I'M AFRAID OF AMERICANS

Conservatives have a tendency to use some very strange analogies, but none is more curiously chosen than the "starve the beast" analogy popularized by Cult of Austerity commandant Grover Norquist. This analogy, which is intended to represent a government that shrinks because the resources available to it have been restricted, strongly implies that these people do not know what an animal is. Perhaps it is unfair to take an analogy literally. Perhaps it illustrates something about the way conservatives want government to behave in addition to how much of it they want.

Wild animals that are starving make dangerous, irrational decisions that they would not make when well fed. Hunger leads deer onto public highways and into the path of moving vehicles. It leads lions to attempt to take down elephants and end up with a flattened head. More importantly, though, it makes animals uncharacteristically aggressive. Animals that could easily hunt humans – bears, big cats, etc. – rarely do so unless they're starving and desperate. Those man-eating tigers and grizzly bears inevitably turn out to be the old, weak ones that have been chased away and can no longer catch prey. Hell, even a well behaved pet dog will snap at you if you leave it without food for too long.

So, yes. A starving "beast" gets smaller and weaker. It also gets aggressive, violent, and more risk tolerant, the last of which is a polite way of saying it makes bad decisions out of desperation. Which goes a long way toward explaining why, as our politics grow increasingly unhinged and our global hegemony grows more precarious and impractical, most of the world is scared shitless of us. It's not the kind of "Boy, they sure do respect our strength!" kind of fear that serves as the sole source of erections for neocons. It's more like a "Holy crap, that monkey has figured out how to operate a flamethrower" fear.


Grover wants a woman, Grover wants to think of a joke.

People with a rudimentary understanding of history – a class that admittedly excludes Grover Norquist – understand that when empires "starve" they don't tend to crawl under a tree and wither away quietly. They use their massive but inevitably overextended militaries to lash out at their enemies, real or contrived, in a desperate quest for treasure and a stronger grip on their fading superpower status.

I know that the average person in other countries understands that there is no reason to fear Americans individually – really, they might be loud assholes but all they want to do is buy tacky, overpriced souvenirs – but there is ample reason to fear America as a whole. The political majority is not guided by anything approaching reason and is obsessed with reliving the Gilded Age. The nation as a whole is unhealthily obsessed with its former glory and isn't good at much anymore except turning foreign countries into smoldering piles of rubble.

Given those circumstances, what could go wrong?

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31 Responses to “I'M AFRAID OF AMERICANS”

  1. David Says:

    Monkey + Flame thrower = Epic instant classic

  2. RT Butte Says:

    Yeah, I fear for the immediate future. We will live in interesting times.

  3. Middle Seaman Says:

    The country is run by well fed rich people. They are aggressive just to bring more quality food to the table. The starving r'us and we control absolutely nada.

  4. Carrstone Says:

    I keep returning to your blogs in the hope of learning something, getting a new insight, but no, polemic rants is all you ever seem to offer. You might at least address the issue raised rather than attack the simili; presenting cogent alternatives is much more challenging for the writer but infinitely more worthwhile for the reader.

    Although government as a bloated, self-absorbed, Jabba the Hut-ish beast is quite effective,really.

  5. Xynzee Says:

    The "Beast" in question comes from Revelation. Every time I hear it used in this context the dent in my desk gets that little bit deeper.

    I loved hearing how military "entitlements" are now being put on the table for "austerity" purposes. Sad thing is, the Mils, won't see the connection between Fox, voting T-bagger and their health, VA and pensions being cut. A group of very pissed off, very well organised, highly trained, extremely armed, and not given to questioning the "group" going mutiny and being used for special interests… You are so screwed.

  6. Andy Says:

    As a non-American I totally agree with your assessment of how America is viewed form the outside. Unfortunately, as I'm British, I find myself in a similar if somewhat smaller boat, AND our empire ended fucking years ago!

  7. freeportguy Says:

    Conservatives may think government or people are beast, however they expect them to act like plants and die if starved long enough.

