Donald Trump and the ritual of shock and awe in American duopoly

(Written for Kindle Magazine)

By Saswat Pattanayak

The shock and clamor surrounding Donald Trump’s ascension to power is entirely unwarranted. The sentimental protests, tearful mournings and fearful disbelief about how to make sense of Trump are self-serving exaggerations. Self-serving, because taking such positions merely distinguishes us from the nastiness that defines Trump. To the mortified, he is the indecency that is impossible to explain and he is the vice we have apparently fought all along. Trump is the worst of humanity, the enemy of the marginalized, the maniac who cannot be trusted with a nuclear button, the groper-in-chief who must not have become the commander-in-chief of the most consequential country in this planet. There is an inversely proportional relationship we share with his moralism. He is the anti-mirror, he is the nightmare personified, he is the friend of Putin, he is the American Modi. He is the enemy of the Muslims. He is the enemy of the women. He is the enemy of the poor. And no wonder, he even dashed our hope of having the first female president in American history. Where do we go from here now? Will our world not end now?

More ridiculous than Trump’s victory is the collective grief prevailing in its aftermath. More irksome than the erratic ignorance of Trump is the irresponsibility of our political memories. More culminating blow is landed to us from our hunky-dory imaginings of the American states of affairs preceding this poll than from the Canadian immigration website crash. It is our luxuriously privileged indulgence in our botoxed worldviews that allows our imagined future tragedies to surpass the reality of our past indifference. We are eager to lament an unseen tomorrow while justifying the legacies that have been harrowing for decades. In fact, keeping with that adulation of our rectitude, we are hoping for our noble old behaviors to be emulated in coming years. Have no fear, Obama assures us, we are all now the cheerleaders for Trump. No matter how disqualified he was, no matter the sexual predator that he was, no matter the tax evader that he was, no matter the racist, Islamophobe, misogynist untrustworthy xenophobe that he was, long live our democracy, which we shall continue to introduce in every land of this world under his leadership.

Lest the energy of dissonance and dissent is channelized differently, Hillary Clinton reminds us that peaceful transition of power is what we not only believe in, but cherish. All our banking institutions and corporations and bosses of both the big parties are not going to be overthrown. We are going to accept the results gracefully like we always have because we have unequivocal faith in the system they own. We must continue to work together with them to relish the American greatness that we have defined in all its past, present and future tense. Hallelujah!

Trump is not a miracle. Trump is culmination of American exceptionalism which has been preached by every president preceding him. Trump is the logical apotheosis of humanized capitalism, where the winners take all, where executive decisions are sacrosanct, where we feel it right to sponsor deaths and tortures and waterboarding and drones and assassinations and weaponization of regions that we consider inferior.

Today liberal America is shaking with moralist rage, in fear and anger. There are protests outside the Trump Tower. There are letters school children are writing to Trump. There are celebrities urging their fans to continue the fight. An unprecedented climate of uncertainty hovers over America. Apprehensive of what the first 100 days of Trump can result in. Will illegals be deported? Will there be wars? Will other countries now be scared of our hooliganism? Will there be visa restrictions on people? Will there now be assaults on women’s rights, gay rights, immigrant rights? Will black people be safe any longer? Will hardworking people flourish anymore? Will a few elites enjoy concentrated wealth? Will our healthcare industry fail? Will our education become unaffordable? Will there be public protests and police atrocities? Will the rich now manipulate taxation system? Will we ever have a female president? Will we be able to explain our children about what our president should do and what he actually does?

All these and many more questions plague the well-meaning liberals. They are finding everything surreal with Trump’s triumph. The world is no longer the same. The good old days of freedom, respect, dignity, decency, morality, virtues and values are past us. Trump has forced us to wake up from our American dreams.

Maybe it is high time that we did and maybe we owe that to Donald Trump. After all, it is not Trump who stands exposed today. It is the sheer hypocrisy of American liberals that stands exposed. Liberals conveniently forget that it is not Trump who had deported the largest number of people and separated family members in millions within past eight years. It is not Trump that built secret chambers of tortures to round up human beings that have been called “illegals”. It is not Trump that ordered the wars and interventions all around the world that resulted in assassinations of world leaders. It is not Trump who won the Nobel Peace Prize and launched the industry of drones resulting in deaths of thousands of innocent civilians – women and children – in faraway lands. It is not Trump that has made America the biggest rogue nation in history. It is not Trump who privatized healthcare and education and forced people to debt. It is not Trump who bailed out the Wall Street or launched attacks on protesters at Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter. It is not Trump who caused the new Jim Crow and massive incarceration of Blacks and Latinos. It is not Trump who refused to recognize same-sex marriage for decades, or who prevented women candidates from becoming nominees of major political parties. It is not Trump who prevented Shirley Chisholm a nomination, it is not he who stopped Cynthia McKinney’s dream, it is not he who halted Hillary Clinton’s journey to White House when she aimed at it for the first time.

