Last week, Umair Haque wrote a piece called Why Americans Are Trapped In A Sadistic Society, not a direct reference to Missouri's disgraced former governor, Eric Greitens, who was ousted when an s&m scandal blew wide open. Haque instead wrote about the dysfunctional response from American conservatives to the pandemic. He wrote that he wasn't surprised that the neo-fascist embracing half of the country referring to Biden's moderate mandates plan as "everything from 'fascism' to 'totalitarianism' to 'tyranny.' ... The bizarre, delusional, bonkers way that American conservatives respond to the notion of getting a vaccine for a deadly pandemic. It’s revealing of what American conservatism really is, or what it’s become: sadism, in flimsy disguise.
The thought doesn’t seem to occur to American conservatives that they’re lucky. The world can’t get enough vaccines, precisely because Saint Joe Biden-- canonized by American liberals-- isn’t letting it. Saint Joe and his merry gang of neoliberals are defending the rights of Big Pharma to make history’s greatest fortune off the back of Covid vaccines-- instead of open sourcing Covid vaccines for the world. That’s horrific enough, but what’s even more horrid is the way that American conservatives don’t get they’re the lucky ones: they can have vaccines, precisely because Joe Biden is hoarding them for them.
A little gratitude might be in order, even if mixed with a little guilt, because, well, the world should have vaccines too. American liberals don’t feel the guilt-- and American conservatives don’t feel the gratitude.
So what do they feel? They feel rage. Because, as they’ll tell you over and over again, “nobody should have the right to decide what to do with my body!” (Let us not miss the deep and cruel hypocrisy of Governor Greg Abbott of Texas bemoaning the loss of “Texans’ right to choose” after… removing women’s right to choose and turning the state into a totalitarian theocracy.) Funny, because it’s not as if you have any real choice over what goes in your body in America. Food is made out of chemicals, high fructose corn syrup, and GMOs, which are banned in Europe. Water supplies in city after city are poisoned. You don’t have much control over what goes in your mind, either-- the media’s owned by a tiny handful of corporations, just as the food supply is. Conservatives don’t object to any of that, let alone the hypocrisy of being anti-abortion while claiming to love small government and “the right to choose.”
...I’m trying to make that point crystal clear for a reason. The conservative objection to vaccines isn’t based on reason. Of course it’s not based on facts or logic, either. And this is key, because now it begins to let us understand what American conservatism really is. So if it’s not about reason, or self-control, or any of those things, then what is it about?
What do the following three things all have in common-- apart from American conservatives fanatically advocating them? 1) Carrying a machine gun to Starbucks. 2) Setting bounty hunters on women for violating religious precepts. 3) Refusing Covid vaccines.
They are about control and domination and punishment. And in that way, they begin to reveal the toxic, fatal mess that American conservatism really is.
...What does it mean when I “refuse” to take a Covid vaccine? There are no good objections-- one based on reason-- anymore. Yes in the beginning, it was understandable to worry about the effects of a brand new vaccine. Now? No. What it really means when I won’t take a Covid vaccine isn’t about me at all. It’s about you-- about society at large, in fact. It says, starkly, “I don’t care about you at all. You are worth nothing to me.”
In other words, the refusal to take a Covid shot, among conservatives has become a kind of rallying cry and litmus test precisely because it signals a set of values-- hyper individualistic ones, so individualistic they’re toxic.
Such values deny the existence of any kind of social responsibility. They say: “I don’t have any responsibility to the rest of you. Such obligations don’t exist at all.” Never mind the fact that if I get sick, I might infect you. Not my responsibility.
But it goes much, much deeper than that. Not taking a Covid vaccine is just like carrying a machine gun to Starbucks. In both cases, I’m reserving the right to harm you. I’m intimidating you, threatening you. This gun might just go off. I might just infect you. Your life is worth nothing to me.
I’m the powerful one here. I’m the dominator, and you’re the dominated.
Never mind the bizarre, perverse outcome of all this, which is that conservatives in America are dying because they won’t take the vaccines. See the point of it: they’re willing to die to send this signal. They’re literally willing to die on the hill of domination, selfishness, harming others, abusiveness.
What does that make them? Martyrs for a cause. In this case, the cause is the surviving conservatives dominating the rest of us: having the means to intimidate and threaten and subjugate everyone else, whether with a machine gun, or by carrying a deadly virus. But the principle is one and the same: I don’t just deny any form of social responsibility exists, I go two steps further. I intend to harm you. To brutalize you. You are just a piece of meat to me, which can be ripped apart by a bullet, or a virus. You mean nothing to me-- and I’m going to show you, degrade you, abuse you.
What’s all that called, in much simpler terms? Sadism. American conservatives, above all, are sadists. They revel in the harm and suffering they cause. They don’t just observe it with a kind of sinister curiosity, like sociopaths, really. They genuinely delight in it. They get off on it. The intimidation and threats and violence and brutality. Sadism is the core of American conservatism.
...So why are American conservatives sadists? That’s a more interesting-- and twisted-- question. The simple fact is that all Americans are taught to be sadists. The indoctrination starts young. Weakness is taught to be a liability to schoolchildren. Domination is rewarded from the very beginning. The athlete becomes the frat boy who date rapes his way through college into oblivion. And from there, his “brothers” reward him with a plush, well-paid job.
America is a society where sadists win. You don’t have to look very hard to see it. What are the CEOs who take home gigantic bonuses for driving the rest of society to ruin if not sadists? The people running the Ponzi scheme of “health insurance”? Wall St? How about the billionaires jetting off to Mars, rubbing it into everyone else’s face? Why doesn’t Zuck ever clean up Facebook? Jeff Bezos could give everyone on earth a Covid vaccine, and it wouldn’t even break the bank. Why doesn’t he?
...[W]hy are Americans sadists? The answer to that goes like this. It’s all they have. All they have, all they’re allowed to have, is the psychological pleasure of rubbing someone else’s face in the dirt. Conservatives take it to an extreme-- women are objects, you’re a thing my bullets are made to kill. But liberals do it, too: an American liberal will equally not believe in a society where everyone is genuinely allowed to have healthcare or retirement or as much education as they want as an inalienable right.
Both sides support the basic idea that people should be locked into conflict, competing for resources-- tiny morsels of money, shelter, food, medicine. And if they can’t compete, if they’re not “competitive”, if they lose the battle for a “job” or a “career” or an “income”, then they don’t deserve anything. No dignity, no purpose, no life, no security.
Because both sides believe in this social order-- all perpetually pitted against each other, the invisible hand of the market the only real mechanism in society-- people are reduced to adversaries, rivals, enemies. I come to regard you with hostility and suspicion, because it’s either you or me. We don’t both get income, healthcare, medicine, money, shelter-- only one of us does, whichever one is more “competitive”, meaning more ruthless, cruel, domineering, at the moment.
...That’s starkly unlike the modern, sophisticated social democracies of Canada and Europe. There, everyone is guaranteed the basics. The result is that people aren’t in perpetual competition with one another, over essential resources, like medicine, money, food. And the result of that is Canadians and Europeans aren’t sadists. Canadians are renowned for being nice, and Europeans for being expansive, generous, warm.
Americans aren’t like that. They’re cold, hostile, indifferent. They’ve been so traumatized they will look at you up and down, first, to see if you’re a threat, before-- if ever-- they regard you as a human being. They are so accustomed to degrading and dehumanising one another, making each other into commodities first, and never human beings, friends, allies, partners, that they cannot seem to imagine any other way of life is remotely possible than this dance of self-destruction.
The consequences of this way of life are evident by now. America’s social fabric does not exist. If you live in a profoundly hostile world, like most Americans do, then you must become paranoid. You must regard everyone and everything else as a possible threat, scanning the horizon. A society like that never develops as one. Its social fabric-- bonds, ties, social capital-- can’t expand, deepen, broaden. It can only wither, shrink, and atrophy. To the point of nothingess.
Charlie Sykes is a life-long conservative, but now a dedicated NeverTrump conservative. Today at Bulwark, where he's editor, he wondered aloud if his party wants to continue torturing itself by hanging on to Trump. Why haven't they dumped him already? He blamed the blowout against the recall on the GOP having lashed itself "even more tightly to the Orange Man-Child of Mar-a-Lago... The great political mystery of our time has been the refusal of the GOP to take the many off-ramps from Trumpism. They could have put the petulant, disgraced, defeated one-term president firmly in the rearview mirror-- but, instead, they have embraced their hostage status with an obsequiousness that makes the Stockholm Syndrome seem quaint. Republicans could have moved on after the election; they certainly could have bailed after January 6. They even had a chance to wipe the slime off during the impeachment process. They could have refused to go along with the Big Lie and easily segued into post-Trumpian oppositional politics. Instead, they are poised to wear Trumpism like a coat of many colors into the mid-terms; and to nominate him for a second term in 2024, so that he can wage his paranoid revenge campaign against his enemies.
Yesterday, veteran New Hampshire state Rep. William Marsh (R-Wolfboro), removed the "R" after his name by visiting the town clerk of Brookfield and changing his registration to Democrat. In a statement to his constituents, he wrote that he's "come to realize a majority of Republicans, both locally and in the NH House, hold values which no longer reflect traditional Republican values. And so I am recognizing the reality that today’s Republican Party is no longer the party I first joined when campaigning for President Reagan many years ago... I cannot stand idly by while extremists reject the reasonable precautions of vaccinations and masks. And so I have reluctantly changed my party affiliation. I urge others to consider what is happening and come to their own conclusions."