Dennis Loo

Sometimes asking for the impossible is the only realistic path

Dennis Loo

Dennis Loo
Location
Los Angeles, California,
Birthday
December 31
Title
Professor of Sociology
Company
Cal Poly Pomona
Bio
Author of Globalization and the Demolition of Society; Co-Editor/Author of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, World Can't Wait Steering Committee Member, co-author of "Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them" statement, dog and fruit tree lover. Published poet. Winner of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award, Project Censored Award and the Nation Magazine's Most Valuable Campaign Award. Punahou and Harvard Honor Graduate. Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz. An archive of close to 500 postings of mine can be found at my blogspot blog, Dennis Loo, link below. I publish regularly at dennisloo.com, worldcantwait.net (link below) and also at OpEd News and sometimes at Counterpunch.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2009 6:51PM

Do We Get the Leaders We Deserve?

Rate: 14 Flag

The notion that the people get the leaders (and system) they deserve is a common, oft-repeated one. It’s really a restatement of what some scholars call the democracy-at-work thesis: the people collectively and democratically decide who will lead them. Hence, the leaders at any given point in time are the ones that the people chose.[1]

If the people made a mistake and the leader or leaders turn out to be no good, then the people have the responsibility to remove those bad leaders. If they don’t remove them, then the people are at fault because they failed to unseat those leaders. The people in that case must be masochists, lazy, or they secretly desire the actions of the no good leader(s). All adult citizens have the right to vote and if they don’t vote, then they’re to blame for not voting, and if they do vote, then they should have chosen better leaders.

“Any way you look at you lose,” as the Simon and Garfunkel song goes: the public is to blame no matter what.

Such a neat and tidy argument. The problem is that it’s not true.

To begin with, this “democracy-at-work thesis” is entirely and fatally one-sided. It puts absolutely no responsibility in the hands of the leaders themselves. The leaders have nothing to do with it. For this reason alone we should suspect its validity.

This kind of illogic reminds me of the common view that a woman who is repeatedly battered by her husband is at fault for not leaving the bastard. Odd that the people who say this fail to pin the responsibility where it should be placed: how come this guy is beating her in the first place?

Beyond this problem is another one that is like a clue to a crime that lies hidden in plain sight. The public doesn’t get to choose who the nominees are. The powers that be (the two major parties’ leadership and the corporate media) decide who the “legitimate” nominees are going to be. They weed out of serious consideration any other candidates (such as Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney) by excluding them from major debates, describing them invariably as sideshows, and even eliminate those mainstream candidates deemed by the PTB as not entirely trustworthy (e.g., Howard Dean in 2004).

Once this winnowing down process has happened, any candidates who are outside of the working consensus of the existing powerbrokers are out of the running, no matter how popular their platforms are. The candidates who are left, barring elections fraud (which was enough to steal the White House for the GOP in 2000 and 2004), are then “democratically” elected by the people.

This process is like a child who is told by his/her parents that they can either have the peas or the carrots, but they must eat one of them. If the child chooses the carrots does that mean that the child is in charge of what s/he eats? 

If the American people are told that they can either have John McCain and Sarah Palin or Barack Obama and Joe Biden, or else they can throw away their vote on a Third Party candidate, is this not very much like the child told by their parents that they have a choice of which vegetable to eat? Are you a peas or a carrots kind of person? Make sure you’re one of them because we can’t have any beets kind of people.

Consider what would happen if, miracle of miracles, a Third Party candidate were to win the popular vote. Consider further that this person – let’s say Ralph Nader - was allowed to assume the presidency.

Suppose, in addition, that Nader’s third party wins a majority of Congress in the same election. Imagine that Nader and his party in Congress begin to try to implement their radical program of change that a majority of Americans support, akin to the majority who have for at least a few years now wanted an immediate end to the Iraq war and the majority that wants a single-payer health insurance plan.

I have one question.

How long before an incident on the scale of 9/11 happens in which, I don’t know, President Nader is assassinated, select leaders in Congress are killed, and the military finds that it must step in by declaring martial law to save the Republic from the terrorists responsible for these heinous attacks?

What’s more likely, the election of a Third Party committed to peace and justice, or the declaration of martial law before or after such a momentous event?

***

There is a grain of truth in the democracy-at-work thesis: the people do have the power to change things. But the power the people have isn’t through the vote. As a button I once saw said: “If voting really made a difference they’d make it illegal.”

The power of the people lies in their actions independent of the electoral arena. It lies in their acting as an autonomous force in the public arena through collective actions in the streets: demonstrations and mass movements are the most democratic acts there are.

The Voting Rights Act of 1964 did not happen because the politicians in Washington, D.C. suddenly woke up one day in ’64 and realized that black people were being discriminated against. “You mean there’s bigotry and institutional discrimination in these here United States of America? You mean it’s been goin’ on for hundreds of years? My Lord! Why we must do something about this right away!”

The 1964 Voting Rights Act happened because black people and their allies of other races joined together to march on D.C. demanding equality or else. The “or else” here is the point. The 1964 Voting Rights Act was only passed because the level of mass struggle among black people reached such a pitch that the powers that be feared that greater upheaval and perhaps insurrection would be the result if they didn’t pass this act and other concessions.

The mass movement that produced the famous March on Washington and the 1964 Voting Rights Act was in turn sparked by the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education that declared the ruling dicta of “separate but equal” (Plessey v. Ferguson) wrong. This decision created an opening into which the long-suffering and suppressed masses of black people rushed like steam escaping from a pressure cooker’s release valve.

Brown v. Board came about not because the Supreme Court Justices suddenly woke up in ’54 and said to themselves, “You know, that separate but equal idea really just covers up the reality of inequality and discrimination. It’s obviously unconstitutional.”

Brown v. Board, instead, came about at the express request of the executive branch because of the post-World War II alignment internationally.

U.S. Attorney General James P. McGranery in December of 1952 filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Brown case: It is in the context of the present world struggle between freedom and tyranny that the problem of racial discrimination must be viewed,” the Justice Department brief said. “The United States is trying to prove to the people of the world of every nationality, race and color, that a free democracy is the most civilized and most secure form of government yet devised by man…. The existence of discrimination against minority groups in the United States has an adverse effect upon our relations with other countries. Racial discrimination furnishes grist for the Communist propaganda mills.”

Translation: We’re going to lose the Cold War to the Communists if we don’t end our overt segregation policies that consign blacks to second-class status.

Brown v. Board came about, in other words, because of revolutionary socialist gains worldwide in the course of and in the wake of World War II. The mass struggle of people in other countries that produced the 1949 Revolution in China together with the national liberation struggles in Asia, South Asia, Central and South America, Africa, and the Middle East created conditions that compelled the U.S. ruling class to roll back hundreds of years of racial segregation in the U.S.

The newspaper editorials that greeted Brown v. Board made this abundantly clear. The St. Louis Dispatch, for example, stated: “The greater significance [of Brown v. Board] is the affirmation in the eyes of millions of people in India, Pakistan and Africa, in China, Japan and Burma, in Indo-China, Thailand and Indonesia that the pledge in the United States of the worth and integrity of the humblest individual means exactly what it says. Had this decision gone the other way, the loss to the free world in its struggle against Communist encroachment would have been incalculable.” And the San Francisco Chronicle opined: “Great as the impact will be on the states of the South, still greater, we believe, will be its impact in South America, Africa and Asia, to this country’s lasting honor and benefit.”

Missing from the country’s newspaper editorials and from the executive branch’s amicus curiae briefs were statements that racial segregation was per se wrong. The point of Brown was that segregation was wrong now because it would make America look bad in a world in which white supremacy and imperialist domination weren’t any longer the only games in town.

Pleading and appeals to common decency and common sense for hundreds of years didn’t bring about the Brown decision. Elections over the course of hundreds of years didn’t do this. Condescending or benevolent public officials didn’t finally extend these rights out of their largesse. These reforms/concessions came about because of mass movements and revolutions that demanded, and in the case of revolutions, effected, fundamental and structural change. The post-WW II alignment brought forth a powerful and large socialist camp: an alternative to the capitalist world. People of the world, especially the people of the Third World, now had a choice.

Power gives up nothing without struggle and grants nothing absent struggle. Appeals to reason and fairness mean nothing to power. There are no short cuts to justice. People around the world in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s dared to challenge decades and centuries of oppression, they dismissed those who counseled them that dreaming dreams of an entirely different world were unrealistic and foolhardy. They dared to go for what many said was impossible.

Do we not now need, more than ever, these kinds of dreamers and fighters?

***

President Barack Obama is widely seen as the culmination of the civil rights movement. This is partially true. Without the civil rights movement and black power movements of the 1960s there would be no black politicians in high office today, including in the White House.

But the belief that Obama - or any other politician, for that matter - is going to do the right thing because they promised “change” is foolishness. Belief in this is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how political power is actually exercised. Even if Obama were such a genuine person, how long would he be in office if he actually did the things so many people thought (mistakenly) that he would do when they voted for him? What happened to John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X - with only one of them an actual revolutionary?

The only way that any justice can be obtained is through mass participation in mass movements that aren’t linked to electoral contests or shoehorned into some version of mass lobbying. The people must speak through mass movements. This is our one real power.

Abandoning it, forsaking it, or overlooking it would be like a boxer going into a fight and declaring that the one thing s/he won’t do is use his/her hands. It would be like Yo Yo Ma saying that “Rather than play the cello I’m going to demonstrate my prowess at checkers.” It would be like Shaquille O’Neal showing off his basketball skills by shooting free throws and never taking the ball to the hole.

***

What is holding people back from doing the one thing that can make a difference and doing it in sufficient numbers?

The principle problem here is not public apathy or ignorance. While there is plenty of those unfortunate characteristics present in the American populace – we lead the world in this – and while it would be much better if Americans were as inclined to taking to the streets as people of other countries are, that is not the main problem.

It is true that the American people need to grow up politically. They need to cast away the illusion that political action on their part consists of voting and nothing else. They need to see the U.S. within the context of its real role in the world as a whole.

The main problem isn’t the gullibility of the American public. The main problem is that we face an uphill struggle of enormous difficulty: we have to constitute an alternative moral authority to the existing authorities. Our existing leadership – the Democratic and Republican Parties and the corporate media – are in overall agreement on the path that they’re taking. And that path, every day makes clearer, is awful, bankrupt, and alarming.

We have to disenthrall people from following the lead of the people that they are used to taking their political cues from. As disenchanted as many people are, and increasingly so (Obama is going to disillusion more and more people as the months go on), this disenchantment doesn’t necessarily lead to good outcomes. Witness the success that the right wing is having in feeding people’s fears and mobilizing some of them around reactionary solutions.

To bring about fundamental change, to meet the terms of today’s dire challenges, does not require that a majority of the people take to the streets. Americans aren’t going turn out in the streets the way the Iranian people have. Great as that would be, we don’t need that to happen. What we do need is for a small fraction, 1%, of the people to act visibly and publicly. That 1%, or 3 million plus, need to make their sentiments known and as they do this, they will be doing two things: 1) reflecting and concentrating the majority's sentiments, and 2) altering the political atmosphere dramatically, both here and worldwide.

Imagine the impact internationally if the world’s people saw three million Americans demonstrating for an immediate end to the wars and occupations and for prosecution of the Bush regime’s torturers from Bush on down. Consider the impact this would have within the U.S.

We can’t get that 1% to act all in one fell swoop. We need to build it in stages. To get to 1% you need to in turn get a fraction of that 1% to step forward. You need to get a few people in any community to come forward and declare themselves for a different world and against the awful things being done in our names. A few individuals or even one individual in any community and in any school and in any workplace can have a profound impact on those around them, if they are proceeding on a basis that their goal is to mobilize millions and to build a mass movement. Every single individual who steps forward this way is precious and can tap forces far beyond themselves because they will be voicing the closely held sentiments of literally tens of millions of others around them who are afraid to speak up and act because they think that they are alone in their views.

Start something up in your school or neighborhood. Join up with the aptly named activist organization World Can’t Wait.

I close with a quote from I.F. Stone that I found in David Swanson’s new book, Daybreak:

“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins.”



[1] This democracy-at-work thesis is also frequently employed to account for why media is so inadequate: the people who listen, read, or watch the media are to blame because they listen, read, or watch those shows.

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Thanks BBE. So true. The best that corporate money and an imperialist empire can buy.
This is a brilliant analysis, clear and comprehensive. I have nothing to add. All I can say is, "Ditto". Rated.
Don't forget, we didn't really get Bush. We got Gore. But a funny thing happened on the way to the WH. Only it wasn't that funny.

R.
Excellent points in your article.

I just wanted to say that you had suggested I check out that World Can't Wait org before, but I was really turned off because the entire message on the website seemed to be all about going after George W Bush. So if this org exists to enact broader change than just nailing Bush's sorry ass, that message should be updated to reflect this, or people like me will keep turning away.
wonderful essay and I like the link at the end and the quote. mass movements are also hard to build when so many of the populace gets their view of the world from the media and the media does everything it can to distract from, deter from, the mass organization of people. But this isn't to say that it can't happen if people finally allow themelves to wake up.

thank-you for this essay and challenge.
Excellent argument.

I'm puzzled by the American attitude toward violence. We have more violent crime than the rest of the developed world, but, in the course of political protest, to actually come to blows with riot police-- horror! What are you, a terrorist?
Thanks for this. Well said.
Lorelei: WCW's mission was always broader than Bush's sorry ass.

I'm going to respond to others' comments later on today.
Mick - thank you so much.

John: Yes, a non so funny thing happened in 2000 and 2004, the loser took office.

Dolores: you're right that there the matter of being lied to and allowing yourself to wake up are inter-related.

Benjamin: so true. The absolute horror that demonstrations - at this point - are even still happening! I mean, don't these people know that demonstrating is "low-level terrorism?"

Thanks Kevin.
So what these endless, well-spaced paragraphs distill to is that people should demonstrate between elections. Great, but hardly a revolutionary idea.

What you haven't noticed is that that is exactly what is going on right now around the nation. People are demonstrating against a president and his henchmen who are threatening traditional American values: freedom, private property, limited government, free trade, and everyone paying for their own drinks.

I can see you now cowering in a corner with a crucifix at the very mention of these principles, so intimidating to those whose primary belief system centers on their own inadequacies. But the demonstrations continue and the beat goes on.
Wow Dennis. I will be studying this for some time. Thank you for your focus and effort!

"Some men see things the way they are and say 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and ask 'Why not?'" RFK
Gordon - who thinks that torture's "being rude" to a detainee, as he once said in my comments thread - now thinks that the real crimes are intrusions upon "private property" et al by the Obama administration. Would that be the TARP funds going to bail out the otherwise bankrupt corporations like GM, and financial giants? Would that Obama were nationalizing these companies!

I will, however, adopt your crucifix image temporarily here and invoke the useful myth of vampires, for there really are vampires dressed up as GOP leaders and Faux journalists come to suck our blood and declare how tasty and filling it all is. These are the ones who encourage and applaud murderers like those who kill abortion providers like Dr. George Tiller and who now threaten to do the same to Dr. Carhart. These are G's heroes.

Paragraph spacing for G's benefit here.

***

Thank you Tim.
I think some of what it comes down to is the elements of cult of personality that overshadow our politics-- the man as more important than the policy, or even the party. These days, we only seen reactive demonstrations AGAINST the party in power. What about demonstrations FOR a cause? That's what got civil rights legislation passed. Why not marches FOR public healthcare, regardless of who's in the White House?
Ben: Yes, part of the problem is the cult of personality. Part of it is naivete about how political power actually operates. You are right that demonstrations FOR alternative policies and visions are needed.
Cynthia McKinney?!?!?!?! HA HA HA HA HA HA!!

We get what we deserve because we don't research enough. We allow the media to do it for us. Think Obama.
Blackflon: Upon further reflection, I think you may have meant when you said "Think Obama" that people were allowing themselves to be misled by what they thought he was, rather than what he is. Is that what you meant?

As for Cynthia McKinney: can anyone imagine Obama doing what she did: daring to sail towards Gaza on a humanitarian mission to bring medical supplies and toys for children (including crayons) to the embargoed Gazans, only to be seized while in international waters by Israel and jailed for days?
Dennis, the biggest reason Obama is president is because the republicans screwed up for the last 8 years. In a normal election he would have been more scrutinized. He still may have won but we would have known much more about him.

Yeah, Cynthia McKimmey did one good thing in her life. Other than that she is a communist loving bigot.

Her nick name here in Georgia was "The cutest little Communist in Comgress".
Cynthia McKinney sought Bush's impeachment while she was in Congress. That's a lot more than the rest of the Congress, with the exception of Kucinich, did to call out what had to be called out. She has also been consistently willing to expose corruption and wrong-doing. How many people can that be said of who are in public life?

I don't know why you are calling her a bigot. Care to explain?
Please forgive me for getting all "tangential" but ~
Gordon O, if limited government is a "Traditional American value" why the hell do conservatives hold Ronald Reagan in near-sainthood?
And when did "free trade" become a TAV? Seems like your America started with Nixon and grew up with Bushs I and II and Clinton. There's your free trade. Go back and read Alexander Hamilton and then lets talk free trade (and limited government) if you care.
Tim: Are you asking for G to be consistent and historically accurate? Will you never be satisfied? : )
Succinct (rated)

"The power of the people lies in their actions independent of the electoral arena. It lies in their acting as an autonomous force in the public arena through collective actions in the streets: demonstrations and mass movements are the most democratic acts there are."

Dennis - I think we are synching up to the same vibrations. I really appreciate this post - Tim pointed me towards it. I'm new, and would love for you to check out a couple of my political posts, "You, Mr. Smith, Lincoln" and "Do You Want To Be Right? Or, Do You Want Healthcare Reform?" We (hub & I) started a FB page trying to start a grass roots movement attempting to bring people together for a place to speak about what they want - instead of quibble about what not's working. Love your thoughts, input, etc.

Thanks so, so much.
I don't know if we get the leaders that we deserve, or the system corrupts the leaders that we have. I believed in Obama. Now I'm not so sure, but I will remain hopeful. We have to start getting this right. Rated and outstanding
If a majority of the people in a country are assholes, then your country is fucked. No way around it, end of story. No such thing as successful irresponsibility.

This is like one long argument to be like Robespierre descending from on high, setting oneself up for deification. There is a better way.
Yes. I agree with most of the things, what you wrote here.

I agree with you that the system of the so-called representational democracy doesn't work. And the reason is mainly as you said that people cannot select the candidates for the elections and secondly the media can control people's behavior too well.

I'm not sure if mass demonstrations would work nowadays. I attended myself here in Finland demonstrations against Bush' Iraq war. I know that there were quite big demonstrations agaist that war in America, too. But the media ignored those demonstrations almost totally. They had no effect. The war started and we all know the results. I as well wrote several emails to Bush already before he started the war in Afghanistan. Those emails had no effect.

During my student years I started a movement against voting in 'the student organization parliament' elections. Because almost all the candidates were just bastards, who just wanted to get the power and later to enter into the state politics. Our movement 'won', the voting rate went down to 16%. But the right wing won, too as my leftist friends predicted. They did't stop voting and got almost all the seats. Then they ruined all the economy of the student organization...

For more than 30 years my opinion has been that we would get much better parliament or congress members by lotteries than by voting for the candidates, whom the voters cannot select.

I think that the argument, that most people are too lazy to do anything against the crimes, like torturing people and killing innocent people in criminal wars they know about, is partly right.

And most people can be bought just by giving to them a bit cheap gasoline for their cars, cheap computers and a slightly better health care system. If they can get those tiny things, they don't care if Obama's administration kills some tens of thousands innocent people on the other side of the world, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

I once wrote in the magazine, where I was then the head editor, that maybe the only way to fight against those bastards who are killing people in the wars is to stop paying taxes. It is by our taxes 'our leaders' are buying all those weapons.

I think that the big problem is that modern states are too big and powerful. The political leaders there in modern big countries can start big wars, which can kill millions of people world wide. I think that all these big countries should be taken down, put them into small parts, where the local politicians could be in the control of the local people. It is totally wrong that the leader of the United States of America, the leader of China, the leader of Russia, the leader of India can start such wars which can kill millions of innocent people, whom they never met, about whom they know just nothing. We should never have built such structures, where that kind of things are possible.

My advices. If Obama comes to you city, ignore him totally. Don't send anybody to pick him up from the airport. Don't publish any news that he is coming. Don't publish anything about him after he left. When filling your tax papers, please always ask how much of your taxes goes into buying weapons, paying salaries to soldiers killing innocent people and torturing people in jails. If they cannot answer, please refuse paying the tax.
Kate: Thank you. I will check out the posts you mention. What is an FB?

Roger: Thanks.

Sociology is based on the recognition that social structures and social context (such as culture) are overall more important than personality and individual choices/talents or deficits. In other words, as you say, systems corrupt individuals, at least that is one possible expression of this social fact.

Put more broadly, individuals behave differently in groups than they do on their own. Humans are social beings, first and foremost, not individuals first and foremost. We are shaped by our culture and we in turn make culture. But of these two, the first is the principle aspect of that dynamic. One illustration of that was the famous Stanford Prison Experiment. Psychologically sound Stanford students quickly adopted their roles as cruel prisoner guards and as rebellious, sullen prisoners.

What's this got to do with the subject in question? Obama, even if he had wanted to really change things (which he doesn't), would not have had a chance to become president and wouldn't remain president within the parameters of the existing system and the existing balance of forces if he weren't beholden to the real powerbrokers.

Those powerbrokers are not, Harry, the American public. The system is itself corrupt in that it's based on exploitation and profit-making. That is its fundamental nature. The political realm can't help but reflect that. If some individuals, as I postulate in my post, were to assume political power who weren't reflective of that baseline economic fact (a Nader Third Party), then they would be removed forcibly by the people who have the guns/tanks/etc.

If you study Anthropology you find that societies run the gamut from highly competitive and unequal to more egalitarian, from those that treasure private property to those for whom private property is a non-existent category.

Put another way, people do not know what they do not know. The American people, and this goes back to a point raised by Blackflon, don't know what they need to know. But most Americans don't even know that they aren't being told what they need to know by the mass media. If they don't know that they're being misled, then they don't know that they should do more research. If you think you know what you need to know, you don't go looking around for more information.

Telling people the truth isn't personal deification. Recognizing the truth that leadership plays a critical role in whether or not the people are mobilized around their true interests and around facts isn't the same thing as Robespierre.
I need to follow up my last comment with a couple of things to make my comment more complete. (I apologize for its length.)

Just because systems have their logic and just because structures can't be overcome by exhorting the individuals within those structures to ignore the exigencies of those structures and behave as if those incentives/disincentives don't exist, doesn't mean that structural change isn't possible. It is possible. But it is only possible if you approach the situation correctly and understand exactly what you're up against.

In a speech that I gave back in 2007, I ended the talk with this:

"Let me end by suggesting a modified version of the Milgram Experiment. I cite Milgram’s Experiment in the Preface to my book and refer to the situation we face in America today as the Milgram Experiment writ large. In the original Milgram Experiment, a man in a gray coat and clipboard stands next to the person who is administering the electrical shocks to the person in the other room. Milgram discovered, to his dismay, that it was all too easy to get people to obey authority and deliver what they thought might be life-threatening electrical shocks.

"What if someone wearing an orange coat was to burst into the room where the man in the gray coat and the experimental subject are and told the subject: 'Stop! You’re killing the other person in the room! You don’t have to do it! Rebel! Walk Out!'”

The person in the orange coat is a member of that 1% I talk about in my post. Saying endlessly that the American people are to blame is both useless and also inaccurate. Social dynamics tell us that groups need leaders. Even groups as small as two people need leadership.

The main problem here isn't American gullibility or complacency or comfort - even though these ARE problems. The main problem is that we have to create an alternative leadership body to win enough people over to another path.

This is the first segment of that 2007 speech of mine:

(This is a slightly edited version of the speech I gave at the LA Town Hall Meeting on July 12, 2007.)

If you have a loved one on the verge of dying because they're unable to breathe, you won’t save their life by giving them more blankets and bandaging a wound that is bleeding slightly. You have to deal with the central problem or your loved one is going to die. You have to focus all of your energy and attention on what is going to save their life.

America as people have known it and to some extent as people have wanted to believe it as (because America has never been the America that so many Americans think it is), is going to die. Both the reality and the ideal, if you will, of America are going to die. We are going through a metamorphosis. Bush and Cheney and the movement that they lead are the cutting edge of this transformational process that began over thirty years ago.

What the Bush agenda represents is a rupture by our government from the historic social compact with the American people that included the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, assembly, protections of your person, your property and your privacy from the intrusions and predations of government, innocence until proven guilty in a court of law, the right to see the evidence offered against you, the right to your day in court, the right to challenge your detention (habeas corpus), due process, the Geneva Conventions, international law, and so on. While the US has never been above torture and creating a pretext for invading other countries, they have never before attempted and succeeded, no government in modern times has even attempted, to make legal: torture, invasions of other countries that don’t pose a threat to you and haven’t attacked you, and indefinite detentions.

The new America, my friends, is Abu Ghraib. Abu Ghraib isn’t the work of some bad apples. It’s the inevitable and deliberate outcome of the policies of not just the Bush White House but that of Congress as a whole that permitted and, in fact, legalized Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the numerous black sites where prisoners have been shipped to for torture and death. Barbara Olshansky, the brave attorney representing GITMO detainees, has seen the entire hard drive of Sgt. Grainer of pictures from Abu Ghraib. She told me recently that as terrible as the pictures are from Abu Ghraib that have been publicly released, the ones that remain hidden from the public are far, far worse.

Congress made Abu Ghraib the new America when it passed the horrific Military Commissions Act and when the Democrats who could have stopped this bill by filibustering it refused to do so. The Democrats, you see, have accepted the basic premises of the so-called “war on terror” that anything and everything is acceptable and necessary in this GWOT.

In 1945, Nazi Leader Herman Goering said the following while on trial at Nuremburg for crimes against humanity. I use it as the leading quote in my book: “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders . . . tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

The Bush regime is using the Nazis’ playbook and has played the “terrorism card” to great effect. They used it and are using it to justify their illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq and they are using it again in preparing for a military attack on Iran by falsely claiming that Iran is behind attacks on Americans in Iraq.

The leading Democratic candidates for president have all accepted this lie of Bush and Cheney’s. Obama, Edwards and Clinton have all publicly declared that a military attack on Iran, including the possible use of nukes, is acceptable and may be necessary. Meanwhile, “impeachment is off the table.” I’d like to know what the hell this table is that the Democratic leadership keeps referring to that allows nukes to sit on it but won’t allow impeachment! The same people who say that impeachment would be a distraction, a waste of time, and unwarranted, think dropping nukes on a country that’s not attacked us, and is not threatening us, is OK!! What kind of country is it that allows such mafia - no, that’s too good - fascist logic to pass for legitimate discourse?!

