Happy New Year!
I hope things are looking up for 2009. For some reason, I feel pretty optimistic even though those ominous dark clouds are still on the horizon, the same ones that began to appear in 2001. But I promise you I won't be waving any flags on the eve of Obama's inauguration in the hopes that the winds of "change" will blow them away.
Sorry for sending such a long email, but I've been writing this rant below now for over a month, because I was tired of hearing the Obama rhetoric, and I am really tired of the narrow framework for debating the context of Mr. Change, while ignoring an historic analysis of the American Empire, a freight train that is not stopping anytime soon. I've included dozens of interesting links below.
Before the collective sigh following McCain's defeat, a lot of people got involved in political debates and thinking about collective responsibility to some degree. But I fear an Obama administration because it certainly means a return to the more sophisticated Clinton era "soft" imperialism and a reaffirmation of the neo-liberal economic violence that destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives both in Central America and at home, for example.
The last thing that has to happen right now is to believe that the US Empire is benevolent, or that Obama will change anything substantial in this regard. In fact, he is dangerous because I fear that his "hope" and "change" rhetoric on Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, and the environment, for example, could go unchallenged by his supporters; not to mention a retreat into an apolitical hangover after his inauguration at precisely the time when we are in a state of global crisis.
His interests are not our interests, no matter the millions of dollars worth of propaganda spent convincing us otherwise, or the Soviet-style propaganda posters of the great leader plastered on street signs throughout the country. What's next? A crafty and "ironic" bronze statue in every major city?
Now is not the time to rally around the flag, any flag. Or for that matter, any leader, and certainly not one representing the corporate-military-industrial complex, whether by choice or political expedience.
To quote Emma Goldman, "Patriotism is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit."
I wrote down some things on all of this below. Perhaps you may find something interesting.
Take care of yourselves this year.
For a more sane future,
Some thoughts on Obama and the US Empire
Bottomline: Industrial capitalism with its lack of environmental and human ethics, and in combination with the nation state, will continue to destroy the planet, destroy countless human lives, and drive the rate of species extinction beyond the current 50,000 per year, a rate unprecedented in geological history (i.e. an 'ecocide'). Corporate power will remain un-changed as the US empire marches onwards towards more death and destruction, unless we radically change our trajectory.
Now, what again is so special about Obama? I suppose if I have to answer that; the only real answer for me is that McCain didn't win, and given a choice between TB and cancer (Nader's line), people chose the best they could. Lets not forget that corporations run this government, not citizens. Period. It's a slow motion coup de`etat.
For me, the national vote in the US, in the context of an insane business class waging a vicious class warfare campaign, is itself just a facade that allows the real owners of this society to present to us a "choice" in who will rule over us. It is a cynical farce in which we participate, where we are simply choosing which faction of the business party will steer the US corporate empire towards its hegemonic goals, while paying lip service to "our" democracy; lip service that is indeed seductive when we live under the thumb of neo-conservatives or neo-liberals, and within an authoritarian fear-based culture.
If any candidate actually ran for office based on policies supported by the majority of the public (universal healthcare, support of labor rights, free education, harsh sentences for polluters and white collar crime, anti-interventionist, etc) and not the financial sector, they would never get elected. Any campaign rhetoric that suggests otherwise is the result of a sophisticated and expensive advertising campaign. The constituency represented by the two parties are the financial top 5%.
No doubt Obama's victory is a victory in rejecting 8 years of the "Bush Doctrine". But his victory is only meaningful if he actually reverses the damage done, and I seriously doubt he will reverse anything but a small percentage of the most egregious violations, if that, precisely because the democrats supported a large majority of Bush's policies, the spineless rats that they are.
His victory is a hurdle which has been overcome in the 40+ years of the civil rights movement, and no doubt it will inspire a lot of people of color, and young people of all backgrounds, to create a new vision of equality on many levels we may not even see yet (especially when their enthusiasm confronts the reality of US power with Obama at its head). The symbolism is huge, and not to be dismissed in this culture, even if institutional racism and bigotry is alive and well.
And I believe Obama will support movements that address some cultural issues in the US (if forced to), but will stay far away from even mild structural adjustments of the capitalist system itself (rolling back NAFTA, a return to a real progressive tax, reinstating the glass-steagall act that the Clinton administration removed, and a return to real regulation of capital, for example). At the end of the day, this is about political and economic analysis, not just about the symbolism of Obama's victory.
So, I think we need to set our feet squarely on terra firma and engage reality; namely, that the US empire is an extraordinary violent institution, run by an elite power structure that will stop at nothing to dominate the resources of this planet. It is a kleptocracy of enormous proportions (think John Perkins, "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" / Bernard Madoff / Blind support of Israel) and Obama has been vetted and allowed to participate in the elections by the business class, precisely because he will not fundamentally change anything. Nearly 1.5 million dead in Iraq since Bush I, via Clinton (think Madeline "the price is worth it" Albright), represents the trail of blood visible to anyone that will open their eyes. Remember, this guy is a conservative, but in a right-wing culture like the US, his image is that of an FDR liberal.
Quoting economist Michael Hudson in his recent article, "The Neo-Yeltsin Administration? The Obama Letdown":
"Obama is looking more like Boris Yeltsin – a political umbrella for the kleptocrats to whom the public domain and decades of public wealth were given with no quid pro quo. This is not what most people hoped for. But their hopes were so strong that it was easier to indulge in happy dreams and put one’s faith in a prince than to look at the systemic problems that need to be restructured in order for real change to occur. Individuals do not determine who owes what to whom, who is employed by whom or what laws govern their work and investment. Institutional economic and political structures are the key. And somehow the focus has been on the politics of personalities, not on the economic forces at work." (http://www.counterpunch.org/hudson11262008.html)
I recommend the following inteview with Dr. Michael Hudson done by Bonnie Faulkner on Pacifica radio's KPFA explaining how tax burdens are shifted off the wealthy and placed on workers. He also details what is essentially the new face of class warfare in the financial sector, including the latest scams that resulted in the recent crisis:
And contrary to what Obama says, the US has no intention of leaving Iraq (military bases are the Empires signature). Sadly, Obama is surrounding himself by Clinton era war criminals, and hawkish militarists like Rahm Emanuel. Read Alexander Cockburn's analysis here:
And read Jeremy Scahill's recent article called "This Is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama's White House" at Alternet.org: