“The masters tools will never dismantle the masters house.”
This morning as I was completing my morning cleansing ritual (shower), a question popped into my mind that has been nagging at me for some time. Why is it when a person is taken into custody by the police, the conversation starts with the following statement, “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law”? I know that the Miranda warning is supposed to be given by the perpor (totally made this word up) with the intent of protecting the perpee from self-incrimination, but it’s also a tell of the true intentions of the people who make the laws and what they really think of the mostly underclass who will be on the receiving end of these warnings. It’s analogous to a future husband/wife telling you on your first date, “I ain’t saying I’m a gold digger but once we’re married, I will take everything you have and leave you so broke you will be cooking your meals with that camping gear we bought at Sears.” In essence, no matter what lip service is given to innocent until proven guilty and no matter how enamored of each other we may have once been, we (the courts) intend to screw with you six ways to Sunday and treat you like a hippie, podophile (look it up), terrorist loving, commie who likes to run over little old ladies crossing the street just for sport. You see, our importance to the ruling class is relative to what they can gain from us but, make no mistake, they do not see us as equals. It just seems to me that a system based on fairness and justice would instead say something more like this, “You have the right to remain silent or to speak on your behalf but we have a duty to inform you that your words may be either helpful or harmful to your defense.” This is akin to the informed consent that doctors fulfill when advising patients on the risks and benefits of a medical procedure that is being considered.
Laws serve many purposes, they can be used to protect people or they can be used to hide behind and to suppress dissent. A system that tells you up front that we will use your words against you without also counterbalancing that warning with we will use your words for you is one with built-in odds that are not in your favor. The point I’m trying (failing?) to make is that words circa language hold the key to decoding the hidden messages of the ruling class, if we are attuned to them. The Hopi acknowledged this truth in their proverb, “The one who tells the stories, rules the world.” By controlling the narrative through the media, the textbooks and the popular culture, the ruling class ensures that what you hear and see are only the stories they want to be told. One of the greatest losses for a culture, vis a vis the indigenous people in North America, is the loss of one’s collective, native language. As immigrants throughout America’s history have arrived or been displaced they have often had to make a hard choice between their native tongue and becoming more Americanized. Rather than allow for the best of both worlds, it has become an either-or situation in which people are derided for being a non-melanin challenged, God(opposite of blessed) foreigner (first strike), who refuses to learn English (second strike), while taking all of our crappy, minimum wage paying jobs (third strike, yerrr outta here!). In order to break the codes, we must be prepared to go deeper and wider when presented with each and every piece of critical information we encounter from the dominant culture. This can seem like a daunting and tiring endeavor but the alternative is giving up the fight before a punch is even thrown.
When the public schools’ textbooks whitewash the history of America, ask yourself why it is that Pearson, a multinational company based in London, gets to tell our children that the early settlers worked in “cooperation” with the natives they encountered in the “new land”? When the behavioral scientists from Madison Avenue tell you that Pepsi is the “choice of a new generation”, ask yourself what exactly was the choice of the old generation? When the psychological operations specialists from Langley convince us that Iran is a “threat to our national security”, ask yourself why is it okay for our country to possess the largest nuclear arsenal in the history of the world but a Middle Eastern, predominantly brown and muslim country, cannot be allowed to consider having even one to protect its own citizens from a country that has shown an actual willingness to vaporize people by the tens of thousands, as the U.S. government convincingly demonstrated to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? In the public sphere, the use of legalese in the fine print of disclaimers by corporations is the calculated manipulation of language to obfuscate its real objectives and ensure that it always derives the greater benefit from the relationship with its patrons. Go ahead and ask any of the indigenous people or countries on the receiving end of a “treaty” or “resolution” just how well things worked out for them in the end. Once we learn the trigger words used by the Wizards of Washington Place to psychologically captivate us, we can begin to free ourselves ourselves from the “mental slavery” that Bob Marley so aptly identified. As I have come to understand the role that language plays in a culture by conveying meaning through symbols and the spoken or written word, it has brought me to the steps of the political arena.
As hard as I previously tried to tune out and shield anything related to politics from my consciousness, I can no longer deny its effect on every facet of my life. When I worked as a social worker in my former life for people with developmental disabilities and mental health issues, I realized the economic and social discrimination that exists when families have to go on waiting lists for years to get medical assistance for their child with special needs. All my life I have avoided politics with a passion but like Jonah trying to run from God and ending up in the belly of the whale so, too, do I find myself in the belly of a different kind of beast. This whale represents a system that incorporates a brutal, formulation of the economic shock doctrine, well documented by Naomi Klein, that has been deliberately foisted on citizens around the world packaged as austerity measures that are, shall we say, austere. This economic ideology always manifests itself in the form of deregulation, privatization and massive cuts in social spending. The Affordable Care Act was a gift to the healthcare industry, i.e., drug companies, insurers, managed care organizations, as much as NCLB/Race to the Top was a handout to the private testing companies, textbook publishers and charter school industry. Progressive thinkers must lead the way in thinking critically by taking apart the double-edged messages we are bombarded with in our daily lives and be willing to face the reality of what is rather than dwell in the abstract land of hope and change. In America, you may have the right to remain silent but, while we still can, let’s use our words for us rather than against us to speak up and speak out against an inequitable system that would make perps of us all.
Peace and solidarity to all readers.