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December, 2002, Volume 10 Nr. 4, Issue 112

CAPITALISM AND ANGER IN
THE 21st CENTURY

by Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

George Orwell in his classic novel, "1984" wrote, "war is not to be won, it is to be continued".   Isaac Asimov wrote, "Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent".   Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, "A country cannot simultaneously prepare and prevent war."

Every Saturday, the Central Vermont PEACE Coalition, with help from the Southern Vermont Veterans for Peace Chapter 88, hold a peace vigil in Rutland Vermont.  Sleet, ice, freezing rain, pleasant Indian summer, it matters not.  Upwards of 60 people meet at the busy Green Mountain city intersection of West Street and Route 4 in Gazebo park to silently display their opposition to yet another attempt to resolve a conflict and to avenge death and destruction through more death and destruction. 

Overwhelmingly, the response from the public is positive, an informal poll suggesting the propaganda campaign for war is not going well.  There are thumbs-up and peace signs flashed, horns honking in agreement.  Contrast this to the handful of negative responses who express their displeasure otherwise.  Many who disagree with the message of the peace vigil exude anger and hatred.  They are eager to express their displeasure through a bitter attitude of hostility.  Rage often clouds their choice of expression which ranges from expletives and finger-gesturing through incoherent ranting -- a rage masking any recognition that we are all sentient human beings seeking to live in peace.  What is this miasma of the mind, that in this, the 21st century, orchestrates as Asimov puts it, the "refuge of the incompetent."

Incompetence is Taught

Abbie Hoffman said, "Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it's something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles."  The demonstrators at the peace vigil are practicing democracy.  Peace demonstrators are correct when, with gusto, they chant, "This is what democracy looks like."  The incompetent, as Hoffman calls them, who object  to the peace message with a hostility bordering on violence or who threaten peaceful protest deny democracy.  As Adlai Ewing Stevenson put it, "A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular." 

The peace vigil detractors with their hateful expressions and behavior foster anything but a free society.   Their, "if you're not with us, you're against us" mind set prefers to see expressions of democracy curtailed, that is, patriotism to them is freedom taken away.

Seeds

The seeds of fascism in the United States have not only sprouted, they have taken root, and the weed is thickening daily.  John Dewey succinctly described fascism this way,

Any doctrine that weakens personal responsibility for judgment and for action helps create the attitudes that welcome and support the totalitarian state.

In the angry 21st century politics of the world's only Superpower, the official doctrine of "Love it or leave it" too often permeates the media and the schools, two institutions that foster incompetent thinking.  Robotically placing a hand on the heart with a tear in the eye while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as a loyalty oath qualifies as incompetent thinking.  In contrast, critical thinking might suggest that this public display of group-think allegiance is anathema to a free society.   One might wonder about the purpose of this collective activity that recognizes non-participants as outsiders?  Critical thinking people might wonder what has changed the U.S. flag into the logo of the corporate state?  What has desecrated the former people's flag and morphed it into a symbol for the greed, corruption and avarice of the rich, wealthy class. 

Rich Littleby, writing for "Adbusters" in a piece entitled, "F-U Nation, I am nor for US, I am against US", writes,

I do not pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, nor to the republic for which it now stands: one nation under god and Capital, insufferable and unyielding, with liberty and justice least of all. America has become not just a gun nation, a TV nation, a Ritalin and Prozac nation, an obese nation, and a remedial nation, it has also become a rogue nation. In brand as in empire, America has become the ultimate menace – the superego state that says Fuck You to any nation that stands in the way of its state and corporate interests. And it manages to get away with it.

Those that buy into this hegemonist corporate mindset, and there are millions, including the hostile people at the peace vigil, mimic thus F-U nation mentality.  The F-U corporate, nation state creates F-U people.  Welcome to the Orwelian world of the U.S.A. circa 2002. 

