Perspectives And Perceptions. . . Again

by Milo Clark

June 23, 2003


"In the first place, our people must be delivered from the hopeless fusion of international convictions and educated consciously and systematically to fanatical Nationalism. . . . Second, in so far as we educate the people to fight against the delirium of democracy and bring it again to the recognition of authority and leadership, we tear it away from the nonsense of [representative government]. Third, in so far as we deliver the people from the atmosphere of pitiable belief in possibilities which lie outside the bounds of one's own strength -- such as the belief in reconciliation, understanding, world peace, the [United Nations] and international solidarity -- we destroy these ideas. There is only one right in the world and that right is one's own strength."

Who said this? Grover Norquist? Karl Rove? Mark Hanna? Adolf Hitler? (1) Can you identify each of these names and their roles in politics? (2)

With large majorities of the polled American population strongly supporting military adventurism, various "wars" whether against drugs or terror, assaults on essential civil rights and constitutional guarantees and concentrations of power in the once executive branch plus media consolidation in the hands of very right leaning ownership; Pentagon budgets go exponential and social programs are gutted.

Remember words such as "Peace Dividend" and "Disarmament"?

I.F. Stone was a relentless journalist with a penetrating focus on American governance. His I.F. Stone Weekly was essential reading. A slim four-page journal of simple design, Garamond type face, modest headers and careful words, the Weekly was ground zero for serious understanding of American government especially in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Stone wrote "A Century of Futility," an examination of disarmament first published in The New York Review of Books 9 April 1970. "For almost a century and a half (now nearer two centuries) there has been agitation for disarmament. . . . It has been a century of futility." (3)

Why? "It was not for lack of understanding or of leadership. The principal arguments we make against the arms race today are the same as those thoughtful men have used for more than a century. That it raises tension, but it does not change the balance of power but only the level of destructiveness and cost, that it wastes resources needed for social reconstruction -- these arguments were familiar in the nineteenth and in the twentieth century (and now the twenty first), and proved as futile."

Stone quotes Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister (who organized and designed the uniforms of UK police hence their being called "Bobbies"), from a speech given in 1841. 'What is the advantage of one party greatly increasing its army and navy? Does it not see that if it proposes such increases for self-protection and defense, the other powers would follow its example?'

In November 1967, just before Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT) talks began, then-US Secretary of State Rogers said, " . . . more sophisticated weapons would not add to the basic security of either side. Militarily it probably would produce little or no net advantage. Economically it would divert resources needed elsewhere. Politically it would perpetuate . . . tensions and fears. . . "

Stone goes on to enumerate past panics generated, fears created to justify arms build-ups. "These panics illustrate the tactic, still in use today, of projecting some fantastic possibility and treating it as if it were a reality."

In 1892, Sir William Harcourt, then British Chancellor of the Exchequer noted, 'The principle of the alarmists is to pile up every conceivable contingency, probable and improbable, on one side and to admit no possible contingency on the other.'

Several disarmament conferences were held at The Hague in the early 1900s. Reduce more powerful explosives? American Secretary of State John Hay objected. To do so would restrain the inventive genius of our people, said he. Prohibit 'asphyxiating or deleterious gases,' suggested the Czar? It's no more cruel to asphyxiate one's enemies than to drown them by torpedoing a vessel, suggested US Naval Captain Alfred T. Mahan, spiritual architect of the Great White Fleet symbolic of American imperial advances a century before now.

Shall we notice that the present Administration has abrogated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as applied to the U.S.?

The more it changes. . .

On 4th June 2003, Bill Moyers, once Press Secretary to President Johnson, now journalist and persona of "public" radio and television, delivered a remarkable address to the Take Back America Conference in Washington, D. C. (4)

"Let me make it clear that I don't harbor any idealized notion about politics and democracy. . . . But there is nothing idealized or romantic about the difference between a society whose arrangements roughly serve all its citizens and one whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud. That difference can be the difference between democracy and oligarchy."

Moyers traces the last century within which there was early-on a hard fought and dearly won expansion of both economic and political actualities and the now successful crusade to demolish them.

