Friday, December 9, 2011

None are so deaf as those who do not want to hear

Talk aboutcaringcame into prominence with the Second Wave Feminist Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Women, lorded over by men who prided themselves in their rationality, their ability to think clearly and logically, pointed to the terrific damage done by rational thinkers who used their logic to organize mass extermination in concentration camps, or to construct nuclear weapons to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to organize large fleets of bombers to fire bomb Tokyo and Dresden. Only in the service of care for human relations and mutual concern among humans can rational thought be helpful.
As happens so often, this good word,care, was taken over by the manipulators, the advertisers and made into a false coin. Now Bank of America takes out full page ads in the newspaper to proclaim that it cares for me. So does the global petroleum company that mindlessly destroys the environment. Even the trashman who recycles my empty dog food cans cares for me.
This wave of insincerity does immeasurable harm. It devalues language by making it impossible to express sincerely that one cares for another person. Words become a debased currency. Talking to each other becomes more difficult. Knowing whom to trust is much harder because everyone seems to want to manipulate by being insincere or telling outright lies. Bank of America does not care for me. Social life becomes inscrutable because every one wraps himself in disguises of insincere language.
Into this nightmare scenario comes the Occupy movement with its straight talk: our world is unjust. Too many people suffer grievously for the sake of the private enrichment of a few. In a world of lies and delusions, the image of a democratic America is a mammoth lie: we live in an oligarchy of the rich. The Occupy movement tears the veils of insincerity and recalls us to our traditional ideals.
How do the authorities deal with that? With more lies. We are concerned for your safety, they tell the people camped out in various occupations, while their police slice the tents and scatter the Occupiers' property in the street and mace peaceful protesters.
If we lived in a democracy, someone, anyone in authority would have invited Occupiers to talk to them, to begin a public dialogue about the Occupiers' complaints. If this were a country governed by its citizens, perhaps Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders would have called for a public conclave, for a calm and careful reflection about what ails America and the world today.
Democracy refers to a people who govern themselves. As the Occupiers illustrate so strikingly in their meetings, self-government involves people listening to each other carefully, talking to each other respectfully, and making sure that everyone participates in the final decisions. But our government officials will have none of that. Even the lowliest bureaucrats must assert their power by ignoring you and droning on about the rules.
The Occupy Movement makes painfully clear that no one is listening. What kind of democracy is that?
But the powerful, not the local mayors and their police forces, but the people who pull the strings behind the scenes, are determined not to respond. The big banks call the shots. They get all the government subsidies. They control public discourse and will not allow any attacks on them.
That is how they care for us.