Geostrategic and political considerations aside, crude economic motives drive the imperialist campaign to prolong the war on Syria. In parallel with the mega-profits reaped by the corporate media and its army of information warlords, and the “War on Terror” military industry which thrives on the expansion of the al-Qaeda franchise, is another kind of war profiteering. In the true spirit of capitalism, the humanitarian aid and development— a.k.a. “White Saviour Complex”— community has turned crisis into opportunity. State and corporate funded NGOs have found in Syria’s 2.5 refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced, a veritable goldmine of collective misfortune. Every refugee represents a career opportunity for procuring project funds and extracting exorbitant fees for consultancies, training, workshops etc. And despite the colossal proportions of the refugee crisis, most aid work is driven by donors’ agendas and bureaucratic imperatives, rather than the immediate needs of the displaced and deprived. Just as Big Business tries to whitewash its public health and environmental crimes with “Corporate Social Responsibility” schemes, western governments think they can arm and support the rebels, while sugarcoating the innumerable crimes they have committed against the Syrian people with their humanitarian interventions. NGO-imperialism is just another way the Empire “kills the victim and walks in his funeral procession”, as goes the Arabic saying. Only in this case, he makes a profit out of the funeral as well.
I was watching “12 Years a Slave” with my almost 11 year old son yesterday, and within minutes of watching the movie he begged me to switch it off, specifically, during the scene where the lead character, Solomon Northup, wakes up to find himself shackled and whipped into enslavement. Although my son has a higher tolerance for TV violence than I do, he was particularly distressed by this scene, or to quote his words “disturbed because he was being forced against his will and I put myself in his place. I can handle violence but not slavery”.
It got me thinking about how justice is not merely experienced rationally, but also originates in our emotions and intuition which we express as moral outrage. It also reminded me how justice-seeking, compassion and outbursts of moral indignation are defining features of childhood which society—capitalism specifically—tries to control and harness as we grow up through various mechanisms. Emotional/intuitive justice is eclipsed by purely rational, western liberal notions of justice as “fairness” as found in “procedural” justice.
The mechanisms capitalism employs to enforce this shift include western theories of “human nature” which perpetuate the myth that the default human character is one marked by aggression, the hunger for power and self-interest, and is hence, naturally disinclined to social and economic justice, and requires hegemonic political power to restrain it.
Another mechanism is the psycho-pathologization of justice-seeking behaviour and the refusal to submit to domination, by branding them “disorders” like “anti-social personality disorder” and “oppositional defiant disorder,” whose hallmark “symptoms” are the “failure to conform” to social and political norms and in the case of the latter, “arguing” and “anger”.
The mainstream media is also guilty of disabling our gut reaction to injustice. Western media coverage of imperialist military aggression and political domination serve to at once justify and rationalize these injustices while desensitizing us to the suffering of their victims. It also achieves this by dismissing anti-imperialist leaders as demagogues who command “personality cults”, and in so doing, reducing the just causes they represent to the irrational impulses of the raucous mob.
Our inherent sense of justice is also stifled by western academic standards which require “emotional distance/detachment” in the social sciences, so that we are forced to adopt neutral positions in the face of gross social and political injustices. Thus for example, intellectuals who decry the injustices of American and Israeli aggression and occupation are discredited as “emotional”, while those who publish papers on how best to secure US “national interests” are deemed “scholarly”. In this manner, works guided by notions of naked self-interest and brute power are elevated to the status of “knowledge” while those guided by a social conscience are stigmatized as irrational rambling.
As people who pursue justice, we should always strive to naturalize moral outrage, by inculcating it in our children and refusing to be stigmatized medically or professionally for expressing it. We must work hard to retain those child-like outbursts of moral outrage which are the essence of our humanity.
We saw it in Syria and now we are witnessing it again in Ukraine and Venezuela; namely, using the politics of protest to engineer anti-democractic movements which seek to overthrow popular and/or elected governments in the name of democratic freedoms. And we aren’t merely talking about undemocratic groups here, but anti-democractic movements which are opposed in principle to democracy (takfiris and jihadis in Syria; right-wing fascists in Ukraine; reactionary neo-liberals in Venezuela). In all these cases, governments are being rebuked, pressured and sanctioned for exercising their constitutionally prescribed and universally recognized duty to maintain law and order and to protect national security, public safety and national unity. And as we witnessed in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring”, democracy and revolution are now redefined in the public imagination as any popular outpouring of anger irrespective of the nature of its demands, the medium through which it is expressed, or its intersection with the interests of global capital.
I really like the “Palestine’s Day” (playing on Valentine’s Day) meme circulating on social media, but it does give some pause for thought: all too many Arabs and western leftists have come to *love* Palestine in the same capitalist-driven, commodified, Hollywood-ized and ultimately meaningless way that people *love* other people. This has become all too apparent in the wake of the counter-revolution in Syria whereby those who call for the overthrow of the “Assad regime” and attack Hizbullah for supporting it, audaciously (and somewhat schizophrenically) profess a deep love and commitment to Palestine, no less stomach-churning and empty than the concept of Valentine’s itself. For these Arabs, and many western pseudo-leftists like them, Palestine has been reduced to a popular brand image and hence, a tool of self-legitimation, in much the same way that people seek romantic love for self-validation; if I love Palestine then I am politically correct, and if I am politically correct then I belong [to the post-Arab Spring regional order]. As with physical attraction that is often mistaken for love, Intifada Chic is often confused with a deep emotional connection and strong commitment to Palestine by the #IlovePalestine consumers.
While we are all hegemonized by the neo-liberal, consumerist concept of *love*, we have no excuses for being colonized on the question of Palestine. We can fake-love all the people we want, but Palestine is sacred and requires risks, sacrifice, deep and unwavering commitment, lack of ego, being unpopular and generally being uncomfortable. To love Palestine one has to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That is love.
The Adam Lanza massacre illustrates the crude racism that informs the portrayal of white violence as the product of individual idiosyncrasy, in contrast to non-white violence (both inside and outside the US) which is represented as being culturally or racially determined and which is therefore attributed group traits rather than to structural injustices at home and imperialist policies abroad. But more importantly, by psycho-pathologizing white violence away or blaming it on “gun control” laws, the common culprit and underlying cause of white and non-white individual violence at home, and group violence abroad, is conveniently hidden from public view. And that culprit is global capitalism.
Inside America, capitalism manifests itself as a totalitarian liberal state which establishes near total control of its subjects by hegemonizing their lifestyle preferences and choices, their identity, psychology, emotions, consciousness and understanding of reality. The purpose of this control is to instill submission by consent, mainly by means of “’civil society” instruments like the educational system, the Academy and the corporate media. Threats to the system which emanate from those who display signs of nonconformity, emotional instability, depression and other psychological expressions of dissatisfaction with the system or simply an inability to appreciate the supposed benefits of living in a state of rabid consumerism, are medicated into submission. Not only does this serve to intellectually, spiritually and emotionally numb and dumb down, and hence disempower, tens of millions of Americans annually, but it creates an all- powerful Big Pharma- state-psychiatric industry nexus. It is this state-sponsored profit making scheme which is ultimately responsible for the extremely common “side effects” of SSRIs and psychiatric medication, including aggression, suicidal ideation and suicide, which are most acute among children and young people. It is no coincidence that the overwhelming majority, if not all, school shootings in the US and Europe have been committed by people who are under the influence of mind-alerting psychiatric drugs, particularly anti-depressants/ SSRIs. Adam Lanza , like many before him, has been described by media as suffering from mental illness as an adult and autism as a child, and was therefore highly likely to have been prescribed with aggression-suicide inducing psychiatric drugs for several years at least.
If Americans fail to see the ultimate cause of much of the homicide and suicide which afflicts the US, it should come as no surprise if this same hegemonic system has desensitized them to the war crimes their government has been committing in their name for decades. The glaring hypocrisy of shedding tears over dead white children while dismissing the deaths of Palestinian or Afghani or Iraqi or Pakistani or Libyan children killed with US weapons, as one of the more distasteful consequences or “collateral damage” that results from fighting “humanitarian” or “defensive” wars, or “wars against terror”, will surely be lost on people whose minds are so deeply hegemonized.
The bottom line is that the government and Big Pharma are ultimately responsible for such violence, just as this government and arms manufacturers are responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in the Arab and Muslim world and beyond. Global capitalism/ imperialism kills. It kills people at home and it kills people outside the Empire. And it kills them in colossal numbers in the name of profits.
Many people think we are over-zealous ideologues indulging our fantasies when we say Israel’s days are numbered. But like global capitalism, upon which its existence depends, the overthrow of the Zionist regime is just as much a description as it is a prescription. Both contain the seeds of their own self-destruction. We merely want to hasten the inevitability of both.
"Nothing says I’m here to disempower you by creating a relationship of dependency with my token “aid”, more than when the IMF/World Bank or any western NGO stipulates “empowering communities” as part of its mission statement."
”Myth 4. Capitalism means freedom True freedom is only achieved under capitalism with the help of the so-called “market self-regulation.” The goal is to create something similar to a religion of capitalism, where everything is taken as is, and deny people the right to participate in making macroeconomic decisions. Indeed, the freedom in decision-making is the ultimate freedom, but it is only enjoyed by a narrow circle of powerful individuals, not the people, and not even the government agencies. … Myth 5. Capitalism means democracy Democracy can only exist under capitalism. This myth, which smoothly follows from the previous one, was created in order to prevent the discussion of other models of social order. It is argued that they are all dictatorships. Capitalism is assigned such concepts as freedom and democracy, while their meaning is distorted. In fact, society is divided into classes and the rich, being ultra-minority, dominate over all others. This capitalist “democracy” is nothing but a disguised dictatorship, and “democratic reforms” are processes opposite to progress. As the previous myth, this one also serves as an excuse to criticize and attack non-capitalist countries. Myth 6. Election is a synonym of democracy Election is synonymous with democracy. The goal is to denigrate or demonize other systems and prevent a discussion of political and electoral systems where leaders are determined through non-bourgeois elections, for example, on the virtue of age, experience, or popularity of candidates. In fact, it is the capitalist system that manipulates and bribes, where a vote is a conditional term, and election is only a formal act. The mere fact that the elections are always won by representatives of the bourgeois minority makes them unrepresentative. The myth that bourgeois elections guarantee presence of democracy is one of the most entrenched, and even some left-wing parties and forces believe it.”