In the face of fear, have we lost our reason?
edited: Thursday, October 13, 2005
By Hilding Lindquist
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2005
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In the face of fear, have we lost our reason?
The Neocons following the precepts of Leo Strauss were and are into using the power they have to gain more power. It is their willingness to use power to pursue personal authority and the control of ever growing power that is so frightening.
They are steadily and methodically working their way up to a rationale of rattling our nuclear arsenal to establish imperial dominance. Even the strategy of limits on the use of force in Iraq at the current time fits their overall plan. If the people of Iraq accept our cultural dominence voluntarily, so be it. If not, continue the march to Armageddon.
It is to our everlasting shame as a people that we got sucked into this war and continue wreaking this much death and destruction on another people, without being willing to make any sacrifice other than that of our volunteer military whom we have never properly supported in numbers or resources or anything that would remotely signal our understanding of the price others are paying in our name ... win or lose. We are going about our lives as if nothing is happening in Iraq.
We get excited when tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes devastate areas where people live ... and we respond proportionately, or at least try to do so. Why don't we pay closer attention when a war we are waging devastates an area where people live ... for now coming up on three years?
The rhetoric and policies of the Neocons are clearly imperialistic ... for example, the space shield is a non-starter as a shield, but an immense potential success as a weapons system. Another example is the now repeated call to militarize relief efforts.
At the first warning of terrorism, we hurriedly comply with the commands of the authorities. And again ... and again ... and again ... like white mice in the laboratory. How much of a shock will we withstand to get the cheese?
Is it really true that in the face of fear we have lost our reason?
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|Reviewed by Kristian Nielsen (Reader)
The theme of "reason" vs "fear" in America is also theme in a chapter the recent book "Soelve" (Gyldendal 2006) by the author Suzanne Broegger Zeruneith. I think her opinion is in good agreement with yours, at least it give a Scandinavian perspective. Here it is in my translation, which is probably far from perfect:
In Kalundborg the five towered church built by Esbern Snare in the 12th century can be found. It is one of the oldest churches in Denmark. And in the house right next to it, the nobel prize winner Sigrid Undset was born in 1882.
When you come from the jungle, you invariably find a provincial town as Kalundborg to be adorable. But almost no one who grew up in such a town, can stomach their origin.
Sigrid Undset referred to her town of birth as «the hole of Kalundborg» and moved to Norway becoming one of the most secretive writers in the Nordic countries. She refused to give interviews and shunned all opportunities of public appearances. Whenever the world press would come to Scandinavia, Karen Blixen was more than eager to greet them, but it was impossible to get the Norwegian daughter of Kalundborg to speak. She has no sense of humor, the former said of the latter. But she had as least as much courage.
Undset was scarred for life in her own manner. In May 1940 she writes of the son she lost to the Norwegian resistance against the German occupation. She writes that in Norway they are, despite everything, happy that they did not have to surrender without a fight, as the Danes had to. She here thinks of her cousin, a danish officer, who was just as proud and eager to fight as her son Anders, who, in her opinion, had the best lot since he was given the opportunity to do so.
There is a picture of her, standing as a farmers wife with a scarf on her head overlooking the mountain pasture. There she sees the clouds and the shadows of all of those who gave their lives for the country. And she writes that the blue shadows under the clouds will always be there and move across the plains.
However dismissive Sigrid Undset was towards the public, she, as so many other Scandinavians behaved completely different when she came abroad. After the participation of her son in the resistance force, and due to her own staunch opposition towards nazism since the early 1930s, the house of Undset was confiscated by the Germans and she had to leave Norway. Sigrid Undset writes home from New York, and here is a letter she sent from New York written at the time of the American election in 2004:
I have experienced the day on which the foundations of the world were changed. For many months the hope has still been alive. People had traveled, in particularly to Ohio, in order to ring door-bells, and they had sent their savings to the Kerry-campaign, simply to avoid the worst case scenario: Re-election of Bush in 2004. As if the first period, the coup, had not been misery enough.
While the American soap-opera-culture has spread all across the world, the world does not know America!
It is a tell-tale sign for USA that the voting is done in churches. In other countries, voting is mostly done in schools, which signals that both the electoral process and the democracy are based on reason, knowledge, and argumentation. Here in USA democracy, apparently, is a matter of faith, carried by emotion, passion, fear, revenge, and hope.
If Bush were to be re-elected, we would definitively have left the society of science and ventured into the society of faith.
From America, the guardian of democracy, they can go to the moon and invent the internet. However, they find it difficult to vote, both practically and logistically. In New York, where I lived – Kerryland – the line only reached a few blocks down the street, and people exchanged friendly newyorkian small talk or were reading – exactly «The New Yorker». Both the intelligence and the level of education in N. Y. are extreme. But, many other places in the country people had to stand in line for six to eight hours, and it is unlike Americans to have patience for that. Despite this, the election participation this time was higher than ever. There was a sense – from all sides, but in very different ways – that here something fundamental was at stake. The world, as we have known it. The right wing voted in fear of homosexual marriage, free abortion and (other forms of) terrorism – high above the economic realities. My liberal friends voted in fear of losing the world they had known. They did not want to let go of the progresses of Franklin Roosevelt, the civil rights and social justice. They did not want to give up the hope that America could play a constructive role in the world.
The election night of my friends reminded me of a Woody Allen-party, as on the silver screen, with authors, artists, media celebrities, buddhists and philosophers, and, with an excessive – simple – food, delivered at the door.
