Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Inside and Outside

In almost every human society there is a ruling elite and a mass public. Indeed one needs to look far and wide and comb through historical and anthropological sources to find counter examples. In organizations like the military, or business there is usually a top down approach to ruling, and decision making is centralized. Freedom of thought and action declines toward the bottom of the hierarchy at the base of the pyramid. (This pseudo-geometric analogy is not a good one. decision making is centralized because of network effects... more on that in another post.)

By mere nature, just the numbers involved and the difficulty of sharing ideas described in prior posts, information, thus decision making, is shared unequally. However, countless examples in history and present day experience show that it is often necessary for the elites to, at minimum, cloak their activity in a guise of myth and morality or to hide them altogether.

The United States is a prime example of such a society, it's split between a domestic constitutional republic that's ruled by laws and a global empire which is outside the reach of the laws of the nation and runs through the executive branch. A sizable portion of the resources of the nation of hundreds of millions of people goes to further the interests of a small group of people.

General Smedley Butler (1881-1940)
Smedley Butler provided insight into this aspect of American society. In War is a Racket he wrote:
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
He fought as a marine in US imperial/commercial wars of the early 20th century and furthered corporate interests.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

Always, American wars are presented with the rhetoric of morality, security and national interest, while the actual speculative strategic interests or venal economic interests are not discussed in public. The benefits of fighting are conferred on a few, while the cost is borne by the public, the soldiers, and the countless civilians who are killed. Any official who might argue that a war is being fought to just advance the fortunes of a friend would be met with furious indignation.

In a very real sense, though, that indignation is a sign of a problem. The public's goodness is used against them. Very simply, because they are essentially "good", the people assume everyone else is too. They can't imagine that a person or group would manipulate them each and every day to simply steal from them, or to trick them into sending a son or daughter off to die on behalf of a corporation.

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