Zbignew Zingh: 'Pat Robertson's fatwah and the emergence of Medieval America '
Date: Sunday, August 28 @ 08:48:15 EDT
Topic: The Religious Right
By Zbignew Zingh, Dissident Voice
Pat Robertson was right when he suggested that the United States would assassinate Venezuela 's Hugo Chavez.
Robertson, of course, is a hypocrite and one of this country's most effective ad men for atheism. In the main, Pat Robertson is a medieval, witch-burning, fool. However, he moves among people who are either within or near to the circles of power. They are not nice people, but they are not fools. Robertson has either heard directly from this country's rulers' own lips, or heard from reliable sources close to them, that the US does, indeed, have President Chavez in its cross-hairs.
Robertson sees himself as a prophet with a direct line to God. All medieval witch-burners do. He is a fool because he could not resist opening his mouth and blabbing to the whole world that he had foreknowledge about America 's black bag operations to assassinate yet another democratically elected foreign leader. By speaking so brazenly -- and prematurely -- Robertson caused two immediate effects: First, he provoked sanctimonious denials from other political witch-burners like Minnesota 's Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld. Second, Mr. Robertson's intemperate prattling has, in essence, spilled the beans about the all-too-real US plan to kill President Chavez. Thus has Pat Robertson unwittingly spared Hugo Chavez from the death that was, indeed, prepared for him -- at least for the time being -- and earned Mr. Robertson a public scolding from those liars whose dark secret he has disclosed.
There are numerous wonders associated with what Mr. Robertson said. Why, for example, are so many Americans shocked by the notion that, covertly or overtly, their leaders would assassinate another country's head of government?
It is one thing to have forgotten our history from the last century, when the US helped to violently overthrow the popularly elected governments of Chile (Allende) and Iran (Mossadegh) and nearly every country in Central America from Panama (Omar Torrijos) to Guatemala (Jacob Arbenz). Can the majority of Americans have already forgotten that even in this century we have forcibly removed Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the duly elected president of Haiti , and unhesitatingly supported undemocratic governments in Egypt , Saudi Arabia , Jordan , the Philippines and Kazakhstan ? Political assassination, of course, is not an exclusive tool of American foreign policy. This country's readiness to covertly kill political leaders who offend us puts the US in league with Ariel Sharon, Stalin, Rome 's Caligula, feudal Europe and the medieval despots of the declining Byzantine Empire .
It is no surprise that Mr. Robertson and his fellow medievalists have most in common with the theocrats of Iran , Iraq , Saudi Arabia and the Taliban in Afghanistan . The word "assassin", after all, is derived from the medieval French word, "hassassis" (hashish takers) given to Muslim fanatics who committed to "assassinate" Christian crusaders who had occupied the Middle East . Thus has Mr. Robertson eschewed the peace-extremist teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and endorsed the tactics of medieval, anti-occupation, Crusader-killing, dope-smoking, Islamic insurgents.
The Administration's more-or-less official response to Mr. Robertson's statements was that such an assassination would be "illegal" under US law. But why would the public accept that explanation when it is obvious that the 'rule of law' in America applies only to the lesser classes, and not to them at the highest level of policy making? Political and social leaders have been assassinated within and without the United States for decades, usually without the sanction of law; and if the US government had not its own finger on the trigger, then it found the usual collaborators who, for the purchase of power or money, would pull the trigger as America's proxy.
Meanwhile, America's perpetually vacationing medieval king says nothing while he shakes spears at the world and mutters disingenuously, like Henry II, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome chaviste?"
The election of Mr. Bush and the influence of Pat Robertson and his dominionist ilk are markers of a degenerate medievalization of America . So, too, are the efforts in some quarters to push Science back into the Middle Ages and to undermine evolution with oxymoronic notions of "intelligent design". Notwithstanding advances in technology, America is regressing backwards from its Enlightenment origins into medievalism. The people who scream their patriotism the loudest seem to be the most determined to destroy the Founders' dreams by creating a medieval theocracy like only Torquemada could love.
History often shows that blind religious fervor, superstition, sectarian violence, witch hunts and intolerance increase in society commensurate with increasing economic stress. Thus, "technology", in and of itself, does not protect a society when economic surpluses start to disappear and the competition for depleting resources becomes sharp. Technology will not brake the superstitious, frightened flight into medieval religious irrationality when the people find their jobs disappearing, their purchasing power devalued, their houses becoming too expensive to heat, their cars too expensive to fuel, everything costing more for less value -- in short, as the brief historical blip of American middle class prosperity between the age of coal and the age of the Internet evaporates. It is in times like these, historically, that the people turn to charismatic religious leaders.
