For the two years following September 11th, the Western public was inundated with propaganda to such a vociferous degree that to be a critical voice was to be heretical and be considered a traitor – we citizens became passive consumers lodged in a ‘Zombie State.’ This period did not do justice to the idea of a free and civil society, at least not one that involves a critical citizenry. The idea of the ‘Unconscious Civilization’ put forward by John Ralston Saul still holds very true. This period showed how vulnerable free societies are to centralized power even in democratic societies and the role that an uncritical mainstream media plays in perpetuating myths and stereotypes.
Will this be the age of Bush, Saddam, Enron, Martha Stewart, Halliburton, Bin Laden, Hamid Karzai and Aaron Brown on CNN with the towers in the background?
We were all duped into hating Arabs and believing in a war that didn’t have to happen. We were fed images we hadn’t seen before of what came across as savage, backward societies – exotic, from a different world. We didn’t know enough, but we were being taught to hate. And so we all got aboard the American train thinking that bombing our way to peace was the answer. Thousands of innocent lives were lost in the haste to pass judgement. Instead of cultivating our better selves, we showed how primitive we can be.
This will be known as a backward time in human history, one that showed not only the worst excesses of Muslim fundamentalism, but that Western societies are constructed to be passive and uncritical. Through this trauma, hopefully it will mean that American hegemony and its implications will be deconstructed by its own citizens.
In the end, we allowed the most public critics of the war to be vilified. We didn’t ask the most important questions until it was too late.
Now that the American election campaign is only a few weeks away, the differences don’t seem very large. The grappling for the public mind is taking on an eery familiarity. It’s as if we’ve seen this all before – it’s a rerun. Why shouldn’t the public feel disenfranchised, disinterested and exiled from the public sphere? Why not vote Nader or just stay at home on election day?