Journal of a Futurist - 14 October 2004
The Future of Dissent
"Bush is next, then Tony Blair. A clean sweep for the coalition of the willing" the crowing of a Murdoch clone as the conservative forces swept back to Canberra.
You have to hand it to John Howard. He made mincemeat of us all. There is no point raging against his policies or the citizens who returned Howard to office. The voters had their reasons. While the case for dethroning the incumbent was strong, it failed to dent the fear that the alternative was worse. What can be done?
Cheer up dissenters; three years is not eternity. Cool the hysteria. Beware the tendency to moralise. Break free from the ghetto of groupthink and learn to communicate a noble vision for humanity with grace, good humour and deep listening - a goal that often eludes me.
Yes, the times are perilous. The world is burning, and we have rewarded a government that adds fuel to the flames. Kyoto is spurned; Iraqi citizens are murdered in their homes at midnight by skyborne cowards who are treated as heroes. It is mad, it is criminal. Howard puts our nation on the wrong side of history and is lauded by voters, cheered by the majority of media mercenaries. Thats why dissenters lose their cool. Rage and despair seems legitimate ever more so the closer you get to the truth but it fails to win hearts and minds in an age of shaky abundance.
HOW TO BE WRONG AND YET RIGHT
The defeat of dissent is a paradox. Our cause is just, our arguments have been repeatedly endorsed by events. This week the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University found that instead of striking a blow against Islamic extremists, the Iraq war "has created momentum for many terrorist elements, but chiefly al-Qaida and its affiliates." Duh. Few people still maintain the world is a safer place because we invaded Iraq on a falsehood, in defiance of the UN. It will haunt us, as will the tabloid sophistry of Blair, Bush and Howard: we were wrong, but we are still right. Oh, sure.
I know I should care about Iraq, said a Sydney TV interviewee knee-deep in a mortgage on the steps of her McMansion, but its too far away. Thats honest, and understandable. What keeps her sleepless is the future of interest rates. While Howards influence on interest is negligible; his impact on Iraq is inexcusable, and yet hidden from view. Global capital has not yet delivered global consciousness. Why does Iraq seem so far away from suburbia?
The answer lies not in morality, but in the control of information. The climactic weeks of the election saw the US unleash bombing raids of astonishing savagery on the suburbs of Iraq. (See HOTLINKS, on the right of this page). Those who describe such strikes as precise do not inhabit Falluja. The national broadcaster, our ABC, occasionally skips through the rubble with maidenly haste on its way to the sports desk. As for as the commercial networks pro Howard, pro war, in the grip of family dynasties - the killing of those we supposedly came to liberate doesnt occur.
You know this. In the last journal entry, the Future of Freedom, I linked to a cockpit-cam scene of a US fighter mowing down a group of (seemingly unarmed) Falluja citizens in cold blood, accompanied by audio cackles. I sent this link to the ABC, to no avail. Last week it was shown on BBCs Channel Four, and made headlines. The Pentagon has since attempted to sanitise this incident in a way which fails to convince the BBC and two defence experts. My point is this: had the mortgagor in her McMansion been exposed to such footage, the war in Iraq might not seem remote.
I got numerous individuals on the road. Do you want me to take those out?
Reply: Take em out
This is a dangerous time for Australia. By throwing our lot in with the World Bully, we ape his hubris, turn a blind eye to his faults and a deaf ear to the rest of the world. We condone US torture, even of our own citizens, embrace star wars, deride renewable energy, disconnect from Kyoto, flout international law. Our view of the world is so filtered through the lens of Uncle Sam, our pair of invisible goggles, that we dont have a clue what the rest of the worlds leaders are saying about us . Worse, we dont have a clue that we dont have a clue. Heres some extracts from a series of unreported amazing speeches delivered last month at the 59th General Assembly of the UN:
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, President of Spain:
From thirty years of terrorism we have learned that the risk of a terrorist victory rises sharply when, in order to fight terror, democracy betrays its fundamental nature, governments curtail civil liberties, put judicial guaranties at risk, or carry out pre-emptive military operations.We will pursue our fight against terrorism. But we will always do so within the framework of both domestic and international legality. We will do so always respecting Human Rights and our commitment to the United Nations, and in no other way.
