The turmoil in Teheran, Iran, over the past week over the disputed result of the country’s presidential election reveals one thing about the Iranian people: They still have the consciousness, courage and conviction to rise up when circumstances demand.
It is an attribute that is sorely lacking in the populations of most advanced industrial nations, with the notable exception of France.
When George W. Bush stole the U.S. presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, there was little public outcry, due in large part to the failure of the corporate mass media to properly inform the voters about what had happened.
Even when there have been public demonstrations over the past generation in Canada and the U.S., they have been tepid, sparsely attended affairs.
In the U.S., the de facto end of viable public protest has its roots in two factors: First, the McCarthy witch hunt of the 1950s and, second, the emasculation and depoliticization of America’s labour unions.
The McCarthy witchhunt was an all-out attempt by government and the corporate elite to stamp out “Communism,” a euphemism for any party that seeks to put the legitimate rights and requirements of the poor and the middle class ahead of the wanton wishes of the corporations and the super-rich individuals who control them.
The enduring legacy of the McCarthy campaign was the permanent emplacement of just two viable political parties – the Republicans and the Democrats – both of which are fully controlled by the corporations and the socioeconomic elite.
Before any viable candidate for any major political office can even begin to campaign, he or she must first pass muster with the corporate-socioeconomic elite.
And while things aren’t as bad in Canada, they aren’t much better either. Unions may be a little bit stronger, but still in decline.
We may not have had a Communist witchhunt that would have precluded any party whose commitment was to the masses rather than the elite.
And we may even have a somewhat viable national party – the NDP – which is not controlled by the corporations and the socioeconomic elite.
But we do have a corrupt election financing system that ensures that financially the NDP will never be on a level playing field with the Liberals and Conservatives.
And we do have a timid NDP whose generation-long lurch to the right often makes it seem as if it too were beholden to the corporations and the superrich.
And we do have a corporate mass media complex that is totally committed to manufacturing public consent for a destructive corporate agenda.
Is it any wonder then that Canadians, like Americans, have a very low level of political or social consciousness?
Is it any wonder then that so many Canadians and Americans are convinced that all politicians are the same and that there is no hope for anything better?
Is it wonder then that our cherished labour unions are no longer able to inspire the same level of public activism as in the past?
Canadians and Americans alike have lost the consciousness, the courage, the conviction and the hope that they can make a difference and have now opted instead for the safe and secure copout of public apathy.
We need to learn from the Iranians – and also from the French.