Madoff is a master thief, we are petty thieves…
September 9, 2009
“As Benjamin Franklin was exiting after writing the U.S. constitution, a woman asked him, ‘Sir, what have you given us?’ He replied, ‘A republic ma’am, IF YOU CAN KEEP IT’” [Wiki; stress added].
By what calculus did that sea-change in our polity occur? Answer: How did we view humanity, i.e., our fellow man?
One hastens to add the operative term “all,” i.e., all of humanity, and not solely the white, male, financially viable, non-papist investor clique by whom we had established our first polity. As Chomsky reminds us, this country is the only political entity that began life as an Empire, e.g., Rome, Britain, the Ottomans, etc., adopted that benevolent persona by and by…
And, the notion of “straight power concepts” as espoused by George Kennan in the forties enjoyed a much earlier incarnation with, e.g., the Monroe Doctrine, Manifest Destiny, the Trail of Tears, the annexing of Hawai’i, etc. That Kennan, a seasoned statesman—who generally compels high marks in certain circles for, e.g., for his having latterly condemned the Viet Nam holocaust—assumed its announcement was a hapax legomenon cannot be attributed to benign naiveté or a one-off lapse in Kennanesque reason. Any supposition of “misstatement” falters, considering our country’s narrative, and is more correctly viewed as culpable ignorance—at best. And, at worst, it was a re-stating—a reestablishing?—of the tenets of Empire as manifest early on. As Chris Floyd has it: “the self-hypnosis by which elites convince themselves of the absolute righteousness of their own barbaric urge for domination.”
And yet, to sustain this Empire necessitated a “self-hypnosis” on a grander scale. The early beneficiaries of Empire’s largesse did not scruple to disregard the provenance of ill-gotten gain—as long as they were on the receiving end of the deal, as opposed to the receiving end of the lash. Like a colossal Ponzi scheme promising too-good-to-be-true returns, the new invitees were not merely loathe to condemn the murderous appropriation of Native American lands, i.e., the fount of political gift-giving and patronage. In many cases, they forbore to even look too hard at the matter. And that “sin of omission,” as it were—i.e., the seemingly benign act of being willing to look away—multiplied across the collective, helps to sustain what many here are wishing—albeit, possibly too late—would be undone. Said another way: once we looked away we were undone.
Power exists in a “top down” hierarchical construct, implying exclusion, inequity, etc., to whatever degree, great or small. If we, as the collective, suffer no real compunction about having our fellow man “below” us—whoever they are and wherever they reside, i.e., their having been the victims of the Ponzi/Empire inequity—then “we” are Empire.
It will always be the case that some megalomaniac will come down the pike, look us in the eye, and say, with no small solemnity, “Let me lead you,” to which the Sheeple intone, “Lead us.” Meanwhile, the last fifty leaders had brought the Sheep to the doors of the abattoir, closing them just in time to leave enough of an “an electorate” for the next “leader.” The current satrap—whoever he or she is—is not the dominant issue, althought subpoenas, censure, etc., are surely warranted.
Generally speaking we reaped what we sowed—and how could it possibly be otherwise? In referring to our scenario, I use the term collective, as the word “nation” would seem to imply a certain cohesion. With Empire/Ponzi it’s every man for himself. There is no cohesion with Empire. There inheres a crazed, disparate collective pulling in many directions at once, yet always tending towards the abattoir.
If Lord Acton was right:
“Power corrupts, and absolute Power…,”
and we as Empire are dealing in “straight Power concepts”—as we most surely have been all along, then we are most certainly reprobate. And, if there is anything to “salvage” in the end it will be owing to direct resistance to Empire—not direct commentary.
Sir, what have you given us?. [Franklin] replied A republic ma’am, IF YOU CAN KEEP IT.”
Again, where is the lapse in what is forfeited?
To respond, consider the postulate, “Madoff is a master thief, we are petty thieves” as the ground of further inquiry. That is, the long-sought participatory democracy here is lacking in the most essential factor—participants.