The Golden Rule and Reality

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.

14 thoughts on “The Golden Rule and Reality

  1. That really does depress me. Many people live comfortable lives. The problems that Sanders speak to aren’t the problems that mainly effect these people.

    What must be understood is that Sanders has the most support from lower income people whereas Clinton has the most support from higher income people. Those on the low end of society know these problems daily. When the election is over, they will still be dealing with these problems.

    It must be nice to live a comfortable enough life that one could simply turn away from the problems. But not everyone is so lucky. If you’re tired of hearing about other people’s problems, imagine how tiring it must be to live with those problems.

    Check your class privilege!

  2. wow, nice sermon, there, Ben, wow. All true, far as I can see.

    The willful ignorance, the stupid surprise, it’s the same with murders and suicides (and paedophilia and everything else). The way everyone’s always surprised is as if they think these things don’t ever actually happen – or we can tell ourselves this stuff happens to “the other,” somehow or something.

  3. You know how I see it – the champagne fountain of shit, all the bad stuff going to the bottom, and all justified because it’s not abuse, it’s deserved, somehow. Punishment cult.

  4. There seems to be something really dark about America, perhaps a legacy of Calvinism or perhaps anti intellectual sentiment that drives this.

    It does seem like it is worse than in the rest of the world. Canada, although there is something of a right-wing anti intellectual mentality, especially in the West where our Conservatives dominate.

    Then the test of the world sees the US as crazy. Amongst the other Western nations, the US is regarded as quite crazy in the regard.

    • I’m not sure it is any darker than was the British Empire. In many ways, the American Empire simply inherited the mantle of power from the British Empire, after the role we played in fighting Germany and helping the British in WWII.

      But the problem is that this old colonial imperialism is combined with modern military technology. The American Empire can kill as many people in an instant as it would have taken years or decades for the British Empire to accomplish, and the American Empire can do it with bombs, missiles, and drones (not to mention arming paramilitary groups) and so little loss to American lives.

      There is much more detachment for the subjects of the American Empire, entirely different from the subjects of past empires. Such disconnect allows greater atrocities to be committed. If the US still had a draft that forced most citizens to serve in the military and if we had to have large military forces on the ground for every country we attacked, the US would get involved in far fewer wars of aggression.

    • I think that we should do an adjustment for the Moral Flynn Effect here.

      Certainly, the US is not worse than say, the worst of British colonialism which at times justified genocide. But back then, people were far less informed as well.

      There are other problems. Nuclear weapons for example have changed wars. Ted Cruz’s comments about making sand glow are an ominous example of what could happen. We might have seen it during the Cold War.

      • My point was that mass atrocity has become so impersonal with modern empires. Americans can be so detached that they don’t even realize how many people are being killed, how many governments overthrown, how many communities decimated. It’s as if none of it is quite real in the American mind. For past empires, the imperial subjects were forced to serve in the military and they saw the deaths firsthand. If you wanted a genocide, you were going to get blood on your hands.

  5. I know that writing posts like this won’t make me popular. This isn’t what most Americans want to hear. It makes people uncomfortable and upset. But I feel compelled to state such things, again and again. I do so because it is true. How can I not speak the truth when the dominant lies have such immense real world consequences?

    It’s heart-wrenching. I can barely express how this makes me feel. It is beyond imagining.

    Between the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, upwards of 500,000 innocent people died. Most of those were from the Iraq War—a falsely justified war of aggression that was illegal, unconstitutional, and immoral.

    That is just a drop in the bucket compared to the innocents the US government has harmed and killed since the American Empire began, whether one considers the starting point to be WWII or earlier (see War Is A Racket by General Major Smedley Butler).

    Consider the US policies and actions behind the drug wars. They have directly and indirectly led to more deaths than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Here is a discussion of just Mexico:

    This has gone hand in hand with US policies and actions in Mexico and Central America, where the US has been involved in helping to assassinate leaders, overthrow governments, and put in place violent authoritarian regimes. Hillary Clinton was behind the Honduran overthrow that led to civil war and destabilization of the region, and of course sent refugees in every direction including those that ended up at the southern border of the US.

    That is merely looking at one nearby region. The US government does this kind of thing all over the world. In recent decades alone, the US government is probably responsible for millions of innocents death worldwide and millions more of injuries, maimings, tortures, etc.

    Are most Americans so stupid, ignorant, and clueless that they think there will never be any repercussions?

    • I know the lesser evilism arguments for voting for the Democratic candidate. Yes, there are real differences between the parties. Still, at some point one has to look at the larger picture.

      It’s easy to ignore all of this when you aren’t effected. But if you’re a poor minority or foreigner who has been personally harmed, whose family members had been imprisoned, injured or killed, whose children were facing a bleak future, and whose community had been decimated, you’d have a harder time justifying a vote for someone like Hillary Clinton.

      I noticed that Clinton has the support of upper income people. She also has support of older people who typically are more economically established with a lifetime of good jobs, growing economy, pensions, social security, etc. These are all comfortable people. I’m willing to bet that even the blacks supporting her are mostly middle class, as lower income blacks don’t tend to vote much.

      As I see it, the Americans who are paying attention to these problems are those who don’t have the privilege and luxury do ignore them. That is why they are supporting the two populist candidates who argue for reforming the entire political and economic system. Maybe the more comfortable classes should be paying attention to these people.

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