In the last post I talked about how those on the Right, especially in Christian circles are guilty of misusing terms like Socialism, Marxism and so forth.
These terms are applied to broad categorical concepts, but in the United States their weight is more terms of emotion or in connotation rather than what they actually mean.
So when Obama is referred to as a Marxist, Socialist, Fascist, or Muslim extremist…the actual meaning of these terms really doesn’t come into play.
It just means he’s bad and wants to control everything…or even more simply that he’s not one of us, he belongs to the ‘other,’ ‘those’ people out there who are against America.
Of course anyone in the United States will realize there are vast differences in how we view concepts like Democracy, Liberty, Capitalism, Law and Order. These mean very different things to various peoples living in this country.
Europe today is overwhelmingly Socialistic. What does that mean? To many in the American Right being Socialist is congruous to Hitler’s Nazism, and the Soviet Union under Stalin. After all…both groups, the National Socialists and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics both employ the term in their nomenclature.
Yet…the Fascism of the National Socialists was very different than the Communism of the Soviet Union. Both were really horrible forms of Totalitarianism more than anything else. And both of these are completely different than the Social Democracies of modern Europe.
Is Tony Blair a Communist? Is Nicholas Sarkozy a Fascist? Is Vladimir Putin a Social Democrat?
While I may not like any of them, it would be wrong to identify them with these labels.
On the one hand a term like Socialism can be helpful in outlining a broad range of ideas, but just like in the United States, Constitutional-ism can take form either in terms of highly individualized and traditional Social Conservatism or in terms of a collective conscious and modernistic Social Liberalism. Both movements can still be vibrantly patriotic and both can be wholeheartedly committed to the founding documents of the country. Both see the potential abuse of power quite clearly, but they disagree on where the abuse comes from. Ironically both look to the Constitution as a protection against the abuse of power. Conservatives see the Constitution as restricting the state and its potential for abuse. Liberals see the Constitution as empowering the state to protect citizens from abuse by elements within the society.
Modern Europe is wholeheartedly dedicated to being anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet Union. Just because their general paradigm for accomplishing this does not look like Ron Paul or George Bush’s political ideology does not then make them equal to Hitler and Stalin.
Patently absurd this understanding is actually pretty common among American Conservatives I talk to.
Of course we also might discuss the fact that the Soviet Union never really implemented the ideas of Marx. Stalin had little interest in doing so and the Soviet Union utterly failed in its vision. Under Stalin it had been forced into a Totalitarian State and never really moved away from it. Insecure and faltering we now know (and some knew even then) the USSR was never the threat or power it was perceived to be. A horrific government to be sure, but was never a real competitor with the United States. Nor are there any respectable Socialists who would point to the USSR as some kind of model.
I remember seeing a video clip of this incident years ago….
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev once visited a kibbutz with his wife, Raisa. "They had 15 minutes on their schedule, but they stayed three hours," he says. "Raisa Gorbachev was a historian and at the end of the tour, she said, ‘This is what we meant to do in the Soviet Union but we failed completely.'"
The Soviet Union, the United States, in fact all empires are built on massive heaps of bodies and lies. It’s interesting when leaders like Gorbachev (or his wife) in this instance or Eisenhower in his Farewell Address speak candidly. I always think of Lyndon Johnson and how he pretty much fell apart after he left office. A very wicked man…he seemed to have a conscience when it was all said and done. And in way Nixon did not. He wanted so desperately to be vindicated and accepted once more it was with great gusto he took on the role of Elder Statesman in the 1980’s.
Anytime there’s a mass movement, a protest, a march…there’s always a bunch of oddball types that show up. And like those on the Right there are many in those circles who are equally ill-informed and naïve about how the world works. There’s a wide range of ideas floating about and I’ve certainly seen Communist type books floating about on the internet video clips. Some of these kids are products of the failed public school system. Some don’t remember the Soviet Union. Some would argue like I just did, that the USSR was never actually Communist.
Many on the Left and many in these movements are looking to Europe for inspiration and a model. Aside from the present financial difficulties and certainly long before the initiation of the Eurozone, Europe had built a stable, safe, clean and prosperous post-war society that was impressive. It left many Americans, myself included, scratching our heads. I didn’t know why it was wrong, but it was Socialist…and that was good enough for me, all I needed to know. It certainly meant that it was evil.
Well after I abandoned my public school education, my Hal Lindsey, Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh days I was able to see a little bigger picture.
