Saturday, August 9, 2008

An Olympic Prelude

Over the next few weeks, TV viewers in the United States will witness three unseemly and over-produced corporate infomercials with nauseatingly nationalist overtones – the Olympics, and then the Democratic and Republican conventions. The Olympics especially, but also the conventions are worthy events in principle. However now, even more than in the past, they have become corrupted in this corporate dominated phase of late capitalism. It is ironic that the theme of all three is “change” – a new role in the world for China, a new direction for the United States. Even the Republicans will be singing that tune, hard as it is to imagine. [That John McCain, the “wrinkly, white haired dude,” could be promoted as a candidate of change is grotesque. It reveals much about the state of our political culture that it was Paris Hilton, not some Democratic bigwig or media pundit, who forced this plain fact into the news.] For the Republicans, talk of change is likely to fool no one. But the facts belie the pretense for the others as well. For the Chinese as much as for the Democratic Party, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

At least, in the Chinese case, the unholy alliance -- of international (mainly American) corporate sleaze and “Communist” capitalist-roaders -- has a glorious history to exploit. It hardly makes up for recent Chinese history, however. As everyone knows, there is the problem of state enforced Han Chinese chauvinism towards ethnic minorities within China and in Tibet, exacerbated by an enduring illiberalism that dwarfs even the most criminal excesses of Dick Cheney and George Bush. But, for those of us who still believe that a better world is possible, the Chinese state must also be held accountable for ending the historical project of building (real, small-c) communism – a turn of events made even worse by the fact that China has retained the worst features of (big-C) Communist governance. But, however awful the Chinese state now is, they’ll always have the Ming dynasty. Unfortunately for those of us who feel obliged to watch the Obama and McCain infomercials, our semi-official capitalist-road parties have nothing comparable to China’s ancient glories to conjure up. After all, as George Bernard Shaw once quipped, America [unlike China] passed from barbarism to decadence without any intervening period of civilization.

But there will be “drama,” at least in the Democratic case. We can watch the dynamic between the Obama forces and the Clintons, oblivious to the plain fact that it is of no intrinsic interest whatsoever. Count on the cable networks to make us think otherwise. The stage is set: the Clintons have emerged from the primary season with their sense of entitlement intact, and the Obamaniacs are determined to make nice to them and their supporters. Will they succeed? All that is clear, at this point, is that those of us with the stomach for it, will watch Hillary orate in prime time one day and Bill the next. Unless the convention is profoundly disrupted, as it should be, that’s about as interesting as it will get – until Obama finally gets to orate before tens of thousands of supporters too.

Meanwhile, don’t count on seeing much of Jimmy Carter. When it comes to honoring former Presidents, the Pelosiite (i.e. later day Clintonite = Obamaite) leadership of the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, prefer those whose crimes are of historical dimensions (the Iraq sanctions, the ethnic-cleansing “humanitarian interventions” in Yugoslavia and elsewhere, the reckless bombing campaigns) to those who, have reached a point where they can safely state the obvious about Israel/Palestine and other “inconvenient” truths. The latter are best neither seen nor heard.

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