As I came of age the Vietnam War was being handed from the French to the United States. All of the machinery of war began to grind faster; the incentives of money and power, always at the ready, increased in opportunity. Men (and women) moved to action, exciting action, making the movements toward war happen. Caution and restraint were melted away by the hot promises of glory and profit, the promise of opportunity through violence.
Most days we all move in our own ways, moving in the pursuit of myriad demands, coordinated only by the most general sense of order. There is no great stirring of emotion; only sometimes a small and private stirring. There isn’t that grand synergy of feeling as when playing in a band, being part of a great crowd of cheering fans or marching in step to stirring music in a military parade. Peace, while it leads to generalized order, is boring. It is martial order, emotions inflamed and regimented that drives the blood.
In the early 1960s WWII was still relatively fresh in people’s minds, the Korean ‘police action’ even fresher. It had been not quite 10 years since the images of frozen American bodies, stories of waves of Chinese infantry and the great David Douglas Duncan photos of young soldiers showing expressions of such weariness and pain that people cried just looking at them. The memories made another war so soon a hard sell. But the opportunities were overpowering.
It was then that I realized that my real enemy was not Ho Chi Min or General Giap, but my own government.1 If I was to be taken against my will into the armed services and sent to a far away land to fight people that I had never met and who had done nothing, really could do nothing, to me; then it was not the Vietnamese civil war and the Viet Cong endangering me but the ‘legal structure’ of my own nation.
This was clearly, to the sighted, a crazy people’s war. Mad men who either feared too much or were greedy too much or power-mad too much were absolutely willing, even desirous, to send conscripted young men to be physically and emotionally destroyed for economic and political gain. I could see little difference between what I had been told about the Germans being misled by twisted national feeling and the attempts to inflame the American people against the people of a sliver of land in Southeast Asia. I was in my teens when the pressures of the war began to be felt and in my thirties when it was said to have ended. But of course it never did end those who fought – and those who did not.
I am now in my late sixties. And the government is still and again my enemy, but today it is making war, not just on its young men, but on 90% of the population, those with middle-class and lower incomes (as it is also making shooting war on 3, 4, or 5 nations for that same old economic and political gain). At the same time simple and complicated, the government has become almost completely the tool of our most dissociated population – the superrich – and so itself has become dissociated from the people it is intended to serve.
In a bizarre twisting of economic orthodoxy the wealthy, rich and superrich have gamed the economic system to collect half of the nation’s income – just a few percent of the nation’s people (top 1% — 24% of income, 5% to 1% — 16% of income, 10% to 5% — 12% of income2 ). More than half of the people of the country live with incomes that are inadequate to meet their basic life needs in the present economic/social structure (a family of four, on average, needs over $65,000 a year to educate children, save for the future and live daily life, but median family incomes are closer to $40,000/yr3 ). That leaves 20% to 30% of the people with basic economic safety and moderate wealth, and that number is shrinking.
But the rich, even though they are collecting half of the national income, want to pay for the national expenses based more on their numbers in the population than on the part of the national income they take. Of course, that is not how they explain it. It doesn’t matter to them that millions of their fellow humans are struggling with basic necessities; from their point of view if those people can be made to pay into the national treasury and if spending from the collected taxes on the Great Many can be avoided, so much the better. A ‘perfect world’ would collected all “surplus” above subsistence from the masses as taxes, a government would protect the wealthy and support their wealth gathering activities (paid for by the taxes collected from the poor) and leave to their own devices the wealthy to do as they wished. The masses would be appealed to or conscripted as needed to do the labor and the wars required to sustain the empire. It should be noted that this is precisely the functional form of governance that the United States was created (imperfectly) to resist and grow beyond.
Back in the 1960s I struggled with the idea that my own nation could be my enemy; perhaps it was too strong a word, too strong an idea. But I soon came to the realization that the degree of danger that my government was willing to subject me to was greater than any other source of danger in my life: That is an enemy. The young men that I met who returned from war injured, poisoned and emotionally damaged sustained my resolve even in the face of my guilt for it.
Today the guilt is gone, only the anger and the fear remain as my government blatantly demonstrates its domination by madmen, its domination by people whose interests are not just different than mine, but antithetical and utterly uncompromising as they gather to themselves greater and greater wealth and power. We so often leave it there, but it must not be: again!…as they gather to themselves greater and greater wealth and power to control, for their own convenience, our lives and futures. For that is the consequence; it is We, the Great Many, who the power is intended to dominate.
The distrust of government and those doing the governing was the default position for the men and women who created the nation’s founding principles – codified in the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, its Amendments and other documents – even to the point of considering all governments to be the most dangerous institutions that a collection of people could create; and yet they had to be created. The instant the people relax their vigilance, the sociopathic greedy would try to take it over and turn it against the people. This has happened to greater and lesser extents since the nation’s founding. It would appear that it has now happened to such a degree that only a revolution in the streets can break the present hold on power that has arrogated to the superrich and the lackeys who marionette on their behalf.
The government is again the enemy. I was able to take it on by myself and for my own purposes those nearly 50 years ago, but it is a different war (and world) today; it is here, the war is here in our own Royal mansions, congress, statehouses, city halls, court rooms and living rooms. The inalienable rights of living human beings are turning out to the ‘soluble rights;’ soluble in a solution of obscene wealth and corruption.
First, the people must see the advancing armies, must see the loss of that most precious national goal: the pursuit of happiness as a primary function of our collected intentions. Not just for the wealthy, not just for the landed, but for everyone. Our founding principles were not “We the People of the United States in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice for the rich and servitude for the poor, insure domestic tranquility for the privileged and suffering and economic danger for the masses…” You get the idea.
No, we let our attention wander and our government has turned against us all, all accept the psychopaths and situational sociopaths that make up the powerful, yet unworthy, elite who have been corrupted by their own wealth and have corrupted the principles upon which the nation was founded. It is time to fight back, but against the real enemy.
The wealthy elites and their marionettes would have you fight your neighbor who is not yet as stressed as you; would have the factory worker whose job was sent to another country by the situational sociopaths running the company, would have this worker see his or her troubles as being caused by a teacher who has yet to be seriously injured by the elite.
The real enemy is a practiced soldier in these kinds of battles of perception, deception and misdirection. The men and women of the economic elite have been lying to each other, cheating and stealing from each other for so long that they see dealing with naïve common folk as child’s play. But when you realize and accept who the enemy is, all of their dancing and prancing, lying and jiving, slipping and sliding looks like exactly what it is: cheap tricks of a birthday party magician (no offense to birthday party magicians).
And like a magician they have all the tricks on their side, but none of the reality. They only are believable when they are believed in. They can buy thugs to do their dirty work only as long as the thugs believe in their power. They can direct armies only as long as the officers accept their orders. They can control politicians only as long as the politicians are benefited by the people’s deference and acquiescence to them. When one powerful man says ‘yes’ and 10 powerless men say ‘no,’ then the locus of power is shifted.
Eventually in the late 1960s and early 1970s the people began to see through the lies and turned against the war and the people who were pushing war. 20 years later former Ford Motor co. president and Vietnam War architect Secretary of Defense McNamara give public voice to his “mistake” claiming that he know it was a hopeless exercise at the same time as he drove it forward. Does this sound familiar in this time?
The risks are great, but the failure to stop the plutocracy that is our present government will certainly result in the enslavement of the people of this nation. The Republican marionettes are not even trying anymore to hide their strings or their masters. The Democratic marionettes still attempt the subterfuge, though with less and less concern. This can only be because the elites must be more and more confident of their domination of the masses. As Warren Buffet said, “…and my class has won.”
But they have not won, they have only been allowed to believe that they have won because they believe that the people are too cowed and frightened, too disorganized, too discouraged, too co-opted and too stupid to do the simple thing that would change it all: to stop believing in the superiority and power of the elite, to see them for what they are: psychopaths and situational sociopaths who would both allow and instigate the millions and billions to suffer and die to maintain elite life styles.
The people began to see the truth in 1968; they can begin to see the truth in 2011. They went to the streets in 1970. They were shot and killed by soldiers. They were beaten and jailed. They will have to be shot and killed again and beaten and jailed again. It is the price that the elite demands as proof that the masses are serious. These are the precipitating events that destroy the illusions of belief in the power of the elite. It is time to begin. It will never be easier than now.
- Government is really systems of organization that perform functions that individuals cannot and profit-seeking interests will not. Someone has to set its agenda. In this nation that ‘someone’ is supposed to be the will of the majority tempered by the collected wisdom of centuries gathered up in the “Holy Writ” of the Constitution and modified by thoughtfully amendments, legislative applications to specific needs and the adjudications of a supreme court for those matters still in contention. This is not the government that is my enemy. There is another idea of government, the idea of power vested in elite interests, acting ad hoc for its own ends. Perhaps taking the time and trouble to try and justify actions in the language of popular government, perhaps not. But, always power functioning for the sake of power. That government is my enemy. [↩]
- Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States, Emmanuel Saez, March 15, 2008. [↩]
- Many Low-Wage Jobs Seen as Failing to Meet Basic Needs, Motoko Rich, New York Times, March 11, 2011. [↩]