Segment from Ch. 9 of the Book “Ideological Superstitions and Political Misperceptions in the 20-21st centuries”

“‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something,’ wrote Upton Sinclair, ‘when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.’” (Paul Krugman, “The Great Unraveling [Loosing our Way in the New Century]”, W.W. Norton, 2004, p. 210), so having quoted independently thinking economist meaning his colleagues who became a heralds of ultra-conservative party line of globalism. “Why smart people act foolish?” – he continues to question the economic orthodoxy, “they are employees, not principal; they are trying to make money and careers of themselves. In that position, it is hard to take a long view. In the long run, even if you aren’t dead, you probably won’t be working in the same place. It is also difficult for someone managing other people’s money to take an independent line. To be wrong when everyone else is wrong is not such a terrible thing: you may lose a bonus, but probably not your job. On the other hand, to be wrong when everyone else is right… So, everyone focuses on the same short-term numbers, tries to ride the trends, and buys the silly economic theory de jour.” (Paul Krugman. Ibid, p.30)

Directly Krugman talks about economic animals – engineers and technicians of the functioning economy, but indirectly about almost everybody in US of that time. That’s how one segment of human being, even one of the basic functions of man – survival and success, starts to occupy whole human being subduing all another human interests and needs.

Everybody is reducing their worldview to survival. People reduce their professionalism to the demand of their employers. That’s why Hollywood directors are not commenting about life anymore and creating instead juicy distractions. That’s why journalists cannot afford serving interests of public – sensible need to know the truth, but public’s psychotic needs to scapegoat and self-aggrandize, and neurotic need to be entertained occupies all their time. That’s why food manufacturers cannot afford to provide public with healthy food. That’s why gasoline monopolists fixate people on fossil fuel – they want to make all possible money from the oil resources before it will be allowed the massive development of the alternative technology. That’s why many professors of History, Sociology and Psychology sit quietly in Academia instead of disposing today’s administration childish and cruel way of handling problems.

Survivalism/succeedism destroys professionalism, responsibility, and orientation on truth. It distorts genuine human opinions. It censors what is true and sincere. It encourages what is not sincere. Salary and profit become spokesmen for the truth. Something wrong in human psyche that surrenders to its fragment and forgets everything in front of survival/success. “People in the United States consume half of sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and other legal drugs sold in the world, as well as half the illegal drugs… The US makes up only 5% of world population.” (Eduardo Galeano, “Upside Down [A Primer for the Looking-Glass World]”, Metropolitan, 2000, p. 251) Are all of these drugs needed to balance the psychological fragment of surviving/succeeding by any price, to neutralize its despotic power over human holistic organism? There is nothing wrong with salary, with ‘survival” and for that matter – with money as such. But when stress of survival is going up people respond with extreme patterns of behavior. One of them is money- and success-worship, forgetting about anything else, transforming accumulation and consumption into despotic monarchs.

It is easy to understand how chronically hungry person can steal food. But in US people fight for fat tarts with despair that match hunger. Millionaires fight each other like bums from Bunuel’s film “Viridiana”. Rich and successful are perceived by poor and non-successful like gilded statures of Buddha in Far East countries. They are objects for admiration and identification like kings and dukes were in medieval times. Americans who are losing their job to Chinese and East Indians admire g-corporate power and wealth even more. “The United States sell about half the weapons in the world and buy about half the oil world consumes. Its economy and life style depends to a large degree on arms and oil.” (Eduardo Galeano, ibid, p. 186) As American g/global-corporations consume, digest and excrete into the world American poor consume hamburgers, pizzas, coca-cola and entertaining technical toys – and feel themselves rich. Edward Luttwak analyzes what he calls “Shopping as a therapy”: “Why do Americans spend so much, and why do those who has less to spend nevertheless go ahead and spend their way into debt and bankruptcy? Americans enslave themselves to the Demon Debt to accumulate all sort of far from-essentials, from large powerful tracks used as a mere cars, down to porcelain baubles advertised on late-night television… To pay for their buying habits, Americans work more hours during each year than any other advanced population on earth except for the Japanese, and when it comes to vocations even the Japanese manage 25 days per year as against the 23 that Americans average, a miserable portion of free time as compared to the 42 days of the Germans and the 38 that the French find insufficient. True, some people obtain so much satisfaction from their job that they live to work. But many work overtime and even seek second job, sacrificing their personal freedom and family life to consume more. In fact, many Americans do not choose to work in order to buy – they must work to pay the interest and repay the principle on what they have already bought.” (Edward Luttwak, “Turbo Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global economy”, HarperCollins, 1999, p. 204 – 205) For Americans it is not Word is in the beginning of what is, it is a merchandize. But, as it is well known, the one who drinks on credit gets twice as drunk.

American children learn consumerist mania from adults and seductive appeal of advertisement propaganda. Entertainment industry and oral fixation of whole culture based on the idea of appropriation, possession and easy satisfaction became irresistible role models. With such orientation that is “good for economy” small kids and adult kids feel that they live in the best country in the world. Toy-world of consumption of artifacts and images is superstition incarnated into consumable items. Consumption is an acting utopia. Its attraction “lies in the construction of an optical image from which existence itself – the miseries of the self and of existential temporality… has been removed as if by a magic, a masterful feat of ideological prestidigitation.” (Fredric Jameson, “Archeologies of the Future [The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions]”, Verso, 2005, p. 193) This sleight of hand incorporation of utopia is intended to cover up real problems of prospering Democracy wallowing in well-being. “Overpopulation, pollution, an inhuman rate of technological change… transform itself under our very eyes into a form of state power more oppressive than the tyrannical feudal structures it was called into being to sweep away…Tourist art is certainly a new space of creation and production… The other is Disneyfication, another word for postmodernity and its simulacra: for Disneyfication is the process whereby inherited cultural images are now artificially reproduced, as in all those lovingly rebuilt city centers which are ‘authentic’ reproductions of their former selves… Within the ahistorical closure of our ‘societe de consommation’ [we witness] prodigious saturation of messages, advertisements, and packaged libidinal fantasies of all kinds, which characterize our daily experience… The reading signals of soap opera are mainly triggered by the presentation of each of the major figures as the bearer of what used to be called a ‘personal problem’, a 1950s pop-psychological American term that designated neurotic paralysis and the hung-ups that prevent people from functioning. The category sets the terms of narrative in terms of development rather than morality… Replacement of the historical by the nostalgic, this volatilization of what was once a national past…is, of course, at one with the disappearance of historicity from consumer society today, with its rapid media exhaustion of yesterday’s events and of the day-before-yesterday’s star players (who was Hitler anyway? Who was Kennedy? Who, finally, was Nixon?” (Fredric Jameson, Ibid, p. 198, 197, 215, 291 – 292, 297 – 298, 285) History is transformed into a flea market. Historical personages into wax figures.

Merchandize pedagogy prepares the victims of consumerist or pop-culture to perceive the real world as a department store, and real people as appealing for success and money rock-music stars. War planners planed war as a business adventure – as consumers of circumstances, chances, opportunities, and calculations. They have lost the ability to perceive world and human life as world and human life – as something that is not identical with its business aspect. War planners are as much products of consumerist pop-culture, as American children and salesmen.

In US “TV programs are children’s primary source of formation, information and deformation, as well as their principal source of topics for conversation… Children take classes in consumption and violence from the screen. [We have a deal here with] mental colonization of the next generation. From early on, children are trained to find their identities in merchandise that symbolizes power and to get hold of it with a gun.” (Eduardo Galeano, Ibid, p. 293) Items for consumption is the world transformed into toys. In this sense consumption is the opposite of education. To be a compulsive consumer means to be under the power of infantile omnipotent phantasy. It is very difficult to overcome our proclivity for projective identification with other people (not to differentiate between others and our subjective projections into them). But merchandise is made for projective identification – for appropriation, possession and consumption. To live with merchandises as a way of life is going against the necessity to overcome proclivity for projective identification (PI) and to learn how to treat other people as another human beings. “The struggle here is between omnipotent phantasy on the one hand and the acceptance of reality on the other… When omnipotent phantasy dominates, the desired state of affairs in accordance with the pleasure principle predominates over the realistic. Reality testing has failed as omnipotent projective identification comes to distort the object and the subject’s relationship with it… The battle between perception of reality and the omnipotent imposition of phantasy onto reality is a long battle which proceeds in small stages… This battle is a constant attack on perception by the omnipotent self, and it is not only an attack on external perception but also an attack on perception of one’s own inner states.” (Hanna Segal, “Psychoanalysis, Literature and War”, Routledge, 1997, p. 27, 28, 30) Human society cannot live without economy. But it is something else when it exists for economy, and when human being lives to appropriate, to consume and to owe others. Material prosperity that was meant to liberate us from hunger and fighting for survival enslaves us. “Most men in industrial society… are anxious, vacuous, and isolated consumers, bored with life and compensating for their chronic depression by compulsive consumption. Ever more attracted to things and gadgets than to life and growth, they are men whose aim is to have much and to use much, not to be much.” (Erich Fromm, “You Shall Be As Gods [a Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and Its Tradition]”, Fawcett Ps, 1966, p. 179) Consumerist society shapes itself on the model of plants, not even animals. It perceives the world as roots of trees perceive soil. And it perceives consumers as flower perceives bees or wasps.

Consumerist society is a second great trick after Paradise. It is the invention of the conservatives forced into creativity by the dominance of liberalism. If you cannot beat Democracy politically, you can do this by economic seduction. Plebs will not be able to resist consumption. “Bush Sr, outlined his vision of the future in these terms: ‘We need to keep America what a child once called the nearest thing to heaven. And lots of sunshine, places to swim, and peanut butter sandwiches.’” (Eliot Weinberger, “What Happened here [Bush Chronicles]”, A New Directions, 2005, p. 44) In this way Democratic society was transformed into consumerist society; democratically oriented people were transformed into consumerists. Pasolini in his “Luteran Letters” called this transformation anthropological mutation.

How people with Democratic psychological structure could allow themselves to be transformed from human beings who live – into consumers who survive to consume? “Any society, no matter what the culture, as soon as it outgrows its extended clan structure, shows evidence of strain. Ceaseless rivalry simmers between factions within the culture and between cultures. The thin veneer of mature responsibility to the society peels away as soon as a personal need, real or imaginary, is felt… There is absolutely no common ground to account for this universal lack of responsibility except the biological immaturity of man himself. While the mature animal of any species has instincts which impel it to preserve its group, the young of any species expect all their personal needs to be gratified immediately, without reference to the needs of the group. In fact, the young are not even aware of the group as a whole, but only of those individuals which form part of their immediate surrounding… In man, the ‘passing the buck’ or ‘leave it to George’ philosophy is an extension of the child’s expectation that anything that needs to be done will be done without his participation in the effort… Special groups make nonnegotiable demands and are satisfied only when they are obtained in full, regardless of their possible effect on, damage to, or disruption of the whole society… These traits are in no way different from the child’s expectation of the fulfillment of its desires without question, or thought, of how this fulfillment is obtained. The child wants what it wants when it wants it, without consideration of the needs of others, and man-child does not outgrow this pattern.” (David Jonas and Doris Klein, “Man-Child [A Study of the Infantilization of Man]”, McGraw-Hill, 1970, p. 340 – 341) Consumption society that is just operational definition of mass-cultural society is a giant mechanism of infantilization of human being through fixating people on consumer toys and by this distracting them from their maturation inside the experience of having deal with another human beings. Why to make people infantilized? Because in infantilized condition they will not be able to understand and, therefore, to challenge effectively the decisions of decision-makers.

The five percent of USAmerican population have an income of more than $200,000 a year. This five percent get almost half of the money BJr’s tax cuts provides. Those who make less than $75,000 a year – eighty percents of population, receive less than quarter of the cuts. Less than 1 percent (0,8 percent) of population making more than $500,000 a year get more than a third of the cash from BJr’s tax cuts. While in 1961 the salary of executives was about 15-18 times bigger than of ordinary workers, today pay for CEOs has grown – from 185 times of average workers in 2003 to 279 times in 2005. Why ordinary Americans swallow this? Crudely, because they have ice-cream, the cheeseburger, and Hollywood and rock-music entertainment. It is hot-dogs and coca-cola make them feel as rich as rich are. Mass culture is an absorber of socio-political resentment and in this sense is an equivalent of outburst of revolution or reaction. Mass culture works like caffeine and sugar combined with processed fat. Mass culture is so good in shooting the political trouble in advance that it should be invented for that purpose. But it wasn’t. Like genetic mutations are used for the advantage in survival retrospectively, after their appearance, mass culture was used to promote big business agenda by distracting people from actual problems by pseudo-satisfactions. Pseudo-prosperity is as good leverage as eternal life – people open to it their hearts. And they will defend it like they defend life after death – with all vitality of their bodies and souls.

Conditions of life in US envelop every citizen with several layers of socio-psychological armor against the possibility of recognizing the truth of their spiritual misery and psychological underdevelopment – occupation with possessions – the pride of ownership, success in money-making, the chance of identification with wealthy people, with tough/strong political leaders and with superstars. By seeing in media how BJr (Bush Jr.) then and today’s administration castigate their political and international enemies, people feel as strong/tough as their conservative leaders are. But if you rely on social power to sustain your well being it is always illusory. Identification with power is participation in mystification because power always represents submission as spontaneous admiration, despotism as love and care, war as self-defense, murder as heroism and self-sacrifice as glory. We can say that power recognizes itself only as love, care, heroism and glory. This is smart peculiarity of power’s consciousness, in which extra-lie always feeds extra-power and fed by it.