Greenville Millennium Gazette
Issue No. 8, Vol. 1; publisher and editor, Joel A. Wendt
"...government in its best state is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one..."
Thomas Paine: Common Sense, published January 10th, 1776
This will basically be a political diary of comments made in accord with current events and dated with the date of the commentary:
Dateline, Saturday, April 28th, 2001.
A week ago was the action in Quebec. A few comments:
One of the points of protest is the public effect through the presence of media. There are immediate effects and long term effects, and these vary considerably. Immediate effects draw attention, and if the spin is favorable to the protesters intentions, then the public consciousness might receive something worthwhile. The problem is the spin, which is not in the control of the protesters, but in control of the media. As I experienced the media (which is obviously a small sampling), the spin was not favorable. Lets go into this in more detail.
A real question is what idea do the protesters want the general public to acquire through their activity. Protesters were given some opportunity to make sound bites, but media remains in control of which sound bites it uses. Those sound bites I heard were pretty weak. I don't know if the organizers try to have a uniform interview (almost impossible given the wide range of groups and individuals involved), but such might make the media give a more accurate spin.
It is a legitament question: What is being protested? I would put a certain kind of spin, which perhaps many of the protesters don't really realize as the essential issue. Here is my view of the essential issue as regards these kinds of meetings (concerning trade and investment agreements among goverments).
The trade agreements result in a loss of national sovereignty. This is their main political effect, and it represents an attempt by the multi-national corporations (and their allies in various goverments) to go beyond a nation-state world to a world of a kind of corporate feudalism. It is part of a whole series of such efforts that have been in play for several decades (at least), and of which the general public is basically not aware. The situation is worse than this, however.
There is a contrary positive impulse working through democratic governments, which is still embrionic in its nature. As a principle of goverment it was first really only worked out in America, but even there is not really understood. This is the principle - national sovereignty is really rooted in the sovereignty of the individual human being. We the People, as a collective act, through our Consent, give rise to the legitamacy of a government. This legitamacy does not exist in the government, but only in the Consent of the real primary sovereigns - individual human beings.
So, even deeper than the loss of national sovereignty, is a loss of the real roots of all goverment legitamacy, and the transfer of those powers to the Corporation, a social organism, which if not restrained, will only produce the grossest inhumanities, because those who work for it surrender almost all rights (I can speak freely in my home, but not in my place of work).
Radical action which does not bring this reality to light, is no radical action at all, but rather a kind of self indulgent temper tantrum (see my essay The Plan, for a better idea).
A secondary problem with the protests is the non-historical formulation of the anti-corporate retoric. Even though I pointed out above the negative potential of the current social tendencies we are calling globalization, the derailment of these tendencies does not lie in oppostion to them. Corporations are not the modern bogeyman so many make them out to be. Like many social forms corporations arose out of quite reasonable human impulses and with many basically good purposes in mind. Modern conditions of corporate excess are symptoms of disease in this kind of social form, but not signs of its fundamental evil nature.
Thus, to oppose the corporation is to strengthen the very tendencies one wishes to have healed. Therefore something more mature and more sophisticated than mere opposition is called for. But this requires first that those social forms whose alliance in Civil Society is currently engaged in opposition to the corporation have to find some kind of growth possibities within themselves.
Dateline, Saturday, June 30, 2001:
Well, we have some months now of the Bush administration and it is perhaps time to characteris its major tendencies. For those with a conservative bent, this will be painful.
Those who have read my essay called Basic Conceptions: fundamentals of a new social view, will understand that the Bush administration can best be characterised as "ideological" in the extreem. For those who may not have had the pleasure of this essay, let me give just a single point which it tries to make.
The world, in this case the social/political world, functions according to certain understandable kinds of processes and dynamics. However, we live in an age in which this understanding is absent, and people approach the social world as if it should conform to their ideological views, not according to how the social work in fact operates. It is as if I were to try to operate a car, which I had not been trained to operate, according to rules I invented in my ignorance. This is what happens when the social/political world is approached from an ideological position - an attempt is made to "operate" the dynamics of this extraordinary confluence of biological, cultural and human impulses, not according to its actual rules, but in accord with how an individual or group believes, wishes, hopes, imagines or otherwise supposes this world functions.
Now this "error" in approach is not evil in itself. After all the whole world basically fails to appreciate how the world actually works. Individuals and groups have bits and pieces of this understanding, and some even try to relate to the world according to that part of it they do understand, but many approach the world as if it functions according to their rigid ideological views, a thought habit quite common and itself understandable.
Ideologies are not all alike. It is possible to have a liberal ideology just as it is possible to have a conservative ideology. The content of the ideology is frequently not as relevant as the fact that it is used as a map through which the world is functionally approached.
For example, many are aware of the term "fundamentalist", which is applied to Christian religious systems in the United States, and to various regimes in the Arab world. I am going to use that term in its generally understood way, but with the additional nuance of backward looking. A fundamentalist ideology wants to the world to work in accord with an image it has of the past. This view may be false, that is the world may not have actually have been that way in the past, but nevertheless this is often a major characteristic of a fundamentalist political view - trying to turn the world toward an imagined past.
This is the general characteristic I would give to what the Bush administration has so far expressed in its deeds: it is ruled by a fundamentalist ideology. Our next question has to be: what is the effect of this approach on the general conditions of the social world, given that a fundamentalist regime is now occupying the White House, and giving direction to the role the American State is playing in the world. Keep in mind in considering this, that America has a very dominant position in world affairs.
Now some may doubt this characterization, so a bit of evidence might be necessary here.
Just consider, for example, the new Star Wars iniative. The Bush administration is not only proposing to spend 100 billion dollars on a new (and most likely unworkable) military hardward system, it is going around the world and undermining the various weapons treaties that have been in place for many years. In a sense the Bush adminstration wants to return international relations to an early 1950's status, at which time the United States dominated things because of its sole possession of the Bomb. In this case the apparent hope is to be in sole possesion of a Bomb defense.
I used the word "apparent" above because one has to qualify this a bit, and because something else is involved in this so-called "strategy". The 100 billion dollars is also basically a welfare program for the military-industrial complex. These parts of our society feel entitled to survive, and have strong motives for promoting decision making based upon their self interest. The US military, and the industrial concerns that profit from supplying weapons to it, have to maintain a more or less constant flow of money or they cannot continue to exist. A world at peace, involved mostly in trade disputes, does not support their existence. They need huge spending programs and the Star Wars fantasy can provide this. And, let us not forget, what is budgeted at 100 billion in the beginning is very likey to actually cost ten times that amount in practice.
Now these two matters (destruction of the existing weapons treaty's balance in the world; and, the propping up of a self interested parasitical organism) clearly are quite unfortunate for the rest of us. And, this gives us the general rule regarding the effects of fundamentalist ideologies on the social world.
They are fatal.
As pointed out in many places on this website, the social world is currently experiencing a kind of death process, which is the necessary precedent to a potential metamorphosis into a new civilization. So the appearence of a fundamentalist regime in the United States is not really a surprise, but is rather a tragic necessity.
Because too many people still sleep.
Dateline, December 1st, 2001:
The World Trade Center destruction is now somewhat past. This piece is not about that, for its meaning requires all manner of other considerations. Here, we are simply going to take a look at certain aspects of the Bush administration's reactions to ths tragic event.
The main concern is the efforts of the administration to assert that it must erode various civil rights in order to fight terrorism. This problem is being addressed in many forums, and I only want to add a few considerations.
Political adminstrations, in many places not just the United States, tend to identify themselves with the Nation or the People. They think, for example: "We are America". They think: "What we feel is like what the Nation feels, and we can act upon what we feel and be right."
But the fact is, and this is more true in the United States than in other places, the administration is not the Nation or the People, but rather their servants. Any political adminstration in the United States only understands its true authority when it realizes it can only act in service, and has not been given the authority to act for its own benefit.
In the case of various civil rights, the adminstration ought to see itself as their prime guardian, and should never under any circumstances suggest, advocate or endeavor to change the rules to make its own job easier. But, as pointed out above, adminstrations tend to believe they are identical with that of which they are the stewards. So they confuse serving their own interests with serving the interests of the People.
The next step that is to come, given what has happen so far, is that the administration will begin to see attacks on its legitimacy as attacts on the Country. This was the core flaw of the Nixon adminstration, and it may well be the most deadly flaw for this Bush adminstration. Unfortunately, the real costs of such flaws are born by the People and the Nation, while the individuals indulging in such delusions hardly suffer at all.
Congress, with great stupidity (make no mistake, this was outstandingly dumb, perhaps the dumbest thing an American Congress has ever done), in passing a bunch of laws (without a great deal of thought or debate) following the Tragedy, gave to the administration the power to define what terrorism is, and what it means to support terrorism.
This means that the administration in its confusion as to its identity will be able to define as terrorist activity, or activity in support of terrorism, activities by American citizens directed against the administration. One can see this coming - anti-administration activity will be defined as activity in support of terrorism, and therefore, given the erosion of civil rights for potential terrorists or their supporters, anti-admistration activity, that is political activity the adminstration does not like, will lead to arrests and other forms of supression that will no longer be protected by the U.S. Constitution, in practice.
I say, in practice, because legally there is no basis for this. But that doesn't mean the adminstration will follow the law (the Nixon administration had no trouble not following the law). It will suppress opposition through midnight arrests, secret trials, and incarceration in places where attempts to provide the protection of the Constitution will be prevented.
This is the road to Fascism, and we are more than just a few steps along the path.