"What is this capacity for self-delusion that we are not about to be sold into serfdom?"
I know I'm quoting not quite accurately but I think I've the sense right. Anyhow, so crieth out Chris Hedges this morn in Truthout. Let none here mistake me: I consider Truthout a valuable source of honest and true information and I agree with Mr. Hedges on quite a few points. I even agree in large part with Mike Papantonio about Hedges being something of a prophet for our times, even while I need to point out that Hedges and co-defendants recently won a great victory for freedom in the courts they also call 'completely rigged'. Not that they aren't skewed by race and class; we all know otherwise. But I'd also say their happy victory argues against total rigging. Chris, I can even understand you discouraging yourself from resting on your laurels, but if you ever do I'll squint at the sun to see if it's standing still. Take a few breaths at least and dance a bit while I take a stab at answering your questions, which I have also asked somewhat less hyperbolically.
I live in what is actually quite a pleasant middle-sized town. It's a university town, a county seat, something of a gastronomical mini-mecca and part of a large metropolitan area to boot. Yes, I read the news online from Alternet, AddictingInfo, Truthout and The Daily Beast. I watch news on Current and MSNBC. Still, even for what angers me, it can seem somewhat remote. But what do I see when I leave my house and tool around the town? Fellow citizens of every shade (I admit mostly 'white') going about their everyday business as we have all done throughout my adult life. Services are still present and quite functional, thanks ever so. Even the public transportation buses are still present (fewer than formerly, yes) and operating. Back in the spring repair even finished on a pair of bridges (over creeks, I admit) which had needed them! My point here is, at first glance and on the surface, things at or close to home still seem pretty OK to a lot of people.
However, I can think of one sign of an at-least slow economy still: vacated commercial spaces stay vacant quite a lot longer than they used to. It also takes a lot longer to sell or even rent houses than was the case before the crash. But unless one's own property is involved, noticing this probably requires stepping out from, or at least enlarging, the circle of one's own concerns. And one has to be willing to do that. And, perhaps, that's where an answer to these questions begins.
When our own concerns feel heavier and we're used to being able to and/or believing we should be able to deal with them ourselves, we may feel a greater sense of guilt, shame or other inadequacy but will we share such feelings? In this culture, mostly no. Maybe women, being so acculturated, will share them amongst themselves more but men mostly won't. I forget who said 'silence always serves the oppressor' but in this case it's only too true. All of us--every race and both sexes--need to break out of the sociocultural atomization we're all too used to and really speak with and listen to one another! It's not an easy thing to do; I can feel the difficulty of it within myself. I'm trained not to inflict my rantings on others who don't ask for them and 'ranting' is defined by the listener. But we all need to learn and/or remember, and inwardly digest, the necessity of breaking out from our individual circles of shame if we are to be a free people again as opposed to a malnourished (in more than one way)and disorganized lot of serfs!!
West of my town, my county has two other 'cities'. Both were once industrial towns. One (the one closer to us) has experienced a partial renaissance; the other hasn't. It is horribly easy for those of us who are still doing all right to forget those who aren't and to think of our fellow citizens living there as seldom as we think of the other side of the moon! But that's also another thing fast becoming a necessity for all of us: to ask, both inwardly and outwardly, how are the rest of us doing? And it's important to phrase it so as well: the rest of US!
Chris, one thing you're right about bigtime: the cost of comforting lies as opposed to hard-to-digest truths is now way too high. I thought it was too high in 1980, but as Stevie sings, it's only me-e. And now the cost of those security blankies is through the roof and I don't know about you, but I'd sooner swallow and digest the truths than compel our descendants to pay the heavy price tag for comforting lies. So let's tune out the TV and start some real conversations about the state of things, individual by individual, lunch-table by lunch-table. Pray for the necessary strength to step out of one's shame and to concern ourselves with our neighbors' welfare as well as our own. Once the 'honeycomb' of such conversations reaches a critical mass we will reclaim our government for ALL of us and either banish big money from politics or cut its role far down to a manageable level. Start now; time is short before climate change may be irreversible! And as you see, this does and will involve a number of issues.