Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy America Day!

As you should all know, today is the 4th Of July, which is one of my least favorite holidays. This is not, as many right-wing talk show hosts would want you to believe, because I do not love America, but rather because it results in two things that should never mix: fireworks and drunk people. Other than that I love the chance to sit back and enjoy the fact that I could have been born in a much much worse place, and that even though it has its problems, America is a pretty cool place. I <3 freedom after all.

There is an article that I saw a while ago, and I feel like this would be the perfect time to write about it. I found it on Spiegel, and it deals with the rise of people wanting autocratic systems of government over democracies. [Link Here]

The gist of the article is that due to American involvement in the Middle East, many feel that democracy is an ineffective form of government and prefer autocratic systems of ruling. This is actually an argument that I have been having with one of my coworkers recently, and honestly I am sort of torn on the subject. On one hand, I don't like the idea of power being so centrally located, on the other, I don't really know if democracy really exists. And by exists, I mean that one person is actively participating in their government. For one, I doubt the existence of a subject, who is doing the acting? Certainly not one person, but rather a collection of ideas and forces that have shaped this lump of flesh, but definitely not a subject. Which goes directly into the next point of democracy often acts as if it were an autocratic system, just an autocratic system that changes the autocrats more often. I mean, if we look at political parties as "bodies", you will see that the whole body does not ever accurately represent its parts. I know for one that I am barely a democrat; in fact I don't even identify as one except in my voting, since I would rather cancel out a Republican vote than vote for a candidate I believe in who I know won't win. (Sounds a bit like Nietzsche's lion, eh?) So I vote democrat, and still get pissed off when there is no universal health care, big business isn't severely limited, and rich people can still easily get out of paying taxes because they can afford people to weasel them out of paying. The things I want will probably never come to pass, and though you could argue that they could "if I convinced enough people" the fact of the matter is that the "subject" is really so influenced by ideology (as I know my own Marxist ideology is merely a product of my experiences and situations) that most people won't agree with me. So how is that any different from existing in an autocratic government?

Despite all these flaws, however, I am still all for democracy (even though I think that a socialist-anarchy would be better, where the socialism is implemented via a grassroots effort as opposed to a state power, but I know that most people wouldn't follow). Even if my views are usually overshadowed, I still love that I can hold them without fear of punishment, and I like that even though I will probably not get what I want politically in most things, I still can influence things in a direction I am at least OK with.

As for autocratic governments, well, I want to discuss a quote by Michel Foucault in his preface for Anti-Œdipus by Deleuze and Guattari:

Last but not least, the major enemy, the strategic adversary is fascism. ... And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini - which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively - but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us. (xiii)

In order to truly celebrate the freedom that America grants us, we must not allow ourselves to be lead, and we must fight our desire to submit to power. Truly loving America is not to become enamored with a candidate or political party, or guns, or pro-life/pro-choice, or gay marriage or anything topical and passing. No, the way to love America is to lead your own life, and question authority and demand it respect those who it governs.

So happy 4th of July everyone! I am going to celebrate in the most American way I can think of: spending the day at Wal-Mart. Hell, I might even go to McDonald's for lunch.

I leave you on this quote:

"America was not built on fear. America was built on SUVs, on fast food and an unbeatable determination to go to Wal-Mart. Fear is just the fun prize like in the Happy Meals!"

Recommended Reading:
Deleuza, Gilles and Félix Guattari. Anti-Œdipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. - The guide to living a non-fascist life. [Get it on Amazon]

LeGuin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed. - A pretty cool sci-fi novel (and I'm not really a fan, so you know it's good) which compares a anarcho-socialist society and a hyper-capitalist pseudodemocracy. Pretty good as far as dystopias go, and a lot better than most as it critiques two types of government as opposed to one. [Get it on Amazon]

On buying, may I recommend Amazon's marketplace, as you can save trees and a book from being unloved! Plus, it's cheaper!


Portmanteau (Panda de Teur's Twin) said...

I've noticed that America has a certain fascination with an autocratic rule as long as it's portrayed as a monarchy. We love princesses and plenty of fantasy novels deal with finding the "One True King". I've always wondered where this fascination came from.

Panda de Tueur said...

Perhaps it's a strange Freudian thing...

Portmanteau (Panda de Teur's Twin) said...

Perhaps it's because America lacks it's own mythology, and it has to rely on a mythology that reflect the "Old World" monarchy model. Or maybe it's because as a primarily Christian nation, we want to recreate the "Kingdom of God" in a secular fashion.