The Golden Rule isn’t a mere nice-sounding ideal, a feel-good moral sentiment. It’s practical policy. You better be careful what you do. What goes around comes around. The chickens will come home to roost.
I’m not sure why so few seem to grasp this simple insight.
The act of terrorism on 9/11 happened after generations of the US government committing mass terrorism around the world. I remember being half asleep in bed, drifting into consciousness. I had left the radio on the night before. And what I woke up to was reporting on the terrorist attack. I was completely unsurprised. It seemed like the most expected thing that could possibly happen. The only thing surprising was that it didn’t happen earlier and more often. The rest of the world had been experiencing attacks like that for a long time.
At that point, I had been following alternative news for years. I wasn’t a news junky or anything. But neither was I fully ignorant. I knew what went on in the world, including what my own government did… and, I might add, continues to do. No one who was paying attention should have been surprised, certainly not any government official or journalist who is paid to know what is going on in the world.
Yet most people acted surprised. This willful ignorance isn’t an isolated incident. If anything, it’s the norm. Also, it’s bipartisan.
Too many think that it has nothing to do with them what their government does in other countries. Governments do horrible things. That is what we have governments for, to do the things we don’t want to do ourselves and would rather not know about. No one wants to see the sausage being made. Running an empire ain’t pretty, that is for sure. For every cheap product you buy, it was bought with the blood and misery of thousands of people. That is what it means to live in an empire and to benefit from its might and power.
It’s not even just what happens in other countries. The US government, federal and local, has a long history of doing horrible things to the poor and minorities. If you want to know what the future will look like, consider the lives of those living in poor and minority communities. They are the canaries in the coal mine. What happens to them will be happening to the rest of us later on.
That was seen with the 2008 recession. It didn’t come out of nowhere. There had been economic problems percolating for decades. But these problems were mostly impacting the poor and minorities. Older Americans with good jobs and pensions, middle-to-upper class blacks and whites, professionals of the liberal class and in conservative suburbs—these people were disconnected from what was happening and they simply didn’t care; didn’t know and didn’t want to know.
But when the 2008 recession hit, they suddenly cared. They were shocked. What suddenly went wrong? Well, you clueless ignoramuses, nothing went wrong. It all was going according to plan. You just didn’t know what the plan was. This was caused by economic changes beginning at least with the Carter administration and pushed into full gear with the Clinton New Democrats.
Similarly, the security/police state that we now have wasn’t simply a response to 9/11. It had also been developing for decades, going back to the Cold War. This security/police state was first fully operationalized with the War on Drugs. So, it was experimented on the poor and minority communities, similar to how COINTELPRO tactics were perfected on activist groups often involving minorities (e.g., Black Panthers).
Those people deserved it, that is what the rest of the population said. We destroyed entire communities and sacrificed an entire generation for the sake of spiteful vengeance and scapegoating. Meanwhile, we ignored the fact that we created the problem in the first place. Those communities had already been hit hard by racial segregation, economic isolation, factory closures, unemployment, poverty, ghettoization, etc. Then the environmental racism of high rates of lead toxicity was crop-dusting Napalm on a blazing fire.
Oh, really? Poor minorities who have been completely fucked over by society have problems. Ya don’t say, imagine that.
Only when that blazing fire spreads to the nicer communities do the better class of people wake up from their slumber. But guess what? It’s kind of too late at that point. Your house is already on fire. Throwing buckets of water on it now probably isn’t going to help.
Welcome to reality! We’ve been waiting for you to arrive.
What got my mind churning was looking at some books on the failure of democracy. Of course, it’s intentional—failure by design. Heck, even some of the ruling elite (e.g., Jimmy Carter) admit that we now live in an oligarchy, a banana republic. It’s an open secret that few can fully admit.
One book I was perusing is Martin Gilen’s Affluence and Influence. I must say it’s fascinating data. Some of it fits what is expected, though far from all of it. An example is that of military adventurism, which the upper classes favor and the lower classes not so much. We often think of the working class being patriotic and nationalistic, even about war. But the fact is most lower income Americans despise wars of aggression. They don’t think that the US is the greatest country in the world and they don’t think we have a right to bully other countries into submission.
Even so, it’s not as if there are protests and riots all across the country. The lower classes don’t like these stupid, pointless wars because they and their children are expected to be the soldiers who die for corporate interests. It is small comfort that these corporate interests help keep the products cheap at Walmart. But what are these people to do? Besides terrorism, direct action politics doesn’t ever get the attention of those in power nor does it get the attention of the comfortable middle class.
We are all in the belly of the beast, poor and rich alike. And most of us would rather not think about it for we don’t know what to do about it. Plus, the empire does have its benefits, even if they come with high costs that we hope won’t come due until later. Let the next generations deal with it, the older generations say—a thought not found comforting by the younger generations.
It’s normal for humans to become disconnected. We live our lives in a narrow frame, focused on what is before us. Yet some of us are more disconnected than others.
I’ve heard middle class conservatives worry about there being too much democracy. Specifically, they worry about there being too much democracy for the poor and for the working class… ya know, mobocracy. These chumps think they can take freedom away from others without it effecting themselves. Anyway, they have little to worry about the lower classes having too much say in what the government does. The data shows the political elites almost entirely ignore the lower classes. These middle class conservatives would find this comforting. But what they might find less comforting is the fact that the same data shows the ruling elite ignores the middle class about as much. They forget that what you do or allow to be done to others will be done to you.
It’s not just middle class conservatives. I don’t hear too many middle class liberals making personal sacrifices in the fight for the rights of the underprivileged and disenfranchised. Nor do I hear many middle class blacks fighting for ex-cons regaining their right to vote. All of these people have a continuing pattern of voting for politicians known for making miserable the lives of the poor, especially poor minorities. It’s not merely lesser evilism that makes Hillary Clinton attractive to these people. To their mind, this evil is for the greater good, which is to say they think that it benefits them to harm the less fortunate and keep them in their place: “We have to bring them to heel.” What they don’t realize is that they harm themselves in the process. They end up harming their own families and communities, the kind of harm not easily undone, a wound not easily healed.
The wealthy are also stupid in their haughty arrogance and paternalistic self-importance, and the wealthier they are the more disconnected they are from reality on the ground and its consequences. They may have the wealth along with the power, but the society they have helped create is shitty for everyone involved. It has been shown that even the rich are worse off in high inequality societies. The social problems caused by inequality effect all areas and levels of society.
Worse still, all of these problems accumulate. Whether middle class or rich, this game can’t go on. It’s an unsustainable fantasy. These policies that hurt so many in the world, at home and abroad, lead to the undermining of whatever good is left in our society. Down this path lies ever more terrorism and, if pushed far enough, maybe revolution or a civil war. We are creating a destabilized society. It likely can’t continue much longer and most definitely it can’t end well.
This isn’t only about what will happen for later generations. The future is already here.