Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

Today I have been and will continue to be bombarded by emotional displays of patriotism.  I will hear "God bless America" more times than I can count.  The people around me will discuss their appreciation for democratic values and the freedom that we enjoy.

Freedom is a loaded word - that is, a word that is employed more for the purpose of stirring up emotional reactions than to denote any meaningful reality.  What does "freedom" actually mean?  In the case of the U.S., freedom is generally synonymous with representative democracy and capitalism.  However, representative democracy is a form of oligarchy, and capitalism runs on slavery and exploitation.  If one looks at material reality, the conditions to which the term "freedom" are generally applied render the word absolutely meaningless.  We're dealing with Orwellian linguistics here.

But, we have freedom of the press!  Yes, anyone has the ability to publish official narratives and mainstream viewpoints, without impediment.  Of course, there are many issues (particularly related to global affairs) where you will only find one perspective in any American media source.  Alternate points of view are nowhere to be found... except in foreign newspapers.  And try to publish anything that the Powers That Be find truly threatening - say, start a site called WikiLeaks - and you will be hunted down like Osama Bin Laden.

But, we do not jail and torture dissidents!  Or.... do we?  Arbitrary detention of U.S. citizens is permissible by law, and torture does not seem to be beneath us either. Heck, we can just send a drone over to annihilate someone who is saying things that bother us.

But we have freedom of religion!  No one is forcing me to pray, or go to church, or wear a veil.  Now, if you happen to be Muslim, you just have to put up with a little surveillance here and there, and probably should plan to always be detained at the airport.  And you may be ridiculed and called a terrorist by everyone around you.  No big deal.

Well, at least the state isn't telling us what to buy and where to work.  Good point.  The small number of mega-conglomerates who control the production and distribution of most consumer goods tell us what to buy and where to work.  That is so much better than the state.

Well goshdarnit, at least I don't have any King George telling me what to do and making me pay taxes on my tea.  If only power were vested in a single individual.  Revolution would be SO MUCH easier!  Get rid of the King, and restore power to the people!  But that is not how it worked in 1776, and that is not how it works now.  The King is a symbol, and democracy is a symbol, both used to legitimate what is actually an oligarchic social reality.

The American Revolution was NOT a case of people rebelling against a tyrant and fighting for their freedom.  It is a case of structural transformations and adjustments, spearheaded by capitalist interests, for the benefit of capitalist interests, and to the detriment of every common person.  You don't even need to look at Canada to realize that the Revolution was of little consequence.  It followed from the internal logic of the capitalist system - the birthing pains of the emerging world order.

Now, I will not be waving any American flags today.  Not because I hate America.  (I generally do not direct my emotions toward symbolic, intangible objects.)  But because patriotism is simply a euphemism for nationalism, and nationalism is a form of state manipulation of emotions, which is often paired with racism/xenophobia.  

I would prefer to celebrate universal, trans-national values.  Peace, tolerance, equity.

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