Friday, September 29, 2006

A poor devil, but not the Devil

Dissident Voice

Chavez said George Bush is the Devil.

With all due respect, I beg to differ.

The Devil is a Christian take on a mythological character, a trickster god, with versions in many different traditions -- as Hermes, Loki, Coyote, etc. The most important aspects of this personality are a cunning intelligence, a knack for deception, a delight in mischief, and lack of moral scruples. Bush scores high on lack of moral scruples. But where is the creativity and the intelligence?

The biggest point of difference is this: Satan doesn't use force. He deceives; he tempts; he seduces. But he doesn't bully. He doesn't even twist arms. And he certainly doesn't "shock-and-awe" his victims. The kind of behavior most associated with George Bush is more like what we'd expect from the God of the Old Testament than from Satan. Compare "thou shalt have no other gods before me" to "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists." Or compare the U.S. love of aerial bombardment to the treatment of the city of Sodom. Or recall that early speech in which Bush explained that, being the President, he doesn't have to explain his decisions and compare that to God's speech in the Book of Job.

George Bush's power isn't to sell and to seduce, but to buy, to bully and bludgeon. The success of his presidency (and say what you will, it is a smashing success, practically every Bush backer was handsomely rewarded, some beyond their wildest imagination) does not depend on Bush's salesmanship skills but on the state of ruin of public signification. Take the latest torture show. Take John McCain, Mr. Principles, who supposedly hates torture because he was tortured in his Vietnamese cell. For many months he held fast, publicly resisting George Bush's campaign to legalize and institutionalize torture on principle. But finally he agreed to a compromise that effectively allows torture to continue -- as long as nobody hears them scream. Why? Was his month-long opposition a charade? What does the popular McCain have to fear from the lame duck George Bush? Does he not trust his ability to make the case for his "convictions" (which do have, in fact, wide support)? It is one thing to cut political deals in the normal business of the senate, or under pressure, and quite another to compromise needlessly on the very principles that one's public persona and biography is built upon. But McCain's persona, like all of Washington's politicians and opinion makers, is virtually weightless; it can spin in any direction with the gentlest blow of wind. Only in this world full of sound and fury but signifying nothing can an empire be effectively sold and managed with tales told by an idiot.

Torture is applied to get one to follow a script, admit to certain crimes, sign a certain confession, submit, be silent, be broken. It doesn't matter what the victim thinks. It is not therefore by chance that torture is brought back by a President who is a "unilateralist," not only in the technical "foreign policy" sense, but also in the larger sense of having no concern for anyone else's heart or mind. Nor is it by chance that the legalization of torture is rubberstamped by a chattering class that no longer cares whether it is making sense or not. It would be facetious to draw an equivalence between the torture of detainees at Abu-Ghraib and other places and the "torture" of having to listen to George Bush (or James Carville, etc. etc.) There is of course a world of difference between torture of the real and the metaphoric kind. But there is also an underlying unity of purpose. In both cases the goal is not to convince but to subdue, not to communicate but to dominate.

I just posted that because I like it. If you like it, go read the rest.

Also see El Diablo Protesta. If you need a translation, just ask.

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