Sunday, 10 May 2020

Resisting virulent power and its political contagion

This pandemic and lockdown has me reflecting on some major past events which, like now, seemed to offer the possibilities of new awakenings and real change.

I remember back in 2010 watching the leaked grainy footage of those civilians in Iraq being shot down in the street (in 2007) while their US helicopter assassins communicated 'light 'em all up', laughing like hyenas as they fell. 

And in witnessing such inhumanity, I recall thinking that, good, at least Wikileaks have this taped, other damning documents filed, the villains behind it all now exposed, and that justice might now prevail.

I remember, too, the Lancet and ORB reports around that time charting the rise of over one million mass deaths in Iraq and thinking, yes, now there really could be a day of justice for that suffering country and the families of so many lost souls.

I also think back to 2008-09 and 2014 when Israel was bombing and slaughtering the civilians of Gaza en masse, and people who don't usually 'follow' this 'issue' asking in astonishment 'how are they getting away with this?', and 'why haven't we been getting told about it by the BBC?' 

And I recall thinking that surely these are now key tipping points, where the sheer weight and wickedness of it all would bring sufficient global pressure on Israel and help start some kind of just resolution for Palestine. 

The indiscriminate shooting of hundreds more innocents during the recent Right of Return marches in Gaza was another such wishful case in point.

Further back, I recall when Obama came to power, and all those much more lofty hopes that he was going to break the economic chains of poor and black America, end the warmongering and act as a fair arbiter in the Middle East, maybe even, in his quiet disdain for Netanyahu, bring some hope for the Palestinians.

I also think back on the 2011-12 Occupy movement, how it rose and spread like a benign wave from city to city, seemingly ready to enact a global revolution against the one percent and break the tyranny of corporate capitalism.

And I reflect with special, emotional memory on that beautiful, hopeful summer of 2014 here in Scotland as we covered the streets in mass, joyous and colourful numbers in the campaign for independence.

I think also about the ebullient mood of the Sanders movement in 2016, and again in 2020, and the hopes that some kind of humanist, socialistic politics was about to be realised in the heartland of neoliberal capitalism.

And, of course, many of us had those same anticipations in 2017, and even 2019, that this was finally the breakthrough at last to some kind of just and progressive country through the election of Corbyn.

The reader, of course, is well ahead of me.

Where are we now?

Julian Assange is languishing in virus-ridden Belmarsh jail, ten continuous years on from house arrest and enforced incarceration in an embassy room, an almost broken man, a journalist of major repute derided by his liberal media 'peers', denied bail liberty by a ruthless establishment judge and about to face a 175-year sentence back in the 'land of the free', all for breaking the story of those mass US crimes.

Chelsea Manning, a hero of our age in helping to gift such damning information to the world, has just emerged from years of cruel imprisonment, close to suicide, burdened by colossal fines and still facing the threat of returning to jail.

Edward Snowden, the other famous whistleblower who sacrificed his career and liberty in 2013 to reveal mass US malfeasance, remains in effective exile in Russia, an ongoing fugitive from the same vindictive state forces.

While Iraq remains tragically mired in war, conflict and displacement, Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and their villainous cohorts not only walk free, but are actually feted as national sages. 

Some even urge Blair's return as the man to deliver us from the virus crisis. 

There has never been any formal apology or reparation by the British state for the historic crimes inflicted on Iraq.

In Israel, mass criminal and corruption charge-evading Netanyahu is not only still in office, but now even more ascendant over the Palestinians, with virus-threatened Gaza now under even more terrifying lockdown, the West Bank about to be annexed, and Israel now enjoying US 'authority' to call Jerusalem its undivided capital.

Back in the US, Obama, Hillary Clinton and the Democrat 'hopey changers' went on to ravage the globe with more war and destabilisation in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, running coup plots in Latin America, massively intensifying drone killings across the Middle East, ignoring Palestine and giving increased support to Israel.

Both helped bail out the banks at the behest of Wall Street after the corporate crimes of 2008. 

Both remain sanctified by the liberal media and revered as 'model' political figures.

The Occupy movement faded and folded, beaten up in the streets, infected by corporate 'friends' and appropriated by the same liberal media.

