John Colson: Hit and Run
August 21, 2009
We have a crisis of confidence staring us in the face. No, make that a crisis in belief. No, make it a crisis in understanding.
Ah, hell, it’s just a crisis of monumental proportions, going on inside the minds and hearts of all conscious and conscientious citizens of these United States and the world, and every now and then it’s good to recognize it, acknowledge it, and roll it out for others to contemplate.
Sometimes, though, I get tired of being in my own head, spouting my own thoughts, tossing out my own ideas and idiosyncrasies, and feel a need to do as that much-loved, faux-rock group, The Monkees, once sang: “Take a Giant Step Outside Your Mind.”
So, I do, and turn to other minds, other souls, other sources of inspiration and ideas.
Luckily, there are many out there who write with such wisdom and insight that I find myself thinking, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
And so I will quote from a couple of these big thinkers, turning first to a poet and statesman well outside our nation’s borders, in a physical sense, but well within the ethical and philosophical underpinnings of what we like to think of as America – Vaclav Havel, erstwhile president (twice, actually) of what we now call the Czech Republic.
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Writing about the power of dissidents, in a recent essay titled “The Power of the Powerless,” Havel notes that when a dissident breaks the rules of society, “he has exposed it as a mere game … He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie,” and the lie in this case is the structures of government that are concerned, first and foremost, with maintaining the status quo.
“Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal,” this poet tells us. “The principle must embrace and permeate everything. There are no terms whatsoever on which it can coexist with living within the truth and therefore everyone who steps out of the line denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety.”
Havel neatly lays out how corrupt and venal governments (pick a country, any damned country) must work hard to maintain a web of hypocrisy and lies – “the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class … depriving people of information is called making it available … the repression of culture is called its development … the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom … farcical elections become the highest form of democracy …
“Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past … the present … the future … statistics. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.”
Kind of lays it out there in black and white, doesn’t it? Our nation is in the thrall of just such a mindset. Even Barack Obama, who was elected with such hopefulness and passion, is proving to be little more than another practitioner of this prevailing hypocrisy.
For example, noted progressive thinker Noam Chomsky, speaking at Riverside Church in Harlem, N.Y., last June, pointed out that Obama and his cohort have spent trillions of taxpayer dollars to bail out the banking industry, while conveniently ignoring the international pledge, at a conference in Rome this year, to do something concrete to alleviate world hunger. Chomsky referred to “the comparatively small sum of $12 billion” promised at the conference,” declaring that “only $1 billion has been delivered” due to the need to divert all resources to saving the richest of the rich from the consequences of their own excessive greed.
And, as Chomsky notes, it is this very greed that has caused the world food crisis in the first place. He describes the diverse regions of Bangladesh and Haiti, two “backward” nations that, when “discovered” by the white world were “remarkably rich in resources.” Within a short time, both nations were reduced to abject poverty and crushing debt by a system of imperialistic and predatory policies aimed at further enriching the already rich and powerful.
In this country, Chomsky maintains, our government has systematically denied the true benefits of democracy from the start, when the Constitution was structured so that “power should be in the hands of the wealthy … the more responsible set of men who have sympathy for property owners” and to, in what Chomsky said were James Madison’s own words, “protect the minority of the opulent from the majority.”
And so, when the vast majority of Americans, say, demand health care reform that truly changes the status quo, Obama and his minions appear poised to give us the exact opposite, merely rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking ship known as the U.S. health care system.
Or, when the vast majority of Americans demand revisions to our economy, Obama and his ilk put in charge of those revisions the same men who helped set us up for the current recession in the first place, and who, along with their friends, stand to lose the most if things are truly reformed.
So much more could be said, but we appear to have run out of time.
So, until out next meeting, hum a few bars of your favorite Monkees tune, have another drink after filling your stomach full of fast food from some chain outlet, and go to bed knowing your fate is in the hands of men who obviously have no clue about anything beyond their own immediate gratification.