Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, September 2009
Change Won't Come to America Without Prior De-Brainwashing
By Ben Tanosborn
ccun.org, September 24, 2009
American progressives don’t appear to grasp the implications behind the fact that only slightly over half of those who voted in the last presidential election (53%) did so for Barack Obama, presumably to bring change for Americans as individuals, and also as a nation. And that the counter-reformists, who comprised a lion’s share of the remaining vote (47%) did so to maintain the status quo, one in which the elite among them holds 80 to 90 percent of the nation’s wealth, influence and power that run government, make most significant corporate/business decisions, and hold most key positions in the full spectrum of American institutions.
To argue, or even begin to discuss, the need or virtuosity for change, however self-evident and overwhelmingly good for society, can turn out to be an exercise in futility… unless one is prepared to recognize where the seat of power truly resides. Without a significant shift in the number of Americans from the ranks of those who now choose the status quo to the ranks of those clamoring for change, the reformists would be left with three choices: (1) convince at least one-third of the counter-reformists to switch sides since, often for the worse, people ultimately decide on issues not based on facts and logic alone, but on their sense of belonging – allegiance and identity – to a given group; (2) surrender to the desires and designs of the elite; or, (3) take up arms in a revolution or, more appropriately, a civil war.
Accepting a priori that such elite has shaped for generations much of the thinking and conduct of Americans – a most effective form of brainwashing – it follows that unless de-brainwashing takes place there is little or no room for change or reform. That calls for reevaluation of past ideas relating to peace-and-war, to blind adherence to a socio-political-economic system, and also to the role government should have in the well-being of people, making de-brainwashing force majeure to precede change or reform.
De-brainwashing America in terms of peace and war is a monumental task not likely to be accomplished until civil discourse rules the day and existing predatory capitalism is exiled and replaced with a system not in conflict with the aspirations of most Americans, nor with the legitimate aspirations of people around the globe.
Nowadays, the concept of empire assigned to the United States, softened somewhat by what is perceived to be the existence of a non-oppressive Pax Americana – a cruel joke for those nations under American occupation, or the prospect of occupation – is defined more by military decisions taken at the Pentagon than by proclamations made at the State Department. It would be naïve to think any incoming president, particularly one with liberal leanings, as capable of starting a de-brainwashing process with the brass at the Pentagon, or the senior career diplomats carrying the baton at State, or the sordidly-independent group that makes up the Central Intelligence Agency.
Obama, in order to maintain tenure – and possibly his personal safety – is obliged to walk the narrow path determining peace and war for the American empire. For now, that includes acceptance of the impossibility of peace in Palestine, a permanent accord between Israelis and Palestinians, unless and until Israel initiates and consents to it. Also, the termination of Iraq’s occupation [a lost war] as the Pentagon decides what’s in the empire’s best geopolitical interests so as to keep in check Shiite power in Iran, Syria and the current fluid situation in Afghanistan; this latter, a dire predicament after 8 years of occupation [a war being lost]. And finally, without exiting the region, the disarray which the US has helped create in Pakistan, first with Pervez Musharrad in power, and now its successor regime [a war which may yet occur].
In less than a decade, the empire has created havoc in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, upsetting the lives of over 100 million people (populations of Afghanistan, Iraq and the Northwestern border of Pakistan), being responsible for up to 1 million people dead in the region, over 5 million people uprooted from their communities, and upwards of 1 trillion dollars in destroyed infrastructure and wasted resources.
But in matters of peace and war, regardless of recent lessons received, Obama will have no choice but to do exactly what the entrenched military-industrial complex wants him to do… and absolutely nothing else.
And just as the US president, through his actions, pledges symbolic allegiance to the powers that rule the land – powers not readily identified in civic or history books – he must also do the same with all the institutional forces that jointly represent a socio-political-economic system that equates predatory capitalism with democracy, and accepts nothing short of complete adherence to it.
Americans have been indoctrinated for generations to repudiate any other ism which may be in conflict with capitalism, refusing to learn or tolerate ideas which they are told to be foreign to their blessed land; ideas not acceptable in the American Catechism that has been coauthored by the extreme Economic Right (an elite representing fewer than 5 percent of the population) and a fundamentalist Religious Right (probably approaching 25 percent of the population). And so, concepts such as socialism, unionism, Marxism, anarchism, libertarianism and any other isms denounced in the catechism’s dogma are pejoratively and prejudicially dismissed before they are even understood. Americans have been, and continue to be, kept in extreme ignorance under the guise they are different and unique by divine choice… above the doctrines, systems and theories of the outside “inferior” world.
Obama could certainly opt to start the de-brainwashing process to change this state of opprobrious ignorance; however, by so doing, he would self-immolate and become a sacrificial lamb with little prospect of representing his own party in the next presidential election. One cannot imagine this president assuming that role.
But just as Obama’s hands appear manacled in dealing with issues pertaining to peace and war, or upgrading Americans’ understanding of a world other than their own, he has a last resort for impact in the domestic front. His administration could certainly take steps in helping determine the role of government in the well-being of the citizenry – leave an imprint at the very least in defining the commons in American civil society. And no better place to show that he is at least a minimal reformer, and not just another articulate president, a la Bill Clinton, than by directing the overhaul of a healthcare system which is drowning the American economy while a source of embarrassment.
There are many industrialized nations – even some developing countries – that have systems of healthcare superior, certainly more equitable, than that in the US, affording universal coverage for their people at a fraction of the US cost, in relative terms to their nation’s GDP. For Congress to disregard or dismiss existence of such successful programs elsewhere, and not try to learn from them, could be considered just one more sign of arrogance; however, it is just a way of admitting that in the US the legislature is a self-serving political body at the beck and call of special interests which in this case happen to be insurance and pharmaceutical companies, the AMA, and affiliated/kindred for-profit groups.
For Obama to settle for and not veto legislation that will allow this nation to continue with an inferior and far costlier system of healthcare than that of other first world nations would be an affront to a society that prides itself for justice and compassion. Moreover, it would tell the nation, and the world, that Obama is incapable of loosening himself from the corporate yoke.
Baby steps in de-brainwashing could start, if Obama is worth his mettle, right here in the creation of a comprehensive system of healthcare modeled after those systems that work around the world. America need not reinvent the wheel; only acknowledge that it is round.
Americans won’t have long to wait before they find out if there is change in the air, even if small. And neither does the rest of the world.
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