US Popular Opinion
America has a great analyst of their political situation in Noam Chomsky, yet Americans are so indoctrinated by their Brahmin class of plutocrats that they take no notice of what he has to say, which is a lot, it is blunt, easy to comprehend and it is true. US politicians harp on about their uniquely brilliant democracy, but while most Americans will parrot what is said out of misguided patriotism, they just do not believe it. They do not believe they create their own institutions or run their own country. Pollsters find 80% of them think the government is controlled by a few big interests looking out for themselves and not for the people. Popular opinion is that less than 20% think much of Congress, yet voters re-elect most Senators and Representatives, though they have no real choice and play no real part in running the country.
In a true democracy, people would feel they are shaping their own lives, and would therefore, Chomsky says, be celebrating 15 April, the day when taxes are paid. It was the day when the financial flesh was put on the democratically chosen skeleton, when people publicly put their money where their democratic mouth is, to implement policies they had chosen. It is nothing like that. It is a day people resent because they are obliged to pay their hard earned tax dollars to maintain policies and programs they mostly find useless at best and objectionable at worst. They do not feel they have any stake in government, and none in leading corporations banked up by government. Voters have little regard for most institutions, little say in what they decide, and little enthusiasm for having to finance it.
Political issues hardly bear on electoral campaigns, and many electors, maybe most, are not even sure what the issues are. How then is democracy possible? US Elections are run by the PR industry and so are effectively bought by the parties and candidates with the deepest pockets. The Obama campaign was no different, as the annual award by the advertising industry for the “best marketing of the year” shows. It went to Obama’s campaign which beat Apple! Advertisers work on mood not meaning, and it works! Obama had little definite to say about the issues, but concentrated on the warm feeling words “hope” and “change”. When people vote for such objectively meaningless slogans, it shows that hope and change are what they do not have. It should tell the politicians that people felt hopeless, and did not like what they had, and that ought to be a warning. It shows that society is crumbling at its foundations.
The Reality of Capitalism
No feeling of hope exists in these depressed days, but the Great Depression was different. In the depths of despair people did not lose hope, they always felt there was a way through, things would come good. Admittedly, it took a world war and many deaths before brighter days came after the Second World War when the Brahmin business classes of the US built an incredible, yet unremarked propaganda campaign to eliminate all ideas of proper democracy, and social feeling while promoting social Darwinism, the false belief that survival of the fittest should be the norm of civilized communities, that selfishness was the essence of humanity as it was supposed to be in Nature. Capitalism was driven by greed and selfishness, and those who could not stand it went to the wall, or rather had a pauper’s funeral… and that was supposed, under the “Darwinian” capitalist ideology, to have been what society was all about.
Yet what did this capitalism actually do? It was a production and marketing strategy, not a creative one, except perhaps in PR and labor productivity. Where did technological innovations like computers and the internet come from? Overwhelmingly from research institutions like universities, mainly funded by the Pentagon. In other words, the principle fount of new products was a dynamic and creative public sector of the economy. Capitalism was not where technological novelties came from. It simply manufactured and distributed them for personal profit after communal endeavors had invented them. Inventions like computers and the internet were in use for decades before private enterprise made use of them for profit. Most of the economy is the same still. So, where is the capitalism that is so much vaunted and praised by the propaganda machine? It does not exist. What exists is this:
- the public pays the costs
- the public takes the risks
- the plutocrats in the private sector take the profits.
The reality of capitalism can no longer be hidden after the collapse and bale out of the banks in the last two years. Saving inept and greedy banks is justified by the “too big to fail” slogan of our cringingly servile governments, who now are exposed as the paid monkeys of the profiteers, none more obviously than Tony Blair. Every attempt since Adam Smith to live purely by supposedly self regulating, free market principles has led to disaster.
If the banks have to be baled out because they are “too big to fail”, they are being treated as public utilities, except that the profit goes to the Brahmin caste, the bankers’ own class. In the UK, the government has had to take a dominant share in some banks, yet has been timid in acting, as a dominant shareholder should, to protect its investment from being siphoned off into private coffers, like some tinpot dictatorship supported by the US, contrary to the will of the local people. That is the democracy exported by America. Whatever is essential in a state must be publicly owned so that the state can make sure it does not fail, but the public get any profits and all of the benefits they produce. That is what a public utility is for.
As long as important peaks of the economy are protected by the public, our capitalist system is not capitalist, is it? Contrary to Margaret Thatcher’s slogan TINA, or “There is no Alternative”, and as Obama’s slogan of “Change” emphasized, change is possible, but it is undeniably difficult, and needs open public support to counter the well funded vested interests of the plutocrats. Indeed, swifter changes were needed during World War II, and the government made them. Wartime command economy enabled us to win the war, and mixed economies have proven to be more successful in economic history than doctrinaire capitalism. Why then is economic change not happening now? Why is there no firm move to regulate capitalist enterprises, and even to nationalize those that cannot be allowed to fail. Because Wall Street would not get enough out of it.
Better still than nationalization would be to let stakeholders—the workforce and the local community—take over these industries and make them produce what’s needed by the society with the profits going back to the workforce and community, and kept out of the already bulging purses of the mega rich. The trouble is that Americans have been brainwashed to think of such solutions as evil, as socialist or, heaven forbid, as communist. Yet no society, except the cooperatives of Spanish anarchism, has implemented genuine social production. The reason has nothing to do with these alternative systems not being feasible, or even being evil—cooperatives work!—it is because the Washington caste of lobbyists and the capitalist PR industry will not allow it to enter the consciousness of the US public.
