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Offensive Nihilism and Oligarchic Narcissism

When I was a child my grandfather, whom I knew as a man who had driven cars for the rich and conversed with the famous in his youth, once told me “making money is easy — if that is all you want to do”. As an eight-year-old that sounded very profound although at the time […]

The post Offensive Nihilism and Oligarchic Narcissism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

When I was a child my grandfather, whom I knew as a man who had driven cars for the rich and conversed with the famous in his youth, once told me “making money is easy — if that is all you want to do”. As an eight-year-old that sounded very profound although at the time it made little sense to me. Personally I must confess, money has really meant very little to me. I worked as a youth to earn pocket money so I could go to restaurants or buy books. However I never had that sense of thrift that fills the Puritan with such pride or disdain for others. Money was largely absent from my youth so that its presence or absence made no discernible impact on my daily life. Thus my grandfather‘s words remained obscure until my middle age.

It was then that I had sufficient experience to reflect on the conduct of my fellow humans. One of the questions which arose in my studies did not pertain directly to money. I saw first that the jobs I thought I wanted were all badly paid and yet the applications were very competitive. This too seemed a kernel of wisdom that escaped me. One of my academic sojourns took me through the canon of pre-1990s women’s studies. For those who are too young or amnesiac to recall, this was still the debate about the social-political-economic construction of gender roles in the humanist tradition of which Simone de Beauvoir was a part (see The Second Sex). One of the key observations about these roles was the extent to which the social organisation of labour (not erotic stimulation) placed women in labour-intensive roles within the family and society that freed men of property (what once was called the ruling class) to concentrate almost entirely (aside from bowel movements that could not be delegated) on the exercise of power. Illustrative was the fact that anyone who has to feed and nurture children, cook, clean, launder etc. has very little time to control much beyond the threshold of the home. In other words the labour process and division of labour were critical not only for the control of the family but for those thus freed of menial tasks to spend every waking minute dominating the rest of the world. It was then that I found a model for interpreting what my grandfather told me.

As I have said, my organizational experience has been varied. I have been able to observe at close quarters the behaviour of people from the shop floor and street pavement to the bridge or boardroom. There even a casual observer can see and hear – with due attention – that there are different types in every organisation but every organisation has the same types.
There are those who work at the tasks assigned. There are those who organise and supply those who work. Then there are those who do very little other than “be” in the organisation. Finally there are those whose only true interest is the exercise of power in whatever form available. The latter are the same character type as those my grandfather denoted for whom making money is easy.

What unites theses two is benevolently described as single-mindedness. Within very limited circumstances the sheer determination of these people can be harnessed. However those circumstances may be compared to those of the mythical “peaceful atom”. Atomic power for electricity generation was conceived as a cover for the permanent bomb economy. Praised as a triumph of technology, it is demonstrably the most expensive means of boiling water yet invented. Aside from the toxicity and waste disposal issues, the fact remains that the turbine or other engineering needed to use all the plant’s steam generating capacity has not been developed and never will be. The only net benefits the atomic fission reactors have ever delivered are to those for whom making money or exercising power is thus made easy: unregulated private utilities (one could look back to Bonneville Power bankruptcies in Washington State) and the armed forces (propulsion and annihilation).

An honest study of power would deal with the material conditions of its accumulation, including the division of labour. This is where rational analysis would show quickly how irrational those who belong to the power or money seeking cults are. However “rational” in the established study of politics and international relations means something quite different. Instead the rationalist – wherever affiliated – ought to be called an apologist, except that he does not apologize. Instead he is proud that he knows no shame.

The obsession with accumulation of money or power is simplification of the highest degree. Since nothing else counts no other factors are actually relevant. No results can be contemplated beyond accumulation or dissipation. Such personalities are in need of guidance since the world is not naturally a source of profit or power.

