This article is Ancient (archive 2011)

Mythopoetics and Political Discourse or, How I leaned to Stop Worrying and Love the Koch (Brothers (‘ Money))

It would seem that we are condemned for some time yet always to speak excessively about reality. This is probably because ideologism and its opposite are types of behavior which are still magical, terrorized, blinded, and fascinated by the split in the social world. And yet, this is what we must seek: a reconciliation between reality and men, between description and explanation, between object and knowledge.

–Barthes Myth Today

It makes for a sexy headline: “Governor, elected with corporate money, threatens unions’ ability to donate to democratic rivals… in the name of fiscal responsibility.”

There are, of course, others, perhaps equally sexy: “Union thugs storm capital, assault journalists,” “Libertarian Industrialists Threaten Unions, Democracy,” “Wisconsin Governor Punk’d.”

The political posturing develops independently of the characters supposedly making the news, and, while that Gov. Walker gentleman may say a number of things trying to direct the discourse to “fiscal responsibility,” “budget crises,” “austerities,” or whatever buzzwords  come to mind, the discourse takes place almost exclusively in the realm of concepts, not policies.

We can understand, theoretically, that any anti-union legislators, influenced or not by corporate interests [lobbyists], probably aren’t corporate puppets as their opposition asserts. (And even supposing they are, does that fundamentally distinguish them from independently anti-union legislators? I’m not convinced.) And we can understand that the protesters, AWOL senators, and sympathetic journalists are not anarcho-communists unwilling to make even the mildest of concessions (And supposing they are?), but, by letting the opposition define them while they are busy defining the opposition, the parties involved have shadowed the nuances of debate (supposing there ever were any) in the shadow of two mythologies, of lazy, cowardly moochers and tyrannical, greedy robber barons.

If it sounds like an old debate, that is probably because it sounds like an old debate, but no good mythology can exist without a tinge of the eternal. Each side believes its claim to the side of right in an epic battle between good and evil.

Whether I believe that the Koch brothers represent lobby for Satan or that an evil, semi-literate spirit possesses Gov. Walker hardly matters to the signs suggesting “Koch-aine” is responsible for anti-union legislation. The suggestion that a shadowy, well-financed cabal conspires to deny hard-working citizens their right to an eight-hour day and a pension doesn’t need proof; indeed, it doesn’t need the Koch brothers. It transcends hyperbole.

Certainly Walker’s resolve is politically opportunistic motivated more by an urge to kick Democrats while they are down than any sense of civic responsibility, and certainly the Koch brothers’ wallets make their votes more equal than others.

The same might be said of the unions and their supporters, but it’s hardly worth saying. It’s easier to resurrect the ghost Jimmy Hoffa.