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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/21/15

Learning from the Greek "Betrayal"

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It wasn't always in Europe. After the war in Europe, the social democratic project was given life by the promise that World War II would not happen again. That promise has been betrayed. We've been distracted by identity politics, by issues that some people are important but really are distractions because this situation in Greece is the main game.

It's about having a society where elderly people are now almost 50 percent in poverty as is now the case there. Of now having suicides among young people at such a horrifying level, as I read recently. Modestly paid people not having wages that bring them a decent standard of living. This is the main game. This is the fight. It's about time those people who like to call themselves radical, left, progressive, whatever -- they understand that. They must check the word hope out, and get on with real stuff.

DB: Can you talk about how identity politics has been used against the people?

JP: We think we live in an information age, but we actually live in a media age. They are different. So much of the media age is repetitive and manipulative and very powerful. Walk down any street and watch people transfixed by that thing in their hand. There's a kind of digital slavery among people.

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The media age plays itself through these devices, through all the forms of media that there is now. It appropriates noble causes, feminism, for one thing. Sometimes, I get the sense that so much of the issues of feminism are ruled from the media not from the streets and those women who bear the burden of inequality of working life and elsewhere, but from the media. The whole idea of identity politics, what matters, is ourselves, us, me, me. In the late 70s it was called me-ism. At least they called it me-ism then, and they don't call it that now but that's what it is.

I'm making a film at the moment. Part of the film is set in the Marshall Islands where the nuclear tests were conducted. On my way back from Honolulu, I picked up a magazine at the airport that said, "Have a bikini body." I doubt that anybody on that magazine knows where Bikini was. The cover had a swimsuit on a very thin woman, showing off her bikini body. I have been interviewing people whose bikini bodies are lacking a thyroid gland.

The bikini was launched in honor of the atomic test in 1946. Who knows that? It's important. That's the connection. It was a women's health magazine that was completely manipulative, with nonsense -- articles about how to have a better orgasm, and how to eat carrots for your ears, all the usual stuff, stuffed with advertising, manipulative, with a bikini on the front.

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DB: I'm remembering a man named Anthony Guarisco, one of the veterans ordered to watch those explosions after the war. He started a group that became the International Alliance of Atomic Veterans. He said the atomic vets of the U.S. and all the people who lived there were the "sacrificial lambs laid on the altar of the nuclear age."

JP: They were used as guinea pigs, deliberately as guinea pigs. They were examined for many, many years, not treated, although a few were treated. But they were examined as guinea pigs. That's where the nuclear age began, with the devastation of two Japanese cities. But in 1946, the big stuff was tested around Bikini through the Marshall Islands.

The issues don't change. The contours may change a bit, but the distractions these days are everywhere. Bourgeois women who have absolutely everything they want, that is regarded in a lot of media as feminist, but it is not. It's about privilege. That is a major distortion throughout the media.

Women who have been struggling against the most hideous inequalities, violence in the home and elsewhere, do not have this voice because they are outside the realm of me-ism. There are too many isms in this conversation. My most hated one is post-modernism, because I know what it means. Post-modernism means dampening down real politics, real change, and real radicalism. I think those people running Greece organized this betrayal by doing that.

DB: What do you hear about what the Greek peoples response may be?

JP: I think the people of Greece are stunned actually. They are stunned and becoming angry. In Athens, there is the first dig demonstration against Syriza, which is a tragedy, because that was their party. It is the beginning of getting wisdom. Spain and Italy are similar, and elsewhere, where there are tremendous grassroots movements. They will not be conned again. They will be a lot tougher on the people who go forward to represent them.

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I hope that's an optimistic view and that's what comes from this. Europe isn't about grim German bankers and Brussels bureaucrats. It is about a lot of young people who have good politics. They want to change the world and make things better and they are getting on with that.

DB: How did the press do on this one?

JP: The press did what they usually do. They haul out every cliche and jargon. Syriza was called hard left, radical, leftist. None of that has any meaning. None of them can explain the situation. There was some not bad reporting. But you must navigate through the Internet to find people who know what they are talking about. The mainstream -- what a misnomer, as so much is unreadable and unwatchable.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)

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