February 28, 2006
The Past Progressive, I

Autophagy is the zoologist’s term for self-cannibalization. Occasionally a snake is dumb enough to try it. The animal will seize its own tail and start swallowing until it can hold no more. Then it digests itself to death, a victim of brainless greed.

Economic autophagy regularly appears in American history, as Arthur Schlesinger shows in his 1986 book, The Cycles of American History. Greed, serviced faithfully by the Republican Party, sets out to consume its own vitals. We are in such an era now and have been since 1980, under two primordial Republicans, one Republican Lite, and one shape-shifting DINO.

Always in the past we have saved ourselves from the snake’s fate at the last minute by listening for a change to the frontal lobe instead of the amygdyla — that is to say, we voted for some Roosevelt rather than for some Father Coughlin or Mussolini.

These are dark days for the frontal lobe and so, as a reminder that we have halted the GOP’s autophagy before and can do so again, I offer this first in a series of quotes from progressive leaders of the past. It is from the Great Commoner, William Jennings Bryan:

It is not strange that The Man with the Hoe created a profound sensation. It is a sermon addresed to the heart. It voices humanity’s protest against inhuman greed. There is a majestic sweep to the argument; some of the lines pierce like arrows. How feeble in comparison have been the answers to it.

The extremes of society are being driven further and further apart. Wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a few. At one end of the scale luxury and idleness breed effeminacy; at the other end, want and destitution breed desperation.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at February 28, 2006 01:48 PM
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Sometimes a post is so thought provoking, that commenting on it might detract from it. With that in mind, I have no comment to make, other than to say I do hope you will continue this series.

Posted by: Buck on March 1, 2006 10:16 AM

Bryan is truly one of history's most interesting people. A man who could say

…you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

and in the same lifetime argue for prohibition and against evolution was a welter of contradictions and repressions, whose experience, theories, and even outbursts could educate us.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on March 3, 2006 1:56 AM
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