Friday, December 09, 2005

Ignorance Is Bliss

One of my favorite playwrights, Harold Pinter, won the Nobel Prize for Literature recently. He delivered a brilliant acceptance speech, and it would appear that he is opposed to United States’ foreign policy, to put it mildly. Some excerpts to whet your appetite:

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words "the American people" provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the U.S.

It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speechwriters but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

"God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it."
And if you read the entire piece, you see that he’s not criticizing the Iraq war specifically as much as everything we’ve done since the end of World War II. And he makes a great point – it’s time to face the fact that we are as vicious a brutal tyrant as any of the last century, but we use our clever propaganda techniques to wrap ourselves up in the concept of freedom and democracy, thus fooling the world (some of the time) and ourselves that our actions are righteous and just. What he doesn’t discuss is that even we (as U.S. citizens) can see our lost freedoms and democracy. It is well-documented that Al Gore won the 2000 election. It is well-documented that oil and pharmaceutical companies write their own bills specifically designed to make them richer at our expense. It is well-documented that we torture and murder innocent people. It is well-documented that our government claims every right to search/take/hide/listen to whatever or whomever it likes. It is well-documented that we have invaded a foreign land based on nothing other than it is what we wanted to do, again under the guise of protecting ourselves.

When is it time for us to swallow our pride and accept that we are an empire in the style of Ancient Rome where our military and intelligence agents are free to murder at will; where life does not matter except for that of American life, and often not even that; where we will take what we want and destroy you if you get in our way? That is the America in which you live. And don’t get me wrong, while Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld represent the epitome of this evil, the Democrats are no different. Which Democrat is going to win an election by talking about global peace and cooperation? Hillary? Kerry? I don’t think so. The Democrats might win, and if they do it will be because they out-hawked the hawks. It will be because they spoke of protecting America with our massive arsenal of advanced weaponry and utilizing our unbounded wealth to reach our goals (bribing nations who cooperate, starving those who do not).

This is not justice. This is not freedom and democracy. It is global domination through violence. True, we don’t have concentration camps. Instead we have secret torture centers with tens of thousands of unknown “ghost” prisoners who are at this very moment pleading for mercy from their sadistic captors. Is it better if we drown a prisoner instead of putting him in a gas chamber? Is it better if we strap him to a crucifix and he suffocates? Is it better if we beat him to death with a flashlight? Is it better if we leave him outside to freeze to death? Tell me, what manner of death is the most just? What manner of torture proves that we’re more righteous than past totalitarian regimes? Tell me. I want to know.

I want to know.


Anonymous said...

Someone didn't take his happy pill today.

Michael Grant said...

The Bush Administration hasn't officially starting doling out the happy pills yet. But when they do, you can bet that the Antidepressant Distribution Plan will be backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Congress.

madgeneral said...

i'm leaning with you toward a deep and final skepticism regarding the essential depravity of american foreign and domestic policy...

but -- and maybe it's my little-league coach or my uncle russ, the one with the fancy car, talking -- part of me thinks that in some way, however ill-conceived, they're doing this shit out of post 9/11 zeal to protect us. that our government does want to ensure the safety of its citizens.

it's dismal to think that what they're really fighting to protect are "american interests" which seems like a euphemism for homegrown multinationals and an out-of-the-mainstream government that is underwritten by them. but what choice do we have? dismal or not, the evidence mounts, and it deconstructs all of our norman rockwell naivete.

good post.

Anonymous said...


watch the movie, dude


there is a bug in the machine.

they'll come to arrest michael




Anonymous said...

or better still


city of god

watch those two movies and enjoy the rest of what remains of your miserable existence.

Michael Grant said...

What do you think? The United States is infallible? That we are incapable of having our liberties completely stripped and devolve into a totalitarian state? What makes you think that? That's what the Romans thought before Caesar. That's what the Germans thought before Hitler. That's what the French thought before Napoleon. The signs are already here, with rigged elections, with corporations running the government, with an ethics-free Congress, with a massive military industrial complex, with taxpayer funded propaganda, with the government monitoring our email and telephone lines, free to arrest anyone at any time denying them access to a court or legal council. All the pieces are in place. Anyone who doesn't worry about it - I'm worried about them. Ignorance is bliss.

It may not happen, but the only way it doesn't is because of an educated populace and diligent media. Guess what two things this country doesn't have?

madgeneral said...

anonymous --

i bet you've got a movie to beat down every discourse not taking place in your own tired mind.

some advice: snap out of your gilliam revery, open the basement door, say good afternoon to your folks, and go out and do something positive for someone. even if it's something simple like not choosing their cafe couch to pose on.

"enjoy your miserable existence." yeah -- you also, my friend.

emeryroolz said...

whoa whoa whoa... this is getting exciting. Let's keep it civil, people. Bah, who am I kidding? FIGHTFIGHTFIGHTFIGHTFIGHT!!!