“From the first breaths of life to the last, our lives are being stolen out from under us. From infant care and early education to Social Security and Medicare, the dominant economic ideology is demanding more lifelong sacrifices from the vulnerable to appease the gods of wealth. Middle-class wages are stagnant. Unemployment is stalled at record levels. College education is leading to debt servitude and job insecurity. Millions of unemployed Americans have essentially been abandoned by their government. Poverty is soaring. Bankers break the law with impunity, are bailed out, and go on breaking the law, richer than they were before.
And yet, bizarrely, the only Americans who seem to be seething with anger are the beneficiaries of this economic injustice – the wealthiest and most privileged among us. But those who are suffering seem strangely passive.As long as they stay that way, there will be no movement to repair these injustices. And the more these injustices are allowed to persist, the harder it will be to end them.
Where the hell is the outrage? And how can we start some?” R.W. Eskow
That quote from Mr. Eskow was a valid summation of the state of America as reported by the media leading into the 2016 Election. The results of that election though showed that the vast mass of us Americans were discontent with the status quo, but our discontent was diffused into an attitude that approached the nihilism of Throw the Bums Out and the propaganda spun by wealthy Billionaire PACs led us to elect a fatuous narcissist. Eskow was rightly amazed though that the people of this country seemed so passive in response to what was going on and I think I can supply the reasons for this passivity.
What make the United States of America so different from the rest of the countries in this world? For more than two hundred years Americans have pointed to our Constitution as the basis for our uniqueness as a country. This is quite true, but I believe this “unique” status is not what we as a nation purport it to be.
Our country is and always has been an Oligarchy “a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term”. Knowing that our “Founding Fathers” represented the wealthiest and most powerful people in the America of their time and the fact that our first five Presidents through 1825 all played a major role in the Revolution, it is obvious that we began as an oligarchy and have remained so ever since.
What was unique about this country was that for the first time in human history a nation was established that offered the promise of being governed by its’ people and not by some ruling elite. Then to in our Bill of Rights, the citizens of this country had a schematic framework of individual freedoms detailed, inherently recognizing that we the people could govern ourselves, rather than being led by by small groups upon whom legitimacy to govern was conferred by birth, wealth or military power. In practice this proved to be just a chimera, an “American Dream”, but that “dream” of personal freedom for the first time in world history gave masses of people the illusion of independence from capricious government. That illusion attracted millions of immigrants to our shores with the hope that they could live a different kind of existence and thus for the first time feel the luxury of personal autonomy. Considering the conditions in all other countries in the World, there was some truth that America was indeed a different and better place to be. This was true for most of American History despite how far short of its democratic ideals this nation has fallen through time. Because of this, despite so much evidence to the contrary, this is why most Americans remain passive in the face of looming disaster to the amazement of Mr. Eskow and many others.
Human beings are creatures of illusion. Most of us Americans still believe in this country’s greatness and uniqueness, despite how disillusioned we may be by our own personal disappointments in its operations. We are confounded mentally by politics, religions and philosophies that arouse our passions and narrow our spectrum of thought. Thus the current political memes of “big government” versus “small government” pervade our discussions, as if our problems could be solved by unrealistic theories of human organization. Most American are passive because they are so clouded by arguments regarding the diverse visions of the “American Dream” in the context of our Constitution, that they fail to see that this country, like all others in history, is yet another oligarchy. Their frame of reference is thus narrowed to “acceptable” forms of political discourse and because of that they fail to understand how to begin to solve the real structural problems that exist.
I define myself as a Radical but what does that really mean? In Wikipedia the definition of Political Radicalism begins like this: “The term political radicalism (or simply, in political science, radicalism) denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways. Derived from the Latin radix (root), the denotation of radical has changed since its eighteenth-century coinage to comprehend the entire political spectrum—yet retains the “change at the root” connotation fundamental to revolutionary societal change.” When it comes to describing where I’m coming from that formula is only partially correct. I do believe that it is imperative for humanity to alter its social structures through revolutionary means and to change our value systems in fundamental ways. However, I don’t believe that the changes I’m looking for are addressed by any political philosophy, economic theory, or philosophical construction. The problems of humanity and its constant teetering on the brink of destruction have little to do with the philosophic ideas that humans devise and much to do with our psychological nature, which we’ve inherited through millions of years of evolution.
