Of Hampster Wheels and Men

It is evident that the US or Israel is going to launch an unprovoked attack on Iran in the near future, just as it did against Iraq and countless other defenseless nations within recent memory. As a result, untold numbers of innocent people will die and huge sums of money will change hands. Both the U.S. and Israel will consolidate their power in the Middle East and injustice and death will follow in their wake.

Bush’s co-conspirators in Congress are standing down, leaving little doubt as to whom they serve. As always, the mainstream media is preparing the way by serving as an organ of the Military-industrial complex by beating the drums of war and perpetuating lies.

Outside of a small number of citizens, few people seem capable of plumbing the depths of our conundrum. Under the umbrella of capitalism, business is the business of America, and death, inequity, and misery are its chief byproducts. Thus the rich are getting richer and the wealth generated by the producers is being concentrated into fewer hands than ever before.

War and class warfare are among the offshoots of capitalism. They are opposite sides of the same coin, like Democrat and Republican. Significant change will not occur until the people rise up in revolt and take matters into their own hands—a state of affairs that is virtually unimaginable. Nothing less than a fundamental paradigm shift from capitalism to a just an equitable socio-economic system is required.

It is not difficult to know what kind of response the present threat demands of us—yet only a handful of thoughtful and courageous people will act appropriately against them.

I am quite certain that indifference, apathy, belligerent nationalism, and dumb-foundedness are not appropriate responses to the cancer that is festering in the Pentagon, the halls of Congress, and America’s corporate board rooms and political think tanks.

I am willing to bet that the average American never contemplates the inequities that capitalism foists upon the world, or the unwarranted faith we have in the concept of private ownership, unregulated markets, and trickle down economics. This is a system that was created to serve the wealthy and to oppress the majority, and it is fundamentally predatory in nature.

Championed by the likes of Milton Friedman, capitalism and private ownership is the holy grail of the American economic system, and they are considered beyond reproach even by those who barely survive under their ponderous weight. The nemesis of capital and privilege is an organized and mobilized citizenry. Throughout America’s short history, alternative political and economic systems such as communism and socialism, long associated with organized labor and radical unionism, have occasionally gained a foothold in the barren political landscape and, predictably, were thoroughly demonized by the mainstream media and its corporate funders.

Alternatives to capitalism have been tried but they have always been undermined by the US, which allows their critics to assert that these social experiments have been tried and failed. But left alone to evolve without outside interference, other socio-economic systems that serve people and the public interest might well flourish over for profit systems that promote private enterprise, which explains why so much energy and treasure is spent to undermine them.

Does anyone really believe that capitalism would be so prevalent today if it had been so systematically undermined by other governments as its counterparts? The playing field has never been level. Yet, despite such intense oppression, alternatives continue to spring up like undesirable weeds in capitalism’s well groomed garden. Left untended, the garden quickly reverts to its natural state, which, clearly, is not capitalism or public funded privatized wealth accumulation.

Early on, working class Americans have been programmed to rail against any system that poses a threat to capitalism and its attendant Plutocratic rule. There was the era of McCarthyism in the 1950’s, and long before that the constant specter of the red menace that has always been associated with organized labor and other social justice movements.

Any ideology that is opposed to capitalism has always been presented to the people as a threat to democracy itself, which is an absurd notion. Through propaganda and other distortions of truth, the interests of the ruling clique are widely perceived to also be the people’s interest. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Democracy is the greatest threat to capitalism and Plutocracy; and, as history attests, it is vigorously repressed by those in power, often by acts of state sponsored terrorism and militarism.

Unregulated corporate power and the unbridled exploitation of land and people are as far from true free markets and democracy as anything can be.

Through the judicious use of lies and propaganda the corporate media, aided by the educational system, has successfully steered the collective American psyche away from the very ideologies that might potentially be our greatest benefactors. The underlying causes of societal injustice, including the inequitable distribution of wealth and power, are thus kept safely out of the public conscience, beyond the pale of moral and intellectual discourse. Unregulated corporate power and free markets are hailed in the mainstream media as humankind’s greatest achievements. They are marketed to the very people it exploits as liberating, democratic institutions.

The founding fathers recognized that an aroused and organized citizenry was the primary threat to the ruling elite. Organized labor, in particular, has always been perceived as a threat to the established orthodoxy. A democratic workplace would inevitably lead to a democratic society, and thus deny the strength of the ruling Plutocracy.

It is remarkable that for more than 230 years the Plutocracy has not only successfully kept the majority of the people supporting economic and social policy that is detrimental to the people, they have also kept them from thinking about alternatives that could provide relief from the social and economic injustice wrought by capitalism—among them, universal health care and socialized higher education. The government is always waging a cold war against the working class people, whatever their country of origin.

As a result, we have evolved into a nation of imperialists addicted to war and other forms of violence, which accrues tremendous wealth and power to the rich, while simultaneously undermining the people’s collective welfare, and the wellbeing of the planet.

Attached to their ipods, cell phones, their computers, television sets, and right wing media, the American people are detached from reality. So long as they are free to consume and waste, and sufficient entertainment is provided, the people will not rise up in revolt.

Because of this separation from reality, Americans do not empathize with people outside of their own immediate families, beyond a small sphere of friends and acquaintances. We have no sense of community, and little visceral connection to the wild earth that sustains all life. We are reductionists who do not appreciate the organic whole. Thus we cannot connect the dots and think in rational terms of cause and effect. We have commodified the earth and her people in order to exploit them for profit.

Too many Americans exist with a false sense of entitlement and privilege that is not nearly as prevalent in other parts of the world, where the effects of capitalism are better understood. Confident in our right to consume, while ignoring the misery our consumption and waste is causing others, we do not perceive the connection between capitalism, war, socio-economic class, cheap labor, and planetary destruction.

Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The Wobblies understood: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” But we do not easily think beyond the self and rarely see ourselves as a part of a vibrant global community—a part of nature. We even erect psychological barriers that prevent us from questioning the established orthodoxy, as we witnessed in the aftermath of 9-11. We do as we are told, rather than doing what is right and just. Americans fear the government and tremble before authority.

It is this spiritual isolation and emptiness that allows us to comprise so little of the earth’s population, and to consume so much of her precious biological and ecological wealth—the planetary life support systems that sustain all life.

The American worker, despite all evidence to the contrary, and notwithstanding the lessons of history, continues to subscribe to the ideology of the capitalist model and its empty promises dressed in the seductive garments of the ‘American Dream’. That dream is now, more than ever, as millions of Americans are coming to realize, more myth than reality.

Capitalism has forced a nation-sized plantation upon the working class people of this country, and a world-sized gulag upon people everywhere. Workers keep only a tiny percent of the wealth they create for their employers, just enough to keep them playing the game—a game only a select few will ever win. Someone else always reaps the benefits of our labor.

American workers are like hamsters imprisoned in a cage, spinning our hamster wheels with furious speed, working harder, producing more, more, more—ever more; until our hearts explode or our bodies wear out under mountains of debt.

Hardly a handful of people realize what an elaborate hoax has been erected around us, what a sham this moribund system of waste and exploitation really is.

So we go from one plantation to another, drifting like tumbleweeds from one job to another but always imprisoned by the same exploitive, dehumanizing capitalist system.

At some level, I believe that the majority of the people intuit that something is terribly wrong. Thus they subscribe to the idea of reform and resort to electoral politics—a system that is wholly owned and operated by special interest money and corporate lobbyists. Their faith in the vote is misplaced and their energy is misdirected, which thus helps to maintain the established order, and prevents us from doing anything meaningful and direct. It assures consistency through the centuries: Imperial wars and occupations, a widening gap between the rich and poor; falling wages, union busting, and unfathomable environmental destruction on a global scale.

There are no political solutions available to us. There are no knights in shinning armor coming to the rescue. In a system awash in money the vote has no meaning. It is a mistake to think that the tools provided by capitalism can do anything other than perpetuate the system that is already in place, as history clearly demonstrates. Whether George Bush, Ron Paul, or Hillary Clinton occupies the White House, the result will be the same. Politicians are the property of special interest money. Few of them serve the people.

We must stop believing that reform of this corrupt system is even possible. Misplaced faith in corrupt politicians keeps us from fomenting the seeds of revolution, which are our only salvation and our destiny if we are to survive as a people. If only we could conjure up the fighting spirit that these times require.

People can only affect change by accepting personal responsibility and through direct action. We, ourselves, must become the agents for radical, revolutionary transformation. Rather than putting our trust in George Bush and Hillary Clinton or the sycophants in Congress, we must believe in ourselves and directly assert the power we have. We the people, when organized and mobilized, are the most powerful revolutionary force on earth. All we need is solidarity, but solidarity can be as elusive as a wisp of smoke, especially when so much capital is expended to keep us isolated and disorganized, and propagandized.

Both voting and sporadic protests, while they may temporarily make us feel useful, do not have much long term effect. Let us not simply say no to war with our vote, but with our bodies and our treasure. If we wish to see social justice enacted, we must not merely vote for it, we must, ourselves, become the agents of justice. We must oppose injustice not only on philosophical and ethical grounds, but in the theater of action, with our bodies.

