May 19, 2005
Merging "Rights" In A Time of Fear
By: Rowan Wolf
We live in frightening times. My guess is that most of the planet feels it on one level or another. It is a time of uncertainty - not security. It is a time of waiting for the sky to fall. The path we are on as a planet is driving us to disaster - environmental disaster. For most the last 200 years some nations have used the resources of the planet at a profligate rate. The detrius of that use has further poisoned the planet we live on. We face the end of oil (and all it supports), the collapse of the climate, and ecosystems collapse across the planet. On the other hand, we face geo-political conflict and the attack from anywhere at any time. The two things are related. In fact, they are manifestations from the same root.
The response to these uncertainties for many has been a return to fundamentalism - religious fundamentalism and political fundamentalism. When all looks hopeless, put one's faith in "God" and exert maximum control on populations (frequently in the name of "God"). It is a way of saying that the problems are beyond our ability to understand or resolve.
The current environment did not just come upon us. It has been building for decades. Many have worked very hard and very directly to bring us to this point. The (not so) invisible hand of the United States has been globally active to bring us to this point. In the United States, the movement to the take over the government and the public arena have been active since at least the Reagan presidency. It is no accident that many of the current wielders of power have been in place administration after administration -building, planning, shaping, and forming coalitions- particularly with the Christian Evangelical movement.
The merger we are experiencing is an overlapping set of neoconservative political ideologues, fundamentalist Christianity, and corporate hegemony. The power and influence moves on a mobious strip - virtually seamless, and seemingly unstoppable. National influence tied to corporate interests where international policy benefits big money, governments decimate the economies of other nations to "open doors" for "development," and Christian religious organizations prepare the ground for the genocide of indigenous peoples.
Christian organizations have been (and are being) used as arms of U.S. foreign policy. In John Perkins book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (pg 142), he talks about one such organization - the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL)- who worked in collusion with oil interests and the U.S. military to remove the Huaorani tribe of Ecuador from lands suspected of being oil bearing .
"... SIL airdropped false-bottomed food baskets containing tiny radio transmitters; receivers at highly sophisticated communications stations, manned by U.S. military personnel at the army base in Shell, tuned in to these transmitters. Whenever a member of the tribe was bitten by a poisonous snake, or became seriously ill, an SIL representative arrived with anti-venom and the proper medicines -often in oil company helicopters."
In other words, they were covertly listening in on the tribe for when "trouble" arrived. Then they could "miraculousy" show up and save the day.
In the United States, we have a population either largely enthralled or cowed. Lies - big lies - are told daily. The fourth estate (the so called free press) reports what it is told to report, spins what it is told to spin -serving the conjoined interests of corporate owners and governmental elite (who personally overlap and are sometimes the same people). Watching this can drive one crazy, and as each plan is implemented, it can drive one to despair.
I have been reading Power Down by Richard Heinberg. It is an excellent book on the end of cheap oil, but it is much more than that. Heinberg offers a sidebar inclusion that is perhaps the most cogent summation I have seen of the underpinnings of the neoconservatives. I offer it below.
Who Are the Neocons?
Neoconservatism is the intellectual offspring of Leo Strauss (1899-1973), a Jewish scholar who fled Hitler's Germany and taught political science at the University of Chicago. According to Shadia Drury in Leo Strauss and the American Right, (Griffin, 1999), Strauss advocated an essentially Machiavellian approach to governance. He believed that:
- A leader must perpetually deceive those being ruled.
- Those who lead are accountable to no overarching system of morals, only to the right of the superior to rule the inferior.
- Religion is the force that binds society together, and is therefore the tool by which the ruler can manipulate the masses (any religion will do).
- Secularism in society is to be suppressed, because it leads to critical thinking and dissent.
- A political system can be stable only if it is united against an external threat, and that if no real threat exists, one should be manufactured.
Drury writes that "In Strauss's view, the trouble with liberal society is that it dispenses with noble lies and pious frauds. It tries to found society on a secular rational basis."
