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  • The real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent, to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.

    ― Michel Foucault, The Chomsky - Foucault Debate: On Human Nature


    1.

    Power at its most insidious is when the slave chants the master's anthem, when the prisoners police themselves, when there is no need for barbed wire fences, bullets and bombs, German shepherds, with glistening fangs.

    In authoritarian states (like the land of my nativity, Vietnam), power was exercised in a brutal, vulgar, fashion. Resist and you will be bludgeoned, arrested. Tortured.

    Here, in the United States, power is sequestered, secreted in a sacred text, the Constitution, with holy rituals of elections, with repetitive mantras about freedom of speech and democracy.

    Here, the citizens congratulate themselves for living in a "free society." They are able to cast ballots. To dissent.

    And yet. Something smells rotten.




    2.

    Power is not abstract, it incarcerates bodies, it manacles hands, it disembowels the living.

    Power can render a human being into an illegal alien.

    Power can transform the love of one man for another into a sin, a mental illness. A crime.

    Power begins with a thought. A word. An idea.

    Democracy is the power of the people.

    And yet. Something smells rotten.



    3.

    The people are told they are free by think tanks funded by billionaires.

    Freedom to scavenge on streets, to sleep underneath bridges, to eat garbage.

    The people are told they are free by corporate media owned by billionaires.

    Freedom to die without health care. Freedom to eat carcinogenic mutilated food.

    The people are told they are free by advertisers of toasters and toothpastes. Wonder bras.

    Freedom to make the oceans a sewer, the mountains a crematorium. The air like diarrhea.

    Something smells rotten here. If this is freedom. It stinks.
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