Democracy and justice are too important to entrust to politicians who serve money, rather than people and the public welfare. We must do more than give lip service to the mere symbols of justice while doing nothing to actually obtain justice, or even worse—undermining it by voting more Plutocrats into office. Each of us must act to bring justice to bear. It is wrong to quietly tolerate what is being done to our country.

Our collective tolerance for injustice and mediocrity makes us complicit in them. We do not hold the criminals and the real terrorists accountable and we continue to support the system that ushered them into power by participating in it and pretending that it is legitimate.

Action applied directly at the point of injustice is the only force that can bring about permanent and just change. But action, unlike rhetoric, requires courage and conviction. It means putting the fear of god into the hearts of the government, as ordinary people do in Europe and Latin America, putting our bodies on the line for what we believe in. When the state is an enemy of the people, all just men and women must become enemies of the state.

Change begins and ends with the individual. What we think and what we do matters only if we act on our beliefs and are even willing to die for them, if necessary. Peace can only follow justice; it never precedes it.

By putting faith in those who serve the almighty dollar, rather than directly upholding the principles of democracy ourselves, we diminish our own power—we cede it to the corrupt and diabolical whose primary purpose is to rape and exploit us. Let us leave the safe haven of our hamster wheels and occupy the streets until justice reigns for everyone. There is no other way.

Charles Sullivan is a Master Naturalist, community activist, and free-lance writer residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia. . Read other articles by Charles.

8 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. AnAppealToHeaven said on October 5th, 2007 at 5:28am #

    Ron Paul denies lobbiests. He won’t allow them in his office.

    Fred Thompson was a lobbiest.

    Ron Paul will win.

    Mitt Romney will become GQ’s little Miss America.

    RON PAUL 2008!

  2. Rey said on October 5th, 2007 at 5:54am #

    RON PAUL!! AMERICAN PEOPLE”S SPECIAL INTEREST!!

  3. Michael Kenny said on October 5th, 2007 at 7:56am #

    I could not imagine a more classic example of American hubris than Mr Sullivan’s assumption that the result of a US attack on Iran will be that “[b]oth the U.S. and Israel will consolidate their power in the Middle East”! Of course! The master race has to win! The US lost in Vietnam and is now losing in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but it will win against Iran!

    A far more likely outcome is that an attack on Iran will be the final coup de grace for America’s crumbling superpower status and will accelerate the ongoing decline of the US economy, breaking its stranglehold on the world economy. A bumpy ride for Americans but a gaint boon for the rest of us in the big, wide world.

    My guess is that Dubya is trying to set things up for Jeb to run in 2012. He needs a Democrat in the White House in 2008 but he also needs to saddle that person with such a mess that he, or more likely, she will be unable to “fix” America and can be blamed for it in the 2012 campaign. Like Daddybird’s lame duck invasion of Somalia in December 1992, I would guess that Junior (whose whole existence is marked by his awe of the old man) will launch a small-scale air attack on Iran with carrier-based planes in the period between November 2008 and January 2009. Not enough to cost many American lives, but just enough to rile up the whole planet. He will then declare victory and leave … office! Leaving the poisoned chalice to POTUS 44!

  4. corylus said on October 5th, 2007 at 10:27am #

    The comments so far are predictable, emanating from the types of American capitalism-enslaved zombies of which Sullivan writes. The opinion that the likelihood of slaughter, rape, pillage, greed, and war crimes as a result of an American-Israeli attack on Iran is an example of hubris is absurd: does anyone doubt that the corporate-military global hegemony plans of the neoconservatives and their willing facilitators will lead to unforetold misery for all but those responsible? Get real – the American power structure will ensure that anyone who gets in its way of accumulating the bitter end of the earth’s resources will suffer. As for Ron Paul and the rest of the corporate-owned politicians, they’re all part of a morally and ethically bankrupt system that continues to feed the delusion of choice to the masses. I don’t have a prediction, and I surely don’t have any answers, but capitalism and the American electoral system aren’t even remotely in the picture of a just and equitable future for the world, its beleaguered environment, and the few humans who might survive to effect a sustainable society.

  5. gerald spezio said on October 6th, 2007 at 3:57am #

    Mr Sullivan seems to be a nice fellow.
    When he occupies the streets any day now, I sure hope that he brings his nature photography equipment.
    He can whump the 101st Airborne Assholes over their boneheads, and give them what for.
    Mr Sullivan appeals for courage and and conviction.
    Courage, conviction, and fighting spirit are very nice.
    The Holy Ghost is a spirit, I think.

  6. Deadbeat said on October 6th, 2007 at 12:07pm #

    “Our” collective tolerance or injustice has to do with the fact that the United States lacks any sense of solidarity and working class conscience. This is why racism and Zionism has to be challenge as the FIRST way to build solidarity and to weaken division among the working class.