  8. Jimcat Says:

    @Carrstone: I understand where you're coming from, but not everyone has to address the problems in the same way. Ed is a classical satirist in the tradition of Juvenal. Although it is obviously better to propose and plan solutions, there is some social value in simply pointing out that the problem exists, especially in a way that people enjoy reading. Pointing out what idiots your enemies are goes a long way towards weakening their position.

  9. Elle Says:

    Ed is a classical satirist in the tradition of Juvenal.

    Yeah, I wish he'd knock that dactylic hexameter on the head, but we are where we are.

  10. Infidel753 Says:

    A starving animal at least knows what it needs to alleviate its situation — food — even if out of desperation it takes risks it otherwise wouldn't.

    There's plenty of desperation in the US, but a lot of people seem completely confused about who is to blame or what they could do that would help. If they did understand, no Republican would have won an election in the last 30 years and we wouldn't be in this position in the first place.

    There's a complicating factor with humans that doesn't exist with starving animals: propaganda.

    Austeritards don't fear their victims lashing out, because so many of them wouldn't know whom to last out at.

  11. Major Kong Says:

    "Holy crap, that monkey has figured out how to operate a flamethrower"

    Oh I am soooo using that one.

  12. c u n d gulag Says:

    Monkey's with flamethrowers was GREAT!

    But I think we look more like Calvinist's with nuclear weapons.

  13. Mrs. Chili Says:

    So, what do we – those of us who are still in control of our faculties of thought and reason – what do we DO about it?

  14. deep cap Says:

    Austeritards don't fear their victims lashing out, because so many of them wouldn't know whom to lash out at.

    Oh, but they do know. There have been a lot of random murders lately. The media is just not reporting it on the national level anymore.

  15. c u n d gulag Says:

    Oh, and I'm not talking about that crazy kid running around with Hobbes, his stuffed tiger.
    Though I think that would cause me less worry…

  16. Ike Says:

    All I know is, food prices keep going up and up. Every month the number of folks living paycheck-to-paycheck, and then hand-to-mouth increases. It's gonna be a long, cold, winter.

  17. Da Moose Says:

    For someone who has not only survived but thrived off of the existence of a growing and fat beast, Norquist's claim that we need to starve it in order to survive as a society is quite strange indeed. On a related note, Norquist is far and away one of the bigger cocksuckers in this town….always has been, at least since I've been around.

  18. Xynzee Says:

    @CU: a Calvinist w nukes isn't necessarily bad, unless you're a Catholick.

    A true Calvinist sees government as a tool by which God exercises His authority, there is *nothing* in the synoptic Gospels or the Pauline epistles to suggest the anti-Govt hate that these nutters espouse — Jesus clearly states, pay your taxes. Christians aren't to look to the nation-state for salvation. Only at times of either being required to put king and country before God or renounce God entirely, or great injustice is insurrection acceptable. Usually this meant dying a martyr's death, but as a Christian's home is not "here" that's okay, taking half-dozen to the next world à la a suicide bomber *isn't* okay. Being renewed and finding one's identity in Christ is what's to enable a Christian to rise above themselves to stand against great injustice, and lay down their lives if need be. Bonhoffer was a Calvinist, and died for (rightly or wrongly) plotting to kill Hitler.

    Even as a Christian who feels Calvin has a lot to answer for, I think it's pretty safe to say that Calvin would deplore this ultra-nationalism that's dressed as Christianity. These weird Dominionist, Identitist, Church of Aryan Nation groups do not speak for Christians or more importantly for The Lord.

    A nutter who goes on shooting spree because "God told him to do it" is no different from a nutter who did so because of the fillings in his teeth picked up voices.

  19. Da Moose Says:

    Incidentally, what do you call the invasion of Iraq? We are well into the starved beast trend you describe above.

