Of Hampster Wheels and Men

[the myth of capitalism and democracy]

by Charles Sullivan

http://www.dissidentvoice.org/, October 5th, 2007


It is evident that the US or Israel is going to launch an unprovoked attack on Iran in the near future, just as it did against Iraq and countless other defenseless nations within recent memory. As a result, untold numbers of innocent people will die and huge sums of money will change hands. Both the U.S. and Israel will consolidate their power in the Middle East and injustice and death will follow in their wake.

Bush's co-conspirators in Congress are standing down, leaving little doubt as to whom they serve. As always, the mainstream media is preparing the way by serving as an organ of the Military-industrial complex by beating the drums of war and perpetuating lies.

Outside of a small number of citizens, few people seem capable of plumbing the depths of our conundrum. Under the umbrella of capitalism, business is the business of America, and death, inequity, and misery are its chief byproducts. Thus the rich are getting richer and the wealth generated by the producers is being concentrated into fewer hands than ever before.

War and class warfare are among the offshoots of capitalism. They are opposite sides of the same coin, like Democrat and Republican. Significant change will not occur until the people rise up in revolt and take matters into their own hands-a state of affairs that is virtually unimaginable. Nothing less than a fundamental paradigm shift from capitalism to a just an equitable socio-economic system is required.

It is not difficult to know what kind of response the present threat demands of us-yet only a handful of thoughtful and courageous people will act appropriately against them.

I am quite certain that indifference, apathy, belligerent nationalism, and dumb-foundedness are not appropriate responses to the cancer that is festering in the Pentagon, the halls of Congress, and America's corporate board rooms and political think tanks.

I am willing to bet that the average American never contemplates the inequities that capitalism foists upon the world, or the unwarranted faith we have in the concept of private ownership, unregulated markets, and trickle down economics. This is a system that was created to serve the wealthy and to oppress the majority, and it is fundamentally predatory in nature.

Championed by the likes of Milton Friedman, capitalism and private ownership is the holy grail of the American economic system, and they are considered beyond reproach even by those who barely survive under their ponderous weight. The nemesis of capital and privilege is an organized and mobilized citizenry. Throughout America's short history, alternative political and economic systems such as communism and socialism, long associated with organized labor and radical unionism, have occasionally gained a foothold in the barren political landscape and, predictably, were thoroughly demonized by the mainstream media and its corporate funders.

Alternatives to capitalism have been tried but they have always been undermined by the US, which allows their critics to assert that these social experiments have been tried and failed. But left alone to evolve without outside interference, other socio-economic systems that serve people and the public interest might well flourish over for profit systems that promote private enterprise, which explains why so much energy and treasure is spent to undermine them.

Does anyone really believe that capitalism would be so prevalent today if it had been so systematically undermined by other governments as its counterparts? The playing field has never been level. Yet, despite such intense oppression, alternatives continue to spring up like undesirable weeds in capitalism's well groomed garden. Left untended, the garden quickly reverts to its natural state, which, clearly, is not capitalism or public funded privatized wealth accumulation.

Early on, working class Americans have been programmed to rail against any system that poses a threat to capitalism and its attendant Plutocratic rule. There was the era of McCarthyism in the 1950's, and long before that the constant specter of the red menace that has always been associated with organized labor and other social justice movements.

Any ideology that is opposed to capitalism has always been presented to the people as a threat to democracy itself, which is an absurd notion. Through propaganda and other distortions of truth, the interests of the ruling clique are widely perceived to also be the people's interest. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Democracy is the greatest threat to capitalism and Plutocracy; and, as history attests, it is vigorously repressed by those in power, often by acts of state sponsored terrorism and militarism.

Unregulated corporate power and the unbridled exploitation of land and people are as far from true free markets and democracy as anything can be.

Through the judicious use of lies and propaganda the corporate media, aided by the educational system, has successfully steered the collective American psyche away from the very ideologies that might potentially be our greatest benefactors. The underlying causes of societal injustice, including the inequitable distribution of wealth and power, are thus kept safely out of the public conscience, beyond the pale of moral and intellectual discourse. Unregulated corporate power and free markets are hailed in the mainstream media as humankind's greatest achievements. They are marketed to the very people it exploits as liberating, democratic institutions.

The founding fathers recognized that an aroused and organized citizenry was the primary threat to the ruling elite. Organized labor, in particular, has always been perceived as a threat to the established orthodoxy. A democratic workplace would inevitably lead to a democratic society, and thus deny the strength of the ruling Plutocracy.

It is remarkable that for more than 230 years the Plutocracy has not only successfully kept the majority of the people supporting economic and social policy that is detrimental to the people, they have also kept them from thinking about alternatives that could provide relief from the social and economic injustice wrought by capitalism-among them, universal health care and socialized higher education. The government is always waging a cold war against the working class people, whatever their country of origin.

As a result, we have evolved into a nation of imperialists addicted to war and other forms of violence, which accrues tremendous wealth and power to the rich, while simultaneously undermining the people's collective welfare, and the wellbeing of the planet.

Attached to their ipods, cell phones, their computers, television sets, and right wing media, the American people are detached from reality. So long as they are free to consume and waste, and sufficient entertainment is provided, the people will not rise up in revolt.

Because of this separation from reality, Americans do not empathize with people outside of their own immediate families, beyond a small sphere of friends and acquaintances. We have no sense of community, and little visceral connection to the wild earth that sustains all life. We are reductionists who do not appreciate the organic whole. Thus we cannot connect the dots and think in rational terms of cause and effect. We have commodified the earth and her people in order to exploit them for profit.

Too many Americans exist with a false sense of entitlement and privilege that is not nearly as prevalent in other parts of the world, where the effects of capitalism are better understood. Confident in our right to consume, while ignoring the misery our consumption and waste is causing others, we do not perceive the connection between capitalism, war, socio-economic class, cheap labor, and planetary destruction.

Dr. Martin Luther King said: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The Wobblies understood: "An injury to one is an injury to all." But we do not easily think beyond the self and rarely see ourselves as a part of a vibrant global community-a part of nature. We even erect psychological barriers that prevent us from questioning the established orthodoxy, as we witnessed in the aftermath of 9-11. We do as we are told, rather than doing what is right and just. Americans fear the government and tremble before authority.

It is this spiritual isolation and emptiness that allows us to comprise so little of the earth's population, and to consume so much of her precious biological and ecological wealth-the planetary life support systems that sustain all life.

The American worker, despite all evidence to the contrary, and notwithstanding the lessons of history, continues to subscribe to the ideology of the capitalist model and its empty promises dressed in the seductive garments of the 'American Dream'. That dream is now, more than ever, as millions of Americans are coming to realize, more myth than reality.

Capitalism has forced a nation-sized plantation upon the working class people of this country, and a world-sized gulag upon people everywhere. Workers keep only a tiny percent of the wealth they create for their employers, just enough to keep them playing the game-a game only a select few will ever win. Someone else always reaps the benefits of our labor.

American workers are like hamsters imprisoned in a cage, spinning our hamster wheels with furious speed, working harder, producing more, more, more-ever more; until our hearts explode or our bodies wear out under mountains of debt.

Hardly a handful of people realize what an elaborate hoax has been erected around us, what a sham this moribund system of waste and exploitation really is.

So we go from one plantation to another, drifting like tumbleweeds from one job to another but always imprisoned by the same exploitive, dehumanizing capitalist system.

At some level, I believe that the majority of the people intuit that something is terribly wrong. Thus they subscribe to the idea of reform and resort to electoral politics-a system that is wholly owned and operated by special interest money and corporate lobbyists. Their faith in the vote is misplaced and their energy is misdirected, which thus helps to maintain the established order, and prevents us from doing anything meaningful and direct. It assures consistency through the centuries: Imperial wars and occupations, a widening gap between the rich and poor; falling wages, union busting, and unfathomable environmental destruction on a global scale.

There are no political solutions available to us. There are no knights in shinning armor coming to the rescue. In a system awash in money the vote has no meaning. It is a mistake to think that the tools provided by capitalism can do anything other than perpetuate the system that is already in place, as history clearly demonstrates. Whether George Bush, Ron Paul, or Hillary Clinton occupies the White House, the result will be the same. Politicians are the property of special interest money. Few of them serve the people.

We must stop believing that reform of this corrupt system is even possible. Misplaced faith in corrupt politicians keeps us from fomenting the seeds of revolution, which are our only salvation and our destiny if we are to survive as a people. If only we could conjure up the fighting spirit that these times require.

People can only affect change by accepting personal responsibility and through direct action. We, ourselves, must become the agents for radical, revolutionary transformation. Rather than putting our trust in George Bush and Hillary Clinton or the sycophants in Congress, we must believe in ourselves and directly assert the power we have. We the people, when organized and mobilized, are the most powerful revolutionary force on earth. All we need is solidarity, but solidarity can be as elusive as a wisp of smoke, especially when so much capital is expended to keep us isolated and disorganized, and propagandized.

Both voting and sporadic protests, while they may temporarily make us feel useful, do not have much long term effect. Let us not simply say no to war with our vote, but with our bodies and our treasure. If we wish to see social justice enacted, we must not merely vote for it, we must, ourselves, become the agents of justice. We must oppose injustice not only on philosophical and ethical grounds, but in the theater of action, with our bodies.

Democracy and justice are too important to entrust to politicians who serve money, rather than people and the public welfare. We must do more than give lip service to the mere symbols of justice while doing nothing to actually obtain justice, or even worse-undermining it by voting more Plutocrats into office. Each of us must act to bring justice to bear. It is wrong to quietly tolerate what is being done to our country.

Our collective tolerance for injustice and mediocrity makes us complicit in them. We do not hold the criminals and the real terrorists accountable and we continue to support the system that ushered them into power by participating in it and pretending that it is legitimate.

Action applied directly at the point of injustice is the only force that can bring about permanent and just change. But action, unlike rhetoric, requires courage and conviction. It means putting the fear of god into the hearts of the government, as ordinary people do in Europe and Latin America, putting our bodies on the line for what we believe in. When the state is an enemy of the people, all just men and women must become enemies of the state.

Change begins and ends with the individual. What we think and what we do matters only if we act on our beliefs and are even willing to die for them, if necessary. Peace can only follow justice; it never precedes it.

By putting faith in those who serve the almighty dollar, rather than directly upholding the principles of democracy ourselves, we diminish our own power-we cede it to the corrupt and diabolical whose primary purpose is to rape and exploit us. Let us leave the safe haven of our hamster wheels and occupy the streets until justice reigns for everyone. There is no other way.



Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Providence of geopolitical West Virginia.

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