Saturday, May 1, 2010

Americans Too Uneducated To Protest Washington's Wars?

"My feets is tired, but my soul is rested."

----- "Uneducated" Mother Pollard, rejecting suggestions that she go back to riding the bus before the end of the Montgomery bus boycott

The idea that Americans are too dumbed down to protest Washington's imperial wars enjoys considerable popularity among the cynical-minded, but there is no reason to regard it as true.

U.S. public support for imperial wars is probably at an all-time low. A mobilization of the country such as occurred in WWII is inconceivable today, and not because the Pentagon wouldn't like to see it.

Formal education and moral intelligence have little to do with one another. In the Vietnam years, the college educated supported the Indochina slaughter much more than did working class Americans without such credentials, with the honorable exception of student protest leaders, a small percentage of the university educated. And it is not hard to understand why: working class Americans disproportionately suffered the consequences of that war (and every war for that matter), so their moral judgment was correspondingly sharper. Intellectuals habitually can't see the moral forest for the trees.

Today, U.S. support for war is extremely shallow. With control of information, short blitzkrieg-like assaults can achieve the "rally around the flag" phenomenon for a while, but extended imperial wars face steady erosion of public support almost as a matter of course.

Protest can still be effective, but not if the underlying assumption is that people reluctant to join anti-war protests are intellectually deficient. Also, we have to face the fact that the 1960s generation - billed as the ultimate protest generation - obviously failed to achieve the cultural revolution it so glibly talked about. We should therefore expect that many people have concluded that protest doesn't work.

In short, the "ignorant" majority is smarter than we take ourselves to be.

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