Monday, September 04, 2006

China Envy

Among the numerous absurdities in American politics, I would consider the rhetorical use of the word “freedom” to be among the most egregious. We are supposedly fighting for freedom in the Middle East, and not only for the Iraqis, but for us. To criticize the war and the occupation of Iraq is to fail to support our troops, who are fighting for our freedom. The administration and the Republicans trot out their freedom rhetoric under any and all conditions, but I must confess that I’m at a loss to comprehend what they actually mean by freedom.

I always assumed that freedom, in the American context, was founded on nothing else but the Constitution of the United States. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom from warrantless searches and seizures, the due process of law ensuring freedom from arbitrary judicial power, these are among the freedoms established by our founders in the Bill of Rights.

But one can’t fail to notice that whenever a threat to our nation’s security becomes evident, the first thing that conservatives (as they call themselves) do is to look with suspicion upon these very freedoms. We are supposed to believe that our Constitution is inadequate when it comes to matters of security--that our freedoms, in effect, make us too vulnerable. The Constitution is supposedly used by freedom’s enemies (especially liberals) to undermine our security. Thus we have seen a consistent pattern from the current administration and the party in power to characterize dissent as unpatriotic, to attack freedom of the press as aiding and comforting the enemy, to invalidate the need for warrants, and to circumvent the due process of law in every major respect.

After much study, I have come to the conclusion that what the right-wing means by “freedom” is simply the freedom for big business to make as much money as it can. In terms of the rhetoric aimed at the public, freedom means the freedom to live in relative prosperity, in material comfort, with plenty of available products to buy and consume, both necessities and luxuries. If it were possible for big business to have its special kind of freedom without the Constitution, I believe that the right-wing would gladly sacrifice our founding document, which only encourages permissiveness, unrest, and liberalism.

Mr. Cheney and his associates don’t care about the rights and freedoms that our founders considered inalienable. They can rely on their money to guarantee the freedom of their plans and movements. What would please them, I think, would be for the United States to become more like China. In fact, I can imagine the neo-conservatives, the conservative Republicans, and the rest of the right-wing elites in business, politics and media, burning with envy when they look at the power of the Chinese government.

China has a capitalist economy. At least, that’s what we are told. Business is free to make money there. But it is unconstrained by labor unions or legislation designed to protect their workers from abusive conditions—surely this counts as an advantage. Furthermore, there is no freedom of speech or press in China. The government can arrest anyone that criticizes their policies, and they regularly do just that. Troublesome protesters can be imprisoned at will. There is no habeas corpus in China, no need for search warrants, no judicial protections for persons accused of a crime. Once the state’s enemies have been sent to prison, they can be tortured. And they are, all the time. This is exactly what Mr. Cheney and his friends are claiming the right to do to America’s enemies. The Chinese government, however, doesn’t need the approval of a legislature. Their laws will never be reviewed by a judicial branch. If there was ever a “unitary executive” in the history of the world’s governments, China is it.

Well, there you have it. There’s nothing particularly American about the so-called conservative movement, or the “Bush doctrine.” It’s actually more Chinese than American. In fact, if I truly had to characterize the direction in which Cheney and company desire to take our country, in one sentence, it would be this: We want to be more like China.

1 comment:

A. Eteraz said...

Mr. Hammet,

Let me be your first commentator. Don't ask how I ended up here.

I think your thoughts on Cheney wanting to be like China are pretty astute. I'd be interested in teasing this out in my head later.

I would also like to invite you to come by my blog. It's half as big and half as popular as My Left Wing, but is just as interesting. I'm a progressive Muslim and a philosopher (thesis on Nietzsche).

check out my best islam posts, i think you'll find quite a fill there.

i am also willing to put you on my blogroll assuming that you're going to continue blogging and add me to yours.