Swans Commentary » swans.com June 6, 2005  



Have The Meanings Of Words Been Hijacked?


by Philip Greenspan






(Swans - June 6, 2005)  The US government defines words like democracy, communism and terrorism quite differently than I do. During the heydays of the Shah, Marcos, Suharto, Pinochet, and other similar tyrants the U.S. described the governments they headed as democracies; and the labels communism, terrorist, or supporters of terrorism were slapped on the governments of Sukarno, Allende, Castro, Mugabe, and Hussein.

I base my definitions on what I assume those words were intended to mean and not how they have been used or interpreted over time. I think Lincoln's definition of democracy as "a government of the people, by the people and for the people" sums it up just fine. "From each according to ability to each according to need in a system where real estate and the means of production are commonly owned" is a satisfactory explanation for communism. And terrorism is "the use of threats or violence to accomplish a political objective."

Using my definitions, those tyrants listed above did not preside over democracies. As a matter of fact, the U.S. itself could not meet my definition. It is actually "a government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation." The U.S. considers any government that permits corporations to exploit its resources a democracy. Nations unwilling to open their doors to the dubious benefits of such a corporate democracy either communists and/or terrorists.

The first and most frequently defined communist nation never considered itself a communist country. The name it adopted was the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics -- knowing that socialism is not communism. The Soviets may have aspired to communism but realized they were far from that stage. Of course, misnomers within the Soviet bloc existed there as well -- ergo, the GDR, the German DEMOCRATIC Republic.

During all those years when the U.S. and its puppet media were extolling those favored "democracies," those countries were recipients of extensive financial and military aid from their generous Uncle Sam. In addition Uncle Sam provided professional training and assistance, compliments of the CIA, for controlling unruly rabble. The diligent graduates of the Shah's SAVAK were samples of what had been achieved. But in spite of Uncle's assistance those governments were unable to survive for very long. In each case their demise resulted from an uprising of their people who defied brutal police and military repression.

On the other hand, those dastardly communist and terrorist governments maintained the support of their people. If such governments were ousted it was by coups supported by external powers, usually the U.S. Their replacements became US-installed "democracies" that met the well-deserved fate just described.

Perhaps my definition of democracy is too limited. Voting in free and fair elections is certainly a characteristic of democracies. Didn't those US-listed democracies qualify? And how could I possibly criticize the U.S.? After all, it holds elections regularly, they are not limited to one political party, and all citizens are encouraged to vote. Quite true; however, they comply only in form but not in substance. The rhetoric is there; the PR is there; the hoopla is there; but the reality of an authentic choice is nonexistent. Securing a place on the ballot and obtaining fair and ample media exposure is only available to those who have proven their loyalty to the elite. Irrespective of how the public votes and whichever candidates win, the programs that are enacted are not what the public wants.

Elections are charades. More and more people know it. That's why the winning presidential vote count never exceeds the number of eligible non-voters. Yet every party, the media, employers, unions, educational and religious organizations unanimously urge the public to vote. I have never heard any source in the U.S. hint that not voting might be a reasonable and logical option. Although non-voters outnumber the winners their existence is ignored. The winner's share is always the percentage of those who voted rather than those who were eligible. It's too embarrassing in this hyped-up, supposedly wonderful democracy to acknowledge that so many have lost confidence. Just imagine what numbers the non-voters might amass if there was a well organized and provocative campaign to get people to boycott elections!

I actually do believe -- surprise, surprise -- that democracy represents the voice of the people. But getting somebody to pull levers or make check marks once a year after constant urging by the powers that be is a puny manifestation of democracy. When people go out of their way repeatedly to expend money, picket, protest, write letters, and at times defy the authorities -- that to me is evidence of democracy. Whenever one of those supposed democratic rulers was toppled it was in my mind a triumph of democracy.

Time after time a weakling stands up to a more powerful adversary and against all logic defeats him. Recent history is replete with US puppets getting the bum's rush from their countrymen.

Vietnam, a small Third World country, took on the French, the U.S., and troops of other nations. More firepower pounded that little land than was necessary to defeat the Germans and Japanese in World War II. Years of unceasing attacks by the mightiest military power was insufficient to crush that valiant nation. Could any election possibly equal such a commitment to democracy than was shown by the Vietnamese sacrifices during those years?

How can the anomaly of citizens overthrowing democracies and defending tyrannies be explained? Propaganda! The US government has for years been playing fast and loose when describing their friends and foes. The mainstream media, by echoing and amplifying those distortions, has been able to fool most of the American people most of the time.

Why does Castro's Cuba, despite constant political and militant harassment by the U.S., outlast so many subsidized favorites? An answer might be revealed by comparing how that poor sanctioned country and the wealthy sole superpower treats their citizens when emergencies arise.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, vital trade and other benefits that Cuba received from the Soviet bloc ceased and an ensuing financial crisis presaged doom. To clinch that result the U.S. slapped more onerous sanctions on the island. The consequences for Cuba were tough austerity measures. The military budget was slashed almost in half, but high priority social spending for health and education, Cuba's proudest accomplishments, was maintained. Food subsidies and rationing assured a minimum of essential nutrition to all.

The 9/11 terrorist attack conveniently provided Bush and the neocons an emergency to exploit. Pre-emptive wars with accompanying increases in the military budget fattened the military-industrial complex but brought death to the poor kids who had "volunteered" for the military -- an Orwellian synonym for a "poverty draft." Benefits such as tax reductions and subsidies were dolled out to corporations and the wealthy. The revenue loss was partially offset by reductions in essential social services. Constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties were vitiated.

Isn't it self-evident why Cubans would strongly support their country? And why the U.S., with all the bonuses and promises that military service holds out, is unable to meet its recruiting quotas, and why many career soldiers are refusing reenlistment?

The tide is turning against the big bully. Hugo Chávez, like Castro, has his people behind him. He wins elections overwhelmingly, overturns a coup, and withstands his opponents' organized strike. With eighty percent of the population who live in poverty finally getting a break, the Venezuelan elite and their American allies have met their match. Protests in other Latin American countries have also been successful. The oppressive overlords were resisted or ousted.

Peoples around the world who have been subjected for years and years to the abuses of neo-colonial rule of the U.S., its allies and puppets have had enough. I imagine that Howard Beale's familiar outcry "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" may be resonating in their thoughts. Rebellions against their betters are occurring!

The indoctrinated public will instinctively characterize such actions as criminal terrorism. But is it? I don't think so and I don't think Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, would think so either. Here are pertinent excerpts from that hallowed document that justified the colonists' rebellion against their lawful government (emphasis added):

. . . Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security . . .

The rebellious masses can certainly find justification in those venerated assertions. In addition, millions of others who are no longer patsies to the PR campaigns of the media are regularly protesting in major cities around the world. The US war mongers and their supporting patriots may proclaim that the U.S. is number one. But all those others are well aware that the U.S. is really "number two"!

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Internal Resources

America the 'beautiful' on Swans

Patterns which Connect Swans


About the Author

Philip Greenspan on Swans (with bio).



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Published June 6, 2005