By Jonathan Cook,
Published on the author’s Substack column, Aug 27, 2022:
Interviews with Zelenskiy, Keir Starmer and Sam Harris strip away the illusion that we control our political system rather than it controls us… The “noble lie” cannot save democracy. Perhaps more urgent question is whether the democracies we have will be worth saving.
As westerners, we are deeply attached to the idea not only that we live in democracies but that our way of life is economically, socially and morally superior to that of citizens in authoritarian states.
Following on from these two assumptions is a further one – today held less consciously, for the obvious reason that it smacks a little too uncomfortably of racism – that we, as the people who fought for and created our democracies, are superior to those who did not.
Our largely unexamined premise is that modernity and democracy grew out of the particular circumstances of a western Enlightenment. A combination of rationality, a superior culture and richer public sensibility provided the soil in which democracy, uniquely, could flourish.
But what if that is nonsense? What if we have the story all wrong?
It was, after all, an earlier idea of an enlightened, rational west that justified colonialism – resource theft from the “dark continents” across the seas. Industrial processes that were the flowering of that enlightenment made feasible, for example, the slave trade: the design and building of huge vessels to carry humans as cargo, the development of technologies to help those ships ply precise routes across vast oceans, and the production of ever more powerful weapons to subjugate “inferior” dark-skinned peoples.
What if it was not a superior morality but callousness and self-interest that brought about democracy? We were simply first off the blocks in the race to strip the planet of its riches.
What if the constant influx of wealth plundered from around the globe provided greater latitude for western rulers to gradually indulge the demands of their publics for a slightly bigger share of the spoils, a slightly bigger voice in how they were ruled? Western elites found it simpler to buy domestic consent rather than exact it by force.
What if our democracies are built not on reason and virtue but greed and depravity?
The cost-of-living crisis cannot be blamed on Russian president Vladimir Putin indefinitely. China cannot be held permanently responsible for the failure to do anything to mitigate environmental degradation. But at least for a little longer, pestilence and war – or the threat of war – still manage to claw at our attention.
As if in recognition of this problem, the more liberal parts of the establishment media have suddenly rediscovered “class war” and popular revolt. Not to champion it, of course, but as a warning, a clarion call to their counterparts in the conservative media to lobby governments – for which they are the public relations arm – to advance policies that will dissipate the mood of rebellion and return us to the dying status quo. The illusion of benevolent democracy must be maintained at all costs.
The Guardian now acknowledges we are in a class war and that we're losing – but only after it stabbed in the back the only leader who actually tried to oppose the oppressor class. It's a prelude to the paper trying to persuade us that Sir Keir Starmer is our saviour pic.twitter.com/IPEvkaGKIQ
— Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) August 17, 2022
There are differences between open and closed societies, to be sure. One of the most notable is that, in the west, closed minds are not imposed on the populace, as they have to be in authoritarian regimes. Instead, they are cultivated and nurtured through consumption of the establishment media.
The strength of an open society has lain not in its openness. The west has been as closed to honest self-reflection as the most subjugated, inward-looking societies. Its superiority has been located in an unchallengeable faith that people in the west are free and uniquely well informed. It is such zealotry and self-righteousness that has empowered western states to pursue goals, good and bad alike, with such determination and efficiency.
Equally, the manufactured zeal of western publics has long made it all but impossible for most of us to see past the trees to the wood. It is why too many of us have accepted so credulously that we are spreading humanitarian goodwill abroad through our militaries’ bombing campaigns, and why we are so indignant when foreigners prove ungrateful to receive our incendiary offerings.
It's disturbing how many people are peddling the idea that Nato is a 'defensive alliance'. It *claims* to be defensive. Actually, Nato is a central pillar of the highly lucrative war industries. This may help clarify: https://t.co/SL2MA1ASMh
— Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) February 26, 2022
Awakening from slumber
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