Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Unlikely Anti-War Candidate and his Colleagues

The fact that Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate who wants us to stop being the world’s policeman shows how schizophrenic our political system has become.

Paul’s motives appear to be mainly related to his crusade for minimal government.  But even so, why is it perfectly all right for a Republican to campaign for an end to our imperial policies, while no ‘Democratic’ candidate would be allowed to do likewise?

The two oceans that spared us direct implication in Asian and European wars - other than for the purpose of steering these areas in directions beneficial to us - have, sadly, isolated 100% of Americans from any notion of social progress. Not even ‘progressive’ pundits dare to break the taboo against socialism.

Green Parties exist all over the world, and are influential in many European countries. The American Green Party espouses the same progressive policies, but like other third parties, it continues to be marginalized. The idea that the United States could benefit from systems that have been time-tested elsewhere is anathema. The Euro  crisis is a handy scapegoat; but it was largely caused by participation in our financial capers. Nor are Americans told that the European 99 percent are better protected against its social fallout.   (German industry has people working shorter hours instead of laying them off, and the French are determined to see through a tax on financial transactions which we can scarcely imagine.  European demonstrations do not indicate that European workers are worse off than ours, but that they have a vibrant tradition of protest.)

American news of police brutality toward Occupiers in dozens of cities across the country<http://occupywallst.org/, is relegated to brief news crawls.  The public can be forgiven for thinking the movement is over, when in fact it is part of the worldwide movement for radical change that has built on that tradition.

Appearing to ignore the growing strength of the 99%, both Democratic and Republican candidates claim ‘compassion’ while denying that in a country of 300,000,000, government must see to it that compassionate policies are implemented.  (Some will say this is easier to achieve in small countries with homogeneous populations.  Whatever their failings, the former Communist China and the former Soviet Union belie this myth.)

Republican candidates in Florida are out of touch with second and third generation Cuban-Americans, who see that Cuban socialism is evolving peacefully.  Would any sane person disagree with Fidel Castro’s description of the Republican race "as the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been", as Haiti continues to flounder under our auspices, and Puerto Ricans can only dream of independence?

Rick Santorum called loudly for us to take back the Southern Hemisphere, even as four of its leaders welcome Iranian president Ahmedinejad. Brandishing the threat of Islamic terrorists entering the US through Latin America, he fails to understand that Iran/Latin American ties represent a logical common anti-imperialist stance, since both Shi’ism and socialism represent a defense of the underdog.

The bottom line is that contrary to the President’s blustering assertions, both parties know that neither hundreds of overseas bases nor leaner, meaner drone warfare will prevent this from being the Chinese century.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Read George Lakey's Post on Scandinavia on Alternet

George Lakey, the father of framing, has framed the argument for Americans to pay attention to Europe's social systems in a way they can understand: by relating how the Swedish and Norwegian 99% got out from under their respective 1 percents in a non-violent but determined and organized way - STARTING A HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

Here's the link: www.alternet.org/story/153929/how_swedes_and_norwegians_broke_the_power_of_the_‘1_percent’?akid=8187.287959.vXcRI5&rd=1&t=5


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Islamist Majority in Egypt's Parliament, a Christian Fundamentalist Force in Ours, and Armies over Both

On the first anniversary of Egypt’s Revolution that dethroned a thirty-year dictator, activists lament the continuing power of his army, while Americans worry about the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood. Little by little it’s becoming clear that fundamentalism and military control are not limited to Third World countries trying to achieve ‘democracy’.  The most powerful democracy in the world increasingly uses drones to spy on its citizens and assassinate enemies - or unlucky by-standers - around the world.

As usual, I’ve raised two issues here, but they are related: one is the increasing clout of fundamentalists in all religions, the other is rulers’ increasing recourse to military means to control populations.

Fundamentalists are not generally perceived as threats by governments. They tend to approve of the use of force to force conversions, but more ‘fundamentally’ , obedience to any higher power, be it God or a President, implies a willingness to accept that power’s use of force.  As I have written in ‘A Taoist Politics’, both the Judeo-Christian ethic and Islamic morality are based on God’s perceived power over life and death.

Thus it is not surprising that American military bases and academies have increasingly made room for religious services, fostering a simultaneous commitment to God and the use of force.

Nor is it surprising that our twenty-first century enemies go by names such as Al Shabaab (Movement of Striving  Youth) in Somalia, or Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) in Yemen.  Have we not fundamentalist militia groups preparing to take on the American government, which they see as opposed to their moral convictions?

Not to mention well-funded movements of American evangelical Christians who oppose "both modernism in theology and the cultural changes that modernism endorses”? <en.wikipedia.org/wiki Christian_ fundamentalism# Militancy_ and_ evangelicals>.

The fact that Tea Partiers and associated groups tend to believe in competition rather than cooperation is really a detail compared to the fact that they, like Islamic fundamentalists, believe women should be subservient to men, and that real men carry guns.


Friday, January 13, 2012

My Mailbox is Crying

Every time I open my mailbox, out come tumbling desperate pleas for money, like so manhy outstretched hands.  First I wondered why we need mail service if nine-tenths of what it delivers are either advertisements or pleas for help. Then I began to wonder about the organizations sending out those pleas: they are in fact doing what should be the work of the entire polity, represented by the government.

Then I begin to wonder why we have so many volunteer organizations.  That’s another way to keep rich people’s taxes low: they don’t like handing over their ‘hard-earned' money, but volunteering - a form of charity - makes them feel good.

And when I receive please from NGOs, I further wonder whether they would be so ubiquitous if governments were taking care of the world.  I don’t mean organizations like the Red Cross, but Oxfam and all those others that try desperately to save lives in war or disaster areas.  Governments and international governmental agencies such as the UN should have sufficient budgets and personnel to take care of the world’s victims.

Think of all the paper, ink, postage, carriers needed to turn your mailbox into the equivalent of the beggar on the street, as our political parties dispute the role of government.  That battle is actually going nowhere, because the Democrats want to provide safety nets while saving cowboy capitalism - much as Gorbachev hoped to save Communism - with too few innovations too late.

During the Cold War academics argued over whether the two systems would one day ‘converge’.  What’s happened is that both have accepted to subsume human needs to those of capital, and now their respective peoples, together with most others, are working to create societies based on direct or participatory democracy rather than the representative democracy that are more or less a sham everywhere.  That's what the Occupy Movement and the revolts spreading over the globe like wildfire are about.

And if they succeed, we won’t need mailboxes anymore.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Values Thing

When The Economist www.economist.com/node/21542162 celebrates the new year by publishing a story on academic studies of the Koran, it’s time to point out the values we share with Islam.

Is it not odd that the far right, the most hawkish element of American society, calls for the same family values that are practiced in Muslim countries?  Both societies prefer women at home, both are very family-oriented, tending to shun divorce, sexual and reproductive choice.  Iran's Ahmedinejad, currently visiting Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, condemns modern morals as loudly as Pat Robertson, who, if I’m not mistaken, would blast the Muslim world to kingdom come.

As I’ve noted before on this site, Sayyid Qutb, the author and theoretician who boosted the most conservative form of Sunni Islam, visited the United States in the early sixties and identified our crisis of civilization in scathing terms. He condemned not only topless dancers, but also anomy and meaningless consumption as fatal to civilization.  We’re there now, as the Occupy and No-Growth movements at least partly recognize half a century later.

I often fault The Economist for doggedly trying to see a positive side to almost anything, but I must give it credit for reporting that: “Hotheads can generally find a passage that seems to justify their violence.  Such passage abound in the Koran, just as they do in the founding texts of Christianity, Judaism and many other religions  There is also a long tradition of interpreting such verses in reassuring ways.  For example, it is often tressed that the Koran’s injunction to ‘slay the unbeliever wherever you find him’ relates to a specific historical context in which the first  Muslims were betrayed by a pagan group who had signed a truce.”

Surely the most nonsensical justification for our opposition to a nuclear Iran came during a recent Republican debate from Rick Santorum.  He explained that because Muslims welcome martyrdom, they would be willing to use nuclear weapons more readily than other nuclear countries such as North Korea or Israel.

An extraordinary appropriation of ‘slay the unbelievers’......

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Political Uses of Nostalgia

The extraordinary January 9th issue of The Nation is worth reading not only for what three articles say about the twenty years since the Soviet Union was abolished, but for what their writers reveal about the little-known event and even more importantly, about nostalgia for what we could only see as a monstrosity.  This is important not only with respect to our misguided view of how the Soviet Union was experienced by its peoples.  It can be extrapolated to crucial current events in Syria and Iran, bearing in mind that the Shi'a have traditionally been the down-trodden in Islam.

Vadim Nikitin, a Soviet-born Russia analyst, quotes a book by Berkeley sociologist Alexei Yurchak “Everything was Forever Until It Was No More’, who writes: “An undeniable constitutive part of today’s phenomenon of post-Soviet nostalgia, is the longing for the very real humane values, ethics, friendships and creative possibilities that were as irreducibly part of the everyday life of (late) socialism as were the feelings of dullness and alienation”.  (A 17 year old describes a post-Soviet person as “one who is lost in this world.  He is totally naked - spiritually, materially, nationally”.)

According to a memoir of daily post-war life by Gorbatchev associate Valentin Tolstykh’s “The Way We were: The Soviet Person as He Is” (2008):”Though sheltered, naive and conformist, the Soviet Person was also trusting, communal and idealistic, qualities that find little scope of expression in Russia’s current cutthroat capitalist system. The essential traits of the Soviet Person: collectivism, internationalism, and awareness have been replaced by indifference.”

I’m especially indebted to Nikitin, because I’ve been trying to get across the notion that the rulers of Iran, Syria and Libya have had sincere followers among their people because their leadership, however brutal or corrupt, has been based on very real humane values. Nikitin describes these as ‘collectivism, internationalism and awareness’, while the Occupy movement and the revolts across the globe would describe them as cooperation, interdependence and respect for Otherness.

Right now, the airwaves are buzzing with warnings about Iran, and pundits exhibit a genuine incomprehension of Russia and China’s reluctance to support sanctions.  The reasons are the same that dictate these leaders’ interest in an international system of government. Naomi Klein describes it as ‘an alternative worldview’ in her recent exceptional article ‘Capitalism vs. the Climate’  www.thenation.com/search/apachesolr_search/Capitlism%20vs.%20The%20Climate.

Everything comes together for those who make connections rather than focusing on 'facts'.