Our Dystopian Present
Behind the gleaming armor of his speeches, the emperor’s new clothes of Obama leave him naked. We are to believe that the persecution of the press is protection of national security, secrecy is transparency, debt servitude is opportunity, imprisoning the poor is correction, assassination is public relations, a militarized police state is public service, and protecting the interests of the 1% is the common good. When nonviolent civil disobedience is treated as terrorism and dissent as treason; when the censor lives in our minds, naked totalitarianism has emerged. Yet, despite all, I still reject the contention that we are beyond the point of no return.
As Michael Hastings observed before his patently unbelievable accident, Obama has enshrined in his foreign policy the two most radical principles of the Bush doctrine, torture and extraordinary rendition, and has made targeted assassination and spying on journalists major tenets of the national security state. Despite Obama’s assurance that the CIA will move away from paramilitary tactics, the intelligence community anticipates a sinister future, and the Pentagon is pushing for the US to aggressively reassert dominance devoid of moral leadership and enforce dictatorship without hegemony, domestically and in the international arena.
Power now circulates through the information and obedience we unwittingly provide to the national security prism and the commerce panopticon, which are a fusion of private power and public authority used to monitor and record our license plates, our shopping habits, our personal correspondences, and our very thoughts. If, as Robert Reich supposed in his recent piece in the Huffington Post, a group of wealthy Americans is systematically dismembering government, disenfranchising the minority, spreading PR campaigns of lies, and buying off the media, that is a form of treason worse than terrorism, and it must be stopped.
However, I would argue that the social safety net, which we depend on for services and the protection of economic and social rights, is being dismantled, while the national security state, which should respect our rights during peacetime or repress them in times of national emergency, is being massively expanded and the state-of-emergency is now permanent.
In order to counteract the undemocratic substitution of national security in place of human security, we must:
(1) Fight mental censorship and reject influence of the defense and intelligence community in our society. Put NSA watch words in every mundane email. Find innovative ways to fool them. If ‘they’ have a blacklist, then every American should endeavor to be included by speaking out. We can influence the spies of the national security state and the directors of their agencies by flooding their press offices with calls to tell them that the violation of American citizens’ civil rights is unjustifiable and unpatriotic.
(2) Demand that the foolish, wasteful, and failed wars on drugs and terror end. I call congressmen everyday, and if you want change, you should, too. The war on terror has greatly outlived its usefulness for the resources we spend on it, which are now being directed towards the repression of dissent. When we quit wasting valuable resources on crimes that have few or no victims, i.e. hacking, whistleblowing, drugs, and terror, we can begin focusing on rapists, murderers, and corrupt elected officials, the true enemies of the state.
(3) Demand accountability from the justice system. Judges, prosecutors, and police not infrequently exhibit racism, gender bias, partiality, and even collusion in corruption, occasionally verging on mobster-style organized crime. Unfortunately, corruption convictions are rare, considering that there are half a million elected officials in the U.S., and light punishments and window-dressing are unacceptably common. Qualified immunity is the enemy of justice and we must abolish it.
(4) Reclaim the terms that have been wrenched away from us by the 1%, their political cronies, and the phony media. Orwellian doublespeak tells us that people in favor of women’s rights are “radical feminists;” those who point out probable or obvious connections between phenomena are “conspiracy theorists;” online activists are “hackers” or “cyber terrorists;” the rich are “job creators,” changing wealth inequality that would make robber barons blush is “socialism,” etc. Don’t believe anything the mainstream media says about activists, because the media is the piehole of the 1%.
(5) Join forces, despite race, gender, social class, or party affiliation against the warmongers, Wall Street plutocrats, and neoconservatives who conspire to maintain the status quo. Class warfare needs to make a comeback, because “the blob” and the permanent war economy has reached a place where it must be exposed and dismantled.
(6) Practice civil disobedience. Support Anonymous and Occupy, which continue to evolve, even today, despite false reports, myths and lies surrounding them. MLK said we have a moral obligation to break unjust laws even as we have a moral responsibility to obey just ones. When you allow your outrage fuel your courage to fight for social justice, your fear and apathy will melt away.
Tim Tolka just finished a Master’s degree in social movements, the state, and civil society at American University.