December 1997, Volume 5 Nr.4, Issue 52
At least one turkey will be a lucky bird this Thanksgiving, thanks to President Clinton who will be issuing a pardon to a gobbler he will receive on Wednesday, the White House said.
Following a presidential tradition that dates back to Harry Truman, Clinton will receive a turkey weighing in at more than 60 pounds at a White House ceremony -- and promptly spare the bird given by the National Turkey Federation.
The same article then goes on to say that the Clintons would have a Thanksgiving dinner where, "Their menu includes a turkey that wasn't quite so lucky." So what's the point?Definition
The "Hypertext Webster Gateway" defines the word "pardon" to be, "An official warrant of remission of penalty." Just what is it that this turkey was found guilty of that merited a presidential pardon?
Lest this discussion be mistaken as humorous, consider other presidential pardons. On September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Milhouse Nixon, the first president in United States history, to have resigned from office for presumed high crimes and misdemeanors. Nixon left office without ever admitting to having committed any wrongdoing and never came face-to-face with a court of law. Pardoning Richard Nixon was forgiving him.
George Bush as president pardoned six Iran-Contra co-conspirators on December 24, 1992. These include Former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger who was indicted on five felony counts of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements; former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams; Duane Clarridge, ex-head of the CIA's Western European Division who was indicted for allegedly lying about his knowledge of Iran-Contra; Fiers, George and McFarlane who testified to Congress that Reagan instructed his staff in 1984 to find ways around the congressional ban on US military aid to the Contras.
The folks that President Bush pardoned for their sordid activity, including drugs-for-guns, prompted the Chicago Tribune on October 28, 1988, to state,
....that our country is in danger of slipping into the hands of a shadow government formed of ex-CIA supervisors, gun runners, drug smugglers and their political lackeys.
Perhaps, there are many more turkeys being pardoned in Washington than the one Tom that the Reuters news service so dutifully reports each Thanksgiving.Pardon Me
With all this talk about pardon, perhaps it is time for me to ask for my own. Unlike the turkey at the White House which has done nothing other than being to merit executive exoneration, I plead guilty. Pardon me for bringing up subjects which cause discomfort and unease. There does exist, however, an inherent longing to communicate with other intelligent beings on topics other than simple pleasantries such as the weather, food, clothing... and other trivia such as football, golf, the trial of the century of the week, the shopping network, etc. A little of any of these goes a long way. However, when they become all there is in dialogue between two people then, "Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa." Pardon me.
Pardon me for bringing up issues which people would rather not talk nor even think about. We have largely become a nation of resigned wimps who accept whatever gets tossed our way. A current example comes to mind: the international capital-ist globalizational bailout of South Korea.
Isn't it amazing that in a nation which has squeezed corporate profits higher through in-creased worker productivity, down-sizing, i.e., layoffs, lousy wages, de-creased benefits, etc., that we, the US taxpayers to a large extent, are bailing out South Korea through a five billion two hundred million dollar International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan!
This is just South Korea. Last month, it was Indonesia a country where in recent time, thousands have died in the cause of human rights in East Timor. Oh! And before that there was the economic bailout of Thailand, the Philippines, Mexico, etc. Isn't it even more astounding, that in a global economy where capitalism purports to glorify the free marketplace, allowing unsuccessful competition to fall by the wayside, the IMF produces socialistic bailouts of failed capitalist ventures. Countries are, after all, large corporations. There I go again. Pardon me.
Pardon me for not talking about the Chargers' football game, or the Packers for that matter. I plead guilty of watching Benjamin Barber on CSPAN giving, "a lecture on potential downsides to multinational corporate expansion in an address at Connecticut College" which aired December 6, 1997. Benjamin Barber is a social critic and Director of the Rutgers University Walt Whitman Center. For that matter, pardon him. Barber spoke about the threat of "McWorld", the McDonaldization of everything.
Barber expressed his fear, not that people will continue to buy and consume but, rather, that this will become all they believe there is. His fear is that people's daily lives will ideologically and intellectually become sterile, vaccinated by the corporate medicine of consumption, greed and apathy. Sound familiar? Let's not talk about that. Instead, let's discuss week 15 of the National Football League and the Giants crucial NFC east matchup with Eagles. Is the adrenaline flowing yet? Pardon me.They Won't
In the context of the above, there is much for which progressive activists could seek pardon, though they don't and they shouldn't. Consider Mary Harris Jones, a United Mineworkers of America organizer who during the 1904 coal miners' strike,
....was thrown into jails and attacked by commercial newspapers for advancing the cause of coal miners and other workers... Mother Jones died in 1931 at the age of 100 after fighting for workers for more than half a century. In an era when working in the mines or organizing a union could cost you your life, she'd tell union supporters: "Pray for the dead, but fight like Hell for the living."
In 1903, Mother Jones as she was called, led a march from Kensington, Pennsylvania to Oyster Bay, New York, petitioning President Teddy Roosevelt to take a stand against child labor. Does this sound familiar?
Today, US representative Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) are making a forceful case in opposing the financial bailout of Indonesia, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. Sanders and DeFazio's opposition is based on the grounds that the bailout would be illegal according to a proposed amendment to the Tariff Act of 1930. Dubbed H.R.2475, this legislation, also called the Bonded Child Labor Elimination Act, is,
A bill to amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to prohibit imports of articles produced or manufactured with bonded child labor, and for other purposes.
The text of the letter which Sanders and DeFazio sent to President Clinton on December 5, 1997 speaks for itself. A few excerpts follow:
At a time when the Republican-led Congress and you have approved major cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' programs, affordable housing, and children's needs, it is very startling to us how enough money suddenly appears in the US Treasury so that, within a few weeks time, we can provide an estimated $15-$20 billion in loans to Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines.
It is equally surprising to us how quickly our government can seemingly find billions and billions in scarce capital to loan overseas in countries such as Indonesia where President Suharto and his family have amassed personal wealth totaling at least $30 billion, while it is very hard for American small business people, family farmers, and inner city risk-takers to access affordable loans.
Sanders contends that the bailout using any US taxpayers funds is illegal in the sense that it violates the law which prohibits aid to foreign countries which use child labor and other unfair labor practices and policies.
Mother Jones, Bernie Sanders, Peter DeFazio, Barney Frank, Ron Dellums, Jody Williams and many others like them don't require pardons. And neither do we, the people, require them for bringing up the uncomfortable issues that others would rather not hear nor talk about.Consumer and Consumed
The December 7, 1997 issue of The Rutland Herald and the Sunday Times Argus, in an article entitled, "Advertisers Urge Children to Buy, Buy, Buy... But Parents Resist", written by Kathy Boccella reports that today's US kids have $18 billion to spend! They highly influence an additional $16 billion in how their parents spend their money. Boccella further reports that advertisers are intent on saturating kids, "...lives with messages, from the time they get up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night."
Even school is not immune. While Benjamin Barber decries the $10 million deal made between Rutgers University and Coca-Cola that places the logos of each in side-by-side advertisements to the exclusion of all others, Channel One reaches out and touches 8,000,000 public school children.
Channel One is the in-school news programming which arrives free-of-charge along with VCR's and TV's to America's fund-strapped elementary, middle, junior and senior high schools free, that is, in exchange for twelve minutes of each program specifically devoted to advertising. Ann DeVaney, editor of Channel One The Convergence of Students, Technology, and Private Business, calls Channel One,
....an electronic curriculum that was developed primarily to sell products in the marketplace.
I call it an electronic curriculum that was developed primarily to sell student minds to the marketplace. How did we as citizens, parents, educators, teachers and principals allow this to happen? Perhaps, we were too busy. We avoided discussions, dialogue, lectures that were uncomfortable, threatening, non-entertaining or controversial. Perhaps, we would rather not learn anything new, nor read a good alternative magazine or book, or even worse, perhaps we just don't care. Well, pardon me. This is exactly the kind of discussion that needs to be brought into the open.
Our discomfort, like any other emotion, is an alarm bell calling us to action. It is not a signal nor license for us to go back into the comfortable cocoon of prime time television, polite chitchat and the status quo tedium of playing every day out in the dull safety of a society that is quickly losing the distinguishing characteristics between consumer and citizen, and between consuming and being consumed.The Jolly Season
This is the fifth December issue of Metaphoria. At the time of this writing Christmas is just a few weeks away. This year, I am determined to skip this sectarian neoorgiastic consumerist holiday. For literally dozens of years I have been trying to find a way to forego this greedy charade. It is extremely difficult, as difficult as avoiding a Coke sign, McDonald's arches and Nike Swish. In fact, it is more difficult than avoiding knowing who the opposing teams in the Superbowl are until after the Superbowl happens (a little game JeanneE and I play with occasional success).
What would the Winter Solstice season be like, if it and its true meanings, as diversely celebrated by various non-religious, religious and cultural groups as a time of devoted to renewed companionship, cheer and reflection without the obligatory expenditure of money? Is not time spent with friends and family enough? I would hope so. Yet, many of us head into enormous debt in response to our programmed perceptions of what we have to do and buy. What is even worse is that millions of people fall into depression. Pardon me. Not this year.
Adbusters, the Culture Jammers from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada have a great idea. Instead of sending Christmas cards, they suggest we exchange Christmas Gift Exemption Vouchers which state,
We can and should be with people content with each other's company. We need not buy anything in order to manifest that contentment.The Big Payoff
There are signs of renewed hope. The year 1998 is showing signs of becoming a watershed year. The small rumblings of progressive activism as reported in The Nation, Mother Jones, The Progressive, The Non-Violent Activist, etc., and conveniently overlooked by the controlling established media, are growing ever louder and louder. Expect the mainstream media non-coverage of these events to become deafening in 1998.
I predict two major events for 1998: the lessening if not elimination of the immoral US blockade of Cuba and a Canadian Supreme Court (to be followed by a US Supreme Court) decision that will have the effect of giving the exploited masses a big voice in the crusade against corporate control of everything. In an attempt to explain the latter, I offer a transcript of the Editor's Blast entitled "The True Cost Party" which appeared in the Winter 1996 issue of Adbusters.
