Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Neofeudalism and the Middle Class

Addendum, 7/9: I read this morning that the Obama administration is suspending military aid to Honduras because of the military coup that outsed President Manuel Zelaya. The administration didn't have much choice since Latin America has put up a united front agianst the coup that bridges the area's left/right divide. We seem to have a watershed here in which Latin America has declared zero tolerance for coups. While that may put a crimp in our foreign policy, it will do a great deal for international stability.

Now the question is how vigorously Obama will oppose the military rulers. Will his opposition be real, or will it be mere lipservice?

In the past, the Beltway’s inbred fear of Communism and the Soviet Union was used as an excuse to topple democratically elected governments in Latin America and the Middle East. With the fall of the Soviet Union, it appeared that they’d run out of excuses. However, this interpretation is based on the assumption that their meddling was driven by anticommunism.

Such was not the case.

We put into power military dictators at a time when America was becoming increasingly militarized. In other words, our leaders were creating governments in other countries that mirrored what they wanted ours to become. We taught oppression because we were in the process of oppressing our citizens and doing so abroad desensitized our oligarch to doing the same here. Neither the legitimization of torture nor the Patriot Act would have been possible had our leaders not encouraged the same in our client countries.

It wasn’t a grand conspiracy; it was simply the collective deadness of habit and momentum. Scratch a ruler and you find a control freak.

Just as governments evolve, so do motives. The recent military coup in Honduras that deposed the country’s elected president, Manuel Zelaya, illustrates this shift.

Writing about the coup, Ken Silverstein says, “The intensity of the reaction against him (Zelaya) by the Honduran elite—as seen in the coup—reflects the feudal mentality of the traditional economic and political leadership, not Zelaya’s politics.” (Emphasis mine)

The middle class destroyed feudalism in Europe. For that matter, the middle class has always been meddlesome to those in power. It is a hotbed of reform movements as our leaders discovered in the late nineteenth century with the rise of Progressivism. It’s been said that no reform movement or insurrection of any kind can succeed unless the middle class in on board.

Our oligarch thought they had come up with a way to neutralize the middle class by offering it secure jobs that paid well. The civil rights movement proved them wrong. To add insult to injury, the cushy salaries were cutting into their profits.

All of a sudden, feudalism starting looking pretty good to them.

How do you bring back feudalism? You gut the middle class. And we did just that with our invasion of Iraq. Its middle class is either dead or exiled and we are left with a neofeudal society that is much easier to control.

The same process is at work in our country as an economic meltdown takes the middle class with it and America increasingly becomes a country made up of two classes—a rich nobility and impoverished serfs.

This is all a bit of a stretch, but what the hell! Stretchies can be fun.

The authors of The Coming Insurrection (the book that has Glenn Beck’s knickers in a knot) point out that dying institutions gut their content in order to preserve their form. In other words, our leaders are in the process of destroying our democratic content so we can maintain the illusion of democracy.

You can always tell an oligarch—he’s the one who calls democracy “mob rule.”

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