Welcome to the Third World By Reza Fiyouzat
Caveat absurdus: This is intended for those who will never read it.
It is a sad truth these days that most of the leftists who, in their conversations, writings, speeches, and actions, express outrage at the current state of world affairs, most likely go unheard by those who matter most: the greater public. They are heard mainly by either the ‘converted’ or the ‘choir’. There are of course some occasional church-goers who barely hear anything anymore, but who nonetheless still consider themselves devout. However, by now their cynicism has gotten the better of them, and as they walk past the church more frequently than they attend, they can smirk to themselves in contempt, just as would Benjamin, that old donkey in that story of animals gone wild, as told by Mr. Orwell. ‘What use is caring when the world is so fucked?’ they expound loudly.
‘What use is a brain when so thoroughly bunked?’ we ponder back, not too proudly.
American and British, as well as Australian friends, colleagues, fellow humans, I do not wish to speak harshly because your governments, since we are non-Israeli Middle Easterners, take the liberty of slaughtering us indiscriminately in our streets, at our weddings, in our schools, in our ambulances, in our homes, and even in our places of worship.
No. No such thing is my wish. I know you are tired, and I know you have been worked to a comatose state. When you get home, I sympathize that you prefer not to engage in discussions that may turn out depressing, and that you instead would prefer to forget and hook yourselves up to that TV tube, the box, or that screen that says, ‘You’ve got mail! Workday ain’t over!’
If I speak at all, it is only to point out that things are tightening around your neck. I mean you well yet fear for you, just as much as I fear the outcome of what you may fail to do: protect yourself. It is your safety I pray for, so the from the safety thus saved, eventually you may throw a rope to others and find your full humanity in doing so; so that you can breathe freely again.
You see, we do not really need the helping hand you may offer, although any help goes a long way these days. We, like you now, but for longer, have lived with the noose and have learned a thing or two about struggling against its restraints. No earth shattering lessons, nor any magical one-key-fits-all kind of secret to report, though. Simple persistence and an unending effort to learn more, to critique, and to better articulate your humanity; those shall be your best friends in these times of deeply troubling woes.
So, yes, if I speak it is not to besiege you with pleas for help, or handouts, or God forbid that you should quit your job and become a revolutionary and take to the jungles. That would be very stupid indeed. No; nothing of the sort. I mean not to disturb.
However, there are things that you still can do. Here are some ‘for-examples’.
For example … People who have worked in the US Congressional Offices inform me of certain key trivia that may come in handy. They tell me that every call a representative or senator receives regarding any issue counts for about five to ten, fifteen thousand calls, depending on the issue and the office; we may be off on the numbers here, and anybody who knows the exact numbers please enlighten us; but the main point is not in the quantities, but the quality of impact such an act produces in the hearts and minds of the people upstairs. As in, they know that, for every one caller who bothers to call, that many thousands of people are having the same concern.
So, those in the crowds of the ‘converted’ and the ‘choir’ then? Are we practicing our faith? (Am I speaking too loudly?)
Those who do know, what are they doing? It is very easy to take down this despicable screen separating the naked boy-President behind it from the public eye.
It is really not a difficult thing to show to the people in the US how much worse their lives are compared to, say, thirty years ago. People have eyes. They have parents who bought houses with twentieth of the income of their kids. People know they cannot afford to buy as much with seemingly higher wages. They see their streets, hospitals, schools and neighborhoods in neglect and disrepair. Forty million people know they have no access to healthcare. We are told twelve million families in the US know that the likelihood of their next meals is in deep, anxiety-ridden, stomach-lining-eating doubt. People see that a new form of jobless ‘recovery’ is being sold as the norm to be expected.
In short, people know they are being shafted. They just hope to hell that it ain’t so! But it is. And, people will eventually see that it is. So, this other shoe too will drop. But when it does, how much work have we (the people who know) done to make the other shoe drop? You see, it does matter, because, when the realization does hit, it will be anybody’s game to package it, explain it, and thus give some direction and articulation to actions taken (or not) by the public.
