Saturday, February 17, 2007

No Innocent Bystanders

Via Mickey Z:
The next time you're feeling "free," see how far you can walk without being legally compelled to stop to let cars drive past. The light turns red and, voila, you are no longer free to continue walking because in America, the car culture rules. This essentially invisible totalitarian salvo was recently complicated when a big white SUV crept up into the crosswalk, making it virtually hopeless for yours truly to cross the damn street even when the light changed to green. I fixed my gaze on the mechanized monster before me and immediately saw all that is wrong with America.

No, I'm not just talking about how the gas guzzling properties of that SUV directly result in military interventions, human rights violations, global poverty, rampant war crimes, and everything else on that lurid laundry list. This is not just another screed about the myriad highways that crisscross America, draining tax dollars, shattering communities, and devastating eco-systems. No, this is all about dissidents finally blaming everyone who deserves blame (including ourselves).

The neatly dressed man in the passenger seat -- "Dad" -- was talking loudly on a cell phone. Global demand for columbite-tantalite (a.k.a. "coltan"), a common cell phone component, is fueling war and environmental destruction in the Democratic Republic of Congo . . . but leftists aren't supposed to acknowledge their complicity. We don't reproach everyday Americans for their callous indifference because, well . . . .it's all Bush's fault, right?

The woman driving this death machine --"Mom" -- sported diamond earrings. Although we're aware how the diamond trade exploits both humans and the landscape, Mom's given a free pass based solely on her ignorance. It's Bush's fault.

Both Mom and Dad proudly call themselves "liberal" and voted for Kerry in 2004. Their participation in the two-party farce and their acceptance of lesser evilism, however, are not seen as the problem by those in the know. It's all Bush's fault.

In the backseat of that SUV sat a teenage boy wearing Nike sneakers, a Gap shirt, and eating a Big Mac. I'm not supposed to point the accusing finger of blame at his family's willingness to financially support sweatshop labor and factory farming because it's Bush's fault.

Next to Big Mac boy was his older sister, drinking Coke (sorry India and Colombia) and putting on nail polish (too bad for the animals it was tested on). This girl's compliance is not the problem. She's merely a product of the times. Besides, it's all Bush's fault.

The light that temporarily halted this SUV went green and Mom put the pedal to the metal. As she drove away, I saw a bumper sticker that reads: "Our son is a U.S. Marine." Ah, here we have the Holy Grail of free passes. Condemn the war but support the troops, we're told, and the SUV owner's progeny only joined for the educational opportunities. It's not his fault. Leave him alone. He's only following orders. He had no choice. He has no culpability. It's Bush's fault that poor sonny boy is stuck in Iraq.

Reality check: The excuse of ignorance is not valid when graphic images are available within minutes. It's not lack of knowledge; it's denial . . . or perhaps even acquiescence. There are no innocent bystanders when our money and/or rhetoric support the world's most powerful military and the corporate status quo. But if we just keep telling ourselves it's all Bush's fault, we can sleep better -- our innocence wrapped around us like a big white SUV.
Said it before, and will say it again: Bu$hCo is a symptom, not the disease. This particular White House regime did not come out of a vacuum, but a social and historical context (a Zeitgeist if you will) - one in which it is assumed that "America" (or more specifically the White, European contingent thereof) is superior to the rest of our aching planet, and by some form of manifest destiny has the right and obligation to colonize anything and everything around it. Of course such a Zeitgeist includes an "exceptionalist" mindset that "we" are "good," "civilized," "cultured," et al., who are merely misunderstood by all those "savages" in these distant Southern lands with names we have no desire to even learn how to pronounce. Their natural resources and labor belong to "us."

Hell, I have no qualms about seeing the whole lot of the Bu$hCo regime, its Congressional enablers, and yes, their media apologists shipped over to the Hague to ideally be sentenced to life before a firing squad. That would even be too good for them. Good riddance, I say.

That said, unless as individuals and as a society we seriously challenge the cultural myths to which we subscribe, we'll merely maintain the conditions necessary to create yet another Presidential monstrocity - perhaps worse than the one we already suffer with.

In thinking a bit about our role in preserving or changing our planet's circumstances, I'll drop a little Jean-Paul Sartre on ya:

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.

I also recall something him writing something to the effect of "when I act, I choose for all." It's somewhere in Being and Nothingness, if one cares to look.

Anyhoo, when I was this particular essay by Mickey Z, part of what came to mind was the individual's responsibility for the choices made in whatever circumstances that he/she is thrown into; the impact that those choices may have on others on another corner of the planet; the notion of living in bad faith (another Sartrean concept) to the extent that one attempts to escape accepting responsibility for one's choices to act (or not to act).

We ain't talkin' purity, folks. We're all going to leave a footprint on the planet. That was never in doubt. The question is the nature of that footprint. That's for each of us to figure out. The choices we make now will be far-reaching for generations to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment