The very best social ideas are always a cover for the very worst behaviour. That’s the story of ideologies. The reason is hardly a secret. Almost every known society has, and always has had, a ruling elite whose interests only occasionally and partially overlap with the interests of myriad enlistees who, in one way or another row the boat of state (tribe, clan …) or are rats in the bilge. In other words, there always have to be two stories, one for private profit and one for public virtue. In the last century or so democracy has been one of the handiest public virtue stories. Actual democracy is a very embarrassing beast for elites, but they have become progressively better at managing the appearance without the substance.
Since the United States of America is in everybody’s face 24/7, it makes a fine illustration of the democracy-elite shadow play on the world stage. From the time of its foundation, the United States qua nation has ceaselessly sought international enemies. This proposition will be greeted with incomprehension by most US citizens, who find it hard to accept that they may have been brainwashed. The act of turning aggression outwards has usually paid off handsomely for at least one segment of American elites, those who profit from trade, plunder and government contracts. The American sheeple are sold on this by a shrill and never-ending lie that they are fighting for democracy in foreign lands. It is a ridiculous story, and when signs of democracy actually emerge elsewhere Americans are typically horrified at what barbarians in numbers actually prefer. Nevertheless, ideological smog has deeply penetrated the general American psyche and renders manipulation easy.
Non-American peoples come in all kinds of cultural shapes, and react in a variety of ways to American aggression. The social and political tableaux in many of these places is usually less than ideal (though by no means desiring an American ideal), so reactions often depend upon local desperation, which is a highly volatile vector. There are always opportunists ready to play comprador capitalist with the outside invaders. Then there are those affected by a kind of Stockholm syndrome, and with half of their minds identify with Mickey Mouse. This is also an unstable and deceptive condition, which can flip on a dime to extreme xenophobia.
However, something has changed substantially, beyond the old narratives. That something is the Internet, with uncontrolled actors disseminating information, while elites scramble desperately to recover control of the spin. Such information is often incomplete, biased, or misinterpreted, but it is also not the official story (no matter how many shills governments and companies pay as online agents provocateurs). This new swirling mass of stories has its own dynamic with complex interacting currents beyond anyone’s simple control.
One common emergent theme from the uncontrolled narrative is that China is dedicated to construction while the United States is dedicated to destruction. (Yup, we can hear the howls of American outrage, but get outside the US echo chamber and take a cold shower).
Another emergent theme is that America (i.e. the military-industrial-political complex) is waging a phony war on the world under the cover of a terrorist threat. This is nearly as profitable for the elite as the phony war on drugs. Again, outside of the American echo chamber it is evident to huge numbers of citizens of the world that this war on terrorism is substantially a commercial enterprise.
Finally, the infinitely fuzzy term “security”, which seemed such a gift to propagandists is also turning out to be a gift for exposing fraud. There is a multiplying number of people worldwide who have decided that jet setting elites from wherever have more in common with each other than with any of the national feudal estates they feed off.
It is not that the non-elite “masses” are more virtuous than the lucky ones in five star hotels, simply that they recognize they are being screwed. Of course, the glorious ideological frauds of the 20th Century, like so-called Communism and Capitalism, played on just these “class divisions” (which of course are more like blobs on the social landscape, with many overlapping shades). The difference this time is that the masks are off, and the well-groomed crowd in the control room have over-reached with technology they have been too dumb to understand : spy monstrosities like Prism which reach deep into everyone’s private lives, are completely immoral vehicles for commercial espionage, and from the American angle, demonstrate the utter contempt of American elites for what they call “aliens”. Even with their non-alien peasants in tow, this particular elite have forgotten that America constitutes less than 5% of the world’s population in a mix whose technological acceleration is already leaving America in the dust.
Professional bio: Thor May’s PhD dissertation, Language Tangle, dealt with language teaching productivity. Thor has been teaching English to non-native speakers, training teachers and lecturing linguistics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven countries in Oceania and East Asia, mostly with tertiary students, but with a couple of detours to teach secondary students and young children. He has trained teachers in Australia, Fiji and South Korea. In an earlier life, prior to becoming a teacher, he had a decade of drifting through unskilled jobs in Australia, New Zealand and finally England (after backpacking across Asia in 1972).
“The Freedom Enterprise and Other Yarns” © copyrighted to Thor May; all rights reserved 2013