In the end as I mentioned before, I’m not for the Occupy Movement, I’m not for Socialism…nor am I absolutely against them either. It’s lost people trying in some cases to build Babel, in other cases…just trying to make it all work, to get by.
With regard to American Conservatism, I can appreciate many of the values they stand for…though I don’t believe they follow through on them in practice. My problem is in the United States; Christians have latched on to this political ideology and have equated it with Biblical Christianity or believe it is God’s blueprint for Society.
If I’m talking to Christians in Europe and they’re doing this with Leftist ideology…I will oppose them. Generally speaking that’s the not the problem in the United States, though that’s also starting to change in some circles…activist movements in the Mainline Churches and the Emergent Movement.
So since I’m in the United States I’m primarily attacking Social Conservative ideas when they’re wrongly tied to Scripture and even more…when they manipulate facts and history in their polluted quest for power.
I’m sure I often seem like a Leftist …always very critical of the American Right. It is no easy thing to get people to shed the manufactured and marketed political paradigm. I want to see power broken. We live in an Empire and in a modern Empire not all the power, maybe not even a majority of the power rests in the hands of the political wing.
Perhaps if we lived in Sweden I would like to see the power of the state weakened. Though the Conservative narrative is all about the growing power of the state, the American state itself is largely a pawn of Corporate and Monetary interests. On this point, the Wall Street occupiers…through their various clear and cloudy lenses…see things a bit more accurately.
Assessing is one thing. Solving is another.
That is not to say I like the growing power of the American State. Of course what is meant by power? There’s a power to tax and fund infrastructure, a power to promote humane stability…that’s one kind of power that might or might not be all bad. Every power has the potential to be abused.
Then there’s another type of power…the type wielded by people like Michael Bloomberg…to control and manipulate behaviour, the power of the police and ‘security’ apparatus. Conservatives generally applaud this type of power as long as it is in accord with their agenda. It is this type of power that I disapprove of in almost every case. I don’t want Michael Bloomberg controlling what I eat, nor would I want John Ashcroft controlling what I drink.
In the quest for power, the first casualty is truth. The saying is usually applied to war…well, Christians engaged in Culture War should also realize war is larger than guns on a battlefield. War is about power and the compromise of truth is just as pertinent even when it comes to the Social Wars the Church has engaged itself in.
Returning to terms, the always conscientious and impartial Bill O’Reilly wrote a recent editorial addressing the Occupy Movement. He pokes fun at their Socialist goals by discussing a hypothetical trip to the formerly Communistic and still Authoritarian Cuba. Yes, I’m sure that’s what everyone has in mind. Every one complaining about the abuse of corporate power and the wealthiest class, really wants the United States to turn into another Castro-ish Cuba. Right.
Well, Cuba is Socialist right? Just like France? There’s no difference?
It’s just plain dishonest and O’Reilly knows this, but he’s successful because people mistake him as a news reporter rather than a political operative.
If you like O’Reilly…fine. But as a Christian I would hope your concern with honesty and truth would at least make you pause. We need to be cautious and critical at all times and with anyone we watch or read…starting with me. Are you listening to someone because they’re tickling your ears, telling you what you want to hear, or because you’re being challenged to think and learn?
In my case I remember more than ten years ago I kept hearing about this O’Reilly guy from other Christians, how great he was, telling it like it is and so forth. I haven’t had a regular television in years so finally when I had the opportunity and was near a television, I watched him. I was appalled. Even if I agreed with him…I could not in good conscience appreciate someone who cares so little for truth, who is so blatantly agenda driven, not to mention unspeakably rude, obscene, and juvenile. I felt like…if you agree with him, why listen to him? If you don’t…why listen to him? Either way, there’s nothing to be gained from his rants or his provided text sidebars which seem meant to add authority and weight to his pontifications.
But if you like him and the people he is associated with…fine…but don’t confuse this realm of ideas as somehow equal to or compatible with Christian ethics in the Kingdom of God.
I would urge Christians to be a bit more careful with the use of words. I’m surprised people like O’Reilly haven’t attacked the whole idea of Social Networking.
Social Networking!…that’s Communist fishing right?
Sorry I couldn’t resist. But sometimes it seems like that’s about the extent of their understanding of words and what they mean. When Socialism means death camps, or when the Wall Street Journal is proclaimed Marxist...we've got a problem...words are ceasing to have any meaning, and communication has effectively ended. If the power-parties can't use words they'll turn to something else.