Sunday, November 30, 2008

‘Civilization’ and Le Resistance

In every era there exist commonplace beliefs which appear nonsensical to later civilizations. The leading philosopher of Greece was put to death for corrupting the youth by teaching them that the pantheon of gods might not exist, Rome, despite all its technological and civic achievements glorified slavery, Copernicus attempted to square his theory with the official Catholic version of the universe, Thomas Jefferson maintained slaves despite all his writings of liberty and the equality of men, nineteenth century philosophy disputed the validity of the material universe and attempted to find some alternate reality which placed men outside the scope of history and evolution, the twentieth century validated the logic of the cold war and calmly asserted the rationality of a doctrine entitled “mutually assured destruction (M.A.D.)”. We may look back now at our intellectual forbears and mock their naivety but the madness of our ‘civilization’ continues unabated.

The battle of irrationalisms continues into the 21st century. The lines have been drawn between two camps which will both be discarded by future thinking persons as lunacy. Though it would be convenient to classify the two sides as religious fundamentalists and rationalists we unfortunately must acknowledge that 1) there are religious fundamentalists on both sides of the “clash of ‘civilizations’” and 2) the rationalists have been relegated to the children’s table. “Islamic fundamentalism” and neoliberalism currently wage a pitched battle for the hegemony of the planet earth. Although many countries and cultures exist which fall outside both of these forms of collective insanity and may be considered rightfully hostile to both concepts the raw physical power lies with these two systems of ideas. Let me back up for a moment. The term “Islamic Fundamentalism” would have made the Ministry of Information in Orwell’s 1984 quite proud. It contains an argument within the term itself that is overlooked each time the term is used. To deconstruct the term it simply means that those individuals who choose to wage war against the United States and its allies and happened to be Muslims are adhering ‘fundamentally’ to the tenets Islam. This performs two functions for the creators and users of the term: First it creates an association between whomever the term is applied to and the religion of Islam, thus marginalizing the religion itself and those who actually adhere to its fundamentals, and secondly it lumps together various elements of the resistance to neoliberalism’s attempts at global hegemony into a convenient ‘group’. This moniker of ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’ can then be marginalized by associating the most heinous acts of some members of the group with anyone who opposes American might and happens to also be a Muslim. An even broader term which includes all “Islamic Fundamentalists” as well as non-Muslim members of the resistance to the tyranny of the ‘market’ is “terrorist”.

In the United States this term is used quite broadly encompassing animal rights activists, environmentalists, socialists, communists, those who engage in non-violent acts of resistance to the deployment of nuclear weapons, and anyone whom the media wishes to characterize as dangerous and undesirable. With the recent abolition of habeas corpus the U.S. government may now simply arrest someone, classify them as a terrorist, and hold them indefinitely without the benefit of legal counsel or the ability to challenge the legality of their detention. (cite source Military Commissions Act)

To humor the future historians for a moment I will recap the basic concepts of both philosophies. Neoliberalism is a social policy masquerading as an economic philosophy. This policy pretends to have ‘free markets’ as its core economic platform but the ‘free market’ as practiced contains numerous contradictions. ‘Free’ refers only to the movement of capital, not human beings. Although competition within those markets is touted as a fundamental principle they are in fact heavily regulated in ways that nearly always favor a large, multi-national corporation over individual citizens. To take the most obvious example, a corporation may relocate an operation to any point on the planet where labor costs and regulation is more favorable to its profitability but individuals may not legally relocate themselves to the locations where labor is paid the most and living standards are the highest. This fundamental contradiction results in a phenomenon known in the rich areas of the world as “illegal immigration”. I realize the absurdity of such a notion in a world controlled by powers that continually use the word “free” in their political and economic rhetoric but please bear with me as I attempt to explain this madness.

The multinational corporations need two things to be successful, large markets where their products are in demand, and large reserves of cheap labor whom (they are human beings after all) can be ruthlessly exploited to create those products at a fraction of the cost of their selling price. One example of this is ‘sweatshops’ where marginalized members of a population, often children, are paid wages which are near the poverty level but the product of their labor is consumed by those with large amounts of disposable income in faraway wealthy countries (Nike sneakers selling for $100+ in Europe and the U.S. produced by children being paid ?? per day).

The profits amassed by these activities can then be used to buy influence in governments around the world to ensure that laws enacted by those governments continue to remain favorable to the multinationals often at the expense of the individual citizens of each country.

The countries where these multinational corporations are “located” (located meaning where the stockholders and executives reside usually not the same countries where production facilities are located) maintain massive military forces which can be used to pacify elements of the global population which prove unwilling to submit to neoliberalism.

Opposed to this order of things are some of the elements of the marginalized labor force, though many willingly submit in hopes of reaching the economic pinnacle themselves someday. The most visible element of this opposition are the suicide bombers and other elements of radical religious groups who have abandoned all hope of rational negotiation with the powers that be and simply wage war against their militaries and civilians. While the standard narrative in Western culture is to portray the suicide bombers as fanatics and the neoliberal countries as the purveyors of reason and progress one must consider the possibility that the suicide bomber is the more rational of the two.

The logic of the suicide bomber at its core is altruistic in the truest sense of the term. Each suicide bomber is prepared to sacrifice his life in the belief that his actions will ultimately result in a more just and peaceful world. The neoliberal corporation also engages in actions which result in the death, injury and impoverishment of millions of people but these actions are performed in the pursuit of financial profit and with no sacrifice necessary. This statement appears ludicrous and it is for that very reason that it must be presented with its opposite and the resulting dialectic analyzed. Setting aside the moral calculus of daily death and misery in the third world with the relatively small number of victims of the WTC attacks one may reasonably assume that much death and misery results from both suicide bombings and the global war which has been waged by the U.S. and other Western Powers over the last 100 years. I will not elaborate the case here that the military actions of Western governments are directly tied to expansion of markets and pursuit of ever greater profits but suffice it to say that the current system of the world results in the abject misery of the majority of the worlds population and the vast enrichment of a very small number of individuals.

The suicide bomber challenges this world system in the only way feasible in his or her world view, attempts at political and economic reform aiming at greater economic, political, and capital egalitarianism have failed miserably and the enemy must therefore be attacked at the point of its spear so to speak.


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