  20. Daleko Providek Says:

    Starve an animal and see what happens? Indonesia man starved his pets, came back and was eaten: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/indonesian-man-eaten-by-pet-dogs-after-starving-them/story-e6frfku0-1226131722502

  21. squirrelhugger Says:

    I learned the word "reactionary" in 8th grade civics class, in the context of political spectrum: reactionary-conservative-liberal-radical. It meant wanting to return to the past. It's a good word. It should be used more.

  22. Monkey Business Says:

    Frankly, comparing the reactionary wing of the American political spectrum to monkeys with flamethrowers doesn't give the monkeys nearly enough credit.

  23. DB Main Says:

    I have had similar thoughts over the past year. I think on our present course, it is inevitable that at some point within the next decade, we'll invade Mexico as the next battle of the "immigration/drug war".

    I have also pondered what can be done to lure the beast behind a tree so it can wither and die. One of the wilder ideas is dissolution of the union — a break-up of the United States ala the East Bloc. This idea should have some appeal to both ends of the political spectrum. Red States don't want to be associated with the liberal elite, and are under the false impression that their tax dollars are funneled to welfare mamas in the big evil cities. Blue States are under the correct impression that they are subsidizing the wilting social and physical infrastructure of the Red States. I can see a scenario where we retreat into a set of new countries formed by regional alliances of like-minded states with similar economies (California/Oregon/Washington, for one)

    And an outcome of dissolution is that the massive size of the military will lose its financial support. And with no vast military, we're more incapable of the beast acting out.

  24. Elder Futhark Says:

    What none of these fucking conservotards and libertards understands is that power (socioeconomic power, political power, monied power), like energy, can neither be created nor destroyed. As such, when one power center is eliminated, the power does not simply trickle down to the people, it gets consolidated in a different power center. Given a choice between reasonably accountable power of the government (i.e. usually easy to discover malfeasance and misconduct) versus greedy fuckfaced assholes in private industries, I'll take the former.

    True, there is always the possibility that we as a nation could produce a monster like Mao or Stalin – we are still young yet – but that's all slippery slope shit. I'll take my chances with that scenario, rather than the beta-brained formaldehyde fetuses that make up the business establishment. Honestly, I've taken shits smarter than them – or at least shits that have the decency not to float around stinkin' up the place.

  25. Black_Rose Says:

    How was Mao a monster? Mao is not a monster, but a great revolutionary and hero to the Chinese people!

    Long Live Chairman Mao!

  26. Elder Futhark Says:

    And Rand Paul is a brilliant, brilliant, lovely man.

  27. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    "I keep returning to your blogs in the hope of learning something, getting a new insight, but no, polemic rants is all you ever seem to offer."

    AHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. JM Says:

    What none of these fucking conservotards and libertards understands is that power (socioeconomic power, political power, monied power), like energy, can neither be created nor destroyed.

    The irony of that statement is awesome. The second law of thermodynamics, a physical law applying to a framework for describing the physical world, applicability to a concept bounded by a completely arbitrary social construct is something that only retards would fail to recognize as unquestionable.

  29. Personal Failure Says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for music. My boss is screaming about something and I'm listening to NIN.

    Actually, that might be the perfect metaphor for being poor in America today.

  30. Sorry Says:

    Damn, that power of the government is so reasonably accountable it hurts. I love how every time malfeasance and misconduct is discovered, they knock it off & square up with the victims, reanimating the dead & so forth, all while providing such kickass checks on corporate predation! Given a choice between Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes I'll take the original.

  31. TGGP Says:

    I don't dispute how starving animals behave, but which particular empires are you referring to? The fading Soviets did invade Afghanistan, but it wasn't some crazed lashing out. They had a doctrine of supporting communist states and the Afghan Communist Party had seized power without much hope of hanging on by themselves. The Brits had their last hurrah in the world wars and were afterwards humbled, relinquishing top dog status to the U.S. Victor Davis Hanson ironically gave the best historical parallel to the U.S' stupid foreign policy with Athen's invasion of Syracuse (although as he noted it would be more like if we invaded India).