Yes, the cultural nuances vary, but, also yes, the common structure is historically suspicious. 109
Recent events in Teheran, at least for those more excited by quick similarity than by more distant analysis, remain detached from recent events in our own country. After all, those suspicious Muslims crowding into the streets or chanting “Allah Akbar” from their night time roof tops don't, at first glance, seem to have much in common with the simultaneous and contemporary dilemma faced by Americans. Yet, when considered, perhaps with a cooler head, the structural similarities are disturbingly refreshing.
The events and motives driving this remarkable similarity are, well, historically explosive.
By the numbers, 2009 Iranian – American parallels:
1. Small issues leading to larger issues:
We have seen the uprising in Iran. Its first, clear cause was the illegitimate election. Prior to the election, there was – at least seemed to be – a passive acceptance of an Iranian government “slightly” tilted toward a medievalist cultural approach, but still “close enough” to comfortable, cultural norms to be generally supported. However, the question of supporting that government had never before been formalized into a volatile, concrete “yes” or “no” dichotomy.
The election revealed the careless, unpremeditated arrogance of an unprepared theocratic autocracy. The Iranian government had not been wringing its hands, lying in wait for an opportunity to very visibly express contempt for popular opinion. It was caught in events astonishingly similar to what “caught” the population. By “caught,” we mean actions taken which were equally unanticipated and unsponsored. In both cases, all parties seem to have been “snatched” by relatively uncontroversial developments which suddenly “grew legs.” There was probably no particular conspiracy to elevate the defects of the election to such a contentious state. Both government and resistance, even now, might agree that it just happened to turn out that way.
In the United States, the population has gradually been confronted with the intractable inertia held by its own “theocrats.” Being a capitalistic, free market nation, those “theocrats” turned out to be “oligarchs,” a privileged rich so highly moneyed as to enjoy a heretofore unexamined authority similar to that of the Iranian mullahs. The American equivalent to the botched Iranian election has emerged in the very suspicious matter of Obama's health care proposal.
Of course, everyone reasonably expected such a fundamental change to unavoidably incite some heated debate. However, the fabrications which “captured” the media's attention in the nation-wide town hall meetings seemed to “grow like Topsey” disguised as a populist frenzy. The carefully dramatized popular uprising against health care, largely populated by Americans who would greatly benefit from the changes proposed, is, like the Iranian election, an affront which the perpetrators assumed would be effective. These scripted fanatics were supposed to influence public opinion, but not in any manner which might require a close examination of any details
Instead, the perpetrators were caught in an unanticipated social conflict. Their assault had been meant to be a background talking point, a subtle bias which could quietly reshape public opinion as a shadowy, detail-free, reaffirmation of ideas supporting their ambitions. In fact, they intended to provide nothing more news worthy than a slight addition to the “straws which might assist in breaking the camel's back,” not an awkward fire storm of “pro-health care” versus “anti-health care” polemics.
2. Revelations I:
The Iranians had not carefully crafted a public relations mechanism to deceive the voting population about the validity of the election. Instead, they had assumed that the election itself would be “close enough” to something appearing legitimate that only a few miscreants would comment on its execution. Low level issues of dissent such as this one, they presumed, could be dependably suppressed by generally accepted applications of theocratic force. When the issue rose above this modest level of anticipated discontent, the Iranian theocrats were unprepared to initiate a “surgical” response. Instead, the waters seemed to be immediately and uncontrollably “muddied” by a “meat handed” reaction. From there, the entire affair quickly “turned South” on them.
Here in the United States, the sponsors of the unruly “grassroots constituencies” made a similar mistake in their estimation of the general impact of the performance of their poorly trained actors. The heavily biased corporate media grasped the fraud far too quickly and far too respectfully, subverting what had been intended as a mere “glancing blow.” The cheap theater was transformed from a useful background innuendo into a front line reporting point. As a background subtlety, it might well have been accepted quietly, effectively plying their relentless wares of deception, that is, constructing simply another unexamined “sand hog,” made real as a mistaken certainty by their usual approach of “1,000 kisses” for consumption by the American public.
3. Invitations to a momentary, culturally numbing acceptance:
Both the Iranians and the masters of the American oligarchy presented their public premises with the hope that they might fulfill this bashful, sideline ambition. Once either of the two outrages had passed through the high speed news exposure, the perpetrators assumed that the implications of their frauds would subside into a very effective “axiom status.” In both cases, the unexpected volatility of their machination caught them by surprise.
Both the embarrassed theocrats and the unprepared corporatists then proceeded to compound their self-inflicted exposure with, at first, plausible adjustments, but these were followed by further insults resulting from unreasonable assessments of what opportunities might suddenly have sprung into existence. The trip out along the “limb,” was transformed into a seriously troubling tactical mistake which threatened to sweep away the numbing, popular acceptance they had previously counted on so heavily. In both Iran and the United States, this describes the situation in which the corresponding electorates find themselves mired at this moment.
For both sets of the schemers, the unsettling realization that the “genie cannot be returned to the lamp” came to call with a very impolite proximity.
4. Revelations II:
Both the Iranian theocrats and the elitist, American billionaires have suffered a penetrating moment of bright illumination. Denizens of the dark realm of cynical manipulation consistently flourish best in dark, dank places. After the phony election and the manipulated town halls, the mullahs and the “capitalists” realized that the interest they had stirred up was now roaming the streets with fog lamps, filled with curiosity. There were questions being muttered on those streets. Who were these powerful few with such outrageous ambitions? How long had they been controlling everything that, at the time, seemed to be something akin to representative democracy?
The Iranian theocrats had been very careful to disguise the luxury of their existence. In a land awash with international oil money, yet still economically castrated by the greed of an authoritarian elite, indulgences must be shielded from public sight. The Ayatollah had inherited a population groomed by our Shah to accept their poverty, an acceptance the new residents of the caliphate's palace were determined not to mismanage. However, this turmoil was not – immediately and directly – founded on a simple disparity of wealth. This Iranian problem was arising from a newly revealed disparity of entitlement. The hoarding habits of a few greedy mullahs might have subsided quietly, but the people in the streets of Teheran now felt disenfranchised.
In the United States, similar revelations were unfolding. The privileges of CEOs of health insurance corporations were unexpectedly “uncovered.” While the masses of Americans were either uninsured or cruelly deceived by the insurance they were buying at an ever increasing price, they discovered that executives were being paid as mush as $5,000 and hour, amassing in one day a greater sum than their victims could hope to earn in a year. In lock step with their Iranian peers, these “free market” giants had always previously guarded their secret lives, and especially, their secret avarice for unbridled power and fortune. The daylight was, well, uncomfortable to the cock roaches – whether Iranian or American.
Much like the “genie,” it turns out that these cockroaches could not be “replaced in the lamp,” either.
5. The chilling reality of “class war” in Iran and in the United States:
The outcome in Iran and the outcome in the United States shared yet another common feature. In both cases, quiet, deeply held beliefs were submitted to a conceptual meat grinder. In Iran, minor difficulties living under the theocracy had been patiently set aside previously. Although this part of the Iranian situation is one which is a dismal constant in nation states which continue to extract legitimacy from revolutions, in Iran there had been some actual improvements since the Shah's stumbling abdication. These, for a while, justified the excesses of the Iranian revolution and the heavy handed suppression by security forces. However, the theocracy found those validations “too tired” among an unwieldy population of unemployed young people who had missed both the battles with Sadam and the unelected Shah.
What became all too clear in the demonstrations following the election was that there had always previously been at least one additional justification for the oppression. That was the paranoia of the theocrats. The clerics had been a marginally religious, secretive elite of power brokers intent on operating every bell and whistle in the entire Islamic Republic to their own benefit. The protesters on the street may have “unofficially” realized this, but the reactionary response of the election doubters brought the image to the very front row. The Iranian public finally realized that, quite aside from the carefully crafted counter revolutionary forces and colonial interventionists, they had been in the midst of a class war with their own religious rulers.
The election brought forth the inescapable conclusion that the Iranian people had lost that class war and were now in the cultural doldrums of the vanquished. The Theocracy had carefully gathered every tiny bit of social power and was hoarding it like an old woman with her farthings. The Iranian population had remain passively malleable as the theocracy had introduced one external threat after another, but, riding the wave of a new, brave awareness after Obama's speech in Cairo, they had proved to have much less of an appetite for simply walking quietly back into the night after the fraudulent presidential election.
Meanwhile, across the ocean in the United States, new players had emerged on the political scene. Although they remained nameless, the common population could still confidently identify them by their uncounted, tax free billions. They were literal dynasties of ill gotten gains. The fact that the health care debacle forced them into the sunlight was only mildly troubling to them. Their comfort arose from their idea that no constitutional process would ever allow the common people to “reach” any of their money. Just as was the case with the ill prepared mullahs, the fear of losing their “franchise” as owners of the United States began to loom larger and larger. The response of reactionaries in such cases is to be even more reactionary.
However, such a state of economic hierarchy did not sit well with the voters. They had been bombarded with difficult to consolidate facts about this horde of predators during the election, the stimulus, the auto bail out and the banking pay-off, but the totality of the situation had, previous to the health care matter, remained conveniently discarded as possibly true but stoically inconvenient to consider too long or too seriously. The people of the United States had been informed of the magnitude of the outrage, but, hypnotized by the fraudulent media, they had succumbed to a silent acceptance of its inevitability.
An American Class War? An exaggeration? Sobering up, the American citizens took another look at the numbers, this time with what they had experienced from this crowd during the health care debate. 400 of the richest Americans had increased their net worth by $630,000,000,000 ($630 billion) during the Bush autocracy. In the depths of the economic collapse of 2008, the top 1% of the population had incomes exceeding the total of the lower 50% of the people.
The entire U.S. economy was shuddering helplessly as a comatose victim of greed and corruption. Laying aside all the complicated answers as to the cause of such a global plague, the salient features paint the picture well enough. The Bushites had managed to extract roughly $3,000,000,000,000 ($3 trillion) dollars from the economy. The “books” had been thoroughly cooked. A trillion dollar tax cut for the very top end wealthy had been covered with borrowed money. The trillions of dollars of expenses for the two wars were also paid for with borrowed money, but never put on the books of the Federal Budget. The Treasury had been ruthlessly emptied. The rich were richer, and everyone else was ordered to do with less.
For the first time during the health care debate, common citizens were staring at a Senate almost completely owned by these billionaires. Before, these voters thought they could still induce the government to do what they wanted in the democracy. After the health care matter was utterly trounced in the Congress, the U.S. citizens began to have the same impression of things that their Iranian counterparts did. There had been a class war in the United States, and the citizens of the country had lost. The visible issue was that, regardless of what they wanted, they would have the health care that the billionaires decided they could have. You know, class war.
The Iranian dream of representative democracy was shattered. Soon the bumbled election moved to the back seat, and the Iranians in the streets were mad not about the election, but about the government. The American dream of fair treatment in the representational democracy was also shattered. The frustration about the health care legislation began the avalanche, but, expanding, it moved quickly into the exposure of corruption in the United States House and Senate. The corruption which “sneaked through” the colossal media fraud reporting it produced United States citizens who were over the health care crime, now focusing on – like their Iranian counterparts – larger issues.
6. The outlook for an uncertain future:
History offers two alternate outcomes for situations such as these. In one case, the momentarily sensitive hides of the voters simply become numb again, edging back into the state of hypnotic acceptance. In the other case, well, let's just say that hypnotic acceptance is no longer the “coping tool” of the voters. The reactionaries have already lost control of their instigators.
It is the studied opinion of MeanMesa that the course of events will pursue the second path. The violence has already begun. The electorate is infuriated. One reactionary Congressman, speaking and writing far too much for those with such a shaky strategy, said that he hoped the health care contest would be Obama's Waterloo. Well, there is to be a Waterloo, but it will not be Obama's.
With the American population already incoherent at the depth of their wounds from the economic collapse, they are in no mood for maudlin dramatics. The Republicans have self-destructed. When the U.S. economy takes its final plunge for this recession sometime in September or October of 2009, and any manageability – even previously imagined -- over the electorate becomes no more than a distant, ancient dream, the reactionary billionaires will become even more reactionary, that is, even more self-destructive.
The cynical division which was the result of the Bush autocracy's attempts to validate its unelected status has a certain new, overly odorous, special quality now. The “sides” are no longer sectioned by politics or ideology, but by psychology. The “brown shirts” of the now deposed autocracy, populated to a man by hillbillies, crooks and bigots, jumped on the command from their reactionary masters to a sort of brief effectivity two weeks ago when they began wrecking town hall meetings, but now, accidentally inebriated by the mishandled media, they are out of control. Although both the “foot soldiers” and the party leadership (Rush Limbaugh?) have now become grotesque, unwanted guests at the country club, all their feet still stink. For their billionaire masters, all these thugs have migrated from being slightly useful to being an endless public relations toothache. There are no opportunities left for which they might serve.
We are certain that the Iranians have not finished with their complaints about the theocracy. Here in the United States, a similar development is unfolding. Obama gets this. He has no intention of succumbing to the traditional corruption he was elected to counter. How will it turn out? Hide and watch.