Informing as part of an open society? Indeed, under
Mr. Bush's proposed Terrorism Information and Prevention
System (TIPS for short) - a kind of national, atomic-mutation
of Neighborhood Watch - an estimated four percent
of Americans will join a long and glorious tradition
of state-security informants.
tradition of citizen informants has roots going back
at least to the French Revolution. During the Terror,
citizens were encouraged to inform on neighbors and
even children to inform on their parents. More than
a few harmless people went to the guillotine just
on the basis of a hateful neighbor denouncing them.
course, there was Stalin's immense bloodbath over
two continents. Informants played an important part
in his heavy industry of organized murder. And one
recognizes other suggestive similarities to what's
happening in America. When Stalin was ready to announce
another purge, he often spoke indirectly of "wreckers,"
wreckers of the Revolution. Just this suggestion from
his lips was enough to get the thugs and psychopaths
busy about their work.
anyone noticed the paler-but-still-similar sense of
the term "terrorists"? With the heavily-biased
press in America, we have all been conditioned to
have an immediate mental image of a terrorist: He's
a swarthy fellow with a difficult Arabic or Persian
name and a strange religion. Remember, if there is
one thing America is good at, one thing at which it
has no equal on the planet, it is marketing. And America
has intensively marketed this image for years.
informing tradition was carried on in societies as
diverse as Nazi Germany, the East German Stasi, Pol
Pot's Cambodia, and the horrific youth brigades of
China's Cultural Revolution.
right-wing readers, yes I do have some, sometimes
question how I can possibly ever associate America
with ugly things like fascism. Well, the TIPS program
and the Patriot Act, both deliberately bland names
for insidious, dangerous things, is the word made
flesh, so to speak.
have in the past humorously observed the prevalence
of insanity in America. I admit to using that term
in a rather loosely-defined sense, but America is
the land of Black Helicopters, alien abductions, Aryan
churches, rattlesnake worship, speaking in tongues,
cannot live in America without discovering there also
are a lot of angry people there. You see them on the
streets, you meet them in stores, you experience them
as neighbors. In your face. Mind your own business.
Foul language. Indeed, I can attest to a fair sampling
of such language in e-mail from my more perverse readers.
Odd, don't you think, to send a person you've never
met a disgustingly foul letter only because you don't
agree with his column? And although I receive mail
from many countries, the only source for this kind
of stuff, I'm sorry to say, is America.
believe Social Darwinism, whose roots now deeply vein
American society, is largely responsible for this.
We should never forget that Social Darwinism was the
underlying philosophy of Adolf Hitler, and, while
America's version is not quite so poisonous, there
are similarities. It is a philosophy that breeds an
atmosphere of contempt for others, especially the
less fortunate. A sense of "I'm alright, Jack!"
It raises the shabby idea of winners and losers to
an exalted status. This breeds a lot of human misery
in the midst of a very prosperous society.
course, the tender ministrations of America's fundamentalist
Christians only add to a pressure-cooker climate.
If you're not of the correct profession, something
must be wrong with you. And for sure, if you're anything
unusual, any kind of non-conformist or person born
with the wrong genes, then your life may well qualify
as an abomination. "Oh, how we love the sinner
but hate the sin," making it extremely difficult
for the recipients of such bounteous love to distinguish
which of the two is being hated at any given moment
and always forgetting the Good Lord's claim to the
exclusive right of judgment.
all the rhetoric about good neighbors in America,
you are pretty much on your own when something goes
wrong. The anarchy of urban decay, brutal police,
racism, rotten public schools, large numbers of functional
illiterates, unethical and predatory business practices,
a lack of decent health care for many, a pervasive
invasion of individual privacy for the advantages
of corporate marketing, love-it-or-leave-it attitudes,
guns and the influence of the military's culture of
death everywhere - these things generate resentment,
division, loneliness, and anger. Lots of anger.
friend, recently returning to America from a long
stint in Europe, provided an excellent, illustrative
anecdote of institutionalized insanity in America
when an airport security man held his laptop computer
upside down and started shaking it. My friend naturally
enough asked what he was doing, and the security man's
reply was, "You never heard of anthrax?"
I ask, in view of these readily-observed characteristics
of American society, does anyone in his right mind
believe that it is a good idea to promote institutionalized
informing? Why, something like one-half to one percent
of the population suffers from schizophrenia. Another
equal slice suffers from various forms of depression.
About three-quarters of a percent is behind bars.
Many times that are ex-convicts. Huge numbers of Americans
are addicted to booze or drugs. Taking into account
the amount of Americans who are fundamentalist Christians,
around ten to twenty percent believe the end of the
world is imminent, or that people walk around with
the "Mark of the Beast" on their foreheads.
any of them may just be of a mind to inform on you.
Chuckman encourages your comments: jchuckman@YellowTimes.org
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