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The funk of politics – What the demonstrations in Brazil show us

Luísa Monteiro

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Brazilians are no longer satisfied with the current panorama of the country – at least, that is what they have been showcasing in various ways. Ultimately, on March 15th, more than a million citizens took the streets around the country and abroad to protest over issues such as corruption, weak economy and contradictory measures taken by the government of Dilma Roussef, the left-wing President re-elected at the end of 2014.

The political pressure comes at the time in which the country is shaken by the scandal of Petrobras, the Brazilian state-run oil company. It has been revealed under investigation that more than 40 politicians, some of them from the President’s Workers’ Party and the ruling coalition, including the speakers of the House and the Senate, former executives and construction companies were involved in a massive bribery scam and money-laundering case that embezzled billions of dollars. Even though the President was not accused of wrongdoing, it was during her years as Energy Minister and chairwoman of the company that the alleged corruption probe happened. The publicity of it provoked heated discussion among Brazilians – the faithful party’s supporters, the incredulous middle class and the afflicted industrialists. It is hardly shocking that such action applied this particular reaction, if anything we can be relieved that it did. Democracy is still alive and kicking.

A ‘Dilmother’ lode of opinions

The citizens are outraged not only because of the political situation – which they tend to summarize with one word, ‘corruption’, no matter what kind of scandal it is – , but also over Brazilian economy facing tough times, since it is nose-diving in one of the highest inflation rates in the last decade (7,7%) and the currency plunges. All those factors have led the President to take unpopular measures that were previously proposed by the opposition, but promptly condemned by her staff during the campaign- the ’I am in charge now‘ discrepancy, witnessed in every political system all over the world all the time.

All this instability resulted in the political dissatisfaction that gathered people in many capitals across the country. Curiously enough, the events were organised through Facebook and websites by non-partisan groups, thus following the patterns of the manifestations in 2013 and 2014, and reunited a myriad of opinions that longed for changes in the government, despite the differences amongst them.

Once again, we witnessed Brazilians absolutely and passionately divided as in a football match between the ruling parties and the opposition. Many times and regretfully enough, they were not able to understand the similarity of their demands, which is probably due to the way information is ruled and consumed in loco.

In spite of having plenty of information, people tend to absorb it in a passionate, sometimes dangerously non-critical way. In Brazil, an instructive example is that whereas some call President Dilma a ‘mother’, others tend to demonise her and her government, demonstrating that in a country where the number of magazines and newspapers greatly surpasses the number their consumers, press has its share when it offers incomplete and, sometimes, heavily biased analysis on the latest news. On top of that, citizens do not make a habit of going deep into the facts and are prone to adopt a political posture by following closely only one side of the story, deeming those who have different opinions as ‘political illiterates’. At this point, it is clear that willingness to make changes in the way the country is ruled abounds to the degree at which the process of political thinking lacks fruitful, open discussion.  

Before the rally on March 15th, about 40 thousand marched on March 13th in defence of Petrobras and the Workers’ Party. Two days later, those chanting on the street were mostly right-wing oriented, but their claims were not homogeneous and the experts would actually arrange the citizens into democratic, moderate and even ultra-conservative right-wings. Accordingly, several asked for impeachment, others for democratic changes, while some even supported military intervention and secession.

Although the demonstrations were not alike when it comes to the profile of those involved, be that for economical class or political orientation, Datafolha Institute indicates that their reasons, not their views, were convergent. In the contemporary world where 99 % of people live in a different micro cosmos than the remaining 1 %, this is not at all a surprising fact. Moreover, this fusion of views into one voice should be viewed as a positive sign towards a possible future rebellion against the current (political, economic, social and cultural) world order.

The story before March: the 20 cents that woke up the giant and the Cup that tucked him in

It would be ignorant to say this newest manifestation of dissatisfaction is an isolated episode. It has been two years since the first action took place, at that time because of the increase in bus fares, and the authoritative measures taken against the protesters stemmed a series of other protests for bigger and deeper political changes that lasts until today. The Brazilian giant was awake again, craving for changes and, in a cathartic 2013, sure of what he wanted. Today, he still has legit demands, but his voice lowers as the people cannot reach a consensus on what to protest for, which has been making him numb ever since. Hopefully, 2015 will be the wake-up call for every Brazilian to reflect on their political principles and move together towards a common objective.

