Risto Juola
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The Capitalist Bent

Feb 02, 2008

During the first two opportunities I had to vote I withheld my ballot. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, my surface level understanding of politics and human nature led me to the conclusion that professional politics was, in the case of most leaders, nothing more than a pretext for the continued dominion of wealth and power, and that my vote was meaningless. Secondly, I accepted the more than slight possibility that I was ignorant in the matters of policy and economy, and was somehow unfit to participate in the process of selection. For the next elections I worked to increase my understanding, and began to vote. Recently, I was afforded the time to further investigate the world of politics, and reached the painful conclusions that my first instincts were my best, and that my second instincts were my second best; no matter what amount of personal research is performed, especially in the study of politics, only hindsight is 20/20 -- the only information available is that which is explicitly designed to be available.

Here is the situation as it appears to me: totalitarianism is summarily denounced by the capitalist intelligentsia in all of its forms, however the more one learns about political and economic operations under capitalist democracy, the greater the evidence buttresses the conclusion that capitalist democracy is in some ways a contemporary form of totalitarianism. This does not mean that political activity is pointless, it means that we must understand what politics is; "[P]olitics is the shadow cast on society by big business"; and "'[P]olitical thought' is the platforms of two major parties that agree on all crucial issues."

Civic debates in first world nations function on the basis that economics is subordinate to government, and that democrats/liberals occupy the left end of the political spectrum, while republicans/conservatives occupy the right. This basic underpinning overlooks the fact that both democrats and republicans are privatistic capitalists, and oppose any form of egalitarianism that challenges the concentration of power and wealth, and thus both are right wing political parties. In fact, in its current form, the epithet 'democratic' in the phrase 'democratic capitalist' is highly misleading if its dictionary definition is assumed. Isolated group action to remove specific oppressions is permitted only so far as it does not interrupt the capital of the affluent. Thus, contrary to popular civic debate, government is subordinate to economics.

Observe the remarks of the celebrated American democrat, John F. Kennedy;

"Most of us are conditioned for many years to have a political veiwpoint-Republican or Democratic, liberal, conservative, or moderate. The fact of the matter is that most of the problems ... that we now face are technical problems, are administrative problems. They are very sophisticated judgments which do not lend themselves to the great sort of 'passionate movements' which have stirred this country so often in the past. Now they deal with questions which are now beyond the comprehension of most men."

Such elitist and antidemocratic rhetoric is common among first world politicians, and works to support the pretense that democrats sit as far left as is realistically possible on the political spectrum, without going too far, into the supposedly unfeasible utopian visions of anarchy (a word whose meaning has been successfully obscured) and socialism. The idea that democrats and republicans are the only appropriate options on the political spectrum is the naked application of bifurcation. As Chomsky notes: "There is quite another spectrum that can be imagined, with democratic and autocratic control of the system of production as the polar cases."

It seems to me that Chomsky intends the concept 'democratic control' to assume the egalitarian senses of the word democracy as found in the dictionary;

"government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system; a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges; political or social equality; democratic spirit; the common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power."

In practice, the policies and activities of democrats and republicans show them to be working together, resting firmly at the right end of the political spectrum, reveling in the convergence of power and wealth borne of oligarchical totalitarianism. Democratic and republican politicians who profess opposing views are nothing more than rival siblings. No one will debate that both democrats and republicans are of capitalist ilk, and when viewed from the aspect of the broader political spectrum while keeping an eye towards history, few can honestly debate that their opposition extends beyond the details of how best to appropriate the products of mass labour and the control of resources. A popular example is to consider the American recession of 2001. Contrary to the mythology of the Democrats, the actions of Republican George W. Bush could not have been its primary cause; one must examine the laissez-faire and politically conservative policies of the Clinton administration, in the roaring nineties. Once this is understood, it becomes clear that electing a new administrative team to the seat of government is no solution to the problems of a society, or of the world at large.

Permit me to make a sweeping generalization: every political party, in every city, in every country, is subject to the corruption of its administration. The problem is not how best to administer government and power, the problem is the unequal distribution of power. No one is incorruptible. The percipient observation that power is the root of demoralization and corruption is well expressed by Martha A. Ackelsberg; "the exercise of power in any institutionalized form -- whether economic, political, religious, or sexual -- brutalizes both the wielder of power and the one over whom it is exercised."

We rightfully denounce the barbarous activities of the Nazis, Josef Stalin and Pol Pot, but fail to recognize or accept that most humans have precisely the same murderous capacity if so conditioned and cultivated. Barring physical maladies, we abhor such activities only because of the environment in which are socialized; no human is immune to bigotry or egotism, and it is obtuse elitism to believe otherwise.

"It's a fair assumption that every human being -- real human beings, flesh and blood ones, not corporations, but every flesh and blood human being -- is a moral person. You know, we've got the same genes, we're more or less the same, but our nature, the nature of humans, allows all kinds of behaviour. I mean, every one of us under some circumstances could be a gas chamber attendant and a saint. It depends on all sorts of things."

"We all have within us the saint and the sinner ... if we really were honest with ourselves [we would admit that] shadow energies are part of everyone's life. There is a saying, that if you don't have a shadow then you are probably standing in darkness."

Understanding this, we also see that no person or group should lord power over another; however domination and acquiescence to hierarchical power structures are deeply engrained in human nature, and it would seem they are accepted by most of humanity as immutable universal constants rather than malleable evolutionary artefacts. Certainly, those with more experience and proven ability in any particular discipline should be regarded as senior authorities, and should be engaged in communication and debate, thus enabling others to make intelligent decisions. But: no one person or interest group should simply be taken as the final authority on any matter.

The wisdom of democracy is the use of mass debate to counteract the fallibility and nepotism of the individual, but the current "democratic" allocation of power in first world capitalistic societies is tantamount to the endowment of unilateral veto.

Part of the series: Narcissa