A Look in the Mirror: It’s time for a closer look at our elites

Noam Chomsky advocates radical self-criticism.

How refreshing. Where else can one get a good look in the mirror?

Foreign Policy in Focus (www.fpif.org), earlier this month (Feb. 16, 2007), published an interview with Noam Chomsky (Chomsky on Iran, Iraq and the Rest of the World)(FPIF, February 16 2007) in which the enfant terrible and critic of the American foreign policy establishment reviews a wide range of subjects, interests and strategic choices available to players on the world stage. Chomsky’s insight is right on and so close to home that such reading should be required of all Americans considering a political choice of governing elites.

We in France are also preparing a full slate of elections. This year we will elect a President, both houses of the legislature and 36,373 municipal councils… talk about participative democracy! As citizens of France we are keenly aware of the need to evaluate our elites in the face of rapidly changing energy, security and social considerations. Our criteria are the hopes and desires we hold for ourselves and for our children, our friends and neighbors, all within a larger European, Mediterranean and hemispheric context.

I suspect we will evaluate our elites on their energy and environmental policies, on their approach to social and fiscal discipline, to law and order and to job creation. As we consider the individual or group to whom we would delegate authority, we consider their respect for the values we hold as our own: compassion, fortitude, perseverance, diligence.

In Europe this is an exercise in interconnectedness, not unlike the process getting underway in America. European interconnectedness however, is rooted in the landscape and extends beyond the limits of a confederation of European states, to the steppes of Asia, to Middleastern desertlands and to sub-saharan Africa. These people with their own hopes and aspirations are at our doorstep, how can we refuse them? What choice do we have?

It is only fitting that our national elites — whether they be French, English, Spanish, Latin- or Anglo-American — act in our interests. The difficult question though, is how are these interests defined? Should we look at ourselves in the mirror and say uncritically, “I like what I see”, and define our interests as a continuation of the status quo? What do we see when we look in the mirror? A society that measures success on the ability to consume? This is perhaps Life. But is it responsible?

I think not. This is how we wound up with an oil and gas lobby, and a special interest White House with an out-of-control war establishment. At what cost energy sufficiency? And why should somebody else pay that price? We cannot afford, indeed, the world will not tolerate another round of complacent partisanship in America.

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