Expediency, Power and Oppression

Expediency, Power and Oppression : Peace and Environment News Sept-Oct, 2010
Morgan Duchesney

Shameless expediency has publicly established itself as the guiding philosophy of those who wield power. This development is both lethally dangerous and unacceptable in a world staggering towards environmental holocaust and permanent war. Western politicians, particularly Canada’s Harper and U.S. president Obama have lowered the ethical bar to ankle level through the kind of power games that make civilized dissent a dangerous activity. How can it be considered normal for police at the recent Toronto G20 to have acted on secret laws and executed 900 “preventative” arrests? Why is this possible and how do we differ from the brutal regimes we claim to oppose? I think we differ mainly in our degree and style of oppression. Noam Chomsky frequently juxtaposes the totalitarian iron fist and the democratic silk glove of manufactured consent. The goal of concentrated economic power is the same in Canada and China: freedom to operate through public apathy, marginalization and the promotion of hopelessness through devices like saturation advertising designed to enhance isolation and jealous greed. The great emancipatory leaders of history all rejected such tactics as self-evident obstacles. We have much to learn from bold peace warriors like Ghandi who, supported by legions of anonymous volunteers, changed their world with love and forbearance. Juxtaposed against the peace-mongers are silver-tongued warlords determined to impose their will by force. According to a July 8, 2010 Ottawa Citizen article, U.S. President Obama is “protecting” our world by sending U.S. Special Forces into 75 countries, more even than George W. Bush dared to dispatch on their deadly errands. Such tactics will simply create more angry young men that may turn to terrorism.

While expediency has always and everywhere been the operative force in economic affairs; it is now accelerating and shoving aside naïve conceits about decency and fairness without even the pretext of apology. I experienced real shock in 2001 when I first realized the insane fantasy that represented the shaky foundation of classical economics. The most excellent and outspoken professor responsible for my revelation had recently been banished to the oldest and remotest building at the University of Ottawa for daring to teach facts. We loved him and the administration loathed him because he was considered poison to the school’s corporate donors. How could anyone really believe that the planet’s resources are either inexhaustible or infinitely interchangeable?

The latter fantasy contributes to popular confusion about political systems and economic systems. The corporate media communicates an assumptive and narrow choice between “capitalism” and “socialism” without bothering to examine these terms or identify their numerous intersections. This tactic both misrepresents socialism as evil and reflexively supports the mythology of “free market capitalism” while automatically associating it with liberal democracy and freedom. Real capitalism has never existed because it is far too cruel and destructive. The powerful people accept some regulation to protect themselves from their own greed. Public defenders of what is erroneously referred to as free market capitalism have mythologized this dysfunctional and utterly dishonest shell game of invisible money by presenting it without context or alternative. The obscurity of sophisticated forms of social democracy like anarcho-syndicalism is more a function of intentional exclusion by the corporate media rather than the failings of such a comprehensive political/economic alternative. Anarcho-syndicalism; which can be traced back to the failed Spanish Revolution; is a form of libertarian socialism stressing direct citizen participation in all political decisions. Of course, such a system would be anathema to modern politicians who answer to shadowy corporate puppeteers and despise the meddling public.

Of course private (not public) employers have the right to exclude those with whom they disagree, but they do so at their financial peril because such a policy creates employee groupthink, silent contempt, subtle undermining and a robotic sameness. This is not sound policy in a so-called global economy dependant on original thinking. Also, generally speaking, the larger the business, the more generous the public support in the form of outright grants, easy "loans", tax breaks, custom made legislation etc. Therefore, companies who benefit from the public subsidy for private profit model must relinquish some of their "free market" bragging rights and the exclusive privileges associated with the current mythology of capitalism.

In the final analysis, we endure a system of state capitalism and stock market democracy where one dollar buys one realpolitik vote facilitated by privileged access to elected officials willing to pass whatever laws the powerful require, often by evading legislative scrutiny. People like Gord Nixon, CEO of the Royal Bank Corporation (RBC) and alpha member the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) intuitively employ these Machiavellian tactics to further their agendas. Only an elite corporate lobbyist like Gord Nixon can levy enough secret influence to bypass parliament and arrange a regime of bank regulations that cynically marginalizes the power of MPs and concerned voters who wish to play an active role in creating regulatory and legislation process. The powerful consider such people to be troublesome meddlers best left to pay taxes, vote occasionally and send their children to fight foreign wars.

Our world doesn’t have to be like this. We are all catalysts whose individual acts of bravery can both empower and inspire others while simultaneously fostering the solidarity required for the creation of genuine participatory democracy.