"As a citizen, I don't like the consequences of this crusade, but you have to respect the conservatives for their successful strategy in gaining control of the national agenda. Their stated and open aim is to change how America is governed -- to strip from government all its functions except those that reward their rich and privileged benefactors. They are quite candid about it. . . . The White House pursues the same homicidal dream without saying so. Instead of shrinking down the government, they're filling the bathtub with so much debt that it floods the house, water-logs the economy, and washes away services for decades that have lifted millions of Americans out of destitution and into the middle-class. And what happens once the public's property has been flooded? Sell it at a discounted rate to the corporations."

"It is the most radical assault on the notion of one nation, indivisible, that has occurred in our lifetime. I'll be frank with you, I simply don't understand it -- or the malice in which it is steeped. . . . What I can't explain is the rage of the counter-revolutionaries to dismantle every last brick of the social contract. . . "

Recently, I have cited Mortimer J. Adler's simple statement: "Political haves who are not also economic haves cannot exercise their duties as citizens." Norquist, Rove, Bush, et al., are relentlessly working to demolish both political and economic potentials for all but their versions of "haves."

Moyers concludes, ". . . civilization happens because we don't leave things to other people. What's good and right doesn't come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it -- as if the cause depends on you -- because it does. . ."

"Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea, while the organization achieves victory by the persistent, organic, and militant union of those supporters who seem willing and able to carry on the fight for victory." Who said this? (5)

Not Norquist, although he has said very similar things over the years. Not Rove for whom this quote could easily be the guiding principle of his strategies. Not Bush, although he may wish he had said it this way.

I may, however, note that propaganda is capturing the Americans who are polled.

Hannah Arendt, in Reflections on Violence, (6) notes that a critical development has been bureaucratization -- the distancing of governance from citizens.

". . . the greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have tyranny without a tyrant. . . Huge party machines have succeeded everywhere to overrule the voice of citizens, even in countries where freedom of speech and association is still intact. . . "

"What makes man a political being is his faculty to act. It enables him to get together with his peers, to act in concert, and to reach out for goals and enterprises that would never enter his mind, let alone the desires of his heart, had he not been given this gift -- to embark on something new. . ."

Bill Moyers today is asking us to go beyond, to act positively to reclaim the progressive and populist missions which reversed the Hanna/McKinley characterization of the last great assault by predecessors of Norquist-Rove-Bush.

Moyers cuts to the quick: ". . . our nation can no more survive as half democracy and half oligarchy than it could survive -- half slave and half free. . ."

In the Heart Sutra of Buddhism, now a couple thousand years old, we are also asked to go beyond and beyond the beyond to find. . . ? Let's take a hard look and go for it.

· · · · · ·

References and Resources

1.  Adolf Hitler, Volkischer Boebackter (official party newspaper), 23 September 1928 -- "Hitler's Words, Speeches 1922-1941," Gordon R. Prange, Ed. Washington 1944, pps. 39-40  (back)

2.  Grover Norquist, graduate of Harvard and Harvard Business School, has been a strategist for the takeover of the Republican Party. He has been called the power behind Karl Rove. Karl Rove is the prime political strategist of George W. Bush. He has been called the power behind George W. Bush. Mark Hanna was the political strategist who crafted the presidency of William McKinley in 1896. Karl Rove seeks to emulate Mark Hanna.  (back)

3.  This and subsequent quotes are taken from "Polemics and Prophesies 1967-1970, A Nonconformist History of Our Times," I.F. Stone, Little, Brown and Company, NY, 1989, ISBN 0-316-81747-3 (pbk)  (back)

4.  Moyers' speech may be found on truthout.org.  (back)

5.  Adolf Hitler in "Mein Kampf," translated by Ralph Manheim, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1943, ISBN 0-395-07801-6, p. 582.  (back)

6.  "Reflections on Violence," Hannah Arendt. First published in The New York Review of Books, 27 February 1969; republished in an anthology of NYRB articles 1963-93, 2001, pps., 74-75.  (back)

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Published June 23, 2003
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