4 days ago
The Fish Stinks from the Head Uncategorized
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the organ God forgot to create that metabolizes carcinogenic chemicals.
I’ve been thinking. Not often, and not especially well, but I have been thinking. For the past couple days I’ve been thinking about how corrupt and rotten our society is at the top. We have people at the top of our economy, scum feeders, who siphon immense wealth from the work done by the rest of us, and the fines, taxes, fees, gouge-price payments and interest the rest of us pay. They manage this any number of ways, and since they exist at the top, most of what they do, however immoral and unfair, is framed as legal. And even when somehow they go beyond the bounds of the legal matrix they themselves have connived to create, they rarely pay any but the most trivial penalty, if they suffer any at all.
And just below the top is a scaffold on which it rests, a scaffold of more hectic corruption, bent rules, sweetheart deals, kickbacks, no-bid contracts and revolving-door public/private sector machinations siphoning additional wealth from the work and fines, taxes, fees, gouge-price payments and interest of the rest of us. They get away with their questionable behavior by simply ignoring the people who question it.
When I think of the immensely top-heavy burden of institutionalized theft and extortion most of us are working to support, I can only be amazed at our continued psychic survival as a nation. The fact is, most of us, though struggling, are nevertheless getting by without starving or resorting to killing each other.
Not all of us. Some of us are malnourished, some are killing each other, some are institutionally enslaved in prisons, some are pledged to expose ourselves to possible mutilation and death to protect the wealth and privileges of others. But even so, we as a nation trudge on in a civilized manner. And since those at the top don’t seem too concerned with our being adequately supplied with the needs of civilization, we are, for all practical purposes, shouldering the burden of keeping both them and ourselves in a civilized condition.
Just imagine how truly rich our nation must be in money, resources and talent, that so much of it can be squandered while yet we carry on. With such a vastness of blood and treasure being sucked into the top tiny percent, normal life as most of us in the USA live it is really the tip of the iceberg. Our country’s riches are distributed like an upside down iceberg.
I can only imagine that if that iceberg were less iceberg-shaped and instead more stable in structure, we would be living in a capitalist’s nightmare in which everyone could make a living wage working 18-20 hours a week at most, but working more if we wished, or some other such proletarian utopia. Or maybe we’d have money for a public school system that was the envy of the world instead of its sick joke.
But I’m not here today to fantasize about fair or right distribution of wealth and responsibility. I’m not here today at all. I’m magically being piped in over the phone thanks to some brilliant people who worked for a few lucky capitalist gods. Some of those capitalists may have been brilliant themselves. Not all of them, most were just lucky and possessed of the ambition to be rich. And yet we owe it all to brilliant capitalists, because without them there’d have to be something else. And we don’t have something else, we have this, so it must be the best of all possible somethings.
What I’m here to wonder about is, what besides the drippings of the great fatty feast our felonious overlords are gorging on is keeping us civilized? I ask this because I heard someone say, “Empires desire internal stability.” And I think that’s true. An Empire whose people aren’t in a state of rebellion is more likely to live on to see another day. This has been true since empires first existed.
Pre-literate empires, and later empires with illiterate subjects, relied on a mythic structure of divine idealism to keep their people in line. Emperors ruled by the will of Heaven, so to oppose the social order was to oppose nature and God.
When the people cannot read, they rely on hearsay in the form of songs and sagas to fill in the parts of the universe outside their direct experience. When people can read they are more apt question their local myths because they can compare them to other local myths and understand local myth as the policing mechanism it is.
Appeasing and cajoling and placating and seducing the public is what ruling is all about. Rulers who seek to rule by coercion are destined for failure, even if that failure takes a hundred or more years to manifest. Democracy is a great form of taming the public. It probably works best when it’s practical as well as theoretical. When democracy is democratic in name only, it becomes a divine myth. And people who can read will only submit to divine myth for so long before they get restless.
As for people who can watch goings-on all over the world via the internet, we have yet to see how they respond to fake democracy in the long run. How long will they tolerate it? How long will they be kept in check by whatever means the market-state brings to bear?
But we don’t have fake democracy. We have a lot of fraud in our democracy and a lot of undemocratic forces influencing it, but in cities and counties and states all over the nation we carry on actual elections in which people really do vote for leaders who are answerable to those voters, or are as answerable as can be expected in a society in which wealth disparity is at constant war with equality before the law.
The fact that we have as much actual democracy as we do, given how much is being stolen by a few oligarchs, is a testament to the persuasiveness of our national mythology, and not just to our great wealth. It is not just the crumbs from the rich man’s table keeping us comfortable enough to remain civilized. We really believe in civilization. We are committed as a people to fighting illegitimate power, and we do experience victories, usually at the local level, and that helps us maintain the attitude that we are in some significant way free, and that our freedom makes our desires matter even in a media culture which berates us as selfish for wanting equality and mocks us for even discussing it.
I’m not exactly sure what this all adds up to. As I said, I don’t think very often and when I do I find I’m not particularly good at it. I am, after all, a product of the public school system, which is by definition not the best education money can buy.
It seems to me, though, that the idea of a republic evolved as a way of maintaining the cooperation of the large number of people required to keep a few top competitors in grotesque wealth. Grotesque wealth is only possible at the top of a civilized society. A civilized society allows its members great comfort and convenience and the possibility to fulfill their individual potential. People will only live in a civilized manner if there’s something in it for them. Democracy offers them a feeling of control over their destinies. A democratized people grows to expect a certain amount of real control, and an elite group of wealth-siphoners can only weasel so much control away from them before they start to rebel and the empire becomes unstable.
We are not in a state of rebellion, therefore we must still have some real control over our destinies. I am not starving, therefore the grotesquely über-wealthy are not yet stealing too much from me. I am not constantly outraged by the poverty and exploitation around me, so inequality must not yet be outrageous.
This is called “civilization.”
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!