Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Guilt-Driven Political Activism Cannot Win

Guilt-Driven Political Activism Cannot Win
by John Spritzler [ ]

If one is an American, there are two very different ways to respond to the knowledge that one’s government is carrying out war crimes and other policies (like supporting Israel) that are destroying the lives of innocent people around the world. One way is to feel guilty. The other way has nothing to do with guilt.

Guilt is the natural response if one believes, quite wrongly, the lie that our ruling class tells us–-that they represent the same values and have the same interests as ordinary Americans. Why guilt? Well, the ruling class is certainly guilty, so think what it means if there is no difference between them and ordinary people whom they control and rule. Think what it means if one believes that ordinary people–-one’s relatives and neighbors and co-workers-- are no better than the ruling class because they “support the evil system” by living in it, working for it, paying taxes to it, and even benefitting from it by wearing clothing that they pay practically nothing for because it’s made by foreign workers exploited in sweat shops owned by American companies, and by driving big cars that use more energy than people use in the third world, and so forth. Consider what happens when one makes no distinction between one’s ruling class and one’s neighbors and co-workers and relatives.

What happens is that one hears an inner voice that will not shut up, an accusatory voice, a veritable demon, saying to oneself, “You are guilty too! You no less than your neighbors and relatives support the evil system and benefit from it. You no less than they wear clothing from those oppressive sweat shops, you no less than they pay taxes to the same government, and like them you work (directly or indirectly) for the same big corporations or government. You’re no different than all the other guilty people. Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!"

In this frame of mind, there is only one way, short of death, to make the demon stop. Become an activist in the cause of fighting on the side of oppressed peoples in the third world. But that isn’t really enough to stop the accusatory demon. No! One must banish any hint in one’s activism that one might be less than 100% on the side of the oppressed. One must strike a pose, for the demon, as a champion of the oppressed, a pose so pure and unequivocal that the demon will never spot anything that even looks like it might be construed as opposition to the oppressed. One must never express any criticism, no matter how justified or useful to the cause, of anything that oppressed people do, especially if it is done in the name of resisting oppression, because the demon would seize on that in a heartbeat!

One thing that really shows that demon one’s dedication to the oppressed is to seek out the worst people, the ones who actually support oppression, and yell and scream at them. Often! It also helps to express disgust at all the ordinary Americans who don’t seem to have demons telling them they are guilty. Denounce them as “part of the problem” and call them “the oppressor.” That proves one is not like them, not guilty, better than they are. Not guilty.

Does such activism actually win? Does it reach out to ordinary Americans and build a mass movement against the rulers of the United States, a movement that can actually defeat them and stop the oppression? No. Of course not. How can one build such a movement if one thinks all Americans are guilty and disgusting people, or if one focuses one’s energy on screaming at the people who are least likely to support such a movement? But building a popular mass movement against oppression isn’t really the purpose of guilt-driven activism. The purpose is to make that demon shut up.

Tell the Demon, “I Am Not Guilty!”

Ordinary Americans are NOT guilty. They may believe the lies they are told. They may pay taxes to avoid going to jail. They may purchase clothing at the stores that sell clothing from sweatshops, since there’s hardly any other clothing for sale in the United States. They may work for whoever will hire them in order to support their family. They may buy a car from one of the car dealerships that sells cars because they work 20 miles from home and there is no commuter train. But they don’t fabricate lies to convince people to fight unjust wars. They don’t spread lies to fuel racism. (They may believe such lies, but that’s a very different thing.) They don’t figure out how to make other people fearful and insecure so they will work for low wages in unsafe conditions. And their lives would be a whole lot BETTER if the ruling class were not doing these things. Ordinary Americans may not be under as sharp an attack as people in Palestine, but they are under attack from the same ruling class. The wonderfully insightful slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all” refers to ordinary Americans too! Sure, it’s worse to be shot by an American soldier than to be an American soldier. And people who are being shot by American soldiers have every right to shoot back. But it’s no great “privilege,” if you are an ordinary American like Cindy Sheehan, to have one’s son killed because one’s ruling class used lies to persuade him to sign up for the military thinking he was serving his fellow Americans when in fact he was serving only his criminal ruling class.

Any ordinary American who thinks he or she is guilty just for living and surviving in our undemocratic society should tell their demon, “No, I am angry but not guilty!” They should tell their demon, “I have met the enemy, and he is NOT us, he is THEM, the American ruling class.” The demon is a liar, a hired thug of the ruling class. The demon spreads the same lie about the so-called unity of all Americans, rich and poor, that our rulers try to push by waving the flag and talking patriotism. Cast that demon out!

And then, look at the world with an entirely fresh perspective.

Instead of having to prove how different one is from one’s neighbors and relatives and co-workers, it is now possible to see that, while their knowledge of the crimes committed in their name may be far less than one’s own, and while they may believe lies about other races or ethnic groups, they nonetheless have very positive, indeed anti-capitalist, basic values. They believe in equality and fairness, not inequality and exploitation. They believe in wars for self-defense, but not for domination of others. They believe in democracy, not fake democracy. They believe people should help each other, not be pitted against each other. And they act on these beliefs by trying to shape their relations with other people–family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers-- by these positive values. They do this in the little corner of the world over which they have any real control. They do this in the face of enormous pressure and attacks from the ruling class, which wants to impose very opposite relations of inequality, top-down control, and dog-eat-dog competition (war being the extreme version of such competition.) In my personal experience, in fact, ordinary Americans believe the United States is not a real democracy and that it would be a good thing if there were a revolution to make it truly democratic. They just doubt this will ever happen because they believe a lot of negative things about their fellow citizens, just as do the people with that demon in their head.

Armed with this fresh view of ordinary Americans as a positive force, a force that already struggles in little ways against the ruling class and, with help and encouragement, could be nurtured into a revolutionary force against the ruling class, political activists can stop feeling alienated from their fellow Americans, because such alienation is no longer necessary to avoid feeling guilty. Instead, they can start to engage in a respectful conversation with their neighbors, relatives and co-workers aimed at helping them see clearly how their basic values are attacked by the ruling class. They can help ordinary Americans succeed in their struggles against the ruling class, struggles in which ordinary Americans are already engaged in small ways that are only visible to activists who have cast aside their demons.

Activists with this realistic view can see that they are not guilty people who have no right to utter anything critical of what an oppressed person does, but rather they are part of the great majority of people on the planet who stand to benefit by overthrowing the power of the elite ruling classes of the world, and who therefore have every right to engage with all other oppressed people in frank, respectful and, yes, critical, discussion about how to win. This is a wholly different kind of activism. It is activism fueled by anger and by a knowledge that most Americans share our basic values about what is right and what is wrong. Unlike guilt-driven activism, this very different approach can really win.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Why “Pick On” Israel? Here’s Why

Why “Pick On” Israel? Here’s Why
by John Spritzler []

Israel’s defenders have a stock argument that goes like this:

"Why do people pick on Israel? Sure, Israel has its faults, just like any country. Its government is not perfect and sometimes it does bad things. What government doesn’t? But how come some people seem to focus only on Israel? Boycott Israel, divest from Israel, they say; but never boycott Russia or China or Saudi Arabia or a host of other countries that do bad things. Israel, they say, violates human rights of Palestinians. If they’re so concerned about human rights, how come they’re not bothered by China’s attack on Tibetans, or Russia’s attack on Chechnians, or Saudi Arabia’s attack on women’s human rights? Hmmm. Why would people want to just pick on tiny little Israel, a Jewish state? Only one reason...they’re anti-Semites."

Nice try, but this defense of Israel is easily refuted. There are a lot of excellent reasons for singling Israel out, and none of them have anything to do with anti-Semitism.

