Begin With Honesty

by Berry Friesen (November 22, 2016)

Because the world is transformed from the bottom up—not the top down—it’s necessary to reflect on public events in a manner that protects our capacity to act in solidarity with one another.

Thus, recent posts at this blog have attempted to frame the US presidential election in ways that (a) undermine the empire’s claim to be “indispensable” and (b) resist harsh judgments about people who may have voted differently than we would have wished.

There is still much more to say about the election.  Serious questions are being raised about disparities in key states between the exit polls and vote totals (see here and here), disparities that suggest vote totals may have been altered.  It would be worthwhile to explore how the mainstream media first made Donald Trump into a credible candidate, then actively worked for his defeat (see here).

But instead, let’s return to the more relational work my colleague, John K. Stoner, has emphasized: building communities of resistance and hope.

Jonathan Sacks, the British rabbi and author of Not in God’s Name:  Confronting Religious Violence, says that honesty is the crucial starting point for a “politics of hope.”  Writing November 11 in the wake of Brexit and the US election, Sacks said this:

“It begins with a candid acknowledgment on all sides of how bad things actually are. Vast swathes of the population in Britain and America have not benefited from economic growth. They have seen their living standards fall, relatively and absolutely. They have watched while traditional jobs have been outsourced to low wage economies, leaving once-thriving industrial centres as demoralised wastelands.

“We need a new economics of capitalism with a human face. We have seen bankers and corporate executives behaving outrageously, awarding themselves vast payments while the human cost has been borne by those who can afford it least. We have heard free-market economics invoked as a mantra in total oblivion to the pain and loss that come with the global economy. We have acted as if markets can function without morals, international corporations without social responsibility, and economic systems without regard to their effect on the people left stranded by the shifting tide. We who are grandparents know only too well that life is harder for our children than it was for us, and for our grandchildren it will be harder still.

“We need to rebuild our social ecology. When a civilisation is in good order it has institutions that provide support and hope in hard times. In the West these have traditionally been families and communities. Neither is in a good state throughout the West today. Their breakdown led two of the most important thinkers in America, Charles Murray on the right and Robert Putnam on the left, to argue that, for large sections of the population the American dream lies broken beyond repair. The sooner we abandon the politically correct but socially disastrous view that marriage is outmoded, the better.

“We need to recover a strong, inclusive sense of national identity if people are to feel that those in power care about the common good, not simply the interests of elites. The West is still suffering from the damage done by multiculturalism, living proof that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Unless we can restore what George Orwell called patriotism as opposed to nationalism, we will see the rise of the far right, as is happening already in Europe.

“The religious voice is important also, and I say this not because I am religious but because historically the great faiths have given people a sense of dignity and worth that was not tied to what they earned or owned. When religion dies and consumerism takes its place, people are left with a culture that encourages them to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have for a happiness that won’t last. It is a bad exchange and it will end in tears.”

In contrast, dishonesty and deception are the hallmarks of the empire, from its claim to being “indispensable” to its propaganda justifying war.

Recall for a moment the rush of images and reports of ISIS that dominated the mainstream news all through the summer of 2014: the massacres and enslavement of the Yazidis, the crucifixions of Christians, the murder of Western hostages, the stunning capture of major cities across eastern Syria and western and northern Iraq.

Recall the public panic over what the world should do about ISIS.

Yet at the end of that summer, in September 2014, a John Podesta email to Hillary Clinton casually mentioned that “. . . we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”

That’s right, Qatar and the Saudi Arabia—members of the empire, close US allies, recipients of a huge volume of US arms—secretly provide support for ISIS.  Did we hear a word about this in September, 2014 as President Obama began his bombing campaign against ISIS?  During their election campaigns, did either candidate Clinton or candidate Trump say a word about ending US alliances with Qatar and Saudi Arabia because they support ISIS?  No, not a word.

For more discussion of this astonishing reality, see here and here.

We must speak truthfully about how the empire uses the terrorism of ISIS to rule the Earth, how it obscures this ugliness behind layers of misdirection, diversion and deceit.

We must speak truthfully about how greed, marketism, social liberalism, globalism and secularism have dissolved the bonds of traditional communities and consumed those sources of social capital, leaving us isolated and defenseless against the empire and its corporate predators.

(Note:  As first posted, this essay erroneously identified the summer of 2015 as the date of public panic over ISIS.  The essay has now been corrected; the panic occurred in the summer of 2014.)