Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Thought Behind the Act

There has been some concern voiced over the conditional support given by leading members of Code Pink to the continued presence of foreign occupying forces in Afghanistan. In their estimation, the departure of occupying forces would create a vacuum, which is most likely to be filled by Taliban, a most horrid (at least, short term) outcome and something that Code Pink leaders, after talking to some Afghan citizens, have determined to be an unpopular outcome.

However, maybe instead of focusing on political behavior of certain famous activists, more attention needs to be paid to the political mentality/thought/ideology/etc. that drives such behavior. It will be more productive to ask: What is the political thinking that drives a Medea Benjamin, or anybody else, to a particularly shaky political behavior?

A while ago, Code Pink organized a trip to Iran. I wrote something in response to what I perceived was their (let's say) less-than-observant way of going about it (see here).

They had intended to conduct a 'citizen diplomats' kind of trip, in which they would go to Iran and talk to ordinary people to see what was happening 'on the ground', so to speak. Their visit was facilitated by the issuance of a visa that had been helped through at the orders of Ahmadinejad, which came in response to the request by Code Pink activists for a visa, in a cordial meeting that had been arranged for Ahmadinejad to meet, greet and discourse with some American anti-war/peace activists, in New York City, the previous time that clownish butcher was in the U.S., in September 2008, to attend the UN general assembly.

As it turned out, when Code Pink arrived in Iran, they were led by Iranian government agents and lobbyists (one being Rostam Pourzal), so they mostly met with government ministers and parliamentarians, etc. as well as the people they would run into while in restaurants, cafes, or while shopping, etc. If they met with any Iranian women's rights activists, student or labor activist, anti-stoning activists, anti-death-penalty-for-minors activists, or any dissidents whomever, it is unknown. But, from what Code Pink's reports from Iran (on their blog) indicate, it is clear that there was very little activist-to-real people contact between Code Pink and Iranian activists.

Understandably, most such activists in Iran are in jail, and I suppose a request by Code Pink activists to visit any political prisoners in Iran would have been considered rude by the Iranian hosts (mostly government people); and of course, it is impolite to offend your hosts, even if they are members of a ruthlessly oppressive government that jails any dissidents not-yet-jailed and with utter impunity tortures and even rapes them (as the whole world has now realized about what the Iranian people have been living with, for thirty miserable years). The fact that some in the American left can sit and have pleasant discourse with such a crowd, again, is indicative of a political mentality, whose limits of tolerance can be stretched depending on too many incidental factors; not a very reliable type of thinking if you want to create a better world free of bullies.

So, what is that mentality? It is the mentality that fixes its gaze only at the discourse of power and the powerful. It assumes that politics is only about official politicians, and whatever they say or do. In this mentality, the most important factor, that which is at the heart of all politics, the people, is a mere abstraction; a placeholder in some formulae. And in all these formulae, the people are always a function of the will and the plans of the powerful, and not independent actors. People don't have agency, and can't really change their history. People don't determine anything. They are mere sheep to be herded. They are fools and shall remain so. They need to be told what's best for them. The attitude is identical with the views held by conservatives.

Read the complete article here ...

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