Written By : Senex
Photo credit – Alain Kugel
Each one of us is born at a particular pointon the timeline of human history, and in a particular place with its unique culture both human and ecological. These factors,which are in constant flux,define us to a large extent. Not only how we live, but also how we think. Our very mindset and our world view is primarily a product of these two elements. They create the filter through which we view the world.
A decade ago I had read a short piece written by Ian McEwan, one of England’s best known novelists, describing how he had very recently found out that he had an older brother who had been given away in 1942 by his unwed mother for adoption. The brother, David Sharp,had been born an “illegitimate child” and would have been a great source of shame for their mother had he not been given away. How the times have changed. Today, more than 50% of all children born in Northern and Western Europe since 2010, are out of wedlock. It has been a growing trend that promises to become the norm in the coming days. In less than half a century the way society thinks about one of its most important institutions, (marriage, and off-springs born of that marriage) has dramatically changed.In another generation even the term “wedlock” will have become an archaic word whose existence will have been relegated to the dictionary. Nothing is forever. Nothing is sacrosanct. Only when we truly understand that, are we able to step out of the prison of our individual timelines and our specific cultures.
Today, we are going to look at a very important institution that dominates the political spectrum across the world and everyone in it. It embodies every political value that humanity has desired and held dear for most of its recorded history. Freedom(s), equality, liberty, justice, rights, law, due process of law and more, are all to be found in this catch-all word democracy. For a better part of the 20th century, the Western nations (North America and Western Europe and its allies) have considered themselves to be democratic and the Communist countries and the rest of the under-developed world as undemocratic. Yet, we find staunchly communist countries like East Germany called itself “The German Democratic Republic”, North Vietnam called itself “Democratic Republic of Vietnam”, and North Korea calls itself “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” even today;while others like the Cuba and USSR called itself “Republic(s)”, which means government by the people (public), a synonym for democracy. This is obviously very confusing for anyone seeking to understand what the truth is.
Yet, according to what we have established earlier, for most of humanity born in the “Free World” (another contentious term, but well established for us to mean the non-communist world or the Western world and its allies and protégés), this question might never arise or the thought ever occur. Why? Because it has been appropriated by the West for a long, long time. That is what been a prisoner of one’s time and culture means. If you were around in the 1960’s or earlier, the word “gay” would have meant happy, joyous, fun-loving, but today, its usage denotes homosexual, and only that. The culture has established that. It has similarly established the association of the word “democracy” and “democratic” with Western countries; and its opposite non-democratic, for the communist and now, Muslim countries.
Few people in Europe or North America think of Iran as a democratic country, even if it is. If you ask any “Free World” citizen today whether they would consider a country that doesn’t allow women to vote, democratic, what do you think they would reply? Well, Iranian women have been voting since 1964,but the first Swiss woman only in 1971, while those in the Appenzell Innerrhoden Canton became the last women in Switzerland to gain equal status in voting with men as recently as 1991. Yet, I doubt if anyone in Europe or North America would think of Iran as a democracy ahead of Switzerland. This is how cultural mindset is formed.
Hence, whoever owns the narrative becomes increasingly important in today’s world. The modern day creation of mass communication and the American term “bully pulpit” came around the same time almost a century ago. The world of communication has seen enormous and unimaginable progress in terms of technology and literacy. There has been tremendous competition to control the world of ideas once people realized that whoever holds the microphone, has the lectern, owns the media has access to our ears and our minds.
In principle it has always been the same.Even in times past we find Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, pleading with a hostile crowd of citizens, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…” and once he had their ear he skillfully turned them around and made them dance to his tune. In fact, if we are to believe Shakespeare, all of Caesar’s murderers were on the run for their lives within hours of that speech. Men who desire power have learnt that it is a fickle mistress and can be kept in leash by those that control the narrative.Its importance has increased manifold in modern times when direct war between Great Powers had become improbable. At whatever point of time man realized this he coined the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword”, and found greater economy in addressing the minds of his fellow men rather than physically bending them to his will. Not that he has given up the former for the latter. At some level he has always retained brute force as theweapon of last resort. But as the destructive capability of his weapons became ever more powerful, he was forced to resort to diplomacy and “winning the hearts and minds” of people rather than apply brute force.Historically, we find at one end of the human spectrum,men (the vast majority) unwilling to let go of their primal animal instincts that depend on brute force, while on the other end, we have the more evolvedminority, the thinkers and philosophers, idealists and spiritual leaders for whom the reason transcend brute force.
