Monday, April 23, 2018

We Already Know Civilizational Sleep Ends In Nightmares...,


Counterpunch |  It feels as if world events are in overdrive, and sometimes it’s hard to escape the thought that that there is no longer much point in trying to analyse, or make sense of, a trajectory increasingly out of control.

I see little evidence that those of us in the segment of the world political spectrum likely to read these words need much persuasion — nor that those who consider us dupes of the Evil Vladimir, or apologists for what was once called the “Yellow Peril”, could ever have any inclination to even glance at the arguments and sentiments of those they consider so utterly deluded.

In fact, the plethora of information (both truth and lies), and the amazing communicative possibilities most of us now have at our disposal, have brought with them a world in which no one is very often persuaded of anything: for every fact we present, they have access to an official or cleverly crafted lie with convincing-looking documentation that demonstrates our ostensible mendacity and subversion.

What pre-internet thinker – is it possible that bygone age ended only 20 years ago for most of us? — would have ever thought that a technological world in which every voice can be heard worldwide would solidify, rather than threaten, the role of propaganda in public life? or that near-universal access to technology enabling impressively thorough research, at incredible speed, would be one of the major factors in eliminating political consensus and rendering nearly obsolete the recognition of facts as such?

Well, perhaps there are brilliant minds out there who foresaw it all. But consider me dumbfounded. While there is a range of similarities between our world today and those described by Orwell and Huxley in their famous novels of future horror, there are other aspects that render this a different universe altogether, and one that continues to shock me.

Assuming that it WERE in fact possible to persuade people who accept their governments’ colossal lies and distortions that those same lies are in fact exactly that – lies — one would be required to acquaint most of them with the most basic facts of recent history. For remarkably, almost unbelievably, in a world where all of us have limitless information and history at our fingertips, most people know nothing about recent history – and the vast majority is not even curious about it.

‘Most White Americans, as a general statement, think they are better than the rest of the world. And most Americans have scant knowledge about the rest of the world. So the belief in cultural (and moral) superiority is based on what? The answer is not simple, but as a general sort of response, this trust in “our” superiority is built on violence. On an ability to be effectively violent. Most British, too, think they are superior to those “wogs” south of their emerald isle. But since the setting of the sun on Empire, “officially”, the British hold to both a sense of superiority and a deep panic-inducing sense of inferiority — at least to their American cousins. They are still better than those fucking cheese eating frogs or the krauts or whoever, but they accept that the U.S. is the sort of heavyweight champ of the moment. Meanwhile, the tragic and criminal fire at Grenfell Towers in London elicited a public discourse that perfectly reflected the class inequality of the UK, but also reflected, again, the colonialist mentality of the ruling party and their constituency … But that is exactly it. The colonial template is one etched in acid in the collective imagination of the West. At least the English-speaking West. Expendable natives…which is what Jim Mattis sees everywhere that he dumps depleted uranium and Willy Pete. It is what Madeleine Albright saw in Iraq or Hillary Clinton in Libya or Barack Obama in Sudan, Yemen, and…well… four or five other countries. It is what most U.S. police departments see in neighborhoods ravaged by poverty. As in those old Tarzan films, when the sound of drums is heard, the pith helmeted white man notes…”the natives are restless tonight”. When one discusses Syria, the most acute topic this week, remember that for Mad Dog and Boss Trump, or for the loopy John Bolton, these are just natives in need of pacification. Giving money to ISIS or Daesh, or whoever, as a cynical expression of colonial realpolitik, is nothing out of the ordinary. It is what the UK and US have done for a long while. It’s Ramar of the Jungle handing out beads to the *natives*.’ (John Steppling, “The Sleep of Civilization”)