Friday, November 13, 2009

Are WE our government? Illusions and disillusions of democratic regimes

I have read an article written by Acharya S., What about 9/11?, and although I agree with most of this author's articles and research, I can't do the same with this statement of hers.

Leaving aside the debate of whether the 9/11 was an inside job or a terroristic attack carried out by islamic integralists, what struck me in this article is the phrase "We are the U.S. government". Supporting the official theory of the attack with the explanation "To say that "the American government" committed this crime represents a broadstroke generalization that essentially condemns all Americans - and makes us as unsafe as Muslims feel when people do say, "It's the Muslims," etc." is naive and weak.

First of all, I think the debate around 9/11 needs to be supported by strong evidence and not just with opinions, as it involves massive scientific research and in-depth geopolitical analysis. However, here I don't want to talk about this, but instead would like to investigate the "We are the US Government" statement.

What is the "government"? This word is usually employed to define a political body formed according the results of popular elections. When the author says "We are the government" maybe she means "We are the State."

Is the population "the State"? It would certainly be right for the people to be considered as being "the State," to have the possibility of strongly influencing their government's decisions and to enjoy all civil liberties legal papers such as the Constitutions guarantee. This would be called "direct democracy": it's by all means something worth working for, but unfortunately it's certainly not the case of today's regimes, be them in Europe, America, Africa, or Asia.

There is a large confusion over terms such as "democracy," "freedom," "civil liberties," and this is mainly due to distorted media coverage, controlled education systems and repressive acts aimed at undermining our rights to be informed and safe.

Does implying that the US government is not behind the 9/11 attacks *because* US citizens ARE the government mean that ALL U.S. citizens were responsible for the Chilean coup in 1973 staged by the CIA and the White House? Does that mean that all US citizens were responsible for the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953? Does that mean that all US citizens are responsible for the mass murders in Afghanistan and Iraq ordered by the US government?

Many people work in agencies and institutions related to the US government and, as they are simple employees, they of course have, nor have had, nothing to do with the crimes carried out by the US administrations throughout the last decades since the end of World War II up to now.

Like many countries, the United States has a Constitution, meaning by this, "both the formal constitution, the written document along with its various amendments and legal apparatuses, and the material constitution, that is the continuous formation and re-formation of the composition of social forces." (From Empire, by Antonio Negri and Micheal Hardt). Formal Constitutions are usually very enlightened, but this doesn't mean that such primary codes are followed, nor respected by the countries' ruling powers.

The idea (or better, the hope) that citizens are the State is the system our ruling powers want to make us believe we live in. But there is nothing more false than that. Governments, parliaments, political parties and organizations are bodies aimed at giving the illusion that we, the people, have power over our lives. With the practice of "free" elections, we are led to think that we choose the candidates we actually prefer. However, what is the choice? Two, three or four options to choose from? And who decides what the options have to be?

What actually happens in our "free" elections is that we tick a name belonging to a pre-packed coalition, by no means stemmed from popular choice, but all reflecting the same corporate interests that today have the main power. Whether we choose one coalition or the other, the result doesn't change much: right-wing parties will carry out what are to be considered right-wing policies and left-wing groups will bring about what we have to think are left-wing ideals.



When we read news that apparently criticise the government representatives it can mean that some news has leaked out or that a change in the political scene is necessary, and that particular movement or person is not entitled to popular consent anymore. This is when the mind-control machine of corporate media starts working in a specific direction.

Just to come back to government actions, can we believe politicians always work in order to ensure our safety and well-being? Here are some telling examples that show how governmental insitutions can be disrespectful towards our civil liberties:

Justice Dept. Asked For News Site's Visitor Lists: in this article, journalist Declan McCullagh reports an attempt by the US Department of Justice to literally spy on citizens who read Indymedia website, with clear and shameless violation of those citizens' privacy in order to obtain their details such as the IP address, therefore their location.

A careful observer will immediately notice that this action by the US Department of Justice is in striking contrast with the First Amendment of the American Constitution that aims at defending the freedom of speech.

On the same line, the UK government, rather expert in Big Brother matters, seems to have rebranded national activists "domestic terrorists," since the police "are gathering the personal details of thousands of activists who attend political meetings and protests, and storing their data on a network of nationwide intelligence databases," the Guardian reveals.

The truth is that if in the past it was more difficult to monitor our government's actions, therefore to spot their crimes, now with the spreading of modern technologies available to an always increasing number of people, the news travel quickly, reach all corners of the globe and are able to provoke general indignation.

With the excuse of international terrorism and the need to "protect" our countries, western governments are enhancing security measures to absurd levels. In an enlightening article titled "Her Majesty's Big Brother: Britain's Protesters Rebranded 'Domestic Extremists'" Tom Burghardt notices:

"Why would British police target law-abiding citizens exercising their right to protest the depredations of the capitalist order?



Because they can! With a logic that only a policeman's mother could love, Setchell told The Guardian: 'Just because you have no criminal record does not mean that you are not of interest to the police. Everyone who has got a criminal record did not have one once.'"

Antifascist Calling rightly reminds that this situation is certainly not new:

"Since the 1970s, the federal grand jury system where the prosecutor reigns supreme, has been an instrument wielded by the secret state to target dissent and to ensnare left-wing government critics in open-ended 'investigations' whose sole purpose is to harass if not prosecute alleged 'troublemakers.'"

It's easy to understand here how misleading and populist can be to clear a priori the government of any accusation by saying that WE all are the government.

WE (the people) are certainly NOT the government, nor we live in a direct democracy, as we don't have any possibility to influence the government's decisions in crucial matters such as war, taxes, health system.

We are absolutely the most important element of a State and we must demand to participate in all public matters, as those laws rule our lives and the spaces we share with other human beings. By monitoring and never belittling the governments' crimes we can contribute in making our political leaders (really) work for us in the total respect of our rights.


Highly recommended further reading:

- Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2001

- Blum William, Killing Hope. US Military & CIA Interventions since World War II, Zed Books, 2003

9 comments:

Historical Travel said...

It's all very simple, my dear friend. There's isn't one single terrorist in the entire world. Not one!

Angela said...

It's all very simple? Explain yourself, I'll be delighted to make it more complicated...

Historical Travel said...

In the entire history of civilization, has there been one single incident where a Sunni Muslim launched a violent attack on a gathering of civilians? If so, where and when?

Angela said...

With entire history of civilization do you mean thousands of years ago?

Since Maometto was born in 571, I'm not sure why you want to go this far.

This being said, could you narrow down the period you want to refer to? Is it anywhere close to the period I refer to in my post?

Historical Travel said...

OK Angela, you've got me there. Some time within the last one hundred years.

Angela said...

I'm not an expert on religious or ethnical tribal divisions within Middle East countries, so if any attack took place, I can't tell you whether they involved Sunni, Shiite, or any other group.

Why are you aiming at the specific group of the Sunni Muslims?

Historical Travel said...

It seems to me that they (the Sunnis) tend to use this tactic more than the Shiites. For example, when I read about a major explosion having occurred in Iraq (i.e. in a populated area), more often than not it turns out to be a Sunni attack on the Shiites. The Shiites have their own way of dealing with things, of course.

Angela said...

Given the complexity of ethnic and religious groups in the Middle East, I can't say I'm an expert, so I'm not able to say what tactics are more used by Sunnis or Shiites.

As for the explosions in Iraq or Afghanistan, most of them are carried out by the troops invading the two countries, i.e. US, UK, Italy and so on and so forth. Of course they also use attacks to provoke general indignation in order to create more instability and to have the excuse to increase the number of troops and continue with the occupation. But this is an old trick.

歡樂 said...

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