The late Robert Anton Wilson is one of my favorite writers. Best known for his fiction, especially “The Illuminatus Trilogy,” in which he successfully merged every conflicting conspiracy theory that came across his desk while he was editor of “The Playboy Forum” (talk about “truth in strange places”!). Wilson also wrote with penetrating insight about the connections between psychology and politics.
Of course, the Ur-document connecting psychology and politics is Wilhelm Reich’s “The Mass Psychology of Fascism,” which, in spite of being eighty years old, still has a great deal to say about current conditions. Here’s just one example:
Suppression of … natural sexuality …makes the child apprehensive, shy, obedient, afraid of authority, good and adjusted in the authoritarian sense; it paralyzes the rebellious forces because any rebellion is laden with anxiety; it produces, by inhibiting sexual curiosity and sexual thinking in the child, a general inhibition of thinking and of critical faculties. In brief, the goal of sexual suppression is that of producing an individual who is adjusted to the authoritarian order and who will submit to it in spite of all misery and degradation. At first the child has to submit to the structure of the authoritarian miniature state, the family; this makes it capable of later subordination to the general authoritarian system. The formation of the authoritarian structure takes place through the anchoring of sexual inhibition and anxiety.
“Family values,” anyone? Now do you understand “conservative” opposition to readily available birth control and abortion, entheogenic drugs such as marijuana, and any kind of sex education besides “just say no”? How ’bout the Republicans throwing a hissy fit about a sexually-themed art exhibit at the Smithsonian? Reich’s insights do help put the puzzle pieces into place, don’t they?
Robert Anton Wilson covers much of the same territory, but is much easier to relate to than Reich. He did his thinking in English, not German, and he has a much better sense of humor than Reich. I’ve been rereading Wilson’s “The Illuminati Papers,” and one passage in particular caught my attention:
…a man with a gun is told only that which people assume will not provoke him to pull the trigger. Since all authority and government are based on force, the master class, with its burden of omniscience, faces the servile class, with its burden of nesIGcience, precisely as a highwayman faces his victim. Communication is possible only between equals.2X The master class never abstracts enough information from the servile class to know what is actually going on in the world where the actual productivity of society occurs. Furthermore, the logogram of any authoritarian society remains fairly inflexible as time passes, but everything else in the universe constantly changes. The result can only be progressive disorientation among the rulers. The end is debacle.
And that is what is happening in America today. Sure, the “gun” is not blatant–but it’s true that those who hold power over others will only be told what is agreeable and soothing to them–or at least that’s all they’ll stand to hear. Bearers of bad tidings, whether in the guise of Al Gore or Julian Assange, (both of whom stand accused of sexual impropriety–how peculiar!) will be discredited, if not actually shot, and the ruling class will continue to live in its own little world and act out its obsessions, until “debacle,” as Wilson puts it, finally renders them completely impotent. Unfortunately for all concerned, we’re a long way from that. Let me give you a few examples of how the wealthy, living in fantasyland, are running amok.
Locally, we find that Jack May is once again proposing to build a bridge to nowhere so he can develop his white elephant property on Bell’s Bend. The economy has done nothing but get worse, but nobody around Jack has the courage to risk his displeasure by telling him what a stupid idea he’s championing. The economy has gone so far south that we’re starting to look like a banana republic, and I guess the May entourage figure they’d rather smile and nod in agreement and continue to collect a paycheck than tell him the truth and lose it all.
There’s plenty of examples at the national level. In Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi tells the grim story of “foreclosure courts,” where judges rubber-stamp foreclosure cases in a matter of minutes. One of the engines that drives this is the banks’ law firms, who charge the banks $1400 per foreclosure. The “rocket docket” courts, as Taibbi calls them, often “process” a hundred or more cases a day. Let’s see–a hundred cases a day at $1400 each–that’s a hundred and forty thousand dollars a day going from the banks to the lawyers to put people out of their homes. Your stimulus dollars at work!
Every now and again, there’s a fly in the ointment. A homeowner shows up with a lawyer, and a genuine defense takes place. Here’s where it gets really kinky. Almost invariably, the defense lawyer can prove that the banks’ paperwork is not in order, which should serve to invalidate the foreclosure. The dates don’t line up–for example,
(the mortgage) places the date on which Wells Fargo obtained (it) as May 5th, 2010. The trouble is, the bank bought the loan from Wachovia — a bank that went out of business in 2008. (But)….Wells Fargo sued Cooper for foreclosure on February 22nd, 2010. In other words, the bank foreclosed on Cooper three months before it obtained her mortgage from a… company (that had been out of business for two years at the time Wells Fargo alleges it purchased Cooper’s mortgage from said company).
Sure smells like fraud to me! But what do the courts do?
Do they investigate the possible fraud that such a patently surreal paper trail seems to indicate? No.
Do they simply dismiss the case “with prejudice,” a legal term for, “You have no business filing this lawsuit, and don’t you dare bother the courts with it again!” No.
The court advises the bank’s lawyers to get their paperwork in order and come back and try again. Often, the “revised” paperwork still doesn’t line up, but the possibility of fraud never enters the judges’ minds, it seems. The banks have plenty of money to throw into this effort, unlike the homeowners they are evicting, who are often dealing with medical problems or job loss that got them into default in the first place. And so, the corporate demons wear the human beings down with assault after assault, and take their homes away from them, as if this were somehow a solution to something. It’s not. The banks can’t live in the homes. The banks can’t even sell the homes, for the most part. The foreclosed houses just sit there, and often enough somebody steals all the metal plumbing parts out of them, and soon they’re not just unsellable, they’re uninhabitable. But the law says the banks can have them, so the banks take them.
From the banks’ perspective, increased homelessness resulting from the destruction of the American middle class is not their problem. Congress, likewise dominated by the wealthy, has done and likely will do nothing to fix this gross injustice. The “progressive disorientation” of the ruling class progresses a little further.
Speaking of Congress, there’s the tax and budget situation in this country right now. The President has just caved on his promise to keep middle class tax cuts and raise taxes on the wealthy, some of whom, like Warren Buffet, have even said, “tax us more, please!”
The Republicans, who claim to be in favor of fiscal responsibility, want to keep these tax cuts, which are, at least in theory, going to cost the government $3.7 billion dollars, three billion from the middle class, and the remaining 700 million from the wealthiest Americans, those who make over a quarter million dollars a year. The wealthiest Americans, the top one percent, are the only part of our population who are getting wealthier in the current economy. Winner take all, I guess. The tax break the self-styled “party of fiscal responsibility” wants to give to our wealthiest citizens–the top one-tenth of one percent, who earn over $2.7 million a year, would come to $370,000 per year per household.
I don’t know about you, but I think that one-year benefit for the urber-rich would last me the rest of my life. What do they spend it on? Beats me!
Maybe when the Republicans say they’re for “fiscal responsibility” they mean they’re basically responsible to whoever’s got the most money. It was, after all, Bush the younger who referred to “the haves and the have mores” as “my base.”
Would it be impertinent to mention that all those conservatives who get all misty-eyed over the 1950s as “the good old days” conveniently ignore the fact that the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans in the 50’s was 91%, and now it’s only 36%?
The partisan wrangling over taxes is a labyrinth that would be only too easy to get lost in, so let’s pull back and look at another facet of America’s debt crisis. A “deficit commission” came to the conclusion that the country needs to cut social security payments and medicare to stay out of debt, in spite of the fact that these programs could be fully funded if the wealthiest Americans paid their fair share.
The deficit commission does get our “truth in strange places” award this month, because they actually dared to mention that the country needs to cut its military spending, but maintenance of the empire is so sacrosanct that this has hardly received any mention. Certainly, neither the ‘fiscally conservative” Republicans nor Democrats are going to cut military spending, It’s vital to our national interest! Who cares if it’s bankrupting us!
Another facet of this disconnect from reality at the top of our political system is the announcement by the Republicans that they are going to abolish the House Committee on Global Warming, saying it’s a waste of money. Well, I would have to admit that this House Committee has done nothing of substance to stop global warming, but ignoring the problem will not make it go away.
OK, back to that original Robert Anton Wilson quote:
…the master class never abstracts enough information …to know what is actually going on in the world … authoritarian society remains fairly inflexible as time passes, but everything else in the universe constantly changes. The result can only be progressive disorientation among the rulers. The end is debacle.
Here in America, both our mainstream political parties are firmly committed to inflexibility, and seriously disoriented.. Mr. Wilson’s “debacle” looms ever larger on our horizon. A collision between the fantasyland of America’s ruling class and the reality of a bankrupt, impoverished, militarily impotent America seems immanent. Make sure you’ve got plenty of drinking water and popcorn–it’s going to be quite a show.