Saturday, April 23, 2016
Chris Hedges, a long-time journalist, book author and now a columnist for truthdig.com was arrested this month in Washington. He had joined the street protests sponsored by Democracy Spring against the corporate take-over of our nation.
“Until corporate power is overthrown—and it will be overthrown only from the streets in sustained acts of civil disobedience—the nation will continue to devolve into an authoritarian police state. Corporations will continue to strip us of our remaining rights, carry out the deadly assault on the ecosystem, impoverish workers, make a mockery of our democracy and cannibalize what is left of the country. The system of corporate power is incapable of reform. It must be destroyed.”
Such strong words have been suggested by both the Trump and Sanders campaigns. Although their lexicon and demeanor differ substantially, both men argue that political insiders do the will of Wall Street and corporate elites. A nuanced opinion deserves our consideration:
“Neoliberalism and globalization have been unmasked as tools of corporate exploitation. The billions spent on propaganda to maintain the illusion of democracy and the benefits of the “free market” no longer work. The endless wars, which have not made the United States, Europe or the Middle East more secure, are now unmasked as blood-drenched arms markets for a war industry bloated with trillions of taxpayer dollars.
The war industry and the fossil fuel industry, like all corporate systems of exploitation, are at their core systems of death. They assault a planet that needs to swiftly build green infrastructures and egalitarian social systems that make life possible.”
While I am no equal to Mr Hedges I wish to join the conversation by bringing up once again the concept of, and the reality of, the social unconscious. The concept’s definition goes something like this: in every culture (be it a settlement, a tribe, an incorporated village, a city, a state or any other more or less definable and established social grouping) the individuals that make up the social unit share a common understanding of life in general and behaviors in particular. While a goodly portion of this shared understanding is conscious enough to be talked about, argued and lived there is a substantial chunk of assumptions and dispositions, biases and inclinations that are down underneath, so deep people aren’t aware of them.
The best way to learn about the social unconscious is to come personally to a critical issue — almost always occurring when one is located outside one’s native social unit — that serves to uncover, sometimes quite rudely, elements of the social unconscious one has heretofore taken for granted.
I will offer one very embarrassing example. In Spain for a year, I found no way to keep our Fiat on the road legally for more than six months. We needed a car. At a moment of exasperation I went to the central customs office to plead my case. As was often the situation, the official behind the desk (and the seal) was being addressed simultaneously by four or five shouters. When I finally got to the desk I began “I am an American and …” The official glared at me. “That’s OK. I’m a Czechoslovakian.” His sharp retort unmasked my assumptions about American exceptionalism — a topic I have thought about many times since that moment. By the way, it is difficult here in Indianapolis to gain a perspective on our notion of exceptionalism. In Spain, it was easy to see.
Now that I have introduced the social unconscious, I wish to apply it to the so-called corporate and elite “take-over” of America. While I too am aware of the enormous power of of money, I am not fully enough versed to call it a “coup de etat.” Perhaps it is. What I AM convinced of is that this nation from early times built its “house” on private enterprise capitalism and thereby honored the man (yes, usually a male) who aced this economic system. From earliest times society accommodated the man of means, the man who pulls himself up by his boot straps.
This preferential treatment has, over the decades, gone underground so that the populace at large isn’t conscious of
— the entrapment of poor people in ghettos
— the inequality of opportunity for rich and poor children
— the price of health care, prohibitive for many people of modest means
— the difficulty of getting round if one doesn’t own a vehicle
— the continued discrimination in housing
— the better infrastructures (streets, sidewalks) in rich neighborhoods
— the power of multinational companies
— the foreign policy that is dictated by economic returns
and the list goes on and on.
While I am located left of center politically, I can not abide the giving of more than $200,000 to Mrs. Clinton for one speech. Yet people seem not to question what such a payment buys.
How can our society be made aware — that is, lifted up and out of the social unconscious — in order to know the effects of this concentration of economic power?
Mr. Hodges who has used many venues — news reports, books, columns — to express his opinions about vital issues opts at this point to answer the above question by joining a street protest. My hat is off.