January 15, 2015

Systemic Subversion

We coddled citizens of the Western world grow up, most of us, in pretty congenial circumstances relative to the rest of this planet. While psychological stresses are plenty, we don’t contend with inadequate food, water, and shelter, on an everyday basis. If we are involved in an accident or fall sick, we can count on getting health care in modern hospitals. We own a lot of things; we take mobility for granted; we generally take security as normal. In short, our world is peaceful and stable enough that...
we don’t expend much reflection on its underlying assumptions, beliefs and institutions... and their effect on us individually and as a society. That’s too bad, because it makes us highly resistant to understanding why we behave as we do, and how we are manipulated into a desired group mindset.

In fact, virtually all our institutions (ie. school, church, business establishments, government) exert a covert as well as overt influence over every individual, whose purpose is to homogenize our thinking and hence, behavior in a particular direction. Now, I should state up front that I’m not saying there’s always a concerted conspiracy behind these institutions... at least not originally. I think most of them evolved in a rather organic manner, seeming to make sense at the time of inception, often emerging in very simple, unsophisticated form that may have taken centuries to reach the level we have today.

For example, originally, Christianity was more of a cult as we’d call it today. Then some well-meaning pastors took the Roman bureaucratic model and applied it to their communities and came up with the notion of church as a group of people of a like religious persuasion who sit in a big building once a week, and listen to a professional adept preach to them. The idea of ‘school’ as education for the masses of all classes emerged out of the industrial revolution. As parents were herded into batteries of factories, their children were herded into buildings where they could be trained to become useful cogs in the industrial wheels.

The institutions start off innocently, with good intentions for improving things for the people they are supposed to serve. Once in place, though, they become ideal vehicles for ultimate mischief. Ideal because they hold a captive audience, are already organized around some unifying concept (education, religion, democracy, whatever) and by nature, have some kind of command structure or hierarchy. All that’s missing in such a matrix is the mischief... and that seems to inevitably arise in every case, in one guise or another.

In the case of school, it’s the gradual, subtle, insidious construction of a mind-box around every graduate of the 12-year assembly line. This box instructs the products exactly how this world operates, how to fit in, and how to play the game by the rules. The irony is that even if this system should teach students how to think, they do it in a way that conforms to an orthodoxy that almost invariably channels their thinking in predesigned paths. Even ‘free-thinking’ graduates of this system rarely spawn truly ‘breakthrough’ ideas. Heaps of Ph.D’s are awarded annually to good students who’ve played the game properly, put in their time, paid homage to the right sacred cows, and haven’t pissed off their thesis advisor.

Many of the ‘revolutionary ideas’ have come from persons whose mental state treads the fine line of madness-- the only real escape mechanism for most of us. We recognize what we call indoctrination when we view it in another society-- for example, in the communist states. We are far less successful in acknowledging the indoctrination that occurs routinely in our own.

Religion is another of those ideal vehicles for exercising mind control. It’s all about belief in the first place, so it’s just a question of what beliefs (or whose). Your church is promoting a denominational agenda, a view of the world that was designed by back-room boys who are sold out to some specific dogma. The members are either born into the system, or likely, they have chosen to join it. If they are born into it, they can be indoctrinated either by ‘osmosis’ or by the well-known methods of education. If they join, that indicates an a priori willingness to accept the doctrines favored by the organization.

Until recent decades, the custodians of a faith had merely to thunder the dogma from the pulpits, and append suitable pictures of ethereal rewards in the hereafter, plus threats of hideous punishments to befall the unfaithful. Only in the 20th century did adherents start to question the fundaments of their faith, and either demand some changes or walk out the door to seek some other purveyor of ultimate truth. But overall, the religion game has stayed much the same for ages.

While religions all fervently proclaim their dedication to truth, the objective onlooker must conclude that there are as many truths as religious beliefs. But truth, by nature, must be unique... a conundrum of cosmic proportions! Another problem: virtually all religions claim to believe in, and promote, peace among mankind. Yet how many wars have been fought, not just between different religions, but even between different flavors of the same religion? It’s small wonder that so many thinking people have shunned the obvious irrationality of religions, and sunk into unreflective atheism or New Age humanism.

