‘The prosecution, political prostitution, the more money you pay, the further away solution’ says Lauryn Hill, in the incredibly pertinent ‘Mystery of Iniquity‘, where Hill describes a morally bankrupt system, from the setting of a courtroom. We are taught to believe we have a democracy. That money should not buy you greater access or a better chance at justice, or the manipulation of a judicial decision, and yet we also quietly accept that court cases are expensive, especially if you want to get a ‘good lawyer.’
The US, where Hill is based, has 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of the world’s prison population. A fact that cannot be separated from the private prison system in America: a system which profits from the incarceration of human beings. Pursuing profit above all else is enshrined in law for corporations. The ‘success’ of the private prison business and it’s power in politics sees guarantees from states for high-occupancy rates of over 90% in contracts.
Similarly, here in the UK, public services and democratic institutions are lead by profit. Our public services are being sold to political party donors. Business interests are top priority, and their access to our politicians has become norm.
We are sold the idea that what finds profit is acceptable, regardless of it’s moral compliance. This narrative is incredibly useful to the handful of those who now own half the world’s wealth. Alternately, it is wildly destructive for the rest of the world’s population. And yet, we see ourselves submitting to an economy that has come to control society for the very few.
“It’s a myth that we’re a fair society. We have to take that needle out of our arms” – Reverend Sekou, In Ferguson
We’ve been given ‘villains’ to chastise as evil; the poor, the foreigner, the terrorist. Meanwhile success is embodied in the institutions in our society as the old, rich, white man, in suits, in high-flying jobs, in the city. They are unrelentingly the shape of our politicians, businessmen, bankers and financiers. These are the leaders in our democracy, while the brown faces from lands with no big city scapes, and different attire are the ‘rogues’, ‘strange’, ‘undemocratic’, ‘violent’, ‘in need of liberation’.
I highlight this to demonstrate the ways in which we internalise and justify the image of ‘our’ leaders, as intrinsically good and democratic. In 2013, a poll showed that 59% of Britons thought that less than 10,000 Iraqis had died from the invasion that begun in 2003. By 2013, it is estimated this figure was actually half a million. 10,000 people were killed in Iraq in 2013 alone. This internalised imagery of ‘good’ works to minimise understanding of destructive acts performed by these leaders.
Similarly, austerity has been a successful propaganda exercise which replaces bankers and financiers on the pedestal while ordinary folk live out the consequences of their greed and control.
“If you look back to 2008, the stories on BBC News, all over the papers, the banks were suddenly crooks. When Northern Rock collapsed, the banks were crooks, they were all exposed. The Guardian was full of tombstones of copy about how the banks were rotten from the inside. It was the story.
A glimpse. That story ended after about three months and it was turned around, that it wasn’t really the bankers, but it all came down to a national debt and a controlled narrative was there and it’s called austerity and that debt had to be paid off. Why? Why did it have to be paid off?
So we saw this glimpse of the truth of this massive criminality……all the rotten architecture had collapsed…almost collapsed. Banks were nationalised. Banks were nationalised with no conditions. The consciousness of how this happened which was there, for I suppose about six months, was, thanks to a very effective propaganda system, was shifted. That it wasn’t the banks’ fault, it was our fault.”
Austerity in fact provides the cover to siphon wealth, resources and exploit the public at large, while they are braced to expect a blow. While those 83 own half the world’s wealth, the UK is seeing it’s new industry take shape in the form of food banks, with reports of malnutrition amongst the nation’s poorest. The following Adam Curtis video comments on this extraction of money..
We are taught to cradle and aggrandize this image of suited men in skyscrapers, in big important meetings, in big important cities. This image is given further adoration from the complexity and confusion of the language that surrounds it, carefully constructed to minimise public understanding of the psychopathic criminality involved.
Benefit fraud? Scroungers on the sponge.
We are littered with ways, colloquial and indignant, to describe the ‘villains’ we are presented with. But what of the Libor scandal? Sub-prime mortgages? Fraudulent rating agencies? The Forex scandal? Much more elaborate financial jargon. No colloquial pseudonyms offered up by countless front pages (we rarely see these examples of huge corruption on the front page). No new ‘wealth porn’ genre on TV programming.
