Sunday, August 28, 2005

Stylish Romans

According to Michael Babcock of Newsday, the US is an Empire, and should be proud of it. It's funny to see it said so openly. He means it as a compliment: the US is a 'good' empire. He says the US is the Roman Empire. Lovely.

Despite my love of the Monty Python movie "Life of Brian" (easily the funniest movie of all time), I don't think one can seriously think that the Roman Empire was good for the majority.

The subsistence economies Rome destroyed, the aboriginals they slaughtered, the deadly & capricious changes in the legal system, the extreme tyranny & terror ... and for what 'progress', exactly?

There's no such thing as a good empire.

The US is, however, the most destructive Empire in history. It beats them all. And has the best publicity money can buy.

Imperial cliché

It's really sad when a reasonable phrase is turned into a "talking point" for state terror.

Take "challenges facing US foreign policy". This means "how does the US keep its boot firmly on the necks of people who don't like it?" If you do a google search on this phrase, you'll get dozens of foreign poicy apologists, organized as 'think-tanks' like the "Council on Foreign Relations" and "Inter-American Dialogue".

Pat Robertson recently offered a glimpse of US foreign policy: kill, invade and keep the oil flowing. Oh, I'm paraphrasing. The real quote is much better:

We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.

To distract from this peek behind the curtain, the Foreign Policy spin-doctors immediately started operating on Chavez. Michael Shifter of Inter-American Dialogue:

The challenge for U.S. policy is to contest the validity of Chavez's claims and his grandiose but wrongheaded designs. Policy alternatives need to be devised that come to grips with harsh realities but do not jettison modern Western values.

Western values such as the killing of half a million people in Central America in the 1980's? Or the western values of selling Bolivia's water to private Western interests for profit? Or the Western Values of attacking any country that embarks on social spending?

Monday, August 01, 2005

The disaster trick

A dutch activist, raising conciousness about the famine in Niger, was irritated at me for posting about subsistence economies, and how modern development is designed to screw farmers. In Niger, the natural resources are getting privatized at a fast pace, like everywhere else.

So why was this dutch activist angry? At first, I thought it must be because I brought up 'unnecessary issues'. The dutch have a long history of individuals travelling to directly help crisis-stricken areas. But it wasn't that ... I couldn't figure it out. Finally -- sitting in a hot Moscow apartment on the bad side of town, watching a Russian dubbed version of 'The Day After Tomorrow', vegetating while recovering from a stomach flu -- I realized what was going on.

Publicity people know, that there's only one way to spin a natural calamity, if you're in power. "We're all in this together", you must say, appealing to natural human tendancies to help each other. Then you go on and take whatever advantage of the calamity you can. I think this is standard operating procedure among those in power ... I'd like to hear exceptions.

Anyway, in every disaster movie, the president, and people in power, turn out to be 'regular people', even if they started out bad. Yikes. This never happens in the real world! Those in power are constantly calculating and positioning during a disaster. They couldn't care less about the people -- they are quite hardened to such things. They may not do much, or they may do much harm, in the wake of calamities. But they will make a tremendous show of sympathy, and they will talk about supporting victims etc. These movies basically do their PR for them.

Reality helps their PR too. If you go on the ground during a diasaster, you mostly run into very sympathetic, driven, helpful people. It's those in power who don't care. It's very hard to remember that, when you've see how normal people cooperate in the face of adversity.

So I think I was being admonished for bringing up an ugly fact, which distracted from the sense of comraderie. But still, if you want those in power to help, you have to pressure them, by pulling down their curtain of disception.