We take for granted that, by now, enough people should have experienced the double standards and felt firsthand the growing inequities of the government by oligarchy-plutocracy. We assume the public should have realized how governments emerging from the neoliberal 20th-century to exploit the most profit for the few, with little or no care about making life better for the many. But the people aren’t seeing; at least not to the point of believing. Public memory is too haphazard. There’s too much chaff.
Complex layers of institutional authority, propaganda, media, orthodoxies imposed by law, natural expediencies of consumer capitalism and the atomizing inertia of endemic class conventions maintain – and often exacerbate – an iniquitous social order, safeguarding instead the all-important continuity of inherited land, wealth, and influence.
“The public is guided to conspire against their own best interests.”
PIECES OF THE PIE
Every piece of the pie picked up by the 0.1 percent, in relative terms, had to come from the people below. But not everyone in the 99.9 percent gave up a slice. Only those in the bottom 90 percent did. At their peak, in the mid-1980s, people in this group held 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. Three decades later that had fallen 12 points—exactly as much as the wealth of the 0.1 percent rose.
There are too many snake-oil salesmen whose profession is persuasion, working to legitimize the status quo by pushing at pressure points of fear, vanity, greed, self-esteem, perceived community, established faith, to make conforming to the paradigm as it is presented an almost foregone conclusion. Compounding the problem, too many counter-culture contrarians compete for airtime, building satellite business models by proposing – and perpetuating – high-minded but unworkable, idealistic solutions that’d need a magic wand to bridge the gap between theory and practice; or else read the next article, watch the next episode, subscribe to the inner circle.
Here’s one of the more subtle examples of the snake-oil. In this case, an ego-massaging evolution on “I’m Alright, Jack” self-interest (to the exclusion of the Untermensch ‘other’): “In between the top 0.1 percent and the bottom 90 percent is a group that has been doing just fine. It has held on to its share of a growing pie decade after decade. And as a group, it owns substantially more wealth than do the other two combined. In the tale of three classes, it is represented by the gold line floating high and steady while the other two duke it out. You’ll find the new aristocracy there. We are the 9.9 percent.” – Matthew Stewart, The Atlantic
If you are starting at the median for people of color, you’ll want to practice your financial pole-vaulting [if you want to get into the top 10%. The Institute for Policy Studies calculated that, setting aside money invested in “durable goods” such as furniture and a family car, the median black family had net wealth of $1,700 in 2013, and the median Latino family had $2,000, compared with $116,800 for the median white family. A 2015 study in Boston found that the wealth of the median white family there was $247,500, while the wealth of the median African American family was $8. That is not a typo. That’s two grande cappuccinos.
BUT WHERE TO GO?
There are few reliable places for an individual to go, to learn what needs to be learned about today’s real world, in plain language with no prior knowledge necessary. Most ideological resources serve the status quo or else seek to indoctrinate a particular political agenda e.g. one-sided information:
- to establish the Untermensch (and by association Ubermensch)
- to frame a subject in team-game context
- to engender a reliance on a small coterie of trusted sources
- to create fear of foreign evil
- to justify capitalist excess
- to inculcate principles of socialism
- to fan the flames of nationalism
- to pander conspiracy-libertarianism
- to misdirect from the crimes of the corporate oligarchy
- to sacrifice or eulogize individual front-facing actors
There are so many stakeholders in our entrenched power dynamics, it’s almost impossible for the average citizen to sort the wheat from the chaff, particularly as the lower down the social and educational scale, the narrower the horizons of experience, the more proximate the pressure of toil and necessity, the more intense the bias-conditioning and the more constant ever-adapting misdirection.
“Control of thought is more important for governments that are free and popular than for despotic and military states. The logic is straightforward: a despotic state can control its domestic enemies by force, but as the state loses this weapon, other devices are required to prevent the ignorant masses from interfering with public affairs, which are none of their business…the public are to be observers, not participants, consumers of ideology as well as products.”