Without Objection, So Ordered

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm

To think it all started with a fruit vendor denied a permit.  Or, perhaps, Tunisia’s Mohamed Bouazizi was the cosmic inheritance of Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the journalist who hurled his shoe at former President Bush, singing, “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog…This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.”


Bush’s response was, sadly, but unsurprisingly, quintessentially representative of the cluelessness of America’s professed democracy, unaware of the hypocrisy of its oligarchic underpinnings: “I don’t know what the guy’s cause was. I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it. ”

“I don’t think that you can take one guy throwing his shoe as representative of the people of Iraq…” said press secretary Perino.

Somehow, killing done in a “war on terror” by U.S. forces doesn’t compute as “violence.” It’s only violence when a lone gunman goes crazy in the U.S…. and we are slow to recognize it as such when foreign dictators, allies or not, shoot at their citizens.

Thus, how do you think people in the U.S., and later the world, would respond if an unemployed person decided to immolate him or herself  in front of  the White House?

The people themselves, not the White House, would declare their fellow citizen “a lone psychopath,” without a subsequent rallying in rousing personal identification with the perceived oppression of that person.  Yet it was precisely the term “lone psychopath”  that Asmaa Mahfouz used to rouse hundreds of thousands of fellow Eygptians to join her in the now fateful January 25 protest that led to the downfall of Mubarak, and, we hope, eventually, all vestiges of the military rule of the country.

Pause to watch her extraordinary address here:


“Four Egyptians have set themselves of fire, to protest humiliation, hunger, poverty, and degradation, they had to live with for 30 years.  Four Egyptians have set themselves on fire, thinking, maybe we can have a revolution like Tunisia, maybe we can have freedom, justice, honor, dignity…They said: ‘Enough, these guys who burned themselves were psychopaths! ‘ Of course, on all national media, whoever dies in protest is a psychopath.’  If they were psychopaths, why did they burn themselves at the Parliament building?”

Indeed, comparisons between Wisconsin and Egypt are preposterously overblown…the level of violence, severe repression, jailings and torture for dissent, for writing and blogging, that the founders of these liberation movements across the Arab world had to endure for years,  has no equivalent in the current U.S.  The crackdown in Libya and the subsequent media freeze is an even more sobering reminder that these paths to freedom have been years in the making, and took many smaller, unsuccessful, unpublicized attempts before the wildfire of revolution truly swept vast swaths of the population.  And still, the struggle is long and profound in Tunisia and Egypt, even as Libya and Bahrain take headlines…it is only the ongoing strikes for fair wages, and insistence on removing all the old cabinet members, and time to form meaningful party groups for genuine elections, that will declare true victory.

Lacking severe repression of a dictator, and having a supposedly functioning democracy leaves us “free” to fight with each other, and scapegoat the opposing political parties, while even disagreeing about whether or not “the system” is broke or working.   Look at  “Outraged in Oakland” descrying that it is unions who “need to be dragged into the same pot as the rest of us.”


In other words, rather than face the gargantuan task of re-claiming a broad middle class, let’s take the last 7% of people with decent rights down with us.  I quote from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/us/23ohio.html?ref=us:

“Unionized workers represented just 6.9 percent of all workers in the private sector in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics down from about 36 percent in 1955. The number of unionized workers in the public sector has held steady at about 35 percent since the late ’70s.

“Seven percent in the United States makes them a very rare breed,” said Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard. “I don’t think there’s a high probability that this will be an explosive event where the average American says, ‘Wait, this is what’s left of the middle class — what are you doing?’ ”

Republicans in state houses across the U.S. are betting that union membership is scarce enough that the public unions can be abolished because of lack of private sector equivalents…creating a perceived divide between sacrificing private employees who don’t want to subsidize public employees who get benefits their own employers don’t supply….

This short-sighted despair, pitting temporary, contracted, low-paid, non-unionized private employees against unionized public ones is exactly the type of  “class warfare” Republicans, especially, love, but Democrats benefit from too….because it keeps everyone’s eyes off the fact that both parties are generously funded by Wall St.   The continuous revolving door between government and banks ensures that our Democracy will still promote a disparity of wealth rivaling any Arab despot’s kingdom.  After all, 2/3 of Congress are millionaires, so do you think they really want the wealthy to pay more taxes? (see http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/09/07/am-how-many-millionaires-are-in-congress/)

So Republicans are far Right, and  wealthy-tax-cuts-for-unemployment-crumbs Democrats are mainstream Right, never forcing the Republicans’ hand in their constant hostage-taking of the middle class…because they are just as guilty of big-money politics, but want to look virtuous….and they succeed, for just enough voters to keep people effectively divided: Republicans, Democrats who believe in giving President Obama “more time,” Disillusioned Democrats looking towards a Feingold or Sanders challenger, and thoroughly disillusioned people who no longer believe in a two-party, or any-party system as it currently stands–particularly since a third party only ineffectively splits one of the two main parties.

So Wall St. is not in jail, and people think small change is what is really causing crippling deficits (not tax-cuts for the wealthy and wars on credit cards), always hating unions and liberals and  immigrants (who mostly pay a lot of taxes and never get the benefits) and anyone else the Koch brothers want them to hate, never seeing the despotism of a 2-party system that is a corporations-take-all, people-take-none-and-never-unite system….no, in fact, they love their righteous rage against all the wrong targets.   As Matt Taibi concludes in his must-read indictment of Wall St. crimes  (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-isnt-wall-street-in-jail-20110216?page=1):

The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don’t feel real; you don’t see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They’re crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let’s steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy.

It’s enough to make me want to flee to Egypt….watch out, I might fling my shoes at the president, a member of congress, or supreme court, and maybe a Wall St. banker, too, as I leave…I know they wouldn’t have a clue as to why, which is why I wouldn’t choose to burn myself in protest, either.   Which is why if Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya and others experiment with systems that avoid the corruption and cronyism of  autocracies, communism, and corporate-cronyism democracies, then perhaps they will newly define a broad, prospering middle class full of opportunity, optimism, education and community that does not repeat our mistake of defining prosperity in terms of consumerism…while also finding sustainable ways of living that do not rely on as much oil (and fossil fuels) as we all currently consume.  Currently, we each do what we can in our parcel of the world, but it is good to have the opportunity of big dreams that all the uprisings in the mid-east are bringing us.

Bahrain: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/world/middleeast/23bahrain.html?scp=2&sq=bahrain&st=cse

Update: al-Zaidi was presumably in jail during today’s protests….may he be released soon.


  1. Hi! You have to put your links into the article editor. On the top row are icons for video and media. Paste the URL into the right box. Then write a word or sentence and the link can be reached by clicking on the embedded phrase–just like at the Times!

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