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COMMENT

TABLE TALK

Justin Jacob
Talking about morality in the political arena is becoming an antiquated notion, a crazy kook idea that your aging hipster aunt talks about mid-LSD flashback.

"Open up your ears, and clean out your eyes."One sentence is all that is needed to critique the arguments of neo-liberals and right-wingers alike: So much bullshit. In today’s sarcasm-ridden enlightened techno age of media-savvy swingers, everyone has an opinion on America. Being a Canadian who comfortably partakes of American culture as a matter of routine, it’s easy for me to identify with our brothers "sur la 52". Nonetheless, I’m finding a great deal of justification in the worldwide opinion that America should be feared. Now what is up with that?

I mean, isn’t America supposedly a Petri-dish for democracy? It’s certainly one of the richest nations in the world, with a huge percentage of the population living middle-class lives. That can be read as living better than a quarter of the people on this planet. So what has good ole Uncle Sam done to deserve the "Most feared nation on planet Earth" award? I didn’t really know…so I did some reading.
It didn’t really take too long to find several long lists of rather impressive charges against the US. There were charges such as supporting murderous regimes; charges of international terrorism; a list of over 200 American offensive military actions taken since 1945. These charges weren’t from your average left-wing euro-nut either; apparently the United States is the only country to ever be found guilty of international terrorism by the World Court.

Considering that it took me all of an hour and half to find some of this stuff, it makes me wonder how so many people of such a fiercely democratic nation can feign ambivalence. I suppose that now that there are US troops in Baghdad, there’s no longer any reason to care about the War On Iraq. It’s over, right? It would be far easier to kick back for twenty years, and learn all about the questionable things their nation did from the numerous movies and documentaries that will appear. A lack of critical analyses or debate in the public arena is only a symptom of the problem however.

The weirdness of this situation is best exemplified by the pageant judge that is the corporate media, who sagely grades the President’s speeches on his poise and winning smile. "Dubya really projected confidence, and should walk away happy with his score". Shouldn’t television channels be filled with our enlightened age’s intelligentsia laughing their asses off at a man who just told the nation that "This is a very dangerous time for our nation, evil-doers who fear our democracy are threatening our way of life,"? That was a literal quote.
Since the eighties, there’s been a growing trend to turn politics into statesmanship, the extremely complex and boring task of running a country. Our votes have come to symbolize the amount of tax we wish to pay as opposed to any actual input into the condition of the nation. There is a reason why discussing politics has essentially become a cultural taboo, and it’s mostly because no one short of a career politician has any clue as to how things work. This inability to talk about politics reduces meaningful discussion down to polemics. Talking about morality in the political arena is becoming an antiquated notion, a crazy kook idea that your aging hipster aunt talks about mid-LSD flashback.

Trying to figure out what your nation is doing by talking politics, say at the dinner table or in mixed company, shouldn’t be frowned upon but encouraged. Think about it, talking politics should be a key part of any democracy, shouldn’t it?

In an effort to avoid the "Rant" label, I’ll leave you with this thought. The very cool cat John Stuart Mill wrote about something called the marketplace of ideas. It was a fairly simple construct he came up with to determine Truth. Put simple, it was the notions that open discussion and the free exchange of ideas in a democracy helps to suss out the strengths and weaknesses of any argument. To dissent is critical in analyzing the actions and policies of a government that represents you.
© Juston Jacob April 22nd 2003
jjacob3@uwo.ca
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