So, the second shoe that will have to drop will do so in a favorable place or not depending on how much work is done by the people in the know. In other words, when people finally realize that unless they fight back they will get increasingly shafted, how and in what fashion they will fight will depend on how much work we do now to bring about that realization. In a situation where the organized force of the rulers is so immense, and where so much of the means of ideological production is concentrated in their hands, the game will be lost very quickly (as is manifest right now) if we do nothing and let things take their ‘natural’ course.
There is always a tendency that moans, “Maybe things need to get worse for people to act!” Well, maybe yes, maybe no. First, people are just as likely to fight back now rather than later. Second, as things get worse, the conditions for fighting back too get worse. It does make a difference whether or not you can legally do certain things. The more things you can do legally, obviously the better are the conditions for fighting back. The point here is that we are part of the ‘natural’ course history takes. What we do will change the course of events. And if we do nothing, that too will change the course of events, but to our further disadvantage.
I must admit to having masochistic tendencies. It comes with wearing the noose. One such tendency is to follow the right wing press and ideologues; like, The Economist and Rush, just to name two. Listeners to Rush Limbaugh know his oft repeated saying that it took only a third of the population of the colonies to pull off the revolution that led to the independence of the United States of America. I am not a historian so can’t disagree, but it makes sense; I am told that it took the French about the same number of people to carry the French Revolution.
Now, I don’t expect you to pull off a revolution. Revolutions instigated by half-sleepy people are dangerous affairs. In fact, the current right wing crusade in the US is the revolution of the half-sleepy.
So, there is a range available, from the low cost telephone calls/emails to representatives in the Congress, to the highest cost of an all-out social revolution. But, there are also things in between which are still revolutionary. Why, for example, are we not acting like the Wobblies? Why aren’t we over-packing their jails at every opportunity?
‘Wo, wo, wo,’ I hear you say. ‘Hold it there, buddy! That’s getting a bit too harsh and way too revolutionary, already!’ I hear you. You are right. I’ll hold my tongue. I was merely pointing out that we need not re-invent the wheel, should it get to that point. It has been demonstrated clearly and repeatedly what it takes in the USA to show you’re pissed off. If cramming their jails is too harsh, well, why are we not jamming their phone lines and email inboxes? That costs so very little in time, or effort.
Or, how about this? Forget about organizing others, or with others. You, the one singular person, can make a difference; a big difference for your own sense of humanity, as well as for spreading the outrage. And all you need to do is hold up pictures of tortured Iraqis, or tortured Americans for that matter. This can be done even on your trips between Starbucks and MacDonald’s. And it costs very little. Singular individuals can stand on street crossings, for fifteen minutes a day _ OK, how about, fifteen minutes every two or three days? Once a week? For those who would like to take that one step beyond the individual, why not coordinate with a singular other friend. Or, you can pool with a few friends, and do the same in shifts.
But, why do I have to resort to such utilitarian language to ‘motivate’ you to do something?
It distresses us to no end when, at every turn of any given day’s twists and turns, we are forbidden to even bring up certain topics in our conversations with you. Why have things gotten to such a point where asking you to exhibit human conscience is taken to be ‘dragging things down’, or ‘ruining our dinner’ or else made out to be some ‘bother’ or a ‘nag’?
I know the cynical answer: “It’s not my house that’s on fire,” you say. But, the point, again, is that your house is on fire. Maybe you haven’t smelled the smoke yet. But we can clearly see the fire. Your neighbor’s house is on fire, too; see? In fact your entire neighborhood is on fire; has been for a while. See your neighbor’s little girl running out of the house and into the street? She knows.
I know a good many decent American people, who on the day the Twin Towers were crumbling down, bringing an entire historical era down with them, were freaking out so horribly, it seemed like their own personal lives and worlds had just been shattered to pieces and their entire families lost in the rubble of the Twin Towers, even though they were thousands of miles away from all the carnage, and had not a single friend or relative anywhere near any of the terror sights. The American imagination must have been well-trained in believing that ‘it’ only happened to others! Nonetheless, the same Americans seem so cold and distant, unconcerned and for the most part very willingly ignorant about hundreds of thousands of non-Americans’ lives being taken by their armed forces. But to bring that up in a conversation … is to ‘ruin the mood’.