#1. Jesus put it this way. “Why do you behold the mote in your brother’s eye but consider not the beam in your own eye?” For Americans, Israel's crimes are the beam in our own eye. The crimes of China and Russia and Saudi Arabia etc. are the motes in the eyes of others. Our government supports Israel with virtually unconditional diplomatic support and vastly more military and economic aid than it gives to any other nation. Israel gets this overwhelming U.S. aid because it serves the aims not of ordinary Americans but of our ruling upper class (see #4 and #5 below.) No other country plays this role and receives this kind of support from our government today.

#2. Israel is not the only nation that carries out ethnic cleansing, but it is the only nation that is founded on the principle of ethnic cleansing. Israel defines itself as a state of the Jews. Unlike every other state on the planet, which all at least purport to be a state of the people who live in it, Israel adamantly insists it is not a state of the people who live in it, one fifth of whom are not Jewish. Israel is not a state of its residents. It is a state of “the Jews.” And by “the Jews” Israel means Jews wherever they live, including Jews who never lived inside Israel and who have no intention of ever living there. Israel insists that its population must be overwhelmingly Jewish and so it drove out 80% of the non-Jews in 1948 and continues to this day to carry out a brutal ethnic cleansing to get rid of the Palestinians by making life so unbearable for them that they will leave Palestine. No other country does this today.

#3. Israel is the only nation that self-righteously accuses any critic of its ethnic cleansing of being a bigot (anti-Semite.) It is the only nation that insists that its racist policies are “a light unto the nations.” If we let Israel get away with this we are contributing not only to its actual ethnic cleansing, but to its glorification of the principle of ethnic cleansing, which aids and abets this crime everywhere in the world. No other country, not even ones that engage in it, glorify ethnic cleansing this way today.

#4. Israel is the only nation that spreads contempt around the world for the idea of democracy by defining it to mean the government choosing the people instead of the other way around. Israel boasts that it is the “only democracy in the Middle East.” Democracy is an extremely good thing. It is a valuable idea that humanity needs to embrace and that elite rulers try to discredit. But democracy means that the people who live in a state choose its government. In Israel, on the contrary, the government, in the name of democracy, has chosen the people–“the Jews”–and has driven 80% of the un-chosen people out of its borders and made the remaining 20% of them second class citizens completely excluded from the category of people who are officially the sovereign authority over the state. No other country does this today.

#5. No other country surpasses Israel’s polarizing of the entire world, between Muslims versus non-Muslims, by carrying out vicious and gratuitous attacks on the same mainly Muslim population for more than five decades without let up. Israel thereby foments not only a regional ethnic war but a global "War on Terrorism" that serves the same Orwellian social-control needs of all world elites (from the U.S. to China to Russia to Saudi Arabia) that the Cold War served in the past. No other country does this today.

#6. More can be learned about our own United States, and about the source of our own domestic problems and how to solve them, by understanding why it is right to divest from and boycott Israel than by understanding why it might be good to divest from and boycott Russia or China or any other country. The reason is that our domestic problems, like job insecurity, illegal immigration, war, lack of health care, extreme inequality and so on are caused by our corporate and government leaders for the purpose of making us easier for them to control. These same leaders have singled out Israel, unique among all other nations, to enjoy their unwavering and overwhelming support for the same reason–Israel helps to foment the global war that makes the world population easier to control. To understand why our leaders support Israel, and why they pretend to seek peace in that region but never put real pressure on Israel to stop its unjust ethnic cleansing, is to gain insight into how these same leaders control us by deliberately creating the very domestic problems they claim to be trying to solve. We need that insight to build a revolutionary movement to create a real democracy in the United States instead of the fake democracy we have now, controlled by a wealthy and privileged upper class. Of all the foreign nations that we have been lied to about how wonderful they are and how deserving of our support they are, the lies about Israel are the ones that our rulers have used most effectively to get us to support a foreign policy of warmongering designed to strengthen upper class control over working people around the world. No other nation plays this role today.