Why do we seem so unable to arrest America 's backsliding from modernity? Other than the occasional demonstration, protest march or election between greater or lesser evils, concerned American citizens cannot seem to gain any traction. Except for the spontaneous actions of people like Cindy Sheehan, organized resistance to the witch-burning medievalists has, at least in these United States , resulted in more disappointment than quantifiable success. Why is this?
Partly, it is because beginning around the time of the First World War, America has been a laboratory for very successful social engineering on a grand scale. By a deliberate, decades long, coordinated training of the American people -- through print, film, radio and television and their infusion into the institutions of education -- the most powerful business/political interests have thoroughly inculcated the citizenry with a medieval serf's docility and acceptance of authority. Our colleges and universities have been re-made into incubators for obedient corporate employees and consumers. Whereas once we were a wilder, more independent pack of dogs, now we tend to bark when told to bark, shut up when told to shut up, and lick the hand that merely refrains from striking us. We have been trained to be collared, to walk on a leash, and to think of it as though we were walking the master and not the other way around. We eat the kibbles that trickle down to us and we have been trained not to bite.
In part, enlightened Americans have become politically impotent because we have been purchased with the excesses afforded by abundant, cheap energy. Like peasants in Pieter Bruegel's Land of Cockaign, we luxuriated in a relative life of ease and forgot that we were once a revolutionary people who had to wrest our Enlightenment from an empire by blood, force and strength of will. Now, when the hard labor of political effort beckons to us, we can, instead, do the institutionally approved, time-consuming things like go shopping, go to the movies, watch a baseball game, play the slot machines, drink a beer, play a video game, anything that entertains and distracts us from the task of democracy. There is Michael Jackson to titillate, Pat to pontificate, American Idols and more American idles.
In part, even the Enlightened portions of the citizenry have been enervated by the soma of this Brave New World. Some think that occasional charitable deeds, or a few dollars contributed to this NGO or another, or a weekend demonstration (time permitting), or effusions of love and understanding will change the world. While they cannot hurt, by themselves, none of these actions will accomplish anything. In fact, the control tendrils of surveillance, monitoring, and foundation grants, we should have no doubt, have already so vascularized, so infiltrated into even the highest levels of the most noble appearing organizations such that only the spontaneous, non-hierarchical actions of the Cindy Sheehans of this world can hope to effect real change. It is as though the Powers tolerate, even indirectly fund, the ineffectual organized protest that they do permit to take place because these are a social pressure release mechanism that dissipates resistive energy, a controlled burn intended to prevent a larger conflagration.
It is a bitter truth to swallow that the American peace movement, by itself, did not end the Vietnam War. It ended, primarily, because the Vietnamese people fought tenaciously, purchased freedom with their own lives and bloodied America 's nose. It ended because America 's soldiers, mostly Black, began to mutiny, and because college-aged boys, mostly White, declined to fight or die for a war that meant nothing to them. It ended because of the massive stresses in the American economy, the inflation, the devaluation of the dollar, the crisis caused by skyrocketing oil prices due to the 1973 oil embargo. It ended because the feedback loop of the Vietnam War threatened to rip apart the carefully engineered society of America .
As painful as the end of the age of cheap, abundant energy will be, it may allow Americans to bust out of their gilded cages. It is, after all, in the less affluent countries of today's world -- where there is less time for social foppery and fewer resources for idle consumerism -- where we find the lessons Americans must learn if it is to avoid descending into a new medievalism.
In Mexico this year, more than a million citizens turned out, effectively shutting down the capital city. They prevented the ruling mainstream parties from contriving, through judicial machination, to extinguish the presidential ambitions of its popular, left-leaning politician, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. In Ecuador, the people rose, first to oust their unrepresentative president and, second, to shut down the oil industry until it renegotiates its national contracts. In Bolivia, in June 2005, a coalition of indigenous and working class people threw out a leadership that had sold off the nation's mineral and energy patrimony to western corporate interests. In the years while Americans disputed the limped electoral contests of Bush versus Gore or Bush versus Kerry, the citizens of Brazil , Venezuela , Argentina and Uruguay also practiced enlightenment and swept their political houses clean.
In Europe this spring, the EU proposed a constitution that was, in essence, a carte blanche for multinational corporate rule. Overriding the cajolery of their leadership, the citizens of France and Holland overwhelmingly voted NO, thereby extinguishing (for the moment) big business's attempt to undo Europe's social safety nets and remake the continent in America 's neo-liberal/neo-conservative image.
We can relearn lessons in enlightenment by looking abroad. The lessons will not mean anything, however, until the economic stress in this country equals that of the nations we would learn from; until the seductions of a surplus society yield to the reality of scarcity. That time could be coming sooner than you think: as soon as your next trip to the gas pump, as soon as your next winter heating bill, as soon as your next electrical power outage.
It is then that America 's descent into medievalism could begin to be seriously checked. May the Enlightenment prevail.
Zbignew Zingh can be reached at Zbig@ersarts.com.
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