It is not only the ethics of our beliefs that move us, but also and above all our belief in ethics. Our conviction is that legality, and only legality, will allows us to prevail in the fight against terrorism.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil:
There seems to be no perspective for improvement in the critical situation in the Middle East. In this and in other conflicts, the international community cannot allow violence whether sponsored by States or other actors - to prevail over democratic dialogue.
The Palestinian people are still far from achieving the self-determination they are entitled to. The profound causes of our insecurity are complex. The necessary fight against terrorism cannot be conceived strictly in military terms. We must develop strategies that encompass both solidarity and firmness, while strictly respecting international law.
Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda, Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Indonesia:
The world can be made immensely safer. But the global coalition to defeat terrorism must be inclusive. It must be multilateral and democratic. It must empower the moderates of the world. And it must address the root causes of terrorism: the grievances and the poignant sense of injustice that drive human beings to such depths of despair, they would carry out the most heinous acts of mass murder and destruction.
Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa:
Both the powerful and the disempowered agree that the international community must act together to confront the threat and challenge of terrorism and war. However, the powerful will also make the additional determination that terrorism and war constitute the central and principal threat and challenge that human civilisation faces. Because of the space they occupy relative to the power equation, what they decide will constitute the global decision of the most urgent threat to human society, necessitating various changes in the global system of governance.
However, the disempowered, who are also the poor of the world, will determine that poverty and underdevelopment is the central threat that human civilisation faces. But because they are powerless, these billions, the overwhelming majority of the same humanity that needs to eat, to drink water, to be protected from the elements, to dream, to love, to laugh, to play, to live, will have no possibility to persuade this Organisation to translate what they have concluded into obligatory injunctions which all member nations will have to accept and implement.
The wealthy and powerful feel mortally threatened by the fanatical rage of the terrorists, correctly. Because they are mighty, what they decide is the central threat they confront will become the principal threat that all humanity faces.
The poor and powerless feel threatened by a permanent hurricane of poverty. But, tragically, because they are poor, they do not have the means to respond to this present and immediate danger. Neither do they have the power to determine for all humanity that this principal threat will become the principal threat that all humanity faces, including the rich and powerful.
Thanks to Imtiaz Muqbil of Travel Impact Newswire for alterting me to the silenced speeches of non Coalition nations, all of which can be accessed at: http://www.un.org/webcast/ga/59/archives.html
As Lula da Silva pointed out, 125 nations were once subjected to the oppression of a few powers, which originally occupied less than 2% of the globe. Political transformation, however, has not been transposed to the economic and social fields. Predsident Lula closed the session with tbe powerful observation of Franz Fanon, who noted the colonial past had bestowed a common legacy:
"If you so desire, take it: the freedom to starve to death".
THE WORLD AS A SITCOM, THEATENED BY REALITY
The future of dissent is global, grass rootsy and transformational. Already simmering before 9/11, the yearning for justice is about to boil over, such is the hypocrisy of the West. Not one Iraqi invader has apologised for the presentation of fake evidence; not one Coalition member has castigated the US for ignoring the Geneva accords, lying to the International Red Cross and committing serial war crimes. As the world heats up, the one hundred million people who live at the waters edge will want to know why the worlds biggest polluter turns its back on Kyoto. US efforts to control the future of oil has upped prices, already forcing fishermen in Asia to hang up their nets, sell their boats and
then what? Nothing is done to seriously promote alternative energy. Everything is spin. The world is a sitcom and the neo-cons are writing the script. Offstage, the White House quietly endorses a proposed bill that will make it legal for the CIA to deport indiviuals to lands which love to torture. Security, security. The wealthy in gated cities dreaming up weapons, bases, bio-piracy, patent control, media hegemony, anything it takes to control the 21st Century. Our PMs fingers dangling within George Bushs alimentary canal. In 1820, the per capita income of the richest nation in the world was five times greater than that of the poorest one. Today, this disparity reaches 80 to 1. So dont think the new generations of the locked out nations will content themselves with sending begging emails.
(image from The Guardian, 22 September 04)
Excerpts from Soundtrack to War - George Gittoes