When Democracy Fails?
Why do our governments of whatever political persuasion seem no longer to be working for the common good? The sale of public utilities to private companies is argued on the grounds that private enterprise does it better, although this can be argued two ways. This issue is argued in detail in another place on this site so I won't continue here. Another example is the beneficial tax advantages given overseas companies to the disadvantage of locally owned companies. Again this issue is covered in another place on this site. Indeed most of the issues raised by this site are examples of this point. If we are a democracy, one would expect that the elected government would benefit the larger population. When this does not happen there can be a number of factors that cause this to occur.
Our system of democracy is party based. Parties tend to have particular philosophies which can bias the decision making. Also once elected the government can to a great extent do what it likes, within reason, until the next election. If it has upset the electorate too much it may well be thrown out. However in recent years, in Australia, the major parties have both tried to occupy the middle ground. At the same time they have adopted an economic philosophy coming out of the Chicargo School of Economics commonly called by the terms, economic rationalism or neo-liberalism. Given also that the world impinges more and more on nation states and that global economics and pressures to adopt free trade principles favouring the United States, it is little wonder that the options for nation states to adopt an independent or differing stance in world terms is limited.
It is also clear that the growth of multi-national companies has placed pressure on nation states to provide tax-payer funded support to ensure the placement of a new factory or the continued presence of an old one. Governments have and are held to ransom as they need to find employment for their citizens, but have increasingly lost the options to provide employment and control costs through government instrumentalities (they were all sold off). Their incomes have also declined through cutting taxes. In Australia the major parties have been involved in a tax bidding war where one party has been forced to promise that it would not raise taxes as the other promises to lower them still further. Thus with even less funds to command, valuable resources are drained off by large multinationals acting as bullies. With less funding avaialable for schools, hospitals and police further pressure is placed on essential services. The richer members of our society buy the services required. Stiff cheese to the rest! It is not suprising then to see a rise in private schooling, security companies and pressure on hospitals and medical services. Instead of there being a provision of quality services for the benefit of all, there is now a growing trend where if you want the best you buy a place at a private school, hire a security officer and pay for a private hospital bed. Otherwise the perception is that you get second best!! This perception is promoted to place further pressure on citizens to buy their services thus running down the public provision in favour of privatisation. This is happening and not without protest but it is still happening as though there is no other option! Why then do the ruling inner circles of both parties seem not challenge this development?
I have discovered a new commentator who has thrown considerable light on these matters. He is Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linquistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he is amazing. Largely ignored in his home country, the United States, Noam Chomsky provides a framwork that explains the behaviour of our leaders and indeed their blindness and the same blindness of US leaders to the realities of what is happening around the world, although many may not be blind at all. The world media effectively smokescreens the realities to ensure that compliance of nation states and individuals serves the needs of US global capital. The half truths, the outright lies and the twisted truths all with the right spin are repeated so often we take them at face value. The joke that Australia is the fifty third state of the USA is not as funny as it seems. We are in fact all part of the American Imperium and none more so than Australia.
The big lie is that America is the champion of human rights, raising living standards of all people and promoting democracy. The teachings of history clearly say otherwise. Chomsky points out the reality quoted in a US State Department policy planning document and I quote:
We have about 50 percent of the worlds wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population...... In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity... We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction... We should cease to talk about vague and . . . unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts.
Chomsky then points out that the idealistic slogans continue to be trumpeted and used where useful to further US policy but the reality is that the US continues to oppose even with violence the elements of human rights, democratization and the raising of living standards.
The principles of the UN are clear about the integrity of nation states in the UN Charter; non interference in the domestic affairs of nation states. That means no outsider has a right to change a government. The US plainly has been running client states in the Americas for many years and constantly meddles in their affairs, promoting and maintaining right wing dictatorships and destroying democratic governments unwilling to acede to US investment. US policy has directly and indirectly been responsible for the murder of thousands of people and gross human rights violations with hardly a whimper from the American electorate. Communism for the most part has been labelled the enemy and conveniently blamed for the necessary interventions to save democracy. The deaths and human rights abuses have been blamed on the communists or their sympathisers. Chomsky points out that:
The people who are committed to these dangerous heresies, such as using their resources for their own purposes or believing that the government is committed to the welfare of its own people, may not be Soviet clients to begin with and, in fact, quite regularly they're not. In Latin America they are often members, to begin with, of Bible study groups that become self-help groups, of church organisations, peasant organisations and so on and so forth. But by the time we get through with them they will be Soviet clients.
This is the "Great Game" of imperial powers as described by John Pilger in his book, The New Rulers of the World. And now that the Evil Empire of the Soviets has fallen, the American on September the 11th, have conveniently been delivered a new enemy that can excuse their interference in the affairs of whom they like, the terrorists. This new enemy is also the excuse for all the client states to fall in line with US demands or be seen not to be active in the war on terror. It can also be used conveniently by conservative governments to frighten their constituents into voting for them and acceding to all their demands. Goverments in the US sense are not there to serve the people, only some of the people. No longer is there a red under the bed, it is now a terrorist. Indeed US policy produced the conditions that spawned the terror and thus the US has a constantly useful enemy that will convenienltly keep replacing itself as long as the US continues to 'defend' itself. The other major reason that the US and its constituent representatives have been able to get away with this great game and its lie is the clear understanding of the business community in ;
. . . controlling what they call the "public mind". The rise of the public relations industry is one manifestation of this concern for "the engineering of consent," the essence of democracy according to Edward Bernays, the leading figure in tis system of business propaganda. Part of this effort has been to create a certain conception of "the good life" at home . . . a conception that happens to conform to the needs of the wealthy and priviledged sectors that dominate the economy as well as the political and idealogical systems. They have also favoured a particular form of "development and modernization" which happens to conform to the interests of American investors.
