Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Some historical perspective and a call to action by Gore Vidal

"We retain the rhetoric of liberal democracy, but freedom of choice really means Wendy's vs. Burger King."--Morris Berman

Gore Vidal has an excellent piece in the Nation, much of which is devoted to a review of Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire, by Morris Berman, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.
For what we are now seeing are the obvious characteristics of the West after the fall of Rome: the triumph of religion over reason; the atrophy of education and critical thinking; the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture--a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world...
Berman does not limit his critique to the Bush regime; he examines the decay in American culture which made it possible and which makes the prospects for cultural and political recovery doubtful. He finds far too much evidence of a willingness to be slaves on the part of far too many of our citizens. Vidal finds his own analogy here:
When the admirable Tiberius (he has had an undeserved bad press), upon becoming emperor, received a message from the Senate in which the conscript fathers assured him that whatever legislation he wanted would be automatically passed by them, he sent back word that this was outrageous. "Suppose the emperor is ill or mad or incompetent?" He returned their message. They sent it again. His response: "How eager you are to be slaves."
The number of ways in which we can really recover some measure of our democracy is vanishingly few and the possible paths to further tyranny are multiplying day by day. The Democrats have demonstrated again and again that they lack the will to even try to stand up to oppose the war or the accelerating concentration of power in an executive beyond the reach of law. Still, I am not ready to give up.

Vidal suggests, as a starting point, participation in a call to action by a group called the World Can't Wait which, among other things, is planning a nationwide demonstration next Tuesday during Bush's State of the Union address to symbolically drown out Bush's lies and for a moment make the breadth of opposition to his policies visible and audible.


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