Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sabotaging change through obsession with outmoded stereotypes

There is a sad commentary on geopolitics emerging from the Robert Dallek biography of John Kennedy, An Unfinished Life, as  the account of the late president's attempt to strike a deal to limit the generation and proliferation of nuclear weapons with Moscow so parallels the current cacophony from the right that threatens to blow any deal out of the water over the potential of a deal with Iran.
Imagine being held hostage to the "macho-man" ideology, fear and desperation of those whose world view holds fast to the notion that weapons, bombs, missiles, drones, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and sound-barrier-breaking jets are the insurance policy that provides security for the world's people. And imagine having to keep the Pentagon walled off from secret negotiations that promised real progress, for fear that if they were to learn of those talks, they would submarine and sabotage their own government by leaking the details, thereby generating a storm of protest among the lunatic "right", that would guarantee any deal's fate, its trashing.
Imagine excluding the top brass at the Pentagon from national security talks because of the predictable nature of their contribution to sabotage the very nature of those talks, within the government. Their existence and purpose depend on advancing invasions, military measures, as the solution to all political problems. And imagine having to send private letters to the leader of the "other side" to rekindle fading attempts to bring both sides to the negotiating table because the public force of the winds of opposition, those winds that call all attempts to negotiate differences, real differences with real and potential enemies, are demonstrations of weakness, naivety, gullibility, and failed leadership threaten to keep the talks silent.
The advocates of change, those who consider breaking the bonds of repeating the past, those who see how things could be different, less restricted with negativity from those determined to hold on to the power of their "history and tradition" (in personal terms, not in terms of ideals or ideas) are constantly having to brace those winds that continue to characterize mediation, negotiation, collaboration and even compromise, especially compromise, at the state-to-state level as weak, immature, simplistic, and even delusional.
Of course, the world is a dangerous place. There are those whose existence depends on the removal of realities, such as the state of Israel for example, and whose motives and methods are threatening to the peace and stability on which geopolitical balance and even peace depend. And of course, opponents of these forces, Islamic radical terrorism, have to take deliberate and determined steps to bring this monster to heel. However, we see almost daily, that those military methods of destroying our enemies are very limited in their long-term success. Perhaps even those military methods are not suited to the current situation.
Gary Kasparov, once world champion chess player, in a CBC interview with Susan Ormiston, sets out the difference between chess and the world's geopolitics. "The world of geopolitics is much more complicated than chess; in chess, we have rules; in the world of geopolitics, there are no rules. In Putin's Russia, there are no rules."
Where there are no rules, and only the narcissism of a ruler like Putin, or the venal and nefarious determination of Islamic terrorists and the movement to which they have dedicated their lives, the opposition to such forces must draw from the widest range of options if those forces are not to be overwhelming. Kasparov, for example, cites Putin as "more dangerous that ISIS" because he will die in the Kremlin. And, according to the chess champ, current sanctions are too mild. When asked what he wants from the west, Kasparov repeatedly exhorts: "Wake up! Wake up!"
It is our collective complacency in trusting such agencies as the Pentagon to continue as our "insurance policy" in the midst of serious threats that could be the most dangerous attribute we have to overcome.
We literally hate, defy and reject change and commit ourselves to a past in which many things were different from today and in which our hard power methods did much to define the state we currently face. In our defiance, we abort many of the efforts of people like Kennedy and Obama, to bring about a genuine change from our stereotypical attitudes, and sustain people and methods whose only real value is found in "tradition" and ceremony and hollow theatrics.
We are subject to both political discourse and media coverage that deepens and reinforces so many typical stereotypes, as if our capacity to resist such pablum has been decimated by a virus of complacency, insouciance and cocooning.
And one of those stereotypes is the "power" of the military.
Another of those stereotyes is the "power" of wealth.
Another of those stereotypes is the "power" of fame.
Another of those stereotypes is the "power" of sexuality (especially to promote and to sell literally anything).
And underlying all stereotypes is the power of our resistance to see the world differently, to embrace our own impatience with our obsession with another sabotaging stereotype: all politicians are frauds.
We need to wake up both to how we are manipulated by large forces, and how inherently just and honourable are our deepest instincts to see the world as it really is, and how it could be different....and ask "why not?" (following George Bernard Shaw's "Some see the world as ask why; others see how the world could be and ask why not?)
We need schools and families and organizations dedicated to the latter proposition, not merely an occasional individual, able to be characterized as "eccentric" and thereby easily pushed aside, in one of our other inflexible stereotypes "fitting in is much more important than sticking out as different".
Conformity and complacency are 'Siamese twins' of the most dangerous and toxic kind.
And, predictably, all political leaders and all corporate profit-seekers depend on our deepening our conformity and complacency to our lowest and least ideal stereotypes.

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