The initial demonstrations in 2013 can be divided into three distinct acts, all of them organised and sponsored via social media. The first of them counted mostly with students that were outraged about the raise in the fair related to transports. In a non-violent march, those students were brutally supressed by the local police and deprived of their rights. The second phase involved representatives of the society as a whole – old people, children, teachers, workers – that were not only dissatisfied by the way the students had been treated but also demanded broader improvements, better hospitals, well-trained policemen, education for the people and the end of corruption, chanting that the Brazilian giant was finally awake. The third phase was led by a group of black blocks, who acted violently and destroyed several public and private places. This was the first time Dilma’s approval rates amongst electors have fallen significantly since her presidential inauguration.

In 2014, amid the preparation for the World Cup in the country, Brazilians found themselves in a huge scandal for misusing the public funds, corruption and overbilling for the construction of stadiums.

The general tension also mounted with the leaks about the shabbiness in public healthcare and education. As opposed to what was done in the countries that hosted the World Cup before Brazil and also in contrary to what the government announced, most part of the public money was destined for stadiums, whilst the public facilities needed for the event did not receive many investments.

All those reasons incensed the citizens to go to the streets once more in peaceful, yet persistent protests that took place in the first semester of the related year, including during some of the matches.

This time, however, the event was successfully executed and the aftermaths were at the same time confusing and astonishing. Besides having increased the number of tourists and, thus, the money they spent in the country, some of the work was arguably necessary, such as the Stadium in Amazonas, where there is a lack professional soccer teams and the weather is challenging.

It is paramount, therefore, to make it clear that these latest local protests did not occur out of the blue, green and yellow. They happened as a result of sequential factors that led to new political consciousness and habits that include a wider and wider range of citizens, even if this process is still ongoing. By sharing their views through social media, spreading the news in a rapid and effective way and allying themselves with potential supporters who share the same mind-sets, protesters could on the one hand hold a big event and, on the other, increase the power of pressure.

A government that is half of a kind

Now President Dilma has to deal with an ever increasing part of the population that does not feel properly represented by the government, which is especially true for the Brazilian middle class. Researches show that rejection rates achieved 62%, the highest percentage since September, 1992, right before President Fernando Collor de Mello suffered impeachment. Experts disagree on whether impeachment would be a legal or even an acceptable solution, with the population having similarly polarized opinions.

The Worker’s Party, known for its social policies, constantly relates the resistance from the middle class to wealth redistribution – hence, the desired improvement for those in need. Yet, the President now loses adepts in the lower economical layers of society, too, which evidences that her acceptance rates have decreased even among less favoured and illiterate electors.

At this point, it is as important to remember that President Dilma won re-election by a tiny margin as it is worth noting that it happened less than half a year ago. This shows us that even though social media recently played a major role in exposing the government’s weaknesses and pushing it for changes, we should also be reminded that political consciousness should have been taken seriously ages before the chants, and that is on polls.

At that tumultuous Sunday night, the government reacted to this rejection by recognizing the democratic legitimacy of demonstrations, but downplaying their suitability, claiming that the protesters were not able to win during the elections– the demonstrators responded by banging pots and pans and honking car horns.

Now it tries to put the country back on track and desperately hopes to find a magic bullet for the animosities, such as the quick sanction of an anti-corruption law that aims to penalize enterprises involved in corruption scams. Moreover, since the beginning of her new four-year term, the President has changed some of the ministers in her staff, being the newest of them the Education Minister, the philosopher and Ethics professor Renato Janine Ribeiro.

Nevertheless, the next steps in Brazilian politics remain very unclear. Despite making some changes, the government still receives heavy criticism, especially from the organisers responsible for the manifestations, who believe it did not quite understand the needs presented. They claim the government responded insufficiently, by designing fragile policies, and demand more energetic measures towards themes like corruption and the number of ministries. Even they suffer the pressure from the right-wing now, and some of them have recently adjusted the movement’s premises, consequently supporting impeachment.

Some citizens will be rallying against the government again, on April 12th. Until then, we still need to expect few shiny new moves from both sides, the governmental and the protesting part of population. Then, hopefully, the clouds will clear and we will see how much of it is just hot air in our tropical fall.