Indeed, Trump shall also be held accountable in coming days. But unlike Modi who had bossed over riots and massacres before being elected head of India, Trump has had no impacts on political landscape of the United States. He is no American Modi. Unlike Putin of Russia, Trump did not have any bureaucratic experience or political support for him to rise to unchecked power. He is no American Putin. Unlike any other president in American history, Trump had no sway over politics or military prior to this. He is no typical American president either.

He is a result of a democracy that the United States takes pride in. It is existential to American identity. This is the democracy that understands only one language – a language of money and competition. And both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump used this language to their best abilities and only one of them won by a slight margin. To be especially afraid of the newest master of this language is to be afraid of this system itself.

The values that have emboldened this system lie at the foundation of this country. From celebration of Columbus and observation of Thanksgiving to colonization of numerous lands – whether Puerto Rico or Hawaii or dozens more such annexations; from erasure of the indigenous Americans from every stream of public life to judicial killings and systematic disfranchisement of black people, America’s strength has always been its excesses. And this might of American state has constantly been met with resistance of freedom fighters throughout – from Frederick Douglass to Oscar Lopez Rivera, from Paul Robeson to the Black Panthers.

To suddenly lose the good old days flavor, now that a certain Donald Trump has risen to power is to insult the rich histories of struggles that have duly acknowledged and battled against American excesses, one president at a time. This placement of anger on Trump is at the same time an undermining of decades-long organizing efforts by the working class against the ruling elites. United States has never been great, and as long as its plutocracy exists – with support of both the major parties, probably never will become great. Indeed, no country is great because of its ruling class; its greatness is measured by the dignity it amasses despite its ruling class. Whether it be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, their taste of success is not a yardstick to evaluate how much Americans have been liberated. In fact, the ceremony of voting and electoral theatrics are necessary exercises to keep the power-hungry relevant, and more importantly acceptable.

The filthy rich Clintons who run dubious charitable organizations and charge millions of dollars via their political double-speak should ideally be despised. Bill “I-don’t-know-that-woman” Clinton’s assaults on women and his wife’s steadfast support for his misogyny should ideally be abhorred. Hillary Clinton’s views on black youths and gay marriage that took opportunist turns for political gains should have been grounds enough for her disqualification. As the biggest receiver of Big Pharma concerns and Wall Street interests, Hillary Clinton should ideally have been rejected by liberals who espouse progressive values. The manner in which Democratic Party bosses manipulated Bernie Sanders campaign should have distanced every conscientious liberal from her. And yet, under this obligation to hold voting as a sacrosanct exercise, and to elect that candidate who has more probability of winning, regardless of the content of character (which ensured the silencing of Jill Stein from the discourse), the liberals find a pressing need to forgive everything that is wrong about Hillary Clinton. And yet magically, they reserve the same yardstick exclusively for assessment of the Republican candidate. Likewise, Donald Trump should ideally have been disqualified from addressing any nation, considering his history of hate speeches, his admittance of being an assaulter, his tax evasions, and his fear-mongering pleas. And yet, the Republican voters feel compelled to make their candidate win at all cost and pass the yardstick unto Hillary’s.

This is the sort of democracy that Fidel Castro had long ago dismissed as phony. A system which justifies a status quo by means of validation from those it aims to oppress. It nullifies all possibilities of revolutions by using a mandate to justify continuation of a duopoly. The domination of two wealthiest parties is such that not only the presidential debates do not have provisions for third parties, but even the media at large ignore the views of political leaders that challenge both parties at the same time. People who vote for third parties are ridiculed for being spoilsports, and even blamed for all the political mishaps. This year too, it was no different – the Democrats blamed third party voters for the victory of Trump, while over 10% of Obama voters and 9% of registered Democrats did end up voting for Trump this poll – which is way more significant a number than the entire voter population that supported third parties.

The capacity to imagine beyond duopoly is systematically discouraged. In effect, every couple of terms, each party gets a chance to enjoy power with tacit understanding. The outgoing president graciously makes space for the incoming one. The same rogue policies continue to appease big businesses, they further prison-industrial complex, and the presidents outdo each other in aggressions abroad. Whether it be Kennedy or Reagan, Clinton or Bush, Obama or Trump, foreign policies of this hawkish nation rests on the idea of a few enemy states to engage with militarily. Hillary Clinton’s win wouldn’t have changed the course in any way whatsoever. Russia, Iran, Syria, Libya, Pakistan and North Korea were among many enemy states directly envisaged by her. Trump will end up substituting a couple at best. But the same game shall go on without interruptions.

The illusion of freedom to choose a candidate, the desire to elect a winner, the urge to submit to ruling class whims – elections are festivals to celebrate our collective surrender to our exploiters. And in these times of intense inequality, poverty, homelessness, wars and displacements, euphoria surrounding Trump’s victory is an act of political masochism. And more crucially, getting all depressed owing to Clinton’s defeat amounts to political complacency. This was indeed the nastiest battle in recent history – but only a battle between two power-hungry, egotist rich individuals. Both had irreparable flaws and neither exhibited leadership traits that could provide a vision for a better world. If Trump’s pet peeve was China, Clinton’s was Russia. If Trump did not disclose tax returns, Clinton hid her transcripts on corporations. If Trump had a history of assaulting women, Clinton had a history of standing by an assaulter. If Trump was threatening to make America “great” again, Clinton had already aided in making America “great” many times in the past. No matter who among them would have won, the world would still be dreading American intervention and drone strikes and unilateral declarations against regions it deemed helpless.

That said, there are a few critical lessons from this election. Especially for the young people and children who are failing to understand how to look upto a sexual assaulter and a bully as their role model. The answer is, it is not possible to treat Trump as a role model. But it so happens that our children are not told the whole story by the liberals. In the entire history of the United States, there was hardly a single President who had the accomplishments to be a role model. The lesson number one is that winning is not everything and often times, people do not win because they are correct. A president is basically a winner in a race to power, just as there are winners in various other fields. Simply because most people believe in a faith, a party, a person does not mean that makes it alright to unquestioningly adopt the same. Simply because there are authorities in law, politics, academics, religions does not mean the authorities are to be held inviolable. Just because plutocratic systems have been shoved down to us disguised as democracy does not mean this is the system we must protect at all costs even if the victors are assaulters. Secondly, there is no such thing as Karma. Feel-good liberals and conservatives alike tend to believe in such fatalistic theories and pass them on to next generations. If Trump/Clinton are the type of people who dominate the political stage while Stein/Baraka kind of candidates receive less than 2% of votes, it is not because of good/bad karma, but because of our comfortable indifference towards capitalism and willful ignorance of ongoing movements against it.

Finally, the lesson is not in expecting hope to be trickled down from politicians whose source of power is private capital interests, rather to painstakingly gather all the hope that we can, trace its foundations in centuries old aspirations to free the lands and people of greed and monopolies; in not allowing these corporate czars from defining what is a people’s revolution, rather to collect the scattered leaves on the paths of revolutions scarred by the martyrs bloods. The lesson is to use Trump’s rise as an opportunity to look beyond the hype of the two-party system and to reimagine the political landscape. Instead of waiting for any messiah who will “fix” everything for the working class, it is the working poor themselves whose organized efforts need to bring down the power corridors.

Capitalism is inherently ableist, sexist, racist and individualist. Trump is its outcome and White House is its upholder. The eyes need not be set on the prize that devours us all, but on the one that liberates us all. Communism alone can offer that alternative. If we can imagine. As the capitalistic contradictions reach zenith in the citadel following Trump’s rise, the good news is, it is not going to be as difficult to reimagine. It is only inevitable.

Advertisements

Obama is winning his War on Women Candidates

Democrats are desperately seeking more women to come out and vote today, preposition being Obama is the natural choice for women in this country and with more women voting, more is the likelihood of him getting reelected. To draw home that point further, the Democrats under Obama have devised a phrase “War on Women” to discredit their assumed rivals. And liberal women are all lining up to vote their Messiah who has emerged as the White Knight, rescuing distressed damsels of Sandra Fluke variety who subsumed under propaganda of the liberals are uncritically and unconditionally making uninformed choices while reelecting their male boss from the White House.

“War on Women” is a phrase only the Democrats could have come up with, considering they have been waging wars against women for decades. And in recent times, they have been battling women at the electoral polls. And yet a sizable section of liberal feminists continues to identify with their oppressors rather than with their comrades.

Obama/Romney vs Lindsay/Stein:
Comrade Peta Lindsay is the latest victim of Obama Patriarchy. Ms Lindsay, a Marxist-Leninist is challenging the President on the Party for Socialism and Liberation ticket. She being not only a committed communist, but also a progressive black feminist, is posing a genuine threat to Obama and his Fluke brands of activisms. Her party indeed provides absolute alternatives to the electoral monopolists today chaired by President Obama and his Democrat/Republican colleagues, especially outlining progressive visions for working women and men of this country that destroys the make-believe world of Obama/Romney camp that is presented to the American public.

Comrade Lindsay has a ten-point program that are as follows – 1) Make job a Constitutional right, 2) Make free health care, free education and affordable housing Constitutional rights, 3) Shut down all U.S. military bases around the world—bring all the troops, planes & ships home, 4) Stop racist police brutality and mass incarceration, 5) Defend our unions, 6) Equality for women and free, safe, legal abortion on demand, 7) Full rights for all immigrants, 8) Full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, 9) Save the planet—End capitalism, 10) Seize the banks—Jail Wall Street criminals.

Unlike Obama and his gang of hypocrites, Ms Lindsay actually demands free healthcare and demands employment as a constitutional right. Exposing the hypocrisy of the Romney/Obama group voicing their concerns for working women, Ms Lindsay says, “The two (dominant) candidates will present their wives to speak to for a ‘women’s perspective,’ but their presentation will be based largely on a bourgeois perspective. Ann Romney, who is the daughter of a factory owner and has hundreds of millions of dollars. She recently made the point that she ‘made the choice’ to be a stay-at-home mom, but for most Black women, no such choices are available. Michelle Obama may come from the working class, but the Obamas are millionaires and have been solidly in the upper class for decades. I want to speak to the experiences of poor and working-class Black women.”

Precisely because she wanted to address the poor and working class Black women – just like Cynthia McKinney wanted to do last election before Barack Obama gathered supports from Goldman Sachs and his friends at the Wall Street to shatter Ms McKinney’s political career as a Presidential aspirant – Ms Lindsay has this time faced stark opposition from President Obama to the extent that the Democrats worked with the Republicans to make sure that the rules concerning the much-publicized Presidential Debates that shape and inform the opinions of voters in the United States are manipulated to the extent of censoring and forbidding candidates like Ms Lindsay from addressing the working class of this country.

Who owns the Presidential Debates?
Amy Goodman interview with George Farah reveals how the Obama regime secretly negotiated contracts with Candy Crowley of CNN to specifically omit any question that mentions alternatives to him and Romney. Although the Committee on Presidential Debates is constituted to entertain divergent visions and to present to people the presidential candidates with alternative views, during Obama’s tenure, it was decided to censor the two radical alternatives to Obama/Romney aspirations – both challengers happened be two women Presidential candidates – Peta Lindsay and Jill Stein.

Of course the only people dangerous to patriarchy, and in effect to capitalism, are radical women. Last election, it was a black woman of tremendous strength and courage who was victimized by racist attacks in the Congress – Cynthia McKinney – who decided to quit the Democrats and contested on the Green Party ticket to pose a serious threat to Barack Obama. And this election, it is Peta Lindsay who has been so censored by liberal media that she remains virtually unknown to huge majority of voters in the country. Not a moment goes by without liberal media touting their love for women, and yet soaked in unfathomable hypocrisy, they vociferously silence the alternative voices aired by progressive women candidates.

Instead, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney – all three women whose political worth are measured by their undying love for their erring husbands are today symbolizing feminism for most educated women across the country, thanks to the manner in which Obama/Romney president ticket has manipulated media, through outright lies, enormous capital and direct control of the processes of debates and dissent.

Anti-Feminism: How Democrats Killed Equal Rights Amendment
Democrats with help of their dominant media forums comprising such corporate bigwigs as CNN, New York Times and Washington Post, have been miseducating young women voters of this country with atrocious lies about their past involvements with women’s rights movements. The truth is Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which was introduced in the Congress back in 1923 and comprised sections that would have outlawed any unequal treatment of women on account of sex, constantly faced challenges along the path to its realization by the Democrats alone.

ERA, drafted by feminist and suffragist leader Alice Paul, had recognized that right to vote for women meant little if women continued to be discriminated against through other social means. Paul’s National Woman’s Party advocated for ERA to be introduced in the Congress, which materialized with the help of radical feminist Susan B Anthony’s nephew Daniel R Anthony, a republican member. It would take three more decades before President Eisenhower – another Republican – would ask a joint session of Congress in 1958 to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. He would become the first president to openly express support for a law that was to ensure that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Democrats specifically refused to support ERA during Eisenhower’s time. Noticing the growing discontent among progressive feminists, John F Kennedy saw it as opportunity to cash in on women as a vote bank and promised them that he would support ERA and ensure its passage. But soon after gaining power, Kennedy played hide and seek with ERA demands and his core officials started opposing Equal Rights Amendment in public. Embarrassed by the fallouts, Kennedy offered a compromise – a “President’s Commission on the Status of Women”. This was nothing but a mockery of women’s rights movement for it tried to investigate whether or not there actually was any trend of discrimination against women, conveniently ignoring the positions forwarded by feminists that indicated discriminations indeed were the order of the day. PCSW of course was nothing but an organized committee to merely enlist women against communism in Kennedy’s favorite pastime called the Cold War. Like his predecessor Democrat President Truman who allowed McCarthy to list the men who the government wanted to target (a scoundrel who was silenced only by Eisenhower through his executive privileges), Kennedy created a committee to recruit women to do what McCarthy had left midway.

The only saving grace in PCSW was Eleanor Roosevelt, who had earlier opposed ERA under heavy pressure from the Democrats, but later on regretted her mistakes and finally lent support to ERA. But even her support to ERA did not convince Kennedy to work towards passing ERA into law. Instead he initiated another compromise by the name of Equal Pay Act of 1963 which remains to this date immensely lacking, and wage gap between men and women continue to be sustained. When President Obama was asked a question regarding the wage gap during the 2012 presidential debate, he refused to answer it, continuing the regressive tradition of Democrats initiated by Kennedy.

Kennedy’s compromises naturally reveled in their contradictions, leading to angry feminists forming National Organization for Women (NOW) to continue demands for Equal Rights Amendment which the Democrats had been refusing to recognize. Shirley Chisholm, the black woman representative was the only exception who exposed the hypocrisies of fellow Democrats on the floor of the congress. In her famous “Equal Rights for Women” speech Ms Chisholm attacked the Democrats for refusing to allow ERA from becoming a reality since four decades –

“I wish to introduce today a proposal that has been before every Congress for the last 40 years and that sooner or later must become part of the basic law of the land — the Equal Rights Amendment.
Let me note and try to refute two of the commonest arguments that are offered against this amendment. One is that women are already protected under the law and do not need legislation. Existing laws are not adequate to secure equal rights for women. Sufficient proof of this is the concentration of women in lower paying, menial, unrewarding jobs and their incredible scarcity in the upper level jobs. If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?….
A second argument often heard against the Equal Rights Amendment is that it would eliminate legislation that many States and the Federal Government have enacted giving special protection to women and that it would throw the marriage and divorce laws into chaos. As for the marriage laws, they are due for a sweeping reform, and an excellent beginning would be to wipe the existing ones off the books. Regarding special protection for working women, I cannot understand why it should be needed. Women need no protection that men do not need. What we need are laws to protect working people, to guarantee them fair pay, safe working conditions, protection against sickness and layoffs, and provision for dignified, comfortable retirement. Men and women need these things equally.”

Despite Chisholm’s leadership and staunch feminism, the Democrats refused to still pay heed. Ironically, once again, it was a Republican President Richard Nixon who did what Kennedy was slyly refusing to – he became the first American President to endorse ERA’s approval. ERA – constantly opposed by the Democrats each and every Congress finally died following a deadline set for it to be ratified in 1980.

Not only that, but even Chisholm’s demand for the marriage laws to be reformed in a sweeping manner was met with Bill Clinton’s infamous Defense of Marriage Act. Once again, the Democrats were at the forefront of annihilating feminist progresses and movements by passing a law that defined marriage as a legal union between only a man and a woman. Clinton, the visionary leader of the Democrats today, swiftly declared that under the law, no US state is required to recognize same-sex marriage. This was in the classic tradition of the Democratic Party’s long lasting attack on feminist movements in this country.

Democrats as Dangerous Compromises:
Destroying ERA and introducing DOMA are not the only contributions of the Democrats. The more damaging are their “compromise” laws which they sign from time to time in order to distract the feminists from core issues and to treat women as vote banks for their power plays. Under Obama’s regime, the PCSW equivalent was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is a pure hogwash, to begin with. Although Obama team have been highlighting how women-friendly this Act is, the reality is it does not even address discrimination, let alone provide for a fraction of what ERA stood for in terms of women’s rights progresses.

What the Democrats are not saying the women is that Ledbetter Act does not enforce companies from disclosing the amount of pay they are offering to men and women at workplaces. Without this a reality, it is absurd to even claim that women will receive “fair” pay when they are not even supposed to know what a “fair” pay amount is. Similarly, using LGBTQ as a vote bank, Obama has signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010”. Far from being a civil rights victory for the oppressed minorities, this is indeed akin to legalizing entry of black people into the armed forces of America to fight against oppressed minorities worldwide on behalf of militarist rogue regimes of the United States. Another Democrat and anticommunist Harry Truman in 1948, had ensured that black people – while they were still being treated as slaves in their home country – were going to be fighting on behalf of their masters to kill innocent people – specifically Communists – abroad. Paul Robeson, the great black revolutionary famously opposed such absurd proposition which suggested that black people should fight in Korean War. Its about time, progressive LGBTQ leaders move away from fundraising for Democrats for letting them die in unjust wars abroad while White House politicians continue to fool around with their human rights issues as electoral agendas.

