funny you should ask this--I was just talking to a friend about how disappointing we found this book. I read it several years ago and can't remember all that much about what I didn't care for, except that I found her ideas about literature really conservative and pedestrian. I don't think it's a good book to read if you want to get excited about literature--it would be better to read Lolita--and I also don't think it's an especially good about about Iran. A far better book is Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni.

I found her ideas about literature really conservative and pedestrian.

That's exactly the point I wanted to get a second opinion on, since I'm not an expert, and since I haven't read three of the four authors that make up the sections of her book.

The first literary discussion (Nabokov) gave me the impression that Lolita would be a very interesting book to read, so I'm putting it on my "to read" list. The second discussion (Fitzgerald) basically made never want to ever bother to read The Great Gatsby. The third one (Henry James) gave me the impression that James is really, really not worth reading, and the more she cheerled for the highlights of his work, the less interesting it sounded. The fourth one (Austen) -- finally on a book I'd actually read -- struck me as a pretty pedestrian and uninsightful analysis.

This passage in particular jumped out at me:

But remember how she is obsessed with Darcy, constantly trying to find fault with him, almost cross-examining every new acquaintance to confirm that he is as bad as she thinks? Remember her relations with Wickham? How the basis for her sympathy is not so much her feelings for him as his antipathy for Darcy?

I disagree with this analysis. I remembered reading your alternate analysis of Elizabeth's relationship dynamics with Wickham and Darcy, which I found far more reasonable. That's why I wanted to ask you about this. That, and the fact that you once said you hate Henry James.

As for her portrait of Iran, she has some really fantastic scenes and anecdotes, but I think they could have been woven together better as a narrative whole.

I'll have a look at Lipstick Jihad. I've been very interested in reading stories of women in Muslim nations lately, ever since Persepolis.

Anyway, sorry for the totally tangent thread-jack. ;)

Hi CL--

I wouldn't have imagined that a comment on this gloomy, depressing thread could make me burst out laughing, but yours did, when you remembered that I hate Henry James. (I do. I really do.) So not only is there no need to apologize for thread-jacking, I actually want to thank you for it.

I'm glad my reading of RLIT agreed with yours, and yes, I think you should try Lolita along with Lipstick Jihad.

I just ordered Lipstick Jihad, and the (Swiss) vendor burst out laughing. "Funny title" says he. ;)

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on September 23, 2008 6:26 AM.

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