In Scotland, we still await our moment of realisation, a hope crushed by the mighty weight of establishment forces in 2014, and now stalled by the reticence and collaborations of an inner SNP sanctum determined to put select party interests before the all out push for independence. 

Alongside its obsessions over Brexit, this new centrist vanguard has been more interested in Westminster residency and aligning with the British state, from its concerns over UK 'defence and security' to demonising claims that 'Russia is infecting the planet with disinformation.'

And while Sturgeon has acted more humanely and erred on the better side of caution over any lockdown exit, there still remains the more fundamental miscalculation of her government's actual joint partaking in the UK's calamitous Covid-19 policy.

Meanwhile, associated dark forces are still going after the awkward figure of Alex Salmond, despite his acquittal on politically-contrived charges, as well as his sturdy backer Craig Murray - a tireless campaigner also for Assange - who now faces contempt of court charges and possible jail for bringing true journalistic light to the Salmond story.

In the US, Sanders is now history, finally broken and displaced by the Democrat establishment, leaving Trump, despite all his undisinfected stupidity, swagger and menace, ready to take America and a virus-laden, climate-collapsing, nuclear-triggered world even closer to the abyss.

And in this most fragile moment, we also now have Boris Johnson standing where Jeremy Corbyn could have been, the latter taken down by the greatest infection of lies and smears this country has ever seen, the former now bringing his own brand of power-striding buffoonery to a land under crisis lockdown.

It's astonishing to think that not only has our version of Trump overseen a similar policy of criminal neglect resulting in thousands of avoidable deaths, but that he's still standing at a podium proclaiming that disaster an "apparent success".

It's equally depressing to watch what passes for a 'watchdog' media provide him dutiful cover.

The UK's virus death rate is now the highest in Europe, second only globally to the US. 

Yet on the day of infamy and shame that the ONS made this announcement, our major press were headlining stories of an errant scientist and 'fears' of Russian and Chinese hacking.

Instead of a massive media onslaught holding his government to account, we've seen relentless, fawning stories on Johnson's personal life, alongside repeated, sterile and out-of-public-step questions from 'leading journalists' like Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston on 'when the lockdown will end'.

In a laugh-cry reveal, the BBC has even intimated its readiness to 'stand down' some of its "journalistic values" rather than allow a "great big bust-up over what's gone wrong in the recent past", all so that it emerges "having looked after the interest of the nation." 

Similar 'selfless restraint' has also been shown by establishment-approved Sir Keir Starmer - or 'Sir Safe Murmur'. While evading the scandal of how his party associates worked to lose an election, Starmer's timid centrism and 'responsible support' for the government's handling of the Covid crisis confirms that there is now no meaningful opposition in this virus-afflicted state, no political 'antidote' to this Tory disease.

No peak to the power elite

If this all seems like a grim catalogue of beaten humanity and progressive failure, it nonetheless serves as a wake-up call to the 'pandemic of power' that continues to sweep the world, keeping vast swathes of the populace under economic, physical and political lockdown.

These are all lessons from the past and present, with surely more to come, of just how able, resilient and aggressive establishment forces are in forming, mutating and returning to take down seemingly healthy and progressive bodies.

There is no 'peak', as yet, to this pandemic. From Trump and Johnson to Bolsonaro and Netanyahu, it's on a rising and increasingly dangerous trajectory.

And a backs-to-the-wall elite are now moving into even more zero-sum mode. From Trump's startling 'bleach remedy' to Johnson's resumed bluster on taking down the virus "mugger", it's clear that they and the malignant forces they represent are resolutely not going down over this or any other crisis.

Indeed, as the least willing to enter lockdown and the most eager to exit, the US and UK have shown just how mercenary they are in exposing their populations to extreme and continuing danger, all driven by populist rhetoric about 'liberating the economy' and 'extending personal freedoms'.

Faced with now daily damning evidence of negligence and policy failure, elites are doubling down, using even greater levels of denial, deception and spin to mislead the public, as in Matt Hancock's concocted claims to have 'achieved' 100,000 virus tests a day.

Even the damning exposure that Johnson's zealot advisor Dominic Cummings has all along been part of the SAGE scientific process merited no dismissal or apology, showing that it really is all about political rather than human survival.