If invoking executive privileges to force black people and sexual minorities into military is not a big deal for Democratic presidents, then legalizing same-sex marriage should not be a hindrance either. Indeed, ending racist police brutality would not be so difficult after years of movements demanding the end to the pig culture. Or shutting down military bases, including Guantanamo Bay would not have been so difficult either. Or providing full rights to all immigrants. Or, to ensure free healthcare. Or, to end capitalism by seizing the banks.

But, then, that would actually be progressive, radical, feminist a vision. A vision that Comrade Peta Lindsay has. And in this election, Barack Obama and his buddy Mitt Romney are out to destroy precisely that – with active collaboration of their quintessentially uncritical voters.

(Saswat Pattanayak, 2012)

Tales from Cola Land


Democracy is a system of oppression run by popular consent; its enabler, the electoral politics, is a spectator sport; the select audience for the rituals is retained through appeals, and the voting is an exercise of Hobson’s Choice.

And yet such a system has unprecedented approval ratings, because in the Gramscian sense, democracy has become “the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.”

Even when Abraham Lincoln extolled its virtues, democracy was merely serving the ruling class. A government then was certainly of the people, by the people, for the people, but what Lincoln failed to address at Gettysburg was that the democracy carried out in the name of people did not include women or slaves. And today, 150 years later, the most extravagant democracy in the world being heralded in the name of people continues to exclude millions of working class members and invisibly incarcerated citizens. In fact, the hypocrisy of American democracy is more apparent today than ever before, for in a country territorially marked by immigrants and an economy founded upon slave labor, millions of new immigrants are being declared aliens and more native workers find themselves homeless.

And yet, democracy as a system of oppression needs to run exactly this course to validate its status quo. More people need to be kept disempowered, if not disenfranchised. Even as popular participation in voting ceremonies have increased in numbers, they must continue to dwindle in their intrinsic values. Even as multiple political parties are encouraged in western democracies, the reliance upon a couple of major monopolistic units must remain pervasive. In the United States therefore, more voters are being wooed poll after poll, but their imaginations are bound by two-party systemic limits. In the cloak of free speech, self-censorship is joyously observed by corporate media that cover only the national conventions of the Democrats and Republicans. Just as in Britain the tournament is run between the Labor and the Tories. History can repeat itself as a farce the second time itself, but independent of its lessons, democracy thrives on farcical representations of hope and change innumerably.

When rest of the world is gearing up – voluntarily and forcibly – to adopt American democratic norms, American democracy is itself in peril. The popular consent for the system is manufactured and imposed by the ruling class monopolists who must either be the phony liberal-Democrats or the fanatic conservative-Republicans. The Green Party must be ignored, the Communists criminalized and the independent ones ridiculed. Consequently, none but the top honchos of electoral arena get publicized by the media, and the political battlefield remains the sole proprietorship of the networked old boys since the inception of democracy itself.

But the old boys are ideologically opposed and hence, there is a clear choice, the honchos assure. They even succeed, to the extent that American citizens enroll themselves as organically Democrats or Republicans losing no moment to declare how consistently contrasted are their respective ideologies and how bitterly opposed are they to each other. After all, what good is a spectator sport without proclamations of cut-throat rivalries! In the current season of such dramatic rerun, Obama and Romney “camps” field each other as their respective nemesis, they project their political positions as such diametrically opposite and their mutually shared scopes such unmistakably exhaustive that there is no space for a third force to legitimately claim an alternative to such legendary contraries.

Legendary they must be, because only legends and myths foster the merits of electoral democracies. A critical assessment of their actual positions usually demystifies the reality show. Back in 1956, when W. E. B. Du Bois refused to register as a voter, he laid bare the truth about the American fixation with this illusive democracy based on make-believe contrasts: “Democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say…If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he/she may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by ‘force and violence’. Anything advocated by way of significant reform will be called ‘Communist’ and will of necessity be Communist in the sense that it must advocate such things as government ownership of the means of production; government in business; the limitation of private profit; social medicine, government housing and federal aid to education; the total abolition of race bias; and the welfare state. These things are on every Communist program; these things are the aim of socialism. Any American who advocates them today, no matter how sincerely, stands in danger of losing job, surrendering social status and perhaps landing in jail.”

With both Republicans and Democrats enthusiastically distancing themselves from any communistic ideals, and understandably so, American democracy continues to remain the domain of one evil party with two names. Every election season is an attempt to lull people into one or another version of American Dream – quintessentially a feel-good packaging of gratuitous freedom. A sense of freedom that is premised upon the capitalistic ingenuity that education is best attained with student loans, healthcare is best provided by feeding the insurance giants, that submitting to private banks for entitlement to housing is a desirable privilege, that token race representations imply societal equality, among various other anomalies.

