Something for the weekend: Jan 22nd 2021
Here are three quotations I copied into my notes today, each pertinent to this moment. Something to ponder over the weekend.
The first is from an article by Paul Street on Counterpunch. The subject of the article is the false assumption that the US is, in any way, a democracy. This obviously challenges the received wisdom that the US is both a shining example of democracy and that the mission of this country that believes in its own exceptionalism is to export democracy into the dark corners of the world. Any examination of the history of US foreign policy (or should that be foreign intervention) in the decades since the Second World War quickly finds that the phrase ‘export democracy’ should be read as ‘destroy democracy’.
[The US] is a capitalist country, to say the least. Capitalism and democracy, falsely and absurdly conflated with each other in American ideology, are not merely different things. They are fundamentally opposed to one another, for an ever-present democracy-cancelling tendency towards the greater concentration of wealth in fewer hands is a central characteristic of capitalism…
My second quotation comes from the latest bulletin from the Media Lens team. The bulletin has illuminating things to say on topics such as Assange, corporate media, and, of course, corporate media’s non-coverage of the B’Tselem report calling out Israel for its apartheid policies. But the piece ends with a sharp look at the climate crisis — and the part played by capitalism. (There’s a theme here.)
We have arrived at this terminal stage of capitalism because we are being held in a death-grip by a system of economics and exploitation that is coated with a veneer of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, ‘progress’ and other convenient ideological myths. The corporate media has sold the public those myths, perpetuating and deepening the various interlocking crises that threaten to wipe out homo sapiens, along with countless other species.
On a slightly more cheerful note, here’s a quotation from Barbara Tuchman about the power books — always close to my heart. This quotation came at the end of this week’s newsletter from James Clear. In conjunction with the previous quotations, though, I think it also lets us ponder the general attack on culture that is being led by the right. Education — and the power of books — is seen now as a two-tier thing. The children of anyone but the wealthy are regarded as little more than potential fodder for the ever-widening maw of the service industry. To be able to read is one thing; to be able to read history and philosophy and to use that to form opinions and to deduce that capitalism and the rule of the oligarchs may not be the best way to guarantee a future for the planet, is definitely not to be encouraged. Tuchman’s quotation expresses exactly why the oligarchs fear books.
Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.
Have a great weekend of reading and pondering.
[This post first appeared on grahamdstewart.com]