“…(A)s university students, you are among the 20% or so of Americans indoctrinated and conditioned to be the administrating and operating class of the American Empire in some form or another. In the business of managing the other 75% in innumerable ways. Psychologists, teachers, lawyers, social workers, doctors, accountants, sociologists, mental health workers, clergy — all are in the business of coordinating and managing the greater mass of working class citizenry by the Empire’s approved methods, and toward the same end: Maximum profitability for a corporate based state.”
–Joe Bageant, Escape from the Zombie Food Court, 4/3/09
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from a current senior at my old college. (It wasn’t really mine, but they let me hang around, take classes, and after four years awarded me a diploma.)
“Jen” began by saying that their records didn’t show who my employer was. I disclosed that I had proven largely unemployable and, since graduation, had been reduced to farming and other desperate ad hoc pursuits. Despite it all, she seemed pleased that I would talk to her, saying that in over two hours of dialing for alumni dollars, I was the first who hadn’t screened her out or abruptly hung up after discovering her purpose.
Since graduating from this small college in 1968, I’d never been back. We compared notes on the weather in what was semi-affectionately known as “the armpit of (central) Michigan.” Due to “lake-effect,” winters there were unfailingly cloudy but featured little snow: Cold, brown, gray, and not a little depressing. Apparently some things haven’t changed.
In those times however, Michigan was a part of America’s industrial heartland. In addition to the college, the town featured an iron foundry (recently closed), electronics plants and other fixtures of a doomed production-based economy that is gone. The school was known for its pre-med program. It was well-endowed. Many of my classmates hailed from upscale suburbs of Detroit like Bloomfield Hills where dwelled The Motor City’s managerial class; or Arlington Heights, Illinois, or Shaker Heights, Ohio.
The student population was regularly compelled to gather at “convocations” where nationally prominent speakers or panels would discuss topics of the day or the human condition as we struggled to understand it. (It was a simpler time after all.) I asked Jen if such people still came to campus.
She said that yes, there would be two such notables coming for Commencement.
“So who will be speaking?” I asked.
“The Domino’s Pizza guy,” she said, “and a concentration camp survivor.”
“Guantanamo? Bagram?” I asked hopefully.
“No, World War Two — the Nazis,” she gently corrected with a laugh, perhaps sensing irony.
A little underwhelmed, I confided that the commencement speaker in 1968 had been John Kenneth Galbraith. “Who’s that?” she asked.
“Well, he helped administer the New Deal and was a pretty important Keynesian economist,” I said.
So it went.
Intrigued and following up on our conversation I contacted the college administration directly for details. As it happens, the scheduled “Pizza guy” was not that infamous funder of right-wing causes and former Detroit Tigers-owner Tom Monaghan, who founded the Michigan-based Domino’s franchise in 1960. Rather, graduating seniors will be inspired by David Brandon, Domino’s current Chairman and CEO. In 2007 Brandon was selected unanimously by the American Football Coaches Foundation as that year’s “CEO Coach of the Year.” The AFCF lauded Brandon for representing “the style and substance of leadership that our profession strives to demonstrate to those we teach and lead.”
In addition to his Domino’s duties, Brandon “serves on the Boards of Directors of the TJX Companies, Inc., Burger King Corporation, Kaydon Corporation, and Northwest Airlines.” (AFCA website)
My alma mater’s communications staffer extolled Brandon’s “leadership” abilities, saying that he had “created a team environment” at the pizza-corp while playing a “very energetic and engaging role.”
The “concentration camp survivor” turned out to be a “hidden child” born in Poland and spared the camp experience by living with a goy family. Her talk would precede an Alumni-sponsored “Holocaust Studies” trip to Poland. There the group will “clear the underbrush” from selected Jewish cemeteries. Any structural sympathy thus encouraged for ongoing Zionist atrocities in occupied Palestine is purely coincidental of course.
As the prosperous America of 1945 to 1973 has been unwound and its institutions cannibalized, colleges/ universities have more nakedly turned to pimping for the business class and the imperial state. Our (corporate) way of life is unquestioned now even in those places where token second-guessing was once grudgingly tolerated. This, while ever greater numbers of citizens get herded onto the down escalator.
In provocative speeches to university psychology students, author Joe Bageant recently challenged his several audiences to confront the economic and environmental collapse set to engulf them. Yet, he warned, the looming cataclysm is masked by a massive and distractive “hologram.”
“As psych students,” he said,” most of you understand that there is no way you can escape being conditioned by your society, one way or another. You are as conditioned as any trained chicken in a carnival. So am I. When we go to the ATM machine and punch the buttons to make cash fall out, we are doing the same thing as the chickens that peck the colored buttons make corn drop from the feeder. You will not do a single thing today, tomorrow or the next day that you have not been generally indoctrinated and deeply conditioned to do — mostly along class lines.”
Inside the systemic hologram “it all seems so normal.” “Democracy is dead and a corporate financial state” has wormed its way into the heads of a society where roughly 20 percent of fourth graders are zonked on Ritalin and, as a professor recently confided to me, over 40 percent of his school’s students are taking prescribed psychoactive medications.
Now — would you like a McDiploma with that?
RICHARD RHAMES is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org