Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Guise of American Democracy

The world is a perpetual caricature of itself; at every moment it is the mockery and the contradiction of what it is pretending to be.

— George Santayana

The US is/was not a revolutionary country, but an aggressively competitive commercial colony that wrested itself free from the motherland. Keeping the language, it became its largest competitor for world trade and economic dominance. It has/had huge resources enlarged by the imports of large amounts of foreign workers and it has not changed much except in the full scope of its ambitions. Those are now severely being whittled away by emerging world economies, while the skirmishes at the edges of its commercial empire are absorbed as if the considerable losses of foreign human lives do not matter much in the larger scheme of things. These will form the ideological nucleus of extraneous and domestic violence from which the empire will start to crumble. And it is recognized by the rather clever US elites who are trying to prevent this by having instituted a network of intelligence control and physical containment.

As for the dematerialization of the Western world, the US has had its real chance with a rudimentary revolution in the 1960’s. The Flower children were then a force that is/was underestimated except by an establishment which started a strict ‘rappel-a l’ordre’ in the mid to late 1970’s, because the refusal by the kids to insert themselves in the ‘productive’ part of society was a threat to and a sabotage of the status-quo. These young people who were mostly students of upper middle-class origin and who ‘normally’ would form gate keepers for the future as magistrates, management, jurists, medical doctors, teachers etc. ‘dropped out’ at for the establishment really disturbing rates. That trend became quickly squelched by allowing more young people to enter ‘higher’ institutes of learning and with student loans, which would cripple the new graduates for years of their lives. Inducted into an army of debtors, these future intellectuals entered a restricted job market and in the struggle for survival remain less inclined to criticize and attack the system that feeds and exploits them.

To further anchor the control over a centrifugal society, the police have been at the center of the cult of nationalism from the paintings by Rockwell with the benevolent image of a local policeman to television dramas which celebrate the victories over malfeasants like a trumped-up (good word for the contemporary circumstances) threat from such as fictional Italian Mafias. Under the guise of good civil guidance the single perpetrators of violence against minorities are condemned and legally punished as if that would diminish a culture of violent domination by the police, who believe that a well-ordered society along their guide-lines is possible. Like the office of the US president and representatives, the police attracts those who fit in with the general character of the institution, i.e. it will not attract many sensitive and thoughtful people. That such people do exist in those institutions is an exception rather than the rule. But the distraction of legal justice being brought against the violent individual perpetrators does nothing to change a culture of force and contempt for minorities.

The fine slogans I mention in my previous article mean little and they are as effective as “Coke is the Real Thing”. On the contrary they tend to diffuse and obstruct all action.

They are part of the obfuscation and distraction from real issues and are encouraged and often cooked up I can only assume by governmentally approved advertising agencies. In whatever case, these slogans are the soft porn oppressive method for keeping the status quo intact, particularly by pretending resistance through “adversarial” speech. As long as anger is being channeled into safe directions, it can be contained. And it is what the 99 % are being led into while using Occupy Wall Street as a metaphor. Making the oppression objective by turning victims into heroes does not nor ever did solve any problems.

One cannot get a much better satirical expose of the as usual sanctimonious, hypocritical self-satisfied and blind political scene than listening to the newly self-ordained prophet of conservatism, Trump. His dissimulation also unwittingly exposes the underpinnings of the economic wars and the whole structure of by the vested interests paid representatives. It is quite a miracle and a compliment to the opinion industry that the public still believes in this country’s uprightness and goodness, even though the interest in Trump displays a deep unevenly formed dissatisfaction with the status quo. However in an environment in which communications have been developed exponentially, the amount of deliberate and entirely tendentious misinformation has increased at a terrifying rate to such a degree that almost nothing is believable. Hamstrung like that, the public has no choice but to accept what is being touted in many attractive forms, a situation closely resembling totalitarian conditions.

An escape from the misleading propaganda which it seems permeates every aspect of life by now in the Western empire is well nigh impossible for the public at large, even for the subdued minority populations. Both feed mentally on the superficial and bland banalities that are present in the media and entertainment, a sort of ‘soma’ as Huxley wrote, i.e. the pabulum to keep the masses ‘cool’. Included in that are ‘revolutionary’ slogans, innocent reminders of oppression, but entirely ineffectual to change minds while the social disease lingers on. It needs stronger medicine to extract the dominating instruments of oppression and it would be useless to apply a humanist approach to salvage what remains of defunct democratic ideas, because that is precisely what the establishment advocates in order to postpone a reckoning indefinitely. Faced with the power tools of a technically advanced society, the few Western dissidents have only each other for complaint and comfort.

