Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tone of Voice

First, a little something from Neil Postman's wonderful 1985 work on the end of public discourse, Amusing Ourselves to Death:
Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us . . . But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard? Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? To whom do we complain, and when, and in what tone of voice, when serious discourse dissolves into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture's being drained by laughter?
I had that passage on the brain today when I happened upon Paul Street's latest blog entry.

Go have a look at Street's brief message to so-called Congressional Progressives. It's good stuff. Now try this: print it and read it out loud. Read it aloud to yourself, to your friends, to your television screen. Don't hold back. Full voice. Shout. Say it like you mean it ('cause you do).

This is the tone we need to use. This is the tone we use not on easy targets like that menu of criminals known as the Bush Administration and related national and multi-national rat bastards. No. This is the tone we use on the possible allies, the would-be friends who for one reason or another just cannot seem to do their jobs, be responsible, and -- as Street echoing Spike Lee says -- do the right thing.

Enough being sweet. Enough being friendly. Time for the tough love to kick in. And this idea reaches across national borders. It's not just about asking democrats in the US Congress to impeach the lying, cowardly, soul-less, asshole of a puppet ruling the planet. Not just about that. We need national governments throughout the world to do their jobs, to stop working against the interests of their people by continuing to do business with the thugs at the top in Washington. Rumsfeld's retirement was not enough. Yes they all need to be stripped of their cushy jobs as ambassadors, cabinet members, World Bank presidents, civilian advisers and whatever. But they also need to be on no-fly lists. Listen here: none of us on this side of the Atlantic want America's war-mongering, neo-conservative backwash soiling the streets with their presence (unless they're being dragged in belly-cuffs to the International Criminal Court), earning money with their bullshit speeches, or enjoying themselves at all, ever. Ever.

How embarassing will it be if people like that human shitstain Rumsfeld get the Kissinger treatment around the world only to continue to live comfortably in the States. So Street is right: put impeachment back on the table, and now that there is something like a non-reactionary majority in the US Congress, the gloves should come off.

* * *

Don't get me wrong. With the criminals behind the occupation of Iraq behind bars the work will be anything but finished. It is really just an excercise in empowerment. While it will be official government business to bring Bush and Company to trial and put them far, far away (locked up tight, for as long as their miserable bodies breath the air they've been pleased to foul), it is up to individuals to mend the damage we do of our own accord. To what extent are individual members of a destructive culture blameless? What amount of personal responsibility should each of us take? I have in mind here the problematic disconnect between asking corporations and governments to take more (and better) action against environmental degredation while people are pleased as punch to work for them, first of all, and secondly to consume wildly out of proportion with anything approaching sustainability. Ending the reign of scum like Bush (and you British could do your part by taking down your cowardly war criminal lap dogs as well) is a very small part of the larger project of ending our own hyper-consumerist, ultra-materialistic, planet-murdering lifeways.

Or does anyone disagree?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Go Ask Your Democrats

On the mid-term elections in the US earlier this month:

Congratulations! If you are an American -- and with US military bases scattered across the globe, who isn't? -- you are now the proud owner of a Congress controlled by the Democratic Party, the absolute lousiest bunch of political criminals the United States has had to offer since, well, the Republicans.

But before you get too tipsy celebrating the trade-off of a handful of Republican scumbag liars for a handful of Democrat scumbag liars (and the switcheroo between outgoing War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the incoming CIA agent taking his place), here are some questions you may want to ask your local, state, and federal Democrats:

1. When will the USA Patriot Act be repealed?

2. When will the Military Commissions Act be repealed?

3. When will the last US troops leave Iraq?

4. When will funding for Israel's brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine be cut off?

5. When will the US join the International Criminal Court, and sign and honor the Kyoto Treaty and the International Landmine Ban?

6. When will the legislation authorizing a gigantic concrete fence to be built between the US and Mexico be killed?

7. When will the tax code that unjustly favors the wealthy (in particular those who do nothing to earn their money) be changed?

8. When will the resignation of US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who thinks of the Geneva Conventions as "quaint", be demanded?

9. When will John Bolton, the US Ambassador to the United Nations who has said "[t]here is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States" be fired?

10. When will Vice President Dick Cheney, who has carried out secret meetings on energy policy and the invasion and occupation of Iraq, be removed from office?

11. When will US corporations, businesspeople, and investors be made to take responsibility for the havoc their extraordinary unaccountability causes throughout the world?

12. When will the US nuclear weapons arsenal be dismantled and the program to build more destructive weapons shut down?

13. When will those responsible for the policies of torture and extraordinary rendition be brought to trial for their crimes?

14. When will the SOA / WHINSEC be shut down?

15. When will Diego Garcia be returned to its people?

16. When will reparations be paid to the victims of aggression authorized by the United States Congress?

17. When will the US pay its dues to the UN?

18. When will the US stop meddling in Latin American affairs?

19. When will the US Congress adopt an acceptable and sustainable stance toward the rapidly crumbling global environment?

20. When will the US Congress adopt a humanitarian, rather than a corporate or religious fundamentalist, policy on alleviating the scourges of hunger, AIDS, and other diseases in the Global South?

21. When will the US Congress break up the media monopolies that have decimated political discourse?

22. When will the US Congress defend the supposed ideals of its Constitution by opening up political discourse to more than the two ruling corporate parties?

23. When will access to healthcare and affordable housing be made available to everyone living within the US?

24. When will the US start pushing a version of "globalization" that globalizes labor, repeal harmful trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA, and withdraw its support for backwards and ineffective IMF and World Bank policies?

25. When will US Congresspeople give the xenophobic rhetoric a rest?

* * *

Now is a good moment to recommend Paul Street's post-election Empire and Inequality Report for his merciful take on what should be done with the Bush Cabal. Of course my list above is just a start, and an easy-going one at that. None of the questions are particularly nasty, or motivated by polticial ideology. There is a great deal of triumphalism going around, and now that Democratic supporters are exhaling their big sighs of relief, the pressure is off. Certainly the establishment would prefer a slightly less reactionary version of itself to a public so fed up that it removes its blinders and no longer sees a difference between the two criminal parties.

But more importantly, it should be obvious to everyone that in Washington, where (let's be honest) nothing but the label has actually changed, none of our very real problems are going to be addressed or solved. Think for a moment about what those problems are, and consider where (if not in Washington) and how (if not politically) they might be dealt with.