The President wears a milk mustache (see page 15), citizens line up in malls to buy Tickle Me Elmo dolls, and most of society's shared experiences -- movies, sports events, elections, Christmas -- are commercialized pseudo events. We North Americans live like cows, contentedly watching the spectacles go by, oblivious to the socio-ecological forces that loom on the horizon threatening to tear us apart.
The people who give us our "bread and circuses," the Rupert Murdochs, Conrad Blacks and the Megacorps (Time Warner, General Electric, Disney, Westinghouse, etc.), control not only our daily newspapers and TV airwaves, but the magazine, book publishing, motion picture, home video and music industries as well.
And this media monopoly allows no dissent -- you can change the channel, but you cannot change the message. For over five years now, the NBC, ABC and CBS networks have refused to sell the Media Foundation airtime for any of our 30-second advocacy messages. Last November, all three networks refused to run our Buy Nothing Day ad. Richard Gitter of NBC simply said: "We don't want the business. We don't want to accept any advertising that's inimical to our legitimate business interests.".
But now a historic battle is shaping up. I call it the battle for MEDIA CARTA -- for the right to communicate -- and I predict that over the next few years it will escalate into one of the great human rights battles of our information age.
In Canada the battle is well underway. A legal action against the CBC network has been winding its way through the courts since 1993. Our lawyers tell us that we have a "fighting chance" of a precedent-setting victory in the Supreme Court of Canada in 1998. Later this year we are launching a similar, First Amendment action against the 'big three' US networks.
If these legal challenges fail, we face an Huxleyan future, because the Megacorps will keep amassing cultural power over us -- increasingly, they will tell us what to eat and drink, how to get around, what to wear, what music is cool, how we feel about our own bodies and sexuality...
But if we win, the payoff will be huge. Overnight, the North American image factory will start winding down as people and groups stand up and speak back at their corporate "masters" on a level playing field.
If the backlash against the Megacorps keeps gathering momentum, then 1997 may well go down as the year the cows stopped chewing their cuds, lifted their heads, and saw their world anew.
I believe that in 1997 the cows lifted their heads ever so little with much more to come. If the thought of 1998 being a watershed year with a big payoff causes discomfort, then pardon me. If it does not, then cause some discomfort of your own while saying, "Pardon me" with a smile on your face.Final Thoughts
Domestic turkeys are not very bright, including the one that was pardoned at the White House. Unlike that turkey, our human intelligence gives us the ability to push the envelope of possibility in the direction of a more just, sane and caring society. If in the process we find ourselves uncomfortable or others become uncomfortable, then we might consider it a personal responsibility to invite those individuals into the bigger circle of active people who believe in the possibility that people can and do make a difference. Whatever we can do, we should do. Whatever we do adds to the collective concern of action that makes a difference. Just ask Jody Williams, the Nobel Laureate and anti-personnel landmine activist;.
Michael Moore, the author of Downsize This! Random Threats from an Unarmed American, and other books, writing in The Nation, makes reference to progressives who continually talk to each other, preaching to the already converted. Moore suggests that we make an effort to talk to working class people about their concerns letting them know that together much change may be accomplished. Those of us who have been feeling a sense of frustration should take heart knowing that our activism need not be major in order to initiate major changes.
Consider subscribing to Adbusters, The Nation, etc., or making a donation to Witness for Peace, The War Resisters League, The American Friends Service Committee, etc. Then again we might join Mike's (Moore) Militia, one of whose goals are to,
Sell raffle tickets (1st Prize: a brand-new, Flint-made Buick; 2nd Prize: dinner with Newt's first wife). The proceeds will be used for militia members to go on really cool field trips to places like the Nixon Library, John DuPont's World of Wrestling, 18 holes with O.J., or a sleepover in the Unabomber's shack.
And, if in the process we need to say, "Pardon me", then so be it.Quotes
World War III will be a guerrilla information war, with no division between military and civilian participation.
Bibliography Boccella, Kathy. The Sunday Rutland Herald and The Sunday Times Argus. December 7, 1997. p. E8.
CSPAN. CSPAN On-Line. "American
Moore, Michael. Downsize This. "Mike's
Moore, Michael. Media Matters. "Banned by Borders." Internet. Accessed, 8-December-97.
NFL Enterprises. NFL.COM "Week
Reuters. "Clinton to Pardon Thanksgiving
Reuters. "South Korea Says First IMF Loan Has
State University of New York Press. Watching Channel One
The Convergence of Students, Technology, and Private
Business. Ann DeVaney, editor.
United Auto Workers (UAW). "Courageous Women
and the Unions They Love."
US House of Representatives. "House Members
Call For Emergency Session of Congress to Consider US Taxpayer Liability For $90 Billion
East Asian Financial Bailouts."
US House of Representatives. Bill Summary & Status for the 105th Congress. "H.R. 2476 Bonded Child Labor Elimination Act." Internet. Accessed, 2-December-97.
© 1997 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski