The Insanity of the Dominant Culture


The Insanity of the Dominant Culture

Jonathan Gillis

8/24/2012

 

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” — Dom Hélder Câmara

Our entire imperial way of life is predicated and maintained by violence. Arguably, most violent psychopaths are men. Psychopaths need not be killers, or even violent at all for that matter, and most of them, arguably, are not. If corporations are psychopaths, and arguably corporations fit the technical definition and clinical criteria for psychopathy, it follows, since virtually every aspect of our lives is dictated and dominated by corporations and the behaviors thereof, that most of us––imperial slaves, partly of our own volition, we are––are psychopaths, or familiarly associate with psychopaths throughout our daily lives. That corporations, by law, must internally maximum profits and externally socialize costs, is indicative of amoral and asocial behaviors which reverberate throughout all of us in countless ways, to varying degrees. Do we even consider the wide-ranging moral and social consequences of purchasing a car, a tank of gas, a TV, a computer, a handheld electronic device, a pair of jeans, bananas, and so forth? If a narrow parameter of morality does factor into our consumer choices, and arguably it increasingly has, with the mega-billion dollar "organic" food industry to give one example, the imperial system itself is simply modified to compensate––it not only remains intact, it is reinforced.

There is perhaps little doubt that high-ranking elites, be they corporate media moguls, or presidents such as Obama, Bush, Clinton, or presidents' brains, such as Rove, and so on and on, or be they Wall Street hedge fund managers, or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, including banks, oil companies, Wal-Mart, and so forth, are psychopaths. It is hard to comprehend how Rex W. Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil is not a psychopath. He heads the world's largest oil company, and his compensation for doing so in 2011 was $34,920,506. UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest private insurers in the "homeland", and a corporation among plenty, that commits, or has committed, fraud; swindling money out of patients that received outside network medical services, ultimately UnitedHealth Group settled in early 2009, agreeing to pay $350 million in reimbursement from fraud the corporation committed since 1994.[1] In 2010, the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, Stephen J Hemsley, received $101.96 million in compensation, making him the number one earner amongst U.S. CEO's in 2010 according to Forbes. Edward A Mueller, head of Quest Communications, now CenturyLink, a large telecommunications corporation which operated in several different states, earned compensation totaling $65.80 million in 2010 taking the number two slot. [2]  In 2002, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused "former managers of massive accounting fraud. Qwest later paid $250 million to investors to settle the claims without admitting or denying the allegations."[3] Finally, Robert A Iger, the CEO of Disney, the mega-monopoly riddled with its own criminality and abuse,[4] made a cool $53.2 million in compensation in 2010.[5] And on and on.         

In 2010, the median pay for EMTs and paramedics was $30,360 per year. Even if every single one of the 226,500 EMTs and paramedics[6] were "climate change deniers", the consequences of that type of delusional, and severely dangerous thinking, would be rather benign, if not insignificant. If Rex W. Tillerson doesn't believe that humans have been destroying the earth and adversely and irreversibly altering the natural rhythms of climate[7] (exactly what every single oil corporation, as well as plenty of other corporations in plenty of other industries is guilty of), we, as a human species, as well as all nonhuman species, have a major problem. Perhaps, ultimately, CEOs' mindset, be they corporate, or corporate-political, and imperial policy generally, of denial of human caused global warming and the resultant environmental catastrophes, is significant in the same way that millions of people in the U.S. losing their homes to the banking cartels that legally stole and legally steal, and horde colossal amounts of wealth, are grossly awarded for such behavior by taxes from the very citizenry it steals from––is significant. If imperial life continues on its present course of "growth", "progress", and "profit", before long, denying or accepting scientific empirical evidence will be irrelevant; the devastating effects of the destruction and poisoning of the air, land, and water, and all species of life therein, will be obvious. It seems pretty obvious today. How many scientific studies does it take to accrue enough data to emphatically reach a verdict on the implication of a clearly mortgaged future?

For decades big tobacco and the politicians they bought denied that smoking tobacco causes cancer. Finally, after much resistance, the truth was exposed to the public. Still, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, "an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke" in the U.S. annually.[8] A question is, if our imperial way of life is akin to smoking tobacco, and the earth is our body, and we concede that by smoking we may get cancer and die, are we going to quite our imperial way of life?

In his book Monkeyluv, Robert M. Sapolsky explains that in the U.S. "the poorer you are, the more likely you are to get and to succumb to heart disease, respiratory disorders, ulcers, rheumatoid disorders, psychiatric disease, or a number of types of cancer. And this is a whopper of an effect––[socioeconomic status] accounts for at least a five-to-ten-year spread of life expectancies, and in some cases, disease or mortality risk increases more than tenfold as you go from the wealthiest to the poorest segments of our society, with things worsening each step of the way."[9] Socioeconomic inequality, as bad as it was and is, is worsening. While this unprecedented redistribution of wealth from the bottom up goes on, most of us in the buffer classes, who idolize and mimic the elites think nothing of it. Just like it is routinely considered a woman's fault if she is raped, impoverishment is routinely stigmatized as the responsibility of the victim. This collective blaming of the victim, which is a form of victimization itself, is evident of our imperial psychosis, and is perhaps evidence that ours is a culture comprised of sociopaths, with such behavior habitually rewarded and idealized.       

This culture has been created and maintained in such a way, that to ask questions as to the sagacity of every appendage to the entire imperial supply chain of consumer goods, products, and services, from mining, to manufacture, to distribution, to end use and ultimately waste, is virtually entirely moot. That it is easier, more convenient, and less stressful to simply spend our hard-earned money however we please, (and we are tremendously encouraged to do so, even if it means putting ourselves in years of financial debt), without a conflict of morality or sociality––which would undoubtedly occur if we starting asking serious questions and demanding or seeking serious answers for ourselves––does not negate that most of us are sociopaths. It is rather crucial to emphasize, to be absolutely clear, that the elites of plutocracy, arguably the lot of which are psychopaths, are consequentially responsible for far more and further reaching extreme dangers and harms, given their centric positions of power. Arguably, more so than a single deranged shooter who murders a dozen people and wounds some dozens more; though these sorts of crazed individuals are viewed as being the epitome of evil, which appears to come out of some vacuum, and be quite abstract from us, the context of our collective cultural experience, and the elites we salute and worship––the overlords of imperial administration. In his book Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, James Gilligan articulated: "I never cease to be amazed and appalled by the sheer number of men who are buried alive [in maximum security prisons] often because of behavior so murderous that we have not yet figured out what else to do with them…In the United States there are more than a million, a total population of condemned men larger than that of many cities, most armies, some states in this country, and some entire nations."[10] Approximately one out of every 310 of us, is a murderer, locked away in prison. "Many murderers, both sane and insane, have told me that 'they' have died, that their personality has died, usually at some identifiable time in the past, so that they feel dead, even though their bodies live on. When they say they feel dead they mean they cannot feel anything­­––neither emotions nor even physical sensations."[11]     

Some, perhaps most, may find such an assertion, that most of us are psychopathic, and cannot help but to be psychopathic at that, absurd and offensive, and groundless. Maybe it is. Generally, the image we see when we think of a psychopath, is a violent "madman" who "snaps" for no apparent reason and guns down "innocents" in cold bloody murder before typically taking his own life, being brought down by the police, or a number of other possible scenarios which ultimately put an end to a given rampage. Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Coral Eugene Watts are some of the U.S.' most notorious psychopaths that might come to mind. Recent examples are Wade Michael Page, James Holmes, One L. Goh; between the three of them, murdered 25 people this year, and wounded 64 in three separate instances of mass "senseless" violence[12] (though obviously each of these mass murderers was acting with a definite sense of purpose), in three separate states. Their psychosis, as maniacal and insane as we find it to be, is partly a projection of our collective psychosis as rank and file members of empire. Just as the killer drone assassination campaign of the Obama administration, carried over from Bush, and intensely expanded with, very probably, many times the number of civilians killed than the aforementioned mass murderers[13] is indicitive  of the insanity of imperial culutre. But Obama has a peace prize, and believes in "change" and "hope", so "four more years" is as natural as Bush's eight, and his father's four for that matter.    

The epidemic of mass shootings over the past decade is not exclusively attributable to guns or access to guns, considering that the rise in such violence comes at a time when generally, "gun control" laws are the strictest in the short history of gun regulation. That legislation regulating the sale, purchase, and ownership of guns is ineffective is another question of merit, though quite distinct from the discussion at hand. "Liberals" and other "leftists" screaming about "gun control", firearm "bans", and so forth, might consider the epidemic of police violence, namely the murdering of poor People of Color with virtual impunity. The militarization of police all across the U.S. is certainly deserving of more attention and investigation, to articulate the least.[14] The "left" might also consider the billions upon billions of dollars' worth of arsenals of armaments that the U.S. pushes all across the world; including many regions, namely in the South, which have no legislation for gun regulation, and where violence is systematically widespread. What of nuclear weapons for that matter; the abolishment thereof seems commonsensical––it is sheer lunacy that weapons of mass destruction are stockpiled, and very revealing that the grave threats of nuclear weapons and nuclear power generally are hardly even discussed, if at all, with anything close to approaching a level of seriousness.  

The U.S. is the leading exporter of arms, and arguably the leader in both inflicting widespread violence and creating climates for violence to occur systematically. One only need look to the killer drone[15] assassination campaign to understand that the U.S. is a terrorist organization.[16] In fact, the U.S. has a monopoly on terrorism, ironic, given the doublespeak of the "war on terror". Much like the "war on drugs", or the "war on poverty", the reality of these and other heavily entrenched doctrinal policies is that there is widespread trending increases in terrorism, both state-macro and individual-micro, drugs, poverty, and so forth

There is a very real war against women, a war which, while global, is largely invisible to most of us living under the solid steel fists of empire; perhaps because most of us are either directly or indirectly complicit in that war, and others, such as the war on the poor. Just to give an example, consider for a moment that "in many states the law makes it possible for rapists to assert their parental rights and use custody proceedings as a weapon against their victims."[17] Most perpetrators of rape are committed by those closest to the victim, and most rapes go unreported. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, "only about 3% of rapists ever serve a day in jail."[18] That an epidemic of rape occurs in the imperial prison system is significant, though in the concentration of this discussion, shall be put aside.

Somehow we're convinced that because of our privileged class and way of life––which is of course constructed and maintained on the backs of billions of people, mostly People of Color, kept in a perpetual state of slave poverty, with essentially at least a holocaust on the scale of Hitler's Nazi Germany occurring every single year––the insanity of empire is not aggregate, rather, it is like sediment that settles to the bottom of a wine barrel and is completely disconnected from us. The wine is poured and enjoyed, by a few anyway, the sediment is garbage to be dumped.

What of the billions of nonhuman beings destroyed and threatened with the destruction that sustains our imperial way of life? What of the earth herself, raped and plundered of her natural gifts and beauty, desecrated so extremely as to quite possibly literally become uninhabitable to most, if not all, of life?

We, the irrational, congratulate ourselves on how well, and better than others, we can rationalize anything and everything, anyone and everyone. Forget that our families our abusive and broken, and absent. Forget that the only community we know is that of the small cliques and groupings of consumer spectators housed in the corporate castles of imperial power, each egotistical in unified ways. We celebrate mass death, while we snake away from our own personal deaths and that of our very few loved (if the term carries any real meaning) ones. When one from our social ranks murders en mass, we recoil in horror, and completely fail to make the connections. "The 'pornography of violence'––the sensationalizing of violence––is a means by which we distance ourselves from it, perhaps render it less frightening and more manageable by reducing it to the dimensions of titillation and entertainment."[19]  

Violence, and particularly violent death, in various forms is sensationalized, romanticized, commercialized and standardized, yet it is masked in an art that has the power to influence, and certainly harm, our innate senses in ways we do not even begin to understand. Even posthumously, we are held captive by the performance of actors, and influenced in minor and major ways. Hollywood is like a cathedral, and movies, and pop-culture generally, is some sort of neo-age religion. The religious service comes in the form of a mass audience in stadium seating. Eyes transfixed to the silver screen. Ears deadened by the pounding professional audio system. Mind tuned into the transmissions of a scripted pseudo reality with massive "production values". A tub of popcorn 1000 calories or more, serves as the sacramental offering. It is purchased and consumed in the faith of the religion that is Hollywood. We wash down the chemically buttery sacrament with carbonated high fructose corn syrupy libation. A beverage, the equivalent of liquid lab in a cup, that never quite quenches the thirst, yet, encourages the urge to drink evermore.

In terms of mass worship, the same might be said of football. Or of mass media or general culture at large. We obsess over celebrities. We know more about the lives of celebrities than we do of our own family members, we know more about the plots of movies and video games than we do of our own family history. We are catatonic, yet falsely believe we are awake.    

Our isolation and alienation is so thorough it has become standardized. We are cushioned by our technics, our unfailing consent of and to corporate mass media, an, if not the, ultimate weapon of mass mind control, which enables us to think virtually identically to millions of others, which is to say, uncritically and obsequiously. The corporate media vomits on us and we gleefully accept whatever perception is to be managed for us. The same might be said of the mass education system. History is a dry, abstract, subject, to be broached only when it is fitting, or revised to fit, the current imperial narrative, and only by the privileged few who write and administer our histories. The realities of empire, are "politics", which only experts and professionals understand and can participate in, and are considered to be separate from, and inconsequential to, our daily indoctrinated lives. Much like history, we are meant and made to consign ourselves to the authors and authorities of the scripts we must follow. If we do not follow the scripts, we are threatened with violence. Our roles are minor and are easily replaced, or eliminated altogether. We are audience to one spectacle after another. We are so obedient, we are complicit in the countless crimes of the psychopathic elites who run empire. Our successors will rightfully loath us, for we have corrupted and poisoned unborn generations; not to mention the ones we have destroyed. We live in abundance and comfort while most survive with scarcity and hardships we couldn't even imagine let alone endure.

We have virtually no contact with reality; of course we deny that we have no contact with reality, like we deny that most of us are, quite literally, insane, to varying degrees and various intensities. We are completely contracted to empire, and the dictates thereof.  

What of the billions that suffer because of our imperial way of life? When 5% of the global human population utilizes some 20% of the earth's "resources", causing some 25% of the world's pollution, the sanity of the culture responsible is in serious question; the assertion that we are psychopathic is not unfounded. Will most of us sleep soundly, knowing that the oil will keep flowing? That our "heroes", be they regular military, special ops, or private mercenaries, will ensure that we continue driving our cars without interruption, save for the hours of our lives we spend each week trudging along in traffic to and from the buildings and institutions housed within, and our homes, stocked with material possessions which keep us mostly inundated­­––the hard earned trimmings of our superficial lifestyles? The contemporary soldier, marine, etc., is trained to kill, with maximum effect, the "enemy"; there are no "heroes" in modern war; perhaps in antediluvian times there were––when the "enemy" and his intent were clearly distinct, and when the use of force was proportional to direct attack. Where was the support for all those U.S. troops who committed suicide? When more military personnel commit to terminate their own life than are killed in combat, the insanity of perpetual militarization and imperial war is further revealed. Yet still, we wave our red, white, and blue flags, made in a slave-factory in China, or so many elsewhere's that we know nothing about; places we will never visit. Perhaps we should be in the streets, burning those flags, in an act of symbolic defiance. For empire does burn, it burns with an insatiable appetite to kill and maim and sicken. To do so, would probably invite the wrath of the self-ascribed benevolent, looking down from their ivory towers of highly concentrated power. And given their ostensible popularity, and the amazing tolerance of the demagoguery, the outright pacification of most of us so that we would not think to voice even a murmur of protest, and certainly not to come close to meaningful defiance––it would seem that such an act would not serve any more purpose other than to invite mass revulsion.           

That we are empty and continue to afford to fill the void with things, barely thinking, if at all, of how those things, came to be, is inductive of our collective insanity. Like the hunger of empire which can never be sated, our emptiness will not be remedied, so long as we objectify the world and all contained therein. I imagine when the insane lead the insane, a picture develops that is quite similar if not identical to the one we are seeing now, and have been seeing for the past decade and well before. This picture does not speak a thousand words. It screams at least a thousand silent screams.   

 

 

 

End Notes



[1] Lewis Krauskopf, "UPDATE 2-UnitedHealth settles payment suits for $350 million," Reuters (Jan 15, 2009 ), http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/01/15/unitedhealth-idUSN1531133620090115 (accessed August 27, 2012).

[2] Scott DeCarlo, "Show Me The Money," Forbes (04.13.11), http://www.forbes.com/lists/2011/12/ceo-compensation-11_land.html (accessed August 27, 2012).

[3] "Calif. teacher fund settles Quest fraud lawsuit ," Associated Press-NBC News (1/31/2007), http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16911303/ns/business-corporate_scandals/t/calif-teacher-fund-settles-quest-fraud-lawsuit/ (accessed August 27, 2012).

[4] Gethin Chamberlain, "Disney factory faces probe into sweatshop suicide claims," The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/aug/27/disney-factory-sweatshop-suicide-claims (27 August 2011),

[5] See Note 2

[6] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "EMTs and Paramedics." Last modified March 29, 2012 . Accessed August 24, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/EMTs-and-paramedics.htm.

[7] "Scientists' Report Documents ExxonMobil’s Tobacco-like Disinformation Campaign on Global Warming Science," Union of Concerned Scientists (January 3, 2007), http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/ExxonMobil-GlobalWarming-tobacco.html (accessed August 24, 2012).

[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Tobacco Use." Last modified February 22, 2011. Accessed August 25, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/osh.htm.

[9] Robert M. Sapolsky, Monkeyluv, (New York: Scribner, 2005), 147.

[10] James Gilligan, Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, (New York: Vintage Books, 1997), 31.

[11] Ibid page 33

[12] "Deadliest U.S. mass shootings," Los Angeles Times (July 20, 2012), http://timelines.latimes.com/deadliest-shooting-rampages/ (accessed August 25, 2012).

[13] The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, "Obama 2012 Pakistan strikes." Last modified August 24 2012. Accessed August 27, 2012. http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/01/11/obama-2012-strikes/.

[14] Rania Khalek, "AlterNet," Why Do the Police Have Tanks? The Strange and Dangerous Militarization of the US Police Force (July 5, 2011), http://www.alternet.org/story/151528/why_do_the_police_have_tanks_the_strange_and_dangerous_militarization_of_the_us_police_force?paging=off (accessed August 25, 2012).

[15] Chris Woods, and Emma Slater, "Arab spring brings steep rise in US attacks in Yemen," The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (March 29th, 2012), http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/03/29/arab-spring-saw-steep-rise-in-us-attacks-on-yemen-militants/ (accessed August 25, 2012).

[16] Noel Sharkey, "Drone race will ultimately lead to a sanitised factory of slaughter," The Guardian (3 August 2012), http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/03/drone-race-factory-slaughter (accessed August 25, 2012).

[17] Liebelson, Dana, and Sydney Brownstone. "Imagine You Were Raped. Got Pregnant. Then Your Rapist Sought Custody.." Mother Jones, Aug. 24, 2012. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/08/rapist-seeks-child-custody-shauna-prewitt (accessed August 25, 2012).

[18] Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, "Reporting Rates." Last modified 2009. Accessed August 25, 2012. http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates.

[19] See Note 2 page 30

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