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Zeitgeist Zone: Bush Crusade - Capitalist 'Follies' - Islamophobia - Andy Warhol
Thursday, 09 August 2007 22:48
by Edward Strong

Progress [Huh?] Report on the Bush Crusade [Terra! Terra! Terra!]

The only thing that Bush's "war on terror" has spread faster than disaster and misery has been opposition to its means and ends.

Six years into this self-righteously promoted crusade, Washington is more isolated internationally than ever.

Talking so openly about staying in Iraq forever is in part an attempt to hem in the next U.S. President.

It's a pre-emptive strike in the "Who Lost Iraq?" blamefest already raging among the powers that be.

But it is also tacit admission of defeat: Washington no longer can even pretend it is on the verge of "standing down" as a stable, pro-Western Iraqi government "stands up"

The Weakest Link

Within the U.S., the Commander Guy's approval rating has fallen below 30%.

Initiative has passed from those who promote naked militarism and its deadly corollaries to political actors who (in various ways and to various degrees) demand a change of direction.

But the outcome is still in doubt. The core "war on terror" policies of military force, torture, unaccountable executive power, and might-makes-right empire-building remain in place.

The rapidity with which "war on terror" crises shift from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Israel/Palestine to Iran, and from Guantánamo to the U.S.-Mexico border, poses big challenges to the antiwar movement.

Protest actions must be mounted on a host of fronts. Large-scale public education campaigns that explain the connections among these areas and more are especially vital.

Yet the "war on terror" cannot be stopped on all fronts at once. Public opinion is highly uneven regarding its different aspects, as are divisions within the elite.

Some specific policies are more vulnerable to change than others. The real-life political dynamic is that a breakthrough almost certainly has to come first at the Bush crusade's weakest link.

The link where Washington is most blatantly failing, most internationally isolated, and where the widest sectors of the U.S. populace are most discontent. As pressure mounts on that weak link -- and especially if a breakthrough victory can be achieved -- the war-makers are weakened and there are new openings for gains on other fronts as well. That weakest link is the occupation of Iraq. And a range of initiatives are in motion for the fall to make it even weaker -- or snap it altogether.

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As American As Apple Pie & Capitalism

Does capitalism equal human nature? A clever propaganda equation, a ruse, an effective ideological weapon to defend capitalism in the 'Free World'. While it may not have been invented in the U.S, it's here where it has received its warmest embrace.

Does capitalism equal human nature? It's evident that when sufficient numbers of people are made to believe that an eternal, immutable and invincible "human nature" will time and again scuttle the best-laid plans, and the costliest sacrifices for change, then most threats to the status quo will be defanged at the outset.

Is capitalism natural? Most reasonable people would be forgiven for thinking that indeed it does.

That what goes coyly by the reassuring moniker of "free enterprise" is in fact the economic equivalent of human nature, the only system of social organization aligning itself effortlessly with the temperamental inclinations of most people.

Fact is, far from being true, this is simply a clever propaganda equation, a ruse, and one of the oldest and most effective ideological weapons to defend capitalism in the so-called Free World.

And while it may not have been invented in the U.S., it's here where it has received its warmest embrace.

It pays off handsomely in a number of important ways.

First, if capitalism is congruent with "human nature," then the capitalist system must be the most "natural" and "logical" form of social organization, as people will have a built-in tendency to observe its basic rules.

Second, "human nature," as defined in corporate terms (which the commercial press of course follows) is characterized by two significant traits: immutability and unalterable egoism.

The first "fact" automatically discourages most efforts at seriously reforming, let alone revolutionizing, society.

Why should anyone bother to undertake such an immensely difficult task if in the end the stubborn intractability of human nature will render all schemes for change and improvement of social conditions worthless and utopian? Second, the supposedly terminally individualistic nature of people provides a convenient justification for the harsh, dog-eat-dog conditions that prevail under the so-called free-enterprise system.

In this vision, derived from classical economics, all human motivation is supposed to flow from the desire for pecuniary gain and self-aggrandisement.

Individuals are perceived one-dimensional, as simple atoms of unrelenting hedonism, constantly pursuing the calculus of profit and loss, pain and pleasure, as they irrepressibly "maximize" their options to fulfill the dictates of hopelessly greedy natures.

This is the fabled "homo economicus" of free market literature; the heroic "rugged individualist" so dear to conservatives, and supposedly the creature on which all human progress and wealth depend.

So now we begin to see why the media - especially the wilier corporate apologists - embrace this tack with so much fervor.

Ideological blinders and indoctrination cut very deep in the "Western world." Too many decades of unopposed repetition have given this lie, like all lies buttressing an exploitative system, an air of veracity and common sense it doesn't deserve.

The White Man's Racism: "Muslim Extremists"

Western propaganda talks about about fighting for "democracy" in Iraq while they whip up hysteria over the alleged threat posed by "Muslim extremists" to "our values". The racism is clear. But it is part of a much deeper tradition in Western culture.

