Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

A German perspective on Obama

Posted by alifinmath on February 29, 2008

An interesting piece on Obama, also in Der Spiegel. Truth to tell, the United States is too big to work as a democracy. The old Greek city-states were democracies in the precise sense that citizens would meet in a forum and vote by a show of hands on particular proposals. No windy vacuous rhetoric about “change” and the “audacity of hope.” American political discourse — as conducted by politicians and media commentators — is the pits.

On how circumscribed political discussion here presently is, some instructive words from Chomsky:

NC: First of all that’s a common feature of intellectual culture. One good U.S. critic, Harold Rosenberg once described intellectuals as the “herd of independent minds.” They think they are very independent but they are a stampede in a herd, which is true; when there is a party line, you have to adhere to it and the party line is systematic. The party line is subordination to state power and to state violence. Now you are allowed to criticize it but on a very narrow grounds. You can criticize it because it is not working or for some mistake or benign intentions that went astray or something, like you see right now in Iraq war, the tone of debate about Iraq war but take a look at it – it’s very similar to the debate in PRAVDA during the invasion of Afghanistan. Actually I brought this up to a Polish reporter recently and I asked him if he had been reading PRAVDA. He just laughed and said yeah it’s the same. Now you read PRAVDA in the nineteen eighties, it’s you know: “the travail of the Russian soldiers that are going to get killed and now there are these terrorists who prevent us from bringing justice and peace to the Afghans, we of course did not invade them, we intervened and helped them at the request of the legitimate government, the terrorists are preventing us from doing all good the things we wanted to do etc.” I have read Japanese counter-insurgency documents from the second WW, from the ninety thirties – the same, you know: “…we tried to bring them an earthly paradise, but the Chinese bandits are preventing it …” in fact I don’t know of any exception in history. If you want, British imperialism is the same, I mean even people of the highest moral integrity like John Stewart Mill were talking about, well we have to intervene in India and conquer India because the barbarians can’t control themselves, there are atrocities, we are to bring them the benefits of the British rule and civilization and so on.

The point is there’s no candid and careful discussion of foreign or economic policy among either political candidates or media pundits. The first question that has never been answered by any public figure (except Greenspan in his autobiography) is why did the USA invade Iraq in the first place. Without asking that question and insisting on credible answers, no sensible way out of that morass can be discussed. Likewise, no sensible way out of the economic morass can be discussed without a careful analysis of how the US has ended up this particular creek without a paddle. Just talking “inspiring” drivel won’t do the trick.

Instead of honest discussion, we are exposed to twenty-fours of non-stop advertising-driven garbage. I stopped both watching American television and reading American newspapers a long time ago.

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4 Responses to “A German perspective on Obama”

  1. Chris Prouty said

    Why did we invade Iraq? It’s hard to decide between whether it was to satisfy a vendetta of Bush Jr’s or to make wealthy(er) an elite few…

  2. alifinmath said

    It goes to show what kind of undemocratic state the US is when we can’t get a straight answer from the monkeys who planned this adventure. No-one holds them accountable or insists on credible answers. Equally important, the new batch of chimpanzees contending for supreme office refuses to discuss the matter. They concentrate on operational details — how many forces they’ll withdraw, why or why not they’d withdraw — without ever asking how and why did we get there in the first place. Policy debates and discussion meant for public consumption are so dishonest and disingenuous as to leave any thinking person demoralised. Real policy is hammered out behind closed doors, among people who have vested interests.

    If it was a vendetta (which is at least part of the reason), it seems one man can make up a whole fabric of lies, with both the mass media and Congress following like docile sheep. Even when the lies are exposed for what they are, there’s no accountability whatsoever. Call this a democracy? In what sense is it different from Putin’s Russia (whose recent elections are being criticised today by McCain).

  3. Chris Prouty said

    I agree completely. Politics in America is shameful and rapidly deteriorating. Your comments on zero accountability are especially correct. It still boggles me that Bush & Co. have never had to answer for their gross incompetence.

    Why do people continue to allow their assets to be confiscated by the government (taxes) for expenditures that are so clearly corrupt? It is genuinely depressing to me that the American people now take so much for granted. Unfair taxes, poor public services, obvious disregard for the will of the people, etc.

    One of my favorite movies, “V for Vendetta” features a fabulous line: “Governments should be afraid of their people.” Our people (and government) should take a lesson.

  4. alifinmath said

    I was watching “Z” yesterday evening (French, 1969). The plot is about how — in an ostensibly democratic society — a left-wing politician gets killed by thugs who are secretly organised and aided by the police and military, and how these forces then attempt to cover up the assassination as an unfortunate accident. A democratic veneer over a fascist state. I first saw it twenty years ago but wanted my boy to see it.

    Another favorite of mine is the American “The Parallax View,” with Warren Beatty, produced in 1974. This is perhaps the darkest and most sinister American film I’ve ever seen and it’s unlikely that it’ll be shown on American commercial televsion (they prefer endless reruns of “Pretty Woman” and “Groundhog Day”). The plot is one involving targeted assassinations of troublesome American politicians. It’s probably not too different from what’s actually happening in the USA today.

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