Posted by: Harold Knight | 10/20/2011

Oh, right! NOW we have to protest. Good grief.

Hello! Hello? HELLO? Is that you? Do you remember détente? SALT I and SALT II and Helsinki and then the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the election of Ronald Reagan and the end of liberal democracy as we know it? That détente. Either the last gasp of fresh air in world politics or the most foolish experiment in the lion lying down with the lamb since Egypt formed its alliance with Assyria, 8thcentury BC.

Oh. I forget. If you’re younger than about 40 years old, you don’t remember any of that. You may have been around, but you remember it about the way I remember the British bombing of Cairo in 1956.

I have a rather bad case of social anorexia. Of course, when I make statements like that, people shake their heads and say (or at least think), “There he goes again. Always the drama queen.”

anorexia. 1590s, “lack of appetite,” Modern Latin, from Gk. anorexia, from an-, “without” + orexis “appetite, desire” (1).

I have no appetite for being social. Well, very little, at any rate. And it’s decreasing.

See how cleverly I draw things together? Egypt. Eighth century BCE and 1956 CE. Both disasters. Egypt should have had a bit of geo-political anorexia—little desire to play world politics. But now we have the Arab—the Egyptian—Spring.

Oh, yes. Back to détente.

Détente was a profoundly conservative diplomatic strategy that sacrificed domestic reforms for the sake of international stability. It stemmed . . .  from a growing urge for domestic stability among leaders who could no longer assume that they commanded legitimacy in the eyes of their own citizenry. Brandt, de Gaulle, Nixon, Brezhnev and Mao all used the prospects of great power cooperation to denounce domestic unrest and argue that their respective domestic opponents threatened international peace (2).

The United States, at least since the election of George W. Bush, has been playing détente all by itself. That is, our government has been “sacrific[ing] domestic reforms for the sake of international stability.” But not exactly. Our government has been sacrificing domestic reforms and domestic freedom for the sake of international stability and the last-ditch effort to rule the world. By itself. Self-détente.

Before the 2000 election of George W. Bush, I tried to get friends of mine (especially those who thought Bush Younger was the antidote to the excesses of the Clinton years) to read the “Statement of Principles” of The Project for the New American Century. One of the principles is that “we need to accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles” (3).

Is he really worth 17 million - people, not dollars

Is he really worth 17 million - people, not dollars

So now, fourteen years after this document was written, we are embroiled in and suffering from and verging on total social disaster caused by the wholesale handing over of our government, our economic  institutions, and most of our religious organizations to people who believe that “extending an international order friendly” to our winner-take-all understanding of our entitlement is the way in which we will be secure and happy, that is, rich.

I do not mean to imply that wholesale abdication of control over our lives to these ruthless men happened as late as 2000. The first installment of the abdication took place when we elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 (see the last sentence of the “Statement of Principles”). What I do mean to imply is that we, “We the People,” willingly handed ourselves over to this “winner take all” cabal of self-interest. Note how many of the signers of this document were part of the Reagan Administration and how many of them are still in positions of influence today.

One question ought to be enough to end my tirade:

How is giving up control of nearly every aspect of our lives to men dedicated to “preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles” working out for you?

For all who believe, even yet, that the current administration is different, is turning its back on “extending an international order” friendly to our selfish interests, I invite you to consider Wall Street, Iraq, derivatives, Afghanistan, your health insurance, Pakistan, the unemployment rate in the United States, and your own comfort and standard of living. How’s this administration working out for you?

It seems to me, unschooled and poorly read (and, frankly, socially anorexic about the whole matter) as I am, that the goals of the men to whom we began turning over our power wholesale in 1980 were already an extension of the détente of Henry Kissinger’s ‘70s, that is, “a growing urge for domestic stability among leaders who could no longer assume that they commanded legitimacy in the eyes of their own citizenry.” We’ve been at this long enough that we should by now have learned that the desire to

establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

was a nice dream from which we chose to awaken—and get over it. Call off Occupy Wall Street. Let the Teapartiers and the Koch Brothers in the guise of Herman Cain take over. We asked for it, we got it. Toyota (sorry for the ‘70s allusion, Gen Xers).

And meanwhile we are willing,

to believe the “common sense” that people only care about themselves and that nations will always seek to dominate others to advance the interests of their own elites—and that therefore domination, militarism, and cruelty are necessary for “us” to survive (though in fact, that “us” will be a smaller and smaller part of the entire population) (4).

And, of course, our “common sense” is rooted in capitalism, that system Americans defend to the (economic) death. But we continue, all 99% of us, to believe that one day we will each be in the 1% at the top. We close our eyes to—willfully ignore—the fact that

though this way of organizing our affairs has had a long time to demonstrate that it is capable of satisfying human demands all round, it seems no closer to doing so than ever.  . . [and we] continue to indulge the myth that the fabulous wealth generated by this mode of production will in the fullness of time become available to all. . . (5).

We are determined that, rather than revolutionary overhauling of the entire system, we can fix it by electing yet another President, changing just one more Congressional District. We don’t want to admit that

as Marx predicted, inequalities of wealth have dramatically deepened. The income of a single Mexican billionaire [Carlos Slim] today is equivalent to the earnings of the poorest 17 million of his compatriots. Capitalism has created more prosperity than history has ever witnessed, but the cost—not least in the near destitution of billions—has been astronomical (6).

That kind of inequality can never happen here, to us. I don’t know what I’ll do about my social anorexia if Americans ever do begin to wake up to the need for wholesale change. Ugh! I’m too old for protest demonstrations. Please, no Arab—no Egyptian, no American—Spring here!
(1) Harper, Douglas, ed. Online Etymology Dictionary. 2001-2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.
(2) Drolet, Jean-Francois. “A liberalism betrayed? American neoconservatism and the theory of international relations.” Journal of Political Ideologies 15.2 (2010): 89-118.
(3) “Statement of Principles.” Project for the New American Century.  June 3, 1997. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.
(4) Lerner, Michael. “The State of the Spirit, 2011.” Tikkun 26.1 (2011): 17-24.
(5) Eagleton, Terry. “Was Marx Right?.” Commonweal 138.7 (2011): 9-12.
(6) Eagleton, op. cit.


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  2. A well argued rant from the curmudgeon. Thanks.



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