Thursday, July 29, 2010
This weekend, I went to see Danton’s Death by Georg Buechner. It was a scorching play by a contemporary and supporter of the French revolution who was highly critical of the Reign of Terror, like Edmund Burke and Thomas Jefferson before him. It lasted 3 years and claimed the lives of 2500 people. Mark Twain, in A Connecticut Yankee, called it the little terror, comparing it with the Great Terror which lasted over 1000years, taking the lives of many hundreds of thousands and consuming those of many millions more. Still, many compare its excesses to the beastliness of a dog that has been turned wild by prolonged extreme mistreatment and whose behaviour is the result of its suffering , possibly not in its deep nature. Buechner obviously felt deeply for the agonies of the revolutionaries and even more for the suffering of the moderates for whom he spoke. It was hard not to see comparisons for our own time, as we move ever closer to the possibility of devastating war with Pakistan, with claims of virtue on both sides. The American and French revolutions were testing grounds for the theory of the Enlightenment, with the American managing to keep it alive and the French going overboard in what must have appeared to their ideologists as an excess of zeal. It never made sense to me, but in a speech from the play about Marat and Sade, Peter Weiss gives us some understanding of why it failed under the rubric of “Everybody wants to bring something with him through a revolution, a souvenir of the time before.” It has appeared to me for a long while that a society in which the ruling caste feels itself secure against revolution becomes steadily worse to those who are thought to have no option, while an actual revolution consumes all civility in its path. I fear I am about to live through such a time. Again!!
Thursday, July 22, 2010
In last week’s Times, Paul Krugman alerted us to a change in polemic on the part of GOP. Abandoning their fixation on the debt, they have decided that it is more important to re-enact the Bush tax cuts for the rich. By the time this comment reaches them, they will have in their heads in their argument that the debt is unimportant, and will be pressing for the recovery potential of the tax cut. They are so deep into their hubris that they cannot see what a wonderful opening they have left for the Dems. I recommend that Obama and co. should go for a tax cut themselves, but in the form of a cut in 5G of taxable income from the bottom of the tax table. It would be a straight out tax cut for every taxpayer as against a restoration of the Bush giveaway to the rich. It would mimic the action of the Tories in GB in a simple act of money for the rich against money for everybody. And as recovery it would be surer that the taxes saved would go into consumer goods than into stock market gambling. It would be easier to enforce and cost less in income manipulation. In addition, it would be on a field where a simple veto could block the GOP move if it failed to persuade the ordinary voter that they would rather have the saving for themselves than pass it on to the banksters and their gang. If the Dems will not take this initiative, then there is 0 to be said for them, and if the voters will not respond to this choice, they become the authors of their own victimization. It has always been easy for slick lobbyists to get the voters to support the fat cats rather than themselves, but in this plan, it is tax cut against tax cut, us against them, and if the Dems will let this opportunity get away from them, then they would be as worthless as some of my left-wing friends tell me. I hope that Tammy Baldwin will take up this stratagem and pass it on to Sen. Feingold.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
For over 60 years, we have been hearing about war syndromes, as though these were in some sense individual and accidental errors, all different. Actually, they are all aspects of the same problem, which has been haunting US for the past 6 decades, and as it reappears, we act as though it were unique, something we had never seen before except for the fact that the most perceptive among us see it as a reflection of the past immediate instance, but not as a chronic weakness that threatens to afflict us until it finally brings the US experiment to a crashing ruin. In capsule, it arises from the belief that US military and diplomatic superiority is so huge in comparison with the resources of underdeveloped countries and movements that it is required only to rattle the saber to bring compliance from a force that DC considers inimical to their orders. It reflects what we imagine was the history of the late XIX and early XX centuries as we see it was still in effect. That was a history in which the disjunction between the advanced countries and their colonial servants was settled by confrontation between Gatling Guns on one side and sharpened sticks on the other. Them days is gone forever, and good riddance. Even the Spanish Empire was easier to confront than the Philippine guerrillas that fought for independence when the European masters were gone. And we have been learning over and over what it means to be arrayed against a domestic resistance movement that swims like a fish in the sea that is the population. After the Greek resistance and Tito’s Croatian socialists, there was the armies of Peru, Chile and Argentina against their people, the conquest of Guatemala by its colonels, the overthrow of the elected governments in Iran and Chile, and always the same script with new antagonists, always at a disadvantage our rulers never imagined.