Luísa Monteiro is a bachelor in Social Communication and is currently taking a Master's degree in Communication and Politics at PUC São Paulo. Her researches are closely linked to the studies of internet as a democratic agora and her latest academic production correlates the (offline) social movements and their exposure on the net.

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Countries Ranked on ‘Democracy’ in 2020

Eric Zuesse

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NATO and its supporters and member-nations are hiding the fact that the predominant belief in many of these nations is that they’re dictatorships that merely pontificate ‘democracy’ to other nations.

NATO, which is America’s propagandistically ‘pro-democracy’ military alliance against Russia and against China, polled the people in 53 countries — some of which are in NATO and some of which aren’t — and asked them whether they believe “My country is democratic,” and found that NATO’s own core country, U.S., was, itself, #38 down from the top, and China was #5, and Russia (NATO’s main target or ‘enemy’ nation) was #48, and that two of the most anti-Russian countries on the list were near the very bottom: the rabidly anti-Russian NATO member Poland was #49, and the NATO-aspiring Ukraine was #47. Anyway, since NATO hid their results, instead of publicizing them, the complete list, with the indicated rankings, are finally being published here (wherever that will be effectively allowed), for the very first time anywhere. 

The rankings have been figured out only by a careful analysis of the visuals that the NATO-affiliated polling organization did publish. The NATO-affiliated organization that paid for the polls of those 53 countries was the billionaires-founded group that calls itself the “Alliance For Democracy,” and they issued a report on the poll’s findings, but excluded from their report the rankings, and made very difficult for a reader to figure out what the rankings were. No one till now went to the trouble of finding out what the rankings were. The NATO-affiliated international-corporate advisory organization, the Rasmussen Group, had selected the German corporate PR firm Dalia Research to do the polling, and the data were presented by them as being “based on nationally representative interviews with 124,000 respondents from 53 countries conducted between April 20th and June 3rd 2020.” So: this was a major research-endeavor for NATO-affiliates (agencies of U.S.-and-allied billionaires); and, since the scores and rankings were hidden by them, instead of having been published by them, the information that is being published here may reasonably be considered to be American samizdat, or prohibited to publish in the United States and in its NATO vassal nations. In other words, publication of this information is effectively blocked in all NATO countries, though the information comes basically from NATO. Publication of this information is effectively banned throughout the U.S. empire, but perhaps this information will become published in whatever news-media are not controlled by the billionaires who control the U.S. Government. Presumably, media such as CNN, New York Times, Fox News, and The Atlantic, will reject this article, which is being simultaneously submitted to virtually all English-language news media throughout the U.S. and its allied countries. 

Here are the findings, and the rankings:

% saying yes to ‘My country is democratic’ 

(ranks shown are out of the 53 countries that were surveyed):

78% Taiwan #1

77% Denmark #2

75% Switzerland #3

75% S. Korea #4

73% China #5

73% Austria #6

71% Vietnam #7

71% India #8

71% Norway #9

69% Argentina #10

69% Sweden #11

67% Germany #12

66% Netherlands #13

65% Philippines #14

65% Portugal #15

64% Canada #16

63% Singapore #17

61% Malaysia #18

61% Greece #19

60% Ireland #20

59% Israel #21

57% Indonesia #22

56% Spain #23

56% Australia #24

56% UK #25

56% Turkey #26

55% Belgium #27

55% Peru #28

54% South Africa #29

54% Romania #30

54% Italy #31

53% Saudi Arabia #32

53% Pakistan #33

52% France #34

52% Mexico #35

51% Brazil #36

49% Kenya #37

48% U.S. #38

46% Japan #39

46% Colombia #40

45% Thailand #41

45% Algeria #42

43% Nigeria #43

42% Chile #44

41% Egypt #45

40% Morocco #46

40% Ukraine #47

39% Russia #48

38% Poland #49

37% Hong Kong #50

36% Hungary #51

28% Iran #52

24% Venezuela #53

Here is the background, after which will be presented more information from this poll, and from polls on related issues:

On June 15th, the NATO-allied (that’s to say anti-Russian and anti-Chinese) “Alliance of Democracies”, and the neoconservative or Rhodesist (pro-imperialist UK-U.S. “Special Relationship”) German corporate PR firm Dalia Research, released their annual “Democracy Perceptions Index” surveys that were taken in 53 countries, regarding the extent to which each country’s population considers its Government to be a democracy. The secretive “Alliance of Democracies” was founded with international megacorporate donations in 2014 (not in 2017 as Wikipedia alleges), by the ideologically libertarian (or anti-socialist, pro-megacorporate) former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who had been Denmark’s Prime Minister, who had tried, during his time leading Denmark, to weaken his own country’s socialism, and to strengthen the control of Denmark by U.S.-and-allied international corporations (especially Lockheed Martin and the other U.S. Government contractors that sell only to the U.S. Government and to its vassal governments). 

Rasmussen Global (which likewise was founded in 2014 by Anders Fogh Rasmussen) “advise[s] clients on transatlantic issues, international affairs and public policy management” and funded these surveys (which are part of “public policy management” or, as they say, “cutting through the noise” — by boosting only such “noise” as they want their publics to hear). Among the 53 surveyed countries are U.S., UK, Canada & Australia, but not New Zealand (which Rhodesists consider to be part of the core of the empire, but apparently it isn’t a big enough nation to be included in these surveys). Here can be seen the official published summary of the latest year’s survey findings:

“Democracy Perception Index – 2020”

https://daliaresearch.com/blog/democracy-perception-index-2020/

The surveys poll these 53 countries on “My country is democratic,” and on “My government serves only a minority.” (Also covered are some other issues, which will be covered subsequently here.) The United States ranks slightly below the good side and toward the bad side — and below 50% good — on both. China ranks near the top on both: 73% of Chinese answer “My country is democratic,” and only 13% say “My country serves only a minority.” However, since the “Alliance of Democracies” is Rhodesist and therefore intends ultimately to conquer China (it’s a target of NATO, instead of a member of NATO), this “Alliance” nonetheless categorizes China as being “Not Free,” and categorizes U.S., UK, Canada & Australia as “Free” (even though the poll found that a vastly higher percentage of Chinese think they live in a democracy than of people in U.S., UK, Canada, or Australia, do). The “Not Free” category includes only the following few countries among the 53 surveyed: China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia (for once, their opinion is correct on Saudi Arabia, but 53% of Saudis have a different view and say “My country is democratic”), Algeria, Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Venezuela. (All of those are countries that Rhodesists especially want to conquer, or — in the case of Saudi Arabia — have already conquered but which is too blatantly dictatorial not to include in the “Not Free” category. On 15 July 2016, NATO unsuccessfully attempted — or else merely assisted — a coup against NATO-member nation Turkey, aiming to restore Turkey to its prior control by the U.S. Government, such as Turkey had been when it was admitted into NATO in 1952.) 

Venezuela is an outlier like Saudi Arabia, in that both countries’ populations have an unrealistic view of their Government. For example: by an overwhelming net margin of +42%, the residents of Venezuela (which the U.S. regime keeps trying to conquer) say that the U.S. helps democracy around the world. (Most countries’ populations predominantly say that the U.S. regime hurts democracy around the world, and this belief includes the publics not only in China, Russia and Iran, but in Canada, UK, and Australia. So, U.S. imperialism is widely feared, but not in Venezuela.) Only 24% of Venezuelans say “My country is democratic.” 74% of Venezuelans say “My Government serves only a minority.” So, Venezuelans overwhelmingly want the U.S. regime’s coup-efforts to overthrow their Government to succeed. Apparently, the U.S. regime’s propaganda saying that the economic depression in Venezuela was caused by Venezuela’s Government instead of by America’s economic blockade against Venezuela has overwhelmingly succeeded. Venezuelans trust the U.S. Government more than they trust their own.

39% of Russians say “My country is democratic,” and 59% say “My government serves only a minority.” And 40% of Ukrainians say “My country is democratic,” while 70% of Ukrainians say “My government serves only a minority.” (Only one of the 53 surveyed countries had a higher percentage — it was 71% — who said their Government “serves only a minority”: Brazil.) Therefore, clearly, around 10% of Ukrainians are confused about what “democracy” even means. (If a country’s Government “serves only a minority,” then how can it be “democratic”?) As regards Russia, surveys of Russians have shown that most Russians distrust the Government but trust its President, Vladimir Putin. Surveys in the U.S. show that most Americans distrust the President, Donald Trump, but distrust Congress even more than that. 52% of Americans in this survey by Dalia Research said that their Government “serves only a minority.” 49% said “My country is democratic.” So, only around 3% of Americans were confused about what “democracy” means. (Scientifically minded political scientists aren’t at all confused about that: the measure that they use in order to determine whether or not a nation is a democracy is the extent to which its Government serves the majority of its residents. What they have found regarding the United States is that it definitely isn’t a democracy.)

