Shakespeare, Patriotism and Exceptionalism

“…there's not one wise man among twenty that will praise himself.” quotation from much ado about nothing, best shakespeare quote“…there’s not one wise man among twenty that will praise himself.”

Much Ado About Nothing, act 5, sc. 2

The term “Patria” or homeland is, of course, of Latin origin, meaning “land of the fathers”. In turn, presidents’ patriotic speeches celebrate the achievements of the inhabitants of their respective “land of the fathers” and, by not-too-subtle reflection, the achievements of the presidents.

It is an act of self-praise purchased by pretending that the inhabitants of the land made the self-praise possible and not the will of the president (or, in past times, of the absolute kings). That many among the generalized inhabitants hold diametrically opposed views to the statements uttered in patriotic speeches is irrelevant. The main purpose of a patriotic speech is to pretend unity or to promote it by the well known principles of mass psychology.

Obama’s recent commencement speech at Westpoint is interesting from several angles. The audience was in military uniform and subject to military discipline. The President’s message was an assertion of permanent global war in pursuit of US interests (“interests” that may hardly affect the majority of the 300 millions plus, in whose name they are pursued). But who could blame the audience for applauding, when it joined the military hoping to hear just what Obama said? A world without military aggression would be a dramatic liability to the newly graduates. Absence of wars would render them unemployed.

Here are some extracts from the patriotic speech. After describing the state of the union when he became president, Obama said, Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed. We have removed our troops from Iraq. We are winding down our war in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more. (Cheers, applause) And through it all, we’ve refocused our investments in what has always been a key source of American strength: a growing economy that can provide opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard and take responsibility here at home.”

To remove troops from a land invaded to subvert its government and plunder its resources, would not seem a great source of pride – considering, furthermore, that the troops have gone but the killings continue daily and in large numbers. And that the invasion cost the lives of over 1 million people.

As for Osama Bin Laden, his killing was a great PR event. Perhaps it is better to forget that prior to the invasion of Afghanistan, the local government of the time offered to deliver OBL to the Americans if they could prove that he was responsible for 9/11. Which they could not, also remembering that all but one of the terrorists in the 9/11 attack were from Saudi Arabia.

As for those who are “willing to work hard and take responsibility…” perhaps we may wish to ask, for example, the McDonald’s 100 workers, assrested for having taken the responsibility to demonstrate for an increase of the minimum wage – pointing out that McDonald’s CEO wage is 1200 times that of him who makes the sandwiches.

Think about it – asks the President –  Our military has no peer. The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low… Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth, our businesses the most innovative. Each year, we grow more energy independent. From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations. America continues to attract striving immigrants. The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe.

If any reader has evidence of “direct threats against us by any nation” please provide them. In most cases the threats (however far from the homeland), have been fabricated, from the “Remember the Maine” incident in 1898 (exploding US ship blamed on Spain) to the  “Tonkin Resolution” to start the war in Vietnam (alleged attack by North Vietnam on a US corvette in the Gulf of Tonkin). Skeptical readers may wish to refer to the blog ( showing the transcript of proposed Pentagon’s false flag operations in connection with Cuba.

migrants crossing the Mediterranean to land in Italy. An example of striving immigrants Obama-styleAs far as attracting immigrants, the picture on the left shows a scene occurring almost daily in the South of Italy – a boat loaded with immigrants landing in Sicily. Fortunately, the Italian government, as yet, has not commented on these recurring events with statements equivalent to Obama’s.

“…So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century past, and it will be true for the century to come.”

The naive reader or listener may be prompted to ask, “Are you sure?” And he may soberly direct the speaker’s attention to countless cemeteries, where thousands of people, once believed “indispensable”, reside now under ground.

The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead but how we will lead, not just to secure our peace and prosperity but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.”

Obama probably ignores that throughout the world (and in America too), many have developed the strong belief that the “peace and prosperity” in question, means the peace and prosperity of the 1%, a prospect that leaves many unimpressed and many more angry at the deception.

First, let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency: The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it: when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.”

Given that ‘core’ is a metaphor (from the Latin word for ‘heart’), it can mean anything. It may or may not be a ‘core’ interest,  or the ‘core-iness’ of the interest may be made up as needed (e.g. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction). This is an indirect declaration of war against any nation or group of people who oppose the current effective imposition of neo-liberal thought and philosophy.

To reinforce this position, Obama adds, “International opinion matters, but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland or our way of life.”

Where “protect our people”, translated from the Orwellian, means military invasion of countries whose regime the administration dislikes.”

“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” (Applause)

It is needless to ask ‘whose law?’ Nor perhaps to question the legality of the “thought police”, effectively implemented domestically by spying on everyone. And by the actual removal from society, through incarceration, of the brave few who dared expose the crimes of government.

As Dr. Johnson said in his “Rambler”, no man heartily hates him at whom he can laugh. The problem here is that the extraordinary statements in the speech are uttered in all seriousness. It is spectacular government in its most spectacular form – a government that possesses all means necessary to falsify the whole of events and of their perception. To the point that the promise of annihilation of anyone perceived as opposed to America’s “core interests” is greeted with carnivalesque gayety.

It is a government representing the society of the spectacle in its principal features. Which are,

— Incessant technological renewal (e.g. drone war and assassinations, thought police and universal spying),
— Integration of state and finance (where it’s no longer possible to define which of the two controls the other),
— Generalized and ever increasing secrecy (some readers may remember Obama’s slogan at election time, “No more secrecy” and how the slogan has been implemented). The simple fact of being unanswerable has given what is false an entirely new quality. It cannot be questioned because it is secret and therefore it is true.
— The last feature of the government of the spectacle is an eternal present, necessary to ensure eternal forgetfulness. This is accomplished by the elimination of public opinion. Public opinion is what the corporate media says it is. Actual public opinion, diluted in countless streams and rivulets is quickly dissolved and easily eradicated. Consider, for example, the effective elimination of the ‘Oppose’ movement – undeniably peaceful but yet rated a threat by the establishment.

In the circumstances, there is no question that God is an American. A truth that led Obama to conclude his speech as follows, May God bless you. May God bless our men and women in uniform. And may God bless the United States of America.”  Accompanied by loud cheers and applause by the audience and, presumably, even by God,  Himself steeped in exceptionalism.

About 120 years ago, Leo Tolstoy wrote,

“… Violence of power is less noticeable in government than when it is employed by members of society against one another, because it finds expression in submission, and not in strife. It nevertheless exists, and often to a greater degree than in former days.

And it cannot be otherwise, since, apart from the demoralizing influence of power, the policy, or even the unconscious tendency of those in power, will always be to reduce their subjects to the extreme of weakness, for the weaker the oppressed, the less effort needs to be made to keep him in subjection.

And therefore the pressure of the oppressed always goes on growing up to the furthest limits, beyond which it cannot go without killing the goose with the golden eggs. And if the goose lays no more eggs, like the American Indians, Negroes, etc. then it is killed in spite of the sincere protests of philanthropists…

… People have believed it, as though it were something fully proved, and so needing no proof, that since all nations have hitherto developed in the form of states, that form of organization is an indispensable condition of the development of humanity.

And in the best way it has lasted for hundreds and thousands of years, and governments – those who happened to be in power – have tried it, and are now trying more zealously than ever to keep their subjects in this error.

… It is generally supposed that governments strengthen their forces only to defend the state from other states, in oblivion of the fact that armies are necessary, before all things, for the defense of governments from their own oppressed and enslaved subjects.”

In the play. Beatrice replies to a comment of Benedick.

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