No, It Has Not ‘Always Been This Way’

Thomas S. Harrington writes at Common Dreams:

One of the more common responses I get when I try to point out the alarming decline of basic civic values and practices in the U.S. is one version or another of the following: “What are you getting so excited about? It is a dog eat dog world today, just as it has been for the entire trajectory of the human race. The powerful have always sought to fully exploit their ability to toy with the lives of “lesser beings”.

And with this response, these men—they are almost always men—feel they have really put the silly dreamer in his place, and that, moreover, that they have actually engaged in an argument and won it.

And because most Americans today have been brought up on a steady diet of punditry churned out by people whose knowledge base and thinking skills are said to be oh-so-much-greater and sharper than their own, they tend to have very little confidence in their ability to generate personal opinions on social and political issues, and hence, believe they have very little standing for contesting the Darwinian pronouncements of their local, self-proclaimed Alpha male.

When these gents are challenged by some one who has actually spent a little time studying the march of western civilization—the history they breezily dismiss as one long exercise in organized looting and unbridled aggression—they usually try to change the subject…

Read more here.

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  • Mr Willow

    What I always find interesting is that even if you accept the premise that the strong have always exploited the weak—dog-eat-dog world and all—it is still we as individuals collectively determining the shape and direction of society and the civilisation in which that society exists. 
    And it is therefore within our power to alter that relationship of the strong and weak at any point, that the weak could always refuse to be exploited, or alternatively, the strong could always refuse to exploit, and see the ‘lesser beings’ as people, rather than tools. Of course neither of these are likely to happen on a scale that would be truly freeing, for the strong that wish exploitation tell the others that it is their divine right to oppress the rest, or duty to rule them; the ‘lessers’ that it would be selfish to want more than the crumbs their rulers see fit to give them, and if ever either reject such notions they are derided, slandered, intimidated, or killed. 

    • charlieprimero

       80% of people genuinely do not want to be free.  Blame fear or societal indoctrination, but the system requires their continued support.

      • Mr Willow

        You are probably right about that. 

      • Nunzio X

        Wish I could remember where I read this, but it was years ago.

        In the days of the Soviet Union, some people managed to get visas to come live in the US. Perhaps not so surprisingly, not all the new immigrants liked it here.

        One complaint was that there were simply too many choices to make—and they were used to having most choices made for them, or not having many to begin with. And it overwhelmed them, and so they returned to the Soviet Union.

        Some would say it’s because the Soviet state made the people dependent. Maybe. But what’s making people in the West so dependent? Fear, perhaps…fear of never having enough, fear of losing what they do have, fear of standing in the rain alone.

        I dunno. I’m going to buy a fiddle and learn how to play it. Looks to me like Rome 2 is gonna catch on fire any minute now.

        • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/RWWAEM343UIK2IBZB3OXQZTQXM SPET67

          “what’s making people in the West so dependent?”
          Our form of authoritarianism is much more subtle than the Soviets was.

            Look at the life of Julia as described on the presidents website.  The government touches damn near everything she does.  The site doesn’t say it, but the government regulates the toilet she sits on.  It’s just not presented as “You’re our bitch, do as we say or we’ll kill you.”  It’s done in the guise of a “super-parent”, always trying to help and protect it’s child.

            But, of course, there are terms, conditions and prices to be paid for that help and protection.  And, those terms and conditions become increasingly restrictive.  ”You can do anything but X.” Soon becomes “You must do it my way or you can’t have my help/protection”  

          Lets say that the government offered a deal saying that you can exempt yourself from the all the taxes on your paycheck if you waive your right to social security and social services.  How many Americans would take it?  

          • Andrew

            Our combination of Prussian schooling and Christian child abuse also prevents people from maturing.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/RWWAEM343UIK2IBZB3OXQZTQXM SPET67

            I get what you’re saying with regard to the Prussian schooling.  That is definitely an authoritarian model.  

            Can you be a bit more specific with regards to Christian child abuse?  I wasn’t raised in a religious household.  So, I’m not sure I know exactly what you’re referring to.  

    • Hadrian999

       a problem is that the poor hate other poor and support the rich, the dream of the day it’s their turn to be the exploiter. Look at the tea party, it isn’t all rich folk, it’s mostly working class and lower middle class people standing up for the rights of the neo-aristocracy

      • tooCents

        Racism, ethnic pride. Yes in fucking deed. People are all more or maybe much less culturally and racially biased (like I try to be LESS and Im sure you and many on this site, right). Well we have our in-groups, our people, that share similar worldviews or existential outlook and so on and so forth…
        This is exploited by the ultra-wealthy very effectively in the U.S., which is a country so vast and diverse the working class doesn’t stand a chance to effectively unit to fight the elites. The most progressive countries in the world are homogenous as fuck. Scandinavia, for example.

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/myconica Threedinium

    Interesting article raising a good point, although I would guess in the case of the more high-profile warcrimes if the offenders had just been quietly dispatched through assination that wouldn’t have been adequate to relieve the massive amount of tension generated by such widely-impacting actions. Assinating individuals in the current context I would assume is much safer for the government to get away with because chances are they’re not people who’ve attracted alot of media attention or committed obvious crimes against large numbers of people. If they even have committed any crime at all.

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  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    Some old dude with a Fu Manchu mustache once said something like “Shit runs in cycles”.

    Sometimes we’re more “civilized”, but then we forget how valuable civility actually is and are seduced by “expedience”.

    Then we slaughter the hell out of each other for a while until people once again realize the value of civility.

    Then we’re more “civilized” for a while, but then we forget how valuable civility actually is and are seduced by “expedience”…

  • Azathoth

    In a way, things HAVE always been this way. Through all civilization, we lived in a culture that, at its basis, has always endorsed one fundamental principle: hierarchy. Or, more precisely, the concept of a universal “better” and “worse”. Even with the nazi, the concept was the same, it just changed what kind of people/things/ideas happened to sport either label, and how they decided to deal with the “undesirable” elements. Every good thing we have achieved didn’t happen BECAUSE of this principle, but in spite of it, and I believe that our failure to realize that Nazi Germany represented what happens when we take this basic concept to his extremes, made us even more deluded about its nature than we were before (you know, since we associated the same system with “savior” and “murderer” without realiziing it).

    Another thing that I think the author of the article doesn’t realize is that the people he speaks with probably don’t know how to react when faced with such general conversation that goes nowhere. I mean I can agree all you want with your observations, but if the extent of what you expect from me is limited to just some form of nodding or some circle-jerking of outrage.. I mean it doesn’t sound very stimulating to me, unless you believe that *just* talking about the problem solves it in some way.

  • Hadrian999

    kind of a shallow, post war show trials aren’t proof of a civil society, these civil societies were all about assassinating opponents during the war and during the peace after war especially the period of decolonizing