“Doublethink means the power of holding
two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously,
and accepting both of them.”
More than seventeen years have past since the United States declared victory in the Cold War waged with the Soviet Union. Begun before most of us were born, this clash of political ideologies has been the defining concept behind international relations since the end of the Second World War. Innumerable regional conflicts have been fought under the invisible influence of one superpower or the other, and millions of people have died, of whom more than one hundred thousand were Americans. Countless more innocent human beings have suffered every horror imaginable in bringing about this change in the world order. Domestically, the policies of our governments have been subject to the priorities superimposed upon them by the need to win at all costs this struggle for western civilization’s “survival”, an expediency which has resulted in bloated military budgets, the compromise of civil rights, the slowing of social progress and a suspension of the rule of law. When the Soviet Union imploded, the time had finally arrived for us to reap the rewards brought about by three generations of human sacrifice. It never happened.
International Terrorism, the creed of anarchists and antichrists, was lurking in the shadows all along. Just as malevolent and uncompromising, this new specter has replaced the godless Communists in opposing America’s efforts to bring freedom and democracy to all peoples of the world. Ostensibly to combat this new threat, the United States has chosen to maintain its sixty-year policy of using military intervention wherever and whenever it is deemed necessary. For as long as it takes, therefore, additional economic sacrifices will be required of us, and further curtailments of our civil liberties imposed in order to protect our prosperity and freedom.
Such inane reasoning is the essence of rhetoric currently employed by our political leaders, and is intended to rationalize the corruption which pervades today’s global relations, to justify the attendant economic disparities, and to normalize the sustaining of social inequality caused by the perpetuation of the power structures from which these conditions originate. A succession of uninvited U.S. interventions into the affairs of other countries throughout the last half of the twentieth century has not been in the service of oppressed peoples at all. These intercessions have served primarily to enrich American entrepreneurs and corporate interests, while expanding the pervading influence of American arms. Yet, with remarkably little deviation, U.S. foreign policy has been portrayed throughout the post Second World War period as one of benevolent paternalism in the ideological struggle against Communist oppression.
American foreign policy is formulated to benefit U.S. mercantilism. Throughout their country’s history, American leaders have steadily expanded the nation’s wealth, power and dominion, through direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the economic and political life of other countries. How hegemony is attained has always been of secondary importance, and any “collateral damage” considered incidental.
Corporate magnates who benefit the most from these policies do so through the industry of the middle class and the poor. The required support of this majority of Americans is garnered by manipulating their opinions and perceptions through the control of media and government institutions. This covert means of influence allows America’s elite to promote their own agenda while concealing their intentions from public scrutiny. With predictable regularity, these private priorities are faithfully adopted by political minions who have been groomed, financed and promoted for this very purpose.
This is not, of course, a phenomenon unique to our generation, or even the twentieth century. The image of the big businessman preying on the weak, cheating the vulnerable and plundering their resources is contemporaneous with the creation of the corporation as an instrument of business. During the American Civil War and into The Gilded Age, when large corporations began to dominate U.S. economic activity, there were observers of this development who warned against allowing so much power to be concentrated in the hands of private citizens, contending that these corporations “would be controlled by one man or combinations of men who would use these new leviathans to become masters of the nation”. And so they have.
Since 1945, corporate influence has become all pervasive. With the expansion of the United States’ geopolitical influence since the end of WWII, and its absolute military dominance since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc by 1990, the influence of these corporate carpetbaggers who follow in the American military’s wake has grown exponentially. A vicious, self-perpetuating economy based primarily on exporting war has come to fruition in the United States, and continues to spread its destructive influence throughout the world. Here, in North America, “privatization” has become the mantra of corporations who conspire to secure public assets for private profit, and assume control over the responsibility for delivering social services which have historically been provided and maintained by Government for our collective good. The goal isn’t to improve service delivery, or to enhance our quality of life, but to exploit another source of potential profit while consolidating control of the nation’s economy in their hands – none of this can be achieved without the complicity of legislators, our political “representatives”.
Public servants must be in collusion with elements of the corporate sector if the democratic process is to be effectively bypassed. Men and women lacking moral compunction, possessed by an irrational need to achieve personal fulfillment through power over others, must be recruited to complete the task. It’s not difficult for anyone to provide examples of politicians who have betrayed the public trust. Every generation, it seems, is fated to suffer the consequences of these individuals’ corrupt behaviour, and every successive generation must then deal with and rectify the damage incurred, if at all possible.
As human societies become more sophisticated, however, the ability of conscientious citizens to organize in opposition to criminals operating from within government lessens. Initiating political reform through honest and genuinely democratic debate in the nation’s media is no longer possible, since our print and electronic communication networks have been progressively concentrated in the hands of a wealthy few. The nature of media is business, and, as such, it is a commercial enterprise for profit. Corporate journalists, who share the same prejudices as their sponsors, and ultimately the same interests, are responsible for providing us with a product, not with the truth. As consumer, the public is expected to buy the product, not participate in its creation. The content of the “news” is determined entirely beyond the scrutiny of its intended audience and, with minor deviations, has become a homogeneous product as predictable in its content from one outlet to another as is buying a MacDonald’s hamburger in Dallas, Detroit, or Des Moines, Iowa.
Exercising our legal rights afforded through the franchise of citizenship is reduced to forms of expression that we are conditioned to consider socially and culturally acceptable, as portrayed in the media. Protesting policies by demonstrating in the streets is not considered appropriate behaviour for a “cultured” person; expressing opposition to our leaders’ decisions during times of war through civil disobedience is selfish and unpatriotic, even traitorous; valuing social welfare programs over the sustained growth of commerce is simply ridiculous. The media establishes the standards by which we are expected to gage our own conduct, an electronically conveyed “peer pressure” that’s shared universally. Conditioning an audience in order to achieve a predictable response works, particularly if the message is constantly reinforced, and especially among young audiences with limited life experience.
Our history is a commodity, its characteristics designed for mass consumption and intended to evoke a desired response. Our schools of “higher education” have effectively become retail outlets designed to encourage brand loyalty and product preferences. As author Jane Jacobs observed, “Credentialing, not educating, has become the primary business of North American universities”. Corporate employers are seeking job applicants who demonstrate the ability to cooperate and conform; “team players” who choose not to think for themselves. Acquiescence to authority is the primary requisite for acceptance in the world of big business. Our children are being taught to accept as fact the revisionist history provided them by a corporate academia, itself addicted to private sector sponsorship dollars, as is the corporate media that reinforces the message of unconditional acceptance and deference to a “higher authority” in every public venue. Through constant repetition of the message to young and receptive minds, combined with the “dumbing down” of programming content, the intended audience can be conditioned to accommodate a plethora of contradictions in dogmatic themes without perceiving these as being contradictions. Financial success is the primary objective in life; therefore, adjusting one’s personal ethics to accommodate the potential for financial success becomes justifiable, even rational, since you have to “change with the times” in order to keep up and succeed.
Through such means are lies substituted for truth. How else can we explain the metamorphosis of George W. Bush’s image in the national media? Lewis H. Lapham, editor for Harper’s Magazine and author of Gag rule: on the suppression of dissent and the stifling of democracy, made the observation that this “ignorant and boorish candidate from Texas, of whom only failure was expected, unaccountably won the Republican party’s nomination for president in 2000. Then, through a series of editorials published in The New York Times, he was suddenly transformed into ‘a man of dazzling charm, in possession of a growing political savvy’. Why did the Times, ostensibly a liberal publication, suddenly support Bush?” Why did the media in general warm up to George W. Bush?
Former President Bill Clinton has engaged in humanitarian work in cooperation with fellow former-President George H. W. Bush, specifically in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami disaster and Hurricane Katrina. Once regarded by these same media networks as little more than a juvenile delinquent whose behaviour was controlled by his hormones, an opportunist who sold sleep-overs in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House for campaign contributions and was haunted by allegations of real estate fraud in his past, this same Bill Clinton’s public image is now that of a wise and compassionate man, his opinions the voice of reasoned experience worthy of our closest consideration.
Why is it that former President Ronald Reagan, in death, is now elevated to secular sainthood? While being accredited with toppling the Soviet Empire virtually single-handedly, Reagan has also been awarded the moniker of “The Great Communicator”, although in reality the man was considered by his peers to be no more than a second-rate actor with a knack for remembering his lines. Just like the character Comrade Ogilvy from George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-four, a fictitious hero who was penned into existence by Big Brother’s speech writers for public adoration, the Ronald Reagan we are being taught to believe in never existed; “Comrade Ogilvy, unimagined an hour ago, was now a fact… Comrade Ogilvy, who had never existed in the present, now existed in the past, and when once the act of forgery was forgotten, he would exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.” We, The People, are being lied to.
