Sunday, May 3, 2009

Moral Corrosion

As much of the world celebrated May Day, a day devoted to the worker which many have been indoctrinated to believe is a Communist holiday, we seem to be standing on a cultural, economic and political precipice. Voices are screaming from all directions telling us that a new pandemic is upon us while fascists are seizing control of government as the global markets teeter on the brink of collapse. Somehow during the last decade we seem to have lost the ability to objectively step back and assess situations, both good and bad, and come up with solutions to problems or game plans for success. Neither swine flu, economic depression nor waterboarding will bring about the end of the world, but you couldn't guess by reading the news.

It's hard to imagine the world pre-Y2K. Here I am typing away on my laptop on the couch in Poznan, Poland, connected to the internet by an invisible beam that grants me access to the world. Back then, I was in Canada, working at a bank, I used the internet for email, browsed a few web pages, some news oriented, many pornographic, the rest fantasy sports related. My news was still fed to me mainly through the TV, mostly CNN with most of the other networks providing entertainment of one sort or the other. I'd pick up the odd newspaper and sometimes hear the news on the way to work in my car, sometimes balanced, occasionally wacky, there were even shock jocks like Howard Stern to spice things up now and then. Perhaps my vantage point has changed more than most, but I'm assuming (dangerous word that) most people reading these words now get the majority or their information via these internets from blogs, tweets or web pages. Many more still get their news from the TV, but a different TV than I knew. There was no 'Faux' News. CNN blared in the background occasionally, but not continuously as it must do now, unless it's FOX or MSNBC, BBC or TV5. Since then we've lurched from crisis to crisis, Y2K, tsunamis, stolen election, 9/11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, snipers, Colombia, Kerry, SARS, mad cow, 11-M, 7/7, Katrina, Virginia Tech, Sudan, Gaza, Burma, oops, Myanmar, Bali, North Korea, Pakistan, economic depression, avian flu and now swine flu to name but a few.

Point, yes. Swine flu. Well, chances are it will blow by, but we ALL know about it. Depression, that too, so steps are being taken. But while we also know that the US government executed Japanese generals for ordering waterboarding on American POW's during WWII, it still seems OK for Americans to order and execute the same torture on their own POW's, or illegal combatants. It took less than a decade, and one f#cked up terrorist attack to get to a point where our moral compass is being spun for us, by those intent on not even allowing one to form their own opinion on the ethical question of whether torture is right or wrong. Obfuscation of the question, causing confusion, bewilderment and stupefaction has been facilitated by this 24/7 news culture. The world would end when pigs flu, but it has a way to go to overtake the Spanish, Hong Kong or even just the Asian variety this century as we now seem to know what to do. The issue of torture is simply whether it's right or wrong, but the question for the masses gets mixed up with a witches brew of distractions: "is it torture?", it is, "did or does it work?", it didn't, doesn't and won't, hint: do you really believe that waterboarding someone the 183rd time in a month is any more likely to reveal information than the 182nd?, "why did Obama release the memos?", to clear the air, confirming what we already knew therefore allowing us to make up our mind about what to do, "are we now less safe?", well, thanks to the policies of torture, future American POW's will be, "was McCain speaking the truth when he mentioned the Japanese general executions?", he was. The Third Geneva Convention was created to protect prisoners of war off the battlefield. If one nation is allowed to flaunt these laws because crazy brown people are cutting off their prisoners' heads, what's to stop the rest of the world from doing the same to that nation sometime down the road? Therefore, you just don't do it. However, this question, like the flu, economics, or gay rights can be spun any which way you want these days with mind numbing effects thanks to these invisible connections.

Oops, sidetracked again, point. Yes, swine flu. Got your mask? Chrysler now being controlled by the American and Canadian government, the UAW and a (gasp) European company (Fiat) is sure to be held up as more socialist/fascist fodder for the masses that still cling to the elephantine ideals of the Republicans in America. Tea bags won't save you this time, we're talking unions, governments and Europeans, not just raising taxes from 36% to 39% on income earned over a quarter million, real socialism. Dude, get a grip. (OK, maybe it's only the top 2% of earners today...) Cars are so 1950's, so the government won't pay indefinitely to keep producing them like they keep doing for the new millennium financial industry. Strange how no one questioned the swing in our ethics as it became more and more normal for our youth to enroll in 'business', 'finance' or 'economics' degrees while previous generations valued 'medicine', 'engineering' or 'philosophy'. Stocks in our 401k, RRSP or European retirement versions became more important than those worn by our workers or Guantanamo prisoners. Is it any surprise that now you can fool people into believing anything? Torture can simply be called robbery to advance your political agenda so why not do it to save lives?

The talking point that sticks in many people's heads is that thanks to the advanced interrogation techniques, or torture, attacks were averted and therefore innocent lives saved. The ticking time bomb scenario is used ad nauseum. Problem is it's not the right question. Yes, it's a familiar tactic by the 'left' as well in issues such as climate change. The sea is rising, ice caps are melting, we're all going to die. However, even this issue, when one is allowed to step back and think, can be boiled down to a simple 2 outcome question. Do something or don't. I for one think something should be done instead of confusing the debate by questioning whether or not we're causing the problem, debating if environmentalism is a communist plot or what Al Gore's motive is. Do something or don't, simple. While Obama's saving the banksters has been a wrongheaded approach to saving the economy, imagine the right wing ire if he'd of spent that same amount of money on greening the economy. Sure, he'd of been right, but instead of cries that he is steering his country towards a socialist state or a one world government and currency, he'd of moved away from the nation's vested interest in the status quo, where their might is still right.

More TVs and god cars equals more happiness, the average Joe works longer and harder, gets fatter and dumber while being fed from the fear factory. Most of the other kinds of factories have been relocated abroad, while the financial industry has grown to replace them. Somewhat ironically, that same industry has poisoned the economy, while the one that could produce the vaccines to save lives against pandemics such as the swine flu has been outsourced to China. The US has only one flu vaccination manufacturing plant left today. Our choices today have repercussions tomorrow, whether it's repealing Glass-Steagall or authorizing torture. The Bush, Cheney and Rice's are still running around the question, while others like Alyssa Peterson have paid the ultimate price for their hubris. Worse yet for many further down the chain of command, "I was only following orders" isn't an acceptable line of defence, especially if you're on the losing side like John Demjanjuk, a man possibly known as Ivan the Terrible more than 60 years ago and still being hunted down today.

Being the leader of the world comes with a price, not only a debt. Flag-waving, pin-wearing, jingoistic hysteria took a nation to war as everyone stood by, then moved on to putting prisoners on Guantanamo, using off-shore ships or other countries in what has become known as 'extraordinary renditions' to sidestep the Convention Against Torture rules while claiming that "America does not torture". Throw in some legal mumbo jumbo, label POW's unlawful combatants, unsign international treaties and create some chaos with a little help from some background noise. So where do we find guidance? Funny enough, the more religious you are, the more likely you are to believe torture is OK under certain circumstances. I'm not a big bible guy, but the whole do unto others quote seems to apply here quite nicely, for if you ignore it you never know when you'll be repaid in spades. To avoid this moral quagmire altogether, we have the rule of law. The last 10 years has seen a huge shift in how we see the issues of the day along with a growing taste for taking the easy route. In medicine, economics and morals: "you start taking shortcuts, and over time that corrodes what’s best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.


Phuck Politics said...

Thanks for the link. Do you have two sites called In Case You Missed It?

Shane said...

Ain't no thing, hopefully others click on it and can join me in getting a few laughs everyday.

Yeah, my stuff also get posted over at,