“What we are witnessing is the closing of the American mind.” This not at all sanguine appraisal of the contemporary American condition is offered tonight by radio demagogue Mark Levin. This sage of American reactionary pedagogy is of course a corporate tool and shill for the capitalist establishment but that does not mean he does not have a certain understanding of the conditions underlying that problem that faces us today, albeit unwitting.
In a civil society you must have a moral order. Right versus wrong, good versus evil, just versus unjust, and means versus ends. They’re not the same thing, and when we talk about moral order, you must have a moral order to have a rule of law, for the free market to work, to advance national security.
This declaration of principles is an almost perfect elucidation of the reactionary capitalist doxa. The argument of Right and Wrong are a convenient dichotomy for those attempting to disguise their lack of moral authority. Compassionate conservatism (see compassionate capitalism) failed, globalized market based prosperity is a oxymoronic farce and supply side theology has been abandoned as the worst sort of wishful thinking by any capitalist economic theorist not wishing to be laughed out of the ivory tower. All that remains to the reactionary capitalist is the fantasy that what they do is for the Right against the Wrong; painting change as an intrinsic Wrong perpetrated against the “people”, in reality the consumer, the customer. Levin is also correct that there must be a moral order, or at least a beloved facsimile of one. This can be patriotism, or family values (actually Bible based Christian paternalist misogyny and authoritarianism), or the most potent, love for the free market. On that issue the American mind is indeed “closed”. Or at least it would appear at first glance.
The Now is the essence of the inevitable. What we experience and live on a moment by moment basis seems to demand the a priori acceptance of the conditions being experienced as inherent to existence. Or at least this is the case in the realm of societal evolution. The status quo is an addictive prospect and a potent intellectual narcotic. This is why it is so often drafted in the reactionary philosophy. “You must have a moral order to have a rule of law, for the free market to work, to advance national security.” Levin actually repeats himself three times in this sentence: the rule of law is the free market which is the main impetus and rational for the aggressive militarization of the police state and conversion of the military into a police apparatus known as National Security. “It’s a free country”, we are reminded by the political Right, their voice raising another octave. Of course, but freedom to what end? Freedom to consume? Freedom to choose where and when to consume? “Would you, sir, like to take the red train to hell or the green?” In an imperial system there is, by definition, no freedom. There cannot be. The peace maintained not for the proletariat but for those exploiting their needs and aspirations is the Pax Mercatus, the peace of the market. This peace of course is a false concept as it is in any imperially imposed idyll. Participate in the system or else allow it to drain you of life. But there then is the contradiction of freedom, the false choice; choosing to participate will just as surely drain you. So the peace, the inevitable, is the realization that life is as it is and there is no use in fighting that fact. At least you have some time and enjoyment while you are being drained! At least you get to ride the train. The freedom beloved by the people is the freedom to choose the method of their own exploitation, and of course even this is a false choice. Where do you hide in an all-pervasive system? How do you survive in a world of capital and greed by being poor and unselfish? You either consume or are consumed and of course the former is just a roundabout way of coming to the latter. So what is the moral order of the reactionary capitalist supporters? Inertia.
In his Discourses Machiavelli said
“Prudent men always and in all their actions make a favour of doing things even though they would of necessity be constrained to do them anyhow.”1
This is a delightfully pragmatic proposal that nonetheless exposes an insidious though essential aspect of the imperial capitalist system. The favour in this case is capitalist governmental structure’s maintaining the right to a stable and humane living through the fruits of one’s own labor. This labor is of course appropriated by the corporate system and the government whose main interest is in maintaining the capitalist power structure and divvied up the way this power structure sees fit. The tax structure in the USA maintains a token all but subsistence level “social safety net” and finances a full blown welfare system for corporate interests. This illusion of “prosperity” is the basis of the claim that the American system is the most successful and free in the world. The proletariat is given just enough to survive the work needed to maintain the system that keeps them in thrall to the corporate controlled government structure and just enough hope to motivate them into working beyond what is healthy or sane in order to grasp at an all but impossible future in the upper echelon of the class structure. Belief in this fantasy is inculcated in the population by an educational system, funded by the arbitrary tax value of property, that is increasingly maintained as a factory for creating minds ready and willing to participate in the capitalist market. Art, social studies, physical education or anything else that would lead to a rational mind and healthy body is eliminated in favor of class-biased standardized testing and even market based programs like “Sales”, “Business”, and “finance” classes. So in the end the “American Dream” is the appropriation of labor from the proletariat so that it may be given back to them in smaller and pre-determined allotments, minus the “surplus” needed to maintain th capitalist corporate welfare system that enforces the unending toil and exploitation required to make the proletariat create the wealth that can then be appropriated. No one ever said the capitalist system was not thorough.
This of course leads to the sublimation of any sort of proletarian activism or economic consciousness. “Hard work” is what leads to “success” but of course both concepts are arbitrary standards composed and maintained by a corporate business class that has a vested interest in cheap and overworked service workers. The American mind is not closing, as Levin argues, but is already sealed shut. For the majority of workers alienated from the means of production, the creation of capital, or the mechanisms of control there is no conceivable escape from this system. In fact any attempt by the leftist class conscious forces within society, where the in fact exist at all, is shunned and attacked by the working and middle classes as a dangerous affront against the system that gives them the chance to keep themselves “comfortable” and advancing towards the goal of entering the capitalist class of entrepreneurs and managers. As John Steinbeck said, Americans are not able to move beyond this vicious and exploitative cycle because in their own minds they are but “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” There is no better way to ensure servitude then to promise freedom.
National security is a key term to recognize and understand within the context of a global capitalist system. The national security state took hold as a seeming means unto itself around the time that the collapse of state communism left the capitalist authorities bereft of a raison d’etre relating to their increased militarization. The retardation of Communism was abandoned in favor of the expansion of the global free market. These concepts of course have essentially the same meaning; the maintenance of forces, systems, and circumstances that are friendly to exploitation of the local proletariat. The Pax Americana ended out of necessity so that the Pax Mercatus could rise, the latter being the post-national synthesis of multinational corporate capitalism with nationalistic imperialism. There is no locus of power beyond the financial centers and boardrooms of the corporate and managerial class. The entire world is feudalized and each human being owes a life-term of “hard work” to contribute to the capitalist system and its expansion.
Peace is needed for this sort of system to work, a certain sort of peace that preserves the prerogative of the market forces, which are of course merely the whims and wishes of the robber barons and multinationals. The multinational uses resources collected from the proletariat of the various industrialized nations in order to expand and maintain the status quo in regions of the world where democracy has not yet softened the desire of the proletariat to fight for a feature less assured but more humane in potential. The people of the industrial democracies do not dispute, for the most part, the choice of intervening in the affairs of “less developed” nations. This is because the potent mix of nationalism and xenophobia cultivated and stoked by the government and its reactionary tools in the media and cultural institutions. In this effort religion is less an opiate than a stimulant pushing society towards a violent hatred for and confrontation by proxy with the proletariat of another state. War is exported abroad in order to spread peace and prosperity at home. We are even told that through war will come peace, peace in the sort of way that only an un-wittingly exploited and placated democratic populace can comprehend. War is preferable to peace because peace would mean the inertia required to maintain the order would have more of a chance to be disturbed. Idle hands and idle minds tend to stray towards innovation or at least contemplation. Besides, as Lenin said
“a certain period of acute economic dislocation and chaos, which accompany all wars, and civil war in particular, is inevitable, before the resistance of the bourgeoisie is crushed”2
And the proletariat does not want war, it does not want upheaval and chaos and change. At least it does not think it wants it. Not yet at least. In this regard Levin is correct, but only by mistake. The American mind is closed, but that does not mean it cannot be opened.
- The Discourses, Machiavelli, Niccolo, trans. Walker, Leslie J, and Richardson, Brian, Penguin Classics Ed.
- 2. On The History Of The Question Of The Unfortunate Peace, Lenin, V.I., http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/jan/07.htm