Friday, July 31, 2009

Twitter-Patter Revolutions

Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming
We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming,
four dead in Ohio

A demonstration does not a revolution make.

Now that things have settled down in Iran and mullahs and Bajiji and Revolutionary Guard have the situation well in hand, we can write about what happened one month ago, both in Iran and here in the United States.

Iran is not a friend of the United States. We have a long, unhealthy history with that country and are not unjustified in thinking the worst about how that society in configured.

It is a theocracy, which, unless you're a right-wing Christian conservative engaged in an affair with someone on your staff, you have a hard time accepting as a legitimate form of government.

highwayscribery is open to all slings and arrows in response to the premise that our country was founded principally on a debunking of the notion that royal families - and anyone else for that matter - can interpret, represent, or speak for God.

And so it follows that Iran's government lives on a big fat, opiate of a lie, which many Iranians buy into at their own expense.

Thanks to Internet pornography, a massive generation of youths in the country has been seduced from the medieval cave of Mohammedan scripture into modernity's garish sunlight.

That poses advantages and disadvantages for any traditional culture like Iran's. The disadvantages are for another post.

The advantages are a cracking of the shell crafted by close-minded Islamic fanatics who confuse the business of the soul with that of the sewer.

States get things done. They collect taxes and use them to run the trains, build bridges and ensure the nation's health (unless you live in the U.S). They do not get into the business of mosque attendance and daily prayer.

That is the secular vision, the way some in the United States interpret the primary precepts of the American Revolution.

It's how we do things in the "Western" world, although the last guy who occupied the White House did his best to upend the old-time American modernity.

And it can act something like a virus on a repressive body politic.

Once there's a questioning of such inanities as governmentally prescribed dress for women, open repression, unquestioning servitude to a bunch of old guys in antiquated garb, it's just a matter of time before you start asking that the votes you cast actually be counted.

When they are not, you start demonstrating in the streets just like you see them do in other countries on the World Wide Web.

We are all caught in it that web now. Americans and Iranians and Chinese alike.

And government responses are uniform across the world.

Here, too.

Asked about demonstrations in the lead-up to his pet war, former President Geo.w.Bsh said, "That's democracy. You get to express your opinion."


As recently as the Republican National Convention in Minnesota, police raided the meeting places of those planning to demonstrate in the Twin Cities.

When the Democrats had their convention in Los Angeles circa 2000, protestors were introduced to a novel crowd-control device called the "free-speech area." It was located a block away from the hall where delegates were gathering. Turning constitutional law on its head, the parcel rendered everything else a "not free-speech zone."

The Los Angeles Police Department had to be enjoined by a court order from hassling the headquarters of the D2K protest movement.

That did not deter them (the police, that is).

A light-hearted group of pro-Green policy bicycle riders were pulled over by motorcycle cops, roughed up, maced, and beaten. A group of demonstrators gathered at a metro stop downtown after their protest were set upon by a cadre of baton wielding meatheads

We know this because all of it was caught on video.

Kids at the "Rage Against the Machine" concert were shot with rubber bullets that turned out to be not so rubbery.

Caught on video.

Throughout the Iranian demonstrations and expected government overthrow, our own mass media was too gleeful in its presentation of events as the dawning of some new Iran.

It was a presentation suggesting dissidence as some new phenomenon in Iran thanks to the "Twitter." One that was self-congratulatory in its implied interpretation that such things do not happen in America.

And it was wrong on both counts.

You'll note Bush didn't say government had any obligation to heed the complaints of protestors. You just get to bellow a bit (and then pay for the war).

And you'll remember that plenty of demonstrators in American cities were overwhelmed by outlandishly sized police forces in the lead up to the Iraq war.

Iran could not have been "different." That would have meant extended tolerance of the demonstrators and an acquiescence to their demands.

Instructed by the tactics of police forces from Philadelphia to Myanmar (why distinguish?) Iranian forces of "order" blocked-off streets to the major gathering places of the burgeoning movement. It sent out troops and plainclothes thugs and these nefarious forces detained hundreds of people.

Revolution over.

The world watched a woman named Neda die after being shot in the street.

Caught on video.

In the United States we shook our heads and gave thanks that such things don't happen here.

the highway scribe may be getting old, but he can read and knows about National Guardsmen firing on student demonstrators at Kent State in Ohio and fatally dropping four young people.

It was May 4, 1970. Neil Young wrote the lyrics at top in a song called "Ohio" to remember them.

It's times like this when you remember them. When you see demonstrations in a foreign country and smugly point out the repression as if your own government bent to your will every time you hit the streets.

It is at such times you remember that the Viet Nam war went on for another five years. It's fair to say the Kent State demonstrators hardly got what they wanted. As in Iran the government prevailed. The National Guard maintained its integrity and order was restored, so to speak.

It's times like this when you remember that there was an election where all the votes were not counted in your own country, just as has transpired in Iran.

Times like these when you remember that your sympathy should always lie with those in the street. That is where the drive to create space for opinion and protest and the accompanying legal rights are forged.

This is not a comparison of the U.S. and Iranian regimes. It is a comparison between all civil societies and the governments they struggle with.

It is a plea for understanding that those who hit the pavement only to be met with charges of "terrorist" are often the best a county has to offer and that those they square-off against, the Bajiji and taxpayer-paid goons, are the worst.

It is an attempt to remind you that Twitter is just so much pitter-patter and power the only thing that matters.

And don't you forget it.

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