Among Strauss's students was Paul Wolfowitz, one of the leading hawks in the US Defense Department, who urged the invasion of Iraq; second-generation students include Newt Gingrich, Clarence Thomas, Irving Kristol, William Bennet, John Ashcroft, and Michael Ledeen." (pg 68-69)
Lendeen is a policy advisor to Karl Rove and therefore to the Bush administration. In 1999 he wrote: "In order to achieve the most noble accomplishments the leader may have to enter into evil." According to Heinberg, Machiavelli argued that if one controls the state, then one only needs to present the image of good rather than the actuality, and the people will not challenge you. It is Machiavelli who gave us "the end justifies the means."
Heinberg goes on to include Katherine Yurica’s analyses of "dominionism" which she argues is a dominant faction in the Christian Right spearheaded by Pat Robertson. Their vision is that "God intends His followers to rule the world on His behalf." She sees dominionism as a "Machiavellian perversion of Christianity," where "All is fair in the holy war against atheists, secular humanists, Muslims, and liberals."
Some things send a cold chill down your spine. When a General of the United States (Boykin) campaigns for George Bush in churches and claims that God elected George W. Bush; when the head of the Department of Justice holds daily prayer meetings in the office with his staff; when you read that the Airforce academy "is being held hostage in a vise grip by evangelical Christians, and people are terrified to come forward;" when people go to court -and win- to replace the teaching of scientific inquiry (evolution) with Christian belief ("intelligent design").
George Will stated "The state of America's political discourse is such that the president has felt it necessary to declare that unbelievers can be good Americans."
I wonder what is the Untied States coming to?
Jeff Sharlett has an article in the May 2005 Harpers called Soldiers of Christ - Inside America's most powerful megachurch, that took my breath away at points. For example:
"I have to tell you, the spiritual battle is very real." We are surrounded by demons, she explained, reciting the lessons she had learned in her small-group studies at New Life. The demons are cold, they need bodies, they long to come inside. People let them in in two different ways. One is to be sinned against. "Molested," suggested Linda. The other is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You could walk by sin -a murder, a homosexual act- and a demon will leap onto your bones. Cities, therefore, are especially dangerous."
So they move to the suburbs, or take over towns such as Colorado Springs. From there they can protect themselves from the hungry demons. And, with lots of money and modern technology, they can produce a message to reach out globally.
Ted Haggard (Pastor Ted) is the leader of "New Life." He speaks with the White House every week. His grand vision embraces the triumvirate of "God, guns, and greed.." Haggard see’s "Free-market economics is a 'truth'" and fears that his "children will grow up in an Islamic state". According to Haggard, Protestants are forward looking "entreprenuers" and "inventors." He sees himself engaged in a "spiritual war."
"And that is why he believes spiritual war requires a virile, worldly counterpart. "I teach a strong ideology of the use of power," he says, "of military might, as a public service." He is for preemptive war, because he believes the Bible's exhortations against sin set for us a preemptive paradigm, and he is for ferocious war, because "the Bible's bloody. There's a lot about blood."
It is true that neither the neoconservatives nor the evangelical right make up a majority of the population, but they don't have to. They just need to control the power base. The scripted messages become "common knowledge." The world is filled with evil people - criminals, terrorists, traitors, "liberals" and homosexuals. We can protect ourselves with more intrusive police powers, we can strangle the poor, we can move to the "clean" suburbs, we can "fight them there rather than fighting them here." The majority of the population doesn't have to agree if they will comply with the direction they are being led. So far, in the U.S. (and increasingly in other areas of the world such as Austria and Canada), the people seem increasingly willing to swing with the Right.
We are fighting resource wars under the guise of protecting the United States. The colluding and colliding forces join might with visions of glory under the banner of "God." There is a belief that the signs of success are economic prosperity and symbolic of God's approval ("Christians prosper"). The opulence of megachurches (and $600 million embassies) are blatant examples of God's favor. The problems of the world are signs of demons' actions through radicals trying to control the world.
