Endgame – Revisited

PART ONE

In 1994 Pete Hamill wrote an article in the December issue of Esquire magazine entitled ‘End Game.’ His premise was an overview of a disintegrating society that was finding new ways to trash itself in every area of social intercourse. And in his essay, one can easily see the seeds being planted for the broken, and fearful cowards that we’ve finally become. The USA which once took pride in leading itself out of fear, has now become a nation whose leaders pride themselves on leading us ever-deeper into fear, into paranoia, and into blind hatred of those who are maybe-not Americans. Here below is part one of a segmented comparison of part of what Pete Hamill wrote in 1994, with what seems to be happening now. These are QUOTES from the article by Pete Hamill, with COMMENTS by kirwan in 2002.

1994: “All the moves toward decency, excellence, maturity, and compassion have been made. They seem to have come to nothing. Everyone talks and nobody listens. Boneheaded vulgarians are honored for their stupidity.”

2002: Our sanctioned officials speak only of security, of terror and of war. Nothing happens except the systematic destruction of the Constitution, our personal freedoms and our way of life. Nobody talks, nobody votes, and no one wants to look at the results of those two inter-related actions. Meanwhile the Cretans global power grab proceeds apace, with new targets added weekly to the national hit list – of both countries and individuals who are now targets of American fanaticism in our maniacal drive to steal the world’s resources.

1994: “Politics is an ice jam of accusation and obstruction, the hardest vulgarians honored for their cynicism, its good men fleeing to tend private gardens. Pop culture both feeds and reflects the larger society, and as evidence of collapse it is chilling.”

2002 Politics has ceased to be contentious, there is no longer an organized resistance to the edicts flowing from the White House. The vulgarians once headed by Newt Gingrich have won. Admiral Poindexter, a felon, is now in-charge of Total Information Access; which is a newly proposed government seizure of all personal information on every citizen, without regard for either criminal or terrorist culpability. The idea is to acquire all personal and financial information, on every citizen, and then match a crime to fit whatever pattern is potentially indicated by the records seized. This one probably came directly from the pages of the novel “1984.”

As far as culture goes, pop or otherwise – that has disappeared into the vacuum created by the government mantra for War! War! Lots more War!’ There’s simply no money or energy left in the population for any other topic. The bad guys won, and they want to sell the public the idea that because they’ve wrapped all this garbage in the flag – this is the American way of the future – and it’s all bullshit.

1994: “The greatest critics loved the subjects of their examinations; literature, music, movies. They celebrated quality and dismissed the fraudulent, examining each new object of art the way a master watchmaker looks at another man’s watch, admiring the accomplishments, pointing out the flaws. There were always literary ax-murders among them, but in a way the best of them were attorneys for the defense. They’ve been replaced by prosecutors. And the penalty they demand for imperfection is death.”
2002: The above referred to artists and their creativity in the pursuit of their crafts. That’s dead now, and the only topic of discussion before the American public is our new War on Freedom. This is a total war, in which there will be no prisoners taken, no quarter given, as Bush so often says to the world: “You’re either with us or against us.” And that is the new state of the new millennium in 2002.

1994: “In all sports, grace is treated like a character flaw. Athletes snarl and mock in triumph – and whine in defeat. But they have one large excuse. They are only part of this America, this torn and violent country where everybody plays for keeps. The nation approaching Endgame. Everybody seems infected with the virus of argument and the need for triumph.”

“Hour after hour, across the day and deep into the night, talk radio spews forth a relentless message of contempt for democratic institutions, from the presidency, the Congress and the Supreme Court to the governors, the state legislators, and mayors.”

“Anyone with compassion is a target, Anyone with a sense of complexity is scorned. Callers with accents are jeered. Complicated issues are reduced to cartoons. Maybe it’s an act, maybe it’s just cashing in on Limbaugh’s success. But the drumbeat from these electronic kraals is ominous: Hate Washington, hate the media, hate the blacks, hate the dark-skinned and their babies, hate democracy. All disguised of course as love for America.”

2002: We’ve cashed in on this veritable ‘Garden of Delights’ and now it seems we’ve transferred all our darkest hatreds to overseas targets – at least for now.

