The New Moon of the month of Ramadan shone clearly in the west as I bicycled home tonight shortly after 9 pm from the Bipartisan Cafe on Southeast Stark Street.
It was strikingly resonant with the one meaningful conversation I had all night (that is, the whole of the two hours that I sort of “tabled” for the Pacific Green Party), in the absence of any other chapter members. There is a man who comes in occasionally, somewhere between fifty and sixty years old; he’s not shy about his criticism of the Pacific Green Party, even though in his visits he is invariably accompanied by four or five others, probably family members. He’s from Vancouver [I presume, Washington], he tells me, and he is a millionaire, as well as the owner of several small businesses.
When this guy came in, close to closing time, and started examining my pieces of progressive literature, I greeted him, calling him “Chris,” to which he responded with “Jack!” which could mean he believes my name to a familiar form of the name John or it could be his way of politely correcting my misremembering his name.
But, as I said, he’s by no means shy. With his crowd of sputniki standing around, he picked up the material — a bunch of bumper stickers — advertising If America Knew’s new campaign to get people to pledge to vote for candidates who question the “blank check” given by the U.S. government to the State of Israel.
“See this? If you add up all the aid given to the number two country, Egypt, and the number three. . . ”
“Oh?” I interrupted. “So we shouldn’t talk about the Number-One recipient of U.S. military aid. No, we have to talk about the Number Two or Three before we’ll talk about the Number One recipient.”
He was silent.
This self-described millionaire has never claimed to be a rhetorical threat in debate — even if he’s quick to start them — and the important point is not the ability to silence a defender of Israeli arrogance. It is rather, the tactic of faux populism adopted by a self-described defender of the One Percent. All that foreign aid going to Muslim countries: ain’t it awful?
“The political party,” wrote the Swiss sociologist Robert Michels in 1911,
is founded in most cases on the principle of the majority, and is founded always on the principle of the mass.
That is to say, in all political parties the number of followers takes precedence over considerations of their quality, if any.
The result of this is that the parties of the aristocracy have irrevocably lost the aristocratic purity of their principles. While remaining essentially anti-democratic in nature, they find themselves compelled, at any rate in certain periods of political life, to make profession of the democratic faith, or at least to assume a democratic mask.
And that in effect was what, almost unconsciously, my Heckler was up to. Such a waste of money, this (in actual fact, nonexistent) support of Muslim countries! But no, he won’t engage in a discussion of the support given by this country to the State of Israel.
Hello, New Moon of Ramadan.