Friday, April 6, 2012

The spectacle of democracy in the US

The US presidential election looks like a massive TV commercial, an advertisement, extended over more than a year.

By Hamid Dabashi

"Tucson, Arizona - "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." The unguarded remarks of the US President - Barack Obama - to the Russian President - Dmitry Medvedev - captured by TV cameras, has once again drawn attention to the increasing perils and undelivered promises of US presidential elections.

According to a transcriptof the recorded remarks, Obama told his Russian counterpart: "On all these issues, but particularly missile defence, this, this can be solved but it's important for him to give me space." Medvedev responded: "Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you."

What do these elections mean? Do they make any difference? Why does President Obama need "space" for his second term election - what did he do with the "space", indeed the mandate he received after his first election?.....

Americans (and many others around the world) were counting the seconds that the Bush presidency would finally end and Obama's to start - but to what avail? What did he do differently than Bush? Just look at his speeches in front of AIPAC and take it down from there.

So what is the purpose, or the function, or the use of these American presidential elections?.....

The globalised showmanship of American presidential election is geared and designed to sell one commodity and one commodity only "democracy" - that the US is a democracy and by virtue of that fetishised commodity, it gets the privilege of sending its aircraft carriers and fighter jets around the planet to drop bombs on people and their homeland and call it "humanitarian intervention".

As the paramount example of a product of the society of spectacle (Guy Debord), of the culture industry (Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer) and of the advertisement of "a bottle of wine" to sell health and happiness (Roland Barth), the US presidential election is now the supreme bourgeois myth that sells "democracy", distinguishes military invasion from "humanitarian intervention" and justifies drone attacks to "combat terrorism" - and "protect peace" by mass murders from My Lai in Vietnam in 1968 to Hadithah in Iraq in 2005, to Kandahar in Afghanistan in 2012....

Commodification of democracy

As the grandest spectacle of American politics, the presidential election looks like a massive TV commercial, an advertisement, extended over more than a year, spread all over the major and minor networks, cable televisions, cyberspace, selling one commodity: and one commodity only - always already "new and improved" like any other brand of detergent.....

It is not just the Arab potentates who have run out of time, exited the force of their historical destiny, so have European democracies facing the systematic uprising of their people revolting against austerity measures they can no longer bear. And so, a fortiorihas the outdated and crooked political system of the US, deeply corrupted by corporate money and special interest lobbies (AIPAC symptomatic of a much deeper disease).

The charade of American democracy can no longer fool the world (if it ever did) - a system that generates a Gingrich or Santorum at its top and to which Ron Paul suddenly sounds reasonable and sane, just to expose the hypocrisy and banality of Barak Obama, is no model of democracy to wage its war of "humanitarian intervention" anywhere in the world

Instead of the delusion of the American democracy aiding the cause of democracy anywhere in the world, it is the fact of the global democratic uprising aiding the ordinary Americans revolt against their own degenerated system that is the only cause of hope for future.

Not just the American or European democracy, in fact no existing alternative has much to suggest itself. The ideals and aspirations of an alternative have now ended up in banalities like Chavez and Ahmadinejad on frequent flier programme to each other's capital in search of business and legitimacy. Even Castro has no qualms giving honorary degree to "Dr Ahmadinejad".

Ideals and aspirations of political Islam have degenerated into the Islamic Republic and the horrors of Holocaust are abused by a colonial settlement cum apartheid garrison state called "Israel". We, the humanity at large, are at the cusp of a new dispensation, a moment of moral implosion when all has gone wrong and all has to change - and that is precisely why masses of millions of people around the globe are out in the street, sleeping in tents, withstanding militarised police brutality, claiming their public space, their hands in the cosmic dark looking for something that even they might not know what it is..... "

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