Tuesday, December 06, 2005

We are swimming in culture.

The political juggernaut of the right seeks always to move the currents of our culture, and thus to influence the body politic. This is very much a matter of creating subconscious associations. When we see speeches made in front of military uniforms, it is as much to maintain the popular association of the Republican Party with the military as it is to play to a political strength in a time of challenge.

The reason that the emergence of torture as a politically acceptable practice is likely to be a long term rather than a short term development is that no one is demonstrating the ethical failing that torture represents. Sure, there's a few academics here and there, maybe some bloggers. But what voices in the mass media are clearly arguing the very well known arguments against these practices? None, really. There is no uproar, no hue and cry that an average citizen can refer to in their media landscape.

This means many things, but first and foremost is that for lack of wider cultural precedent, there can be little in the way of a political argument made along those lines. A Democrat, for example, would thus sound "out of the mainstream" for opposing torture. Combine this with the fact that it sounds "weak" and we can rest assured that no Democrat who is going to succeed will ever even raise the point.

What is lost here is that this cultural reality does not have to be ethically or practically sound. It does not have to jive with any external fact, it is a reality at the level of cultural perception, and that is enough for it to persistently affect human decisions and assumptions.

The contemporary model for this is based apparently on an envelope of stability. The dominant political discourse is allowed to persist so long as it stays within a range of deviation from known reality. This range is established by whether or not a political act does not destabilize the cultural status quo to the extent that underlying assumptions are put too closely to the test.

By my lights, it is for this reason more than any other that HillaryCare was derailed so forcefully. There were far too many underlying assumptions of the social status quo that were being challenged. Obviously first among them is the great "Libertarian" premise of absolute individual accountability, but also there is the idea of Government competency or incompetency and not far behind is the idea of a wife's intellectual, executive and administrative role. Each of these ideas are incredibly challenging to the general model of society as promoted by business, banking and marketing interests.

In fact, if we compare torture and changes made to legal practice by the "PATRIOT ACT," to HillaryCare, we can see very easily that the values of uncertainty, the rights of authority, fear of the other and ruthlessness are far more in keeping with the value sets of business, marketing and banking than, say, collective accountability, care for the well being of others and interconnectedness in general.

This is why there is no argument made against torture. And considering that the major player Dems rely heavily upon marketing and banking for election cash, this sort of seals the deal, so to speak, on them not speaking out.

This is also why one of the most powerful political acts we can make right now to is to state, as clearly and loudly as possible, the precise arguments against torture and in favor of the rights of the accused.


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