All governments in human history have been oligarchies in nature, because it is the human nature of a percentage of us to seeks status, power and wealth that outdoes that of other humans. Moreover, it is not just a question of “outdoing” others, but also of making them submit to ones desires. Our societies are almost exclusively organized like those of the “Great Apes”, with the most powerful “grey-back” as leader, backed by a number of lieutenants of various status, watching for signs of weakness by those above in the social structure and thus their chance at power. In humans, social evolution has been shown to be far more important in today’s context, than the mechanics of biological evolution that has made us what we’ve become. The oligarchs disdain direct leadership of he nation, preferring instead to use surrogates like Presidents and Prime Ministers. After all, why be bothered by the day to day details of managing a country when you can have the benefit of imposing your will, by having others carry it out. Neither Vladimir Putin, nor President Obama run their countries in the classical understanding of leadership. They are merely the “front men” even though it is entirely possible that vanity prevents them from understanding this. After all it is their vanity in the first place that pushed them to rise to power.
There is validity to the idea that is gaining currency today that sociopaths represent a high percentage of our leaders in every walk of life. This may be true, but I think in the end irrelevant. Science has some understanding of sociopathy and the fact that this condition correlates with many who have risen to power in all fields. In my opinion though, I think it is likely that sociopaths have always risen to power in human history and that is just the human condition. Think how different your own life might have been if you were not constrained by a sense of guilt, or responsibility to anyone but yourself? Thinking that, you can understand how much simpler it would be for a sociopath to accrue power, than for the rest of us who are “burdened” by a sense of responsibility to others.
Sadly, not being a sociopath, never having been particularly interested in neither wealth, nor power, I understand how vulnerable that makes me towards those that are “running things”. Also not being a sociopath, I have empathy for other human beings and so can feel sadness, frustration and rage at the problems they face, which are caused by the oligarchs who run our world. This is why I am a radical. As I’ve explained though, I have no faith that the solutions to the world’s problems will come from any particular political philosophy, or economic theory. This also makes my beliefs radical, because my life’s experiences have shown me that the answer does not lie there. While I’ve never read Karl Marx, I have no doubt that he was a well-meaning person who wanted to make life better for the masses and to do so wrote a huge tome giving his solutions to what ails the world. The first leaders to put his theories into practical effect were the sociopath Lenin and his psychopathic successor Stalin. It is not the politics, or the religion that makes life intolerable for the many, it is those who use it as a means to justify their actions and take control of others.
So given that I feel that if things are so screwed up for most people, both here and in the rest of the world, what do I do about it? First of all that is why at the age of almost 73, with so many good things that exist in my life, I bother to write about things that so far have only affected me tangentially. I’m a very lucky man and have been all my life, considering that I’ve never harbored any greater ambition other than to enjoy my life as much as possible and to help others enjoy their lives. This need to help others is not because I’m an altruist, but because helping others gives me pleasure and because were it not for random chance (assisted somewhat by nature and nurture) I could have been in others shoes. My writing is my way of trying to express what I see as wrong with the world, because I believe most people have been blinded by extraneous plans for change and fail to realize that the problem is in the quest for power by some and not how countries are organized. Political and religious doctrines are the enemy of clarity when it comes to organizing human affairs. The real “why” is that some of us just want to be on top of it all and will do anything to get there and then to maintain themselves there. Instead of focusing on systems, we must focus on understanding what human drives cause some to grab power and find ways to maintain it perpetually.
Take the Koch Brothers…….please. Although they would say and they probably believe, they are for freedom as defined by Objectivist philosophy, the reality is they simply enjoy and feel entitled to the perquisites of power. Are they sociopaths, who knows? Are they selfish human beings, absolutely. My argument with them is not their wealth, because frankly I don’t care how rich people are. My argument with them is that in their continuing quest for power they aren’t willing to concede that people suffer through their actions, nor are they willing to do anything about those suffering.
So here is my own theory of human rights, developed through my own guiding principles of how society should be organized.
Each human being should have the right to: Adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and the right to personal autonomy, the latter limited by their negative impact upon others personal autonomy. All human beings shall be equal with respect to any Nation’s governing laws. By what societal structures, or political philosophies this is accomplished I really could care less. The fact that sociopaths might even be in charge doesn’t bother me, except to the extent that they abide by these principles. I’m a radical because I reject political philosophies and economic theories as “cure alls” for what are really psychological and biological issues. While I understand this may seem to many as extremely naive, given the sorry state of humanity, I prefer naivete to cynicism. Were I to let the cynical aspect of my personality gain an upper hand, I would fall into despair. The ultimate radical answer is to me a paraphrase of many smarter people who have come before me: