Essays on savagery

Pretending to be democratic takes a lot of effort. This harsh political reality has required the constant managing of the “public” mind to assure mass “democratic” compliance with the un democratic oligarchic economic and political structures. Edward L. Bernays, the premier pioneer of US public relations, argued that the ability to shape and direct public opinion had become indispensable to the maintenance of order. President Woodrow Wilson was re-elected in 1916 on the promise that he would keep the US neutral, and would not send “American” boys to war in Europe. Once elected, however, ongoing pressures from US banking and other economic interests to enter the war on the side of England required Wilson to develop a strategy to convince a public overwhelmingly against the war to change their minds. With Bernays’ coaching, Wilson created the first modern de facto Minister for Propaganda, selecting liberal newspaperman George Creel to head up The Committee for Public Information (CPI). Creel launched an intense advertising campaign using catch phrases and fear-inducing language with 75,000 traveling speakers (the famous Four Minute Men), ads, and essays reaching every nook and cranny of the United States.

The sun was now low beneath the horizon. Darkness spread rapidly. None of my selves could see anything beyond the tapering light of our headlamps on the hedge. I summoned them together. "Now," I said, "comes the season of making up our accounts. Now we have got to collect ourselves; we have got to be one self. Nothing is to be seen any more, except one wedge of road and bank which our lights repeat incessantly. We are perfectly provided for. We are warmly wrapped in a rug; we are protected from wind and rain. We are alone. Now is the time of reckoning. Now I, who preside over the company, am going to arrange in order the trophies which we have all brought in. Let me see; there was a great deal of beauty brought in to-day: farmhouses; cliffs standing out to sea; marbled fields; mottled fields; red feathered skies; all that. Also there was disappearance and the death of the individual. The vanishing road and the window lit for a second and then dark. And then there was the sudden dancing light, that was hung in the future. What we have made then to-day," I said, "is this: that beauty; death of the individual; and the future. Look, I will make a little figure for your satisfaction; here he comes. Does this little figure advancing through beauty, through death, to the economical, powerful and efficient future when houses will be cleansed by a puff of hot wind satisfy you? Look at him; there on my knee." We sat and looked at the figure we had made that day. Great sheer slabs of rock, tree tufted, surrounded him. He was for a second very, very solemn. Indeed it seemed as if the reality of things were displayed there on the rug. A violent thrill ran through us; as if a charge of electricity had entered in to us. We cried out together: "Yes, yes," as if affirming something, in a moment of recognition.

I like the angle of this, in that it identifies a limit for tolerance: harm to others. But i would put it at a much lower level: ignorance. There is no reason why we must to tolerate the perpetuation of ignorance. It is an act of spinelessness to abandon those values we hold most dearly (gender equality) in order to defend cultures that differ from us on those values. Likewise, you can attack a particular aspect of a culture without attack the culture itself. But at a certain point, one has to back up ones beliefs with conviction. There is no room for cultural relativism when it comes to civil rights. Call a spade a spade: these patriarchal attitudes are backwards. They are not part of our world’s cultural diversity; they are a plague which threatens to destroy it. If we are to live in a more peaceful world, it will not be because western cultures have learned to tolerate Islamic attitudes towards women, it will be because Islamic attitudes towards women will have shed the fundamentalist bull.

Essays on savagery

essays on savagery

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