Some of us, foolishly it seems, hoped that maybe a truer window into the pains of humanity will be opened into American hearts and minds after the September 11, 2001 massacres. The imagination needed to see the deeper sources of pain failed, alas! And here we are not talking about the far left of the American life. We are talking about all the millions upon millions of hard working men and women, whose entire lives are eaten up by this giant capitalist machinery, who pay the taxes that uphold the public end of this system creating war after war, and who do possess the power to shake off this giant leech, yet feel powerless and so continue to be bilked.
The existential reality for most of the US citizens is that their really existing life conditions are fast approaching a Third World standard. And yet, most Americans continue to believe they are living in the land of Number One. Thanks to the diligent efforts of hard leftist writers, activists and organizations we are now well aware of the perilous state of civil rights of individuals in the US. We are also equally and painfully aware of the bagging of the US government by the tiniest possible cliques. We are likewise provided ample documentation to the effect that Halliburton, Bechtel, and a very few other militaristically-inclined corporations are receiving the lion’s share of all the profits being made from illegal and entirely unprovoked wars of aggression (crony capitalism is the name for it). All of these are fundamental characteristics of despotic, corrupt Third World dictatorships.
‘USA Number One’? Hardly! ‘Protector of liberty, democracy and human right’? Please!!
Supremely disgusting are the Human Rights Reports (with big, capital R’s) coming out of Washington DC these days. The most despicable human rights violators around the globe can hardly wait for the release of the latest such, just like we wait for the Daily Show, just so they can fall to the floor in stitches, in delirium over the audacity alone. What is truly disgusting is exactly the farce that has been made of ‘human rights’. Go talk to the Palestinians, the Iraqis or the Afghans about such things. How about stopping the rape to begin with? Forget about the other niceties. Habeas corpus? (Schmabeas what?)
So, brutes run most lands equally brutally these days, and the only cynical ‘silver lining’ is that more than a few of us supposedly deranged Third World lesser peoples can smirk in disgusting irony at the US population as more and more of their rights are stolen while they are, unhappily and neurotically in fact, fixed to Reality TV, a Monday Night game, or a sitcom. Some Europeans may consider themselves eligible to indulge in ‘better than thou’ rhetoric, but the grass, greener though it may seem, is not that much greener over there, either.
On the day the world came tumbling down, on Nine-Eleven, as it is called, I told a friend (did I say it out loud, or did I say it in my head; since I never got a reply, can’t tell to this day):
“See how fucked up that is? This is the most horrific crime! It is despicable! How could anybody do such a thing? It is sick, isn’t it? But, what if they do it again? I mean, like, what if they can? Like, they come back tomorrow and hit another city, say, Chicago. Then they come back again the next day and hit San Francisco, then Seattle, then Los Angeles. What if they do that every day, and hit different cities simultaneously? What if they start telling us that we should overthrow the American government, or else they will come back and hit other targets, to be chosen at their own discretion, and will do so again and again until we overthrow our government? What if they keep coming back week after week, month after month? What if we can’t stop them, and they just keep coming back? What if they start announcing their attacks in their newspapers after a while? What if they start discussing in their legislature the scheduling and the tonnage of the bombs they plan to drop on us? What if their scientists start getting prizes for improving the lethality of the bombs they drop on us? Where will we hide our children? Our mothers? Our sisters and brothers and fathers and grandparents? Where can we go? What can we do? How should we fight back?”
But, maybe I was digressing. Maybe I was talking about what the US Armed Forces and a good chunk of the civil society did to Vietnam (and to Iraq). Maybe shame did find its way up to the surface, and hence the silence.
But, your silence is not what we want. We, as much as you, need your boisterousness. Your loud demands are what we seek. Be loud. Be strong and unafraid, and be prepared for they are coming for you. They are, in fact, already there. Welcome to the Third World.