Let me paint a picture for you, one of public contentment despite economic and social disparity.
I currently live in a moderately-sized city in the US. Let’s call this state Tomainia. In true neo-capitalist form, the economic policy of Tomainia hinges on two simple factors: that corporate tax cuts will bring more business to the state, and that investing in the public sector is wasteful.
The minimum wage in Tomainia is a whopping USD$7.25/hour, with few new positions offering greater than $12.50/hour. These policies have led to rates of economic and job growth in the state that are below the national average (job growth is 1% vs the national 1.7%). And, in case the inhabitants of Tomainia have any glimmer of hope about the future, the state government voted recently to cut the public university budget by USD $250 million, which will impact incoming minority and rural students who depend on financial help. The grim economic situation aside, Tomainia is also home to the most segregated city in the country.
Can you imagine what this state of affairs looks like in a post-Global Financial Crisis, Michael Brown world?
Interestingly, however, people in Tomainia are content with the situation in which they find themselves; that is, if one were to measure contentment by how often a population critiques the state and federal governments, protests on the street, conducts union strikes and re-elects the government.
Hence, if one were to take the state of Tomainia as a microcosm for the greater USA, then certain staid observations can be made about growing economic (and social) disparity. The top 1% of the country hold 50% of its wealth, the gender wage gap is increasing, whereby females in full-time positions are paid 22% less than their male counterparts on average, and racial discrimination is running rampant – take the burning of Black churches in the South as an example – but garners little attention. So how, despite these inflammatory circumstances, has the US government managed to maintain control of its population?
In response to this question, I’ve observed three crucial steps that governments can undertake to both control and manipulate their population without letting them know that they are being controlled and manipulated. I’ve titled these steps: how to trick people, and rule the world. Or, if you prefer the long version: how new world governments can successfully create an illusion of utopia in the over-populated countries over which they rule. Michael Norton and Dan Ariely recently said it best, “Americans actually live in Russia, although they think they live in Sweden. And they would like to live on a kibbutz.”
1. Das Große Lüge (The Big Lie)
President Obama has spoken to ‘the people’ approximately 29 times in the past six months. His rhetoric is always the same in those speeches – it is to reassure his citizens that they are superior to all other world citizens. Indeed, as a recent failed-artist-turned-dictator once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
For fun, and also to highlight this point, I picked two of President Obama’s speeches at random: the 2015 State of the Union speech and the 2014 End of the Year Press Conference address. I searched for the term ‘lead’ in the transcripts of those speeches and found more relevant returns than I care to share, but here are a few: “the question is not whether America leads the world, but how”, “I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action”, and “meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.”
It is important to note here that you need not tell your citizens in what specific way your nation is leading, because doing so will require telling them the cold hard facts, which, in the case of the US are that the nation is number one in obesity, gun ownership, incarcerations, cocaine use and anxiety disorders, to name a few. Thus, the message you must present to your citizens must be simple and fact-void enough to create a jingoistic fantasy that your country is an exceptional country – exceptional to both God’s will, and international law.
2. The Sports Hypnosis
How many times have you been told to take on life with a “glass is half full” mentality? Well, it’s hard to achieve that state of being if you immerse yourself in budget woes or, worse yet, the news that Donald Trump is running for President and leading in the GOP polls.
Fear not, however, the daily bombardment of sports coverage never fails to distract the residents of Tomainia, and the wider US, from real-life burdens. Sports are to the Millennia generation as talkies were to the Depression era generation. In fact, if you’re considering a switch in careers then I would recommend you become a coach. In case you haven’t heard, the highest-paid public employee in each state is the state University football coach. Though, to be fair, sometimes it is the basketball coach. Consistent with those figures, football season in Tomainia (September – February) is manic. Our state team played every Sunday this last season. And, in smaller towns, Friday night high school football rules. This means that – unless you have a large, outdoor TV monitor – there will be tumbleweeds rolling around outside.
Hence, like many addictions, sports refocuses the attention of citizens from their reality to the reality of the game. The sports platform provides fans with comfort, assuring them that everything is under control; their state and country are superior to all others because their teams are performing well. The systematic delivery of sports coverage plays a great role in the social engineering of the US, such that it not only distracts from real news, but enables the re-channelling of young (predominantly) male bravado, and a scheduled feeding of government propaganda to the minds of unsuspecting, or blissfully ignorant, fans.
3. The Get’em Early Strategy
This final trick in the book is simple: pursue indoctrination through education.
For most public school students, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning is part of their daily routine. This recitation requires one to stand at attention and declare “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” whilst facing the flag with the right hand over one’s heart.
This ritual involves many symbols, particularly those of the pledge and the flag, which serve to instill patriotism, encourage it, and give it meaning. Most importantly, however, the ritual sets out to tell children, who, really, cannot yet dissect the power of symbolism, what it is they are supposed to ‘love’ and for what they should be willing to sacrifice by pursuing an abstract definition of nationhood. The vagueness of the term ‘nation’ is necessary because it allows one to conflate it with the term social community; that is, the status quo as it should be if all things were equal. Consequently, patriotic symbols are the tool by which the positive emotions generated by thoughts of the social community spill over into the illusory community; that is, the status quo as it is actually. The imposition of patriotism in schools, thus, allows one to redirect sentiments of patriotism at an early age into support for the government’s socio-politico agenda.
The US is certainly not the only country using ‘obedience’ teaching to keep its citizens ‘happy’. In fact, along with Russia, Jordan, Cuba, and Kazakhstan, the US is in good company. Perhaps, though, the US does it better because it is only ‘them’ who can convince masses of people that they are living in the land of freedom, as indexed by the size of one’s coke and popcorn. And, if you’re wondering to what Tomainia refers, then it is the country that Charlie Chaplin wrote about in his film, The Great Dictator. Perhaps a play on Totalitarian Mania.
By Anonymous in America