Monday, June 25, 2012

Gail Collins on Texas

Growing up in central Texas in the roiling wake of court ordered desegregation, Madaylin Murray O'Hiar vying with hippy professors for the incandescent Left while John Connolly sharpened his precocious pre-Rovian knife to lead the avant-garde of the New South from Democratic bondage into the numinous Right, whenever I tried to see or be in a world of strong and aesthetic liberalism I was either hit on by a left that assumed I was gay, or hit by the right on the same guess.  

That was what convinced me that metonymy was the sin of the time: confusing a sign for but one of the things it could signify.  

But that was before the Texas Oligarch financed alternate fact universe's successful thirty year advection across the continent. Like the strangely dense objects in Borges "Tlon, Uqubar, Orbis Tertius", the weighty fictions spouted interminably from the pieholes of pluto have frightened popular consciousness across the nation into the quivering bullion most useful to authoritarianism's narrow interest. It has transubstantiated greed into good and honor into theft. It has become in actuality what it began as a mere description of, a world of cold yellow metal.  In what naive past was political spying, secret arrest and torture a shame? And one we pitied our defeated foes for degrading themselves with. We did not yet understand them to be the essential bulwark of "freedom" the paranoid bolus of Plutocracy knows, and has convinced us, they are.

Signs and what they represent. Freedom is a sign that means everything and nothing, or something essential if essentially defined. But such definition is anathema to plutocracy where freedom is most universal for those within the plutocracy, it's increasingly constrained as your bank balance dwindles right down to the feudalism of the Pay Day Lender. 

Gail Collins has a pretty good take on Texas, but like Wall Street's Sinologists can't quite see past the formal veneers of nominal power in her subject, into the chthonic, (and this being Texas, warm, damp and subterranean means slimy) institutional holdovers from Spain, Mexico, the Republic, the Confederacy and Jim Crow. These are cultural institutions that have deeper roots than any political or economic ones as they are propagated in the crib, at second birthday tea parties and on the touch football field of early adolescence. Blood may be thicker than water, bloody mindedness certainly is, and that runs deep in Texan's myths of victim hood, no less carefully nurtured than holocaust memories (though for a baser purpose). I mean Texans have been hauling around their perverse sense of victim hood since the Civil War, hell since Santa Anna's troops bayoneted William Barret Travis at the Alamo.  

And again like the Wall Street Sinologists, Collins fails to see the central issue is, like that in China, a shameless nexus between money and power. As a kid I watched what the occasional false step did to ones career prospects in the cloistered society of old Austin, a world thankfully killed by the tech boom I missed, where offense left no future but emigration. What this meant for the liberal politics of the state was that anyone who was not tenured to that portion of the New Deal retired at the LBJ school packed up and left. But emigration too proved a con when Bush Senior was chased from the White House for prosecuting S&L fraud for the rampant criminality it was. By then the plutocracy of the old Texas Oligarchs had found its footing on the national stage and was using it to liquidate checks and balances through the balance of check books, consolidating final control in a Washington Wall Street colossus that notes its condescension (with kill lists) each time we refuse to bow.

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