The cogs who would be wheels
January 3, 1984
Lord, how the years have passed!
Twenty years ago, I was suffering in the seventh grade under the stern gaze of Sister Cecilia (for the second year in a row).
Steven was my best friend. David was the strange kid down the block who I always saw running to and from the coffee shop near Vernon and Crooks.
Back then, and even before, I always looked ahead to the 1970s as “the future,” and constantly pondered what it would be like. Would we be traveling around in air cars and space ships?
The reality of those years (now firmly behind me) proved a sad disappointment with gas shortages, meat shortages, the loss of the war in Vietnam.
Few of us ever believed a president would step down; but then, who in our generation thought one might get shot?
For most of us of my generation, the shooting started a transformation process that we still have not fully recovered from – and which led to a change in America that America hasn’t yet recovered from, leading inevitably from one iconic moment to the one which the president gets on a plane for the west coast only to step off on the other side no longer president.
Most of my friends felt vindicated although enraged a short time later when the vice president pardoned Nixon making it impossible to hold him accountable for what many believed were war crimes.
Hank and others think Nixon and his associates got away with murder.
They want his kind punished.
Few believe as I do that there is little worse we could have done to him than to strip him of the office he loved so much.
Forcing him to step down as president humiliated him in a way no jail could have.
This is not as true for his compatriots such as Kissinger – who should be in shackles or at least, an iron mask.
The best punishment is to deny a person the power he most craves.
This would not be adequate for someone like Reagan, who is merely a mask for a corrupt and greedy society – and it is impossible to strip them of their power without a revolution.
The problem is they have already brought about a revolution of their own, putting the final nails in the coffin of a free society, and we plunge ahead into an Orwellian future where spy guys and fascists protect us from enemies they deliberately create in order to keep us from seeing just who the real bad buys are.
This is the year of Orwell’s most famous book, and most people misinterpret its message, taking it too literarily. It is a book without hope, of a social order in which we have no place except as cogs in an ever consuming machine. It is a testimony to greed run amuck.
And not a new concept at all, just made more powerful by technology that tightens the chains around us.
The concept has been around since before Christ.
It is based on one very simple and nasty concept: if you do not feed the greed machine, you have no value – and have very little value even if you do.
Christ, Napoleon, Gandhi and others have tried to change this through various means and for their own purposes, but always the masses revert to the same dismal condition, partly because we are like sheep and need to be herded, fearing to step too far out from the flock at risk of becoming vulnerable.
The saddest of these are the sheep who believe they can become herders, or the cogs who believe they can become wheels.
This is the real sales pitch Reagan has brought to America; convince ordinary people that they can share in power when they can’t.
It was not a popular uprising that brought down Nixon, but his own actions – and not the ones we associate with Watergate.
Nixon betrayed the masters, the wheel-turners, the ghosts in the machine. He gave back land to Native American Indians; he supported and enforced affirmative action; he mistakenly believed he was a wheel, when like Reagan; he was merely one more elaborate cog.
This is not a mistake Reagan will make.
Reagan knows his place, and his duty to keep us in ours.
Reagan will never have to leave office in shame.
Shame requires a certain level of morality Reagan lacks, and must lack in order do perform his required function – that all real powerful people also must lack.
True independent power scares the shit out of the powers that be.
This is why the Kennedys had to die (they had their own network). And why Christ, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Napoleon and others died.
And why Nixon’s survival puzzles me.
Perhaps by letting him live in shame sends a message to other potential upstarts that there is a punishment worse than death.