Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What Patriotism Requires. Hint: It’s Not Anti-Semitism

The name Kesha Rogers has been in the news lately. She’s a Texan running for the U.S. Senate, and may end up besting her Democratic Party rivals in the primaries (source). She’s been ridiculed by the mainstream media as a “tinfoil hat” candidate for her unorthodox views. However, being a skeptic when it comes to the mainstream media I decided to learn about her by reading her own words.

Some of her positions are commendable and I will go so far as to say Whiggish. For example, her position is that voters should:

“End the Wall St. and Euro bailouts by reinstating Glass-Steagall and a national banking system. We must create a world of fixed exchange rates, tariffs, and regulated federal credit that only goes to productive industrial and infrastructure projects. We should never try to pay for industrial progress by taxing the population to death, or pushing austerity to pay for investment (source).”
This is exciting stuff.  

Sadly, this sensible perspective is part and parcel of the fatally flawed philosophy of Lyndon LaRouche. Delving into this philosophy is a useful exercise because it highlights some of the difficulties of mobilizing public sentiment to consider alternatives to the prevailing neoliberal political philosophy.This philosophy is sold to the American people under the "Democratic Party" brand or under the "Republican Party" brand, but beneath the labels, it's the same product.

LaRouche’s ideology squarely opposes neoliberalism. First, it recognizes the dangers of corporatism (as in, the self-serving allegiance of political and business interests). Secondly, it recognizes the benefits of nationalism (as in, a focus on improving the domestic economy as opposed to improving the competitive position of a few giant multinationals in the world economy). 

Unfortunately, LaRouche’s ideology wanders into tinfoil hat territory by incorporating, among its core tenets, the idea that the British Empire continues to shape world government and international economic policy. If one Googles “British Empire” and “Rothschild” it quickly becomes clear that this talk of the British Empire is integral to a conspiratorial worldview in which Jews are portrayed as members of a malevolent cabal. And indeed, one of Ms. Rogers’ more ambitious campaign promises is to take on the British Empire. I won’t waste the reader’s time by expounding at length on the details of this bizarre fantasy, other than to point out that the Rothschilds were Jewish. Even though LaRouche supporters are known for drawing a Hitler moustache on pictures of President Obama (from which we may infer an unfavorable assessment of Hitler’s politics), holding up the Rothschilds as an example of what’s wrong with the world is something that comes straight out of Hitler’s playbook.

The Rothschilds figured in Nazi German propaganda.

I will assume that the reader understands why it is foolish and evil to demonize the Jews as a people. There is simply no rational explanation to be offered for this way of thinking, but there are plenty of explanations which point to the irrational side of human nature. This brings me to the point of this essay. I will suggest that the political situation is frightening, and that fear infects our thinking with irrational sentiments. 

If an investigator sticks to the facts, a strong case can be made for the argument that neoliberalism has spread throughout the world because of a concerted, multigenerational effort by politicians and oligarchs to promulgate this philosophy. Whenever someone who cares about the 99% decries the evils of so-called “free trade” policies, he or she is quickly discredited. Or, as we saw in the case of President Obama’s 2007 campaign, it is permissible to speak about the evils of “free trade” when the purpose is to mislead the public and secure their votes. There are no wealthy donors who will finance the political campaigns of individuals who are truly opposed to a neoliberal philosophy. There are no political leaders who are prominent nationally who have not taken money from the likes of Goldman Sachs.

When an uneducated person or a demoralized person tries to comprehend the situation, he or she may -- like the caveman who trembled at the sight of lightning and invented an angry God -- rely on myth-making. But these myths are, as a rule, unproductive or even counter-productive. These myths only reinforce ignorance, when the better course of action is to acquire more knowledge.
If a concerned American takes note of the facts outlined above, he or she can be forgiven for imagining that a fearsome conspiracy exists, and that this conspiracy aims to cheat ordinary Americans of economic opportunity. There are vanishingly few small business owners or entrepreneurs who can start from a place of poverty or modest means and create a retail enterprise to challenge Walmart, an insurance company to challenge Wellpoint, or a drug company that can withstand a hostile takeover by a multinational pharmaceutical corporation. Wall Street bankers can steal the retirement savings of an entire generation with impunity. 

There are reasons for the patriotic American to be afraid. But to be an American patriot, it is necessary to conquer one’s fears. It is important to remember the words of George Bernard Shaw, “hatred is the coward's revenge for being intimidated,” and let go of the impulse to vilify the Jews. Likewise, there is no cause for hating the wealthy as a group. However, one may justly resent and oppose wealthy individuals when (a) they have come by their wealth by impoverishing the American people or (b) they use their wealth to exercise greater political influence than can be achieved by casting one vote. 

Having said all this, let’s remember that the only hope of restoring America’s future is by embracing the principle of unity. It is necessary for us to overlook minor differences in opinion in order to work together. When these differences in opinion aren’t so minor, it’s important to remember why a person might be tempted to harbor anger against some ill-defined conspiracy. Bertrand Russell said, “Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.” Patriotism, then, requires courage in the fact of an unprecedented threat to our liberties as Americans. And patriotism requires compassion, so that we may patiently address the errors in the thinking of our fellow citizens and form closer bonds with them.

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