Former President Jimmy Carter recently declared his support for NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden. He also said that the revelations show that, “America does not have a functioning democracy at this point in time.”
Christopher Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of eight books and a foreign correspondent for the NY Times and other publications covering numerous wars for many years, describes the current state of affairs more succinctly as “ruthless totalitarian capitalism.”
Hedges concludes from his experiences and the historical record that hope is not sufficient, “We must grasp reality to build effective resistance.”
“We are emulating,” he continues, “the collapse of past civilizations, all of the mistakes that complex societies have made over the centuries in 5,000 years of human civilization.
“At the end, elites retreat into self-protected enclaves, forbidden cities…just as our elite has utterly unplugged itself from day-to-day reality. The formal mechanisms of power don’t work. We’ve undergone what John Ralston Saul calls correctly a coup d’état, a corporate coup d’état in slow-motion.”
“It’s over. They’ve won. We live in a system of inverted totalitarianism. And by that I mean it’s not classical totalitarianism. It doesn’t find its expression through a demagogue or a charismatic leader, but through the anonymity of the corporate state….”
“In inverted totalitarianism, you have corporate forces that purport to be loyal to the Constitution, electoral politics, the iconography and language of American patriotism, and yet internally have seized all of the levers of power to render citizens impotent….
“The Democrats are as beholden to corporate power as the Republicans. The judiciary has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate state.”
(Most people aren’t even aware. Whereas not that many years ago, there were many hundreds of independent media organizations, today over 90+% of the media are owned and operated by six corporations.)
“If we’re resisting against a fantasy or fiction…then everything we do is futile. So I think it’s fundamental that we grasp reality in order to build effective resistance. And, unfortunately,” Hedges concludes, “reality at this moment in human history is pretty bleak.”
Hedges refers often to Sheldon S. Wolin’s, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (Princeton 2008).
“At best the nation has become a ‘managed democracy,’” Wolin argues, “where the public is shepherded, not sovereign. At worst it is a place where corporate power no longer answers to state controls.”
Sheldon Wolin (91) is a former professor of political philosophy at Princeton and other universities. He was a bomber pilot in WW-II.
Where does all this corporatist madness come from? There are a variety of ways and means by which we interpret our social and political existence. The physical layout of the brain is relatively well known.
The brain has evolved various unified and compartmentalized segments over millions of years to deal with sight, speech, physical movement, conscious thought and emotional reactions. We learn culture, language, morays and morals thru set bio-physical and developmental processes.
One of the most critical areas relative to the higher cognitive functions (sentient thought), is the limbic system and its organs, such as the hippocampus and the amygdala. Without the limbic system, we’d basically be biological computers: Reactive automatons to the sensate environment.
With these organs, our perceptions are not simply rote reactions but establishes related memory and inputs emotional content that determine how we feel about our thoughts…their emotional content.
When great emotion wells from your thinking regarding, say, a sexual partner, or a patriotic response, or some perceived threat, it’s the limbic organs that autonomously insert that property into your thinking.
Another example of this is one’s startle reflexes to unexpected or threatening stimuli. Our body responds to these w/out the input of conscious thinking.
Over millions of years of natural selection we’ve evolved this reflex. It’s a survival mechanism that we inherit thru our genes (those potential ancestors that failed, didn’t survive long enough to procreate).
However, its application in modern society is quite complex, both in a positive sense and also as the source of personal and social problems. We inherit a variety of these ancient systems that today serve other functions.
One way of analyzing this reflex is to understand that all perceived sensations normally add a short cut thru the amygdala. It autonomically assesses all sensations for threat and emotional value and has the body respond in quite literally a third of a second. No consciousness is required.
When I’ve worked criminal cases and a defendant says, “I don’t know what I was thinking…I just reacted!” He may well be literally correct.
Also, once a reaction starts it may continue with one’s conscious thought riding along more or less as a passenger. (Some describe this as, “It was like I was watching myself or someone else without having any control!”)
I’ve also often-enough heard the comment, “I couldn’t seem to stop. Once started, I just seemed to be possessed.” This also helps to explain some blind-spots in one’s witnessing of traumatic events. I’ve experienced it myself…spooky.
It’s difficult (and legally problematic) even when you’re aware of this condition to realize where the line is drawn between autonomic reaction and conscious control.
People often tend to believe that there’s something wrong with them if they can’t assert total control all the time. That would be no more possible then for Captain Kirk to both order the Enterprise to turn, and run down himself to engineering to accomplish it.
Sociopaths, of course, could care less. Thus, one could draw logical conclusions regarding extended reactions to, say, certain actions and consciousness of longer-term political, social and economic decisions.
Ultra-conservative, punitive authoritarian Senator John Boehner is an example of this latter sociopathic process.
A good overview of early conditioning and moral development can be found thru the work of Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg. Dr. George Lakoff also speaks to this effect in terms of political moral interpretations.
Human life normally starts out for all of us as infantile individuals focused totally on ourselves and our own wants, needs and progress in our early formative years.
Of course, one’s family, peers, school, state, religion and media subsequently have a profound effect on who we become psychologically, socially and culturally.
“Free will” comes into play in the higher cognitive functions, which includes (as stated above) both sensate information and its combination to associated emotional (limbic) content.
Explaining how individuals achieve a higher social consciousness and are able to associate their early emotive conditioning to serve a higher purpose is an entire discipline of its own.
One of the obscene facts I’ve recently read is that the richest 300 individuals on the planet have more wealth than the bottom three billion people! The human species has a long, long way to go (even assuming that the super-privileged elite don’t destroy the earth in the meantime…).
What I often say to my more progressive, even revolutionary compatriots is, “We all came from somewhere (else). We all grow and develop to be something better…or not. If we don’t learn to reach out and resist together, there will be no future worth surviving on this planet.”