By Jan Oberg
January 13, 2020
What’s the use of intellectual arguments? Reference to concepts and theories – and the need for being just a bit clear about their definition?
What’s the use of pointing out the degree to which populist parlance, fake and omission has undermined public discussions and media reporting about international affairs?
What’s the use of arguing for peace and nonviolence in these “interesting times” when we are closer to world annihilation than perhaps ever since 1945 – thanks to the dangerous combination of anti-intellectualism and militarism (“I am the biggest and strongest and therefore I don’t have to know, think or argue…”)?
What’s the point in commenting on global affairs in a moment of Western multi-crisis where democracy is post-literate and threatens to slide into the darkness of kakistocracy?
I think about that every single day these years. I didn’t before, since I began participating as a peace researcher in public debates in the mid-1970s.
I think about it every time I make a comment – written or oral – and even reach millions of people: But, what’s the use?
Those who – unknowingly – need to perspectives of peace instead of violence, don’t listen. Those who do listen (still very few), are numbed by the information, lies, fake and omission – deeply concerned that there is no democratic counter-power to the ongoing mad-militarist-mean power – and overwhelmed by the fast, repeated bizarre, outrageous, dangerous-for-the-world, irresponsible statements made by the elites and their president in a country used to be judged as the world’s finest democracy and the leader, in most ways, of the – pioneering free – world.
A country, perhaps I should add, that I used to admire – being only anti-Empire and anti-Militarism, not anti-US and certainly not anti-American. However, today that distinction has become infinitely more difficult to uphold. The US is a militarist empire. And what’s wrong about a society that has produced this Empire and that Militarism and harmed the world so much? It comes from somewhere.
Comfortingly, that Empire is declining and will fall. But how will it happen?
It will fall because it’s time is over, as all empires’ time is at some point. And because its behaviour and global politics, as seen by the rest of the world, has become expressive of radical evil – and an Evil Empire to paraphrase president Reagan.
There are many examples of black humour as a tool to cope with the global situation and the present dangers, including that of conventional and nuclear war. Some help us laugh at what we feel like crying over. Some give us strength – because laughing is human and, in and of itself, a relief and an expression of positive energy.
Here is a topical one – with a focus on president Trump’s personally decided liquidation of Iran’s Number Two man, General Soleimani – and what then happened:
I find it intelligent and sharp but not overdone (as some other satires). It’s strongly political and – well indeed, did make me laugh.
At least for as long as it takes to see it.
Then comes the wake-up-to-the-reality recognition: This is satire, fun. But it’s about Reality. In our common world. In January 2020.
If there is a future, how will historians look back upon this moment, upon these interesting times… ?
I’m sure they won’t laugh.
And, undeterred, I will deepen my commitment and continue my daily work even if the answer to “What’s the use” these days is – “Not much!”
Here is an early, classical example of political black humour performance by – the one and only – Tom Lehrer. His art is now about 60 years old and “Send The Marines” covers a series of US foreign policies that, tragically, are still with us today.