Why the Left is Wrong About Homosexuality

Why the Left is Wrong About Homosexuality
by John Spritzler []

The Left denounces people who are opposed to same-sex marriage as bigots. The Left says that people who want society to promote heterosexual marriage and not endorse homosexual marriage are infringing on human rights, just as did racists who backed laws against inter-racial marriage. The Left fully endorses the "Gay Pride" events that proclaim that homosexuality merits praise and enthusiasm. This is why the Left has a reputation among most Americans as being crazy.

I am against the so-called "war on terror," against Zionism, against capitalism, for revolution, for working class solidarity and equality and real democracy--AND AGAINST SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. So are millions of other Americans whom the Left denounces as bigots. These people have reasons for their views which have nothing to do with bigotry.

I wrote the following letter to Macy's explaining why I oppose their promotion of "Gay Pride." It was part of a recent campaign of irate phone calls and emails across Massachusetts that forced the Boston store to withdraw the most flagrant parts of a "Gay Pride" window display. By the way, the man who organized the campaign is adamantly opposed to the Iraq war, he focuses much of his attacks on the big corporations and their undemocratic rule over us, and he criticizes Republicans as sharply as Democrats. But according to the Left, he's just a bigot. Driving people like him out of the anti-war movment by making people pass a same-sex marriage support litmus test to be welcomed into it is indeed crazy.

Dear Macy's,

The Boston Macy's store has a window display supporting a "Gay Pride" theme. Macy's says this is just like supporting civil rights for blacks against racist discrimination. But it is not at all the same. "Gay Pride" is about getting society to accept as normal a practice that harms children--the practice of bringing children into the world in a manner that necessarily means breaking the bond between the child and its natural mother or father, which is what happens when a same-sex couple "has a child of their own" by purchasing anonymous sperm or renting a woman's womb. Children conceived this way cannot enjoy the benefits of being raised by both of their natural parents. They necessarily grow up lacking the full knowledge of exactly where they came from [1] and wondering why one of their true parents did not love them enough to raise them. These issues are important to children and the adults they become. These issues relate to the self-image and sense of belonging and security that children have, or do not have.

Adopted children experience a sense of loss because of the broken bond between them and their natural parent or parents. Often, as adults, they go to great lengths to find their true parent or parents, to regain some of what they have lost as children. Adoption is a good thing, but only because it is an act by adults who seek to minimize the harm ALREADY DONE to a child by something we all acknowledge to be a bad thing--the death or incapacity of one or both of the child's natural parents. A homosexual couple who "have a child of their own," however, are not seeking to minimize harm that has already happened to a child; on the contrary they are INITIATING the bad thing that CAUSES the bond between the child and its natural parent to be broken.

If Macy's thinks that the bond between a child and its mother and father (its true mother and father) is without value, something of no concern, so worthless that Macy's would tell parents with a newborn child that they should have no hesitation in giving that child up for adoption even if they were perfectly capable of being good parents and just found it more convenient to not be parents, if Macy's feels this way, then why doesn't Macy's come right out and say so with a public statement to that effect? Why express this strange view only indirectly with support for "Gay Pride?" Or is it that Macy's hasn't thought about the actual implications of the "Gay Pride" agenda? If so, please give it some more serious thought. "Gay Pride" isn't about equal rights. It's about denying children the right to have their real mother and father raise them.

Thank you.

John Spritzler, Sc.D.

[1] The ACLU is promoting the use, in birth certificates, of the terms "parent 1" and "parent 2" instead of "mother" and "father" so that same-sex couples can list themselves as the child's parents when in fact, of course, one of them is not the parent. This ensures that the child grows up with a birth certificate that lies about his or her actual origin. A birth certificate has no meaning except to certify the birth and parents of a child. An honest certificate for a child conceived by anonymous sperm would list the father as "unknown" but at least acknowledge the simple fact that the child had a father, not two mothers known as "parent 1" and "parent 2."