Saturday, November 27, 2010

Good little totalitarians

One of the saddest aspects of living in a totalitarian society like the 21st century United States of America is watching the totalitarian ethic creep down through the population, to the local level.

No doubt there are those who would blanch at the description of “the world’s greatest democracy” as a “totalitarian” state. So let me be clear about why I think that characterization is appropriate.

In America today, we have a government that claims the right to: conduct warrantless surveillance on every email and phone call a citizen makes, and has the technology to do so; set up police checkpoints at will, where citizens are required to produce identification or be arrested; treat every citizen, no matter how innocent, as a potential criminal suspect; require a urinalysis as a condition of employment or education; subject innocent travelers to virtual nude photo-scanning and/or genital fondling by government agents; hold suspects, including American citizens, in indefinite detention, without trial, and subject those suspects to various forms of what would be considered, in a less Orwellian environment, as torture; assassinate American citizens without due process; and hold no official accountable for any crimes committed in the course of this ongoing betrayal of American ideals of liberty.

Adding to this portrait of 21st century American totalitarianism is the greatest disparity between rich and poor in this nation’s history, where the richest 5 percent of citizens own twice as much wealth as the other 95 percent combined; a seamless convergence of the agendas of private corporations and the state (the very definition of “fascism”); and a cooperative relationship between government and mainstream media that ensures that truly dissenting opinions are rarely given a chance to enter the public dialogue, and media is effectively censored.

(For a more nuanced picture of the exact nature of American totalitarianism, I recommend the book by Sheldon Wolin, emeritus professor of political science at Princeton University, titled, “Democracy Incorporated.”)

America started on the path to totalitarianism long before September 11th, 2001. The police state tactics that have become the hallmark of the “war on terror” were first pioneered in earlier campaigns of fear, the anticommunist crusades of the Cold War (which spawned the FBI’s COINTELPRO program of spying on American dissidents) and especially the “war on drugs,” which laid the foundation for the wholesale desecration of the 4th Amendment to the Bill of Rights (which is supposed to protect us from “unreasonable searches”) that has become standard government policy today.

There is, in fact, a direct connection between the outrages committed against the American traveling public this Thanksgiving weekend—and their sheepish acquiescence to these outrages—and the vote of the Hampshire County WV Board of Education last week to institute a new drug testing program for students.

The statements from the school board, and the fact that in three hearings on the proposed policy, the board didn’t receive a single comment from the community, provides a measure of just how successful the program of brainwashing the American public to accept the loss of liberties required by the national security state has been. In a time of limited school budgets, the president of the school board is reported lamenting the fact that there is still enough constitutional protection for student rights that the board cannot require all of the students under their care to pee into a cup for government inspection.

If anyone in the future is curious about how the modern world’s first experiment in popular government became a police state, they only have to look at the public schools.

We are training our children to be good little totalitarians.

--Michael Hasty

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