|Oh, wow, man, that’s like so reflective of every developed nation ever!|
So this has been making its way around Facebook, coming from those guys who made the very factually incorrect Zeitgeist “documentary.” Among the less rational it’s an eye-opening call-to-arms against … something. I find it rather unfortunate that so many of my “friends” were susceptible to this list of things that can be applied to any place ever, but are convinced it’s so telling about what’s happening right now right here (“here” being wherever they are, but for the sake of this discussion let’s limit it to the United States.) But of course the list is so applicable to present day U.S., because–like a Nostradmus prophecy–it’s so generically worded that one can’t help but apply any and every connection they can to give it more meaning than it warrants. Let’s go down the list:
- Powerful and Continuing NATIONALISM – From ancient Rome to modern America, the humblest tribe to the most oppressive cult, there is a sense of nationalism/patriotism. That is to say, pride in belonging to one group (THAT group) over another. In fact, I’d wager that the only groups that had a markedly blase attitude toward encouraging enthusiasm for being a part of that group probably didn’t last long. Looking at America, we had a sense of nationalism when we declared independence from the British and when we fought ourselves in the Civil War. In fact, both the North and the South had strong senses of Nationalism (for their own groups.)
- DISDAIN FOR HUMAN RIGHTS – Well the Americans famously didn’t respect the Native Americans’ rights, of the black slaves, or Chinese immigrants, or people of Japanese descent during WWII, and these days of course there are some issues with people of Middle Eastern descent. When haven’t we engaged in “disdain for human rights” to one degree or another?
- IDENTIFICATION OF ENEMIES/SCAPEGOATS as a Unifying Cause – Interesting use of the slash there. Are they implying that all identified enemies are scapegoats? Or do they just mean that sometimes the unifying cause are scapegoats and other times it’s a genuine enemy? Again, the British were enemies, the Native Americans were enemies that threatened the ability of the nation to expand, the North and South were enemies of each other, and let’s not forget the Nazis! To smaller extents, organizations like the Ku Klux Klan used Jews and blacks as scapegoats to unify their own group. In the modern days we have terrorists as the ever present boogeyman, but also illegal immigrants (mostly Mexicans when identified for this purpose.) Of course we’ve always had issues with certain classes of immigrants, the Italians and Irish were discriminated against in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Oh! Let’s not forget McCarthyism back in the 1950’s!
- SUPREMACY OF THE MILITARY – I have no idea what this means. That someone has an effective military? Well they’ve got us there; the U.S. has always had a strong military on the world stage. We did famously beat the British and the Axis. Or do they mean that there’s an emphasis on building and maintaining the military? There’s a school of thought that the only purpose of government is to maintain a military (ensure national security) because it’s the only thing that couldn’t properly be done through privatization.
- RAMPANT SEXISM – It would be incredibly difficult to argue that our society is more sexist than it was 50 years ago, let alone 100 or 200 years ago. For starters, women can vote, get jobs (besides nurse/teacher/secretary,) and serve in the military.
- CONTROLLED MASS MEDIA – Again, what does this one mean? Controlled by whom? How? How big is “mass”? How controlled is “controlled”? As it is, there are a few major corporations in charge of a lot of the media in the country right now. Is it bad that it’s controlled by companies? Who else would control it, the government? One of the influential newspapers of the Revolutionary period was the Pennsylvania Chronicle, which was run by Benjamin Franklin. You know, one of the founding fathers. That’s the definition of propaganda!
- OBSESSION WITH NATIONAL SECURITY – Now, I agree, people ought to be concerned with how far individuals’ rights are curtailed in the pursuit of national security, but it should also be pointed out that there is little else the government ought to be more concerned about than national security. Today if you’re a terrorist sympathizer you fall under severe scrutiny, in WWII if you were of Japanese descent you got sent to an internment camp, during the Cold War the government was keen on sniffing out Communist sympathizers, during the Vietnam war they hunted down draft dodgers, and during the civil war there was a constant paranoia about spies on either side.
- RELIGION AND GOVERNMENT are Intertwined – Despite the separation clause the laws of the land and religion have always had a funny relationship. Even when I was a kid in Connecticut, many stores were closed on Sundays due to “blue laws” that were on the books. Basically, businesses weren’t allowed to operate on Sundays because … uhm … God said that was the day of rest? The connection was never blatantly stated in the books, but everybody knew that was the cause. Religion was used to justify slavery. Religion was used to justify expanding west (Manifest Destiny.) Sure, the religious right is using the bible to discourage gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, and other things … but that’s nothing new. At the moment, there’s less religion in the law books than their used to be (businesses that are closed on Sundays do so only because they want to be … usually because they’re religious organizations.)
- CORPORATE POWER IS PROTECTED – As opposed to? And do they mean “corporate” as in the legal definition of a “corporation” or do they just mean “business?” Because I’m confused about where the line gets drawn. Do they not want businesses to be protected? Is a government that discourages the existence of entrepreneurs preferable? Or only when a business becomes a big enough corporation should it lose any protection?
- LABOR POWER IS SUPPRESSED – By whom? How much? The government rarely gets involved in labor issues these days (unless it’s a union of Government workers, of course.) I’m drawing a blank on any recent examples. I’m sure people will be eager to declare “Twinkies” but the matter between Hostess and the Bakers’ Union was just that; between those two parties just as it should have been.
- DISDAIN FOR INTELLECTUALS AND THE ARTS – Another incredibly vague one. I suppose people will be eager to point to Romney’s famously anti-PBS bent, but he kind of sort of lost the election … which wouldn’t really happen in a fascist society. Almost any example of an anti-arts/intellectual agenda will have more to do with culture than a government imposed agenda. If people are more eager to see the Superbowl than go to a modern art museum then that’s the culture’s own collective fault. These days, people hail the Beatles as a genius band of artists. What was the best selling album the year that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band came out? It was a Monkees album. This is chosen by the people; we’re nowhere near Nazis goose stepping through the town’s square and burning books. Although Americans did have a problem with comic books in the 1950’s.
- OBSESSION WITH CRIME AND PUNISHMENT – Again, this is just so vague as to be meaningless. Name me a society that doesn’t engage in a some form of legal system. Whether rules are imposed and enforced by elders, councils, courts, or peer pressure this is an inescapable aspect of any society.
- RAMPANT CRONYISM AND CORRUPTION – It would be a challenge not find this. Again, so vague as to be meaningless. From the suck up at school who gets an A to nepotism in the corporate world I think this is an inescapable aspect of the human experience.
- FRAUDULENT ELECTIONS – Well the Democrats claim this happened in 2000. The Republicans claim this happened in 2008 and 2012. This kind of thing happened a lot in the early 20th century (Jim Crow laws.) Arguably, any election before blacks and women were allowed to vote was fraudulent.