Here in the Western world, we have our ‘free press,’ by which we now include all the mass communications media. But how free, really, are the media? Let’s not forget that their raison d’etre is to make money-- we should think of them as the ‘free enterprise press.’ This means that their devotion to the notion of truth in reporting is always subordinate to the prime objective of making a profit. We may like to think that presenting the most genuine truth will always be rewarded in the marketplace, but global experience, particularly in the 20th century, has supplied ample proof that truth is a highly malleable thing in the minds of those who control the media, and very often, the ‘enhanced truth’ sells much better than the raw truth.

The last century produced the concept of propaganda as government-sponsored ‘information’ disseminated via the mass media. It also gave us the new field of advertising-- paid commercial messages-- and the related field of ‘public relations,’ which is a natural child of a liaison between propaganda and advertising. With the convergence of two big factors-- media integration and mega-mergers-- the stage was set perfectly for mass manipulation. Integration means the acquisition of one media type (e.g. a newspaper) by another type (say, a television channel). Mergers, of course, refers to the joining of two former competitors of a like genre into a bigger company. Thus we see in the USA all media being controlled by a handful of major corporations. If market forces do not ensure the homogenization of news, then less obvious forces certainly operate. Since the vast majority of Americans do not have access to, or interest in, news from foreign sources, they have virtually no idea to what degree they are brainwashed by their domestic media. And yet, in any democratic society, it is the media that play the essential role of public scrutineers of government conduct.

Sensational events have demonstrated the vital role that media play in ‘free societies.’ The assiduous investigation of a duo of reporters was instrumental in bringing down Richard Nixon for his abuses of the office of President. In 2002, the near unanimous media endorsement of George Bush’s fabricated ‘War on Terror’ ushered the US into the disastrous Iraq invasion... which they now characterize in harshly critical terms. The power of media in the modern world was predicted, eerily accurately by George Orwell, and has been analyzed cogently by Noam Chomsky.

As for governments, well, again, we clearly notice how regimes of our adversaries exercise control over the lives of their citizens. In the days of the former Soviet Union, the joke that the savvy populace bestowed on their two main media outlets was that ‘there is no pravda (truth) in Izvestia (News) and no izvestia in Pravda.' Both institutions were under the beady eyes of government censors, and there was no alternative press allowed. Today, in the free enterprise paradise, governments understand that similar control can be more acceptably achieved by subtler means. With the media in the hands of a few conglomerates that often need a favor from their regulators, it’s pretty easy to seek payment in kind. Since the swing to the political right that began in the 1980s, the intercourse between corporate officers and government officials became plainly promiscuous. Dick Cheney can go from CEO of Halliburton Inc., to VP of the Incorporated States of America, hardly skipping a beat.

Democratic governments have learned the necessity of establishing official bureaus of ‘information,’ and of having media-savvy spokespersons to explain the many benefits they bestow on their citizens. Even despite constitutional safeguards and built-in auditing functions, our governments constantly abuse the bounds of their authority and the law to pursue goals that have, traditionally, been financial in nature, but that are lately more directed to wresting greater control over the populace. To do the latter, they employ time-honored techniques, namely fear of some threat, in concert with promises of peace and security. The 21st century started with a spectacular demonstration of the use of those age-old techniques, as a terrifying new enemy was introduced in the guise of the rather vague notion of ‘terrorism,’ conveniently abbreviated to ‘terror’ by its principal and illustrious proponent, G.W. Bush.

The Bush administration made Herculean efforts to leverage the 9-11 events into a pretext for worldwide military hegemony. That their plans have hit serious obstacles is a tribute to the persistence of ‘traditional democratic values’ by ordinary citizens... and to the truism that power always attracts competitors. However, in the first Bush administration, we were subjected to a chilling demonstration of the kind of scenario described by Orwell’s dreary ‘1984’ in what could be achieved when the media are co-opted by government. In the final analysis, governments down thru the ages have always desired to direct the thinking and energies of their people into channels of docile serfdom.

Perhaps the most successful institutions in manufacturing consensual reality are the corporations. While ‘companies’ have been around for centuries, even as mega-entities (think of the Hudson Bay Co., and East India Co.) it is in the 20th century that they really gained in size and influence. By the 1920s, they had become so powerful that the US government introduced ‘anti-trust’ legislation in an attempt to curtail their steroidal growth. Regardless, companies grew into what we call ‘multi-national corporations’-- and what they prefer to characterize as ‘international companies.’

These artificial entities now go anywhere in the world, seeking the lowest wage labor and the most favorable tax environment in which to conduct their business. Wherever they go, the agenda is basically similar-- use local resources with the lowest costs possible, and that generally means little regard for the ecology and for the poor workers. Every modern corporation now employs a squad of ‘spin doctors’ whose task is to present a benign and beneficent face to the public in whatever circumstance or scandal that may arise. If the PR function is not in-house, they hire other corporations that specialize in molding public opinion.

Whether consciously or not, big corporations in diverse industries work in cooperation for PR purposes. For instance, the media companies foster the inherent assumption that corporations are essential for prosperity, providing good jobs to the working class, and paying taxes to governments. In the ‘Incorporated States of America,’ this underlying doctrine has always held mythical status. The revulsion most Americans maintain towards, not just the hated Communism, but even for socialism, is truly amazing for the rest of the civilized world to behold. Despite the obvious fact that so many citizens have been excluded from the wealth generated by corporations for their executives and major shareholders, they are nevertheless trained from birth to revere corporatism and revile socialism. An amazing demonstration of ‘the power of persuasion,’ as one ex-advertising executive describes it.

No matter what institution you consider, the aim is basically similar-- to harness the minds of the masses of people. The reasons for corralling the thinking of the population may have changed over the ages. Long ago, in the heyday of kings and nobles, it was a way to keep the ‘common people’ in line, compliant with royal rule. The church and aristocracy worked in tandem to promote ‘social order,’ wherein everyone knew his/her place-- especially the serf/layman. In the Industrial Age, the same systems persisted, joined now by the education system that reinforced the assimilation. However, since technology arose from the science that came with ‘enlightenment,’ cracks began to appear in the cultural conditioning.

Widespread education, while programmed, still inevitably provoked some independent thinking. And the advance of science brought corresponding breakdowns in the grip of religion on the mental landscape. Hence, we had some genuine progress in the social sphere: the triumph of democracy in Western society, the abolition of slavery, hard-won benefits for the working class through collective action by trade unions, social safety nets for the lowest economic class, and in most countries, some degree of medical coverage.

The very fact that all of these advances have, in our modern world, come under attack from faceless forces that would roll them back, is demonstrable proof that there are, indeed, conscious agencies guiding the programming undertaken by our institutions. The freedoms achieved as a consequence of the Enlightenment are regarded by these agencies as an unfortunate, collateral development; an aggravation that must be retracted at all costs. And so, they have used their wily means to gain control of all the institutions in order to twist them to their purpose. That purpose is to return society-- now the global populace-- to a feudal state wherein the few wealthy, powerful families exercise absolute control over the majority who are kept in poverty and servitude to the overlords.

Those who don’t believe that our social gains are under attack are more stuck in the illusion than they admit. The big shift to ‘conservatism’ that began in the 1980s was the vanguard of the trend, and entails ‘privatization’ of many former public functions. In the process of putting public services into the hands of corporations, the profit motive is sold as ensuring 'new efficiencies,' while in fact, it more often brings degraded service levels and higher costs. Literal slavery has been replaced by de-facto bondage to low-wage, Mc-jobs, with no benefits and scrambled schedules. Even white-collar workers have lost ground in real terms, and realize that their jobs, too, could be sent off-shore if their employers hear excessive complaints from them.

In the past, this grasping of control was almost invariably conducted by force. In the present world, the preferred method is more circumspect-- let the people (in the ‘free’ nations) believe they are free, but rig the systems-- as described above-- to achieve what’s wanted. It’s far more cost-effective in the end. Only when ‘common people’ start to question the mesmerizing power of their institutions can they hope to regain a measure of freedom. This will not be easy, as the manipulators behind the institutions/corporations have stepped up their efforts to control society, and they are using every means available.

Some have referred to the collective influence of our institutions as ‘the Matrix,’ after the sci-fi movie. And make no mistake-- the Hollywood movie industry is a prime co-opted institution, producing its powerful, visual narcotic to numb and dumb the minds of viewers, and prepare them, using a favored medium, for predetermined attitudes. For example, you have to wonder why we’ve had such a run of ‘disaster flicks’ in the past decade. And then there’s the series of ‘alien visitation’ movies. Are they all simply random ideas cast into cinema-- or are they part of a plan to acculturate us for future events? Although The Matrix seems highly fanciful, it embodies an obvious allegorical message... Could it be a warning for our times? Time will tell.

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