The Great Tyranny: 72 years and counting
“Flippant and reckless what the end may be.”
All of us are veterans of The Great Tyranny, some longer than others depending on our age. I was born two years before the bombing on Hiroshima and Nagaski in 1945 which means I have living memory of a lot of wars.
I still remember as a grade one student hearing news reports on the radio about the Korean war. The vestiges of that war still reverberate today; more threatening than ever.
Through out my public school years we were fascinated with WWll and the question was Hitler really dead? All these years later I would say he died in that Berlin bunker but in too many ways his legacy lives on as a contagion in the world.
In high school I fell in love with history; thanks, in part, to some very capable teachers. It was one subject I never had to study for- not that I studied much because my primary interest was art.
After high school it was straight to art school. The art school at that time was an antiquated court house. Even today I savor memories of that building as it was one of Winnipeg’s oldest and finest historic buildings, but it did not escape the wrecking ball. In that building in 1963 I heard the news of the Kennedy assassination. It was one in the afternoon and there was a buzz in the hallways as students passed the news. Only much later in life would I come to realize the momentous significance of his death; a death that stalks our existence today.
From Winnipeg it was on to graduate school in the US. The war in Vietnam was escalating and my fellow students lived in stark fear of the draft. Their status as graduate students and good marks won them deferments but there was still serious consideration of a run for the Canadian border. One reason Kennedy died was he wanted to stop the war. The war mongers prevailed and 60,000 American lives and a few million Vietnamese paid the price (estimates of Vietnamese casualties range from three to five million).
Five years later, a friend and I were returning from school. We arrived in Las Vegas to hear that Bobby Kennedy had just been assassinated in Los Angeles. Another assassination, another event disconnected from history.
Having rekindled my interest in history and politics, the tapestry of history is revealed. It is not just a time line of events. It is much more. It is a a complex warp and weft of interconnected events, bearing one on the other, connected to the past, determining the present, and predictive of the future. Passing through Las Vegas on that fateful night has new significance for me. Kennedy’s assassination has a historical connection to the Las Vegas massacre of this year. What happens in the past reverberates into the present.
I see the last 72 years as a distinct era we have allowed to persist. Too many people have come to accept it as the norm and as being immutable. I call it The Great Tyranny. You could also call it the Nuclear Age, but this only describes one aspect of it. The Great Tyranny is a mind numbing confluence controlling us, inducing political paralysis, and blocking real progress.
The lethargy of leadership
One thing history tells us very explicitly is that we are the ones determining our present and future. They are of our making. The present world is in chaos and we must bear responsibility for it.
In determining our present and future we refuse to consult history and the truths it tells us. In my writing I am constantly referring to the wise men of history- “our village elders.” Like impertinent children we refuse to act on their counsel.
If you wonder why my blogs are liberally peppered with cartoons and images, it is because they really do speak a thousand words and in some cases, ten thousand. I declare a bias here. I am a visual artist- the mind’s eye loves to digest a good picture in all its implications. The adjacent cartoon tells us so much with such great economy. People of good conscience remaining silent really does go a long way to explain the roots of tyranny. Pelosi, Obama, and Reid( present and former leaders in a now defunct and disgraced US Democratic party) reject Jefferson’s great truth. That they do so is pack mentality, also denialism. They indulge in truths of convenience and reject the truth of inconvenience which would require them to actually lead, be proactive and ethical. For too many leaders, leadership is really just a comfortable sinecure where they go through the motions.
As Canadian poet Archibald Lampman (1861-1899) wrote in his poem The Modern Politician:
To them faith, kinship and verity,
Are but the counters in a desperate play,
Flippant and reckless what the end may be.
So that they glitter each his little day,
The little mimic of a vanished king.
Where politicians are elected to lead, they actually follow. Where they are expected to exercise power they become courtesans to the real power. They become no more than useful idiots to the corporate warfare state, to ruinous ideologies like neoliberalism, useless idiots to the populations they are elected to serve, and incompetent custodians of the world they are supposed to conserve.
This lethargy can be fatal.
Benchmarks of The Great Tyranny
The first benchmark was the gratuitous bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 as tens of thousands of Japanese civilians died for no good reason. The war was over, Japan was in ruins, but the bomb had to be tested.
The US remains the only country to ever use the bomb. It has an arsenal capable of destroying planet earth several times over. This though is not enough. It has, thanks to Barack Obama, embarked on a 1.7 trillion dollar program to renew and update its nuclear arsenal. This is money the US does not have. The nuclear doomsday clock is at mid-night.
The second benchmark was the assassination of J F Kennedy. He arrived in the Oval Office to find official Washington had fallen in love with war. The Cold War was well under way. There were incumbent generals lusting for more and greater wars against the USSR, and the Military Industrial Complex(MIC) was slave to the profiteering that came from a country on a permanent war footing.
The Deep State was established. Kennedy wanted peace. The Deep State wanted war, and Kennedy paid with his life. Had Kennedy prevailed we might be living in a much more peaceful world today.
The third benchmark was set with the collapse of the USSR in1991. After 1945 the US and the USSR waged the Cold War. It was a world divided between the two superpowers as they jousted for dominance. With its collapse the US was left with no adversary, no nemesis to vilify, and no justification for profligate military spending.
There was a huge peace dividend available but the US saw this collapse as an opportunity for global dominance. The collapse of the USSR “outed” the US as it quickly revealed its pathological addiction to war, militarism and global conquest. To facilitate this conquest the Wolfowitz Doctrine(1991) and the Program for the New American Century (PNAC)(1997) were conceived.
It is a grim irony that in Cold War ll the US again turns on Russia as the designated villain. China thrown in for good measure, along with the war on Islam, aka the ongoing War on Terror. It would be a huge step toward world peace if its NATO puppet states refused to fight America’s endless wars. As America is in love with war its NATO vassal states cherish their ruinous servitude.
The fourth benchmark is none other than good old 9/11, 2001. Hitler seized power in 1933 by burning the Reichstag and blaming it on the Communists. America’s neocons needed a “New Pearl Harbor” to implement their agenda for global conquest. Conveniently, the Twin Towers in New York came tumbling down( remarkably amateurish theatrics) and they declared war on the world. A new enemy was concocted , and the world divided between good and evil (by their definition). The bogus War on Terror was birthed by the world’s leading terrorist state. Enemies would be annihilated and allies exploited.
The fifth benchmark is the veiled hand of neoliberalism. The nuclear age and the age of neoliberalism arrived almost simultaneously. The Mont Pelerin Society held its founding meeting in Switzerland in 1947. One of the attendees was none other than Milton Friedman who became the guru of neoliberalism. His message was just what big business wanted to hear: Societies must be reshaped to serve and be exploited by the free market economy. Neoliberalism came of age with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and US president Ronald Reagan. They led the vanguard of politicians who facilitate neoliberalism, abandoning their allegiance to the public sector as they became a catering service to the private sector. Deregulation, privatization, and denigrating government became the mantras of politicos. US president Bill Clinton was one of the most accommodating when he rescinded the Glass-Steagall Act.
Neoliberalism became a failed ideology with the Wall Street collapse of 2008. Billions of dollars of public money bailed out criminal banksters. Even as a failed ideology it thrives today primarily because it caters so effectively to the greed of the 1%, and because politicians of every stripe blindly cater to it.
The “flippant and reckless”
It is a if WWll never ended. It was only set off by a punctuation mark in 1945 when we entered the nuclear age. New generations of weapons became available and killing off large populations became more cost effective. Enslaved to militarism and perpetual war we witness whole countries destroyed. Paying endless amounts of tribute money to a dying empire is accepted as a matter of course.
Over the past decades we have set many benchmarks. Many more than the five examples given above. The question is how many more can we get away with setting. How many more will occur? Some imposed on us, some beyond on our control. All our responses headed in the wrong direction, deepening the tyranny.
We are long past tyranny gaining a foothold. It is a boot print on the world deeply imprinted. So far few people of good conscience have arrived on the scene; mostly the “flippant and reckless”… the “little mimic[s] of a vanished king” are everywhere.
Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages
May I, compose like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
W.H. Auden, September 1, 1939