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Letters from Downunder

Losing the plot

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

Plot? Plot? Said old King Grot.
That’s the only thing that I ain’t got!
    (with apologies to Don Marquis)

(2/2014) On July 28, 1914, the great war broke out in Europe. That’s nearly 100 years ago, and during this anniversary year there will be many images and stories broadcast around the world in memoriam of this tragic event. The world was changed forever by this war, and its after-effects produced the worst kind of tyranny, slaughter, and terror across much of Europe – including another world war. The reasons were many, but at its heart was the decline of power and foresight within the Hapsburg Empire, which has little to do with our story.

Notwithstanding some of the worst military leadership of all time, it took an amazing amount of courage and effort by Britain and her colonies and allies to resist the German war machine, yet the one major power who was needed to ensure victory was missing. AWOL for three years until 1917, the United States of America refused to lend a hand until it was obvious that its long term interests would be weakened if the German Axis won, and that there was also a dollar or two to be made along the way.

The main reasons for American isolation and non-involvement stemmed from Democrat idealism and resistance to intervention, whose anti-war parochial views melded with much of the Irish-American loathing of England. The path to peace, they said, was one that did not begin with war. The question of ‘whose peace’ had the obvious answers : Their own, or America’s, for it could not have been Europe’s. It was Woodrow Wilson and the Republican party who overcame this pacifist outlook – with considerable difficulty – finally coming up with the necessary slogan for intervention, ‘Making the World Safe for Democracy’. Well, the Kaiser got kicked, The Yankees won the war, fortunes were made, and making the world safe was something that become the foundation of foreign policy.

The reluctance by uncle Sam to get involved in the troubles of the world was repeated twenty five years later when Germany again began ravaging Europe. This time America’s delay was officially only two years, and their entry was galvanic due to the horror of being attacked by Japan. This time the stupidity of non-involvement was brought home with white hot rage and red faces, for having been caught napping at the Pearl was shameful. But they surely helped to win that war so the good old slogan was banner-raised and America really saw the benefits of world leadership. Now there was more than words, for a mighty industrial and economic effort was established to implement that idea, one that remains to this day.

The way was forward! The future was written, and great stories must progress. Plots thicken. Alliances are made, so friends, generally corrupt, (but who cares about that), are ‘elected’, (the Philippines, Iran, Nicaragua etc.), or democratic governments can be installed, often forcibly. The rewards are great for a time, but more importantly the machinery needed to do all this is developed. America’s installation of democracy – the capitalist version, anyway - in non-democratic countries was probably the biggest and fastest invasion ever seen, certainly with relatively small casualty rates compared to a real war, and the resultant treasures were plenty. Of course, trade was one thing, making friends another, but the really important thing was was the nexus between government and the military that developed, all helping to make the world safe for America. Until the plot was lost, that is.

So here we have two story lines, two plots, and two divergent ideologies. Firstly, War is wrong and Peace is best, and secondly, Let’s turn the world into our congregation, whether they agree or not, provided they sing our hymns. This policy has been gathering force for the past 50 years or so, and both parties have been sure that trying to creating peace and a safe democratic world was the ultimate purpose of their political lives. True, Democrats have always been less likely to be aggressive, perhaps because they sometimes seemed to put forward more moral conscience, whereas Republicans, who feel such an attitude is cowardly, see themselves as rulers - and are thus able to justify the means they use to achieve domination.

Every story has a plot, but I doubt even Shakespeare could weave this situation into a saleable play. Memories of the victories of WW1 and 2, which form such huge parts of your historic narrative, owe more to Hollywood than to fact. Sadly, this helped the rise of the derring-do mantra that has determined the perspective of your views. The idea of establishing democracy around the world has only ever had one real purpose, that is to make the world safe for America and Americans in which to do their thing. No politician could be elected unless the idea of safety and security at home and abroad was promoted. The actuality had no substance, although many wars for military ego puffing and commercial gain have been instigated under its banner, the prisons have the dissidents, whistle-blowers some of the secrets.

This has not only turned the idea of democracy on its head, it has led to the worst excesses of any despotic regime. We are told that no Americans get hurt when a drone kills civilians,(false, for all Americans are hurt, at least morally); no terrorists are missed by the agencies when your privacy is voided, (false, because putting forward contrary views with force and power, or revealing the secrets that help plaster over the many lies, may be considered an act of terror); no punishment is too severe for talking to the enemy – whoever they might be at the time(true) - no secret is too small to be kept, no paranoia is too unreal to be missed and armed for, and nothing too real is allowed to cause agitation and distress. (All true).

The trappings are there, the bland assurances that all is well are set out in their nightly fictions and daytime soaps - such travesty should actually be spelt ‘demonocracy.’ The determination of the Republican movement, so admirable 100 years ago has visibly gone backwards. Gone into repression, punishment, loss of civil liberties that took many lives, intense pain and suffering to achieve, with the loss of fact and truthfulness. The plot of a democratic society where all are equal under the law, all are entitled to freedom as defined by any moral code has been lost.

The desire to turn back the clock to the good old days, when conscience and sky were unclouded has been most clearly seen in the widening gap between evolution and creationism. The percentage of Republicans who have turned their eyes back to the star chamber and declared that creation was the way we came to be has risen alarmingly; bringing the world into line by force seems to be the only way that such people can perceive the future – but It is not possible to go forward looking backwards. Yearning for those good days days is the response of those who have wrecked the future. Yes, times are, and will continue to be tough, but money and affluence cannot be allowed to dictate the fate of the majority. This is not a fairy story, there will not be ‘they all lived happily ever after’; this is a world with schisms of unimaginable awfulness appearing in far too many places. These will not be helped by repression or sanction, by bombing or drones, but by foresight, care, wide-eyed suspicion, even distrust, and a willingness to understand and an acknowledgement that militarism is not the answer, nor is the safety of America more important than the safety of the world. (Unless your view is that America IS the world.)

America can be, and indeed has been a source of great envy, progress and honesty, but that has truly been almost lost. That most terrible of all crimes against humanity, genocide, has rightly been condemned by all right-thinking Americans - but congress has strangely never taken a stand against it. Makes one wonder, doesn’t it? Look back to creationism by all means, destroy God’s enemies as did the Israelites, but please go back four or so thousand years to do it.

Otherwise, like our old king Grot, the plot of living into the future will have been been lost forever, even as you try to amass everything else.

Lindsay, without rose-coloured spectacles, in

Down under.

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker