Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Internal Contradiction Of Modern Consumerism

We are celebrated as individuals precisely at the moment when we are most subsumed into the morality of advertising, most integrated into capitalist production and consumption.

A quote from Lenin's Tomb's latest philosphical rant, one about how the Sixties counterculture directly led to today's apolitical consumerism and hyper-capitalism.


From a story at Jews Sans Frontieres, I see there has been a bizzarre discussion in the British Guardian's letters about the new German film Der Untergang (Downfall), but one that parallels some of my own thoughts raised by the film (I saw it last week).

The film recounts the last week in the life of Hitler, primarily based on a recent long taped interview of Traudl Junge, one of his secretaries, with other eyewitness accounts weaved in. Somehow both debating sides see the film as a right-wing nationalist account, one side even assumes that the film's thesis was "Germans were also victims". Well I got the opposite impression: maybe it was never seeing Germans suffering in WWII war movies that got the debatees focused on this part only and ignore the real message(s).

For me, who read excerpts from the transcripted-to-book version of the secretary's interview in the German press (Der Spiegel), and other articles on the finale of the Nazi regime, most events in the film weren't news - what captured me most was the excerpt from the taped Junge interview at the end of the film.

In the Adenauer era, West Germany's first decade-and-half, the Past was meant to be left behind after the Nuremburg trials: the new conservative elite didn't want a serious confrontation with history, especially not at the courts, nor did it want to kick out ex-nazis from top jobs. The bad-apples theory of West German ordinarism (which needed the '68-ers for a smashing) needed a national mythology with new idols: one where the "good" and patriotic German soldier is contrasted with the bad SS, and where a few Germans who resisted got lots of official worship, in representation for the supposedly all-innocent German masses (e.g.: see, "we" resisted!).

One of these real but abused group of heroes was the clique of army officers around Count von Stauffenberg who attempted to assassinate Hitler; another the White Rose group of students in Munich, who tried to agitate against the regime and organise resistance, but were arrested and executed, including the later most idolised, Sophie Scholl.

Even as someone who only lived in West Germany in its last few years (and continued to follow the political life after leaving), whenever I see von Stauffenberg or Sophie Scholl remembered, I have the faint feeling of self-absolution at work.

Now, one thing the film really is is a study of the various ways people deny reality, and go along with Hiter's madness one way or the other. And when the real secretary speaks at the end of the film, she speaks about how she felt guiltless even after the war, after learning of Auschwitz and the full scale of the crimes, thinking naivety and cluelessness is an excuse - until one day, she walked by a memorial stone for Sophie Scholl. She read the text, and realised Sophie was her age - and was arrested just when Traudl got her job with Hitler. Then she realised she could have known the truth if she had wanted, if she had looked for it, if she had thought about it.

So for some a real heroine was breaking the hypocrisy, rather than serving as means for it.

Some Gays In Politics

Arthur Finkelstein, a senior campaign consultant for a long line of US Republican and Israeli Likud candidates, used Massachusetts' liberal laws to marry his male partner of 40 years - citing financial benefits as motivation.

Patrick Guerriero, President of the Log Cabin Republicans, co-signed a call for Social Security 'reform' with the President of USA Next, the far-right group whose earlier effort in this campaign was a homophobic slur against the American Association of Retired Persons, using a photo of a gay couple kissing just after marrying.

Jeff Gannon/James Guckert, the gay prostitute and US far-right propagandist foot-soldier posing as reporter, played blogger in a ridiculous conference about who is a journalist, after which a guy in the audience posed the hard question: whom in the White House did he sleep with to get his pass to press conferences? (The rumour is spokesman Scott McClellan - relatively small fish.)

Nichi Vendola, who was the united Left's candidate for President of Puglia province in Italy's regional elections last week, won with a hundred thousand more votes than the party lists of the Left (for the regional assembly) combined - even tough he was both gay and a communist.

Of course there is no general truth about gays emerging here, except if the triviality that members of persecuted minorities can have the same faults and virtues as the rest is news for someone.

However, these examples serve to highlight two separate truths in a sharpened way. One is that the most basic and essential feature of conservativism is: hypocrisy[*].

The other is that centre-left attempts to accomodate to perceived "centrist"/right-wing views, fearing that the Left would seem too extreme for a majority of voters is not realism, but defeatism and appeasement.

[*] I like to put it this way:
A conservative is one who sells the misdevelopments of yesterday as solutions for tomorrow.
What conservatives want to conserve is the illusion of a golden age, so that they can ignore all the problems hidden behind the facades.
The only thing conservative politicians want to conserve is their power - secured and expanded by all means.
The only moral conservative politicians follow: forgive the sins of fellow conservatives.

Latin America: Playground For US Imperialism Again

Recently released documents disprove Condi Rice: the Bush admin had its hands in the 2002 coup against democratically elected (and multiple times reinforced) Venezuelan President Chavez.

In Colombia, where US soldiers participate in a dirty war against peasants and guerillas and drug cartells which for some reason is called a War On Drugs, some of these soldiers were found to be trafficking drugs themselves. In line with the Iraqi meaning of sovereignity, these guys will go in trial in the USA.

The Bush admin also funds a campaign (supported by the reliably pro-establishment Washington Post and New York Times - if it's bibartisan, it must be right...) against the Sandinistas in the upcoming Nicaraguan elections. (This is a good place to endorse The Jaguar Smile, Salman Rushdie's account of his visit to the country when Daniel Ortega was elected President.)

Two weeks ago the USA resumed military aid to Guatemala, citing improvements by new centre-left President(-against-US-wishes) Berger, but those improvements were cosmetic so far - so the help goes to a quasi-independent army still filled with perpetrators of some of the most cruel war crimes of the second half of the last century. (And thus may undermine Berger's presidency too; altough centre-left conflict-aversion could achieve that anyway.)

And in Mexico, the Bush admin ecouraged/pressured President Fox et al in a thinly veiled attempt at blocking the most popular, left-wing candidate in the upcoming Presidential elections: removing Mexico City major Obrador's immunity so that a trial can go forward against him - a trial about allegedly ignoring court orders when constructing an access road through alleged private property to a hospital... I repeat, what a heinous crime, an access road to a hospital...

"Thousands protest..."

Baghdad, Firdous Square, 09.04.2003, anti-Saddam's-statue/pro-US crowds:

Baghdad, Firdous Square, 09.04.2005, anti-Saddam/Bush/Bliar crowds:

With hat tips to Whatever It Is, I'm Against It. The number Juan Cole quotes for the above is up to 300 of those "thousands", and he comments what I said last August: Sadr is winning. (On the other hand, Muqtada has no sovereignity over the Sadrist movement: for example, recent troubles in Basra were linked to the Fadila Party, which is run by a rival claimant to his father's heritage.)

UPDATE: I see Bella Ciao (who have the Budapest peace-sign protest in their banner at top: third from right) had the same comparison in mind. Check the photos there, you'll see the crowd even filled a long street, not just the place.