Friday, January 21, 2011

lessons of tunisia

this is a story that is incomprehensible to americans. the youth rises up against the corrupt regime, and eventually the middle class and trade unions join them to force out the president and his coterie.

of course, this "explosion" seems to have caught observers by "surprise". no one thought this would happen in tunisia, a "postage-stamp sized country in north africa," as i saw it described somewhere. now, events there are being eyed nervously throughout the region -- which i have also learned is referred to as MENA (middle east, north africa).

most alarmingly, at least from the US perspective, is the unraveling of the mubarak dictatorship in egypt. while the tunisian regime was corrupt, it can't hold a candle to the egyptian frankenstein. as mohammed elbaradei, former chief of the UN anti-proliferation regime, remarked recently, western support for the repressive and corrupt governments of nations like egypt in the name of stability is a miscalculation with potentially grave consequences.

interestingly, the overthrow of the tunisian regime was not brought on my islamic fundamentalists or the military. it was primarily fueled by an educated and technologically savvy young population whose future was being plundered by the country's leaders. their rage finally exploded when the usual instruments of change proved to be useless.

it was neither bullets nor ballots that brought about change, with the main suspense now being, what replaces the former regime? no doubt, the forces of "moderation" and "restraint" will assert themselves, and predictably rob the revolution of most of its potential to create a new order. new leaders, not quite so brazen, will fill the void left by their predecessors, and gradually re-institute the vulgar impulses that always animate the powerful.

can we entertain, for a moment, the possibility of such an upheaval occurring here in the USA?

i note with some dismay at how efficient the plutocracy is at investing its methods of control with legitimacy by enshrining them in the law. this is hardly difficult, given their ownership of both the legislative and judicial branches of government -- paid for in cash. the certain inalienable rights of the declaration are simply window dressing -- you can look, but don't touch, you filthy beggars!

we generally confuse the declaration with the constitution and bill of rights, which is about par for the course in a culture of dumb and getting dumber. "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are just empty platitudes, whereas the constitution and bill of rights are where the action is. those bits about "congress shall make no law..." have real meaning historically, even if it took 150 years for some of those strictures to come even close to being taken at all seriously.

sadly, for this society the promises of the bill of rights have been hollowed out in recent years, sloughed off as quaint relics of a bygone era.

where once you were assumed to have a right to a trial, to know the charges against you and have the opportunity to question your accusers, as well as present evidence in your own defense, that's no longer the case. the president, at his discretion, can deprive anyone of life, liberty or property simply on his say-so. it hardly matters that the victims of this new-style "rule of law" have thus far been labeled "terrorists". the precedent has been set, and by repeated use these claims are being made standard operating procedure for the authorities.

when the congress retroactively granted immunity to the telecommunications companies that conspired with the government to spy on citizens privileged communications, it effectively nullified the 4th amendment rights to privacy. while the illicit spying raised some eyebrows when first disclosed in the press, by the time of the nullification vote it was hardly noticed -- there being a great deal of economic "crisis" at the time. the net result is, the government may spy on citizens without a shred of evidence and without practical limits.

it is hilarious to see the reverence the tea partiers seem to have for the 2nd amendment -- their so-called "right to bear arms". while the amendment's syntax is sufficiently tortured to make it a wee bit ambiguous what the writers were trying to say, it hardly seems possible that they actually intended to empower well-armed mobs to go to war with the government.

in any case, when push comes to shove i expect the government to treat this "right" to bear arms with the same reverence it holds doctrines like habeas corpus. it's simply a politically expedient sop to toss to bloodthirsty yahoos to solidify their control over the levers of government, after which they can just as easily rescind their permission.

besides, can you imagine these nuts with their hunting rifles, or even their semi- and fully automatic weapons going up against predator drones and hellfire missiles? the jonas brothers aren't the only ones who need to watch their steps. as useful as these toys have proven to be in the hinterlands of pakistan, imagine how effective they'll be closer to home, where there aren't the complications of foreign governments objecting, or the logistical nightmares of keeping them fueled and serviced in god-forsaken places.

it seems quite obvious, although a bit difficult for a soft, pampered and lazy citizenry to comprehend, that there isn't enough money to go around these days. the rich, as we know, can't stand the thought of government giving money out to anyone but themselves, so at some point the real pain of austerity has got to be felt out there where you and i live...

not only social security, but schools and library and social services of all kinds will need to be sharply curtailed, if not eliminated outright. instead, our government will need to pour its resources into protecting the property and prerogatives of the the ruling elites -- for whom, after all, the government primarily exists. and this is where we intersect with the kids in tunisia.

i paint an overly bleak and apocalyptic vision of the future -- but after all, this IS dystopian vistas. still, if you don't think there will be push, as in when push comes to shove, you're not paying attention. we're really, seriously on the brink of more financial calamities, and the odds of other painful events intruding on our placid existences are rather high, IMO.

i don't have much hope -- or use for -- the tea partiers, who are nothing more than a bunch of selfish louts who are being willingly led to their own slaughter by cynical billionaires who'll pitch them away as soon as they get what they want.

i'm much more hopeful about the coming generation, and people following them, who are a lot less white and living for fraudulent and vacuous ideologies that sacrifice the common good for the benefit of the few.

i see the elite, shielded from reality by its handmaidens in the corporate media, missing the coming explosion at the very moment when they begin to relish their astonishing victory. the illusion they've created for others will come to eventually consume them as well.

no one knows how this will all play out, but the events in tunisia give me hope that there's a force out there that's stronger than all the corporate bullshit. people power, when it finally manifests itself, is irresistible.

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