The really great rulers are the ones who piss off their subjects. It is the function of the ruler to enrich his nobility at the expense of the peasants. In the past, the anger this created yielded some rather unpleasant peasant revolts which were put down with an iron fist. The sword, the gibbet and the stake were the Prozac of the Ancien Regime.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ancien Regime is back in all its glory, and royalty is once again enriching nobility at the expense of the proles. Only, instead of sable, nobility is wearing Gucci.
However, the problem of pissed-off proles remains, and there are some testy populist stirrings to be heard in the heartland.
It is unfortunate that the rebirth of the Ancien Regime did not include the rebirth of the sword, the gibbet or the stake, even though they are not necessary in our enlightened age. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu pointed out that stimulation has replaced coercion, seduction has replaced obligatory patterns of conduct, PR and advertising have replaced the policing of behavior and the arousal of new needs and desire has replaced normative regulations.
At least this was the situation as long as the proles were able to wallow in an orgy of debt-driven consumption. This is changing. The wolf of foreclosure is nipping at their heels, their income is shrinking, their jobs are being shipped overseas leaving them with reams of overdue bill and the proles are starting to realize that they have been gamed, big time.
For the enlightened ruler, there is but one methodology for dealing with righteous anger, and that is to treat it as a mental aberration. You see, America is the land of plenty, and people who have plenty are, by definition, a happy people. It follows that anyone who is angry over being ripped off is too mentally unbalanced to appreciate the subtle nuances of the system under which he lives.
Anger creates divisiveness and class conflict, and the trouble with these isn’t that they will tear the country apart; it is that they are too damn democratic. The Corporatist State requires distracted subjects who are so enthralled by their toys they are unaware of the steel bonds of oppression that are slowly being tightened around them.
A two-pronged approach is necessary to neutralize this rising anger. First, continue to marginalize it. Equate populism with irrational anger. Suggest that this anger is a merely the product of an unbalanced body chemistry and is best treated with medication. Second, it might be necessary to throw the proles a bone or two. Announce a superfund that will stave off foreclosure for the masse, but rig it so only a small percentage of the financially challenged are actually helped.
Preach compassion as you force people into bankruptcy; sing freedom’s praises as you ramp up the instruments of oppression; praise America’s strength as her decline continues.
Good Lord, George, if the establishment can market hundred-dollar plus sneakers it can surely market misery.
 Quoted in Zygmunt Bauman’s Consuming Life.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
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I need to actually read Zygmunt Bauman.
You will find him quite fascinating, if not a little thick in places.
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