Political Responsibility and the Destruction of Gaza

Politicians, by the nature of their office, have a serious duty to be answerable for their words, decisions, and actions, when faced with situations that require moral judgements and ethical and moral responsibility. They especially, as a political class in which the citizenry has vested a certain degree of power and trust, must hold individual responsibility for each word and action of theirs. They cannot, especially in times of crisis, be allowed to hide behind party lines, or to abdicate their individual political responsibility to a group or ideological affiliation.

It is precisely this individual abdication of responsibility, and the individual irresponsibility arising from this, that made possible a mindset embraced by a political class that not only acceded to but actively supported and enabled, the soul-crushing crimes of the Nazis and the specific crime of the holocaust. To say “never again” to these crimes is meaningless if individual politicians subsume truth, ethics, and morality, under a group ideology, or party platform or maintain a personal morality distinct from political action.

This personal abdication of individual political responsibility in times of crisis led to seemingly ordinary family men like Adolf Eichmann, becoming efficient functionaries in a Nazi regime that coldly justified, enabled, and implemented brutally murderous policies. This was possible because of a schizophrenic tendency for politicians and the political class as a whole to hold a separation between moral and political codes of conduct and thought. And this has become an accepted approach to the world, as if not a single lesson was learned from the Nuremberg trials. The Nuremberg charter modified international law by holding individuals responsible for war crimes, genocide, and other moral breaches. Yet, the view that there is a split between individual moral responsibility and political action is prevalent today.

So we have a personal morality for one’s private life or for one’s social life. However, it is believed, politics requires a different mode of thinking, especially as it relates to foreign policy and especially in times of crisis. Political action, such people believe, requires a type of hard-headedness that demands a divorce from personal morality. And so politicians and the political class as a whole, behave like individuals with a split personality. Ideologically and with a suspension of rules and morality in times of crisis, and reasonably and morally in their personal lives.

But this not acceptable, it is not OK. Not if “never again” is applicable to humanity as a whole, and not simply for a particular class or group of people. It is not OK to commit crimes against a civilian population. It is not OK for politicians to legitimize and defend or even to prevaricate on opposition to these crimes and those who are enacting them. It is not OK for politicians to behave like low-key Eichmanns while these crimes are in progress and documented by the victims themselves as well as by those who are carrying them out.

What a position we are in – terrible terrible crimes happening in full view – a US President enabling the crimes and providing the weaponry and logistical support and diplomatic cover to push those war crimes forward – the US blocking UN security council resolutions calling for a ceasefire to address the humanitarian crisis occurring in Gaza – secret deliveries of bombs and other weaponry to IDF forces by the US without Congressional approval – the US media (and much of Western corporate media) repeating and magnifying military and ideological propaganda (which has been repeatedly proven to contain massive falsehoods) and shutting down humanitarian concerns – political denial of war crimes, genocide, and ethnic cleansing when it is happening right before the world’s eyes – and repudiation of the ICJ, the very body set up to prevent the abuse of power.

Politicians are, for better or for worse, those in whom the citizenry have vested power and trust. When that trust is openly breached and betrayed, each individual politician, each individual political representative is responsible for their part in that betrayal. There is no hiding behind party lines, no appealing to ideology or group politics. The crimes are clear and every word of justification or support for them must be accountable. Individual political responsibility is not up for negotiation. If you are in a position of political authority, and you justify or support in any way these clear crimes, you are as guilty as those who were tried at Nuremberg.

If we are ever to move away from a world in which the most horrific crimes committed against civilians go unpunished, a world we have unfortunately manufactured for ourselves, there has to be full accountability among those in whom we have vested power and authority. There is today a hardness and corruption of politician’s hearts and minds, among those that can witness war crimes of the most horrific type and intensity and yet do all they can to ignore public outcry and their own constituents in order to allow the crimes to continue unabated. A low point in political misbehaviour has been normalized.

And the justifications for this misbehaviour issue forth from the President and the White House and the media, all of whom carry forward an insane genocidal war against a trapped population of mostly women and children, accompanied with lies and self-delusion and rationalizations no less pernicious than those that once, so long ago, came out of the mouths of the German Reichstag and Adolf Eichmann.

There is simply no excuse for the abdication of individual moral responsibility, especially among those in whom a nation has vested power and authority. They must be held accountable for their betrayal of ethics and for their support of or apathy towards war crimes.

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Labels and definitions allow containment…

Definitions are important especially since we tend to be a society that analyzes, categorizes, objectifies, and enforces legal and social control through labels and definitions. Labels and definitions allow containment and shepherding of ideas and concepts. It facilitates communication in some ways but also allows propagandizing and manipulation or politicization of shared mind spaces.

There may be discrete concepts that overlap or conflict in some areas but a system utilizing broad definitions can link originally tenuously related ideas so they become like scattered magnets on a confined surface. You pick up up one but a dozen others come along with it and it is difficult to separate or pry them apart. In other words you accept the premise of one label or definition and are compelled to accept many others to which you may have serious objections. So the setting of labels and definitions that operate at the level of social and legal and political discourse and those which a government adopts deserve careful scrutiny and thought since our acceptance will impact not just policy but even the mode in which a society and individuals begin to think. This clustering of labels and definitions is quickly adopted as a means of political manipulation, political warfare and as an easy path to influence minds and shape the landscape of a nation.

And in our time, more than in any other era, labels and definitions and the structures generated from them when they begin to clump together, proliferate with bewildering speed and impact. And the way our world is shaped changes correspondingly.

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In times of conflict

In times of conflict, language and image are spun to shape perceptions of reality and it is through the characterizations and emotional colouring of the media’s visual language and their choice of terminology that events are interpreted, explained, and experienced. Just as symbolic religious language gives meaning and an interpretation to the world, so also the images and language of the media present a filter through which people view the world and react to unfolding events. To the extent that this language is adopted, accepted, and disseminated by the media and absorbed by the average citizen, it becomes an instrument in defining the role and shaping the response of the general public.

People look to the world around them and derive a significant portion of their concepts of value and worth, benefit and harm, from their interaction with society and from the images of their society and the wider world that are endlessly paraded before them through all the various sources through which they draw their information. This information environment and its content plays a powerful role in shaping and re-shaping viewpoints, eliminating or creating biases and prejudices, and defining boundaries and contexts within which people find their social identity. That identity which was once achieved through family, community, church, temple, or mosque is now driven largely by the media in all of its myriad manifestations.

As a result, the media is probably the most potent modern tool available to those seeking to change or condition a society’s viewpoints, biases, and identity. It has a positive function in that it plays a powerful role in creating a shared societal identity – it has a negative role in that due to economic and political realities, the major media are for the most part, profit-oriented heavily commercialized corporate enterprises. Depending on the ownership and stakeholders, strong biases are expressed so that a news network, especially during times of crisis, disseminates specific points of views, to the extent that it can become little more than a purveyor of propaganda.

And they’re highly networked enterprises in that whatever approach or tactic is seen to draw an audience or is successful in a given area rapidly propagates in slightly different forms across the range of media offerings. Ideas and values are shared, augmented, buttressed, sustained, and reinforced across this range. Despite the fact that there is commercial competition between media entities, that very competitiveness leads them to produce “competitive” variations of each others products which often amounts to little more than a repackaging of what another company has produced – the same news and opinion formula in a new guise or flavour. In times of crisis the same “experts” appear and reappear across the various television and radio networks until, in effect, a fairly narrow and constricted range of interpretations of events propagate across the airwaves, internet, and streaming services.

In this way the visual and aural language of the mass media in times of crisis acquires a real potency and currency – one that is countered only through the growth and accessibility of alternate sources, through grassroots connectivity, and through our growing ability to filter out bias and spin. This is currently a chaotic process still very much at an early stage of development where new social networks and connections are being formed – but there is still a long way to go.

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