“Earth in the mouth, and in the soul, and in all./ Earth which I eat, Earth which shall in the end swallow me whole.”
– Miguel Hernández, 1942
Up until even the very recent past, extremist regimes looking to suppress ideas and quell dissent could do so with relative impunity. If they had the manpower and enough shovels.
The recent exhumations of civil war era mass graves in Spain have unearthed what many knew already. That the scope of killings carried out to suppress ideas of freedom by a regime as recent as Francisco Franco’s – who died in power in 1975 – went far beyond what many were willing to accept could be possible in the modern era. After all, the “Pact of Forgetting”, the political agreement of amnesty towards perpetrators of these atrocities after Franco’s passing, ensured that nothing could come from any outpouring of consternation but split families and “unwelcome” tension. Often under no more than inches of soil and dirt, by the sides of roads and walls, the twisted faces of the silenced Spanish had screamed silently for their recognition. Bullets and the thoughts in their heads had put them there and earth covered them. But today to bury an idea one must be much quieter than a gunshot in the night. The suppression of ideas today is carried out by a silent killer, one that is arguably even more powerful and damaging as it echoes through time.
Money flows through all nations and all fingers but in some it pools more than others. For the past ten years a stagnant pool of money has been forming in Europe, with its source in the US. Under its waters ideas about women’s rights, sex education and individuality are being drowned by the steady stream coming from conservative christian “charities” like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), American Center for Law & Order and multiple Evangelical Associations. Claiming to promote freedom of speech and human rights they in fact stifle both. Recent decisions made by parliaments in Poland to ban abortion, the rescinding of LGBT rights in the Czech Republic and Romania and even decisions made in Spain and Italy can be traced back through donations to key politicians, funding of institutions or the setting up of “grassroots” movements by a number of these so-called charities.
This has been happening for some time in both Latin America and Africa, with the banning of contraceptives and the fermenting of horrific homophobia also being linked to resources sourced and funded by similar conservative christian charities. The Family, the 2019 documentary mini-series that has aired on Netflix, does a deep dive into one such organisation called The Fellowship Foundation which is closely tied to the American presidency and has been since the late 1950’s. It details how the combination of religious fervour and political favour is used to promote conservative christian and neoliberal capitalist interests in foreign. Many of these countries are developing or third-world, in need of investment. These quasi-religious charities are able to offer this helping hand, but often ask for some conservative policies to be enacted in return. Many of those in these institutions, such as The Fellowship Foundation, see themselves as doing good by promoting the interests of a religion they deem to be wholesome. But in reality capitalist kingpins, along with the televangelicals use this religious radicalism to promote polarisation and fear to form a dark if not exploitable storm.
By effectively buying these countries and their politicians they promote the subjugation and silence of those deigning to espouse non-capitalist or non-christian views. This white collar terrorism is at first less noticable that the methods of past regimes, with bullet holes being much easier to discern that holes in the fabric of society. However the ripples these shots make have lasting ripples that may not be seen in full force for some years.
Money may always have bought silence, but with the funds available to well positioned institutions in today’s world – and more importantly individuals – these small pockets of silence are in danger of becoming a carpet. When one of the world’s richest and most influential men, Steve Bannon, is opening a self-proclaimed “gladiator” school to train would-be world leaders in the methods of populism to “conserve the Judaeo-Christian west”, or Mike Zuckerberg is threatening the UK government, the cards and interests of the worlds capitalists are firmly on the table.
A bought global news media that also perpetuates the permutations of these perversely populist and capitalist agendas helps shovel the earth over these voices further and at a time when town squares are no-go zones all together, who is left to cry out.