It started in a light mood – as a charm – while the CNN-flicker persisted with its bad numbers, which at the party continuously were dismissed only being for the states already known to be red. But, as the evening commenced, people sneaked home in the hope that the numbers, magically, would change over night, while they slept, in a re-count. Many had their radio and TV-sets running all night; Rockefeller Plaza was like a morgue.
We awoke to a changed world in which thinking, analysis and arguments were swapped with the faith in the strong man – who to the thoughtful appeared to be so weak. A puppet, who was only strong to the moral majority because he moved in such a well choreographed manner across the screen, as the sheriff in a western, and who claimed to be directly connected to god. Or rather God. He had run on the theme «moral values», as if it was moral to lie (Iraq) and steal (oil) and see your enemy in your neighbor (the axis of evil).
This moral empowerment, mimed by Bush, was the expression of an undeniable decadence with respect to the thoughtful, philosophical considerations that originated in the United States of the age of enlightenment with the declaration of independence: "I left my book by an open door".
Now this book was as closed and sealed as the testament of Christ.
The next morning the score was clear. Early in the morning Kerry went bust, phoned Bush and congratulated. Kerry's address of loss was weak, pure sentimentality, not worthy of a statesman. It was clear that he was not, and never had a political alternative to Bush, that he from the very beginning had clung so closely to his rival that there was no real hope for changing USA, and thereby changing the relationship between America and the rest of the world.
An atmosphere of mental civil war arose. Between, on one side the «blue» stripes by the coasts and the gigantic foreign «red» country in the middle. Kalundborg magnum. The people in the «blue» started saying: «One thing is that Bush won. That is bad enough. But to live in a country with people who voted for him.» Some had sworn that they would emigrate. And the frightening clear-sightedness arose that you were living in a country with people that you had nothing in common with. But a political campaign that actually reflected this abysmal difference had not been followed through.
Now the people in the blue land started fretting that the terrorism in the world would grow further, and that that would be the excuse to suspend habeas corpus and institute martial law. Not only in Iraq, but also in America. The patriot act would be expanded and undermine the common civil rights. You would be forced to have ID-badges with finger prints, both the senate and the congress would recognize this development, and in case of doubt, a newly appointed supreme court would decide matters.
Goodbye to womens rights and self-influence with respect to reproduction – a parenthesis in history. Those who are old enough to remember Roosevelt and the social progress from then can only watch, shake their heads, and see all of that disappear in one night.
That morning Don De Lillo called Philip Roth and said: «This is the conspiracy against America» – the title of the latest book of Roth, in which Charles Lindbergh is elected president, and, in which nazism takes charge together with the prosecutions of the jews.
But it was not only a conspiracy against America, it is something America has done to itself. And it did not happen over night. It has happened gradually and suddenly, as Hemingway puts it. Some say that a movement to the right has taken place for the last 30 years, ever since the height of the anti-war movement. Under the surface the insurrection was lurking, the hidden racism. The unwillingness to paying tax for poor immigrants, the anger towards crime, drugs, porn, gay marriage, free abortion, and feminism – in brief: All the things that would not be tolerated in an islamic state.
It was Nixon's silent majority, which now, at last, had a voice. Those, whom for decades have had to endure seeing how the flag was desecrated and burned repeatedly. Those, who for years had suffered in silence under the affections of the cultural elite. This cultural battle is a re-formulation of the confrontation between the social classes. And, it is the path of populism to speak for the common American without dragging these «values» in doubt, and indeed, keep the people common and starve them culturally.
The new century was a reaction towards the unintended side-effects of modernity from the unproblematic secularization.
The twentieth century saw the victory of the cities, while the proletariate in the country-side lived in the shadows. The twentieth century did not only see two world-wars, but also the emancipation of all, which before had been suppressed, denied and forbidden. The ghetto-jews went via the gas chambers straight into their own new state, where they became a new master race; women, who before had been in the shadow of the man, now demanded to perform topless whenever they pleased, and, at the same time to have the right to become bank managers; and, the homosexuals were not content with minding their own business, they should be at center stage with «gay pride» – and the blessing of the church in addition. They did not want to be outsiders, but mainstream. And while the storm was moving badges, the muslims in the western world had taken over the enemy position left open when the jews had moved on. They were now in the shadows.
During those circumstances it felt a little absurd, on the following evening, to go to a Proust-evening in New York Public Library. However, it came to show, remarkably, that an evening with Proust, purely mentally, was exactly the cure against the puppet in Texas and his «moral values».
In the news-addicted society of today, in which the individual is an endangered species, Proust is about being an outsider. «In search of lost time» is about the historical remembrance – which in the society of today has been assigned to the realm of shadows.
It is a somewhat surrealistic and anachronistic twist that Mrs. Broegger Zeruneith recites this letter from Sigrid Undset, since it of course is very unlikely that a 122 year old Undset was in New York in November 2004, however, it is written in a nice sharp and clear tongue and it does invoke a certain sense of synchronicity.
The final emphasis on «historical remembrance» in the letter above is the main theme in the «bog» (the danish word for book) of Broegger, which is a memoir of the last 8000 years of danish history. She sees this historical, or cultural, remembrance is a good antidote against the sectarian clustering and streamlining of opinions that is an unfortunate side-effect of academia.
|Reviewed by Joseph* OneLight*®
|The United States no longer has a government "of the people, by the people and for the people" because the American public has relinquished their rights and responsibilities either by not voting or by voting in a way that simply advances and promotes their own special interests, regardless of the long-term consequences upon society as a whole.
Thanks for the wake-up call which I hope many will heed,