Colonial conquest Orientalism as an academic discipline only emerged with colonial occupations of the Middle East and India by Western powers. This began with France’s conquest of Egypt at the end of the 18th century.

Academic study was an expression of that colonial domination and was rooted in a long-standing Western tradition of opposing Christendom to the Islamic world. This opposition justified the colonial project in advance.

The Orient is seen as a negative mirror image of the West – an imaginary representation of Western desires and fears projected onto others.

So the Orient is always “female”, sexualised, and exotic – while we are “male”, rational and normal. They are dangerous, violent, and childlike – we are their natural masters, protectors and leaders.

And crucially we have knowledge of the Orient, which is essentially unchanging and static, because we have history, science and progress.

Orientalism works to create not just a false stereotype of the Orient, but also an imagined representation of the West to ourselves.

To see how this works, think of how resistance fighters in Iraq are portrayed as brutal unthinking monsters driven by primeval and irrational religious motives.

“Our boys”, on the other hand, act in a legal, thoughtful, measured way, driven by the highest motives of courage, honour and universal human ideals.

Little wonder then that 600,000 dead Iraqis need never be named or even counted. Iraqis can even be portrayed as “ungrateful” for not appreciating Western efforts to “help” them.

This kind of interpretation has permeated out of the academy into all areas of Western culture, from novels and films to more overtly political culture.

Rudyard Kipling’s 1899 poem “The White Man’s Burden” describes the colonised as “your new-caught, sullen peoples, half-devil and half-child”. In TV programmes of the 21st century, they are ideologically crazed and high-tech tooled-up terrorists.

Andy Warhol: American Idol?

His work seemed to predict a superficial society obsessed with fame. Warhol mattered mainly as a pop culture 'brand.' “Andy” is easily Warhol’s single greatest creation - still present at every new craze, from Paris Hilton to reality TV.

It's apt to rebrand him as "American Idol." He was a mixture of voyeur and exhibitionist. A bizarre combination that resulted in a 'perfect storm of narcissism. As befits him, here are three versions of his reality.

Fame! Andy Wanted to Live Forever 1960s pop artist Andy Warhol came close to describing today's so-called TV stars and celebrity misfits.

Warhol, like most human mirrors, regarded the world as just a performance.

The New York-based pioneer said: "Don't pay attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches." His work seemed to predict a superficial society obsessed with fame. So is the inventor of pop culture a genius or a fraud? Andy is ghost of celebrity past, present, and yet to come. He was obsessed with death. Perhaps that was the pure motivation behind his art. He used it as an escape from mortality. Through his art he would be immortal.

Isn't that the key which unlocksthe secret in all of us? What will we leave behind when we die? A mark, a trace that proves we were here? Pop Art Trash Andy Warhol's work is typical of the American trash that masqueraded as pop art.

Warhol's best art was himself. He was far more interesting than his work.

He epitomises what's wrong with pop art, which is one of the worst periods of modern art. His work is also grossly inflated and over-valued. Frankly a lot of it is crap - but expensive crap! You can buy a Rembrandt cheaper than a Warhol. Some people seem to value pictures of Marilyn Monroe or a can of soup more than great painting.

Maybe the place Warhol now holds in popular art says more about our society than the true worth of his work.

I do wonder and worry about the example it is setting to young people.

Are they going to draw inspiration from trashy American culture? My opinion of Warhol the artist is completely different to Warhol the person. I've heard he was an interesting and nice man and in many ways had far more depth than his work.

He Invented Celebrity Culture

If you're the kind of person who would get on a train, find a copy of Hello! and flick through to look at pictures of celebrities, you'll love Warhol's work.

His art simply reflects the things that fascinate us. We have a room dedicated to his portraits of celebrities who fought to get into the Studio 54 nightclub in New York where he often went.

People like Liza Minnelli, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones and Dolly Parton all knew it was the place to be seen.

He wasn't just interested in art. His own magazine Interview covered anything 'of the moment' and pioneered the informal celebrity interview, noting down everything they did, wore or said. He was the inventor of today's celebrity culture.

His Life Became an Exhibition of Conceptual Art

I'm into the idea of the painter being the personality. I love the whole concept of the Warhol wigs, clothes and his incredible social life which almost became an art form in itself.

My favourite image is the cover of the first Velvet Underground album with the yellow banana on the front. It really meant something in my life.

As a teenager, I picked up the sleeve and was aware I was holding something artistic in my hand. It was a definite attempt to bring art to the mainstream.

Warhol had a massive impact on pop culture. He made it clear art was about the idea, not necessarily the execution.

I'm very much behind that concept. If you come up with a great idea why on earth do it yourself? Have somebody who works in your studio do it for you...so you can go to a cafe.

Ed Strong
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