In times of major crisis, it becomes very important for America’s controlling elite to present a united front for the public’s consumption. Leadership from both the Republican and Democratic parties must band together in order to deter a groundswell of public resistance to policies which are unpopular, or simply not in the public’s interest. The United States’ invasion of Iraq required overwhelming support by both parties in Congress in order to appear credible when presented to the American public. Congress provided this endorsement. Democratic senator John Kerry, for example, voted for war on Iraq, then during his campaign for the presidency in 2004 was only critical of minor details in the Bush Administration’s methods to “win the peace”. After George W. Bush’s re-election, follow-up media coverage presented us with the two sage characters of former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, in mutual agreement and fully endorsing the steps being taken by the administration in its occupation of Iraq. The essence of oligarchic rule in the United States is sustained by preserving the status quo. It does not matter which political party the reigning President belongs to, but what his world-view is; “Who wields power is not important,” observed Orwell, “provided that the hierarchical structure remains always the same.”
The power of the United States is global, an all-pervasive economic and military influence poised to engulf followers and dissenters alike. Decisions made by American leaders in the early decades of this new century will probably decide the fate of civilization as we know it, and the concerns that need to be addressed are imposing. Historian Ronald Wright has clarified our plight succinctly, concluding that, “We still have differing cultures and political systems, but at the economic level there is now only one big civilization, feeding on the whole planet’s natural capital….Experts in a range of of fields have begun to warn that these years may be the last when civilization still has the wealth and political cohesion to steer itself towards caution, conservation, and social justice.” None of this can be achieved without the leadership of the United States, possessor of the world’s largest economy, the largest consumer of the earth’s resources, and the world’s largest polluter.
Corporations from every industrialized country have been exploiting the resources of “third world” countries, both human and ecological, for centuries, and are intentionally undermining the emergence of democratic political systems today in “underdeveloped” countries which strive to represent the interests of their indigenous populations. Sadly, during the twentieth century it has been the U.S. federal government, acting on behalf of American corporations, which has been the leading obstacle to the success of many grass roots democratic movements around the world. Antiquated forms of “industrialization”, which benefit established, “first world” banks and corporations, are currently being promoted by the World Trade Organization, and subsidized by the International Monetary Fund. These policies continue, regardless of the environmental impacts, and of the long-term, unsustainable debt which is being imposed upon these countries’ people by dictators and despots in collusion with the “developed” world’s corporate “community”.
Consumption of non-renewable resources for short term profit by corporate entities threatens the welfare of us all. Deforestation, desertification, oil depletion, and economic inflation ultimately result in a continuously declining standard of living for everyone – the ultimate result of our current forms of consumption driven economies. The hidden costs of the rise in all diseases, especially cancer, caused by environmental degradation, have yet to impact us privileged few of the Western World to a significant degree. It is coming, however, and it can’t be avoided. Despite our current leaders choosing to pretend that these concerns are still “non-issues”, despite the best efforts of corporate public relations efforts, they will become the primary concern of all educated human beings before too long. Cancer is already the biological plague of the twenty-first century. Its containment will only be achieved by protecting the earth’s remaining ecosystems from additional damage caused by humans. We must attempt to detoxify ourselves by detoxifying our land, air, and water. People of the world community must stop the casual use of the chemical cocktail made available to modern industry and farming. A new market model must be created, or an old one resurrected, that rewards businesses embracing the principals of conservation and environmentalism in their operations. Given proper consideration, there is no reason why doing the right thing cannot be profitable.
If these problems do not warn us of the potential collapse of contemporary human civilization, perhaps we should remind ourselves of the continuing proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear power’s poisonous by-products, both of which will be with us indefinitely, still uncontrolled and still just as potentially lethal as they were more than forty years ago when billions of human beings contemplated the very real possibility of over-night extermination.
These are the threats facing humanity’s collective future, and all potential solutions lie within the sphere of influence held exclusively by America’s leaders.
If we are to avoid the demise of democratic rule, however inadequate democracy may seem in practice, and the danger this possibility presents for our survival, we must start by examining the motivations of our leaders. A critical evaluation of their motivations is essential for achieving any meaningful understanding in the search for solutions to our political crisis of confidence, and the establishment of enduring reforms. The duplicity and hypocrisy displayed in their conduct can no longer be dismissed as “politics as usual”, now that the fate of mankind’s global community is in jeopardy. At the very least, we as individuals have the power to influence the course of events through our vote, meager as it may be. While most people may not have the time or energy to become activists on behalf of their beliefs, we all have the obligation to vote responsibly, and to withhold the power of elected office from those who are undeserving. To do that, we must learn to recognize the enemies of democracy and vote against them.