Michael Parenti 6-Pack
Discussions about democracy probably start in Athens about 2500 years ago. A truism is society is democratic to the extent that its citizens play a meaningful role in managing public affairs. Democracy is located within the capitalist economic system infamous for producing colossal inequality. There's no level playing field as great income and wealth translate into political power for the haves at the expense of the have nots. We have procedural democracy: elections, broadcast debates, primaries, etc. Citizens are largely marginalized, overwhelmed by big money and powerful lobbies. Look at the widespread demand to ban assault weapons of war or for universal single payer health care or protecting the environment or affordable housing. People want those things but elites have a simple message. Vote. Then go home and leave everything to us. Actual democracy is hollowed out. A Davos-type class rules.
Fascism is being mentioned more and more in the context of U.S. and European elections. It is a term that is bandied about often rather loosely. Orwell wrote that it is understood to be "something not desirable." But it is a complex political and economic synergy that has racism, force and nationalism as its animating matrix. It involves heavy doses of propaganda and media manipulation. Mussolini, in one of his more honest moments said, "Fascism should be more properly called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." For Americans it is universally associated with despotic regimes in other countries. It can't happen here. Huey Long, the self-styled populist governor of Louisiana, once warned, "If fascism ever comes to America, it will come wrapped in an American flag."
Mass media are owned by huge corporations that have a definite ideological agenda. Yet it is a staple verging on dogma that the mass media are independent, objective and liberal. This is repeated like a mantra and never challenged. Detailed studies and documentation refute the liberal label. Nevertheless, the charge of liberal bias persists and has become part of the political culture.
Discussions about empire are carefully controlled and constructed. It's fine to talk about the Byzantine, Ottoman and British varieties. However, the subject of U.S. empire, when not ignored outright, is couched in euphemisms like the "free market" or "free trade." Other favorites are "national interest" and "national security." U.S. global intervention is framed in terms of altruism and good intentions. The costs of empire are borne by Americans, but the profits go to the Fortune 500.
As the planet moves closer to environmental catastrophe, the captains of industry, the robber barons of the age, could hardly be bothered. They have more important matters to consider. Making money. And they better be on the ball and deliver those dividends because if they don't they will soon be replaced. Profits uber alles is the guiding mantra. Environment. Schvironment. It gets in the way. Sure they'll recycle paper and glass but forget about doing anything substantial. Pursuing new corporate earning opportunities and wealth accumulation are in capitalism's DNA. The owners of the economy, the 1%, are operating from the tar sands in Alberta to fracking in Pennsylvania. They have got their eyes on the only prize that matters to them. The lust for lucre continues unabated.
Class and power are closely correlated, That societies have a ruling class is derided as passe Marxist rhetoric. But to deny its existence is folly. Class can be measured by one’s income and savings, and ownership of stocks, bonds and property. Power is more difficult to calibrate. It is the capacity of a ruling class to produce outcomes that enrich and enhance its status. There are many forms of power such as economic, political and military. That a ruling class acts to promote its interests by getting together and planning seems only logical. To simply dismiss these meetings as conspiracies is absurd. Power brokers and corporate elites don’t meet in dark, smoke filled back rooms or on amusement park merry-go-rounds but rather they gather in well-appointed offices with plush carpets and comfortable chairs and are served croissants and gourmet coffee.
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