Edward Said, a social critic stated, "

The problem for the world today is how to deal with the unparalleled and unprecedented power of the United States, which in effect has made no secret of the fact that it does not need coordination with or approval of others in the pursuit of what a small circle of men and women around Bush believe are its interests.”

Seed Incubators

The U.S. public through media manipulation now believes that their best interests are best served by not allowing any challenges to the planetary-wide exercise of this unbridled power.  And, you, boy, had better shut up or ship out.  This unbridled power now turns against the faces who still believe democracy is possible, a democracy of, for, and by the people, not the corporations.

The schools don't help.  Quite the contrary, they train the youth to stand up, salute, and obey.  Schools even validate speeches and alter graduation valedictorian texts in order to validate themselves.  When was the last time you heard a high school student say that they were taught that Einstein had stated, "The pioneers of a warless world are the youth that refuse military service"?  When indeed?  My experience after 30 years of teaching is that the educational apparatchiks parrot the fascist lines of the corporate state.  They engender the teaching of incompetent thinking in order to avoid controversy and to protect their status within the institutionalized corpo-state indoctrination apparatus. 

Imagine if a student, or even more improbably, imagine a teacher expressing Lawrence Littleby's sentiment that,

America was attacked not for its democratic values, but because those values, now corrupted, have permitted an unbridled corporate imperialism and an utter, hypocritical failure to pay any attention to the resulting global instability and suffering (just consider our exports of weapons around the globe). America as rogue nation exists at once at the extreme margins of civilized societies and at the center of international affairs.

Imagine the anger in response from the school administration.  This is the same anger that mainstream USA now exhibits towards its neighbors, relatives and fellow citizens who operate outside the parameters defined by Big Brother, George Orwell's name for the omniscient government. In a scene from Orwell's, "1984":  "Winston.  How many fingers do you see?", O'Brien asks as he holds up four.  Winston responds, "Four" as the electric shock is applied.  We are all Winston.  We eventually, broken, as Winston is, like him, say "Five."

Where Does the Anger Come From?

One visit to the Army's new recruiting and supposedly exciting video game for teens site offers us a clue.  The official "America's Army" website http://www.americasarmy.com comes replete with helicopter blade sound effects and the admonition,

Become a member of the world's premier land force; trained and equipped to achieve decisive victory—anywhere. Earn the right to call yourself a Soldier, letting the enemies of freedom know that America's Army has arrived.

If our society and tax dollars could only put such energy and effort into waging peace, how different might our country and the world be?  So much effort expended so early in a child's life to inculcate anger and love of and for violence.  We then wonder why soldiers kill their wives during domestic disputes?  Why Gulf War veterans obliterate federal buildings?  Why they go on sniper shooting rampages? Do we really need to wonder why as adults these children grow up angry?

I sense the anger is deliberately instilled.  The sinister agenda of anger as a programmed response is an anger-manipulated populace directing its anger at state sponsored targets, often purposefully covering up the state's malfeasance or some other ineptitude.  Furthermore, a public programmed anger response conceals the corruption of the powerful.  It vectors culpability away from the ruling elite toward an external entity.  It is more effective, for example, to blame a Saddam Hussein, or a neighbor, for our major woes than to prosecute and punish millionaires and billionaires responsible for the Enron debacle, for example. 

The best time to maximize public anger is a few months before the bi-annual nation-wide congressional or presidential elections.  An anger-filled October surprise works well.  That way, the focus of the electorate is diverted away from the real causes of public angst, that is, away from the corrupt who are in power. These are the people whose only concern is coming in on top in the immensely deadly game of exploiting the world's natural resources and consolidation planetary control. 

I am writing this issue of Metaphoria in mid-November, 2002.  By the time it is published and read in mid to late December, 2002, the United States may be commencing full-scale military action in Iraq -- a continuation of the 1991 Gulf War, which in effect never ended.  How angry does a nation have to be in order to find acceptable the death of over a million people through sanctions?  How angry does the average citizen have to be to accept unleashing the wrath of the greatest superpower's might ever assembled in all of human history?  For what?  For fighting Iraq which had nothing to do with 9-11?   

V.I. Lenin, though his statues have been rightly pulled down in some quarters, surmised that, "People have always been and they always will be stupid victims of deceit and self-deception in politics."  He should talk.  Looks who's doing the talking now?

Value

Much can be said about a society by answering the  question, "Of what value are the citizens of the society?"  In the world's premier capitalist enclave and spawning ground, an individual is valued for their ability to spend money.  It is a positive and desirable activity in contributing to the rise of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the total value of country's goods and services.  Citizen merit is measured not by participating in democracy, but rather by one's ability to continuously buy something.  The perpetual  marketing to the most-apt-to-spend targeted audience (the 18 - 49 year old population) strips us of the title "citizen" and replaces it with "consumer".  The arrogantly and incorrectly called "American people" become the "American consumer".  And, an angry US consumer is the marketeers good friend, a friend easily goaded into buying something, anything, in order to feel better -- if only, for just a few moments.  We citizens of the United States who are capable of such spending become members of a "privileged-consumer" class. 

We may well choose, by default, to continue our blind stumble into the morass of privileged consumerism. But with each step, more of "them" — not the Taliban, but the world's poor and disenfranchised — will hate us ... even more. (Clay Evans, Boulder Daily Camera, "Our Gluttony Fuels Anger", October 28, 2001).

And, in return, our anger increases.   We continue along this same course until our anger not only consumes us, but everyone else as well.

The nature of anger is that each act of violence within a person builds upon previous ones-fire feeds off existing material. The sinful disposition grows into a hardness of heart, and eventually gains popular appeal and momentum to the point that violence becomes institutionalized, part of the very blood and culture of a country.
(Fr. John J. Lombardi, From the Desk of: Father Jack.  "Avarice, Anger and Lust Old Sins, New Forms"

Jimmy Carter, former president and recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Price recently said,

There is a sense that the United States has become too arrogant, too dominant, too self-centered, proud of our wealth, believing that we deserve to be the richest and most powerful and influential nation in the world.

Carter added, "I think they feel that we don't really care about them, which is quite often true."  Jimmy Carter is correct.  In Afghanistan, for example, the United States, "has spent just $10-million on economic redevelopment compared with the $13-billion on the bombings and Special Forces operations." (Andrew Gumble, "Warning That War Could Plunge World into Deep Recession, Independent/UK, November 16, 2002).

An Antidote to Anger

Each Saturday and Sunday, my wife, JeanneE, and I, participate in two peace vigils held in Rutland and Manchester, Vermont.  These events are simple statements, expressions of "a better world is possible." These witnesses for peace are small antidote's to capitalism's greed and anger and the hatred rampant in the world today.  They are also part and parcel of a growing world-wide anti-war movement.

The people of the United States and the world are waking up and consciously deciding that there will be no more rich men’s struggles that ordinary women and men are forced to fight without serious and sustained opposition. Bush may unleash an attack against Iraq and continue his ill conceived “war against terrorism” but he and his cohorts will face relentless and growing dissent and protest at home and abroad. In the final analysis, the people of the world will ensure that rationality triumphs over irrationality, and that the interests of the many will prevail over the narrow self-interest of the few! (Ron Daniels, The Black World Today, "Democrats Waffle As Anti-War Movement Grows", November 14, 2002"

It's time to gather the large Veterans for Peace banner and head to the Manchester peace vigil through the slush and in the middle of a major ice storm in New England, a cold  Vermont morning.  My experience tells me that Ron Daniels is correct.  People are waking up.  Overwhelmingly, the peace vigils are met with positive responses.   People are recognizing that their artificially contrived anger is state inspired and are responding with, "Ya basta!".  That's why I go.  A better world is possible, a world with less capitalist greed and anger.  I encourage you to a small step by working with a local peace organization as a witness for peace.  Another world is possible.

2002 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD

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