One of the things that makes political polemics diabolically difficult and often deviously diversionary, is that the propaganda engines of statist society evacuate context and eviscerate content, in order to misinform and manipulate us. That is to say, we are given events in a vacuum, against a field of implicit but never overt ideological assumptions. Once we accept that vacuum, we are at a loss to understand what is really going on, and thus, what to do about it, either tactically or strategically. This background field of assumptions also constrains our known possibilities, making it difficult to choose either ends or means consistently, in the short or long run. And since the assumptions are cleverly embedded, they are rarely challenged. One could call it the mythos of no mythos.
In general, this mythos is cleverly crafted with seeming contradictions but always leading us toward some direction that will aid the ruling class, in a “heads I win, tails you lose” fashion. A look at the US presidential elections of the past 30 years or so is an almost too obvious example. On the one hand you always have a corporate shill, militarist, social conservative who is beholden to Wall Street… and then there’s the Republican candidate.
Yes, Virginia, there are differences between the official “left” and “right”. But those differences are “split” in such a way that one segment of the ruling class benefits no matter who you support. I tend to prefer indirect economic tyranny to direct pseudo-religious pleasure-control tyranny myself, and I suspect most of you would as well, being the shiftless deviants I know and love. It’s still not something to cheer about. The other advantage to our would-be masters of creating two inconsistent, self-contradictory “wings” is that in a democracy they will tend to take turns running things, so each faction of the ruling class gets their chance to be more favored. There’s a war in the heavens, but you’re not invited to the victory dinner. You might even *be* the victory dinner, one way or the other.
As far as I can tell, the two biggest social problems that we have in statist society are War and Poverty. And true to form, they are rarely directly addressed.
Almost all of the social “problems” that the world faces today are a direct or indirect result of poverty. Lack of access to clean drinking water, lack of access to healthcare, crime, even pollution, are all related to poverty. And the political “solutions” that are offered are patchwork stop-gap programs that alleviate one or more of the symptoms of poverty, but are designed to do as little as possible to reduce poverty itself. Many of them create much more poverty in the long run, generating all new problems for the ruling class to “solve”. By advocating a political solution to any of these micro-problems out of context, you are playing into the hands of the ruling class who says, in the manner of Augustine: “Let us eliminate poverty, but not yet”. The most charitable interpretation of political leftism might say that the hope is that by empowering people little by little, they can roll back the ruling class stranglehold on the economy gradually. But as WL Garrison noted about slavery: “Gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice”. The idea of “soaking the rich” is nonsense. The rich are never going to soak themselves. There can not be a state in which the ruling class act against their own interests wholly and consistently.
In truth, there is very little sentiment or support on the official, political left for policies that would directly damage the corporate elite, by taking away their subsidies and privileges. The reasoning or justification seems to be that “we need the rich to form a tax base to use to help the poor”. The irony would be hilarious, if not for the concrete implications.
The inevitable outcome of course is that the class of poor expands as the middle class gets squeezed and eventually it becomes “too expensive” to keep all the programs keeping the poor comfortable and “austerity measures” are taken. Then when the poor naturally rebel, the official “right” wing will blather about how the poor want to freeload off the middle class, and are willing to take violent measures to do so. Or what? Starve? Live in abject misery? Well, sure, Boss. The “right” loves to talk about the morality of private property, but they don’t really mean it. The rich have no respect for the private property of the poor and middle class. They use that as a would-be club against the poor who have been forced into misery and the middle class who naturally want a piece of the spoils of statist plunder. But when their own interests are threatened, well they’re all for bailouts and government-backed loans and such things. The entire justification for central banking (or quasi-central banking, as in the National Bank Act, long before the vile Federal Reserve existed, or the frequent “suspension of specie payments” before that) is purely and directly “welfare” for the rich. To protect the banking system against systemic failure means allowing banks to loan what is essentially stolen money to rich people for risky ventures that they wouldn’t dare with their own savings. There’s no other way a bank could fail, but it’s never explained that way.
“Intellectual Property” is another form of protectionism for the rich at the expense of the real property of the poor and middle class. They wish to tell you what you can do with your own property on the grounds that they own the content and ideas that are embedded in that property. Because they say so, and they have lawyers, guns and money.
The question to ask is “instead of (pretend) fighting all these social problems associated with poverty, why don’t we just end poverty?” A comfortable man cannot be economically coerced. But that’s exactly what the ruling class is afraid of. They would rather be billionaires in a world with massive poverty than trillionaires in a world with no poverty, because in the latter world, they’re just another person that no one is beholden to, that no one needs in particular. They want to feel important, they want you to depend on them. They want trickle-down economics to be true, and they’ll kill millions of people to see that it is.
Which brings us to the other major problem, War. War accomplishes three main goals for the ruling class. First off, it destroys excess capital and labor outside of the insiders’ walled garden. Secondly, it is a means of coercing renegade members of the ruling class that decide to go too far away from the tacitly accepted ground rules of the game. Thirdly, it mobilizes support for the ruling class domestically. They can justify more intrusion and incursion into the common affairs of “their” citizens during wartime on the grounds that it is an emergency situation, and that these measures are for the good of the citizenry as a whole.
It is the first two benefits which led General Smedly Butler to say “War is a Racket”. It is the third benefit which led Randolph Bourne to say “War is the health of the State”. The fact is that the common people do not benefit from war, even when their particular government “wins”. Some of them will die, all of them will pay, either directly through increased taxes or, more commonly, indirectly, through “deficit spending” which turns into monetary inflation, the most regressive form of taxation (which is why the political “right” prefers it to direct taxation). On top of all this, they suffer the moral devastation of being numbed to the killing of thousands or even millions of people.
So if political solutions cannot overcome the global devastation of poverty and war, what can? Personal autonomy is the only way we can undermine and overthrow the ruling class.
You can’t just up and change the system. But what you can do is subvert it. If enough people subvert things long enough, the system changes de facto. In order to do this, you have to stop buying into the idea that the system as such is legitimate, that it has a claim on your behavior. Subversion, sedition and sabotage. Direct action in pursuit of your goals. Not only does it get results, but it allows you to live like a human being again. You will be, if not entirely free, liberated from the wasteful trap of throwing your life away trying to convince the ruling class to go against their own interests.
Translations for this article:
- Portuguese, O Último Ensaio “Político”.