A Failure Of Understanding

by Milo Clark

February 3, 2003


I am working on understanding what I clearly have difficulty accepting.

Historian John Lukacs has commented extensively on rising impacts of nationalism. Nationalism has very little to do with states as most states are amalgams of tribal, ethnic and resulting national affiliations. Virtually every existing state is a hodge-podge of peoples who emerged from smaller entities which, in turn, emerged from tribal situations. Whether or not a particular person or people "feels" identity with the nominal state may be a very personal secret tightly held.

With the ending of the Cold War which served in many ways to contain national feelings, those secrets have surfaced in many ugly ways. The list of nationalist and racist conflicts is expanding nearly daily. Every continent is touched. Every state is touched.

Milo Vasic, a Yugoslav journalist once close to Tito and then jailed by Tito, noted that "You Americans would become nationalists and racists too if your media were totally in the hands of the Ku Klux Klan."

He was referring to the use Milosevic made of the controlled media in Serbian Yugoslavia. Another commentator noted that Milosevic made use of TV as he imagined Hitler would have were there TV in 1930s Germany.

However, the point sticking in my craw is America's response to controlled media. We are watching and involved with a situation in which the dominant media are vassals of very feudal-minded lords. Watching in a kind of Pavlovian numbness with droll induced on signal.

The recent flap over Trent Lott's remarks at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, which were broadly interpreted as racist caught my attention.

Once upon a time in fairly recent memory the Democratic Party was enshrined in the South. To be a Southern Democrat was to define racist.

The Senators from southern states, given their seniority, chaired virtually every committee in the Senate. Southern Representatives, again benefiting from seniority, controlled the House of Representatives. Nobody dared breathe a thought about civil rights. Black people as now called were still Negroes and Niggers openly and overtly.

With Kennedy brothers taking a very reluctant nudge from Martin Luther King and others pushing for civil rights we ended up with assassinated Kennedy brothers, assassinated MLK and shadows of rights. No connection, of course.

Lyndon Johnson, bless his otherwise kinky soul, picked up the cudgel of civil rights. The South immediately shifted parties.

The once "Party of Lincoln" went lily white and the South again took control of Congress in many significant ways. Only now with the retirement of Senators Helms and Thurmond are the ranks of old time overt segregationists thinning.

The racism now evident simply takes more sophisticated forms. Assimilated Blacks like women with pseudopenises are breaking into positions of responsibility and affluence. The only price is buy-in. In the former colonial areas of the world, the assimilated and typically mestizo overlords often are worse than the colonizers. Same same around here, too.

I see the Trent Lott affair as getting rid of a Senate Majority Leader designate given a Republican majority taking control. Why? He was too liberal (can you believe it?) and too independent and not predictable enough. Huhhhhh? Yep!

Republicans in the South are not very circumspect about making remarks which, if reported, could easily be interpreted as "racist." Republicans in general, North and South, East and West, would no more openly or directly challenge the prevailing racism than the oldie time Southern Democrats did.

The code words are flimsy masks. Racial "preferences," etc. are under vicious attack at every level of governance. Here in Hawaii, crusty old haole plantation era holdovers are attacking and winning legal challenges to native Hawaiian rights.

A slightly new twist is becoming more evident. The very convenient "War on Terror" is ever more clearly emerging as a nationalist and racist assault on diversity (read non-Caucasian, non-Christian (non Baptist Christian), unpatriotic, them not us, etc.)

Perhaps it is not card-carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan who are eagerly consolidating media ownership into fewer and fewer hands. Better spinners, they are.

For a while, CNN under Ted Turner's guidance, came reasonably close to reporting news as it was breaking where it was breaking. No longer. As part of AOL-Time Warner, CNN is now headed by a well-indoctrinated hack from "Time."

Every significant American media of influence needs its reporting (?) interpreted for political purpose. Perhaps, to a meaningful degree, this need for interpretation has always been present. The "Yellow" journalism of 100 years back needed muckrakers to keep it somewhat honest.

Today's internet is a kind of Samizdat. In the Soviet Union, brave dissidents used Samizdat, hand printed journals passed covertly to register their thoughts. The authorities bent unrelenting effort to control and to punish Samizdat writers and distributors.

When print media was king and the ability to read was a significant criterion of education, muckrakers got some attention. Their work eventually became a genuine political force. That force was spent by the elections of 1912 and 1916. The first World War was used to silence dissent (see Scott Nearing, et al).

Today, when print media is marginal and TV is king, literacy is not longer a significant criterion of much of anything. We who enjoy the bright and probably brief historical moment of internet access and its modern day muckraking capacities, may also witness and be victimized by a new "war" used to cover and legitimize repression of free speech.

Back to ground: when the Cold War was winding down in the 80s, its end was symbolized by bringing down the Berlin Wall in 1989. There was joy and hope. We had a much too brief flash of hope. "Peace Dividends" galore were hypothesized. Optimists poured forth messages of freedoms unleashed at last (at least in the US and Western Europe).

Hindsight now reveals that strong efforts were even then afoot to contain and to frustrate such optimism. Almost immediately we had the first Gulf War.

Nixon and Kissinger had dragged out the Vietnam War until the USA was in technical bankruptcy. We were saved only by massive infusions of foreign capital buying US Treasury instruments and other equities.

In months, the USA went from prime lender to prime borrower. Carter was saddled with an economy in near, if not actual, collapse. Interest rates soared to pull in foreign money which effectively debilitated other economies as an intended consequence.

Reagan installed the essential strategies now being reimposed in the Bush II era. Under the guise of overwhelming the evil empire of Soviet Communism, Reagan drained the treasury for military expenditures, slashing people programs with abandoned eagerness. The essential element of the Reagan now Bush strategy was to create deficits to prevent any future administration from implementing social programs or programs primarily benefiting more than the few.

Reagan, by breaking the aircraft controllers' strike, gutted the labor movement and made an empty shell of federal labor laws. This strategic element is essential to globalization viz. World Trade Organization, et al. The US workforce must be brought to the lowest common denominator of international labor practices and wages. That this gutting of labor influence means that millions of Americans will never have a decent much less meaningful job is of no significance.

Part of the overall strategy again being imposed is to denigrate words and ideas and people associated with them. After demolishing "Anarchism" and "Socialism," efforts centered on "Liberalism" now effectively identified with "them" which is us.

As a Liberal, my core issue is freedom, freedom with responsibility, openness, independence, maturity and all those good words which may be applicable. By which I mean freedom as broadly conceived, widely interpreted and universally applied now and forward for all, for all time.

To make me an enemy is to champion the opposites of freedom for all except for those in power whom they consider to be their people.

And this is where my understanding is failing. Why should those people who have all the privileges and perquisites this society can imagine want it all for themselves?

Good question. More coming!

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Milo Clark on Swans (with bio).

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Published February 3, 2003
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