The God put forward is a corporatized God who looks to the bottom line and for results. He doesn't care how you get those results because the cause is pure. He is the Machiavelli version of God where the "ends justify the means." But what are the ends? That is what I cannot see - or perhaps refuse to see. Is it a world gasping for its last breath while U.S. space stations use targeted lasers to control "unruly" populations? Is it a world of megachurches filled with cultic pod people?
Being as how I am one of the "heathen" radicals, I feel a personal stake in the direction the country is heading. As rights erode and the span of power increases, I wonder what will wake folks up. As the threats of yet other military "engagements" with nuclear overtones seem not just possible but likely, I wonder where the horror of nuclear war has gone. Is it a belief that Iran and North Korea just have "little nukes" and we can bomb them before they bomb us? Is it just another version of "fighting them over there?" Are the covert operations, use of torture, killing of civilians, OK because they are "barbarians" and "Muslims?"
The whole concept of asymmetric warfare is counterlogical. Individuals with homemade bombs against tactical robots and fighter jets. "They" aren't fighting "fair." It is the strategy of "if you want to find the fish drain the swamp." In that strategy, you remove all the water (the people). Sure a lot of "fish" you didn't want get killed, but you got the ones you did want (maybe). If nothing else you set the example of the implacable threat of the madman. "Look at me wrong and you are dead" - no negotiations, no explanations, no second chance.
And you soldier, before we send you to drain the swamp, let us pray.
John Perkins, 2004, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
George Will, Washington Post, 5/05/05,The Christian Complex
Jeff Sharlett, Harpers, May 2005. Soldiers of Christ - Inside America's most powerful megachurch
Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, 5/04/05. Air Force to Probe Religious Climate at Colorado Academy
Richard Heinberg, 2004. Power Down
Posted by Rowan at May 19, 2005 12:02 PM Category: Culture & Ideology
TrackBack URL for this entry:
I just read on MSN where 10,000 square miles of rainforest had been cleared in 2004 in Brazil alone to make room for more soy farms and cattle ranches. Consumption is the driving force behind this, consumption spread across the planet and not driven soley by the US. In light of our rich agricultural resources, it is pretty safe to assume that significant amounts of the produce coming from destroyed rain forest are not being consumed here. Soybeans, cattle and timber V the decimation of an ecosytem that will have disastrous results in the very near future. This is a global problem, a human problem and not simply the fault of the US or any one nation in particular. With 2.5 billion people in China and India and with both having economies that are really starting to boom, the big problems have just started. I am not aware of either nation having the equivalent of an EPA. As such, I am more concerned over that than neo-cons and Christians. Should the US take the lead in environmental issues? Of course, but so too should all Industrial nations. I don't hear any industrial nation telling people who will be consuming the beef, soy and timber from 10,000 acres of vanished rainforest to stop. Strange isn't it too how we lament this yet glorify medical science that enables life extension on the planet, the bottom line of which is more consumption of produce, chemicals and energy, and of course more and more patients needing pills and medical care. This doesn't quite fit our world view however - medical science as villains, quite a paradox, and talk about kicking a sacred cow in the belly, eh? Halliburton, the AMA and Eli Lilly and Exxon are all sleeping in the same bed.
Posted by: goesh at May 20, 2005 4:47 AM
I would not rest too secure in the belief of the agricultural richness of the United States. The overwhelming majority of our plant crop is dedicated to two things - silage for livestock, and the production of crops for sugar. Those to areas combined make up over 70% of our crops (if I am remembering the statistic correctly). The Oil We Eat)is an excellent article on this issue.
We are importing massive amounts of what is eaten in the US. The US is not feeding itself at this point. Nor is it likely that we could convert to do so in a season or so.
Posted by: rowan at May 20, 2005 9:48 AM
04/05 US wheat production is projected at 2158 million bushels
of that, 1050 are projected for export
890 for food use and 77 for seed
Corn, US consumption, 2002 numbers/units
glucose/dextrose - 212
fuel alcohol 920
beverage control 131
cereals/other food 187
Posted by: goesh at May 20, 2005 10:36 AM