1994: “In the freest country on the planet, democratic political campaigns are a ghastly joke. The ideal candidate is a cipher, devoid of personal history. The handlers write the scripts, build the drama, concoct the spin, and get famous themselves. Nobody expects them to believe any of this bullshit; oye compadre, get real. The job is done with a wink, a curled lip, a bony cynicism.”

2002: Pete Hamill hit this one right on the head – that fits our mangled and stolen, national non-election of 2000 as well as 2002 to a ‘T.’ Since we were so sophisticated, so above the fray that we allowed this cipher to steal the entire country right under our noses, it looks like the whole world will be paying for that mistake for many years to come. Not to even mention that this will cost most Americans vast sums of money, and probably their comfortable way of life as well. We opened Pandora’s box, and let the demons out, and there’s no one to blame for that but us.

1994: “Even the conflicts of the so-called real world-the non-fiction world of news an society-must be simple, easy to follow through meals and other domestic activities, and preferably violent .- Don’t think is the message feel. In all media, the best-played stories now are the ones that most resemble movies. Give us good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats, and for christsakes don’t give us talking heads! Action baby. Bang bang, Conflict.”

“Every day the American vision becomes cruder, narrower, more parochial. In most newspapers foreign news gets little play unless Americans are involved. The great newspapers still employ foreign correspondents of immense gifts, but even the greatest reporters must battle for space against the tremendous force of the general parochialism. The mass circulation newspapers don’t even bother. Unless Americans are concerned, most foreign news seems to be about Princess Di.”

2002: The stage was set then; the only topic now worth discussing is ourselves, our wants, and our desires-everything else is just noise. So when 911 interrupted our national romance with ourselves, the outrage was two-fold. First for the lives lost and the harm done, but then also there was rage for showing us how very small we’ve become in the eyes of the wider world.

1994: “As we move toward Endgame, consider this: We live in a country that has never made a movie about Leonardo da Vinci and has produced three about Joey Buttafuoco.”

2002: And so it goes on into a nightmare that is only just beginning.

End of Part One

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“Us Against Them”
Endgame, PART TWO

1994: “In the wider society, true to the principles of conflict, an often bewildering variety of social factions batter at one another for position and victory. – The goal is dominance. The goal is vengeance: to take no prisoners and in Murray Kempton’s phrase, shoot the wounded.”

“The unraveling process can have many names: fragmentation, disunification, atomization, balkanization, disintegration. Thoughtful men and women – have looked at the battlefield from different positions. They offer their own analyses of the causes of and remedies for the Endgame psychology of permanent division and confrontation. But most agree about the symptoms.”

Almost a hundred years after the last great immigration wave changed the face of American society, vast numbers of Americans-including, sadly, the best educated-are again being taught to identify themselves with the qualifying adjectives of race, religion, ethnicity, and gender. The idea of the melting pot is dismissed as cultural genocide, replaced by a social worker’s version of predestination. American identities state the clerics of the dogma, are not shaped by will, choice, reason, intelligence, and desire but by membership in groups. They are not individuals but components of categories – And such categories they believe are destiny.”

2002: The above redefinition of the American identity is part of what has torn us into factions. And in that segregation we became ripe for this further attack upon what was left of us as a people. The War on Freedom, is a war on human rights, on personal freedom, and on a way of life. This is the confrontation that lies beneath the power grab by our world-dictator in waiting, Gee-Dubya Bush. As long as individuals continue to resist this criminal behavior by this administration, there remains some chance that reason might yet prevail, that military force may yet be told – stand-down.

So, that powerfully contrary force of the American individual has of necessity become a major target, of the Bush cabal, for ‘elimination-with extreme prejudice.’

1994: “In America now it is always Us against Them and Them against Us. And to display its anger, its righteousness, our side must be in conflict with their side. It’s not enough to be an American, you must despise, attack, diminish, and empty the guts of those millions of other Americans who are not like you. Every grave must be pried open by scholarship, every smashed bone waved in triumph like a relic, every ancient crime posted on the schoolhouse door.”

“The result is a society in apparently permanent, teeming, nerve-fraying conflict: blacks against whites; straights against gays; gays against priests; priests against abortionists; sun people against ice people; citizens against immigrants; Latinos against Anglos; people who work against those who don’t; town against gown; blacks against Jews; the orthodox against the reformers; cops against bad guys; lawyers against cops; Crips against Bloods; Good guys and bad guys. Oppressors and oppressed. White hats and black hats. And vice-versa. Us against them and them against Us. And get outta my fuckin’ face.”

2002: Eight years ago this month – the above was one version of the social landscape, but one that seemed to carry a lot of weight. Now eight years on, what have we become? Apparently we ran out of internal enemies and wars. We appear to have now transferred our hatreds to other continents and other peoples – because there’s more value for the monetarily interested few in the dissension and the strife that has replaced what was once shaped by will, by choice, by reason, by intelligence, and by desire. This new American oppressor would seem to be a pathetic substitute for any definition of what it once meant to be a human being.

1994: “But there are additional confusions. All the victimized ethnic categories contain men. And feminist rhetoric of the Endgame insists that men are themselves a group of oppressors-brutal, insensitive, selfish, murderous. Catherine MacKinnon and others use the word men, in the same generalized blurry way that women is used. This astonishingly broad category-men-is defined all too easily by people who believe that the same state of victimhood is endured by the Wellesley graduate and the woman grinding corn in the hills of Chiapas, by Billie Holliday and Katharine Graham – the existentialist philosophers of my youth insisted that existence preceded essence, that you were born and then you forged your identity; the philosophers of gender and ethnicity insist that essence precedes existence.”

2002: Once the normal activities of the culture had been trivialized and compartmentalized in the extreme, as cited above, then where else could all the anger and hatred go? So when the general antagonism reached it’s zenith between groups – it would appear that the only option left was to turn on the components of civility itself; those men and women who are all there is of the human race, as we have come to know it. If the nation were an individual, it would probably be perceived as psychotic, if not suicidal.

1994:”The notion of education as therapy has led to the distortion of history, the reduction of standards, and, in the new-fashioned American style, the creation of enemies. The examination of the American identity is made subservient to the word before the hyphen. Obviously the accomplishments of American blacks, Latinos, other minorities, and women, should be made known to all Americans, not to make them feel better but to make them know more about their own country and the world of which it is a part. Alas, that is not the goal.”

“The endless energy-sapping debate over ‘multiculturalism’ is an example of the more general problem. The word itself is an oxymoron. Every bookshelf is multi-cultural. Every library is multicultural. Every educated man and woman is multicultural. Culture is multicultural.”

2002: With this set-up, the population of the U.S. was easily divisible into ever-smaller niche factions, further dividing the body politic, and thereby emphasizing the differences between peoples over the far more numerous similarities that we all share with one another. How much of this multicultural dictum is still remembered today, and what has it done for the liberation of any particular faction – compared to the potential harm done by its heavy-handed introduction which destroyed much of the commonality that once held the nation together?

1994: “In the raging battle over education-Literature and history have common intentions: to discover the truth about human beings. They can’t be shaped by a creed, an ideology, or a thesis; they can’t be wrapped in the straightjackets of political fashion. Stalinist novels were not novels: they were tracts. Hitler’s movies were not art; they were propaganda. Mao’s poetry is the stuff of wall posters. There have been great Marxist historians, including our own Eugene D. Genovese, but they didn’t alter the facts to prove the thesis. In the end history should be history, not an alibi.”

“__As presented, there is no solution, because the apocalyptic demand is for the alteration of the past or a surrender of intelligence or an assumption of guilt by the living for the crimes of the dead. But resolution isn’t the point of all this sound and fury. Fragmentation is the point. Segregation is the point. Conflict is all. We’re Americans. We have been conditioned to prefer conflict to boredom. We prefer violence to talk. We prefer war to peace. We prefer lies to truth. Clear the board citizen: We’re reaching Endgame.”

2002: It would seem to be too simple to assume that the new American fundamentalists of the extreme right were bright enough to have designed the above attacks upon society: however, they certainly seemed to have employed the tenets outlined in the last paragraph to their full advantage; at least in these last two years of the Gee Dubya nightmare. It seems difficult to believe that it was only eight years ago this month, that these topics were being written about so openly, and so well by Pete Hamill. Today seems to be light-years away from the candor and the clarity of Mr. Hamill’s words from 1994.

End of Part Two

I tried in 2002 for several months to contact Mr. Hamill, to ask him to revisit his article and to update his views based on the new paradigm. I was unsuccessful, in finding him, or in finding the original article so that I could simply send out a link.

Jim Kirwan

 

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