Fighting against power's privileges - Keith Roulston Editorial
The explosion of fury against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein for his sexual exploitation of dozens of women under his power may be about more than the lowlife activities of one scumbag. The anger may be against the ongoing re-establishment of the privileges of power.
Weinstein, who with his brother Bob had created the successful Miramax Studio, made such award-winning films as Pulp Fiction before they sold the company to Walt Disney in 1993. The brothers continued to run the studio until 2005, then founded The Weinstein Company which made films such as The King’s Speech. Heading these studios brought Harvey Weinstein into contact with a parade of attractive young women – actresss, writers and directors. As had many movie moguls in the past, he seemed to think using them for his sexual pleasure was one of the perks of his position.
The situation has been going on for years and only when a few brave women risked their careers to expose him did the backlash begin. Since then there’s been a tsunami of accusations and recriminations. He’s been forced out his own company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
But in many ways this is one battle for fairness in a losing war in which the powerful want to re-establish their right to exert the privileges their power gives them. Perhaps the reason that the Weinstein story continues to dominate the headlines day after day when, really, there are a relatively few people who are directed affected, is that there’s currently a man in the White House who boasted that he could grope women freely because “When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”
When that story broke almost exactly a year ago, many political commentators thought this comment, caught on tape, would doom Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency. Instead, he went on to become president, supported by voters who bought into his pledge to “Make America great again”. For at least some of those voters, returning greatness to their country means beating back the forces that have been seeking safeguards to protect less powerful people in society from the powerful.
This isn’t only an American phenomenon. From ISIS to the Taliban, many of the movements that we’re fighting in terrorist skirmishes is a backlash against the incursion into Muslim countries of Western concepts like the equality of women. These men liked the days when they were unquestioned in their families and became prepared to fight to make their own countries “great again” by reimposing restrictions on the way women dressed and what they could do outside the home.
But the drive to reinstate the privilege of power goes well beyond the battle of the sexes or the white supremacists who are using the Trump-era philosophy to try to put “uppity” black Americans back in their place.
Trump’s decertifying of the 2015 multinational deal that had reduced sanctions on Iran if it suspended its development of nuclear weapons is all about a rich man, used to getting his way, thinking that as president of the world’s most powerful country, he should be able to impose his own idea of what is a good agreement. European countries and former President Barack Obama, who signed the agreement, operated under the concept that “politics is the art of the possible”. Trump thinks he should be able to impose what he wants, though perhaps he’s over-estimating his power.
But that’s the attitude that made many American voters mark their ballots for him. They want to return to an image of their country that, because of its power, can get what they want. So the idea of tearing up the North American Free Trade Agreement and imposing America-first trading conditions on their neighbours is attractive to them. What’s the sense of living in the world’s most powerful country if they don’t have the privileges that power brings?
But those who long for a return to the privilege of power live under the same delusion as those who want to make America “great” again: viewing the past through rose-coloured glasses. Eventually, the weak fight back, as the women have who were assaulted and raped by Harvey Weinstein.
Americans who dream of returning to the days when their country could enforce its will on the world need to watch the current television series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick on PBS. It might remind them of when the powerful U.S. armed forces were humbled by a vastly inferior fighting force that was the army of North Vietnam.
Those who support U.S. President Donald Trump’s desire to use the privilege of the power of his office can only hope his arrogant brinksmanship with North Korea and
Iran doesn’t lead to a misstep that could mean war.