27 December 2011

“Chortle Now”: the hidden transcripts of “democracy”

[The ninth in a series of articles titled 'Love notes to democracy' written while in the USA as a member of a team of international monitors overseeing the 2004 US Presidential Election]


About a week after the US presidential “election” I watched a fascinating program on “60 Minutes” about fake degrees.  The report covered a fake degree-awarding institute that called itself Hamilton University.  Essentially a web-based racket, this intriguing “university” has been in the business of selling certification for many years. 

I was not surprised.  In a world where pollution and polluting rights are bought and sold, a world whose operative ethic is deceit, why shouldn’t people have the freedom to purchase whatever it takes to deceive?  What grabbed my attention was one of the scripts used by Hamilton’s telemarketers to sell their deceit-product to customers on the lookout for deceit-facilitating certification. 

This is how it went, roughly: “Well, you know about the great liberal arts schools and what kinds of people they produce, don’t we (chortle now)…” Yes, they scripted in the chortle cues as well, as would any telemarketing scriptwriter I suppose.  I couldn’t stop chortling, though.  This was just after the “election” and I was full of democratic sentiment and full of sympathy for those who believe that the USA has a functioning democracy. 

If chortles are scripted into duping mechanisms, what of the subtexts of such scripts and what of the chortles therein, I wondered.  These people must laugh to themselves, all the way to the bank or to the White House for that matter.  So I thought I would try my hand at unearthing the subtexts (chortles included) scripted by, for and with telemarketers of the Hamilton Universities of Democracy. 

“Ok, so we screwed up in Florida, so we just got smarter.  We brought in machines so that we can minimize human error (Chortle now!) and proceeded to eliminate the eminently human agency of voting by human intervention subsequent to the closing of the polls.  We have the media, the watchdogs of democracy (Chortle now!) behind us, ever-willing to sacrifice the will of the people so that we don’t lose face internationally, and we shall count on them to deliver the free-and-fair.  Thanks Fox! 

“Sure, we played our little games of subversion by posting misinformation regarding polling stations, by moving them without informing people, threatening the poor that they were liable to be arrested for non-payment of electricity and other bills, and other rib-tickling things (Chortle now!).  These were of course eyewash.  Those poor democracy-worshipping suckers got an army of lawyers and poll watchers, some from as far away as Sri Lanka, to observe and report malpractice throughout the voting, but they couldn’t do a thing about those machines now, could they (Loud guffaws now!)? 

“Jokes aside, let us talk about “democracy” in general now.  Democracy is government by some people, with some people for some people, fuck the majority (Chortle now!).  One man, one vote?  No.  One person, one vote (Chortle now!)!  Well, really (wiping tears of mirth), people have nothing to do with it.  To tell the truth, this is the democracy of the rich, most of whom are white, for the rich and by the rich, and people still believe that Woodrow Wilson really believed or practiced what he said.  Those poor bastards (Chortle now!)!  I mean, c’mon, he promised the poor voter he won’t take the country to war and committed his troops within six months of assuming office whereas the Bolsheviks promised they would pull out of the war and kept their word. 

“Let us, despite our poor knowledge of geography, go more global for a change.  Haven’t those who still believe this is a democracy, heard of our track record internationally?  Surely they know how we have supported the worst tyrants and despots throughout the world?  Was not Ferdinand Marcos our friend?  Was not Samoza? Was not Batista? Didn’t we look the other way when Suharto slaughtered half a million people in Indonesia?  Did we not fund and arm people who were trying to overthrow democratic regimes the world over?  Did we not establish a School of the Americas to help our friends mete out punishment to those who didn’t toe our line?  Didn’t we support the white racists in South Africa? Is not our greatest ally, Britain, a monarchy? Don’t they know that we fought a war to re-install a monarchy in Kuwait (Chortle now!)?  Did we not put the finishing touches to a land that we had helped reduce to rubble by bombing the living daylights out of a long suffering people, so that we could hand it back to the war lords?  Would these people know that we are talking of Afghanistan, for god’s sake (Chortle now!)?

“And what of Iraq?  We went there to re-claim for the Iraqi people their country(Chortle now!), save them from our former friend Saddam, and establish democracy.  We sent them democracy encapsulated in bullets (Chortle now!), we made their desert bloom into a million flowers called participatory decision making, by raining bombs on them. 

“The talk of the town is that the constitution is to be amended to allow Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for president.  Why not?  He is certifiably white, isn’t he?  And rich.  And a Republican.  In short, he is eminently qualified to become president.  We wouldn’t do it for someone like Amadou Diallo, the West African immigrant who was shot 44 times by NYPD heroes a few years ago, would we (Chortle now!)? 

“Demographers say that in 50 years the number of white people would drop to below 50% of the population.  The Founding Fathers must have known this.  This is why they come up with the brilliant idea of electoral colleges.  First of all it eliminates the danger of the popular vote throwing up, god forbid, a president who is not a blue-blooded Caucasian.  Also, in conjunction with the constitutional sanctioning of gerrymandering, we can keep these dumb asses off the white house for a long, long time.  Hopefully by that time we would have a de-facto monarchy, with, hypothetically, George Bush VII sitting on the throne (Chortle now!) and the problem of “majority” would not even arise.” 

What of the real scripts now, and who will read them and when?  I don’t know.  Mis-education is as much a crime of the mis-educated as it is of the mis-educating.  Self-censorship is as grievous a fault as is censorship.  So, I shall leave the script-readers and script-believers to weed out misinformation and fashion for themselves a democracy that works for them, but I will by way of fraternal embrace, offer the following anecdote.

In the early nineties, a Cuban economist, Carlos Tablada toured the USA, promoting a book called “Man and Socialism in Cuba”.  He went from university to university, talking about the book and about Cuba”.  A friend of mine had gone for one of these talks and he told me that Tablada had been heckled by some Cuban immigrants and self-righteous democracy-know-alls.  They had said that Cuba was not a democracy, that Castro was a tyrant and a despot.  Tablada had listened to all of this and responded in the following way.  

“You might not know that every adult in Cuba has military training and are permitted to carry arms, all provided by the state.  Fidel Castro frequently visits factories and universities, unarmed and without bodyguards.  Can you name me one leader in the so-called free world where democracy is supposed to be thriving, who does this or would be prepared to do it? Of course Cuba is a democracy!

It is ok.  You can chortle now.  For real.  Go write your own scripts.  Go include your own chortles.  I wish you strength as I do my own and fraternal scriptwriting, chortling in the process of course.   

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