Where We Go From Here
I've seen America go through many changes in my time here on this planet, and there are times I wish I could take us back to some prior date and restart the game again. Maybe then a different result could be achieved.
In this feeling, I guess I'm not so different from the regressives currently dominating my country, except that since I don't have more coins than Croesus, I can't buy the media and prostitute my minions for the benefit of my Topper country club cronies.
It may be that the opposition to the regression of America back to the Gilded Age [Thanks, Dave!] will only be of interest to the historians, but at least someone else is noticing these changes:
This country is becoming more unrecognizable with each passing day. The only thing worse than the government these days -- if such is possible -- are those portions of the populace to whom this government owes its allegiance. These are people for whom the country got off on the wrong track a half-century ago when hippies and flower children became symbols of a new, permissive culture, and "race relations" -- a euphemism in an era when "colored people" knew their place -- exploded in a civil rights struggle that upset a settled and long-accepted way of life.
Fifty years ago, this aggrieved sector of the nation's populace switched its political allegiance from the Democratic to the Republican Party. This new voting bloc brought with it a set of sentiments and values on matters of personal belief or private opinion that both political parties have long believed ought to remain in the personal, private realm. Mainstream Republicans tried for several decades to ignore these private-agenda matters. But championed by fire-eating evangelists, what are personal and private matters for many of us are now being turned into issues for public regulation and enforcement.
We could probably endure all of this if it were only another of the outbursts of cultural passion that Americans periodically undergo in an attempt to assert why we think we're God's gift to the civilized world. The problem is that the people currently in political power in the United States and the people who support them really think we are -- and that's why this country is becoming more unrecognizable with each passing day.
Allow me to present one possible portrait of pending America.
Ever since they seized power, Bu$hCo has been on a mission from their blood-thirsty 'god' to revamp America into a fascist utopia - one where everyone who isn't a Topper knows their place, just as non-whites were so expected to understand. Only the rich matter, you know. The rest of us exist at - and for - their pleasure.
One movie that presents a society of this sort exists, and should be seen by any American who remains concerned about the future of our nation, is Starship Troopers, which portrays a nation in which there are three classes of people: civilians, active duty military, and citizens. One achieves rights only by serving in the military, and as our own military has been currently doing in the real world, one only gets out of the military when one is no longer of any use to the military. Only then can one be a 'citizen' and actually have the right to vote. Everyone else serves the military in whatever capacity so desired.
Such a state currently exists in the world - Burma.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) warned Rangoon that it has till June to clean up its act by stopping the pernicious practice of forced labour or face sanctions from member states of the Geneva-based body. The powerful Burmese army has dominated the country with an iron fist since a military coup in 1962. It is currently the second largest army in Asia with at least 400,000 men and it gobbles up more than half the country's budget.
The ILO estimates that over 800,000 people in Burma are victims of forced labour, which ranges from cleaning roads, carrying heavy loads for the army, constructing military buildings and working on infrastructure projects. "The Burmese army uses forced labour extensively and now the military is trapped in its own policy," said Aung Naing Oo, the researcher. "The army has needed forced labour to survive.
Of what benefit is it to force the population into such service?
According to the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the 1989 State-owned Economic Enterprise Law of 1989 has given the junta the right to control 12 key areas of economic enterprises. They range from exploiting the teak forests for trade, exploring and extracting petroleum and natural gas, air transport and railway services. Control of the banking and insurance services also fall under the ambit of this law.
In other words, all the best money-makers the economy can provide. These officers can then exploit the workers for free labor, increasing the profits they can take from these protected industries. Maybe that's one reason why so many of our retired officers end up in cushy, high-paying corporate jobs with all the perqs denied those who really work? Is it: 'I earned the right to this pelf due to service to the pirates'?
That is a paraphrase explaining the motivations of this sort from one officer whose dedication to the nation superceded his contacts with great wealth, General Smedley Darlington Butler, who in his book War Is A Racket, exposes this system of national robbery so dear to Bu$hCo. It's as if it's considered better to take what you can make rather than exert the honest effort the rest of us are exhorted to perform.
Only a wimpy sissy grows corn instead of taking it by force from another country? That should play well in Peoria!
Smedley Butler isn't around to tell us from the inside anymore, but we do still have Gore Vidal:
The Undoing of America
Gore Vidal on war for oil, politics-free elections, and the late, great U.S. Constitution
For the past 40 years or so of Gore Vidal's prolific 59-year literary career, his great project has been the telling of the American story from the country's inception to the present day, unencumbered by the court historian's task of making America's leaders look like good guys at every turn.
He has stayed busy producing what he calls his 'political pamphlets', a series of short essay collections called Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated (2002), Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (2003), and Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia (2004).
Last month at Duke University, he produced a short run of On the March to the Sea, an older play about the Civil War that he has rewritten entirely.
Vidal: The old American republic is well and truly dead. The institutions that we thought were eternal proved not to be. That goes for the three departments of government, and it also goes for the Bill of Rights.
The founding fathers would be mortified if they saw what had happened to their handiwork, which wasn't very great to begin with but is now done for. When you have preemptive wars, and you have ambitious companies like Bechtel who will build up what, let us say, General Electric has helped to destroy with its weaponry - these interests are well-represented.
You cannot have a political party that is not based upon a class interest. It has been part of the American propaganda machine that we have no class system. This isn't true. We have a very strong, very rigid class structure which goes back to the beginning of the country.
What is the Republican Party? Well, it used to be the party of the small-town businessman, generally in the Middle West, generally sort of out of the mainstream. Very conservative. It now represents nothing but the gas and oil business. They own it. And the people who go to Congress are simply bought. They are lawyers who are paid to represent Halliburton, big oil, big banking. So the very rich corporate America has a party for itself, the Republican Party.
The Democrats don't have much of anything but a kind of wistful style. There is no people's party, and you can't even use the word. 'Liberal' has been demonized. A liberal is a commie who's also a pedophile. Being a communist and a pedophile, he's so busy that he hasn't got time to win an election, and is odious to boot. So there is no Democratic Party.
The media played a role in transforming citizens into spectators of this process, transformed, by design, by corporate America, aided by the media, which belongs to corporate America. They are no longer citizens. They are hardly voters. They are consumers, and they consume those things which are advertised on television. All we do is hear about little cures for little pains. Nothing important gets said. The result is chaos, which is what is intended. They don't want the people to know anything, and the people don't. I don't think the average person can read with any great ease anything that requires thought and the ability to exercise cause-and-effect reasoning: If we do this to them, they will do that to us. We seem to have lost all track of that rather primitive notion that I think people all the way back to chimpanzees have known.
The sense that there are no consequences can happen if you keep the people diverted. We are totally censored, and the press just follows this. It observes what those in power want it to observe, and turns the other way when things get dark. Then, when it's too late sometimes, you get some very good reporting. But by then, somebody's playing taps.
Television changed everything. I'd say if you really want to date the crash of the American system, the American republic, it was in the early '50s, when television suddenly emerged as the central fact of American life. That which was not televised did not exist. The media belongs to the big money, and the big money, their candidates, their party, is the Republican Party as now constituted. So everybody is behaving typically [in media]. What isn't typical is a Democratic Party that has also sold out. There are just as many lobbyists and propagandists there as on the other side. They're never going to regain anything until they remember that they're supposed to represent the people at large, and not the very rich. But they need the very rich in order to be able to run for office, to buy television time.
I put the case that Bush was never elected--not in 2000, and not in 2004. This is a new game in the world. Through the magic of electronic voting, particularly through Mr. Diebold and friends, you can take a non-president and make him president. He is undisturbed by these things. His is a mind totally lacking in culture of any kind. I'm not talking about highbrow culture, just knowledge of the American past, and our institutions. He's got rid of due process of law, which is what the United States is based upon. Once you can send somebody off and put them in the brig of a ship in Charleston Harbor and hold them as long as you like uncharged, you have destroyed the United States and its Constitution. He has done those things.
The art of government now, the art of control as practiced by the current junta, is: Keep the people frightened. It's exactly what Adolf Hitler and his gang did. Keep them frightened: 'The Russians are coming. The Poles are killing Germans who live within the borders of Poland' [Hitler's excuse for invading Poland in 1939 - ed]. 'The Czechs are doing the same thing in the Sudetenland' [The 'motivation' for Hitler's demand for the break up Czechoslovakia in 1938 and have 'Peace in our time' - ed]. 'These are evil people. We must go after them. We must save our kin.'
How did so many Americans come to embrace and even celebrate these bullying, anti-democratic displays of authoritarian, censorial governance? It all comes from propaganda. It all comes from knowing how to use the media to your own ends, and keep the people frightened. These [people] are the same groups that don't like black people, gay people, Jews, or this or that. We must do this, we must overthrow this government, we must do that, stop China. Why not nuke China? [The American right] was all set to do that at one point, I remember.
