Saturday, October 6, 2007

A New Civil War?

Late yesterday afternoon (while my computer was busy with its monthly full backup), Larisa Alexandrovna submitted a fascinating and provocative post to her Huffington Post blog. The thesis was that the United States is once again in the midst of a Civil War. This time around, however, the war is a "cold" one, not involve active engagements between military forces. What is most interesting about this thesis is her argument as to the opposing forces in this war:

In our cold civil war, the enemy is not a part of the country called the "red states," as conveniently manufactured. Nor is the enemy a phantom right wing "wing-nut" or left wing "liberal loony," although there are some people who fall very much under those definitions. On the whole, however, there are simply not enough delusional and/or corrupt Americans to fill the manufactured stereotypes of the typical this or a typical that, even if the label is even color-coded for political fear tactics.

The image of a divided nation at war with itself is a false one, as false as the reasons for this war and the general war on terror, which is more of a reign of terror than anything else. But who is it trying so hard to divide this nation and for what reason?

Perhaps the most obvious answer lies in that same question reworded thusly: Who benefits? Consider this question in yet another way: So long as we are standing face to face and not standing shoulder to shoulder, who is benefiting? The answer of course is the same corporations and their lackeys masquerading in the garb of government. They need to distract us, divide us, spend billions of dollars trying to convince us what we need, what we hate, what we love, who is evil, who is good and everything in between.

These authoritarians, more appropriately fascists, understand that dissent is to be treated like a virus. It has to be, because the spread of individual opinions might collapse a whole industry. The more you know, the more you question; the more you question, the more you infect others; and the more people there are asking questions, the more we become a nation that cannot be ruled or bullied. We are far too many, and if we are left to think for ourselves, we might not like what we find.

We are, therefore, a threat, a virus, a thing that must be entertained, distracted, confused, frightened, anything, but allowed the freedom to think for ourselves or express those views to one another. People standing shoulder to shoulder outnumber the few who have claimed the control of our nation for themselves and against our best interests. We outnumber them and we frighten them because should we stand together, they cannot stand for long.

This is an intriguing perspective, and the overall arguments makes sense in many ways. The problem, however, is that, if, indeed, we, the general public, are confronted with the enemy of corporate fascism, what are we to do about it? Ms. Alexandrovna offers some suggestions along the lines of forcing these corporate enemies into a more "defensive posture;" but this strategy overlooks the extent to which we are dependent on those enemies. This is not just a question of whether or not we are addicted to shopping and should liberate ourselves through the Gospel According to Reverend Billy. The dependence also extends to how much retirement income is now supplied through the profits of the corporate world (along with clever financial strategies for offering loans in that corporate world).

Thus, while our freedom has been jeopardized by conflict, it is not the conflict of a war, even a cold one. Rather, it is a conflict born of our having entrapped ourselves in conditions of enslavement. Those conditions were held out to us by the corporate world, packaged in propaganda that made them appear tempting; and we bought the whole package with little idea of what we were actually buying (just as, many decades in the past, we bought up Ford Pintos with exploding gas tanks). Furthermore, the dependence is not only economic. Consider the extent to which Ms. Alexandrovna (not to mention the entire Huffington Post establishment or the very humble post you are currently reading) is dependent on all of those authoritarian players in the corporate world.

This is not a problem that can be resolved by burning down the Big House on the plantation or calling a strike against the Bosses. It may be that the only resolution will reside in making the case that the dependence actually extends in both directions. We need to identify the key vulnerabilities in how the corporate world depends on us, which is likely to be primarily as consumers. I tend to agree with those who claim that this was the real strategy that broke the back of apartheid in South Africa. If it could work for the conditions of enslavement there, we should learn from those experiences and start thinking about how to apply them here.

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