Canadian Arab News
|Rebellion, apathy or self-delusion—how do you respond to oppression?
October 11, 2007
I spent much of the winter and spring of 1979 at the Pushkin Institute of Russian Language in Moscow. For the previous 3.5 years I had studied Russian language, literature, history and politics from the comfort—some might say, isolation—of Canadian universities.
Now, I found myself in a country where the state determined what people believed; an omnipresent security apparatus enforced intellectual and behavioural conformity; and the very act of speaking to a foreigner was cause for police interrogation.
At the time, an expression of political dissent, done with the utmost discretion among those who were absolutely trustworthy in the relative privacy of one’s home was pretty much the limit of free expression any Soviet could expect. Public criticism, to say nothing of condemnation, was hazardous to one’s health. Nothing could be further from life in the free, democratic Western world.
I started to reflect on this part of my senior university year after rereading part of the autobiography of journalist and author Arthur Koestler. One highlighted passage from volume II, The Invisible Writing, stood out:
“When conditions become insupportable, men react according to their temperament in roughly three different ways: by rebellion, apathy or self-deception. The Soviet citizen knows that rebellion against the largest and most perfect police machinery in history amounts to suicide. So, the majority lives in a state of outward apathy and inner cynicism, while the minority lives by self-deception.”
As I reread this passage, written in 1955, I realized how perfectly Koestler’s analysis applies to the U.S. today. The three responses to tyranny that Koestler ascribed to Soviet citizens now apply to Americans, who also are having to adjust to life in a police state. Now as then, apathy, rebellion and self-deception are all in evidence, though not in exactly the same way.
photo credit: www.tulsatruth.org/newsmore?id=7
Although this poster speaks to a vigorous anti-Bush sentiment and a longing for a return to constitutional government, it betrays a Polyanna-ish image of pre-junta America. Before Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. could not possibly be mistaken for a model of justice, champion of human rights, or upholder of international law, given its decades-long practice of being an apologist for Israeli terrorism. The dating of the U.S.’s descent into tyranny to the rise of the junta is a pervasive form of self-delusion that insulates The Lobby from criticism.
For one thing, the spirit of rebellion is much more potent than in the Soviet Union, notwithstanding the courage of certain prominent dissidents. Novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spent years in concentration camps (gulags) and peace activist Andrei Sakharov was harassed and eventually confined to internal exile in Gorky. Both survived the communist regime—Sakharov just barely.
But these men were the exception. Russians had always lived under tsarist autocracy, so it would never have occurred to the average Muscovite to say, “The Soviets stole my freedom.” There was no freedom to steal. Communist leaders from Lenin onward simply continued the tradition of tsarist absolutism, only with greater savagery.
The U.S., on the other hand, does have a democratic tradition, and a people deprived of their rights are more likely to rebel than people who never had them. Heroes of the American Revolution like Nathan Hale, Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams, fought against Britain’s governmental arbitrariness and oppression, and the U.S. Constitution reflects their spirit of individualism.
The oppression practiced by the Cheney–Bush junta is several orders of magnitude more malignant than anything Mad King George could have come up with, yet any political opposition from Congress is either muted or non-existent.
All things being equal, the Democrats should have initiated impeachment proceedings against the junta—evidence is overwhelming and unimpeachable—yet since the last “election” the party has been more collaborationist than confrontational. With few exceptions, Democrats have supported:
• warrantless domestic spying;
• passage of the unconstitutional USA PATRIOT Act.
• funding for the illegal aggression against Iraq;
• repeal of habeas corpus;
• secret tribunals where the accused has no rights;
• Maintaining the junta’s gulag at Guantánamo Bay; and
• acceptance of torture as national policy.
Against the Soviet one-party state, we in the West used to boast that ours was a multi-party democracy where the electorate had a choice of representation, yet for all the good Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry or Hilary Clinton and other Democratic drones have done, Congress might as well be called a two-faced Supreme Soviet. Look at the fate of those who exercised their constitutional right to free expression, e.g.:
‘Uncle Che' has the Answer
• Educators who debunk historical or scientific fictions in the name of honest scholarship are denied tenure ( Norman Finkelstein at DePaul), fired outright (Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado) or are forced out of their position (Steven Jones at Brigham Young University);
• Federal prosecutors are fired on political grounds because they are not true believers of the junta’s ideology.
Whereas making sense of the cause and effect of Soviet repression is easy, the same is not true of the junta’s repression. Let me rephrase that: making sense of the junta’s repression is easy, but many people go to absurd lengths to deny the obvious, and this cognitive defect applies both to the junta’s apologists and to its enemies.
To this day, many Americans—albeit fewer and fewer every year—believe the official narrative of Sept. 11, thereby giving sanction to the “war on terrorism,” which is the excuse the junta uses to justify its tyranny. The idea that the U.S. government and Israel could have perpetrated the World Trade Centre attack does not register, even among seemingly intelligent people, even though the evidence is overwhelmingly persuasive.
To this day, many Americans also cling to the belief that Israel is a democracy; is a U.S. ally; and has a right to exist, despite irrefutable proof that none of these propositions is defensible.
The relevance of these last paragraphs is this: Israel and the domestic Israel Lobby are the cause of the U.S. police state, and any movement to reassert republican government must address this fact. Official claims about “the war on terrorism” and “al-Qa‘ida,” neither of which exists, must be understood as propaganda designed to serve the zionist empire in the Middle East.
For good reason, I do not refer to the Bush White House as the U.S. government, since it does not represent the U.S. electorate. It is the agent of a foreign power and deserves the title of “junta,” especially in light of the last two fraudulent elections.
Despite obvious similarities, there is a fundamental difference between the Soviet police state and the junta’s: the former grew organically out of traditional Russian autocracy; the latter is an alien system that had to be imposed from outside.
That Israel is the cause of U.S. tyranny can be seen in kinds of people who have suffered for their outspokenness. The above-cited academics have been deprived of their livelihood because took aim at Israel, championed the rights of Israel’s victims, or exposed the founding myths of Sept. 11. From a U.S. perspective, persecuting these people makes no sense. It’s un-American. Nevertheless, many people prefer to believe the lie that big, bad Muslims did attacked the U.S. rather than face profoundly unsettling truths.
Interestingly, the propensity for self-delusion is also found among the junta’s detractors, some of whom see Bush as the cause of U.S. tyranny, rather than as the culmination of a decades-long degeneration. In my book The Host and the Parasite—How Israel’s Fifth Column Consumed America, I show that the descent into tyranny can be traced to the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, from which time The Lobby began to accelerate its colonization of the White House, Congress, State Department and Pentagon.
This colonization became blindingly obvious after the election of Bill Clinton, who sold out to Israel even before being sworn in; appointed more than five dozen zionist Jews to governmental positions; prosecuted with a vengeance the illegal no-fly zones and sanctions against Iraq; and colluded with Israel against the Palestinians in the duplicitous “Oslo negotiations.”
Nothing the junta has done makes sense without this long-term perspective, yet too much criticism of the junta is short sighted. It is convenient to date the decline of the U.S. to 2001, but this Polyanna-ish attitude serves to mask the true cause of U.S. tyranny. Contrary to appearances, the U.S. before Sept. 11, 2001, could not possibly be mistaken for a model of justice, champion of human rights, or upholder of international law. If the preceding were true, the U.S. would not be Israel’s contract killer and political dissembler.
All tyrannies eventually collapse because at some point the force of popular rebellion overwhelms the state’s ability to repress dissent and prop up discredited myths. As was the case with the Soviet Union, the U.S. state determines what people believe, and its omnipresent security apparatus enforces intellectual and behavioural conformity.
The Soviet Union took more than 70 years to collapse, I don’t think Americans, or the world, can wait that long.