14 November 2010

On Lies That Divide Us

Excerpt from
No Stranger To Strange Lands:
A Journey Through Strange Coincidences, Connective Thoughts, And Far Flung Places

Part I: Movements About the Northern Hemisphere
Strange Coincidences
My birthday had come and gone in unspectacular fashion. I almost forgot about it. My husband, Jamie, and I were in a holding pattern in the early part of that summer of 2006, holding on to what little funds we had, holed up with our two dogs in the air conditioning of a tiny apartment north of Tampa, Florida, along the Pithlachascotee River, spending money only on the basic necessities – food and beer. I was depressed. The Iraq Occupation was tragically dragging on, and the rumblings of an attack on Iran were beginning to grow in amplitude, as reported by the amazing Seymour M. Hersh in an article in The New Yorker, titled, “The Iran Plans,” rumblings which were following an alarmingly similar pattern, with whisper campaigns and unsubstantiated rumors of nuclear mushroom clouds and evil demagogues all over again. So I picked up the Kurt Vonnegut book I had seen in our book bin to cheer myself up. That always works. There are a few things in life that pick me up when I am down: moving art, music, dance, encountering really interesting people and places, my dogs, Jamie’s grasp of the bigger picture, and a Kurt Vonnegut or Tom Robbins book. A Tom Robbins book once literally – and I mean literally – saved my life. I had come to a point where I felt that the human race was doomed to continue to commit acts of war, environmental destruction, and horrible injustice, and I was on the verge of suicide because I thought that we should know better – that being “civilized” actually entails being civil. But then Mr. Robbins’ Skinny Legs and All gave me hope through comedy and unique perspective, and I decided to stick around and try to counteract all those forces that I felt were so barbaric. And now this Vonnegut book, Hocus Pocus, didn’t fail, either. In fact, something amazing happened while I was reading it. In it, the protagonist reads a science fiction story in a porno magazine, a fun little literary device through which Vonnegut injects a bit of science fiction into an otherwise only slightly futuristic setting. It is an outrageously satirical commentary about how full of ourselves human beings tend to be. Very clever – I enjoyed the story very much.
Here’s the amazing part: a few days after I read this, I came across an article on the internet that made reference to the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which, despite its reverberating anti-Semitic effects on Western History, I had never heard of before. Talk about a bizarre coincidence – this title really jumped out at me because the title of the satirical sci-fi story I had just read was The Protocols of the Elders of Tralfamadore. Holy guacamole! What are the chances that I would happen to have read a little story in a book I have had for I don’t know how long – a few years at least – which I picked up impulsively, and then stumble upon the actual real-life writing that it satirizes, without knowing it existed to be satirized, just a few days later? Of course, this knowledge added a whole new layer of meaning to Vonnegut’s story – a very thick, gooey, sticky, delicious layer of irony. The Tralfamadorian version points out how sadly lacking we human beings are of a real sense of humor, thus rendering us gullible to ego-stroking propaganda and fear mongering tactics perpetrated to get us to accept irrational ideas that further someone’s ulterior motives. The other version of the Protocols, the one that exists in reality, is the perfect example of this concept, except without the humorous slant, as the document is a fake manifesto, first published in 1903 in Russia, an anti-Semitic treatise written to slander the Jews and spread fear, hatred, and mistrust of them for their supposed ambitions to secretly take over the world by controlling the media and the financial structures, all lies and gross exaggerations. This dirty trick seems to always work – it is so much easier to spread hatred than trust! In fact, the perpetrators of lies and deceit seem to all follow the same story line, just filling in the blanks. For example, the creators of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion plagiarized a chapter from an older anti-Semitic novel that describes a cabal of Jewish leaders meeting with the Devil to carry out a “Jewish conspiracy” in none other than Prague – the very same place where the perpetrators of the Iraq War falsely claim that the modern-day Devil, Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent, a claim that is still being insisted upon, despite its lack of any veracity, by the apologists for the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. The layers and layers of irony, they just keep piling up.

These are the opening words of my book, No Stranger To Strange Lands. In this short segment, I succinctly depict my state of mind at the moment that began a wandering pursuit of how we humans are involved in the inner workings of the universe and of what it is that defines our humanity. The motivation for this pursuit of a literary Unified Theory of Everything was none other than the deep disappointment as to why we humans could not seem to get our shit together. The book does not dwell on a theme of scare tactics so much as it looks at some of the underlying assumptions that, throughout history, have caused one group of human beings to see other groups of human beings as lesser beings, or have held up one segment of society as more important and entitled than others – i.e. how full of ourselves we tend to be.
It may be just a strange coincidence that these Protocols were the impetus for my project - or not. After I had finished my book but could not stop writing and pursuing these complex issues that fascinated me, I was compelled to compose an essay titled Secrecy, Democracy, and Fascism: Lessons from History, which caused me to spend a good amount of time trying to figure out what social factors existed in Germany that led to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. I still don’t understand it in full, but what became clear to me was that a major factor in the rise of the Nazis was belief in the Jewish conspiracy that was propageted by publications such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (alternatively translated from Russian as the Protocols of the Leaders of Zion) and many others around the turn of the previous century.

Now, the exact same accusatory conspiracy, manifesting itself in varying forms, is once again circulating about the atmosphere, and the big question is, can this new round of fear mongering be overcome in the “information age,” or will the internets only function to spread more fear and loathing?

I believe that modern society can overcome its worst instincts, which tend to get amplified by the www, if we connect with each other rather than separate ourselves, commit to dialogue rather than diatribes, and look for real solutions rather than scapegoats and separative religious ideology.

The International Jew is a four volume set of booklets or pamphlets originally published and distributed in the early 1920s by Henry Ford (yes, The Henry Ford)

Since I wrote the Secrecy, Democracy, and Fascism essay, I have come into contact with ever more conspiracy theorists who are convinced that the One World Order is a reality, where all important events that occur in the world have been purposely orchestrated by a secret cabal in order to... well, for different purposes – to take away our guns, to keep us all enslaved to their secret system, to perpetuate war, to inflict the tyrannies of socialism/environmentalism/feminism upon the pure and the Christian, to inflict the tyranny of Christianity upon the weak and the malleable... Take your pick of whatever fears appeal to you the most, and be sure to brush off those who disagree with your chosen narrative as being sheeple or having drunk the kool-aide or of being puppets of a mysterious, conniving, hidden force, all of them driven by the paranoia that, to use a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.” Of course, anyone who can appreciate the true genius of this movie’s plotline will delight in how incredibly intriguing this statement is as a rejection of conspiratorial thinking. It upholds the far more realistic concept of what I like to call the Clusterfuck Theory, which the book, Catch-22 so wonderfully illustrates. And this example also serves to illustrate the point that the rigurous refusal to blindly infer the meaning of any given statement or event that is divorced from its context is integral to the philosophy of Connectivity.
Conspiracy paranoia about evil intentions and secret cabals is very painful to observe and nearly impossible to argue against, (because if you open up your mind, the Devil will get in), but, as Bill Moyers recently pointed out, It’s OK If It’s Impossible. This is, after all what the progressive agenda is really all about – the painfully slow process of proving the trustworthiness of those who have been marginalized and demonized by traditional power structures. Bill Moyers’ attitude is my source of hope for humanity, because in the bigger picture, progress, like geological change, always moves forward, despite seemingly overwhelming barriers and constant setbacks. I look to those who have been enslaved, and to women, who have been deemed inferior in the past, and to the LBGT community of the world, and to indigenous people who are beginning to regain their pride and heal their broken spirits, among many others, for inspiration. Such groups of people have been slowly gaining acceptance into the halls of power, and it is not surprising that a fierce new wave of reactionary paranoia has developed, reigniting the same old deceptions that tie economic difficulty to secret agendas all over again. Such reactionaries are disseminating the notion that certain segments of society are not seeking equality but rather, trying to amass vengeful power through the NAACP and the ACLU and the supposed puppet-mastery of George Soros. These flames of paranoia must be put out with persistent reminders that we are all connected, and that it is the powerful who wish to divide us and cast suspicion so that they may hold on to their power whilst we all squabble amongst ourselves.