    Once that occurs then capitalism can be challenged. Overcoming racism is why there is a lot more solidarity among the people of Latin America and why they are in a much stronger position to challenge capitalism. Unfortunately, many “left-wing” writer do not consider the challenges of racism in their analysis and how bridging that divide weakens any form of organizing that is needed to build a mass movement.

  7. David Gaines said on October 6th, 2007 at 5:33pm #

    To the editors: “hampster” should be “hamster.” This is from someone who has three of them happily spinning in their wheels (literally, not figuratively) as I write this.

  8. Lindsey said on October 8th, 2007 at 5:01pm #

    Wow! You must read if you have not already “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins, or “Illicit” by Moises Niam, or “Development as Freedon” By Amartya Sen…maybe you have!

    There is so much said here on the mark and so much undetermined. Capitalism in itself is much like power in itself, it is not in itself an evil, it becomes one in the hands of those who use it most for self serving purposes. Since the beginning of time capitalism has been a way of life, it has made survival possible, a good example is Japan, who has very few natural resources and is codependant on a capitalist system, like the way of the inhabitants once who were on the Easter Islands . (Reminds me another good book is Jerrod Diamonds “Collapse”)

    The best point though that Mr Sullivan has made is “Democracy and justice are too important to entrust to politicians who serve money, rather than people and the public welfare. “, which is why the American constitution was drafted…the temptation to list everything this current administration has done that is questionable is not needed, one just has to look at the index of contraversies;
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:George_W._Bush_administration_controversies
    or read Al Gores book “Attack on Reason” .

    No, I am not a book seller, but the informatin is available to the public, still will not get it in the so called “free press” and why? because the corporatocracy owns the press, see (Bill) “Moyers on America” if you only know about Murdoch buying the WSJ! The press is the only industry specifically protected by the Constitution for a reason, because with out free speech, and a free press, no one is held accountable, and the facts provided can be disasterous to a nation, as Sen reminds us, it can even cause famine, or global climate changes for which we are unprepared.

    A friend of mine said once at the beginning of the Iraq invasion in 2003, “it’s all about economics isnt it?” You see the press and administration wanted the public to believe it was all about terrorism, but it was about oil; it was about Saddam allowing contracts to France and Russia to develop its major oil reserves and leaving the US out of it, of course the embargo put a hold on those developments; but when Kofi Annan said the war was “illegal” the administration was quick to disclose the food-for-oil scandal. And of course, very little press coverage came out after Volkers investigation about Chevron with Condeleeza Rice on its board at the time, who was taking advantage and gaining from those favors, oh ,they were slapped on their hand with a fine.

    And this ongoing insurgency and occupation in Iraq continues as we give Maliki benchmarks to get his administration on the same page, which would be the page that has the vaguely mentioned “oil laws” which are production sharing agreements which are to give the western privitized oil companies rights to develop and take a large percentage of the profits robbing the Iraqi people of their only natural resource. Those resuorces with which they could make agreements between the factions and get their oil on the market (bringing the price down again) and bringing the factins all on the same page with each other. They could rebuild their own infrastructure with the money they make in profits,. They once had a multiple representative cabinet beneath Saddam, free education and a good infrastructure according to Ambassador Edward Peck who served in Iraq 1977 – 1980, (I didn’t read his book I went to hear him still check my sources; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Peck,

    Between illicit gun and ammunition sales, expensive no bied government contracts with contructions groups like Betchel, G.E. Haliburton KBR, and Blackwater, the business of terrorism is quite lucrative for those who stand to gain, and all one has to do is follow the Money, or look up the members and ideas of “The New American Century” ; http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm

    What the administration seems to overlook in the pyramid scheme, the biggest ponzi ever, is that it takes international investors in the US and tax payers. Without jobs there is no taxpayers, there is no one affording mortgages, there is no one funding the occupation of major contractors in foreign countries, there is no initiative for foriegners to come here and seek opportunity and citizenship, there is nothing, but what Greenspan said…”a big sucking sound”

    Yes, the only way American people can redeem themselves is to impeach this administration, not just wait for their time to run out and someone else to get control and benefit of the underhanded dealings, with which another politician can be bought out…and we really need to draft Gore into running again. Oh I wish…

    And we should not think we are alone, but we the people need to organize…the corporatocracy wants us to feel isolated and threatened, and unpatriotic or socialistic, they want to control our minds with a sense of hopelessness, but there is hope…we are not just a few who are wanting change, I neve thought I would see an article like this
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071003/ap_on_re_us/secessionist_movement_1
    You will have to dig for it now…the press is quick in covering up such
    adverse ideas to the corporatocracy…

    having gone on longer than planned here I want ot thank Mr Sullivan for his expressions and another reader for pointing it out.