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President Obama has been under media fire for kowtowing to China on his visit there, specifically for not publicly mentioning the host country’s human rights record. No wonder! Hypocrisy is the favored tool in foreign policy diplomacy, and here the President failed to utilize it. He gave it a day off.
It’s possible that some of Washington’s managers take the idea of U.S. moral superiority seriously, a recurring symptom of myth overdose. It’s also possible that the merchants of official state information take it seriously, for the same reason. Even the man on the street is not immune to its pervasive reach.
But a moment’s thought should suffice in ridding ourselves of this notion of U.S. moral superiority. People are basically the same wherever you go. People are not states. States rule over people. States are amoral. States propagandize their people.
Here’s a U.S. propaganda theme with its desired result, illustrating that when used artfully, propaganda goes unrecognized:
Question: Can the U.S. be a pariah nation?
Answer: Only those that resist the U.S. can become pariahs.
It’s only with a blind eye that policymakers and media enablers can trumpet our democracy and moral uniqueness. Thus the criticism of Obama, allowing for an eye that is not blind, is that he has failed to display the customary degree of hypocrisy – call it a dearth of hypocrisy – in dealing with the Chinese.
Behind our democratic facade lies a capitalist dictatorship, devoid of morality. The manager of this capitalist dictatorship is the Republican/Democratic Party, essentially one party in that they both represent the economic interests of big business. Through the hands of either its Republican or Democratic faction, big business is always in complete control of state power. The party apparat is beyond the reach of ordinary citizens, yet it controls all citizens and is not beholden to them other than the ritualistic and periodic seeking of their “approval” at the voting booth.
The citizen (particularly if well educated) looks upon the state, in something closely akin to superstition, as the only entity capable of providing for the common good. Through generations, this long teaching permeates the public consciousness until we willingly place the state, and its political managers, above ourselves. This we do in spite of the fact that the two political factions that alternately take possession of state power have long been, and remain, inherently corrupt.
Oddly, the inherent corruption of political managers is not a subject of controversy. It is readily accepted by the common man. Politics is more popularly regarded as a business, rather than a profession, putting it a level beneath prostitution (Eliot Spitzer’s experience notwithstanding).
The crisis is not one of misunderstanding on the part of the citizen. It is a crisis of impotence. As a remedy all the Republican/Democratic Party can offer is the ballot box, this after controlling the entire election pageant down to the debating commission itself. The continued impotence of the citizen is paramount to the keepers of the status quo, whereby power rests in the hands of the permanent few over the obedient many.
This system will not change itself. Short of a military defeat by a foreign power, or an internal revolution, control will not be wrested from these party interests. There is, however, a modest proposal that will mitigate the unbalanced power that the politician has over the people. A single term limit – one – of suitable length for all offices. The term “reelection” to disappear from our jargon. This will, simultaneously, free up and devalue the politician.
This could come about through a national referendum (We don’t have many of these, do we?). Don’t expect a politician near you to initiate it.
You might think, in a country that huffs and puffs about being a beacon for democracy, that all citizens would be consulted about important decisions (And what national decisions are unimportant?).
There is an argument against this. That it is too unwieldy and time-consuming, and that the public is ill-equipped to make such decisions.
There is a counter-argument to this. Secrecy serves the powerful and the hidden agenda. In a true democracy, it is the job of the state to fully inform its citizens, trust them, and allow them to control their own destinies.
JAMES ROTHENBERG can be reached at: email@example.com