As I summarized all of the data from other sources as-of 2018, on 6 May 2018, “Although one can reasonably debate the degree to which any nation is a democracy, the United States certainly stands rather low on that factor, and stands well below China, and is perhaps lower than Russia, but none of these countries is among the world’s worst — except, perhaps, the U.S., for its having the world’s highest percentage of its people in prison.” All of that is still true today.

In any case: not even America’s allies are fooled any longer about the U.S. Government’s posturings that it is a democracy. And there is extensive history also documenting that Americans are less and less fooled about this. But, because America is not a democracy, this article probably won’t be published in any major media inside America, though it is being submitted to all of them. So, if you’re not seeing it in U.S. media, that’s the reason why.

Also, recently, the “2020 Edelman Trust Barometer” results were published. The methodology in that was “Randomly selected 1,150 respondents in each of 28 countries around the world, surveyed by Edelman Worldwide, between 19 October and 18 November, in 2019.” It showed how much the people in each of the 28 countries trust their Government, and also how much they trust the news-media in their country. What it found was that trust in the country’s Government was the highest, 90%. in China, and was only 39% in U.S., 33% in Russia, and 20% in South Africa. Also: trust, by the people, in the given country’s media, was the highest, 80%, in China, and was 48% in U.S., and the lowest, 28%, in Russia, but South Africa wasn’t shown on that particular question.

Furthermore, the polling by Dalia Research found that these nations were rated by their residents the highest, and the lowest, in regard to the coronavirus challenge:

1. China

2. Vietnam

3. Greece

4. Malaysia

5. Ireland

6. Taiwan

7. Australia

8. Denmark

9. S. Korea

10: Austria

44. Hong Kong

45. Mexico

46. Russia

47. Italy

48. U.S.

49. Japan

50. Spain

51. France

52. Chile

53. Brazil

Moreover, though the residents in U.S., and also in Japan, low-rated the coronavirus-performance of their own Government, those people were profoundly deceived by their newsmedia regarding how well China’s Government had handled this challenge. This polling report stated:

“Nearly all countries say that China’s response to the COVID-19 is better than the US’s”; but that:

“When asked to assess China’s and the US’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all countries rate China’s response as much better. The only countries that think the US’s response is better are Japan (+17% in favor of US) and the US itself (+13% in favor of the US).”

In other words: the ‘news’-media in Japan and in the United States are (and this is proven in the latest data concerning all nations) grossly misrepresenting the reality (which is that China’s response has been enormously more effective than America’s has, in controlling the spread of this infection), and the news-media are far less deceptive in all of the other nations surveyed — far higher percentages of the people in all of those other nations recognize that the performance of China’s Government regarding the coronavirus challenge has been vastly more effective at controlling this plague than America’s Government is

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Fighting Existential Angst: Vainly Seeking “Therapy” On The Social Networks

Prof. Louis René Beres

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“The crowd is untruth.”-Sören Kierkegaard, Point of View, That Individual

Early philosophical explorations of anxiety are best traced to Sören Kierkegaard in the nineteenth century. For the seminal Danish thinker, this concept – often referred to colloquially as angst – has its core origins in existential dread; that is, a literal fear of  “not being.”[1] Whether or not such a primal view of anxiety ought still obtain (Freud, for example, introduced several important “modifications”), one corollary remains certain:

Therapeutic benefits are increasingly being sought on the computer, smart phone or some other crowd-oriented gadget.

This is hardly a mysterious or controversial corollary. These days, we can all casually witness the reassuringly deep pleasures bestowed by any shiny new communications “device.” Indeed, for seemingly uncountable souls, little can meaningfully compare to the palpable joys of some impending or imminentmessage. Reciprocally, however, nothing can produce a more pervasive private darkness or despair  than the  dreadful reverberations of extended machine silence.