Chonsky points out that the glossy pamphlets prepared for the general public will talk about investment in terms of benefits to the local clients or indigenous populations. The dominant elites will have a clearer view of the reality necessary for them to continue control and that will be seen in documents not intended for the general public.
Chomsky also notes that what is currently happening in the US and to some extent around the other western states, especially in Britain, India and Australia is a distraction from local agendas. He argues that the elite groups in the democracies, despise democracy for the very reason that they want to control things and they will do anything to take those controls away from the general public. The process for transferring state owned and therefore community owned enterprises to private control continues. Better that it happen as quietly as possible and also be done when people are distracted by other events.
It's very important for the Bush administration to get people here frightened. The last thing they want is for people in the United States to pay attention to what the Bush administration is doing to them, to the fact that its working on a very substantial transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. That's what the tax cuts are about and all the rest of the shenanigans. They're destroying the environmental protection system. Just this morning there was the resignation of one of the top EPA officials, [because] they're not willing to regulate and that means destroying the environment in which our grandchildren wi ll be able to survive. They're trying very hard to undermine what remains of welfare programs, Medicaid, Social Security, and so on. All of these [cuts] are extremely harmful to the population and very beneficial to their rich supporters. They certainly don't want people to be paying attention to that or to the Enron scandal and Cheney's dealings with oil companies, and that sort of thing. So the best way to prevent that and to carry through this agenda, which is what's really important to them, is to get people to be frightened. The best way to control people is to frighten them. Sept. 11 was just a gift to them and to other harsh and repressive elements throughout the world. That was evident instantly.
Chomsky goes on to point out the current focus on Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism or with weapons of mass destruction. It has everything about the US gaining control of Iraq's oil, which is the second largest reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia.
It's true, he carried out all these atrocities, developing weapons of mass destruction -- with our support. The US and Britain supported him, and continued to support him well after the atrocities, continued to provide him with technology to develop weapons of mass destruction, as they knew, at a time when he was really dangerous, much more dangerous in the 1980's when this was going on than today. So the charges are correct, but they're plainly irrelevant. And they're just pure deception. Unless one points out, yeah, he did all these horrible things with our support, then this is just worse than lies. So it's not because of his atrocities, its not because of terrorism, to which he may have connections or not. (they haven't even tried to show anything). It's in order to regain control of, primarily, the oil resources in a very rich area. And that involves a lot of complications.
So then we seem to be suffering from events so contrived, so manipulated and backed by a propaganda machine that Goebels would only have dreamed about. To tell the truth, as Chomsky notes, is to be regarded as the ravings of a lunactic, especially anyone who has no significance in the greater society, as myself. It is easy to dismiss as the ravings of one deluded or laughed away as conspiracy theory. Chomsky himself, who has some considerable profile and recognition is marginalised and largely ignored by the media.
An understanding of the reality behind world events is also illuminating in that we begin to see the reasons for other seeming strange events reported in the news. For example the refusal by the US to support the establishment of a World Court and then the demand that US citizens be made exempt from prosecution. On the surface this seems to be strange because one makes the assumption that the US and its citizens being driven by the highest of motives and ideals regarding democracy etc it would be irrelevant and something to be strongly supported. When one begins to realise what the ruling elites in the US have really done it becomes clear that many could be indighted by such a court for crimes against humanity. Hence the paranoia.
So what options do we then have to rescue our democracy and challenge the lies put forth by the ruling elites. The answer is really quite simple. Involvement. Get involved in local issues, keep yourself informed, speak guardedly and carefully. Seek out those issues which are of interest and to which you might make an effective contribution with your time, talents and resources. Many resources have links on this site which may be used to keep up with issues and developments. George Monbriot and John Pilger are investigative journalists who provide alternative views of current events and developments and often expose the nakedness of the ruling elites. Michael Moore provides a great resource and much appreciated humour for those for whom the likes of Chomsky are too intellectual. Seek out those who are also concerned and work together. Join an organization or political party. If the latter, be aware that the enemy is within. And finally, be patient and confident that the lies will eventually become apparent and the mighty will be brought low. The future of our planet depends on it.
Peter Russell September 2002
As I sit here finishing this piece I am listening to an interview on the ABC with Harold Pinter, renown, playwright, poet and author, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. (18 September 2002, 1:30pm CST) He is (amazingly) saying the same things as Chomsky and Pilger. He has just suggested putting Blair and Clinton on trial for war crimes. He says government is big business in every respect. US interests are economic interests. Speaking out makes some difference. The poor are not willing to lie down. Pinter speaks about the Zapatista revolution in Mexico as being very successful in a quiet way. As always they will be met with violence. Financial structures always have military structures behind them. "While the US is the most powerful nation the world has ever seen it is also the most detested nation," because of the way it has conducted itself around the world. There are US military bases nearly everywhere in the world. It is something we should be really worried about. There are a few in the US who are aware of what is really happening, but they are beleaguered.
Noam Chomsky The Chomsky Reader Pantheon Books London 1988
Nicholas Holt Interview with Chomsky: Ashville Global Report March 08, 2002