Apr 18, 2021 Letters
The order of Nature has been/is being compromised by Anthropogenic meddling, interference, and exploitation over millennia and especially the past decades since the industrial revolution. Malthusian theory and pronouncement allude to negatives of exponential population growth vis-à-vis sustainability to provide food. However, there is the contrary interpretation that it is not the earth’s inability to provide adequate food necessarily, but the unfair distribution of the food resources.
The world has seen tremendous “growth” in terms of science and technology and in economic “progress” usually measured as GDP. Nevertheless, inequality and social injustice remained the same, or got worse, over time. Certain standards have changed since feudalism/fiefdom/vassalage and slavery – with varying degrees of freedoms, certain rights such as the right to vote and to have a say in one’s affairs. However, there were those, the power elite, who wanted to preserve the skewed social and economic status quo, in order to maintain power and control. They established systems, institutions, and doctrines to retain the former system now called by another name – capitalism – with seemingly obscure bland effect on society, individually and collectively.
According to Edward Bernays, “The mechanism by which [such] ideas [were]/are disseminated on a large scale is propaganda, in the broad sense of an organised effort to spread a particular belief or doctrine.” Propaganda may be good or bad depending on the intent and by whom – for what purposes. Thus, Bernays pronounced, “Propaganda becomes vicious and reprehensive only when its authors consciously and deliberately disseminate what they know to be lies, or when they aim at effects which they know to be prejudicial to the common good.” The world has witnessed this in the form of extreme militarisation and deployment in Hitler’s Germany: “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself,” the Joseph Goebbels’ doctrine (or was it Lenin?). The Rwanda massacre is also significant in this regard.
Over the years, the system has shaped people’s minds, thought processes, and lifestyle, to serve the system. We were/are told what to like and desire – to make us presumably happy – making “them” go to their bank with more money, and make “us” poorer.
It is a programming process, stirring up our social consciousness for ‘new and improved’ products – by the invisible hand on TV, radio, and print media – powerful vehicles of persuasion – respectably called marketing! Two common examples: we gobble down white sugar laden sodas with no nutritional value, and we eat meats laden with excessive fats and potentially high cholesterol, because of the power of the “invisible hand” of The New Emperor’s New Clothes.
The system trains our minds to be consumers with a thirst for acquisitiveness and over-consumption – desires and greed becoming central in our lifestyles and approaches in all spheres of our daily life. We, like robots, have become accustomed to doing things that are inimical to our own wellbeing because we have been dumbed down. Fanon called this cognitive dissonance.
In the 1929 Committee on Recent Economic Changes, President Herbert Hoover’s welcomed the new American ‘model’ “on a grand scale [of] the expansibility of human wants and desires,” hailed an “almost insatiable appetite for goods and services,” and envisaged “a boundless field before us … new wants that make way endlessly for newer wants, as fast as they are satisfied.” Thus, the newfangled paradigm: need more; buy more; discard; then buy more, and more, and more – like feeding an addiction. This is planned obsolescence. Observe: demand was created and deliberately “contrived.” “Those who create wants rank amongst our most talented and highly paid citizens. Want creation – advertising – is a ten billion dollar industry.” (See Vance Packard The Waste Makers.) The system perpetuated its impetus by moulding the populace into an automaton consumer with an unquenchable thirst for its “wonderful stuff.”
Thus, we glorify in the notion that we are civilised; that we have arrived; and we are now a part of the in-group. But such perverted evolution continues to keep humanity in bondage! Note what is happening today in Myanmar, Tigray, Palma, ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.
In the United States, there was an unprecedented storming of the White House, in addition to attempts to thwart the democratic process during the recent elections. Killings are commonplace. Racism is now overt. Despite the greatness of the US and much goodness, there is a concomitant alarming, suffusing sense of societal toxicity – which is scary!
There is a fit analogy with Guyana: the blatant attempt to rig its recent national election; crime; inability to disseminate pertinent information on the COVID-19 pandemic; and the obscure and cagey Oil Business. This is true for the PNC, and also for the PPP. Rigging aside, the PNC sold out Guyana with the scandalous Trotman oil deal. A blindfolded jackass could have done better. So, what kind of jackass is he and his puppeteer/s! The PPP promised to do better, but they too are marching in the bandwagon to the tunes of the manipulators. What dastardly shame and dishonour!
The power elite give the impression of disregard for those on Main Street, a normative that defies decency and political pragmatism. Arrogance and an assumed air of superiority permeate the collective arcana. Brings to memory: “L’etat c’est moi.” Power does corrupt, doesn’t it?
Clement Rohee wrote: History produced Jagan and Jagan made his own history, Clement Rohee’s letter is indeed well written detailing in brief the poignancy and relevance of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, “In commemorating Jagan’s passing, we recall his modest way of living, his simplicity in language, yet at times controversial, but complex in his thinking. Thus far, no one has taken his place….”
I reflected on these words in relation to the existing state of affairs in today’s Guyana. Now I seek to see who in Guyana are measuring up to Jagan’s simplicity, sincerity, modesty and almost penurious lifestyle. The nouveau riche lavish in debauched lifestyle. Both the PPP and PNC claim to be working class political parties; yet in practice and reality today, their behaviour is antithetical to their stated ideals, betraying their solemn core values. They are now following the path of unabated neoliberal policies. And at the same time they are “regimenting the public mind” and creating herd instinct in all aspects of national comportment.
The invisible hand of government is powerful and ever present. Reflect on Edward Bernays: “Who are the men who without our realising it, give us our ideas, tell us whom to admire and whom to despise, what to believe about the ownership of public utilities, about the tariff, about the price of rubber, about the Dawes Plan, about immigration; who tell us how our houses should be designed, what furniture we should put in them, what menus we should serve on our table, what kind of shirts we must wear, what sports we should indulge in, what plays we should see, what charities we should support, what pictures we should admire, what slang we should affect, what jokes we should laugh at?”
Why did the erstwhile leaders in Guyana take the wrong fork on the road? Did the free-market mantra and neoliberalism permeate and programmed their new thinking and political direction? It is worth pondering on these simple but salient words: “We own things to lose them.”
For now, I end with this modest supplication: “Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Walk beside me and just be my friend.”– Albert Camus
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