But how to keep the [other] people, including the opposition who should know better, so silent? This introduces us to a vast landscape of corruption. Keep everybody frightened, tell them lies--and the bigger the lie, the more they'll believe it. There's nothing the average American now believes (because he's been told it 10,000 times a day) that is true. Now how do you undo so much disinformation? Well, you have to have truth squads at work 24 hours a day every day. And we don't have them.
The Truth About A 'Truth'
The previous successes of our economy and our empire, post WWII, condition people to expect that consequences were for other people in other places. One theory about the reason the US invaded Iraq concerns currency--the fear that European deals for Iraqi oil might lead to oil's being denominated in euros rather than dollars. Ultimately the whole thing is about oil.
Iraq is a symptom, not a cause. It's a symptom of the passion we have for oil, which is a declining resource in the world. Alternatives can be found, but they will not be found as long as there's one drop of oil or natural gas to be extracted from other nations, preferably by force by the current junta in charge of our affairs.
We should be looking to hydrogen, or whatever is the latest replacement for fossil fuels. All the money we put into these wars in the Middle East, we should have put into that. Then we wouldn't be so desperate at the thought that in 2020, or in 2201 or whenever, there will be no more oil.
Knowledge Is Power - And We're Powerless
There's a lot of nasty response on the part of those Americans who are eager for more oil, more money, more this, more that, to put Europe down, to regard Europe as a rival and perhaps as an enemy. Europe, after all, is more populous than the United States, better educated, better quality of life for most of its citizens. And it has actually achieved, here and there, a civilization, which we haven't. There is not one hamlet in Italy in which you can fail to find kids desperate to learn. There isn't a kid in Italy who can't quote Dante.
There's no one in America now who knows who Shakespeare is, because they stopped teaching him in high schools. The [American] educational system was pretty good once. It certainly got bad around the '50s. Just as we became a global empire, the first thing I was struck by was that they stopped teaching geography in public schools. Now here we are a global power, and nobody knows where anything is.
There is also something in the water--let us hope it was put there by the enemy--that has made Americans contemptuous of intelligence whenever they recognize it, which is not very often. And a hatred of learning, which you don't find in any other country. So we are out of it. And no attempt is being made to put us back into it.
Don't It Always Seem To Go That You Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone?
This is my personal observation also, based on an admittedly small survey population. Most people don't know what they have, and by extension don't know how much they have lost.
But I find it especially interesting how native intelligence survives in many people. Think about how much brain power it takes to know the performance statistics of the major athletes in professional sports, or to follow the convoluted story lines of the soap operas. Now switch the sports stats to economics, and the soaps to geopolitics. Same mental processes, different applications. But that smacks too much of intelligence, so people shun those topics. Did we not recently hear about the smart students at one high school being taken to task for sounding 'too SAT' for their peers?
At the risk of sounding so, I'm going to present this next piece that claims we progressives shouldn't be calling Bu$hCo fascist. They are instead National Socialist. I don't necessarily agree:
Bush's America: Not Fascist, but National Socialist
[Page references to John Lukacs' Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred - ed]
Drop the references to Fascism and focus, instead, on the similarities to be found when comparing America's National Socialism under Bush with Germany's National Socialism under Hitler (never forgetting, of course, that Bush's naked aggression comes nowhere near Hitler's psychopathic willingness to exterminate or enslave entire populations).
Considering Bu$hCo's subversion of local economics to benefit Texans (in particular), I dispute that 'enslavement' - in Iraq and Afghanistan - isn't underway.
But I digress.
There are two reasons why Fascism doesn't apply to Bush's America.
First, Fascists believed in the 'primary importance of the state'. [p.119] Thus, "in the Fascist Manifesto of 1932, Mussolini proclaimed: 'It is not the people who make the state but the state that makes the people.'" [pp.119-120] Few of America's conservatives or Republicans would make such a statement today. Second, after 1938, "Fascism had become absorbed by and subservient to National Socialism, nearly everywhere." [p. 124]
Unlike Mussolini, Hitler asserted that the 'Volk' preceded the 'Reich', and "religions are more stable than forms of states." [p. 120] Hitler's populism propelled him to power. And, as Lukacs notes, with the eventual expansion of democracy (and, thus, the welfare state) to the working classes, "we are, at least in one sense, all national socialists now." [p.41]
Thus, even in Hitler's Germany, the People were intended to be supreme over the State, except that never got put into actual practice, as history testifies. It was just a tool to be used to gain the allegiance of the people through their religious beliefs. Professer Lukacs goes on to roil the waters some more, implying that both major American political parties are national socialist to varying degrees:
The Republican Party is more nationalist than socialist, the Democrats are more socialist than nationalist. But with Hitler's National Socialism, as with George Bush's today, "nationalism was a more important factor of his people's loyalty to him than were the various social improvements and institutions [of the Third Reich]." [p.131] Nationalism, however, is distinct from patriotism.
Patriotism is defensive, associated with love of one's land and traditions. Nationalism is aggressive and associated with the myth of the people, the Volk. A populist "is always a nationalist of sorts." Liberals can be patriots, but almost never nationalists. Which explains why, in Lukacs' view, liberals are losing their electoral appeal.
President Bush has depended on nationalism more than Hitler: "President Bush and his advisers chose to provoke a war in Iraq well before the election of 2004, for the main purpose of being popular. This was something new in American history . . . Not even Hitler chose war in 1939 to enhance or reaffirm his popularity with the German people." Bush may have reached a new moral low in presidential politics when he started a war in Iraq to ensure his reelection. After all, to generate the hatred and evil accompanying a war of choice is a moral weakness that ill becomes a truly great nation. As Lukacs notes, hatred was Hitler's "main characteristic." [p. 208]
Fritz Stern's recent speech about Nazism (at the 10th Annual Dinner of the Leo Baeck Institute) contains passages that eerily capture recent American right-wing political behavior. He notes, for example, "a group of intellectuals known as conservative revolutionaries demanded a new volkish authoritarianism, a Third Reich. Richly financed by corporate interests, they denounced liberalism as the greatest, most invidious threat, and attacked it for its tolerance, rationality and cosmopolitan culture." Sound familiar? And like Bush's supporters today, Stern notes, "people were enthralled by the Nazis' cunning transposition of politics into carefully staged pageantry, into flag-waving martial mass.
Remember all those Bu$hCo photo ops in which Owwer Leedur is posed in front of military audiences? Leni Riefenstall smiles from Valhalla!
Perhaps most ominous is the similar role that religion formerly played in Hitler's National Socialist regime and currently plays in Bush's. According to Lukacs, "what is more significant — and worrisome — is how nationalism, including Hitlerian nationalism, coexisted with religion in the minds of many people; and in that coexistence, their nationalism was often stronger and deeper than was their religion." [p. 131]
Recall all those Bu$hCo photos imposing the Presidential Seal as a halo around the head of Koenig Georg Kriegsfuehrer?
Hitler was "a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany's savior, that he was the instrument of Providence, a leader charged with executing a divine mission." [Nov. 14, 2004 Speech at Leo Baeck Institute] Do not our president and many of his supporters believe the very same thing?
At solemn moments, the National Socialists would shift from pseudo-religious invocation of Providence to traditional Christian forms: In his first radio address to the German people, twenty-four hours after coming to power, Hitler declared: 'The National Government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built up. They regard Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life.'" [Nov. 14, 2004 Speech at Leo Baeck Institute]
After considering how many Americans infuse their nationalism with religion, xenophobic hatred, and Abraham Lincoln's belief the we are "the last best hope of mankind," Lukacs fears that "the fate of mankind indeed seems catastrophic if Americans do not free themselves from the hope that they are THE last hope on earth." [p. 145]
Yet, the question remains: "How much more damage will Bush's National Socialism inflict on America and the world before it is tossed on the trash heap of history?"
At the very least, Bu$hCo policies are going to bring about a world-wide depression that will dwarf the last one in scope and intensity. It will bring about the rise of many regional 'Hitlers' crying nationalist slogans that someone else caused all of their misery - and they won't be entirely incorrect. These warlords will use the mechanism of war to unify their people for easier control, and to hell with the consequences. Each will attack the other, defeating one another in turn, and assimilating their defeated opponents into their armies for new adventures aimed at conquering their new 'common foes', until the world's population reaches either a state of total collapse or annihilation.
There is still time to avert the coming catastrophe that is the legacy of George Warmonger Bu$h. But that time grows shorter with each passsing day, and we cannot count on the patience and restraint of the rest of the world forever. At some point, assuming no change in the course of the American neocon government, the 21st Century version of 'The Guns of August' will roar once more.
Count your change before you leave the register.
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