Thus these conditions exist in all of the technologically advanced Western countries and one encounters the same mind conditioning everywhere. Under the guise of democracy, the wishes of the masses are directed into for the elites safe directions or simply ignored (vide Greece). Work stoppages in heavy industry would work, but policies of overtime and worker rewards keep the system in gear. Henry Ford understood this very well and even though there are constant attempts to roll back worker’s compensations, the wholly owned governments re-adjust deviations from a guided economy back to a safe lane for maintaining the status quo. The existential play “No Exit” seems to expose to perfection the present-day delusion of keeping the availability for human options artificially open. And beyond exploitation in the work place there are the hidden forces of speculation by banks that keep breaking industry. Industry owners are compensated for the loss of their factories by large bribes, so that a venture capitalist can get the spoils after destruction.

The great problem that revolutions in the Western empire face is what Marx mentioned:

“The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness”.

The analyses of the widely-spread feelings of alienation, social psychoses and so on follow the Victorian effects of early industrialization which brought forth such as the Luddite revolts. And the book title “Soul on Ice’ not only describes the US prison experience but also the damages that the society brought about in black minorities. Not to speak even of the consequences it has for the oppressing majorities. We have the extraordinary sentence spoken by Rev. King: “A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan”. That is a dire indictment, which places the problem squarely where it belongs on the complicity of the empire’s citizens in their own demise. Like with all colonized and abused minorities, blacks in the US suffered from debilitating attacks to their psyche (let alone bodily harm) as is well described by Fanon, but a liberating total suspension of belief in the Western system is still way off far ahead.

There is little indication that a society so immersed in its commercial goals, where it is a sine qua non that commerce is the only rational basis for human interaction (as Berman writes: a nation of hucksters) will undergo very soon a revolution because revolutions are based on idealistic grounds and what is happening is that the human dimension has been bred out of the equation for survival in the materialist daily existence. To counteract this with dogma is fruitless as Marx understood (“Ce qu’il y a de certain c’est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” – If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist), circa 1882.

The sheer chaos of the increasing complexity of economic concentration and exploitation, which is built into the capitalist model, becomes ever more pronounced. One can expect an implosion of the economic balloon with the public as victim, which may cause some uncoordinated resistance and because the public is armed, retaliation by army and police (an FDR who could save the mercenary structure is lacking). So far lesser concessions have worked to stave off a reckoning, but the stopgaps have become too demanding for a progressively exhausted economy. The proto-fascist media propaganda of paranoia and xenophobia has worked well to keep awareness at bay. A wall closing the nation off from the Southern hemisphere would prevent ‘subversive elements’ from penetrating a densely retrograde atmosphere, but it will also prevent leaving a coercive conformity. It is still unpredictable when the nation will fibrillate but the signs are steadily becoming clearer.

A remarkable analysis of US capitalist history and its biological and climatologically hazardous effects was sent to me and I reproduce the website information here.

More articles by:

Gui Rochat is an art dealer and consultant, specializing in in seventeenth and eighteenth century French paintings and drawings. He lives in New York.

October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What is Truth?
Michael Doliner
Were the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a Mistake?
Victor Grossman
Cassandra Calls
Ralph E. Shaffer
Could Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing Ended Differently?
Vanessa Cid
Our Everyday Family Separations
Walaa Al Ghussein
The Risks of Being a Journalist in Gaza
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal and Treachery—The Extremism of Moderates
James Munson
Identity Politics and the Ruling Class
P. Sainath
The Floods of Kerala: the Bank That Went Under…Almost
Ariel Dorfman
How We Roasted Donald Duck, Disney’s Agent of Imperialism
Joe Emersberger
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s Assault on Human Rights and Judicial Independence
Ed Meek
White Victimhood: Brett Kavanaugh and the New GOP Brand
Andrew McLean, MD
A Call for “Open Space”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail