The Silenced Majority: Can America Still Afford Democracy?

Dasgupta, R., Dec 2020, Harper's Magazine

Alas -- the year is finally almost over. I can not wait for Trump to leave the WH. Anyway, several weeks ago Chad McLaurin and I were talking about propaganda and the way it is wrecking our country to benefit elites. But there are so many deeper, sinister elements at play designed by greed and racial order politics. The article is via Harper's Magazine. It goes well beyond what Chad and I discussed about propaganda and the intentionally caused chaos via Fox News. Some difficult issues are put on the table that we all need to seriously ponder. ~Traci Wilson-Kleekamp

A few comments from the article:

  • Instead of seeking lessons from twentieth-century Germany, we should look back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of the Anglo-American complex. That will remind us that most of the phenomena we label fascist—nationalist factions of ethnic supremacy, mass disenfranchisement, censorship—are fully compatible with free-market capitalism.
  • In the seventeenth century, England was an emerging superpower. Supremacy would come from its invention of a world principle of property.
  • This principle was developed following contact with the Americas, where it became possible to conjure vast new English properties “out of nothing”—in a way that was impracticable, for instance, in the militarized, mercantile societies of India.
  • Such properties were created by a legal definition of ownership designed so that it could be applied only to the invaders. “As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of,” John Locke wrote in 1689, “so much is his property.”
  • “Freedom” was the slogan, but it applied only to some; the purpose of government was to protect property, not people.
  • During the eighteenth century, perhaps a quarter of a million British men were forcibly sent overseas to serve the cause of property; disease killed even more than piracy or war.
  • Back at home, meanwhile, the poor were brutally punished for the slightest affront to property: thieves could be whipped, burned, or hanged for stealing shirts, coats, or pewter spoons, respectively.
  • Obviously, such a system could take no account of the general opinion, and the right to vote and hold political office was restricted to men with property.
  • All women and 90 percent of men were therefore excluded. Democratic conspiracy, meanwhile—which always had two interdependent causes: the expansion of suffrage, and the organization of workers—could be punished with exile to the penal colonies.
  • Such repression became more severe over the course of the eighteenth century, which roiled with anti-establishment riots.
  • The dictatorship of property endured: after the execution of Charles I, there was no significant democratic advance for nearly two centuries.
  • Silicon Valley firms have a profound impact on world organization, and key players such as Peter Thiel—creator of PayPal, early investor in Facebook, and co-founder of the surveillance company Palantir Technologiespossess political power greater than most heads of state.
  • Some of those who funded Trump’s 2016 campaign hoped simply that he would cut taxes on businesses and the rich: maintaining America as a haven for global capital would be enough to further entrench the oligarchy.
  • But some of Trump’s coterie were already trying to run private state functions of their own—such as armies and currencies—and they probably expected a more violent reckoning with the status quo.
  • “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” Peter Thiel, Trump’s principal advocate in Silicon Valley, once wrote in a techno-libertarian manifesto. “The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”
  • Thiel and others understood the extraordinary demands of the moment: with economic prosperity so wildly divergent, traditional measures might no longer be adequate to suppress the rising tide of “socialism.”
  • Both Silicon Valley and the White House also flirted with “alt-right” ideologues who brazenly rejected twentieth-century political theory, speaking of a “dark enlightenment” that would sweep away democracy and other consequences of the French Revolution, replacing the nation-state system with a global patchwork of neo-feudal corporate fiefdoms.
  • The real political battle in America today is not between a “liberal” left and a “fascist” right. It is between the people and a grandiose private system of social, economic, and political management that has the power to bring to an end the democratic certainties on which Americans have come to rely.
  • If we wish to preserve those certainties, we will have to do a lot more than remove Donald Trump.

Referenced Article

Dasgupta, Rana. (Dec 2020). The Silenced Majority: Can America Still Afford Democracy? Harper's Magazine. [local copy]

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