‘Call our tyranny by its name’

Discuss. Chris Hedges:

“The truth is, they want you, you see, to be poor,” Aristophanes wrote in his play “The Wasps.” “If you don’t know the reason, I’ll tell you. It’s to train you to know who your tamer is. Then, whenever he gives you a whistle and sets you against an opponent of his, you jump out and tear them to pieces.”

Our democracy, through years of war, theft and corruption, is also being diminished. But the example Aristophanes offers is not a hopeful one. He held up the same corruption to his fellow Greeks. He repeatedly chided them for not rising up and fighting back. He warned, ominously, that by the time most citizens awoke it would be too late. And he was right. The appearance of normality lulls us into a false hope and submission. Those who shout most loudly in defense of the ideals of the founding fathers, the sacredness of Constitution and the values of the Christian religion are those who most actively seek to subvert the principles they claim to champion. They hold up the icons and language of traditional patriotism, the rule of law and Christian charity to demolish the belief systems that give them cultural and political legitimacy. And those who should defend these beliefs are cowed and silent.

“For a considerable length of time the normality of the normal world is the most efficient protection against disclosure of totalitarian mass crimes,” Hannah Arendt wrote in “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” “Normal men don’t know that everything is possible, refuse to believe their eyes and ears in the face of the monstrous. … The reason why the totalitarian regimes can get so far toward realizing a fictitious, topsy-turvy world is that the outside non-totalitarian world, which always comprises a great part of the population of the totalitarian country itself, indulges in wishful thinking and shirks reality in the face of real insanity. …”

All ideological, theological and political debates with the representatives of the corporate state, including the feckless and weak Barack Obama, are useless. They cannot be reached. They do not want a dialogue. They care nothing for real reform or participatory democracy. They use the tricks and mirages of public relations to mask a steadily growing assault on our civil liberties, our inability to make a living and the loss of basic services from education to health care. Our gutless liberal class placates the enemies of democracy, hoping desperately to remain part of the ruling elite, rather than resist. And, in many ways, liberals, because they serve as a cover for these corporate extremists, are our greatest traitors.

Aristophanes too lived in a time of endless war. He knew that war always empowered anti-democratic forces. He saw how war ate away at the insides of a democratic state until it was hollowed out. His play “Lysistrata,” written after Athens had spent 21 years consumed by the Peloponnesian War, is a satire in which the young women refuse to have sex with their men until the war ends and the older women seize the Acropolis, where the funds for war are stored. The play called on Athenians to consider radical acts of civil disobedience to halt a war that was ravaging the state. The play’s heroine, Lysistrata, whose name means “Disbander of Armies,” was the playwright’s mouthpiece for the folly and self-destructiveness of war. But Athens, which would lose the war, did not listen.

The tragedy is that liberals and secularists, like Obama, are not viewed as competitors by the corporate forces that hold power, but as contaminates that must be eliminated. They have sought to work with forces that will never be placated. They have abandoned the most basic values of the liberal class to play a game that in the end will mean their political and cultural extinction. There will be no swastikas this time but seas of red, white and blue flags and Christian crosses. There will be no stiff-armed salutes, but recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. There will be no brown shirts but nocturnal visits from Homeland Security. The fear, rage and hatred of our dispossessed and confused working class are being channeled into currents that are undermining the last vestiges of the democratic state. These dangerous emotions, directed against a liberal class that as in ancient Athens betrayed the population, have a strong appeal. And unless we adopt the radicalism held by Aristophanes, unless we begin to hinder the functioning of the corporate state through acts of civil disobedience, we are finished.

Let us not stand at the open gates of the city meekly waiting for the barbarians. They are coming. They are slouching towards Bethlehem. Let us, if nothing else, like Aristophanes, begin to call our tyranny by its name.

4 Responses to ‘Call our tyranny by its name’

  1. Daniel Allen Hill October 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    Does no one remember history? Like say Nov 2000 when 53,000 Floridians voted for Ralph Nader for Pres.?

    How did that work out for them? Not well.

    Great Gandhi’s ghost in heaven, how can y’all hippies fail to see the US Senate as most non-democratic institution in any republic ever?

    Irony alert: we elected a [black man] as Pres., a frakkin’ miracle in and of itself. Did y’all expect him to walk on water too?
    empireofdirt77@gmail.com

  2. smintheus October 16, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    It might have been better just to leave Aristophanes out of the discussion. Chris Hedges clearly doesn’t understand enough about the historical context of those plays…e.g. Cleon was a demagogue rather than a “tyrant”…and inevitably they address issues and a democracy very different from our own. Aristophanes was more conservative than liberal. If anything, he was suspicious or hostile toward what was considered a radically democratic Athenian state (one that paid salaries to its poorest citizens so they could afford to attend political assemblies and serve on juries). This piece by Hedges is just another example of how easily the past, ripped out of context, becomes grist for contemporary political and social debates.

  3. Dan Hill October 16, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    LOL.
    Thanks for editing, supposedly Suze I reckon, as perjorative employed meant as irony but outstripped it for satire.

    Just meant it as comment on courtship aspect of a campaign and how we progressives–even including me who tires of defending Barry Obama–invested in him our hopes and dreams for our better society.

    Ask not what Obama can do for the world but what we each individually can do for our neighborhoods , our little corners of the world: http://empireofdirt77.blogspot.com/2008/11/i-hope-obama-can-keep-some-of-his.html

    Next time, I’ll just [edit] myself. ROFLMAO!!!

  4. Dan Hill October 16, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    But c’mon, serious satire called for, Barbarians “slouching to Bethlehem,” indeed.

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