***

Hannu: the anti-war demonstrations before the 2003 invasion of Iraq weren't useless. They were extremely important. They didn't stop the invasion - Bush et al were hellbent on that war and it frankly would have taken a near insurrection to stop them - but the protests accomplished a number of things. First, they prevented the UN from giving its seal of approval for the invasion. The so-called "coalition of the willing" (Britain, Spain, Poland and Guam) were the Bush regime's figleaf to cover up that fact. The absence of the UN's approval has helped to foster resistance to this war and helped to undermine its legitimacy. Second, Turkey refused to permit the US to use its turf as a a staging area. Third, because of this resistance, Spain eventually pulled out. Fourth, the protests helped and continue to help promote resistance worldwide and in this country. Fifth, as the IF Stone quote indicates, you have to wage fights that you don't win in the immediate sense in order to win in the long run.
I don't think that demonstrations against the Iraq war made any difference for UN. UN inspectors already beforehand declared that there were no mass destruction weapons in Iraq. Even most European countries were against the Iraq war. But they woke up too late, they should have understood it already when the war in Afghanistan started.

I think that something stronger than demonstrations are needed to stop Bush, Obama and such people. As long as people are willing to serve in the army those guys can fight their wars.

People should refuse going to any military service as it happened during the Vietnam war. American politicians became scared when their young men started to flee to Canada for avoiding the war in Vietnam.
Hannu: Yes, the UN inspectors did say there were no WMD in Iraq. However, the UN as a body doesn't move based mainly upon what their experts tell them. It is a political body. The UN endorsed the first Iraq war under Bush I. They didn't under Bush II. One of the decisive differences was the truly massive demonstrations against the impending invasion.

You are right that we need more than demonstrations and that there need to be soldiers refusing their orders to fight and for that to become sufficiently widespread as to force the wars to end. But how do you get to that point? You have to have a society that is in political ferment and upheaval. It is a combination of determined demonstrations ranging from the small and dramatic to the very large along with individual soldiers who are responding to that disaffection in the society, who are buoyed up by the mass anti-war sentiment, and who also step forward bravely to say that they won't go and won't fight these immoral wars.

Matthis Chiroux, one of those resisters, has spoken to this. See, for example, his talk here. This is an excerpt:

"For GI resistance to be a reality, we have to have a society that's willing to support it. The other vets in the room tell me if I'm wrong, but at least for me, when I was in the military, one of my biggest fears honestly was not physical pain or even getting blown up. My number one fear was being thought of as a coward. I didn't want my fellow service members, I didn't want my countrymen, I didn't want the leaders of my nation to think that I, Matthis Chiroux, was a coward."
I'm living in the country, which has (by the latest surveys I've seen) got the highest support for the national army among the industrial countries.

In general in Finland every male person should enter for the military service for minimum 8 months. But it is very easy to refuse and to take the civil service instead, nowadays you only need to sign a paper telling that you want the civil service instead. But anyway the number of civil servants in Finland is the lowest in Western Europe.

In my time I din't go to the army, but entered the civil service. It was easy, the greatest difficulty was to get the knowledge where and how to tell about my choice. But I know that for many others that kind of choice wouldn't have been easy. They were grown up in the society, where all kinds of authorities were highly respected and couldn't think about doing something unusual in their own social circles. I was maybe a bit different. I never respected much such authorities like army officers, whom I already knew to be simply stupid by their opinions.

Maybe some kind of examples are needed to wake people up to resist wars. But I'm not a strong believer in any 'leadership'. I don't want people to follow any leaders, but to think themselves.
Hannu: On the question of leaders, this is how I see it: no matter what endeavor we're talking about, there are some people who are more knowledgeable, possessing of more insight, and/or better at it than others. In addition, there is also the fact that objective reality exists. If you want to fix a car that's not working, you need to figure out what's ailing the car, otherwise you can't fix it, no matter how hard you may want to fix it and no matter how hard you try. There is something objectively wrong with the car and it matters whether you determine what is wrong or not. Ditto if someone is sick and dying. It matters whether you can determine correctly what's wrong and treat it or not. Otherwise, chances are, the person's going to die.

Would you take your car to someone who hasn't been trained in auto mechanics? Would you take yourself or your loved one to someone who doesn't know the body and doesn't know medicine? Wouldn't you want the best doctor you can find for your loved one? Or would you be content with someone who managed to get through medical school, but who isn't very good at it?

Teachers teach students and while sometimes a student becomes better than their teacher despite having a poor teacher, most of the time good teachers or great teachers produce good or great students. This is a matter of leadership.

Trying to run a society and understanding how that society works is even more complicated than auto mechanics. People can't come to understand what they need to know unless they study it and here is where leadership, good leadership, not bad leadership, comes into play.

The choice we have isn't between leaders or no leaders. If we adopt the stand of no leaders than what will in fact happen is that bad leaders will rule because the people who need good leaders will not have them.

The choice we have is between good leaders and bad leaders. I would define good leaders as being the ones who strive to raise the understanding of those they lead so that the led can become increasingly leaders of others themselves.
"Trying to run a society and understanding how that society works is even more complicated than auto mechanics."