The 'antibodies of power' are now working flat out to contain the 'virus of dissent'; protection of office before protection of people.

Identification and eradication

Like the almost certain coming waves of new infectious disease and the world's ability to control it, crucial questions now confront humanity on how to handle the growing threat of power-infected leaders and the systems of death they oversee.

Just as our best scientific minds race for vaccines and cures, so too must we seek urgent ways to 'inoculate', protect and finally rid the world of such malignant forces.

And any hope of actual eradication has to start with elementary 'test, trace, isolate' questions about the very nature of this political contagion and health of the body politic itself.

Can we any longer trust in the basic idea that we live under a meaningful 'democracy', and that the entire process hasn't now been invaded, infected and mutated to serve elite interests?

From war to virus, why are human beings being killed and sacrificed in such huge numbers under this neoliberal system?

In seeking to understand the leading US and UK virus death rates, might we start looking more forensically at these states as 'source hosts' and 'super-spreaders' of violence and killing, given their 'epidemiological' histories as leading warmongers, invaders of countries, weapons suppliers, and the most rabid exponents of neoliberal economics on the planet?

And, in examining these key states, we might ask, how do so many people come to die in so many brutal and avoidable ways through decisions taken by so many of their deranged leaders?

Might we begin to see how the disease of craven power in such leaders assumes such ready residence within that host neoliberal system?

And what protective service does our 'guardian' media really provide in the surveillance of that system and in holding such leaders to account?

Again, might we trace the answer to the same process of neoliberal infection, corporate ownership and establishment control?

In short, how do we begin to deal with this contaminated system, political malady and the propaganda serving to hide its virulent spread?

Resistance, immunity, survival

While acknowledging the aggressive resilience of neoliberal power and its ability to debilitate progressive bodies, this doesn't mean the ineffectiveness of human resistance to it. 

The same cases for economic justice, rejection of war, struggle against occupation, push for political rights and demands to be protected from global threats are just as enduring. 

Nor are challenges to power of no real consequence even when dissenting movements or figures are stricken down. Lessons are still learned, strategies altered, campaigns rebuilt.
Over time, cumulative disillusion with that system is still helping to build a kind of 'reserve resistance', a sort of 'acquired immunity'.

Like the momentous public movement against war on Iraq, elites know that they now have to work much harder to win approvals for their invasive actions.

Real challenging media and critical information is growing, despite the combined efforts of alarmed governments and big online corporations to block its progress and assume 'authority' over what constitutes 'disinformation'.

The massive surge in global awareness and action against climate change shows just how resistant the human collective can be in a situation of looming catastrophe.

And, as we've seen with growing public criticism over the UK government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, there still remains a very healthy 'herd community', caring of people, increasingly alert to the virus of political lies and developing its own slow 'antibodies' to the deception.

A more unlikely array of media agencies and notable figures within and around the establishment are also now raising alarm bells over government policy, from key Financial Times and BBC Panorama exposures to combative questioning of ministers by Piers Morgan.

This suggests a deeper realisation of the huge damage being created, and an attentive positioning in response to public disquiet, but also a more fundamental understanding that this entire catalogue of negligence and disruption has threatened the very corporate-establishment 'order' within which such media and figures exist.

In laying bare the gross failures of Kuenssberg et al, such disclosures and attacks are likely to meet the same swift establishment response. 

Yet these are all signals of a much more profound unravelling. For all it's resilient and vindictive capacities, this is now an accumulated moment of reckoning for the system itself.

Covid-19 and the even larger threat of climate change has exposed the stark inadequacies of an entire elite, beckoning the need for a whole new set of political priorities and values: attentive leadership over crazy brinkmanship, vigilance over negligence, health over hubris, immunity before impunity, people before profit, humanity over insanity.

When the virus death toll eventually declines, when we begin to contemplate the true scale of the economic, political and social challenges coming, the massive adjustments, special measures, and whole new way of looking at how we live and function, it will become evermore apparent that there can be no credible return to neoliberal 'normality'.

In a fatefully perverse way, coronavirus has bought us vital time, setting the stage for nothing less than a coming existential showdown, the decisive choice between a system driven by unsustainable greed, relentless death and planetary destruction, or a last chance moment for civilisational survival.

1 comment:

sink dish washing said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.