Contentification of the Weekend tragedies

The contentification (well that’s due to my lack of vocabulary), of dissident communities is nothing new. It takes place by sheer force, or implicit persuasion. The sheer force is very visible, very unacceptable, for our double standards to consume. How can after all, we civilized human beings accept the ‘undemocratic’ practices?

Hence folks fought against the British in India, and fought against British against South Africa. In India they succeeded in throwing the colonialists out. In South Africa, they threw the imperialists out of power, if not out of the land.

Very visible were the Nazi invasions. We all hated Hitler to call ourselves civilized. We even hated Stalin who wiped out our object of hatred, the Hitler. Because Stalin was also visibly controlling. In fact we ended up hating Communism as much as Fascism. In fact, we hated Communism more, because Fascism did not contradict our own senses of racial superiorities like we perceived under our very own democracy. Our democracies neglected women, minorities, the people with disabilities, old people, children in schools, men in military. Fascism was no different.

But Communism which was speaking against Fascism and our own types of democracies, was the real threat. Hence we needed to hate Communism for at least four more decades. First we were afraid of Hitler. But Stalin took care of that. And since we need to look good, this year (this week in fact), we visited the Soviets to celebrate the death of 32 million Commie bastards. Between Fascism and Communism, we needed to acknowledge the latter’s contributions. Hence when we needed to bomb Japan, we needed to love Stalin. In fact our most loved Prez FDR (who was power hungry to his fourth term! even as we condemn third world dynastical rules) came back to proclaim Stalin was our friend. But Stalin did not feel the need to kill more Commies in the name of democracy. So we had to hate Stalin. After all, either you are with us, or you are doomed to be proclaimed dictator in rest of our history books. Even in our friend Khrushchev’s history books.

We are civilized folks. How can we accept anything visibly disturbing? In India, the Gandhi had three monkeys. One had its ear closed—not to listen to evil things. One had its eyes closed—not to see anything evil. One had its mouth shut—not to speak evil.

We are civilized. We need to close our ears, eyes and mouths.

How else can we not see the war Operation Matador going on at the Syrian border today? This morning, the U.S. offensive have pounded the area with airstrikes, artillery barrages and gunfire and a man exclaimed to the Associated Press Television News in Qaim “They destroyed our city, killed our children, destroyed our houses. We have nothing left”. But this quote came toward the end of the stories. The main story as presented by AP was this: “American fighter jets flattened a suspected insurgent safe house near the Syrian border, the U.S. military said Friday, as hundreds of U.S. troops searched remote desert villages house by house for followers of Iraq’s most wanted militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.”

Indeed, what is visible here is the most wanted militant leader being hounded. Invisible are the cries of the residents whose houses have been targeted, whose family members killed for none of their faults and who have unwelcome visitors speaking American slangs at the mid of the nights.

These are times of struggle between the visible and the invisible. And invariably the visible has won. The visibles, very elite minority, own the media houses and they own 80 per cent of world’s capital. The visibles today get to tell their stories and suppress the majority’s. The visibles have converted the world into a police state and controlled the stories we come to hear of others to such extent that my immigrant friends exclaim: poor in America? You must be kidding!

Because the poverty, homelessness, illiteracy, prison population, prostitution, per capita debt, defense spending etc etc are falling in the invisible category.

Reprinted from Austin Chronicle, City Pages of Minneapolis had an article by Michael Ventura on February 23, 2005. Ventura had put down many scribbles together so that factoids start making meaningful themes. I am stating it here completely, lest it disappears from public memory and internet archives:

No concept lies more firmly embedded in our national character than the notion that the USA is “No. 1,” “the greatest.” Our broadcast media are, in essence, continuous advertisements for the brand name “America Is No. 1.” Any office seeker saying otherwise would be committing political suicide. In fact, anyone saying otherwise will be labeled “un-American.” We’re an “empire,” ain’t we? Sure we are. An empire without a manufacturing base. An empire that must borrow $2 billion a day from its competitors in order to function. Yet the delusion is ineradicable. We’re No. 1. Well…this is the country you really live in:
• The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (the New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).
• The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
• Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth. Seventeen percent believe the earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).
• “The International Adult Literacy Survey…found that Americans with less than nine years of education ‘score worse than virtually all of the other countries'” (Jeremy Rifkin’s superbly documented book The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).
• Our workers are so ignorant and lack so many basic skills that American businesses spend $30 billion a year on remedial training (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004). No wonder they relocate elsewhere!
• “The European Union leads the U.S. in…the number of science and engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D) expenditures; and new capital raised” (The European Dream, p.70).
• “Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest producer of scientific literature” (The European Dream, p.70).
• Nevertheless, Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation. The agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004).
• Foreign applications to U.S. grad schools declined 28 percent last year. Foreign student enrollment on all levels fell for the first time in three decades, but increased greatly in Europe and China. Last year Chinese grad-school graduates in the U.S. dropped 56 percent, Indians 51 percent, South Koreans 28 percent (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004). We’re not the place to be anymore.
• The World Health Organization “ranked the countries of the world in terms of overall health performance, and the U.S. [was]…37th.” In the fairness of health care, we’re 54th. “The irony is that the United States spends more per capita for health care than any other nation in the world” (The European Dream, pp.79-80). Pay more, get lots, lots less.
• “The U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all their citizens” (The European Dream, p.80). Excuse me, but since when is South Africa a “developed” country? Anyway, that’s the company we’re keeping.
• Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American deaths a year. (That’s six times the number of people killed on 9/11.) (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005.)
• “U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower” (The European Dream, p.81). Been to Mexico lately? Does it look “developed” to you? Yet it’s the only “developed” country to score lower in childhood poverty.
• Twelve million American families–more than 10 percent of all U.S. households–“continue to struggle, and not always successfully, to feed themselves.” Families that “had members who actually went hungry at some point last year” numbered 3.9 million (NYT, Nov. 22, 2004).
• The United States is 41st in the world in infant mortality. Cuba scores higher (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
• Women are 70 percent more likely to die in childbirth in America than in Europe (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005).
• The leading cause of death of pregnant women in this country is murder (CNN, Dec. 14, 2004).
• “Of the 20 most developed countries in the world, the U.S. was dead last in the growth rate of total compensation to its workforce in the 1980s…. In the 1990s, the U.S. average compensation growth rate grew only slightly, at an annual rate of about 0.1 percent” (The European Dream, p.39). Yet Americans work longer hours per year than any other industrialized country, and get less vacation time.
• “Sixty-one of the 140 biggest companies on the Global Fortune 500 rankings are European, while only 50 are U.S. companies” (The European Dream, p.66). “In a recent survey of the world’s 50 best companies, conducted by Global Finance, all but one were European” (The European Dream, p.69).
• “Fourteen of the 20 largest commercial banks in the world today are European…. In the chemical industry, the European company BASF is the world’s leader, and three of the top six players are European. In engineering and construction, three of the top five companies are European…. The two others are Japanese. Not a single American engineering and construction company is included among the world’s top nine competitors. In food and consumer products, Nestlé and Unilever, two European giants, rank first and second, respectively, in the world. In the food and drugstore retail trade, two European companies…are first and second, and European companies make up five of the top ten. Only four U.S. companies are on the list” (The European Dream, p.68).
• The United States has lost 1.3 million jobs to China in the last decade (CNN, Jan. 12, 2005).
• U.S. employers eliminated 1 million jobs in 2004 (The Week, Jan. 14, 2005).
• Three million six hundred thousand Americans ran out of unemployment insurance last year; 1.8 million–one in five–unemployed workers are jobless for more than six months (NYT, Jan. 9, 2005).
• Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea hold 40 percent of our government debt. (That’s why we talk nice to them.) “By helping keep mortgage rates from rising, China has come to play an enormous and little-noticed role in sustaining the American housing boom” (NYT, Dec. 4, 2004). Read that twice. We owe our housing boom to China, because they want us to keep buying all that stuff they manufacture.
• Sometime in the next 10 years Brazil will probably pass the U.S. as the world’s largest agricultural producer. Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of chickens, orange juice, sugar, coffee, and tobacco. Last year, Brazil passed the U.S. as the world’s largest beef producer. (Hear that, you poor deluded cowboys?) As a result, while we bear record trade deficits, Brazil boasts a $30 billion trade surplus (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
• As of last June, the U.S. imported more food than it exported (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
• Bush: 62,027,582 votes. Kerry: 59,026,003 votes. Number of eligible voters who didn’t show up: 79,279,000 (NYT, Dec. 26, 2004). That’s more than a third. Way more. If more than a third of Iraqis don’t show for their election, no country in the world will think that election legitimate.
• One-third of all U.S. children are born out of wedlock. One-half of all U.S. children will live in a one-parent house (CNN, Dec. 10, 2004).
• “Americans are now spending more money on gambling than on movies, videos, DVDs, music, and books combined” (The European Dream, p.28).
• “Nearly one out of four Americans [believe] that using violence to get what they want is acceptable” (The European Dream, p.32).
• Forty-three percent of Americans think torture is sometimes justified, according to a PEW Poll (Associated Press, Aug. 19, 2004).
• “Nearly 900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002, the last year for which such data are available” (USA Today, Dec. 21, 2004).
• “The International Association of Chiefs of Police said that cuts by the [Bush] administration in federal aid to local police agencies have left the nation more vulnerable than ever” (USA Today, Nov. 17, 2004).
No. 1? In most important categories we’re not even in the Top 10 anymore. Not even close.
The USA is “No. 1” in nothing but weaponry, consumer spending, debt, and delusion.

Ventura has indeed quoted the mainstream press (not some conspiracy media) to substantiate a claim.

And after having said this, it’s important to note that the tidbits here are not part of the larger discussions still. The press after quoting figures has left the interpretation part out, in the true tradition of the objective media! So with dry disjointed figures, one hardly sees the picture. And proving Lincoln wrong, we have been fooled for all the times to come. After what we have done to the rest of the world, if we go into believing that we have not been fooled into the assumption that we are going to remain the Top (sic!) country…..

Else, we should have shut up and not fucked (over and over again) the peace of the peoples of China, Italy, Greece, the Philippines, Korea, Albenia, Eastern Europe, Germany, Iran, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Syria, the Middle East, Indonesia, Western Europe, British Guiana, Soviet Union, Cambodia, Laos, Haiti, France/Algeria, Ecuador, the Congo, Brazil, Peru, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Ghana, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Australia, Angola, Zaire, Jamaica, Seychelles, Grenada, Morocco, Suriname, Libya, Nicaragua, Panama, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and the peoples of the Americas.

You will wonder, unlike the countries named above who were all attacked within the last 50 years, India does not figure. Still, why the hell am I cribbing?

Well, precisely, that is why. Rest of the world has been bundled. And waiting. And one doesn’t have to be an Indian or Greenlander to keep quite. You just have to be the well meaning, god-fearing American who keeps electing the war mongers to power, to keep quite. For the rest of us world citizens, we need to ask of our land and future.

Whose land is this anyway? Like my fellow immigrant population, I am being asked to go through the process of contentification—of believing and proving that through a smile, that all is well in the Jesusland and I should feel fortunate that I can now stay in the America and watch Desperate Housewives (which has not yet been translated for the third world yet…).

But, damn, how long will I laugh at the televised comedies in the world of neighborhood tragedies?
Have a painful weekend.


Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

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