“It is getting late,” remarks the poet W.H. Auden knowingly in The Age of Anxiety, “shall we ever be asked for? Are we simply not wanted at all?”

Explanations, though lamentable, are nonetheless obvious. Personal devices, expressly interlinked, promise us more than suitably efficient routings to enhanced personal safety or some accessible method to “stay in touch.”  However inconspicuous, conversing or messaging can grant the communicating individuals a satisfyingly easy and convenient “therapy.” Above all, they can permit both sender and recipient to feel needed, valuable, less anonymous, and  –  most importantly, always – less alone. 

If there has ever been reason not to doubt the perceived importance of avoiding aloneness, of being “asked for” or “wanted,” one need only consider American risk-taking behavior during the ongoing pandemic. Even now, when the high dangers of disease transmission have been well-publicized and the grievous consequences of Covid19 well-established, millions of our fellow citizens seek out glaringly unprotected public spaces. On both Memorial Day and July 4th, the urge to be “less alone” generated wide swaths of misplaced conviviality and corresponding fatalities.

Ultimately, a diminished sense of aloneness is what the social networks are all about. There are even certain “macro” or “cosmological” issues discoverable in every conceivable mix of plausible explanations. The known universe is probably  billions of light years “across.”  Yet, here, in a rapidly dissembling America and virtually everywhere else on this imperiled planet, most human beings lack the will[2] to become individuals.

Plainly lack this will.

“…it must be in every man’s power to become what he is, an individual….,” reminds Sören Kierkegaard in Point of View, That Individual. “From becoming an individual no one, no one at all, is excluded, except he who excludes himself by becoming a crowd.”

The ironies are several, and bitter. “Why bother?” the American crowd seems to reason. “Why even take the existential (or near-existential) risk of becoming a person?” Better just to “fit in” and do what is expected. And what is the most evident result of such cowardly thinking?

 In a distillation, it is the patently deranged presidency of Donald J. Trump.[3]

There is more. The cell phone and its related social networks have not actually “caused” users to suffer, exhibit or confront any “fear and trembling” (a mesmerizing conjunction earlier made famous by Kierkegaard).  These devices remain “just” tell-tale instruments of assessment, “diagnostic tools” that can – at least in principle -help one to identify and conquer any deeply primal angst. Without this prosaic but still-satisfying tool, such core apprehensions might otherwise lie undetected and infinitely dormant.

 In all pertinent instances of philosophic reflection, a revealing leitmotif must finally make itself known and understood. Most regrettably, there exists a more-or-less universal human wish to remain inconscient, unaware, not only of myriad external or “systemic” threats, but also of oneself. Minute by minute,  this very conspicuous wish leads millions of anxious souls[4] to stray dangerously far from the redemptive potential of authentic personhood,  toward the more easily cultivated but always-deceptive security of one or another “herd.”

Often, especially in generally affluent societies, we humans fear personal exclusion more than anything else, sometimes (as we can recall perilous personal behaviors on Memorial Day and July 4), more fearfully than personal death. This evanescent fear uncovers a critically important decisional calculus, one that may be responsible for manifestly assorted instances of war, terrorism and genocide.  Incontestably, the human need to belong can become so utterly overwhelming that many will literally killvarious others –at times, any others and many others – rather than face prolonged personal isolation or some presumed social ostracism.[5]

“Shall we ever be asked for….?” asks the poet Auden, knowingly.

The inner fear of loneliness so keenly expressed by social networking  gives rise to still another problem, one with a distinctly special significance for high school and university students. To begin to understand this special significance, one must first understand that nothing important in science or industry or art or music or literature or medicine or philosophy can ever take place without at least some already endured measure of personal loneliness. So as to exist apart from the mass – that is, to be tolerably extracted from what Freud had called the “primal horde” or what Nietzsche termed the “herd,” or Kierkegaard the “crowd” – is indispensable to any exceptional intellectual development.

If it were different, Americans would be getting their medical and scientific counsel from the all-too-numerous political hucksters, and not from the acclaimed epidemiologists. Recently the Lt. Governor of Texas urged Americans not to listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci about the pandemic, but instead to a president still shrieking at his incoherent “rallies” that  the virus will soon simply “disappear.”

I belong. Therefore I am. Turning philosopher René Descartes’ famous reasoning on its head, this now pitifully twisted mantra best expresses the sad credo common to all social network “addictions.” Among other things, it reveals a not-so-stirring manifesto that recognizable social acceptance is not merely vital, but immanent to one’s own personal survival.  

 Today, quite easily, the noisy and uneasy mass has infested our solitude.  Upon most of us, the telltale traces of “herd life” (the Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung would have called it a “mass” life) may have become indelible.  Accordingly, we have already prodded entire societies to nurture their own intellectual and ethical declensions.

There is more. Unambiguously, human life is always death’s prisoner.  Until we can face this ultimately overriding truth, we can never experience our carefully limited and  numbered moments with any sincere pleasure. Presently, despite our manifold efforts to stay connected with cellular telephone calls, tweets and texts, our bewildering personal doubts  have become cheerless and inexhaustible. In essence, this is because we continue to look “outside,” to others, to define (1) who we are; and (2) what we might still become.

 In part, at least, the immense attraction of cell phones and related social networking derives from our manifestly breathless and machine-like existence. Now, “We the people” typically celebrate any available expressions of a convenient push-button metaphysics.  Now, absolutely every hint of personal passion must expectedly follow a narrowly uniform pathway.

Always, we are expected to become each other, fully compliant and duly homogenized.

 Nonetheless, in glaring disregard for truth, we stubbornly insist that we can still remain in full control of our machines.

Credo quia absurdum! “I believe because it is absurd.”

Always, such insistence is shallow and unsupportable.

 Wherever we might choose to turn, we witness an implicit reciprocity between creator and creation, an elaborate pantomime between users and used.  Predictably, our multiple and intersecting techno-constructions are making a machine out of both Man and Woman. In what amounts to a prospectively unforgivable inversion of Genesis, we humans now generally behave as if we had been created in imago machina, in the image of the machine.

Could there be any greater “blasphemy?”

There is more. Preoccupation with personal devices and social networking is merely the most visible symptom of a much deeper pathology. Accordingly, the basic “disease” that we now suffer is a variously painful incapacity to be at peace with ourselves. In the United States, where this particular sort of corrosive primal illness can choke off the future as well as the present, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s earlier call for “high thinking” has gone unheeded; it has already been supplanted by the insufferably banal syllogisms of a barren national politics[6] and by an “everyone for himself” ethos of entrepreneurial or professional logic.

Any such ethos is inherently self-destructive and prospectively lethal. In the exact words of distinguished Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man.  this corrosive ethos must inevitably prove “false and against nature.” Today, as the United States shamelessly expresses an orientation much too casually described as “America First,” this country has become the reductio ad absurdum of what the seventeenth century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes had earlier called “a war of all against all.”

In any such war – which Jefferson and the American Founding Fathers had recognized as a bellum omnium contra omnes – there can be no tangible victories. To wit, under the crumbling Republic of Donald J. Trump, America’s status and power in the world have descended to once-unimaginable levels.

We live at a moment of genuine “plague,” of pestilence, of rapidly spreading viral disease that threatens each and every one of us with extinction, as individuals. It follows that angst may now have a new and less subjective source of justification.[7] It follows also that incrementally available therapies will stem not from any tangible locations on a beloved “device,” but from the more traditional drug-based remedies of contemporary medical science. This will hardly represent the long-term societal cure that is required, but it would at least allow us more time to cumulatively build back what we have so shamelessly neglected and dismantled. As Americans, the survival imperative is unambiguous. It is an overriding obligation to fight against existential angst not under the hypnotizing banners of any “crowd,” but as individuals accepting a common national obligation to think seriously.

This last point now needs to be made emphatic. In a nation where the current president made his 2016 Convention acceptance speech in conjunction  with Duck Dynasty, and who campaigned on the bewildering principle of “I love the poorly educated,” citizens have a fundamental obligation to combat the stubbornly complacent American ethos of anti-thought. Looking ahead, if we should continue to abide the instrumental notion of education as an adornment, or as narrowly vocational preparation, we will continue to be led by grotesque charlatans and fools. To halt such a lethal continuance is still in our residual power, but only if we can first finally reject the suffocating anti-intellectualism of a “crowd.”[8]

Always, we must recall the singular wisdom of Sören Kierkegaard, “The crowd is untruth.”