The shift from battle of brute forces to battle of ideas has been evident for a long time and seems to have been completed by the beginning of the Cold War. One can say that the Cold War was a direct result of this shift. The reason was quite simple. The two opposing sides: The American led, capitalist West and the Soviet led, communist East, were at loggerheads and yet direct war between them would result in (what had been named) MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction
Like most systems in the Universe, human society too has binary roots pulling it opposite directions. We have ambitious individuals seeking personal power, stepping on the shoulders of others to climb to the higher echelons of the social power hierarchy, which is itself a result of the power struggle within any community.
Its binary twin, the broad base of the people at the bottom of the totem pole, seeks to resist the oppression of the tyrannical forces at the top. Equilibrium of the system comes from the balance of the two.
Riaz QuadirFake news is the tactics of the day… get your version out there and make you impression on ignorant minds. Getting to revoke them is not only a time consuming process, it has marginal returns… So fake news make big gains in the short run.
Sadly, we live in times when there is time only for short runs… before the next item grabs our attention.
Democracy is “Might is Right” in disguise. It is the might of numbers and not the Right of reason that rules Western democracies
Exactly my point! That is the paradox of this structure of faux democracy, where the tiny minority that somehow escaped the soft power of psychological brainwashing and retained sufficient amount of critical thinking to have their own ideas and look at other news sources, pose absolutely no threat to the powers that be. Simply because here democracy is a number game, and the numbers of the aforesaid minority will always be that, a small minority. In fact it boosts the false notion of freedom of speech and ideas, because they will NEVER be mainstream. That is already taken care of. Like the animals in the “open” Zoos, we begin to believe that we roam free, simply because we cannot see the electrified fence at a distance. If you get close to the fence, i.e. really threaten to expose them to a audience large enough, then like Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Phillip Marshall, Bradley E. Manning… you would be in grave danger.
It is this paradox of the modern West that really foxes most people who cannot connect the two apparently conflicting visions and go for the more obvious “freedoms” of Western democracies, relegating the rest to conspiracy theories even when they stare us in the face. It also subjectively fits into the primal confirmation bias, that of our personal survival.
Giving credence to this is in short accepting that the “democratic process” is in place and is working, whereas imho, they are merely using it to make a mockery of it. One cannot in theory (as you did) fault them for making honest mistakes if it is followed by a “genuine” attempt at correction. This has become a ploy.
I think this morning proves the point. The Ango-American-French attack this morning is on the basis of what? They were itching to corner Russia and Iran and found themselves cornered. They turned the table by throwing the ball in the Russian court.
If there was enough public opinion in the West against their own government (based on all the cumulative lies) perhaps they would have thought twice before taking such crazy action. But sadly, because of the false credibility of their leadership, such actions are taken with impunity…
Totally fits into the bigger and broader picture of what has been going on for such a longer time post WWII. Your friend has hit the nail on the head as the saying goes.
Another aspect that could have been considered is how it fits into the breaking up of the BRICS coalition which could have been a major threat to the American power structure should it have ever blossomed. The USA will brook no rivals, communist or capitalist, or of any other hue…
Andrew Wickham Spot on – it’s a power game : keep the Brics divided and under control, in order to maintain control of the world’s fin ancial flows. Not likely to succeed though, unless the West can stop Russia and China joining forces, which might well soon be on the cards.
This process started long ago, big corps like Frito lay, P&G etc. started contract farming in India, destroyed local traditional agriculture (tomato in Punjab, cotton in Maharashtra is the biggest example)… Then their eyes was struck to Indian market, a huge green retail market with a monstrous buying capacity… Traditional and small local economic zone was controlling the whole scenario… Then Walmart and others started coming in the picture with the help of local players like Reliance Future Group (Big Baazar), Birla group etc… shopping mall culture started… But traditional Indian population was not a easy catch to convince. Even in the time of so called global recession our country was not much affected. So they needed someone like Modi (with less intellect and huge greed) and we got “less cash (or cashless) economy” controlled by Giant corporations… RaGa is their next face I believe
The interests of those who acquire power, seek power, and remain in power are often broadly aligned. Different sections of society control different levers of power. (The business elites control wealth, politicians control political power and the media controls intellectual power. Ideally these different sections should work as a check on each other, in the interest of broad and long term peace and prosperity. But were they to lose sight of this, they would soon realize that they benefit in working with each other rather than against. So it is in the best interests of the media to help those in power and run themselves as a for profit business. For businesses, it is profitable to keep media houses under their control, whether through direct buyout or through generous advertising contracts. While at the same time contributing generously to the funds of various parties. Similar calculations are evident on the side of the political class too.
In short there does not need to be a conspiracy. All that is needed is a broad dedication to self interest and an absence of a desire to put their interests on the line for the greater good of the society. Today in India, both conditions exist. It has existed for a long time. It similarly exists and had existed in other countries as well. Whereas in many European nations there is a residual dedication to the public good. In large part acquired through a legacy of public institutions and a body of law that is dedicated to the public good.
When we look at the actions of the players under these conditions it may appear as if they are working in coordination, as if there is a large conspiracy. Otherwise how could their actions so perfectly complement each other in subverting public good?
But this is a red herring. In truth there is no large conspiracy. There was no meeting where an over arching plan to take over the world was hatched. Where media was paid off or where academia was marked as the last remaining bastion of opposition. There was simply a recognition of where their self interest lay and the pursuit of that interest. Thus it is that we end up sounding silly when we talk of a ‘conspiracy’. Because really, there is none. It is just the system perpetuating itself.
I see the anti-Modi, anti-BJP trend as genuine. People are rejecting him and holding him to account. It points to the strength of India’s democracy even though our democratic systems are flawed and weak in multiple ways. I do agree and kept pointing it out in 2014 that never before has a PM been brought to power with such blatant support from capitalists in the country. In the past, support by industry was covert and evenhanded. This time it was blatant and unapologetic. But it is heartening that ordinary people are using their votes to preserve democracy and hold Modi and the BJP to account. And they are doing this despite the hold big capital has on the system. So there is something to cheer about and mots to feel sorry about.
February 4 •
I have been talking to a friend, an astute observer of Indian politics, and I thought I would share his analysis of the anti-Modi wave we are suddenly seeing right now. I think there is a good deal of truth to it, though whether his predictions will work out remains, of course, to be seen. So here goes:
Modi was brought in by global capital (supported of course by India’s own billionaires) to accomplish a certain set of things that could not be done by democratic means. These included destroying farmers (to put in contract farming, so that India’s agricultural land would come to be controlled by global corporations), destroying small and medium-scale businesses by measures such as GST (so that the retail and other markets could be captured by global companies), rendering corporate funding of political parties completely opaque (to institutionalize political corruption), completely privatize healthcare (insurance companies) and banking (global banks), and, last but not least, institute a massive surveillance system (Aadhaar) to keep the citizens in check.
Now Modi’s task is finished, and he is no longer needed. Plus, the communalism that he needs to stay in power is bad for business. The media tide is, accordingly, turning against him. A more acceptable, fresh, face is waiting in the wings. It is going to be Rahul’s turn. But none of the policies that Modi put in place are going to be reversed.The recolonization of India by global capital is complete, so the façade of democracy can be restored.
Whenever public opinion is strongly against any policy that is taken by the current government it an extent that it becomes visible (despite media control) then the powers that be propose candidates who are seemingly opposed to the current government or political party (i.e. Modi’s BJP in India, or even Sanders in the USA). That is eyewash, because the laws passed and the changes made, are usually sustained past the changing governments.
Of course Western governments have been doing this for decades, though the job was not farmed out to private contractors, which is crazy, but to certain “political” police departments (in France les RG, in Britain the Met, in the US the FBI). But what they didn’t have in the past was also the job of following influencers on social media. This is not due to Trump – the intrusive surveillance into people’s lives was given a huge boost by Obama, who then handed over the keys of the system to Trump. Thanks again Obama!
In Britain, the same : the army has been hiring hundreds of cybersoldiers to monitor and “influence” public opinion on social media. The French are making a big push in this direction too.
The really big question now – and the glaring danger to democracy – is that the big data firms are becoming experts at manipulating people, using subliminal triggers, playing with people’s minds. The potential for abuse, with governments and meta-national firms working hand in hand, considering the massive concentration of power and wealth, is simply staggering. When you know everything about someone, you can control them completely – and that, in the end, is what all this is leading to.
I have a pretty good theory about that, Eric.
The West has developed a faux democracy, where only numbers matter. As long as they can get and keep a simple majority (and that is extremely simple, because they own both side of the divide (parties). So, as long as that works, the tiny minorities who make noise, that are actually welcome, to give an impression of Freedom of Speech and a functioning democracy. There lies the rub! Our voices are sterile and ineffectual because we can never raise the numbers, and “democracy” is a numbers game. And should you ever pose a real danger of influencing numbers with a smoking gun, then you will surely end up like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden or even dead like Chris Marshall.
John Perkins was once asked, how was it that after he wrote “The Confessions of An Economic Hit Man” he was still able to walk free without the CIA taking pot shots at him. He replied that his book had sold 3 million copies, but if they killed him it would sell another 10 million. So according to the formula of modern day democracy, the cost-benefit analysis by the powers that be kept him safe. Yes, this is Alice’s world, topsy-turvy!
College education (a certified piece of paper like George W, Bush had from Harvard) sets one of the most important dividing lines in American society, between what in Britain would have been called “middle and working class”. It is of course “entrepreneurship” that sets you apart from both of these and puts you in the stratosphere, if you are successful…
In a faux democracy the semblance of equal opportunity has to be visible, but this is the price it comes with.
“Let me add something else, Brother Mark: “the Western media,” as they call themselves, had a monopoly over how we were to read the world. They were the culprit of abusing facts to twist the truth – BBC and New York Times are the masters of this gimmickry.
New York Times helped George W Bush fool a whole nation to approve the invasion of Iraq. The shenanigans of the BBC, on the other hand, continue supporting the settler colonial project in Palestine. And they have the audacity to talk of “fake news” and “alternative facts”.
“Without your Facebook, we would have had no chance to strike back at them. Thank you, sir, for that!
I developed ulcer and shingles from the New York Times coverage of the Iranian revolution back in the 1970s when there was no Facebook. Now I wake up from a nightmare of Niki Haley at the UN, and write a post on my Facebook, friends and total strangers see it and discuss it, and I go about my business like a civilised human being without fuming with anger. I owe you lots of money for therapy sessions that I would have needed had I not had a space like Facebook where I can blow off some steam.
“As you surely know, I am a big-time Facebook user. I have almost 70,000 people on my page, for which I have not had to pay a penny.
They tell me you collect my data and you sell it to companies so they can sell their products to me more effectively – go right ahead! My data is all yours to use. Those advertisers have nothing to sell me.
And in case you are selling my data to the CIA, Shin Bet, or the Iranian or Syrian mokhabarat – go for it, I hope they put a task force together, read what I write and come to their senses.”
On watching a video of a black woman being hurled to the ground by two policemen.
Well, the truth is, we are heading to a point in time which will actually be far worse than the plantation days… This is a deliberate and intentional deadening of our reactive abilities. The are, bit by bit, pushing us to a point where will have lost all our ability to come to anyone’s aid. The police (like the massa) represents authority; an authority that has been established by fear, intimidation and pain. When we watch movies of cruelty against the slaves (i.e. Roots, or 12 years as a Slave) we bristle with anger and wonder how they could have borne all that cruelty without reacting; specially when they were greater in numbers and could, if they united, turn the table. Instead they were like sheep being led to the slaughterhouse.
Ironically, we are heading inexactly the same direction, that is, if we are not already there. We have become those slaves. Only, we cannot see ourselves. But that is exactly how future generations will see us.
What is being done is a very well thought out scheme. They know exactly what they are doing.
May 2 at 7:16pm •
Maybe this is the funniest (but also most effective) argument against capitalism: The arguments that the apologists give for capitalism are based on a value system that is entirely opposite to capitalism.
If their value system really reflected the economic system, then they’d be defending capitalism by saying things like
“might makes right,” or
“the rich are a superior race and they should exploit the weak,” or
“we’re all in a war against each other and that’s the way it should be,” or
“it’s mine because my great-grandfather took it by conquest in an imperialist war,” or
“Jesus told us all that we should be selfish.”
Maybe that’s what some of the rich people BELIEVE, but none of them have SAID anything like that in over a century, because they know that they’d be hanged for saying something like that. Those views may have been acceptable a century or two ago, but they’re not acceptable in our present culture.
Instead they make doubtful claims like
“capitalism has raised millions of people out of poverty,” or
“capitalism is efficient and it motivates people.”
I don’t think those claims are TRUE, but that’s not the point I want to make right now. I want to point out what values underlie those claims. Those claims are an appeal to UTILITARIANISM, or something a lot like it. So they’re saying that “the greatest good for the greatest number” is actually the moral value that we all should live by.
In other words, they’re saying
[the official mythology]
“What we really want is for everyone to be well off; we care about everyone. The way to accomplish that is by an indirect Rube Goldberg mechanism, with complicated Ptolemaic geocentric epicycles, in which we behave as though we care about only ourselves, and somehow that will produce a better world for everyone.”
Does anyone ever think about that reasoning? Does anyone actually BELIEVE that reasoning?
Look, if we all care about others, then we ought to base our economic system DIRECTLY on that principle. And then, if it doesn’t work, we’ll be able to see where the flaws are. You know, like heliocentric instead of geocentric. It’s not that complicated. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to believe night is day in order to understand economics. Actually, night is night, and the people who said otherwise were lying to you.
Of course, the truth is that the rich don’t believe in the “official mythology,” They want THE REST OF US to believe in it, so that we’ll be distracted from the fact that they are robbing us blind.
Big Pharma’s Tax Cut Scam – Robert Reich
Pharmaceutical companies are using their savings from Trump's corporate tax cut to buy back shares of their own stock — enriching executives and wealthy investors, even as prescription drug prices continue to skyrocket. It's an example of trickle-down economics at its worst.
Posted by Robert Reich on Tuesday, April 10, 2018