05 November 2008

Empire and Democracy

Now the challenge is to become the real democracy in the world that US leaders have been crowing about for decades while overthrowing democracies as a matter of policy, if they didn’t like their stance on business. At home the US government has developed the Orwellian face, offering one-way communication to its congress with threats and to its citizens through corporate media monopoly; squandering lives by the thousands and the treasury wholesale while calling war “liberation” and occupation “freedom”; and orchestrating the rape of the natural and monetary wealth of other nations around the world.

How strange it will be now to suddenly broadcast to the world hope instead of fear, good sense instead of subtrefuge, brave intelligence instead of willful ignorance. This “Barack Revolution” will surely give other global powers pause. Will this emperor effectively turn his country from a rapacious bogeyman to a humane republic? That might be too much to ask of a country founded and weaned on conquest, genocide, and slavery. Yet the magnitude of today’s leap from slavery conveys at least an awakening of a people to outward embrace, beyond narrow bounds of race, color, creed or even, we might imagine, nationality. Is America, so quickly united, so quickly ready also to open its arms to the diversity watching with cautious optimism from beyond its borders?

What message does this triumph of democracy and equality convey? Can it still be converted into a slick slogan for continued imperial expansion? Unlikely now, since the medium is the message, and the medium of this election victory proved something new in recent American politics: that the people sufficiently aroused to care will amount to a greater force than all the president’s men and henchmen - even those with two stolen elections already in their pocket who were gamely banking on just one more.

That glum force of resistant conservatism, of course, is the first and ultimate obstacle to true global friendship in democracy, because they want no part of it still. In fact they’re probably more scared and distrustful than ever. And I can hardly blame them. Because after all, now the other “bad guys” out there (there must be some, perhaps not even trained or labeled that way by BushCo) will be wondering, “Okay, if America now goes, like, truly democratic, what kind of message does that send to the people that we want to keep down in our own situation?” I’m no foreign policy expert (think Sarah Palin) but Saudi Arabia and China come to mind.

Of course this whole ironic reversal of roles in the world vis a vis authoritarian rule vs. true democracy presupposes one important thing: a disengagement from the interlocking corporate interests which have all but taken over government to this point, at least in America and its client states. Even the supposedly independent states like Thailand or Nigeria have their own versions of this corruption of power by the heavily vested wealth of business interests. In America it has reached an extreme marriage of convenience and of contrivance, to the point that only a massive electoral mandate as we have just witnessed might rise to the occasion to start undoing these undemocratic bonds.

For America the addict of power and wealth, illusion and denial, it is a long road to recovery. Let us rejoice in the first step.

See also: An Open Letter to the Democratic Party after September 11

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