I think that it is something completely else. To run a society has almost nothing to do with mechanics.

I'm 'in reality' a bit ambivalent over the question if 'the objective reality' exists or not. I'm a follower of the main Buddhist doctrine that 'the reality is empty'. It is we who build ourselves 'the reality how it is for us'.

We cannot change 'laws of the nature' but there no 'natural laws of the society', only 'man-made laws'.

At the university I've studied in the beginning natural sciences, especially physics and mathematics. I made my first master's thesis about Gödel's theorems of undecidable problems in mathematics. But my main field is philosophy. I've been teaching philosophy at the university level more than ten years. And in my opinion the world is much more complex than the viewpoint of natural sciences is telling to us.

Later I did quite much work in the field of eduction, too. My main workmate was the guy, Pentti Hakkarainen, who with his friend Yrjö Engeström introduced 'activity theory' in the west. They brought it mainly from Soviet Union. But some Eastern philosophies are there hided in the background... (even if Engeström and Hakkarainen tried to hide that thing.) And Engeström is a clear realist over the question if 'the objective reality' exists. (Yrjö Engeström, Professor of Adult Education, University of Helsinki, Professor Emeritus of Communication, University of California, San Diego). Pentti Hakkarainen's opinion over that thing I never asked. We had something else to do.

In my opinion we don't have such specialists 'to run the society' as we have specialists to fix our physical bodies or our cars.

A truck driver knows much more about the social structures in the truck driver's life than any congress member or any professor of sociology.

And in general politicians and professors are not good 'social workers' or 'sociologists', or socially skillful because academic people didn't study those things, but spent most of their life to read all kinds of books. I have spent much of my life to read all kinds of books, too. But learned to fix cars and to clean my house, too.

I think that the main problem of 'the modern world' is that we made our societies very unequal. The division of the labor is very unequal, when people in reality are very similar with their capacities.

I've known in my life many kinds of people. And I learned quite early that university professors or high level specialists like medical doctors are not at all more intelligent in general than illiterate truck drivers or sweepers. With their social skills formally much educated people are mainly quite weak, because often they never really didn't try to learn those things.
Why is everybody so harsh on Gordo? He's finished "Hooked on Phonics I, and is starting II.







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Hannu: Society and its operations aren't the same thing as an automobile engine. That is true. But I would argue that society and economies operate according to a certain logic. Capitalism, for example, is in some respects human made, but it is also subject to the laws of the accumulation of capital, for instance, and people who live within capitalist systems are subject to those laws. We can choose to overcome those laws, but that means revolutionizing the means of production, etc. That would require a conscious collective act that would need to be organized. In the absence of that people have to operate according to capital's dictates, more or less.
Dennis. I agree with what you said.

People are using the laws of nature for their own purposes. I'm not sure if the accumulation of the capital is 'a law' but certainly it is a well-known process in the society so that it can be used.

I'm just wondering if we could still find laws of the society, something similar like 'the laws of the nature' discovered by physics. I doubt it and at least at present we don't know about them.

Concerning Milgram Experiment I think that the most important social structure there was the structure of the science or actually the structure how students imagined the science should work. The students were told that it was a scientific experiment to give electric shocks to the man in the next room. They were thinking that according to the scientific ideology it is more important to find scientific truths than to protect the human being's life?

I think that Everybody Knows that it is wrong to kill innocent people in Pakistan and in Afghanistan using unmanned planes and missiles so that the victims cannot even do anything to defend themselves.

I think that even Obama knows that it is wrong. Even if he has got no experience about such things. Obama isn't probably not so 'bad man'. He is just young, inexperienced and ignorant. And he was easily cheated by the powerful people behind him to catch the power, which he seems to like much too much. Young people in our societies are often like that. And when they finally understand their mistake it is too late.

So we don't need first hand experience about everything. But we might need enough information to understand what is really going on there. So even our writings could have some effect?

I think that somebody should get a good journalist like Seymour Hersh to be sent to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Maybe he could write there an article like his famous report in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War.

We as well would need to listen several people's life stories. To understand how much inequality we have built in our societies. My own experiences are telling me that fundamentally people are very similar everywhere in the world. But the society treats them like they were very different.

About the anthropology the most important book I have read during the last years is Terra Nullius by Sven Lindqvist.
I think that the whole presidential system is wrong. It is wrong to give to one (stupid) person so much power. The present president of Finland, Tarja Halonen once said: "The power corrupts always". I think that she is right.

It is of course wrong to run such industries, which make their main money by producing weapons. It is wrong to make weapons at all.

America should get rid of its weapon industries and should kick its president out. The rest of the world should get rid of America, before they would manage to do those things.