(YellowTimes.org) Informing as part of an open society? Indeed, under Mr. Bush's proposed Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS for short) - a kind of national, atomic-mutation of Neighborhood Watch - an estimated four percent of Americans will join a long and glorious tradition of state-security informants.
The tradition of citizen informants has roots going back at least to the French Revolution. During the terror, citizens were encouraged to inform on neighbors and even children to inform on their parents. More than a few harmless people went to the guillotine just on the basis of a hateful neighbor denouncing them.
Of course, there was Stalin's immense bloodbath over two continents. Informants played an important part in his heavy industry of organized murder. And one recognizes other suggestive similarities to what's happening in America. When Stalin was ready to announce another purge, he often spoke indirectly of "wreckers," wreckers of the Revolution. Just this suggestion from his lips was enough to get the thugs and psychopaths busy about their work.
Has anyone noticed the paler-but-still-similar sense of the term "terrorists"? With the heavily-biased press in America, we have all been conditioned to have an immediate mental image of a terrorist: He's a swarthy fellow with a difficult Arabic or Persian name and a strange religion. Remember, if there is one thing America is good at, one thing at which it has no equal on the planet, it is marketing. And America has intensively marketed this image for years.
The informing tradition was carried on in societies as diverse as Nazi Germany, the East German Stasi, Pol Pot's Cambodia, and the horrific youth brigades of China's Cultural Revolution.
My right-wing readers, yes I do have some, sometimes question how I can possibly ever associate America with ugly things like fascism. Well, the TIPS program and the Patriot Act, both deliberately bland names for insidious, dangerous things, is the word made flesh, so to speak.
I have in the past humorously observed the prevalence of insanity in America. I admit to using that term in a rather loosely-defined sense, but America is the land of Black Helicopters, alien abductions, Aryan churches, rattlesnake worship, speaking in tongues, and Texas.
You cannot live in America without discovering there also are a lot of angry people there. You see them on the streets, you meet them in stores, you experience them as neighbors. In your face. Mind your own business. Foul language. Indeed, I can attest to a fair sampling of such language in e-mail from my more perverse readers. Odd, don't you think, to send a person you've never met a disgustingly foul letter only because you don't agree with his column? And although I receive mail from many countries, the only source for this kind of stuff, I'm sorry to say, is America.
I believe Social Darwinism, whose roots now deeply vein American society, is largely responsible for this. We should never forget that Social Darwinism was the underlying philosophy of Adolf Hitler, and, while America's version is not quite so poisonous, there are similarities. It is a philosophy that breeds an atmosphere of contempt for others, especially the less fortunate. A sense of "I'm alright, Jack!" It raises the shabby idea of winners and losers to an exalted status. This breeds a lot of human misery in the midst of a very prosperous society.
Of course, the tender ministrations of America's fundamentalist Christians only add to a pressure-cooker climate. If you're not of the correct profession, something must be wrong with you. And for sure, if you're anything unusual, any kind of non-conformist or person born with the wrong genes, then your life may well qualify as an abomination. "Oh, how we love the sinner but hate the sin," making it extremely difficult for the recipients of such bounteous love to distinguish which of the two is being hated at any given moment and always forgetting the Good Lord's claim to the exclusive right of judgment.
Despite all the rhetoric about good neighbors in America, you are pretty much on your own when something goes wrong. The anarchy of urban decay, brutal police, racism, rotten public schools, large numbers of functional illiterates, unethical and predatory business practices, a lack of decent health care for many, a pervasive invasion of individual privacy for the advantages of corporate marketing, love-it-or-leave-it attitudes, guns and the influence of the military's culture of death everywhere - these things generate resentment, division, loneliness, and anger. Lots of anger.
A friend, recently returning to America from a long stint in Europe, provided an excellent, illustrative anecdote of institutionalized insanity in America when an airport security man held his laptop computer upside down and started shaking it. My friend naturally enough asked what he was doing, and the security man's reply was, "You never heard of anthrax?"
Now I ask, in view of these readily-observed characteristics of American society, does anyone in his right mind believe that it is a good idea to promote institutionalized informing? Why, something like one-half to one percent of the population suffers from schizophrenia. Another equal slice suffers from various forms of depression. About three-quarters of a percent is behind bars. Many times that are ex-convicts. Huge numbers of Americans are addicted to booze or drugs. Taking into account the amount of Americans who are fundamentalist Christians, around ten to twenty percent believe the end of the world is imminent, or that people walk around with the "Mark of the Beast" on their foreheads.
And any of them may just be of a mind to inform on you.
Date: Wednesday, July 17, 2002
[John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and concern for human decency. He is a member of no political party and takes exception to what has been called America's "culture of complaint" with its habit of reducing every important issue to an unproductive argument between two simplistically defined groups. John regards it as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of something like three million Vietnamese in their own land because they happened to embrace the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada, which he is fond of calling "the peaceable kingdom."]
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