Saturday, 1 September 2012

GOP National Convention pushes collective amnesia

A scene on day 4 of Republican National
Convention, Tampa, Florida.

It has to be said that for many people around the world the sight of the Republican National Convention induces a feeling of revulsion that is virtually impossible to equal by any other means. To watch moral retards in such numbers mutually pleasure each other in full daylight, and without a single pang of shame, is to contemplate a well-used term in Australia that might profitably gain traction elsewhere: clusterfuck. The word is used disparagingly to describe a number of people engaged in a passionate way in something they agree to be worth doing, usually dissing a third party. We need Hunter Thompson badly in days like these. Noone else can adequately evoke the sense of soul-destroying mindlessness that such a vigorous, public wank inspires in the intelligent observer.

Americans seemed today to focus on the sight of an 82-year-old Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, but I was more intent on the slogans deployed around the arena promising, in the event of a Romney win in November, to make America great again and other such rubbish. There has also been some reporting in the media. In the New York Times, a journalist put up a story with the unashamedly servile lede, "Mitt Romney asked voters to consider whether their lives had improved over the last four years." This kind of lazy writing makes you wonder just how stupid Republicans think we are. To describe what I mean I'll have to digress a bit but I'm sure there are some of you who will stick with me for a few minutes. It has to do with collective amnesia.

Currently, the All Ordinaries index is at about 4300, a level equal to where it stood at about mid-2005. The All Ords, as it is affectionately known here, is a commonly-referred-to index that tracks the share prices of a number of publicly-traded Australian companies. The All Ords went up to about 7000 by the end of 2007, after which it dropped to 3000 or so by the end of 2008. That's almost a 50 percent drop in a year, which represents a financial disaster from which the world, now, five years later, is still recovering. How the world's financial boffins got us into this situation is immensely complex but a lot of it has to do with the willingness of financial journalists to get down on their knees, regularly for a number of years, and fellate the Wall Street traders who hold the reins of finance for us all. And because we had no better information we all decided to applaud this happy little scene, and invest.

It has to be said again and again because Republicans want us to forget it: this disaster happened on the watch of George W. Bush. It had nothing to do with Obama. The financial deregulation that enabled those Wall Street boffins to get away with their shenanigans began, furthermore, under Reagan, who seems to be the darling of the GOP at the moment. Clinton was involved as well, it is true, but most of the blame must be laid at the door of the kind of free-market libertarianism that Mitt Romney unquestionably represents. Those incomprehensible and exotic financial products that Goldman Sacks et al brazenly pushed to the muppets they swindled on a global basis were enabled by the likes of the Republican presidential nominee. So a NY Times story headed "Mitt Romney asked voters to consider whether their lives had improved over the last four years" is about as idiotic as it is possible to get without resorting to pig Latin.

But overconfident and badly-educated Americans have this weird way of forgetting important stuff. I have this fantasy that one day an American president will apologise to Iran for the role that the CIA played in the overthrow of Mossadegh back in the 50s, during the period of international hysteria we rather anodynely call the Cold War. Instead, US presidents, including Obama, routinely demonise Iran for its unwillingness to go along with US foreign policy. Who can forget those terrible days when the students occupied the US embassy in Tehran? We should not. But even more urgently we should make efforts to recall why those students were so angry with the United States. It's not like they chose that particular building because they thought it might be fun to break in and ransack it. Just for kicks.

US patriotism is a dangerous indulgence, especially as long as the US government - supported by a lot of its citizens - believes that the US has a special role to play on the international stage. And especially as long as average Americans remain so ignorant of other parts of the world. Messianic fervour of the patriotic kind in the US is damaging not only to the US but to people living in other countries, too.

I put this little item up on Google Plus and it attracted the attention of a patriotic American who came out, guns blazing, and stupidly attacked me in that forum. Our exchange descended to insults. After we had both deleted our idiotic comments, I added a further piece of precious wisdom but the man has not stooped to respond. Here it is:

For how many decades did bad US foreign policy continue. How many bad regimes did the US help to gain power, or stay in power. All to pursue its single-minded agenda during the Cold War. And then the US people turn around after 9/11 and complain that they were attacked unprovoked. Successive US administrations - from Eisenhower to Kennedy, from Johnson to Reagan - sowed the seeds of retribution which finally came to pass 11 years ago. And then further stupidity with illegitimate wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And still the US people, especially Republicans, complain that they are misunderstood. The US is a dangerous, unstable and capricious beast that is not to be trusted.

The thing is that these insights - gleaned from years of wide reading and from decades of exposure to popular culture and international concourse from Down Under, where I live - are, in truth, not problematic. They are simply true, and the witnesses to that truth are often American. But Romney's supporters want us all to forget these things and throw our support behind their candidate for the most powerful single role in the world. And it's just not going to happen. I think about what an apology to Iran would mean. How it would go down in places like Lahore and Beijing. I think of the way the dynamics of international relations would change for the better because of such a decent act. Just saying 'Sorry' is a powerful inducement to good behaviour for all participants on the global stage. But I fear that I shall be forced to wait a long time for this to happen. The house lights are up and the show must go on.

1 comment:

ASL said...

It's the exceptional ism that I find hard to stomach.. Like patriotism on steroids.