[1] Such fear is not necessarily analogous to death fear. It is more far-reaching because it precludes any “mitigating” forms of resurrection, eternality or re-birth.

[2] Modern philosophic origins of the term “will” lie in writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration (and by his own expressed acknowledgment), Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Friedrich Nietzsche drew just as freely (and perhaps more importantly) upon Schopenhauer. Goethe. also served as a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, author of the prophetic work, The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas (1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very grand essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the occasion of the centenary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948) and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[3] Seem by this writer, Louis René Beres/https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/06/01/donald-trump-the-crowd-and-a-nations-bitter-despair/

[4] Both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the very essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provides a precise definition of the term, but clearly it was not intended by either in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a still-recognizable and critical seat of both mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted decline of America by various express references to “soul.” Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (e.g., awareness of intellect and literature), and even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological misery.

[5] This brings to mind Ernest Becker’s famous paraphrase of Elias Canetti: “Each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.” See Ernest  Becker, Escape from Evil (1975).

[6] See, by this writer, at Princeton, Louis René Beres, https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/02/emptiness-and-consciousness

[7] In this connection, notes José Ortega y’ Gasset, the Spanish existentialist philosopher: “Each of us is both the subject and the protagonist of his own nontransferable life.” (Man and Crisis, 1958).

[8] In this connection, “Resistance to the organized mass,” says Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung in The Undiscovered Self, “can be effected only by the man (or woman) who is as well-organized in his individuality as the mass itself.” Plainly, Jung was intellectually indebted to Kierkegaard as well as to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.

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Americas

The Free And The Fettered

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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It was almost two-and-one-half centuries ago — July 2, 1776 to be exact — when the American colonies voted for independence; two days later, on July 4, they ratified the draft of the declaration.  It includes the famous words:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident:  that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness …”

True today as they were then, these words remain a dream for ordinary people and a nightmare for dictators, factual and putative.  One only has to cast a glance at the two most populous countries in the world.  But then continuing on to the rest of it and the picture is no different in most.  Look to the east and west of India and keep going.  You end up in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans with nary a thought of Jefferson’s famous words. 

It is the Pacific where Hong Kong demonstrations have been protecting the erosion of freedoms promised when sovereignty was returned to China in 1997.  Now President Xi Jinping has signed into effect a new draconian law aimed directly at protesters.  It threatens prison for life and protesters have chosen quiet.  Demosisto, the pro-democracy organization behind the protests, has announced it will cease all operations and has disbanded. 

Perhaps Mr. Xi can keep a tight lid on the simmering anger in Hong Kong, although even a pressure cooker has a safety valve, without which the tighter the lid the larger the explosion.  There is also the thought that Hong Kong itself has been an outlet for those in mainland China seeking release from Mr. Xi’s ever tightening embrace.

Then there are the Uyghurs of Xinjiang autonomous region in northwest China.  Their restlessness under a relentless Sinicization regime has them interned in re-education camps.  What is required of them is to become culturally Chinese, giving their own way of life to adapt to Han customs and traditions.  It is a tall order and the question is, why?  Different peoples with different customs have lived together in the past, making the world richer in its diversity.  A narrow-minded focus on uniformity destroys languages and cultures; and our world is poorer for it.

Further south to India and to Mr. Narindra Modi’s Hindutva movement which believes in the country’s adoption of a solely Hindu culture.  A lockdown and communications blackout in Muslim Kashmir, the Sikhs in the Punjab demanding Khalistan; Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and other tribes in the northeast also still yearning cultural freedom.  If thousands of young men have been detained in Kashmir to curb protests, their detention is even less likely to befriend them to Mr. Modi whose iron fist relies on the tens of thousands of security forces in their homeland — even if they want to, who can shake hands with a fist? 

The story of a dominant group suppressing the weaker does not end there, and if one were to look at economic dominance over the centuries, one would notice the comfortable west trading higher priced manufactured goods for artificially low-priced raw materials.  It is how the Indian subcontinent became a pauper when once it generated a fifth of world GDP.

So as the US celebrates Independence Day, let us remember what it stands for, that ‘all men are created equal’; that they are endowed with the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.  And then let us remind ourselves of all the peoples still yearning for that simple yet eloquent dream. 

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