The Capitalists are Out to Get Me is great description of how society drains us of the will to live.
The capitalists have decided to make my life a living hell. I can’t seem to do the slightest thing without their making it more difficult. It does no good to submissively implore, “I give up–you win,” they continue the torture relentlessly, with seemingly nothing to gain save for the pleasure of it.
When asked, “What do you do for a living,” most of us can’t respond, “I inherit from robber barons.” Many of the capitalists clearly may not only give such a response, but can add “I absolutely love to torment Jack for no reason.”
Case in point. I put a video into my DVD player and up pops a piracy warning. Then another, in case I missed the first one, telling me about the penalties for piracy, assuming I’m a criminal. Then one in French, knowing almost nobody in the USA parlez vous Francais, but also knowing it’s a great opportunity to harass honest citizens to let them know who’s in charge.
International power…still needs social legitimacy. That legitimacy is required both by the dominant and the dominated. The former crave it because it gives them the self-confidence, the sense of mission, and the moral conviction to pursue their goals and to assert their interests. The latter need it to justify their acquiescence, to facilitate their accommodation, and to sustain their submission. Doctrinal legitimacy reduces the costs of the exercise of power by mitigating resentment on the part of those subject to it. To this end, globalization is the natural doctrine of global hegemony.
Let’s talk about the Powell Memo, written in the era when my team had a chance of winning:
But what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.
Sources of the Attack
The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.
The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.
Powell, soon-to-be Nixon appointee to the Supreme Court, laid out the grave threat posed by Ralph Nader and leftist intellectuals, for the Chamber of Commerce:
A chilling description of what is being taught on many of our campuses was written by Stewart Alsop:
“Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men who are practitioners of ‘the politics of despair.’ These young men despise the American political and economic system . . . (their) minds seem to be wholly closed. They live, not by rational discussion, but by mindless slogans.” A recent poll of students on 12 representative campuses reported that: “Almost half the students favored socialization of basic U.S. industries.”
A visiting professor from England at Rockford College gave a series of lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” in which he documents the extent to which members of the intellectual community are waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society. In a foreword to these lectures, famed Dr. Milton Friedman of Chicago warned: “It (is) crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack — not by Communist or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.”
Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader, who — thanks largely to the media — has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans.
He had some concrete suggestions:
The Chamber should consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system. It should include several of national reputation whose authorship would be widely respected — even when disagreed with…
The Chamber should enjoy a particular rapport with the increasingly influential graduate schools of business. Much that has been suggested above applies to such schools….
There should be a fairly steady flow of scholarly articles presented to a broad spectrum of magazines and periodicals — ranging from the popular magazines (Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, etc.) to the more intellectual ones (Atlantic, Harper’s, Saturday Review, New York, etc.) and to the various professional journals.
This was to counteract the obvious “impotency” of business:
One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the “forgotten man.”
Current examples of the impotency of business, and of the near-contempt with which businessmen’s views are held, are the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to “consumerism” or to the “environment.”
Politicians reflect what they believe to be majority views of their constituents. It is thus evident that most politicians are making the judgment that the public has little sympathy for the businessman or his viewpoint.
The Powell Memo laid the foundation for the right wing’s “message discipline” and society-wide insidious propaganda campaign. Schools, television and magazines, newspapers, professional journals. It’s the origin of think tanks, like the Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship:
In recent decades, corporations have replaced states as the leading agents for global political and social change. Increased globalization and technological innovation will further accelerate this process. Increasingly, societal actors have recognized these developments and have begun to hold companies accountable for the social consequences of change. In addition to being responsible to shareholders and employees, companies must address the concerns of the media, activists, public officials and the public. Examples of areas that now involve business range from environmental standards and sustainability, diversity and privacy concerns, to global labor relations and human rights. Consider the example of biotechnology. Biotech companies not only need to obtain regulatory and political approval for their products, but also must secure acceptance of their products by the public via the various media channels.
These developments present new opportunities and challenges for managers. The social environment of business is complex and involves actors with different motivations. In this context, ethical concerns play a critical role. Both political activists and consumers frequently are motivated by moral concerns. Firms must be able to anticipate these concerns, predict their effects and incorporate them into overall strategic planning, from communication strategies to coalition building, from industry-alliances to the development of organizational solutions and corporate structures.
By their very nature these issues do not fit existing research categories. The Ford Center is therefore committed to addressing these issues on an interdisciplinary basis, bringing together researchers from social psychology, ethics, organizational behavior, accounting, political economy, economics, management strategy, medicine and public policy.
Notice that this is the same thing the Powell Memo was about, and that it’s the exact opposite of ethically motivated behavior.
…the psychologist Roy Baumeister argues that people believe most perpetrators of violence to be sadists who gain pleasure from the suffering of innocent victims. Especially for the most heinous crimes, we can’t help but see the perpetrators as ‘bad’ people: inhuman monsters who lack basic moral feeling. Baumeister called this phenomenon ‘the myth of pure evil’. A myth because it isn’t true.
In spite of widespread beliefs about its existence, sadism is so rare that it is not even an official psychiatric diagnosis…
Most of us will never engage in an act of extreme brutality. We will never shoot, stab, or beat someone to death. We will never rape another human being or set them on fire. We will never strap a bomb to our chests and detonate ourselves in a crowded café. And so, when faced with these seemingly senseless acts, we find ourselves at a loss. What possible purpose could they serve? Fundamentally, why do people hurt and kill one another?
It sounds like an unanswerable question. Yet there is an answer. It is simple, powerful and very disturbing. We fail to recognise it almost everywhere it matters. But if we really want to solve the problem of violence, there is nothing for it. We have to risk a kind of understanding that threatens our own values, our own way of life. We have to gaze into an abyss.
The purpose of articles like this is to go just far enough for credibility, but to stop well short of telling it like it is. Skipping to the punch line:
Across practices, across cultures, and throughout historical periods, when people support and engage in violence, their primary motivations are moral. By ‘moral’, I mean that people are violent because they feel they must be; because they feel that their violence is obligatory. They know that they are harming fully human beings. Nonetheless, they believe they should. Violence does not stem from a psychopathic lack of morality. Quite the reverse: it comes from the exercise of perceived moral rights and obligations.
And what to do about it:
It isn’t easy to change a culture of violence. You have to give people the structural, economic, technological and political means to regulate their relationships peacefully. Social groups have to learn to shame and shun anyone who hurts others. But it can be done. It has been done in the past, and it is happening as we speak.
Cultures do change. Globally, violence is on the decline. People everywhere are finding ways to satisfy their moral motives and social-relational aims non-violently. This does not mean our work is finished. People still hurt and kill one another because they believe that it is the right thing to do. But if their primary social groups make them feel that they should not be violent, they won’t be. Once everyone, everywhere, truly believes that violence is wrong, it will end.
Again: the purpose of the organization signing Tage Rai’s paycheck is to defeat moral critics of capitalism. The trick is to obfuscate the abyss while making people think they’re gazing into it. Right from the beginning, the idea is to help people pretend not to see sadism. Does he actually believe Schadenfreude is rare, rather than a basic part of human experience? This is how it’s indirectly acknowledged:
But in the spring of 2011, Americans celebrated in the streets following the killing of Osama bin Laden and, as recently as last summer, Israelis gathered on hilltops to watch and celebrate bombs dropping over Gaza. Violence is still celebrated by everyday people.
Does this mean that it necessarily ‘feels good’ or that people are never conflicted when they engage in it? No. People hate hurting others. It can be extremely distressing and traumatic, and can require training, social support and experience to do it. But that’s true of many moral practices. It can be difficult to tell the truth or to stand up for what’s right.
How do you reluctantly celebrate something? How does that even make sense? People’s good feelings about violence are eclipsed by their bad feelings about violence in the cases he’s listing. What we’re not supposed to see is that Israelis and Americans don’t view their Muslim enemies as humans at all. This is the Big Lie: “They know that they are harming fully human beings.” Truly large-scale violence, like the mining projects necessary for Ford’s existence, isn’t even thought of as violence by the people engaged in it. The victims are beneath consideration. What does it mean to say that violence is on the decline globally, when the United Nations just said the following:
The world is facing a staggering crisis as the number of forcibly displaced people rises to record numbers – 59.5 million at the end of 2014, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres warned on Thursday.
“To those that think that it doesn’t matter because humanitarian organizations will be there and able to clean up the mess, I think it’s important to say that we are no longer able to clean up the mess,” he told reporters in Istanbul.
“UN agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross — we no longer have the capacities and the resources to respond to such a dramatic increase in humanitarian needs.”
Guterres issued the stark warning a few hours after UNHCR had issued its annual Global Trends Report: World at War, (available at http://unhcr.org/556725e69.html) showing worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded.
The report said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 as a result of war, conflict and persecution had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.
“When you see the news in any global network we clearly get the impression that the world is at war. And indeed many areas of the world are today in a completely chaotic situation and the result is this staggering escalation of displacement, the staggering escalation of suffering, because each displaced person is a tragic story,” Guterres added.
Above all, the public should not understand that its leaders talk like Brzezinski. Problems can never be perceived as systemic. Sadism is a prominent feature of war, and torture enjoys widespread and increasing public support.
Tage Rai has a PhD in psychology, making this a strange statement: “sadism is so rare that it is not even an official psychiatric diagnosis.” In fact it was removed during the DSM-III to DSM-IV transition. From Theodore Millon, expert on personality disorders, in the book Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond:
As is known, the sadistic personality disorder was never introdued into either the ICD-9 or ICD-10. Moreover, it was dropped in DSM-IV, ostensibly owing to the minimal prevalence rates found in settings where these behaviors might normally be expected. Nevertheless, it is the judgment of the authors of this book that the decision to delete the sadistic/aggressive disorder was an error. It is our belief, as well as our observation, that persistent violence and abuse chacterize a significant segment of the personality-disordered spectrum, hence the inclusion of the disorder in this chapter.
Of course, complex PTSD isn’t in the DSM, even though it exists. The important thing is to emphasize the word “official” and not explain what it means. Telling white people that prison disproportionately harms black people increases their support for the policies that created the problem. That has nothing to do with sadism, right?
It’s also a Big Lie that we aren’t participating in extreme brutality:
In the modern world, it’s impossible to live ethically without going off the grid or killing yourself. If you did live off the grid (or didn’t live, period), you wouldn’t be reading this right now. But you are. Which means you—yes, you, in spite of your Prius with the “Coexist” sticker and your love of same-sex marriage and free-range poultry—live unethically.
Indeed, every single thing you do is unethical. Where’d you buy the clothes you’re wearing? Somewhere unethical. What’d you eat for breakfast? Something unethical. Did you take a shower this morning? How long did you take? If you didn’t just dab yourself with a wet, Dr. Bronner’s–covered rag, you fucked up. You continued to be part of the problem.
It’s a nice gesture for you to drive the Prius with the “Coexist” sticker. After all, you could be driving a Hummer with a “Fuck Differences” sticker. The Prius makes you feel better about yourself, like you’re raping Mother Gaia a little less than the other guy. Naturally, this fills you with a fair amount of self-righteousness. Your self-righteousness, however, is unfounded. In spite of your best efforts, you’re still ruining the world.
That’s the real abyss. Tage Rai is appealing to people’s desire to maintain a false sense of innocence. If we truly confronted what we’re doing, capitalism would be over, contrary to the mission of the Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship. Instead, people should get the message that violence can be an unfortunate moral necessity and they should get over their migivings.
It’s when we get to the end that the colonialism comes out. “Social groups have to learn to shame and shun anyone who hurts others.” I agree that’s what people should do, but notice that he uses the word “have.” Supposedly, violence will end when everyone everywhere thinks it’s wrong. That sounds nice if we pretend corporate think tanks don’t exist for the purpose of promoting violence. The idea is to promote narrow definitions of violence that exclude what corporations do. Then we can be reassured that we don’t get off on degrading people. We can feel like we’ve done the soul-searching we avoided. After all, we were bold in admitting the obvious: people generally think they’re right, including when they’re violent.
It’s even more pernicious because it helps to frame self-defense as out-of-control minorities being scary again. If we’re not violent, and our actions are opposed by people throwing rocks, they must be apes or something! The origins of gun control have to do with disarming black people, after all.
The beauty of ideology is that it doesn’t matter if Tage Rai has malicious intentions or not. It seems like a stretch that this kind of research is innocent, though:
Across four experiments, participants saw companies as capable of having ‘agentic’ mental states, such as having intentions, but incapable of having ‘experiential’ mental states, such as feeling pain. This difference in mental state ascription caused companies to elicit anger as villains, but not sympathy as victims. Differences in sympathy were mediated by perceived capacities for experience. When participants had a background leading companies (i.e. senior executives) or when a recognizable brand (i.e. Google) was anthropomorphized, perceptions of experience increased and the sympathy gap disappeared. An organization seen as high in experience and low in agency (i.e. sports team) elicited more sympathy and less anger than companies. Our findings elucidate the mechanisms underlying the link between mental state ascription and moral judgment; the tendency to ascribe some mental states to organizations more easily than others; and the phenomenon whereby companies elicit anger as villains but fail to elicit sympathy as victims.
Companies as victims of what, exactly? He’s looking for ways of increasing sympathy for corporations that actually behave psychopathically. His Aeon article talks about how rare psychopathy is, ignoring the fact that corporations are ubiquitous and psychopathic by definition.