We may have read that in societies preceding those in which we live or imagine based on documents attributed to an inaccessible past, that the leaders sought oracles before or after action. They offered sacrifices – frequently burnt – to obtain the translation of the real world into their unidimensional perspectives. That is what the academic – especially the realist – scholar or consultant does. Within the division of labour the establishment scholar has a sacerdotal role to play. His scholarship is realistic only in the sense that it translates data about the world in which the rulers imagine they live into language of obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

The astute priest knows the beliefs and dogmas he must profess and teach. He knows that if the king will eat meat on a day it is forbidden then a duck must become a species of fish. If the realist scholar is to serve his faith and his psychopathic patrons then he must translate the potentate’s violence and avarice into virtues. When the War Department in the US was renamed this was partly justified by the consolidation of the cabinet departments. (War was the Army alone.) However the act of Congress was designed to create the bureaucratic conditions for perpetual and covert war. The same legislation created the CIA. The Defense Department became the central instrument of US domestic and foreign policy. As not only George Kennan and Thomas Friedman acknowledged, the US economy and hence the machine for only making money and only exercising power could not run without translating everything into “war” or “profit”. As the DuPonts could easily testify after the Great War there was nothing, absolutely nothing, more profitable than war. (see my review of Behind the Nylon Curtain)

The realist, unlike Machiavelli whose language was clear, thrives by selling his oracles in the forum or as a hawker in the remotest (now electronic) venues. The development of the atomic bomb to annihilate the Soviet Union, after failure of the West’s intervention to stop the revolution and the failure of their man Adolph to do the job later, was decorated in unrealistic stories. Actually outright lies were constructed. While the realists preached the Soviet threat in public they knew that the West’s Hitler-led devastation would require at least twenty years for the USSR to repair. The realists know that the official US strategy from the end of the Second World War was “first strike” and the renamed War Departments had to arm for two strikes against the Soviet Union. If the Tsar Bomba did nothing else it made some of the less obsessive among the psychopathic elite doubt the advantages of nuclear attack. This was the real meaning of deterrence: the US was deterred from following the nihilistic atomic strategy for which the Manhattan Project – staffed with some of the most reactionary anti-communists available – was founded. When New China developed its own weapons, the deterrent value increased. Mao was supposed to have said that even if the US unleashed an atomic war every fifth survivor would be Chinese. That had at least some deterrent effect at Groton or on Eton’s playing fields.

Today, when some wonder (and others appear to praise) about the treatyless “rules based” order their uncertainty or discontent is generally directed at all those who do not comply with that order. Others moan that the United Nations is so ineffective. Altogether the wailing avoids the historical reality of the imperial regime initiated in 1913. That reality was the “great class war” aka the Great War or WWI after its continuation had ended in 1945. Eric Blair (George Orwell) was not prophetic. He was a true realist. He described the really existing empire that was established and unfolding. He knew nothing about the Soviet Union. The religion was Engsoc – British fascism or Anglo-national socialism. Orwell’s Party was the distillation of Anglo-Puritan moralism and its crusading fanaticism, to be intensified in all the white dominions. Behind those crusaders or in their hearts was the nihilistic obsession with power and submission for their own sake. He could not name them because the very fusion of state and corporate power which the Anglo-American Empire perfected became an exoskeleton sustaining power as if without the personality of the potentate. In order to distract from this reality a body of scholars was actively recruited and promoted whose descriptions of so-called totalitarianism or authoritarianism erased the essence of the new form which thirty years of war had perfected. In doing so, these often cited writers and speakers squeezed political theory out of toothpaste tubes and polished the smiles of those who triggered, waged and prolonged the slaughter, plunder and pillage into anonymity. Were these merely academic debates in modern monasteries we could regard them as arcane. However those critical years began a continuing deception about the true sources of the power that ended humanism and turned the short 20th century into the start of a millennium of perpetual war.

How would the realist scholar explain this? What rational basis could such a society have? This is no speculative question. Such a society already prevails but not for the priests of academy. They cannot find the society in which the vast majority of us live. Their brethren have no idea about the economy they pretend to study either. The economist sees monopoly and piracy as “imperfect competition” just as Samuelson told us all. The political scientist sees only imperfect democracy where voting and public assets are entirely owned and controlled by cartels immune even from modest citizen scrutiny. The biologist revels in the destruction of humanity through genetic engineering just like his brothers who created the atomic bomb at the same time. These realists all at the cutting edge of their fields stand ready and willing to push humanity into the precipice their nihilism has created.

It is all so easy to destroy human life, if that’s all you want to do.

The post Offensive Nihilism and Oligarchic Narcissism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

This content originally appeared on Dissident Voice and was authored by T.P. Wilkinson.

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