The irony and deception being that this is where the true scandal lies. This is where greed manifests above the law on a grotesque scale. The financial terrorism, which has resulted in the manipulation of trillions of dollars of transactions in the Libor scandal alone, has seen no one jailed.
Austerity is seeing us as a society slave-like in conditions of low pay and in-work poverty, fed divisive rhetoric all to serve the very few that really benefit from this system.
The truth is that the image of the city, suits and skyscrapers has come to represent a far more violent circus, but our minds have not caught up. We are rebutted with daily propaganda and internalisation of this as ‘good’.
When the pursuit of greed and self-interest becomes the determination of success, it creates a legal system that supports it and a culture that celebrates it.
‘I’m just doing my job’
We are taught that it is a ‘cut throat’, ‘dog eat dog’ world without ‘stopping to think whether anyone has actually ever seen a dog eat another dog’, in the words of Nicodemus Reuben, a friend and poet.
These ever present, soulless proverbs run alongside the narrative that we are a democratic and equal society. They encourage individualism, distrust and acceptability of pursuing money at any cost. We promote ourselves and our society as moral with intrinsic moral values and yet are mentally prepared in doublethink from youth to enter an economy and ultimately a world, with no moral boundary and no personal responsibility. We may say ‘it’s just my job’, ‘I’m just doing what I am told,’ and this justification is used for occupations which vary by several orders of magnitude from soldiers to the lobbyists fighting against climate change regulation to profit from a few more years of plundering the earth’s resources.
We are taught to accept and believe in this playing field where corruption, self-interest and greed is not only allowed and present, but celebrated. These parameters are set for our entire work life which plays no small part in how we live.
“One of the delusions promoted by our society is the idea that great destructiveness is most often rooted in great cruelty and hatred. In reality, evil is not merely banal, it if often free of any sense of being evil – there may be no sense of moral responsibility for suffering at all.
….Normally, the implicit assumption is that signing a contract and being paid to do a job absolves us of all further moral responsibility. We have an agreement to do as we are told – an ostensibly innocuous act. If the people with whom we made this agreement then choose to send us to incinerate and dismember civilians, that is their moral responsibility, not ours.
..in our society exactly this self-surrender is promoted and affirmed by the fact it is demanded of us by every corporaton that ’employs’ us (like a tool), requiring us to sign our agreement to strict terms and conditions, and by the fact that huge costs are imposed on those of us unwilling to be ‘team players.’ We are trained to see this as ‘just the way the world is’ – something to be accepted rather than thought about.”
P. 173, Guardians Of Power, Media Lens – David Edwards, David Cromwell
This system now only serves a very few. The rest of us locked into the belief that if we were more competitive, made better choices or tried harder, we could be up there too. It is this belief and the submission to this dysfunctional economy that enables control of us as the 99%.
“The 1% is 1%. The 99% cannot all fit in the 1%
“The whole point of these inequalities is that if you run a society where you tell people if you work hard enough, if you try hard enough, if you get to the very top you’ll be okay. But if you just miss the very top, if you get to the bottom of the top 10% you’ll have an insecure pension, you’ll have to worry about your old age, your health service might not be well provided, that is an unfair situation.
“You cannot all get in, or in fact anywhere near the top 1%. A happy society is not one where the 1% have done okay, and you tell everyone that’s what they should be aiming for.”
In this economy, insecurity is accelerating for us all. We are left unsure about access to basic human needs – housing, education, healthcare. The negative effect on the mental health of our society accelerates along with this insecurity.
We can have better security, and a society that meets our basic needs. This would provide a better society, mentally and physically, for us all. We already have many of the resources, enough rooms to house people, enough food to feed them, but this system encourages the distribution of resources to flow to the top 1% regardless of the deprivation for those at the bottom, and regardless that there is plenty for us all. There are examples of these societies already, where the welfare of the public at large is put first. But we also need to do away with the images of success that propagate this system of poisonous inequality.
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass