In Baghdad, Shiites are killing not only Sunnis but also Shiites.
In London, the Labor party has turned upon the Labor party leader, Tony Blair, and given him an ultimatum to leave by next year.
In Washington, republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and John Warner have turned on the leaders of their party, renouncing torture, questioning the war brought to us by Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush.
Elsewhere within republican ranks, some have relied this season upon a general attack on immigrants, while others who want to hire immigrants cry out that business will be ruined if the flow of immigrants is curtailed. Republicans are therefore fighting republicans on many fronts.
The confusion does not end there. Progressive Christians on the left challenge and condemn fundamentalist Christians on the right. To be Christian is today as divisive as it is unifying. Jews in large numbers now question the use by other Jews of military power to destroy their enemies rather than the power of justice and the law, so much at the heart of the Jewish tradition. Islamists are murdering each other at outrageous rates.
In all these cases, whether speaking of the nations or the religions, as Wm Butler Yates said nearly a century ago, “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
In this confusion and global chaos we are asked to explore the deeper meaning of the upcoming elections.
In a society in which each family member has his or her own car, own I-pod, own diet, own schedule, we have become atomized. All the molecules are running around separate as if unconnected to any system, any organizing theme or force, any family, any city, any national good.
So one can ask at the outset, how will it matter if we elect democrats if we do not reconnect the molecules, re-discover our interdependence, re-discover our respect and affection for one another?
And then one can ask, “What is it that keeps us so separate, so separated, so at odds with one another? Whose interest does it serve for us to be so divided?”
I will argue that it serves corporate interests and those politicians who are controlled by those same interests. I will argue first, that war, on-going war, is in the global corporate interest and, second, that elections which might stop or hinder such wars can be and are controlled by such corporate interests.
I will argue that so long as this is true the deeper meaning of this election is that Americans are not really in control of their own democracy. Further, it is not possible to know who is in control, because those who control the news reports, those who control the sound bites, those who control the choice for war in Iraq and Iran, meet, when they meet, in board rooms which are secret, at places and times which are secret, and for purposes which have nothing to do with the survival of democracy.
I will argue, further, that this is not because corporate leaders are bad people, or evil, or conspiratorial or disloyal, but rather, because the institution of corporate personhood has taken over American government. The problem is institutional, not personal. The bedrock of the problem is the nature of our corporate property system and our willingness to ascribe rights to corporate property which are greater than the rights of people.
In Iraq, a war declared by the U.S. government in support of the rule of law, is conducted in violation of the laws of nations, the Geneva Conventions and US laws prohibiting torture. The war does not serve the law, either international law, nor constitutional law, nor laws of practical application such as habeas corpus, or the right to an attorney. The Iraq war has aided the dissolution of American democracy and has not been good for the American people as a whole.
Whom then does the war serve?
In the simplest sense it serves the financial interests of its backers.
A war declared by the U.S. government in the interest of our general American welfare, results in a consolidation of payments to one American corporation, Haliburton, of over \$11 billion. The placement of permanent military bases precisely at the location of the oil reserves assures, further, long-term subsidy payments to this same Haliburton. At the same time, those generally unable to pay for even a college education, who are because of national insolvency increasingly unable to obtain Pell grants, are, in their inactivity, called to serve and protect Haliburton’s targeted reserves.
The war serves the financial interests of its backers because the army is equipped, transported, fed, housed, and provided intelligence by private contractors. These backers of the war even claim the right to keep secret their costs and profits because such information is “proprietary”, or that is, private property. Practically speaking, the war in Iraq is therefore a war to benefit, not the people of Iraq, nor of the United States, but certain giant, multi-nationals and their private property. And they are doing very well at it.
Simply put, the war is a private war, being fought not for citizens but for investors.
At the same time, all about in our world is a sort of confusion. Christian against Christian, Jew against Jew, republican against republican, and all this serves to mask the war’s realities and to obscure who is really profiting. It is therefore in the interest of those giant architects of these wars to foster this confusion, to foster and encourage sound-bite campaigning and issue illiteracy. TV campaigning is not kind to truth and is therefore also not good for elections. Sound-bite war can, on the other hand, serve to promote intellectual and principled chaos. It can be used to further the confusion and dilute the facts which, in turn, furthers continued corporate dominance and control, because the corporations themselves are not confused or in the least uncertain about their purposes.
This week John Kerry spoke directly and bluntly about the war. What he said was that he would not allow the president to blame him and those who had served in uniform for this administration’s failures. He would stand in their faces, he said, and call it like it was: a failed war and he said that a failed policy was their responsibility and he would not stand back and be swift-boated again.
But as the week has unfolded it has became clear that the spin from the White House, repeated and fit into sound bites by all the networks, turned these statements from a courageous stand against a phony war into an issue whether John Kerry supports the troops. Of course John Kerry supports the troops. He has spent his life supporting the troops. The issue was turned around because a concentrated media, a controlled media some of which takes its sound bites directly from the White House can create issues out of whole cloth, can fabricate truths that are more persuasive than truth, and none of us, not even John Kerry is powerful enough to swim against the tide.
And here therefore is the deeper meaning of this election:
The corporate media can change an election from a discussion of issues to focus on any banality, or any slogan, or any trivialization that it desires, and truth, outright truth, is a weak reed against this giant corporate wind. We saw in three days this week a complete trivialization of a great issue—the issue of public education and college training—by sound-bite commentators paid for by corporate interests who have no interest in ending the war but whose overall interests are aided by the continuation of war.
The national good, the general welfare, is no longer the focus of moral authority because, among other reasons, the nation state is controlled, its leaders’ campaigns are paid for, its leaders’ allegiance is bought by—not the whole nation; not the whole people—but by the representatives of those investors in private property who pay their political bills.
These corporations, on the other hand, cannot be the focus of moral authority because they can claim no connection to the common good, or, more precisely, a corporation insists, by definition, upon a standard of performance and success which, if it is related to the common good, is only related accidentally. The common good is never a corporation’s primary purpose.
In short, the outcome of this election, whatever it may be, will not be sufficient to quench the desire for meaning, or to supply answers to or about our national direction because it will not address our intellectual, social and moral confusion, disintegration, and anguish. Nor will it be enough to halt corporate trivialization and misrepresentation on all the issues which affect their income, governance, or secret deliberations. The process of corporate TV and the megaphone of their bought, sold and packaged president has not only destroyed truth, it has destroyed the intellectual integrity of the electoral process.
The cost of our gasoline, our electricity, our sugar, our telephones, our computers, our airplanes, our tanks, our food, our fruit and nuts, are determined today by processes no longer explicable for the common man or woman, processes no longer in the open, no longer subject to laws of nature or even of supply and demand but subject, rather, to oligopoly decisions made in board rooms in Saudi Arabia, Korea, the Netherlands, Detroit, entirely in secret. There is little to no congressional, or parliamentary, or religious, control of these decisions. There is no moral authority that can be attached to the decision to buy up all the water from the farms in Pojoaque or to cut down the rain forests in Brazil, as such decisions are made in secret, for private gain, or oligopoly gain, at great public loss. There is currently no requirement for the oligopolies to redress the public loss. And when the gain is all private, for personal uses, it carries no social meaning or moral weight.
In this time of confusion and moral, intellectual and ideological disintegration, answers will not come by pandering to, or exaggerating the joys of consumerism, individualism, or freedom from the government, freedom from community, or that is, freedom from taxes, freedom to cheat if one can get away with it, freedom to ignore the suffering of those who die while others prosper. The pendulum has swung so far in that way that in our times me-first claims for one’s own life separate from his or her family, for one’s own business separate from the needs of the city, one’s own oil development separate from the needs of the global environment have drowned out community. The Reagan doctrine of selfishness as godliness encourages teen-agers to drive, eat, sleep, separate from family, encourages local developers to be immune from zoning or community impact analyses, encourages multinational corporations to seek exemption from all taxes, and has made the mere reference to “community” sound hollow, archaic, “liberal,” old fashioned and extreme.
How will it matter if democrats are elected next Tuesday if they do not come to power with a sense obligation to community? How will it matter if they have a sense of community if they are afraid or unwilling to act upon it because they will be called liberals and because the power lies not with them but with those puppetmasters who finance—or do not—their campaigns?
When, if we are fortunate, control of the congress shifts in some small degree, there will be course corrections dictated by the inherent common sense of the people who did not listen to all the sound bites and who cannot be permanently deluded into thinking that war and terror are everywhere the norm and our permanent fate.
That will be good. But such victory will be muted, if it occurs at all, by the on-going, constant, never-ending appetite of the giant oligopolies for dominion in Iraq, in Iran, and for these dominions to be guarded over, protected by youngsters from Espanola and Socorro, who are being told that they fight for democracy and freedom and the American right to consume. The engine that drives consumption, feeds an obese nation on addictions, and overrated individualism will not be transformed with a simple change in the House of Representatives.
When change does occur, real change, it will be through a revival of our common will, our sense of true community, our compassion, our appetite for the truth in politics, in advertising, in the law, and our willingness to take back the institutions of government, to wrest the decisions out of oak-paneled board rooms and put them back in public committee rooms, to take them out of the realm of “private property” and put them back into the realm, as the Constitution says, of the general welfare.