Saturday, April 19, 2003

The Lie of Democracy

Nobody really wants the Iraqis to have a democracy. Hold an election tomorrow and it becomes a mirror to Iran. You know, Saddam should have followed the Saudi model of Islamic despotism. The Saudi royals have just as much money, just as many palaces, just as many cousins in government jobs as Saddam did, just as much absolute control. The only difference is that they aren't psychotic, and Saddam and his group quickly became so. Okay, but that aside, if the Iraqis voted tomorrow they would create an Islamic, sharia judged, clerically ruled state that would systematically persecute Kurds, Sunni or Shiite -- it would depend on which group had the clerics and control of the democracy -- and the few Turkomen up near the Turkish border.

If we had democracy in this country, Al Gore would be President. Oh, fuck off, I'm not talking about the Florida debacle, I'm talking about democracy with a little d, the rule of the people there of. Gore got more votes. We are, however, a democratic republic. There is a set of rules and they are determined by democratically elected officials. It is not a total free for all. There are guarantees to which everyone agrees that protect the minority, or those not in power for the moment. In this country, we have evolved in the direction of giving everyone equal access to participation. We have rules that say one race cannot enslave minority races. We have rules that say sexes should have equal participation. We have enough rules to keep the political party in power from passing restrictions on the political party not in power.

Anyway, it's all very complex and a lot of real smart people have written about it and still, everybody keeps bandying the word about. Everybody talking about it, nobody meaning it.

Politics in America, or The Grizzily Bear and the Wolves

As in most competitions for power, there are really only two groups: those in power and those who want to be in power. The Republicans who are in power are represented by the grizzily bear and the Democrats who are out of power are represented as a pack of wolves. Within both groups are competing factions, interest groups, power centers, both organization and personal, and money. But what a prize! Whoever controls the government, controls trillions of dollars of wealth. You want a visual? Think of a giant moose carcass being fought over by a grizzily bear and a pack of starving wolves being watched by a raven. I'm the raven and that carcass is my supper, too. Neither the bear nor the wolves pay attention to me, but neither would hesitate to eat me if I happened to be easy or if I got their attention.

At present, the grizzily controls the government. Its head is George W. Bush, a real man who was born to the Republican ruling class, whose father also held the job of President, and whose grandfather was in the top elite of their ruling class in his generation. The level of power, the body and the arms and claws of the bear, just below the President is huge. The kind of entities that make up this part of the grizzily are varied between ideological and mercenary in their make-up. Ideological groups, such as neocons. Another example of ideological group with power would be the organized religions. Both have a world view and seek to influence decisions made that effect that view. Because the boundaries of this group are so nebulous, it's relation to power is just as vague. Personality based group would be Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. They sit at the top of a triangle of connections, favors, rewards, patronage. Religious groups range from the Cathoic Church to Jerry Falwell. Much of their power comes from their ability to frame a lot of the political choices people have as moral choices.

When the President has strong personality, he's the brain of the bear. When they're hunting, it's about cunning, but when the hunt is over it's about eating when he becomes the mouth and consumes with ferocious efficiency. He can, and will, turn and attack the wolves effortlessly, using his size, his ferocity, his claws to keep the wolves away from the carcass. If annoyed enough, or if opportunity presents itself, he would kill the wolves without hesitation.

The wolves, my Democrat friends, are only as powerful as they are focused and working as a pack, and the Democrats are about as focused as a pack of all alpha males who are likely to destroy each other before they get the carcass from the bear, and the bear is only an issue because they themselves want the carcass, not because they think bears are bad.

Me? I'm the raven who does his best to get a piece of meat every once in awhile without getting devoured by the bear or the wolves. America is not the carcass. The carcass is the government. Government is the source of wealth in this country. It's a trillion dollar pork. Republicans like to pretend that only Black women live off the government, but how much money did Halliburton, Vice President Cheney's former company, get in contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq? May we assume that they're making a profit? And when the oil in the Artic Wildlife Refuge is exploited, who makes the great wealth it will produce? My point is, the carcass, i.e., the government, is the source of wealth in this country, and it always has been. This was the richest fucking continent in the world, and it's taken us 400 years to exploit all of its wealth. The government has always facilitated that exploitation, from giving land to settlers, land as payment to soldiers, mineral rights to those willing to exploit them, but always it's been the government. America is just a collection of ideas that is used in the morality play put on the persuade voters. The carcass is the wealth. And everyone wants to eat. Each and every single one of us wants -- needs --- to get a part of the carcass. We can do it easy, or we can do it fiercely, but we must eat. Some of us are better at getting it than others. The raven watches for opportunity, jumps in, grabs a piece and retreats to a safe distance to eat. A hungry raven, however, will do small things to help the wolves.

Raven is not a bear or a wolf, so it doesn't matter to him which wins the fight. However, the show is more interesting when the fight is balanced, and if the wolves aren't able to keep the bear distracted, it would make it harder for Raven to get his occasional bit of meat. If the groups that control the religious vote had its way, they'd pass rules against ravens participating in the division of the carcass. They marginalize groups for very arbitrary reasons. So as a raven I want to keep the wolves in the game. For the past 30 years, I've voted Democrat, even though I'm not one. I would vote for a yellow dog if it ran for office as a Democrat, and I have, too. It may just be me, but I think they've run a lot of 'em lately.

I do not know what to tell the wolves to do to increase their effectiveness. First, I'm a raven and they're wolves and we are different species. We do not speak the same language. However, I do wish them well. Their ability to keep the contest equal gives me a better opportunity. I have an opinion, but I don't think it would help. It's something they got to figure out amongst themselves.

Did I mention that both sides play this out like it's a morality play. Each side portrays the battle as one that is morality based and that the other side is completely without morals. I do find this aspect of the play tedious. The message from the two groups is heavily weighted to place responsibility onto individuals, who respond by thinking the weight of the free world is on their shoulders, and whoever is on the other side is the enemy. Individuals tend to personalize things. It's just their nature. So they end up demonizing the other side.

This piece, as am I, is a work in progress. This is how it looked to me this morning, April 19, 2003 at 8:30 in the morning.

It is Easter week-end. Passover is also this week. I am sensitized to the fact that both religions are observing the core of their cultural traditions. Without Passover, there would be no Jews. Without Easter, there would be no Christians. I think the world is a better place because of the existence of both of these groups. Both sets of rituals enrich me, personally and individually. In combination, they have provided the prism by which I view the world around me, even if in my own mind I imagine that I have discarded them many years ago. No matter how much I think of myself as a new age Buddhist, I will always remember that we were once slaves in Egypt, all of us. Likewise I will always believe in the possibility of man's salvation which is offered by Christ's teachings.

My beliefs are not based on the myth of Jesus. I think he had a real focused ministry and taught people a technique with which to find inner peace in a world defined by conflict. From my understanding of his teachings, I know that how I perceive the world is based on how I perceive myself. If I am good, I will experience good, even when evil is all around me. If I am kind, I will know kind people. You encounter the energy you emit. Any chance we have to experience the kingdom of God, to be enlightened, to be at one with the universe, to be Here, Now, is to surrender ego and be a part of the universe. To me, this is not a destination but a way of living. It is not a reward in the hereafter for a virtuous life, but a daily experience, a reward unto itself.

Happy Easter.