December 11, 2015. Revised and re-posted January 23, 2016.
Ambrose Bierce took a look around him in 1870 and saw...2015.
[Bierce's ruthlessness as a satirist] reflected an unusually modern mind. Like the Middle Americans of The Innocents Abroad, Bierce was a creature of the new industrialism He had seen the fruits of Yankee ingenuity up close: guns that shot straighter and artillery that shot farther, built by the Northern factories that now powered the postwar economic boom. He understood that the technological revolution was also a moral one: that it rewrote the rules of what was permissible, whether on the battlefield or in the boardroom, whether in the “hard war” tactics of William Tecumseh Sherman or the robber-baron entrepreneurialism of Jay Gould. Bierce had seen a barbarism far, far bleaker than [his friend the poet Charles Warren ] Stoddard’s romanticized savagery. It was the barbarism of the future, the mechanized cruelty of a civilization with more efficient ways to kill people and fewer scruples about doing so. “To the amiable maniac who believes in a tolerably rapid rate of human progress toward a tolerably stupid state of human imperfection through cumulative accretions of brotherly love,” he wrote in an article for the Overland, “the events of the past few years must seem singularly perverse, if not wildly wayward.”
There's a reason Tarnoff opens that paragraph with the reference to The Innocents Abroad, even though the book by Mark Twain whose theme he's describing through Bierce is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. But what Bierce was getting at is that we've created an economic order in which people are disposable
We exist to be used to increase wealth. In that enterprise no single one of us matters. Thousands of lives can be thrown away and it's all for the good if the battle to make money is won. This is the system we live under and in and with. And people hate it but feel powerless to change it.
The Republican response is "Get mad...at THEM!" The Democratic response has been "Get (re)educated and make yourself useful to the system in some new way." Easy to see why many people prefer to get mad even at the wrong people than accept their lot as drones. We're all just economic cannon fodder and both parties are pretty much fine with that and want us to be too.
I'm still a Democrat but, sadly, it's mainly because we at least believe in building field hospitals.
We also want everybody to have the chance to serve in the campaign and for everybody who survives to share in the spoils.
Hardly a ringing endorsement, I know.