Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Envisioning That Better Future -- Five: The End of Cruelty
The United States has become one of the most outrageously cruel societies thanks in part to a long tradition of physical cruelty and brutal excess -- going back at least to the earliest Colonial times -- but especially due to the determination of our Ruling Classes to develop and impose as cruel a regime as they believe they can get away with as a consequence of the 9/11 attacks. Not that there weren't many signs of what was to come well before those attacks.
Cruelty has become so ingrained in the American consciousness that the hundreds or thousands of domestic applications of cruelty by Authority every day in this country go practically unnoticed by the majority of people. Most don't know what's going on because they don't see it directly; those who do have some idea of what's going on may only have the vaguest idea of the scope of the problem, and many of them don't care about cruelty to others in any case.
Domestic cruelty is only part of the problem, however. Our international behavior, especially during our nation's now routine wars of aggression abroad, is less and less distinguishable from that of many aggressor nations of history, to the point where shocking the conscience (and lies) has become a widespread military tactic used by our allies as well.
It's shameful, deeply morally wrong, and it is ultimately unsustainable.
Any Better Future we envision will have deal with American cruelty and take the necessary steps to curb and then end it.
The immediate problem in dealing with the topic is that cruelty is pervasive in American society. Where do you start getting a handle on it and eventually getting rid of it?
So many Americans have been conditioned to accept the cruel treatment of The Other that in many cases, they don't even recognize it when they witness it. And I've been struck during the Occupy Movement at the general passivity of Occupy crowds in the face of often egregious brutality and cruelty by police forces all over the land.
The crowds may or may not make loud objections to the applications of force they witness, but most would never intervene. Few have any idea that they have the power to transform the cruelty or brutality they are witnessing or being subjected to, such as Marine Sgt. Shamar Thomas did in shaming the NYPD last October.
Our entire prison/industrial complex is suffused with cruelty; but so is much of law enforcement in general. The entire injustice system relies on its own cruel instincts to oppress, repress, and suppress those it deems threats -- by excesses of criminalization, disparate enforcement, discriminatory sentencing, and on and on and on and on.
The entire system is an abomination and must be abolished and started over. It's well past the point of effective reform.
But there is more. The current hot candidate for the Republican nomination for President (and already designated successor to Obama as far as the media is concerned) Mitt Romney has let loose any number of apparently unconsciously cruel statements, from the fact that he likes to fire people to the absurd statement that he's "unemployed" too, that I've decided he's probably dogwhistling very effectively to the heartless Republican base. All the other candidates on the Republican side ten to be very open about their cruel intentions, particularly Gingrich, but certainly not limited to him. Romney-the-Moderate (so he's characterized) must communicate more... subtly. Not an easy task for him, given his history.
But the entire political system operates on a premise of cruelly disregarding the needs and interests of the People in order to serve the needs and interests of the High and the Mighty. Republicans have no lock on that kind of cruelty. It is ever-present throughout the system, and Democrats have developed remarkably effective methods of cruelly dismissing and denouncing their own base of support.
Corporate cruelty is too well known by too many people.
We could go on.
The point is that any vision of a Better Future -- that's going to mean anything to the People -- must end the systematic cruelty and brutality that is a paramount feature of American society in almost all its aspects. It's not just physical cruelty, either.
How to do that is still an open question. But nothing can be done without more widespread recognition of what's going on. The thousands of highly public arrests and hundreds of injuries connected with the Occupy Movement, together with routinely cruel treatment in custody -- and the greater levels of testimony about it -- are having a cumulative effect on consciousness and consciences.
It's a start...