Adam Smith, discussing England, pointed out that the principal architects of policy in England—merchants and manufacturers—made sure that their own interests were attended to, however grievous the effect on others, especially the common people of England. The US has remained stuck in this eighteenth century time warp in its economic philosophy. A lot has changed since Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, and, though much of what he wrote remains true, after over 200 years, it is as doctrinaire to stick to an old economics tome for political economy as it is, after 2000 years, to stick unreservedly to the bible for our moral guidance. The function of US “intellectuals” is to suppress any proper consideration of reform of received thinking. Feigning objective advice, in lofty, obscure and profound rhetoric, they emphasize the objections, difficulties and risks of doing things in a better way, intending all along to discredit any progress. They are servants of the rich. The only real difficulty to economic progress is one of public will, and that exists largely because of the PR success of the ruling class.
Trying a Little Self Reflexion
Chomsky says Americans must adopt an often recommended but rarely applied principle—look in the mirror. Before they advocate murderous incursions into foreign countries, they must look at themselves to see whether they practise at home what they preach. Maybe the trouble is the fossilization of ancient practices. From the outset, the American nation was based on “extermination”, as the founding fathers put it, and its image as “an infant empire”, as George Washington put it. These ideas seem to be instilled into the American psyche when no one gains from them except the arms manufacturers and the military industrial complex. They were a poor moral basis to build upon, but were profitable for some, and that makes it all right in America.
So too was slavery immoral. The Civil War should have ended slavery, but, after about twenty years, in the South it started to be introduced again, and with the acceptance of the North. The former slaves were criminalized through spurious acts yielding racist laws against “vagrancy” or “talking too loud”. Much of the black male population were thrown into prison by these petty but seriously immoral laws. The victims found themselves permanently incarcerated, various machinations being used to suspend parole and extend the sentence indefinitely. This body of reintroduced slave labor built the accumulated capital at the base of modern industrial society—that of the mining, steel, cotton and other industries. Black men were worse off than they had been under slavery. Slave owners valued the slave to some degree because they had paid good money for him, and so mostly they took care of him. Now black men were like galley slaves, tormented by jailers, and with no appeal for mercy.
Only World War II ended it. The need to recruit, and the absence of soldiers abroad meant black labor had to be freed for more than the prison jobs they had been doing. The new liberation lasted for several decades after the war in the years of the “Golden Age” of capitalism. Then, from 1980, the incarceration of black men again went up sharply to new heights, higher than anywhere else. It was slavery again, prison slavery. So, today, slavery continues in the US where black men are disproportionately held in penitentiaries, and locked up for absurdly cruel terms. To take the moral high ground over what it perceives as injustice abroad, so as to justify sending punitive armies to correct it, the US should first correct its own faults.
What too of the 80% of the US population that sees their own government as run by big interests looking after themselves? Do they really think the US should export a system that they themselves find so grossly unpopular? When 85% of the US population think their government should cut medical costs from their exorbitant level, and leading Congressmen and Senators use dirty tricks to try to stop it, what right do they have to tell distant countries they should not be corrupt, but copy the US. The US can hardly teach anyone lessons. It needs to learn lessons of its own.
Americans brag about their model of US democracy and the American way of life, but seem unable to compare the image and the reality they experience directly, as revealed by opinion polls. People think the US can take freedom to others, but they do not live up to it themselves. Time after time the principles of freedom and democracy are violated. The self perception of the US is entirely distorted.
Iraq and 9/11
When the US first wanted to go to war in Iraq, Bush and Blair gave their war aims as to make Saddam give up WMD. The great intellectual, Condoleezza Rice, thought he was capable of nuking New York. Opinion polls showed US citizens went to war because they feared danger. Many people in the world hated Saddam, but America was the only country in the world scared of him. Saddam had no WMD, then, suddenly, the reason was that the love of democracy was so strongly in our hearts, it justified killing tens of thousands of innocent Arabs to rid ourselves of one dictator. As if in a totalitarian state, the media and intelligentsia enthusiastically fell for it.
The 9/11 attacks were an attack on US policy in the Middle East in particular, and an attack on the West in general because mostly it supports US policy. None of the intelligence agencies or senior policy advisers doubted it, but it could not be admitted to the public. As far as Al Qaida was concerned, the US was picking on Islam, and they were going to defend themselves, but the propaganda is that the US is too Christian to pick on people.
Though 9/11 was a horrible atrocity, what if Al Qaida had been more ambitious and had more resources, and had bombed the White House, killed the President, established a military dictatorship, tortured hundreds of thousands of people, set up an international terrorist center to overthrow governments and kill people all over the world, and introduced economic reforms that ruined the economy. It would have been terrible. Well, it actually happened on 9/11! On 9/11, 1973, when a rogue state, the US, organized the overthrow of the legitimate president—Allende—and government of Chile. It is never counted as terrible, especially in the US, because it was US terror, US violence. US terror is never terror.
America is psychopathic. its citizens are incapable of self reflexion, and self criticism. Whatever they do, however disgustingly immoral and murderous, is always right. Chomsky says Americans have to learn to look at themselves before they start moralizing and punishing the rest of the world. They should start fearing God, instead of thinking they are His Great Angel.