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?


michael the tubthumper said...

no disagreements here

do you have a link for the neil postman thing?

Keir said...

Hey Michael. There's a ton of Postman stuff available on the web, first thing I found looking just now is this. Amusing Ourselves To Death is widely available, I think it's his most well-known book. Here's a link to the forward, which you as a fan of Orwell will find most intriguing.

JOS said...

I agree, as long as we aren't going to hold our breath waiting for the so-called progressives in congress to listen and act...