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August 15, 2008, Volume 15 Nr. 13, Issue 244

Dumping The National Phone Directory. 
Electing The President of The United States.

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

In the short story, "Harrison Bergeron", part of a collection of writings by Kurt Vonnegut called "Welcome to the Monkey House, George and Hazel Bergeron, living in the year 2081, unknowingly suffer from the impact of radio, television and the "news".  They are oblivious to its main function, that of making them mentally handicapped, where reality is produced and they consume it.  The media present George and Hazel with all the images, messages, thoughts and opinions that they as members of society need to know and accept in order to be part of the communitarian State where everything is always well.  George and Hazel go on day in and day out with their lives watching TV, being part of what it reinforces as normal.  They have no free thought, no free expression, take no action, avoid conflict and controversy, challenge no one and no one challenges them.  Their boat never gets rocked and they would never rock anyone else's, nor the States' boat.  Worse, they are beyond the ability to challenge the system under which they live as they are crippled into clueless happiness.  George and Hazel are desensitized by the constant barrage of TV images that control them into behaving acceptably.  Unbeknownst to them, however, are the invisible ruling elite that control everything.  George and Hazel are kept in line.  Everything that they do is monitored, listened to and recorded.  For George and Hazel, life may be pointless though they don't think so, but it is predictable and just the same as it is for anybody and everybody else.  Very much like many people today, George and Hazel are comfortable living a mundane life with little interest in changing anything.  

Vonnegut writes,

Clever people had to wear a radio in their ear tuned to the government transmitter, which sent out sharp noises to keep people from taking advantage of their brains.  

Today's controlling corporations are the government.  Their ubiquitous propaganda messages, masquerading as harmless advertising, are behavior programming from cradle to grave.  There are societal and economic repercussions for those who do not participate in the programming, that is, the "American way".   We people in the USA operate under the delusion that our uniqueness and individual rights are protected by the United States Constitution.  The State propaganda machine's only concern is that we believe they are.  The 1966 song by the Buffalo Springfield, lyrics written by Stephen Stills, puts it this way:

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

Or perhaps, the man come and put you in a pen, a portable concentration camp.  Associated Press writer, Mary Hudetz, in her July 30, 2008, piece entitled, "Recreate 68 Will Protest DNC's Freedom Cage" writes of the upcoming 2008 Democratic presidential convention held in Denver, CO that, 

A 50,000-square-foot demonstration zone that will have two layers of chain-link fences wrapped around it during the Democratic National Convention has been deemed the "freedom cage" by the leader of a group planning to march during the four-day event.
In Vonnegut's short story, "Harrison Bergeron", the illusion of freedom exists for George and Hazel Bergeron only under tightly controlled conditions.  In Denver where the Democratic Party convenes to coronate its corporate presidential candidate, freedom exists in miniscule and predetermined irrelevant locations.  Protest elsewhere and  the "man come and take you away".  In Minneapolis MN, the Republican National Convention similarly orchestrates freedom:

City leaders announced last month that they would mark off at least 180,000 square feet of space diagonally across from the arena, where the Sept. 1-4 convention will be held. They're providing a stage and microphone. Applications for stage time, which will be awarded through a lottery, were due Monday.

Bruce Nestor, a lawyer representing some of the protesters, said his clients object to the arrangement because "the city gets to manage free speech in the name of facilitating free speech."

In the 1995 movie version of Harrison Bergeron, written by Arthur Crimm and directed by Bruce Pitman, the president of the United States is randomly chosen out of the national phone directory and then called by telephone and notified of the "honor".  Crimm is telling us that it does not matter who the president of the United States is.  Crimm's reasoning reflects the common thread throughout the movie that everyone is equal so who becomes the president is irrelevant.  Also, the president is not in charge of anything.  As in "Harrison Bergeron", the movie what we see is not what we get.  What we see on TV and the media is the sideshow passed off as reality for we have all become the George and Hazel Bergerons of the 21st century.  

Whether Barack Obama or John McCain wins the 2008 presidential election does not matter.  The same rich power players will continue ruling the nation and attempt to rule the world.  The shadow government revealed by Oliver North during Ronald Reagan's administration and clearly displayed by G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney is in charge.  Nancy Pelosi may be the Democratic Party's speaker of the House but her inability to protect and defend the United States Constitution reveals her loyalty to the rich, ruling elite, who control her.  Democratic and Republican are merely word descriptors for the gullible masses that place them in opposing camps.  It is the Corporate Party, i.e., the fascists, that are in control.  

The basic premise of Harrison Bergeron is that everyone, by law, is equal by virtue of their mediocrity.  George W. Bush fits comfortably within the world of George and Hazel Bergeron.  Just as it is in their world, the minimalist accomplishments and intellect of George W. Bush are touted as major success.  Non-bumbled appearances and speeches with few Bushisms are grand successes.  Perhaps what is most troubling is that the U.S. populace has accepted mediocrity in just about everything.  Mediocrity in the chief executive is the norm.  So we vote for the mediocre because our candidates are like us, mediocre.  Dan Balz, in "McCain-Obama So Far: Positively Negative", Washington Post, June 26, 2008, calls the
...campaign between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain once offered enormous possibilities for something new. Instead, the two presumptive nominees have opened their campaigns for the White House with what looks and sounds like a repeat of the kind of politics both have promised to leave behind.
The national motto has become: In mediocrity we trust.  And mediocrity loves company.  Richard Laermer, in  "Today's Question: How'd it All  Get So Mediocre?", Huffington Post, May 22, 2008, writes.

Like our heroes, the lobotomized couple in "Harrison Bergeron," we sense something isn't right. We know we ought to be breaking inertia. And this unease isn't just a tickle in the recesses of our minds because, lo and behold, it's front and center. But what will do the trick and wake us from the stupor?

Perhaps, there is a Harrison Bergeron within our midst?  And just as in the Kurt Vonnegut short story, perhaps some person like Harrison is spreading ideas that are slowly taking apart the bricks in the status quo wall getting people to think beyond their entertainment-induced stupor.  Ralph Nader is such a person.  In this presidential cycle the electorate has the opportunity to go beyond the robotic casting of their vote for either one or the other of the two corporate State-approved mediocre candidates.  We can go beyond the corporate-dictated presidential candidates: Barack Obama or John McCain, who might as well have been chosen by randomly selecting two names from the national telephone book. Voting for Ralph Nader is throwing the phone book away.  While speaking at the 2003 Association of College Unions (ACUI) annual conference, keynote speaker Ralph Nader said,

How do we lift up the entering tastes of our student body rather than cater to them?" Nader challenged delegates. "How do we lift up their tastes of junk food and junk drink to nutritional value? How do we redefine entertainment for youngsters programmed by Hollywood and MTV? How do we recreate excitement about intellectual pursuit and intellectual debate...?  How do we break the mold?"

We can turn off the State propaganda idiot box, and just as in the movie version of "Harrison Bergeron" discover some stimulating classic jazz, read a good novel, become familiar with some of the world's great thinkers.  Then, we dump the national phone directory and vote for Ralph Nader.  Kurt Vonegut said, "Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative" (In These Times, May 10, 2004).   There are other possibilities.
Run Ralph.  Run! .

The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people don't acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.  -- Kurt Vonegut

2008 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD

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