“Realize that the system can’t exist without belief
Appreciate your true potential, un-twist your mouth and speak
We’re working on building a world our children can live in
Understand I can’t be free while you’re still in this prison
And I can spend my days preaching and so on and so forth
But it won’t change ’til we don’t wanna go on no more”
-Sweatshop Union, “The Thing About It”
As the election cycle drags on, it’s quite revealing that citizens still believe that our future policies and legislation will revolve around which candidate wins. Our government is fully controlled by the deep state, a fusion of corporate and federal bureaucratic powers. Trillions of dollars have been and will continue to be wasted on defense boondoggles like the F-35 fighter, intrusive satellite and computer surveillance, advanced weapons and nuclear ICBMs, military contractors, etc. These are resources that put to proper use could end poverty in the developing world, provide cheap medicine to prevent infections and disease, and build affordable housing and renewable energy for the entire world.
Both Democrats and Republicans refuse to acknowledge the responsibility, duty, and the debt the USA and rich Western nations owe to poorer countries. Rather, both parties have turned inward towards domestic issues, identity politics, and brazen sensationalism. Additionally, the inhuman and ego-driven lust for self-interest (the calls for a wall with Mexico, the calls for a no-fly zone in Syria) without considering the needs of the wider world is a profoundly disturbing phenomenon in our fractured political landscape.
Thus it is no accident that Althusser dubbed ruling class institutions the Ideological State Apparatuses. The analogy to a mechanistic device is uncanny. How did our coercive political structures assumed such rigid hierarchy, such efficient deadliness? Blame Newton and Descartes, or rather, their crude interpreters: taking their worldview too literally, their followers unleashed upon future generations a narrow vision, a path where absolute time, a mechanized and clockwork universe, and mind-body dualism and binary thought reigned supreme. This misconception spread over centuries through the cultural milieu: even back in introductory political science we were taught of Kenneth Waltz’s ridiculous and hare-brained “billiard ball” theory of international relations.
Our machines no longer work for the people: it is us who now effectively work for our pointless and deadly machines, literally and figuratively, either in useless industrial jobs or by paying federal taxes for programs which serve no common good. It is the oligarchy and its servile mass media which distracts the masses, allowing elites to control financial flows and money laundering operations, weapons smuggling, as well as privatizing potentially liberating inventions such as quantum computing, renewable technologies, cures for cancer and preventable diseases, and genetic advances. To emancipate and unshackle the human condition from needless suffering should be the collective goal of society: instead, we are servants of machines, peons of progress and GDP advances of the economy, and prisoners of the Democratic and Republican parties and their shadowy corporate overlords, the psychic vampires who siphon human potentialities and energies from what could be vibrant, egalitarian, peaceable communities, if they were allowed to prosper freely.
Emancipation, enlightenment are our collective goals, and our birthright. Anything that gets in the way, even if it is our entire machine-driven culture which clothes and feeds us from cradle to grave, should be abolished. This will be painful, and have severe consequences that will last generations. Yet there is no other way. As for mass consumer society, we should all consider taking the time to be as open, honest, forthright, and painfully blunt when discussing our collective critical condition as the protagonist Elliot in the TV series Mr. Robot:
“‘What is it about society that disappoints you so much?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. Is it that we collectively thought Steve Jobs was a great man, even when we knew he made billions off the backs of children? Or maybe it’s that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit. The world itself is just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our burning commentary bullshit masquerading as insight; our social media faking as intimacy. Or is that we voted for this? Not with our rigged elections, but with our things, our property, our money. I’m not saying anything new, we all know why we do this. Not because Hunger Games books makes us happy, but because we want to be sedated. Because it’s painful not to pretend, because we’re cowards.’
We were not put on this Earth to grow an economy, or fork over money to big-box stores with plastic and shiny electronics from China, or drown ourselves with senseless pop culture and processed foods. This is soma just as Huxley pictured it. Shifting baselines and bulging waistlines. An alternative can only be found beyond the superficial. As Erich Fromm once said, “There is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives his life by the unfolding of his powers.”
Obviously, Western governments are no longer geared towards providing social welfare for poorer nations, and increasingly their own people. Our leaders are only technocrats who administer fake and/or harmful policies, strategize with lawyers to protect each other from retribution in court, and use techniques from marketing and public relations to convince citizens of the bullshit they’re fed 24/7.
Democrats and Republicans have invented the sham Committee on Presidential Debates, somehow convincing everyone that the chairs of the heads of the two parties should administer the public debates our highest office. By requiring 15% support in national polls, the duopoly shuts out all third parties due to lack of media coverage early on in the election cycle. Is this not a form of an anti-democratic firewall, which repels unwanted intruders from the ideological landscape?
The language of foreign policy further betrays the calculating and murderous belief system of the machine age. Terms like shock and awe, kinetic weapons, hyperpower, full-spectrum dominance, total information awareness, all point towards the coercive, the white-washed, the sadistic display of an out-of-control computerized system of warfare. How much longer until drones are making the decisions to fire without human operators? Or perhaps this is already happening, and a cause of the incredibly high percentage of innocents killed? If our military industrial complex is prepared to spend one trillion on nuclear missiles, billions on the F-35, and billions more on such lethal yet completely unnecessary weapons like ramjet technology, NBC weapons, the SR-72, underwater drones, and the U.S.S. Zumwalt, what’s next? Super soldiers based off of old X-Files episodes?
Further, we have to examine the form of our media, as Marshall McLuhan understood it, and as Nicholas Carr perceptively did when he asked “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Well, yes it is, in a way. Multitasking online is not the same as rigorous research in a library, or even an old-school boring web journal. Social media distractions and constant updates cloud our critical thinking skills, and quite possibly rearranges neural networks which influence long-term memory formation.
Our leading scientists, supposedly sages and role models, are deeply complicit. When geneticists tell you that GMOs are OK, they are simply stating their preference for turning the world’s ecosystems into a giant experiment. Theoretically, gene transfers between organisms could be safe in laboratory controlled conditions. Not so much when you have millions of acres of genetically altered corn and soy, billions of gallons of glyphosate and atrazine flooding our drinking water, and nitrates and phosphates which cause hypoxic dead zones and toxic algal blooms. When the EPA, CDC, and FDA tell us that heavy metals and psychotropic drugs in our water is fine, that mercury and arsenic are harmless, and lead leaching from pipes is nothing to worry about, their complete lack of integrity and cult of death is on full display. This was most poignantly revealed by leader of the Manhattan Project, the genius physicist Robert Oppenheimer: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.
How can citizens fight this utterly horrid momentum? Not with traditional media outlets. “The revolution will not be televised!” How should we vote in November? Should we follow Noam Chomsky’s recommendation to “hold your nose and vote for Clinton” in contested states? It’s hard to believe a person of his age and wisdom could utter such a thing. Haven’t we all been holding our noses every four years, for as long as we can remember? Surely he remembers more of the disastrous consequences, and in finer detail, the results and repercussions than nearly all of us!
Instead, we might want to take heed from another sixties icon, Mario Savio:
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. His articles have appeared online at Global Research, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, The World Financial Review, Gods & Radicals, and Countercurrents. He is author of the e-book Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org