There is nothing new about powerful groups exploiting and oppressing those beneath them. There is also nothing new about such groups believing, or at least pretending to believe, that their dominance is part of the natural God-given order of things. And there is nothing new about such groups paying their political, cultural, intellectual and religious courtiers and hacks to get the word out.
But I can find in Western history only one major example of an elite deliberately reducing an entire population of free men and women – their countrymen – to abject poverty, enforced idleness and outright slavery. Rome in the final centuries of the Republic and the first of the Principate.
The patrician rationale was clear. “We don’t need a lot of free, prosperous citizens at home. Our interests lie abroad. We can get our food from Africa, our luxury goods from the East, our wealth from the spoils of war, and the taxation and looting of our Empire. What they don’t provide, we can make by slave labor on our own large estates or on construction gangs. As for the rest . . . who cares?”
And in the end, Rome fell because there were few free men and women left to defend it, but a lot of people who’d concluded that life under the barbarians might well be an improvement.
Rome: the only major example of an elite deliberately destroying its own free people because their interests lay elsewhere. The only major example – until now.
Ronald Reagan did not begin the process of impoverishing the American people in the name of “economic freedom” and “individual responsibility.” That honor more properly belongs to Jimmy Carter. Every president since Reagan, including Mr. Obama, has continued and accelerated the destruction of America’s middle tier.
How’s it done? No secret there. It’s done by:
Exporting and “outsourcing” tens of millions of jobs and functions, especially to Asia.
Permitting the entry of tens of millions of legal and illegal immigrants to take the jobs that remain, destroying organized labor and forcing down wages.
“Free Trade” under conditions where the United States cannot effectively compete. Cheap products, we are told, are “good for consumers.” Assuming they have any money to buy them.
De facto and de jure radical deregulation of the financial sector. A cliché of economics holds that the country is most stable and prosperous when banking is a dull affair. Another cliché might hold that “Too Big to Fail” really means the corporation dominates the government.
The creation of both an American and a global “bubble economy,” where trillions in available capital, instead of investing in the future, pump up speculative bubbles: high-tech and real estate, to name only two recent examples.
So how have the oligarchies and the One Percenters attempted to hide that which cannot be hidden? They don’t. Instead, they deflect attention, especially the attention of those with a little something left to lose.
The Nazis may have invented the technique of the Big Lie. A few simple ideas, endlessly repeated. Culture War II, on the conservative side, creates an absolute chaos of inter-twined issues, at a decibel level and in a rudeness that renders refutation meaningless, discussion impossible. And through it all, one theme predominates, as expressed in law and legislation, political campaigning, think tank advocacy, and noise:
The American people as a people don’t need:
Sexual and reproductive choices.
“Come therefore,” says the Conservative spin machine, “let us scream together.”
Fox News works because they spew out the garbage that permits a lot of very scared people, and those very afraid of becoming very afraid, to hear what they like, at a level of nastiness and vulgarity that appeals to them. Conservative pols, ditto.
When high-viz politicians announce that using the word “middle-class” is “Marxist” and accepting the reality of climate change is “arrogant”. . .
When aging neocons who, had they any Menschlichkeit, would have vanished in disgrace long ago, continue demanding more wars, more enemies, more trillions for “defense” . . .
When everything wrong with the world is the fault, not of the Jews anymore, but of the “liberals” and their parasitic constituencies . . .
It works because the desperate and the fearful want to believe it. It appeals to the emotivist ethos. It’s what they want to feel, regardless of reality.
And this is the movement that Israel has embraced as its partisan patron. A movement whose anthem might well be a line from an old Ray Charles song:
“You ain’t got no money, you just ain’t no good.”
Now, no sentient biped would suggest that there is no such thing as anti-Semitism. No sentient student of American affairs would deny that anti-Zionism is becoming a staple of what’s left of the Left (In some ways, it has been at least since the 1960s). And no human being with two brain cells to rub together would deny the complex of attitudes expressed in:
Hey, Israel. You’re known by the company you keep. If these are your friends, thanks, but no thanks.
The anti-Semites do not concern me excessively; such you have always with you. Nor do the doctrinaire anti-Zionists or those who genuinely oppose Israel for humanitarian reasons, or because of their own lives and relationships. What concerns me greatly is that the strident support of the Conservative movement alienates a lot of good people with honest questions and bewilderments.
So, Israel . . .
Go hang with the Neocons and the One Percenters if you want. But don’t be surprised when it comes back at you.
Next: Wrapping up the American version. Then, how an Israeli Culture War might benefit both Israel and America.