Voting as a farcical exercise of popular mandate ensures that the crisis engulfing so-called civilized societies remain just the same. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans agree that it is the role of the government to ensure free healthcare, free education, free housing and guaranteed jobs. After all, a society becomes prosperous when its members are healthy, educated, sheltered and employed. If the goal is for societal progress, such aims are basic starters. And yet rarely are such thoughts entertained within the public or the profit sphere, never are these debated issues during the elections. The only oppositional voices that are entertained within modern democracies are those that engage in partisan debates, not progressive movements, and the only challenges that are allowed to exist appear in the form of disorganized, unorganized and anarchic permits for concessional freedom.

Electoral exhibitionism is a direct consequence of big business that pumps billions of dollars into this sector and the public interests are secured through gullible donations, malicious advertisements and pretentious accusations. Allegiances are reiterated towards state, religion, and an addictive mix of the two. FDR, Lincoln and Kennedy are bounced back and forth; founding fathers are recalled with awe. Positive vibes are weaved through slogans for justice, liberty and war, and with specific omissions of peace, land and bread. Militarism is eulogized and global peace doesn’t feature even in rhetorics. Colacracy continues amidst healthy rivalries between blue and the red sugar syrups. Also constant is this euphoria that lasts for a year almost equivalent to the excitement around a new blockbuster, a getting thinner formula, and the latest iPhone. What follows are next two years of depression, and a final year of anticipation until the next knockout round.

Such observations would be comic and trivial, if they were not tragically curtailing one more imagination that marks the social justice landscape. Voting is prescribed across board as the only means to bring about changes. Citizens are made convinced that if the world is an unjust place, if the socioeconomic welfare is in danger, then the only way to bring about change is through casting one’s vote. People are reminded of the great sacrifices our ancestors have made just to make universal suffrage system a reality.

Well, the truth, as disconcerting as ever, is quite the contrary. Progressive changes in society have not been made through voting and cooperation with the systemic processes; rather through studied and organized – nonviolent and violent – protests against the very fabric of an unjust world order sustained through voting mechanisms. As a result, social justice movements worldwide, including in America, have not looked at electoral politics as a weapon. They have revolted against the fanciful journeys to a sacrosanct White House, for they primarily oppose the very contest that is won through big money, false promises and by fooling most of the people, all of the time.

This year as the elections unfold, majority of Americans will continue to be fooled by the democratic virtues once again. And Malcolm X will brim with relevance with his words warning the democratically bemused: “Any time you throw your weight behind a political party that controls two-thirds of the government and that party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identifying yourself with that party…aw, I say, you been misled. You been had. You been took.”

This year, majority of Americans will once again be taken. Voting will once again prevail over the voters.

Saswat Pattanayak, 2012
(Written for Kindle Magazine).

Love Me, I’m a Liberal (Remixed)

(Based on Phil Och’s Satire)

 

Movements I start on Facebook Causes

On Twitter, I maneuver the trends

Arab Spring was my handiwork

All Girls in the Blue Bra my friends 

I ‘Like’ Occupy Wall Street Page

My rage are my thirty daily updates

Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

 

Hillary Rosen is my ideal worker 

For denying any war on women 

Hillary Clinton is a staunch feminist

Forgiving Bill and chivalrous military men

I am all for equal pay and women’s rights

Just don’t wanna give this system a bad name   

Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

 

Indefinite detention, murder without trials

I love my Democrats for such new laws 

Let protestors get arrested in thousands 

Online petitions my progressive straws

War Economy can be in peacetime now

Obama’s concerns for us certainly shows

Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

 

North Korean rockets and Iranian assets

Enough to assault American freedom

NYPD shoots unarmed black teenagers

Nothing ill I see in our law and order system

Racism’s dead, my president’s above colors

KKK sites operate, but Megaupload must be gone

Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

 

Colonel Gaddafi or Bradley Manning

Who dares terrorize our invincible might

Freedom we love, so freedom we’re granting

We define wrong and right, and freedom’s limit

NY Times and the Nation, views they are shaping

I may want free healthcare, but I ain’t a communist 

Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

 

First lady loves hot couture, and healthy breakfasts

I’m into Vegan diets, Food Inc, and saving animals

Sarah Palin is the rival, Bill O’Reilly talks so crass

Gingrich the molester, Santorum insults Lord Jesus

Battle is set, purpose thought out, victory I shall amass

Reelect Obama: my goal, only a Democrat can be my boss

Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

 

– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet

 

New American Magic Realism

By Saswat Pattanayak

Now that some time has passed since the United States stopped rejoicing a routine election fanfare necessitating short term relief from the economic war the capitalist government has unleashed upon the media consumers, one needs to critically attend to the repercussion of the events that passed by.

Not only Bush-McCain administration was unacceptable to the American people, they were equally unwanted by the corporate czars. Fixation on Iraq had to shift gears as not much excitement was left following brutal murder of Saddam Hussain. The military-industrial complex, tired of its “reconstruction” missions in Iraq (despite the profitability factor that leads them to continue seizing the land to this day) needed to focus elsewhere. And the new war mission needed to find a new leader. A differently appearing, yet positioned similarly in direction, an attractive personality, with a deceptively mixed agenda needed to be given charge. From nullifying the necessity to contain electoral budgets to promoting imperialistic expansions in the “post-war” period, from conveying an impression of rendering public service through recreation of “big government”, to facilitating spending of the public money for further private monopolistic accumulation – the corporate America needed a government that will prevent collective anger from taking a revolutionary turn.

In the history of last one hundred years, every time American military has invaded a foreign land, popular resentments inside the country have threatened the very basis of capitalism. Democratic Party, that holy cow banner maker of pacifism has suffered the worst of public anger. Be it during the time of Woodrow Wilson or Harry Truman or John F Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson or Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton, each Democratic President has faced numerous protests from peaceniks inside the country. Sometimes, the peace lovers have even turned violent in their demonstrations in order to appeal to the consciousness of their favored self-proclaimed world leaders.

Today, the scenario is no different. President Barack Obama has raised the military budgets to unprecedented levels during the most unusual time of economic collapse. His seeking of $75.5 billion for the wars is a supplemental-spending request. Wall Street Journal reports that the president is increasing the budget as well as the force in Afghanistan by more than 20,000 new recruits (totaling American presence to 58,000). And despite the reinforced corporate presence in Iraq, sustained military assault on Pakistani civilians, significant infiltration into Afghanistan, reliance on Japan to silence North Korea, breadcrumb diplomacy in Latin America, there have been no rigorous criticism of the administration. In fact, there have been no demands from the publicly pacifist sections of the society either. No “Bring our Boys Home”. No “War is Over” narrative.

Such misdirected are political sentiments and such doleful are peace education that amidst the wave of celebration surrounding new American leadership, basic tenets of radical protests have been buried within frameworks of false hopes and unnecessary optimism. In deeply myopic stance of understanding progressivism, left intelligentsia has fallen for the media engineered leadership wheel. Absent from the conversation is the proposition that singular heads elected in modern western democracies are best leaders money can buy. These leaders obliged as they are to the military industrial complex must necessarily sustain the very system that lifts them up to a level worthy of glorification.

The series of gratitudes showered by President Obama to his election is a symbolic validation of the virtue of White House irrespective of its everlasting dark ages. Declaration of America as land of the infinite possibilities in wake of recent results is a celebration of wealth accumulation that must decide fate of aspirants preaching race blindness. Drawing parallels of an electoral victory for a person of color as a probable end of race discourse in white societies is normalization of privilege denial.

The issues that are being projected as resolved with the new president’s arrival are the very issues that are problems of the future. Like Wilson, Obama continues to be a fervent anti-communist publicly bashing the philosophy. Like Truman, he is yet another proud “War President” cheering the onslaughts in Iraq by his troops. Like Kennedy, Obama is an interventionist who minces no words before deciding to target yet another sovereign country. Like Johnson, he drafts one policy for North Korea while creating another for China (LBJ’s infamous speech goes on to validate American quest to combat Korean communism while not intending to attack Chinese communism). Like Carter or Clinton, Obama’s peace pledges have been convenient in form and impractical in content. Be it the lingering silence over Israeli show of strength in Middle East or American lingering show of strength in South Asia.

Liberal media takes fancy in comparing Obama with Bush and scoring brownie points. Where they need to make a substantial headway instead is in comparing Obama with Kennedy and Clinton. That is, after the necessary critical historical scholarship has gone into researching the so-called Cold War and why President Obama inherits an unenviable experiential heritage. The ease and comfort with which Obama proclaims moral world leadership to bomb Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the skillful oratory that carves his presence among capitalist bigwigs at G-20 summit are necessary consequences of the system that allows him to preside at the helm. Obama’s espousal at the London summit that “In America at least, people don’t resent the rich; they want to be rich. And that’s good,” was not merely his support for Wall Street monopolists. It is fundamental a philosophy for the growth of capitalism at the cost of oppressing the majority poor.

The usual resentments associated with such sick statements advocating Wall Street riches and bonuses have been declared dead. The otherwise anger resulting from hawkish mentality of world leadership while bombing civilians in the guise of locating a hooligan has been voluntarily suppressed. The necessary methodically critical analyses of imperialistic world leaders have been shoved to irrelevance. The hegemony is ideological this time. Self-censorship is the icing. Normalization, in the Gramscian sense, has come to stay. Hope is the magic. And the realism.