My project, with this blog, is to get back to something that the culture in the United States seems to be losing sight of, as more and more of the population seem to have decided that public education is nothing more than mind control, while we continue to chop reality into disembodied 140-character fragments. That something is the understanding of the importance of art as the connective force that can reunite our reality and our selves. It is what my book is all about, what my collections of essays are all about, and what authentic, true art, and especially literature, throughout all of human history, has been all about. Authentic, true art may also market ideas, but these ideas must be connective, even while asserting our individuality, as an expression of our common humanity. I want to explore complexity, to reunite our minds with the flow of ideas that make up our lives, to find common threads that tie all human being together through our diversity and individuality.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is, of course, an inauthentic kind of literature. While Picasso said, “Art is the lie that permits us to understand the truth,” that publication was a lie that was planted by those who sought to maintain the status quo of nationalistic aristocracy, first in Russia and then in Europe, against the perceived threat of internationalism in the form of communism joined by the Jewish Diaspora. Such fear mongering did indeed work in Germany, as these two sectors of society – the communists and the Jews – were perceived to be conspiratorial, and the call for unity against this threat to nationalism did put an end to the infighting between the Royalists and the progressives in Germany. But this unity was based on a lie, a purposeful lie, and success with one lie leads to more lies, which is what the notion that the workers would be included in the governance of the fascist nation, once purged of internationalists and other “impurities,” was. Unity based on opposition to the sharing of power, to diversity, to change, is unstable, just as orthodox Marxists found their unity in violence and tyranny to be, because the end does not justify the means. The end is not separate from the means. The Germans who were convinced that they should trust in the old plutocracy to carry their country forward were the very people who were most taken advantage of by the lies and false promises that lead them down that dark and irreversible path.
Argentina, where I am now, was lead down a very similar dark path, lead there by very similar paranoia about the intentions of the international worker’s movement, with the intervention of the CIA, and with the same distrust of the Jewish community. There had been a very similar crisis of confidence in the government, amidst very similar divisions between conservatives of the plutocracy and progressives seeking more of a voice in their democracy.
Amy Goodman is here in Argentina at this very moment, highlighting stories of the strength, courage, and perseverance that individuals and communities have displayed in pursuing justice and reuniting families torn apart by the horrors of the military dictatorship during the 70’s and early 80’s. As I am keen to point out, the investment not only of the Argentine plutocracy but also of the United States in trying to deal with social unrest using violence and tyranny was a complete waste of their resources. Not only did the dictatorship fail to remove the socialist uprising that it sought to extinguish, but the unstable neoliberal policies that President Carlos Menem imposed to raise the status of the nation after the dictatorship was dissolved ended up further strengthening the movement.
I am particularly struck by the first of the three interviews that Amy Goodman conducted on Friday for Democracy Now!, on the topic of the Economic Rebellion. Here is how historian, Ezequiel Adamovsky began:

I think the most important thing to take into account was that Argentina, during the 1990s, was the most extreme experiment in neoliberal transformation. We had the most radical program of reforms at that time, which ended up in massive unemployment, impoverishment of more than half of the population of the country, and in 2001, finally, the collapse of the whole economic system. At the same time, we had a crisis of credibility in the political system. Since every single political party was proposing the same types of measures, neoliberal measures, population lost confidence in all politicians at the same time. So we—in 2001, we had the vast majority of the population rejecting neoliberal measures and not having any political alternative in the established political parties as to how to continue ruling this country.
Hmmm – this sounds extremely familiar, although in the States, it is referred to as “free market capitalism” in place of neoliberalism. A little later on, Amy Goodman asks him about his book, The History of the Middle Class, and he answers:
Well, I think I wrote that book without knowing it, perhaps, because I believe that there’s no deep social change possible without solidarity between the lower class and at least part of the middle class. And since I believe that the capitalist political system is about separating those two classes in different fields, I think that the most important challenge that we have, politically speaking, is to reunite part of the middle class with lower class in new kind of bonds and links of solidarity.

In Argentina, the middle class suffered a process of impoverishment throughout the ’90s. There was a new phenomenon called the “new poor,” meaning people who used to be middle class but they were now poor people. And that process, funnily enough, it reaproached, from the identity viewpoint, the identity of the middle class, impoverished middle class, and the lower class. And historically speaking, in Argentina, there was a big gap between those two, the middle class usually rejecting any contact with poor people. But that slightly changed in the ’90s. And in part, the 2001 rebellion was possibly due to that.
The rest of the interview goes into the occupied factory movement that began with the worker takeover of the Zanon Ceramics plant that, despite having received millions in corporate welfare, its owners decided to close – again, a familiar scenario. Since, as taxpayers, the workers had supported the plant, they reasoned that they owned it and should be able to try to turn it around. They succeeded where others had failed. But this statement, “I believe that the capitalist political system is about separating those two classes in different fields, I think that the most important challenge that we have, politically speaking, is to reunite part of the middle class with lower class in new kind of bonds and links of solidarity.” echoes my writings of late about this very topic, of the capitalist system being all about division and separation, while real grassroots movements that well up from the lowest positions on the totem pole are not about revenge or wanting handouts or envy, as they are so often portrayed, but simply about connectivity.
Image by Sean Baker  (Data Source: http://www.cipotato.org/DIVA/data/misc/world_adm0.zip)
and used under a Creative Commons license.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...