2985 - From The Bottom Up

A solid 35% of my visitors are from the US. That’s pretty much and maybe I risk alienating most of my remaining readership, but, you know, I think we’ve gotta talk about something that I don’t understand.

Here is how Americans thought about torture in 2008 and this is how they think about it today. And today I read that George Ellard, inspector general of the National Security Agency, the man who should be most worried about what he learned through the Snowden leaks, finds that everything is perfectly legal.

Yeah, sure, just as legal as everything Hitler did. Persecution of the Jews? Perfectly legal. They even had a law for it!

Everything becomes legal when the criminals make the laws. So, apart from the obvious idiocy of believing in the effectiveness of torture when it has been shown countless times that it is not, I mean, even if it were effective (which it is NOT! NOT!!!), there must be a line that cannot be crossed. If not, well, everything is possible. Do you believe there is any reason to hope, that effectively legalizing torture will not lead to the use of torture on US citizens? You? Your children? Sooner or later? Would be the first time in history if not, but hey, you’re free to believe what you want, it’s only civilization that goes down the drain.

If you think of it, what else is civilization, than a set of lines that cannot be crossed? Each line part of a fence that keeps us safe and allows us to plan for our own future and the future of our children?

Isn’t this strange? You can’t rely on laws and constitutions. There is really no way to craft laws that make sure you don’t end up with a totalitarian state drowning in barbarism. You need something to root your society in, something absolute, something people … well, it’s hard for my atheist self to say that … believe in. A society needs a shared ideal.

I often say that I grew up with the conviction that things can only get better as time goes by, and I often say that I am losing my illusions the older I get.

I think that in the 1960/70s we had a kind of shared ideal that I grew up with and that society shed like a snake sheds its hide. When I was a child, I was told that all people are equal and that if not, it is a problem that’s got to be solved. I was told that we have responsible and hard-working leaders, and at least of a few of them I think they were and did. We knew corruption but it was the exception and it was frowned upon. Or maybe that’s all only an illusion, but I am pretty sure about how people thought about it. People did not approve of behaviour that is the norm now.

During the last 35 years happended what I call the Conservative Backlash. Reagan, Thatcher, Kohl and John Paul II were the crusaders and the downfall of institutionalized so-called communism finally discredited all kinds of socialist ideas. As weird as it is, the intellectual left just let this happen, as if the Eastern regimes had had anything to do with communism or socialism at all. And capitalism became a religion instead.

The problem is only, capitalism is not a viable source of shared ideals. It is the anti-thesis of sharing, and as such, it not even provides ideals. The financial crisis and how our capitalist societies avoided learning any lessons of it, they should make abundantly clear that unguarded capitalism is not capable of anything but uncontrolled growth - at the cost of everything else. Strongly reminds me of cancer, if you ask me.

But, am I not only unsatisfied with an ideal that is not my ideal? Is conservativism not an ideal? Did we not just return from the reckless experiments of the 1960s to a more considerate way of thinking about the world?

At least that’s certainly what we should have been led to think. Only it is not true. Today’s conservativism conserves nothing. Conservatives are at the bleeding edge when it comes to destroying our environment at ever increasing speed. Conservatives are always the first to get rid of our cultural tradition, of our hard earned knowledge. Science? Who needs it when there’s always propaganda to draw upon? About the only thing that conservativism successfully conserves is inequality.

Actually, even the idea of a shared ideal is socialist at its roots. And so is civilization. Civilization is a form of organization of a people, shared behind a shared ideal. It unifies the disparate, and by doing so, it creates equality from inequality. Denying equality means denying civilization. And if you do so, you end up with torture and violent barbarism.

The Song of the Day is “From The Bottom Up” by Dayna Kurtz. Hear it on YouTube.

There are 5 comments

Cedric Canard   (2014-12-20)

Well said Andreas.

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Mike C   (2014-12-21)

What you see going on in the U.S. right now (guns, torture, human rights, income disparity) is shared by many people here, myself included. Unfortunately, our elections are bought by billionaires and capitalists leaving the majority of Americans totally disenfranchised at the polls. Beyond that, many Americans are voting against their own interests, thinking that they see themselves one day joining the high income 1%. And sad to say, many more are just plain stupid. I am embarrassed by the current state of affairs here and hope it will soon change. I for one am glad you took the opportunity to speak up.

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Juha Haataja   (2014-12-21)

Well, not everything coming from the U.S. is bad, even though the system seems to be totally corrupted. I'm currently reading Naomi Klein's book "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate", which is in fact a history of the capitalistic movement that is now destroying civilization. In fact, capitalism has become a religion which disregards all evidence that doesn't fit the worldview. It is a disturbing book, but gets things right.

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Paul Maxim   (2014-12-21)

Mike's got it right - the so-called "American dream" has become exactly that. Just a dream. Even though the economy's improving, most people remain at the bottom of the pile. With each Supreme Court decision the very wealthy become ever more powerful. Many elections are a joke. And as he points out, far too many Americans literally vote against their own best interests (if they bother to vote at all). It's sad to watch. But it's the torture debate here that is so infuriating. Listening to Dick Cheney say he'd do it all again "in a minute" makes me want to scream. The guy should be prosecuted and jailed. There should be no "debate" about this nonsense. Torture is wrong, legally and morally.

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Earl Moore   (2014-12-21)

There are many social changes taking place in America at the moment but sadly change doesn't always mean for the better. 9-11 and the global recession have made much of the poorer, older, whiter, less educated American population ripe for campaigns of fear. These fears are catered to and built upon by certain ultra-conservative media channels which serve up 24/7 propaganda and lies specifically to fan the flames of fear and generate an active power base for approved political candidates. Monies for these political and legislative power grabs are being funneled into these efforts by selective members of the 1% club hoping for control and an even bigger piece of the pie. It's sad but true that many Americans have gotten lazy and it's far easier for them to believe what they are being told by some "news" medias without taking the time to do the work of investigating from other sources. I'm ashamed we have let ourselves slip into a social state where any agency or elected official would even think of spying on there citizens and justifying torture in any case. But I am also frustrated as to what to do about it. I vote responsibly and try to speak up against it when there is opportunity but it seems to do little good.

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