Sunday, April 09, 2006

condemned to repeat it

From Kevin Drum's Political Animal:elsewhere on the web:
Once the institutions of sovereignty are destroyed in any state, especially one with a heterogeneous society, the odds are against any effort to build a stable alternative in the same generation. In the absence of effective central authority, all it takes is a small, determined minority to prevent unity. *

...the man who claimed to be the nation's leader ... was a simpleton, some said, a cartoon character of a man who saw things in black-and-white terms and didn't have the intellect to understand the subtleties of running a nation in a complex and internationalist world. His coarse use of language - reflecting his political roots in a southernmost state - and his simplistic and often-inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended the aristocrats, foreign leaders, and the well-educated elite in the government and media. And, as a young man, he'd joined a secret society with an occult-sounding name and bizarre initiation rituals that involved skulls and human bones.

Nonetheless, he knew the terrorist was going to strike (although he didn't know where or when), and he had already considered his response. When an aide brought him word that the nation's most prestigious building was ablaze, he verified it was the terrorist who had struck and then rushed to the scene and called a press conference.

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. "This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion - "a sign from God," he called it - to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their evil deeds in their religion.

Two weeks later, the first detention center for terrorists was built... In a national outburst of patriotism, the leader's flag was everywhere, even printed large in newspapers suitable for window display. Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's now-popular leader had pushed through legislation - in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it - that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.
To consolidate his power, he concluded that government alone wasn't enough. He reached out to industry and forged an alliance, bringing former executives of the nation's largest corporations into high government positions. A flood of government money poured into corporate coffers to fight the war against the Middle Eastern ancestry terrorists lurking within the homeland, and to prepare for wars overseas. He encouraged large corporations friendly to him to acquire media outlets and other industrial concerns across the nation ...*
As long as you divide the world into clan members to be helped, clan enemies to be killed, strangers to be robbed, or heretics to be burned, the chances for world peace are low.*
I think we can all agree that the entire country needs a civics lesson--from our spineless, spinning, self-absorbed politicians to our greedy corporate chieftains to our ideological and intolerant zealots on all sides of the political spectrum who gum up any chance we have for honest democratic debate about how we will organize society and live our lives.
...the argument newspaper people make about how important it is to read a newspaper in order to be civic-minded would be a lot stronger if it were more crucial to read a newspaper in order to be civic-minded. And it would be nice if the media would do a better job of stepping up to the occasion at those times when it is really crucial to do its democratic duty--on the brink of war, for example.*

No comments: