• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Refusing Capitalism

Capitalism is based on addiction. It encourages people to crave for more and more wealth and more and more products. Ridiculously wealthy people want even more riches, resulting in war, exploitation and the immiseration of working folk. In turn, ordinary people have been encouraged to take out ever greater debts in order to purchase an endless stream of goods of dubious worth. This addictive behaviour is ultimately ruinous for the individual, humankind and the environment, which becomes stripped bare in the process.

Edward Bernays is regarded as the father of advertising, propaganda and public relations. He knew how to manipulate the pleasure and pain centres of the brain and how to get the masses hooked on the products of capitalism. This type of manipulation has been developed and perfected over the past century or so, and we are all subjected to it each and every day. The American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that young people see 3,000 advertisements a day and are exposed to 40,000 different ones per year. It was not without good reason that the late academic Rick Roderick said that modern society would fall apart if it not were based on people’s addictions, whether in the form of pharmaceutical drugs or consumer products.

Capitalism does not want a well-informed, educated populace that is aware of its disfranchisement, exploitation and manipulation. It does not require disenchantment and revolutionary murmurs, but acquiescence and passivity from a population that is distracted by infotainment and the advertising industry and its products and looks to its leaders to save it from their fears and confusions.

Take Guatemala in the 1950s, for instance. The US people were subjected to a successful government-backed media campaign of propaganda to tarnish the regime as ‘communist’ and as part of the ‘red threat’ from Soviet Russia. The fact was that Guatemala was not in any way connected to the USSR and was merely arranging its economy to benefit its own people, rather than elite US interests. From Guatemala to Congo and from Iran to Vietnam, nationalistic movements were branded ‘communist’ as an excuse for the US military or CIA to go in and try to overthrow them.

Instead of using propaganda to allay fears that the US public had about the USSR and its aims, the US government used mass media to fuel fear and paranoia that were then manipulated in order to garner support for militarism and empire building. And this continues today. Replace communism, the USSR and the ‘evil empire’ with al Qaeda, 9/11 and the ‘axis of evil’, and the propagandist fear-mongering narrative about the ongoing ‘war on terror’ reads virtually the same.

A similar propagandist model is also used to justify the prevailing neo-liberal economic agenda. Think of the mantra ‘there is no alternative’, which the media and politicians like to chime when people question the efficacy of capitalism. This mantra has been accepted by all the major political parties in places like the US and UK. Individualism and ‘self-reliancy’ are endlessly promoted. Anyone suggesting collectivism and equality is painted as an unrealistic dreamer or a heretic.

Indeed, it can be easy to look at the situation today and become excessively pessimistic and negative. Cynicism and apathy can take hold: this is the way of the world is and nothing can or should be done about it. And this is the very stance that is encouraged through the media and by the political system as a way of preventing people seeking out emancipatory alternatives.

The state provision of welfare, education, health services and the role of the public sector are undermined by platitudes about ‘individual responsibility’ and the market constituting the best method for supplying human needs. The same attitude prevails when it comes to protecting the environment. Nothing must be allowed to stop the raping of the land because this is positive, this is ‘growth’. The hallowed ‘greed is good’ mantra persists.

Much of this indoctrination all too often it goes unnoticed. The most benign method of propaganda can be the most effective. Take those 40,000 commercials that youngsters see each year. They are all underpinned by free market dogma, which serves to bind the individual to the commodity and portray social relations under capitalism as somehow natural, the outcome of ‘human nature’. And this becomes engrained from an early age as ‘common sense’ among many ordinary folk who sneer at those who challenge capitalism, while embracing a system whose only aim is to stab them in their collective back and bleed them dry for the benefit of the few. The system promotes a mass mindset that is immune to the lies.

Traditional media such as TV has much to answer for in conveying this dogma. And, increasingly, so does digital technology. From Google to Facebook, and from the surveillance obsessed UK to the unfolding surveillance biometric-database-supporting Indian regime, we find ourselves spied on and our everyday actions monitored and evaluated so that we can be targeted more precisely for ever more PR, advertising and, if we step out of line, police action.

Too many people now see through the lies of economic neo-liberal hegemony and capitalism, however, and realise that the encouragement of cynicism and apathy and of trivializing or ridiculing dissent and dissenters is part and parcel of the propaganda..

Herbert Marcuse once wrote about the ‘great refusal’ as a strategy for not participating in the rituals and beliefs of advanced capitalism. Challenging the notion that freedom is to be found in craving for and celebrating the products and icons that chain people to an enslaving system in the belief that this constitutes freedom and happiness is also part of that refusal.

“The moment the slave resoles that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall. He frees himself and shows the way to others. Freedom and slavery are mental states.” — Mahatma Gandhi

More people must come to understand that modern ‘liberal democracy’ has nothing to do with empowering people and everything to do with enslaving them and making them blind to the chains that bind them. It is the powerful think tanks headed or funded by private corporations along with government bodies populated with individuals from these companies that drive policies (see Tony Catalucci’s article ‘Tipping the Balance of Power’ [23 Sept] on his Land Destroyer website to see who runs the US and determines policy there).

Who but a misinformed and brainwashed public would think for one minute that such people would let ordinary folk have any say in policies that would adversely affect their power or enormous wealth? That is exactly what they depend on – an ignorant and misinformed public.

The challenge lies in developing communities that engender a sense of camaraderie stemming from collective self-help and face-to-face interaction. We must move away from the headlong drive towards urbanization in places like India and falsely equating well-being or ‘happiness’ with addiction to consumer goods. This shift involves rejecting the goods and services being forced upon us by large, powerful corporate interests, while placing more emphasis on self-sustaining local communities in which bio-diverse, organic agriculture and local food sovereignty is central and where there is sustainable use of the environment. And this is as true for the rich countries as it is for the poorer ones.

We must do this because if we don’t, we are in line for more of the same: an ever spiral of misery, war, subterfuge and deceit.

More articles by:

Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 22, 2019
Gary Leupp
The Kurds as U.S. Sacrificial Lambs
Robert Fisk
Trump and the Retreat of the American Empire
John Feffer
Trump’s Endless Wars
Marshall Auerback
Will the GOP Become the Party of Blue-Collar Conservatism?
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Fake Withdrawal From Endless War
Dean Baker
Trump Declares Victory in China Trade War
Patrick Bond
Bretton Woods Institutions’ Neoliberal Over-Reach Leaves Global Governance in the Gutter
Robert Hunziker
XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency
John W. Whitehead
Terrorized, Traumatized and Killed: The Police State’s Deadly Toll on America’s Children
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A World Partnership for Ecopolitical Health and Security
Binoy Kampmark
The Decent Protester: a Down Under Creation
Frances Madeson
Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Police Violence
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Challenges Logging and Burning Project in Methow Valley
Chelli Stanley
Change the Nation You Live In
Elliot Sperber
Humane War 
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail