image from The Daily Show
This is kind of a follow-on from my recent post on Everything Falling Apart, in which I reviewed and compared some cogent writings from Aurélien, Patrick Lawrence and Yanis Varoufakis about the fragmenting of our modern, global, industrial civilization culture. Since I wrote that summary, Aurélien and Patrick have written follow-ups, essentially trying to diagnose why everything is falling apart, and I thought they were worth thinking about.
British historian Aurélien’s newest article is called It’s All About Them, and his thesis is that much of the conflict we are seeing in the world stems from ethnocentrism — a propensity, especially among the Professional Managerial Caste (PMC), to believe that everybody substantially sees the world the same way they do. And that if they don’t, they need to be brought around to doing so, one way or another.
It presumes a cultural superiority and “it can be very dangerous indeed when it is combined with the power to do harm”. And the ethnocentrism of the current Euro-American Empire’s PMC transcends political parties and dominates thinking across the political spectrum in all the Empire’s countries. Even when those parties disagree strongly on social and economic issues, they all see the world through that same narrow, ignorant lens.
Underlying this ethnocentrism, he says, are three largely-unchallenged assumptions:
- That most people in the world are Like Us in their beliefs and behaviours, or would be if they were not misinformed or oppressed.
- That we understand why the people who are not Like Us are that way, and we know exactly how to correct their misunderstanding and/or oppression.
- All international crises and conflicts are ultimately All About Us, and about some peoples’ and governments’ resistance to be Like Us. Even those of us opposed to the Empire’s actions still believe that the behaviours in the rest of the world are essentially All About Us.
He defines the cross-political administration of the western PMC as the Western Security Complex (WSC) — the coalition of western forces, ethnocentric, naive, idealistic, with fragile egos, surrounded by groupthink, and ignorant of history or anything outside their own borders and worldviews. Members of the WSC, which has, he says, low entrance barriers (as long as you’re part of the PMC), presume and are presumed to have expertise to talk, write, advise, and strategize on just about any topic, despite having neither the credentials nor the experience to do so competently. They are subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect (the more ignorant they are, the more wisdom they presume themselves to have, especially on topics on which they have no knowledge or expertise whatsoever). Aurélien goes on:
The result has been the progressive triumph of the WSC discourse, in all its internally-incoherent complexity. Which is fine until the WSC encounters something it cannot understand, but can’t ignore either. Behind the confusion and silliness of much WSC commentary on Ukraine, even by “military experts” and “strategic commentators” is a stubborn refusal to accept that things happen in the world which are outside its frame of reference. From the beginning, the war has been interpreted in terms of what the WSC understands and can talk about: an amalgam of Afghanistan, Iraq and Apocalypse Now. In the end the WSC is unable to imagine a world which is not About Them. It is unthinkable that there should be wars, revolutions and changes of government around the world where the West is not the main actor, and where local and often deep-rooted causes which the WSC cannot understand are the main drivers.
Given these are the people entrusted with the power to launch (and provoke) wars, overthrow foreign governments, and sanction and isolate countries that are not Like Us, it is small wonder that, as global economic and ecological collapse accelerates, we are ignoring these crises entirely and instead charging into (and creating) international political and social crises, in ignorant, childish, and recklessly dangerous ways.
Journalist and foreign correspondent Patrick Lawrence’s latest is called The Undiscovered Country, referring neither to the expression’s use by Shakespeare nor its reuse by Star Trek writers, but rather to the fact that America does not know what it stands for, and neither do Americans. Instead, he says, those in other countries have learned (often the hard way) that what Aurélien would call the PMC and the WSC have never represented ordinary Americans of any political persuasion, and the actions they pursue are often directly contrary to the explicit desires and preferences of the majority of its citizens. (He cites popular support for universal health care and against supplying more arms to Ukraine as examples.) He writes:
We Americans are fortunate in that others are usually able to distinguish between the American people and the American government… We are indeed a fortunate citizenry, considering the so often egregious conduct toward other peoples of those purporting to lead us. People seem to know that what our government does in one or another circumstance is not necessarily a reflection of who we Americans are…
We do not have a government that reflects what we favor at home any more than it does abroad: the kind of society we wish to live in, the “values” we espouse. The world may understand that most of us are not high-handed imperialists, but it does not know much about what, in the positive, we actually are beyond what we are not. At home, corruption, money in politics, obsessions with power, crumbling institutions, and all the rest leave us ever less able to express our public selves in public space. We cannot, if we net all this out, be very sure of who we are. And we owe it to ourselves, and most certainly to others, to know ourselves and learn to act according to who we truly are.
Of course the PMC is all too happy to tell us, amplified by the media they control, who Americans really are and what they should believe, and to pursue a “divide and conquer” strategy to prevent any kind of cohesive alternative to their view of what needs to be done both domestically and internationally.
Is it even possible, he wonders, for divided and manipulated and deceived and befuddled and misinformed Americans to “get their act together” and accept that the PMC does not represent them and find a way to wrest power and control of the American experiment from them? He concludes:
Will we continue indefinitely to live submerged, so to say—an undiscovered country? Or will we come alive again, rediscover ourselves as those before us have done on numerous occasions in response to circumstances different from ours but with some things in common with ours? At home an authentic democracy, abroad, an authentic internationalism… We have lost all sight of our potential, what we are capable of doing—individually and collectively—but I cannot accept that we, any of us, is content in this condition. Robert Putnam’s [Bowling Alone] subtitle, it is worth mentioning, is The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Our better selves, and I will not even argue that we have better selves, will not lie undiscovered indefinitely.
When I read these articles, and the ones I referred to in my earlier post, what most surprised me is that what they are saying is so obvious, but I had never really thought of our situation in these terms. Our ignorance of the world was brought home this week when every one of Canada’s political parties joined in a standing ovation in the House of Commons for a Ukrainian Nazi who fought for Germany in WWII, apparently not aware of the fact that the Russians were the heroes, and were our much-sacrificing allies, in the struggle against German Fascism in WWII.
And our submergence to the will of the PMC and WSC at home and internationally, our learned helplessness and resignation, is brought home again and again with every unchallenged lie in the mainstream media, with every new act of governments to increase oil & gas production, to impoverish and suppress the non-PMC castes (not just the “working class”) by deliberately forcing interest rates and inflationary costs up, to ramp up censorship of critics of the PMC, to subject citizens to the brutal consequences of foreign “sanctions” and embargoes requiring them to deindustrialize their entire economies. And to turn us against each other so they can continue their imperial rule over us without restriction, regardless of whether the Tweedledum PMC or Tweedledee PMC wins the “democratic” election.
This is a horrific tragedy, against the backdrop of civilization’s accelerating collapse, which continues unimpeded. Part of this tragedy is that the PMC are doing their best — they genuinely believe that what they’re doing is in the whole world’s best interest.
Were Shakespeare alive today he could not invent a better plot for a story with an inevitably ghastly ending.