How do our leaders see us? Don the shoes of the 1%. Look down on the 99%. Describe the view.
Summary: The long series of posts about the evolution of The New America has examined our gullibility, our eagerness to believe what we’re told, and how that affects our politics. Today marks a change in focus, shifting to look at how we have changed. How do our ruling elites see us, the people of the New America? How should they govern us? And concluding with a powerful excerpt from a science fiction novel.
The New America emerges more each day, as the memories and habits of the America-That-Once-Was fades away. Rights and obligations of citizens. Intangible professional standards which limit doctors and CEOs from using their powers to amass wealth. The great dreams of an international order of peace and law. The ideal of one law for rich and poor alike. Every day these and other anachronisms grow more distant, and the form of the New America becomes clearer.
While the process takes place in full view, its causes remain mysterious. I have suggested that the old America dies from our weakness, our unwillingness to work the Founders’ machinery of self-government. Comments to the posts about this evolution burn with outrage at this calumny, attributing these events to the greed, even evil, of our rulers. Perhaps so; history provides countless examples of such things.
For a different perspective, how do the 1% see America? How do they see us? Our inability to do this hampers our actions (tactical failures often result from orientation failures in one’s OODA loop, especially incorrectly understanding the opponent). Perhaps the 1% understand us better than we understand them. Let’s imagine ourselves in their shoes, look down upon the 99%, and describe what we see.
Ayn Rand — our contra-Jesus — describes one element driving the 1%. They see themselves as the prime movers of America, and hence the most fit to rule. They are the creators, the makers, the visionaries, the entrepreneurs. They earned their wealth (or inherited from those that did, which is just as good). That’s what Romney told his fellow plutocrats. During the past few years many of his bolder peers have explained these facts to us.
But perhaps there is a second element to the 1%’s actions. Do they believe us able to govern ourselves? Do they rule by fear because they’ve given up on appeals to any higher form of reasoning? After all, we respond so well to fear. Warming will burn the planet, if the jihadists in every town don’t do so first in their quest to install Sharia as the rule of law. But before that hyperinflation or even bankruptcy will destroy America. Of course, diseases might claim millions while we wait for these dooms to arrive (eg, AIDS, cancer).
A people so eager to believe what they’re told are a gift to their leaders.
The massive expansion of our government’s domestic surveillance and security services (and military), despite the almost non-existence of any visible threat, suggests that some elements of our ruling elites might be considering going one step further on the road to rule by fear. Or at least taking steps to prepare should that become “necessary”.
We can see a gentle version of benign rule by fear in the following science fiction story (sci fi at its best, a vision of a possible future). It’s a fun story by a great writer, but with a serious lesson for us. It shows how a people who are more easily ruled by fear than reason have nobody but themselves to blame. A ruler who understands this and acts appropriately will have good odds of a peaceful reign and the fearful respect of his (or her) people.
Excerpt from The House of the Stag by Kage Baker
“‘Lady.’ She looked up from her loom. The sergeant of the guard, the one with red eyes, bowed to her. “We have the workmen for you. The Children of the Sun you wanted. With all their tools and gear. Himself says come and see.’
“‘Thank you, Sergeant.’ She rose, smiling. ‘Where are they?’
“‘Got ‘em in the lower courtyard.’ He escorted her down through the corridors. Hideous monsters saluted shyly as she passed them. She stepped out into the courtyard and beheld red men, kneeling in a long row. They were blindfolded, their hands bound before them, and some wept and prayed to their gods. Piled in a heap to one side of them were chests and trays of tools.
“Gard stood to the other side of them, in his full black armor. When he spoke, it was not to her but to the prisoners, in a voice full of rolling thunder. ‘Now, Children of the Sun, if you die tomorrow, you will still have seen the fairest sight of your lives, and you’d not see anything fairer if you lived on a thousand years. Free their eyes!’ His guards stepped forward and pulled off the blindfolds, one by one.
“One by one the red men blinked, stared around, then gasped as they saw the Saint. Some of them fell prostrate before her, bound hands outstretched. ‘Oh, Lady, save us!’ ‘Have mercy on us!’ ‘Don’t let him kill us!’
“She looked on them in horror and looked white rage at Gard. ‘What have you done?’
“‘Brought you workmen, as I promised,’ he said in that same theatrical tone, meeting her eyes without flinching. She saw amusement there, and a covert purpose. ‘Why, madam, are you displeased? Shall I have them hanged?’
“‘No!’ she cried. ‘You will have them released at once!’
“The red men crowded forward on their knees, weeping, thanking her, imploring her, praising her. ‘Then I will spare your lives,’ said Gard to the Children of the Sun. ‘But you will slave for me nonetheless, to make fair the rooms in which my lady lives.’
“‘They will not slave!’ said the Saint. ‘If they choose to work, you will pay them in gold, and then you’ll let them go!’
“‘Lady, is it fine work you want?’ said one of the prisoners. ‘By all the gods, I swear you’ll have rooms finer than a duchess’s!’
“‘Wife, I will defer to your wishes,’ said Gard. ‘For I am your slave in all things. Should one of them displease you, however, his head shall look down sadly from a pike.’
“‘May I speak with you alone a moment?’ said the Saint to Gard.
“He bowed her to the door, and she pulled him within the hall after her. ‘Now they will do anything you ask them,’ said Gard smugly.
“‘How dare you!’ The Saint looked him full in the eyes with all the force of her anger, and he rocked back a little on his heels but did not look away.
“‘Wife, this is the way a Dark Lord accomplishes his affairs. And I had to bring them up here blindfolded, you know, that’s elementary security. They haven’t been hurt. They haven’t been robbed. If they do a good job for you, by all means pay them what you will. They’ll have to be taken down the mountain blindfolded too, but you have my word they’ll be released alive and unharmed. That’s fair, isn’t it?’
“‘That isn’t the point! Why couldn’t you have asked them to come?’
“‘Because they wouldn’t have. What with me being a Dark Lord and all, as they’d say. But look now: we’ll get your rooms redecorated. They’ll go back home and spread tales about the terrible Master of the Mountain and his beautiful and saintly Lady who saved their lives. It’ll do both our reputations a world of good.’
“‘But this is all absurd!’
“‘Isn’t it? I lie to survive, because people fear and respect a black mask more than an honest face. Life became much simpler once I understood that.’
“‘We have not done with this conversation,’ she said.”
Fiction in The New America
The mass audience for stories in post-WWII America is on point on an eternal cycle. In some societies everybody enjoys the same myths. In a tribe everybody hears about the adventures of Beowulf. Today we all read about Spiderman — projected as books, comics, TV, and films. On the other pole of the cycle, in highly stratified societies each class has its own stories. The lower class enjoy rags-to-riches stories about people like Cinderella and Horatio Alger. Or tales of high-minded thieves such as Robin Hood, Claude Duval, and Dick Turin, While the aristocracy enjoyed stories of courtly intrigue and romance.
Watch our fiction for signs of this evolution, a bifurcation of the American audience into elite and mass audiences.
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Other posts about science fiction:
- The Singularity is in our past
- Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal — Full Metal Alcemist
- Generals read Ender’s Game and see their vision of the future Marine Corps
- The little-known dark side of Ender’s Game
- Will the Taliban Give us a Taste of Armageddon?
- Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror created by the conflict with Iran — Science fiction gives us a different perspective
- Too many “takers”? Look to science fiction for the hard-Right answer!
Anything is possible if we have sufficient will, and work together