02 April, 2014

The US-Them paradigm, and a bit about Silence

Apparently the USA has promised to stop its bulk data collection on cellphones.

But I didn’t notice any Americans out in the streets, throwing balloons and shouting: Yippie! We are now free of the NSA!

In fact, there was a rather ominous silence from the civil society in the USA. Almost as if the “we’re going to stop tapping your phones now” didn’t even merit a: Right on, guys. There was just—silence.

The NSA hasn’t said a word about how its going to stop tapping the other 6.7 billion people of the world. I guess this means the “US-Them” dichotomy has only sharpened. The US-Them Dichotomy has recently reached peak levels of disgruntlement and distrust. Not to mention withdrawal of a lot of finance, trade and other relationships. The world’s romance with the dollar is coming to an end. But the USA marches blithely on, hoping nobody notices that it has violated all of the most essential norms the rest of the 150 plus nations take for granted.

On the theme of silence, have you noticed how to make a comment on any Internet publication now, you need to have either a Facebook, a Google or another similar account? No way to make an anonymous comment—which means the much vaunted “Freedom of Expression” the USA passionately champions is quite difficult to execute in real life in even such a mundane space as the web. For all we know, it might be easier to make anonymous comments on Weibo and other Chinese Internet start-ups.

Then there’s the little silence regarding how all the big financial institutions, all based in the West and controlling everything from central bank policy to foreign exchange rates, have so far resisted scrutiny on a global level. Don’t you think its odd that millions of people lost their homes to foreclosures in the USA—clearly a well-thought out scam to rob people of their homes—yet nobody was held accountable? All that happened is that the Bank of America shelled out a few billions in lawsuits, and that was it? Millions lose their homes and the government bails out…the banks?

Then there’s the little silence regarding contemporary slavery, which all of the Western countries with much vaunted values of human rights are actively engaged in. There was an article in the New York Times, by someone named Ross, who teaches at NYU, who writes that the Louvre, the Guggenheim, NYU and other institutions of this nature, who are setting up large campuses on Abu Dhabi, are actively constructing their buildings in much the same way the Gulf has always done it—recruiting poor people from South Asia, seizing their passports, making them work for decades with no or low pay, then refusing to let them go home because they have been “sponsored” in the kafala slavery system and need a letter to get out. It is clear an accounting of some sorts—say, the same sort of accounting that was held after the Second World War to figure out how much compensation to pay the victims of the Nazis—needs to happen with South Asian workers who lost much of their lives and health and pay in the Gulf. Perhaps the time is coming now.

Then there’s the little silence regarding how the slavery of contemporary times appears to be legitimated and held in place by all these shadowy machinations of finance-from Wall Street to stocks and bonds to the easy printing of money which Western countries feel entitled to. If America is printing trillions every year and using half of that to terrorize the world with bombs and war, why is this allowable? Why do we imagine somehow that the South Asian workers building the Gulf somehow are “poor” and deserve never to get hold of these euros and dollars which apparently are circulated at the top level of banks and museums—euros and dollars which end up buying one piece of crappy art for insane amounts of money?

At some point there has to be an accounting. It is clear that something is drastically wrong with the way the capitalist system functions today. The mechanisms of exchange are terribly skewed in favor of those who are using the perception of superiority and entitlement—and the advantages of speed, deception and scams to rip off everyone from poor homeowners in the USA to laborers from South Asia. And all those major banks and financial institutions are complicit in keeping the system working in this manner.

It is clear the institutions that keep these exchanges in place are outdated, antiquated and in need of replacement. The world needs to do better mathematics in terms of the work value of construction workers building the Louvre, or the people who make one piece of black canvas and sell it for few million bucks to the Louvre. Those who value art are clearly implicated in the terrible abuses of workers who build the building that houses their art.

Now lets see if the silence surrounding these issues echo outwards.

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