Having established that it is theoretically possible to set up a social system whereby, even if the ruling class survived, their power could be curtailed if not completely abolished — what is stopping us from doing this? One reads the post and reflects: this is Utopian. Never happen. The ruling class would never surrender its powers, and if supplanted by the bureaucracy, the bureaucrats would do exactly the same. The people are sheeple who will never dare to challenge their masters. Until the proles become conscious they cannot revolt, and until they revolt they cannot become conscious. We are doomed. Let’s sit around and watch Top Billing.
Why does one think in that particular fashion?
Well, one reason is that we are told to. There has probably never been a time in South Africa’s history when official public utterance has been so profoundly hostile to idealism of any kind. The Mail and Guardian is probably the nearest thing South Africa has to a “liberal” newspaper, and this newspaper’s coverage of COP17 was not only steeped in petrochemical corporate waste, it was peppered with disdainful references to the Democratic Left and “greenies”. Now, it is true that the Democratic Left and the Greens are mostly dodgy charlatans, but next to the kind of scum that bobbed about at COP17 they are paragons of integrity and realism. The Creator is no great fan of Patrick Bond, but when Bond appeared on AM Live to face the corporate stooges rooting for COP17, he ran rings around them partly because he knew what he was talking about, and partly because he was ready and able to tell the truth as he saw it, whereas the rest of the commentators were only concerned with how to go about telling lies effectively.
This vast network of right-wing propaganda exists almost entirely for the purpose of forcing lies and logically false concepts into the brains of the public. These lies and logically false concepts are generated and encouraged by the ruling class. They control the media and the punditocracy, and therefore they can ensure that virtually everything the average person hears is, subtly or crassly, made up of ruling-class propaganda. It is part of the air we breathe.
If you sit down and analyse it, of course, you can easily find falsehoods. Most propaganda is relatively easy to expose — it ain’t rocket science to do so. However, it takes work to do this, and one has to have some incentive to do that work. Most people are unwilling to do the work because they have no incentive. If they like what is going on, most of the propaganda is tailored to tell them that what is going on is good. But if they don’t like what is going on, there is propaganda tailored to show them a way of opposing what is going on in a superficial way without actually opposing it in a profound way. (Thus the Mail and Guardian‘s attacks on environmentalism and democratic socialism were carried out in the name of support for freedom, justice and the salvation of the planet, just as the butchery of Libya was carried out in the name of human rights.)
The consequence of this is that most people are insensibly drawn towards the dark side of politics. They are presented with easy targets to blame, simple positive symbols to endorse, and reassurances that all will be well if they don’t ask questions and instead follow semi-divine leaders whose names begin with Z. As a result, trivial acts or even hostile acts can be spun into acts of immense significance which serve, supposedly anyway, to placate and demobilise the public and thus discourage them from taking any kind of action to protect themselves.
Take, for example, events around “Reconciliation Day” 2011. The concept of the “Day of Reconciliation” is a very Mandelaite concept. The lamb is urged to trustingly wander into the wolf’s den in a spirit of reconciliation. The fact that fresh lambs are required for the purpose on a regular basis is represented as a sign that reconciliation is obviously working– since increasing numbers of the grass-eating community are getting together with the lamb-eating community in a spirit of benefit — perhaps not mutual benefit, but definitely advantageous for a significant number of the participants!
It kicked off with the rebuilding of the gallows at Pretoria Central, changed into a museum with plaques bearing the names of all the political prisoners executed there. (One hopes that it will be well-enough guarded so that the plaques will not end up in a scrap-metal yard, like most metal which the government places in the public domain.) That wasn’t such a bad idea, although rather ghoulish, and rather spoiled by having President Zuma speaking at the dedication of the museum, to illustrate that all those heroes had died in vain.
But then Zuma, freshly back from a state visit to Mozambique where he lamented the fact that South Africa is no longer dominating the colonial penetration of that country’s economy, bounded across town to Freedom Park, which is on a hill overlooking the Jacaranda City. And there he celebrated Reconciliation Day by opening an access road linking Freedom Park, the underfunded monument to the victory of the anti-apartheid movement, with the Voortrekker Monument, the overstuffed monument to the theft of the land by armed whites and the enslavement of the people who lived on that land, which was constructed by the people who went on to build the racist apartheid regime. And Zuma said that this access road showed that reconciliation was important, that it was vital to bring everybody on board and not to ignore anybody.
In other words, the colonial and apartheid regimes are not only a part of our history (which they are, of course) but are also as deserving of celebration as are the people who struggled to overthrow those regimes. This is the position being taken by the President of the African National Congress in the ninety-ninth year of the ANC’s existence, and the seventeenth year of its victory.
Zuma is, thus, wishing the actual purpose of the struggle out of existence while simultaneously identifying himself with that same past struggle which is mysteriously given a positive connotation even though without its purpose the struggle had no meaning.
And this is how the bullshit factory functions. When one has devoted one’s life to a particular goal, it is difficult to acknowledge that the goal, having been met, has been moved away again and sold off to foreign organised criminals. Therefore, liberals tell themselves that the Democratic Alliance is liberal, that the press is free, that the judiciary is independent, and that South Africa’s ruling class is a cabal of black businessmen led by Julius Malema. Charterists tell themselves that the ANC is revolutionary, that Zuma is a much-maligned elder statesman and patriot, and that South Africa is on the developmental road towards building a better life for all while uniting Africa in the spirit of Franz Fanon. These things are not true, but people wish to believe them, since otherwise, O God, we shall have to start all over again from scratch, the prospect of which is unbearable.
Such people are terribly easily fooled into joining the chorus of blank-minded propagandists who work for these factions, and of course there are the other choruses of people who are promoting consumerism, neoliberalism and all the other evils of multinational globalised financialised capital which we all know about but are not permitted to discuss.
And so we are tempted into buying into passivity, which means believing that we cannot actually change anything for the better ourselves, but must instead wait for someone else to change things for us. Again, the people who are planning to change things for us are not our friends, but they assure us that they are our friends, and therefore we accept this, because the alternative is to accept that we are trapped in a nightmarish world where our enemies are in charge and we must overthrow them in order to protect ourselves — which takes us right back to the apartheid era, only worse because the apartheid government was so alienated from the general public, and even foreign states paid lip-service to its loathesomeness, whereas the modern Zuma regime has considerable public support in South Africa and has almost unswerving propaganda support from the West.
There are, of course, distant voices telling us that things are not what they seem. However, many of these voices are deranged or are agents of special interests whose goals are not to help us, but to help themselves. When George Monbiot speaks out in support of fast-breeder nuclear reactors as tools to save the planet, we are at best puzzled. Isn’t Monbiot supposed to be a radical enemy of the establishment? Then surely the vast multinational corporations which hope to make trillions of dollars out of selling fast-breeder nuclear reactors must be allies of Monbiot and therefore implicitly also enemies of the establishment. Therefore, the fact that the establishment is in bed with those self-same corporations, must mean that the establishment is its own enemy. It is then not necessary to join Occupy Wall Street — one need only work for ESKOM in order to take a revolutionary act against the evil System! Down with the System, down!
Good examples of such things are the “Truther” movement contending that the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked by the United States government on the 11th of September 2001, or the movement contending that John F Kennedy was assassinated under orders from the Vice-President of the United States, or the movement contending that there are captive aliens and their spacecraft hidden in Area 51 in Nevada, or the movement contending that Queen Elizabeth and the whole Bilderburg movement are blood-drinking reptiles from outer space. These are not forces encouraging intellectual passivity, but they are wonderful forces for soaking up intellectual action and ensuring that it never threatens the actual status quo.
And so we return to the problem, which is that without clarity of understanding, access to knowledge, the will to attain clearly-specified goals and the confidence that those goals might at some stage be attained, the stage is set for believing that we can’t do anything. Having accepted that belief it is then easy to decide that the goals themselves are either unattainable, or not worthy of attainment — are Communist, or atheist, or african nationalist, or something else unacceptable to those worthy and powerful people who decide what is, and what is not, acceptable. Under these circumstances, it is far safer to sit out the struggle and instead be completely passive.
Which, of course, is what most people did under the apartheid state, and what almost everybody did while neoliberalism and globalism were constructing the present crisis, and which is why such absolute faith in one’s own impotence, like absolute faith in the incapacity of governments, is such a magnificent tool to keep the ruling class in power forever.