COLUMN ONE HUNDRED, DECEMBER 1, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
THOUGHTS ON AHNOLD
[Lionel Rolfe is the author of Literary L.A., Fat Man on the Left and the forthcoming, My
Yaltah: The Story of Yaltah Menuhin and Willa Cather.]
Ahnold is the kind of guy who forces you to think about politics. And I have to admit, I'm dealing with a prejudice. It's never failed for me---scratch an Austrian and you invariably find a Nazi.
I suppose that's why Ahnold's accent sticks in my craw like a goose-stepping cockroach.
But there's a lot more to fear from Ahnold than his outsize Nazi accent. Germans were much more mixed than Austrians in their fascism. Many Germans were valiant fighters against Nazis--maybe even a majority. They really were the products of the land of Beethoven and Goethe. They too were killed in Hitler's ovens. Communists went to concentration camps along with labor leaders and artists and writers. Jews and gypsies went no matter who or what they did, of course. In fact so many Germans were socialists and communists had they joined forces again Hitler, they would have easily far outnumbered the Nazis in Germany.
But the leftists spent more energy fighting each other than they did their common enemy.
The Austrians never had that kind of dichotomy. I suppose there must be some progressive Austrians somewhere, but if there ever were one I suspect he or she was killed many eons ago.
Ahnold hardly disproves these notions of mine. Indeed, he confirms them.
For one thing the guy is a Republican. One of the reasons I've always hated Republicans is that in extreme conditions, they turn out to be Nazis in the making.
This was apparent when the forces around Ronald Reagan took over the party.
And you take the combination of an Austrian who proudly proclaims himself a Republican, you can put two and two together as well as anyone. Austrians have always been in serious denial about their Nazi tendencies. The fact is Ahnold grew out of the soil of fascism.
No doubt there are people who are going to say I'm just prejudiced. They will mention Mozart, and maybe Victor Gruen and perhaps Sigmund Freud---but the truth is Austrians and Austrian accents make me very nervous.
Having said that, Ahnold in particular makes me nervous. And not just because he's an Austrian.
Ronald Reagan began seeding the scene for fascism when he and the forces he represented took over the Republican party.
Now Ahnold is not as clueless a human being as President Bush--few mortals are. He certainly is not an intellectual and certainly no philosopher. He has the craftiness of a salesman, though, and worse, he has the craftiness of a damn good demagogue. As Hitler showed, his nation is quite adept at these.
Luckily we are not quite in the position that the citizens of the Weimar Republic were in. Things are not that desperate. But they are pretty damn desperate.
Some people think that Schwarznegger represents a cultural shift away from the Reagan and Bush type Republicans. Schwarznegger, the groper, would make a hard sell as a family values kind of guys. He's a bit looser about pot and gays and such as well.
Indeed, it would not be unfair to say he's a sexual predator. Unlike President Clinton, he didn't seek the consent of those women whose boobs he grabbed---and he certainly did not seek the
'Scratch an Austrian
and you invariably
find a Nazi'
consent of the poor woman whose throat he forced his smelly, cigar-smelling tongue
down. If he were black or Latino or poor, he'd be in jail for the kind of stuff he does.
But hey, that kind of makes him cool, right? Well, at least a lot of Republicans apparently think so. Personally, I'm not sure how Republicans can deal with the obvious contradictions in all this, but they obviously are willing to do so.
I don't see how they will be able to continue wanting to peer into our bedrooms in the way Attorney General John Ashcroft and others of his ilk are fond of doing and still make a hero out of Ahnold, who frankly puts to shame even the most libidinous bohemian among us, including this modest author.
Maybe they will have a special law allowing Ahnold not only to become the first foreign born to become president, but to grope whomever he wants, whenever and wherever he wants---and anyone who doesn't allow him that right will be summarily executed.
But the rest of us have to be strictly family values types.
Actually, the family values thing always was a kind of red herring. The real evil of Reagan was not the banal hypocrisy that Republicans and so-called "family values" types often demonstrate. The real danger is the shift in philosophy which made heroes out of businessmen and put down those who delve into philosophy, literature and political science.
Reagan hated the liberal arts, and he was the catalyst for the great attempt at dumbing down education. Part of this was endowing chairs of business at even the most prestigious universities. That meant that now one had to pretend that somehow business was a legitimate academic interest.
It was part and parcel of the idealization of greed, which is, after all, what business is.
Along with the proliferation of business types in academia, came a sudden change in newspaper editorial pages. Suddenly everyone was running editorials from authors on the staff of the Heritage Foundation, which once had been treated as what it was---a far right-wing ideological group.
The more recent development has been to push the idea---in academia and the media---that democracy and capitalism are one and the same.
This is a highly debatable notion, but it never is treated as such in the media.
Why doesn't anyone ever mention the possibility that economic democracy is a perfectly valid idea. That the idea of social democracy, which is widely accepted and even practiced in Europe, is a perfectly legitimate concept.
Why is "the market" the only legitimate way to run an economy---especially when in America's own experience, the "market" created by the Robber Barons at the turn of the century came to be reined in by tight anti-trust laws, and for good reason. Regulation turns out to actually be good for businessmen as a whole, but not for the most voracious among them.
The answer is obvious. The Republicans are trying---and so far succeeding---in rewriting history.
But that doesn't mean the "party line" that democracy and capitalism are one and the same is correct. It's just that---the party line.
As a democratic socialist, I find this concept offensive. I think democracy potentially works a lot better when it is in tandem with an economy that is democratically run.
Big corporations no more produce democracy than the communist party's central committees did.
The party line is just as ugly in the pages of the New York Times as it ever was in Pradva.
Anyway this is the real evil done by Reagan and now Bush Jr. and Ahnold. I don't care if Bush does cocaine and gags on pretzels or Ahnold likes to take a toke or a grope now and then.
The real evil is how the economic plutocracy has become such a paradigm in American society and their antics only illustrate that.
I personally think that capitalism is very good for businesses that expresses personal tastes. That's why the idea of boutiques, restaurants, writers, artists and even small publishers, being capitalistic doesn't bother me. As long as they remain cottage industries and not monopolies.
But I think that transportation, housing and medicine are more equitably run where some sort of social conscience is involved as well as the driving force of profit-seeking.
Certainly there are dangers to monolithic socialist enterprises, but they certainly don't exceed the dangers of monopoly capitalism, which is what we got.
The real danger of an Ahnold, no matter how bizarre the whole thing appears, is that he is a Trojan Horse. The gall of these guys he's stalking for is amazing. Bush, Cheney and his cronies bankrupt California with their manipulation of energy prices at the same time Bush is bankrupting the country with straight out giveaways to his rich buddies and a war his friends profit from. Then they run Ahnold for governor because poor Gray Davis ended up with a state deficit!
It is not coincidence that Ahnold was hanging out with the Enron types long before the recall, talking about things other than just the weather, no doubt.
And voila, the foxes end up guarding the hen coop.
They no doubt knew that Gov. Gray was an easy mark because he was beholden to Edison, which was in on the deregulation scam engineered by Pete Wilson, the former governor who ran Ahnold's campaign.
I got to tell you they are bold. They're damn diabolical. I just hope their primary purpose is just to thieve and steal and not to establish a new Reich in the Golden State with their new Hitler doll, Ahnold. ##
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