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Silber: man on fire

  Image courtesy Oleg Volk, A Human Right

Arthur Silber, lately, has not seemed to be much limited by his significant health problems--at least not literarily.  His most recent article on the McChrystal circus, I just had to highlight here.  Today, it's worth taking a trip over to his place to check out two other recent works.

The first explains the "because we can" attitude that the state gets whenever anything at all gets in its way, from principles to pedestrians:

So these two facets of the problem might appear to be at odds with one another. But if you consider the matter a bit further, you'll appreciate how well they complement each other. Obama alone -- Obama as the symbol of "the end of racism" in America, as the transcendence of the American project over its longstanding defects and failures -- provides all the cover that is required. What were war crimes under Bush can't be war crimes under Obama. Why not? Because he's Obama! If you object that the explanation can't be that simple (and, yes, simple-minded), I will urge you to consult the news more regularly. I will urge you to revise downward your conception of just how deeply idiotic Americans will make themselves. This is especially true with certain segments of the political yammering class.


The shifting and even inversion of labels is a device the U.S. government uses whenever its goals change, and when the previous label would prove a hindrance to the policy it has decided upon most recently. What had been a "terrorist organization" is now a group of "freedom fighters," or vice versa as deemed advisable.

The truth of the label is of no moment whatsoever. When used by governments in this manner, labels are merely signifiers allowing pursuit of the chosen policy to proceed without objection. As in the case of Yugoslavia, almost no one objects or even notices the shift. Americans love the marketing. And then they pretend to react with wonder and astonishment when everything turns to blood-drenched shit. I say "pretend to react" because I find it hard to believe that large numbers of people are actually this profoundly dumb. On some level, they know they've been fooled again -- or, to be more accurate, that they've allowed themselves to be fooled again -- but they don't want to admit it. Better, they think, to sheepishly acknowledge stupidity than to confront the lies they so enthusiastically tell themselves.

The Death State uses the "terrorist organization" label today whenever it is convenient to do so: that is, when that usage makes it easier to pursue its chosen policy. But ultimately, it pursues that policy not because of facts or the truth of the situation, but because that is what it has chosen to do. In part, its policies are in the pursuit of greater power, control and wealth -- but of equal or even greater significance is that the State pursues the policies it does because it can. This underscores the unanswerable power of the State; from this perspective, which is the perspective of those deeply damaged people who seek political power on the national stage, power is the not the means to another end. Power is the end. The ruling class knows it, and they know you will do and believe anything to avoid this particular truth.

The second takes a probing look at the "thank you, sir, may I have another?" attitude that we are supposed to take toward whatever indignity or atrocity that our betters decide they need to foist upon us on our behalf, in our name, and with our money:

Take some time to appreciate the unfathomable cruelty of this pattern. You may be grievously harmed and even permanently damaged by the actions of those who hold unanswerable power -- but you may only speak about this evil and its effects within the very narrow limits set by those who would destroy you. If you are killed, the identical prohibitions apply to those who still manage to survive and who would protest the unforgivable crime committed against you. In this manner, the complacency and comfort of those who possess immense power and wealth are underwritten by the silence forced upon their victims. The victims may speak and even protest, but only within severely circumscribed limits, and only so long as their rulers are not made to feel too uncomfortable, or too guilty. Anything which approaches too close to the truth is strictly forbidden.

This is the system of government carefully erected and fortified in the United States over the last century. In the last several decades, it has been made impregnable and unassailable. If you tell the full truth or even approach it, you are consigned to the void beyond the most distant borders of permissible debate.


The pattern is the same: the victims are forced to participate in their own destruction. If you participate in our authoritarian-corporatist-militarist system in any significant way, there is no way of escaping this dilemma. I repeat the point for emphasis: this is the way the system was designed. The events of the last decade in particular and the events of today -- the acceptance of torture as a "normal" method of state- and warcraft, endless criminal wars of aggression, genocide, the funneling of vast amounts of wealth from defenseless "ordinary" citizens to the already engorged ruling class, the destruction of the Gulf and a huge additional number of lives -- are not aberrations, the result of the system having gone awry. This is what the system is designed to do. Most people recoil from evil of this magnitude; they refuse to identify and accept the system for what it is. They still seek to "reform" or "save" it. In other words: they themselves seek rationalizations and justification for their continuing collaboration. The ruling class is many things: avaricious, consumed by lust for power and control, heedless and uncaring of the immense destruction they cause, provided the destruction never touches their lives. But the ruling class is emphatically not stupid. To state what would be painfully obvious, if only so many people were not so wedded to denial: they constitute the ruling class, and you do not. And they counted on your reluctance or outright refusal to identify their evil. They knew they could depend on your continued collaboration in your own drawn-out torture and death.

And they were entirely, completely right. This is hardly the first time history has proven this particular truth.

You can avoid the demand that you support your own destruction, but it is not an approach many people will choose: you can withdraw your support, in every way possible to you. Neither I nor anyone else can tell you how to effect that choice, should you wish to do so. The particulars of each person's life are unique, and the choice of non-cooperation presents itself in many forms. If you view the system as profoundly, irrevocably evil, and if you do not choose to support it any longer, only your own conscience can provide the necessary guidance. Only you can decide how much of your soul you are willing to surrender.

I've had reason to disagree with Silber before, on the grounds of his appearing to still cling to the idea that principled people could somehow make things better within our political system, but he sure doesn't seem to be suffering that liability here:

...The government takes gobs of money from taxpayers, it shovels huge amounts of that money to already enormously powerful companies, those companies then provide services essential to the government's unending campaigns of widespread destruction and death -- and in the necessary course of providing those services, the companies themselves commit numerous "egregious" and "willful" violations of health and safety requirements (all documented by Turse), and the companies thus inflict enormous suffering on some of the same taxpayers.

Then, in a display of our rulers' magnificently bountiful kindness and thoughtfulness, some of those injuries -- just some of them, for how can many of the victims ever be made close to whole again in any meaningful way? -- will be compensated, using a small portion of the huge wealth made possible by the taxpayers in the first instance.

As I say: elegant.

And this is merely one example, if an especially heinous one, from one industry. How many times in how many industries is this identical pattern repeated every single bloody and blood-filled day? Countless times, in countless industries.

This is what the system is designed to do. It does it with astonishing efficiency. Short of civil disobedience on a huge, unrelenting scale, that is, short of widespread, unceasing non-cooperation, the system will continue for the foreseeable future, probably in roughly its current form for the rest of your life. There is no sign that non-cooperation on the required scale will occur or is even being contemplated, except by a few outliers like me. And, possibly, like a few of you.

So what are you going to do? Scream at the injustice? Yell about the monstrous evil being committed every hour of every day? Write another blog post? I do not exempt myself from the all-encompassing irony which now consumes us, amidst the rising torrent of blood.

But: Withdraw your support, if you choose to. Disobey. Break the goddamned rules. Do not cooperate. If a sufficient number of people chose that course, change might begin.

Consider it. I suppose not all that much is at stake -- only your soul, and your happiness.

Indeed.  I can hardly imagine how it can be said better than that.


  • MamaLiberty 5 years ago

    There is only one law: non-aggression. The rest I break as I can, sometimes with great glee. I resist to the best of my ability.

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