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dominance is difficult to establish in the context of genuine security.

i.e., why should people knuckle under and do what Bullyboy tells them to do, if they have security in their lives -- secure food, housing, shelter, safety for their families?  in order to get people to bow and scrape and get in line, Bullyboy Braggart either has to threaten them directly himself -- thus undermining their security -- or he has to terrify them with an exterior threat/enemy and convince them that he, and he alone, can save them from the Furrin threat to their security.  then they have to put up with whatever he does because the Other Guy is, eek, worse (and if this all sounds oddly familiar, it is the fundamental script for abusive relationships, i.e. bullying and dominance in the domestic realm).

I'd say the ruling classes of the US have been working on both these recipes for power, trying out the variations,  oppressing the labouring masses w/brute force worked pretty well until the Crash of 29 and the New Deal (anything to prevent Red revolution!), which gave the masses a lot more security.  along come Pearl Harbour and WWII, bingo, a supply of admirably hateworthy external enemies, and everyone gets in line -- plus the GDP boost and redistributive postwar programs like the GI Bill and suburban porkbarrel construction megaprojects create upward mobility for the masses, hence a feeling of security.  

the External Enemy route worked great for many decades;  after WWII ends, it's barely a year or two before Truman and the aircraft industry are hyping the Russian threat, and that segues into McCarthyism and the endless Cold War paranoia, Korea, Viet Nam...  which keeps the masses fat and happy in a war economy, plus scared spitless of Reds under their beds...

then the USSR scores one too many own goals -- in addition to all the sabotaging and destabilising and bearbaiting the US has been doing to it all those years -- and folds up like the paper tiger it was along.  the elites are left in a difficult position.  to abandon the war economy would be massively disruptive.  along comes the Reagan Revolution and massive, rapid undermining of the social contract, creating insecurity and fear all the way up into the middle class.  plus a frantic search for a new Enemy, and a new Pearl Harbour to focus the mind of the masses on that enemy but good (cf PNAC docs).  coincidentally or not, along comes 911 plus globalisation, so now we're in stick/stick mode, where in the 40's through 70's we were in stick/carrot mode (external stick, internal carrot).  external fear figures and a destabilised world order, plus internal insecurity.

it makes sense to me that the class who fancy themselves as kings and queens (whatever more palatable names they use today) are not interested in security -- except the security of their own grip on power, and that kind of security is won at the expense of the other kinds.  either they have to cow and immiserate their own people or, if they go the bread-n-circuses route on the home front, they have to scare the fat happy voters with Bogeymen from Abroad.  if people feel safe, they are less likely to do as they're told and more likely to ask questions -- this is why tenure was invented to preserve academic freedom :-)

I don't think it's coincidental that the "generation of rebellion" in the 60's were the children of security and affluence.  it was that sense of security that gave them the chutzpah to dream of a better world, instead of negotiating each his/her own desperate accommodation with the overlords for bare survival.  failing that sense of security, the other thing that sparks open revolt seems to be genuine despair:  a loss of security so complete that, having "nothing to lose," the disenfranchised will risk their lives just to strike a blow at the overlords (or whomever they think the overlords are, or sometimes just whomever they can reach or blame locally).

the intellectual and strategic space in between Fat Happy Rebels with an optimistic vision of making life better for all, and Thin Miserable Furious Rebels swearing to leave at least a scorch mark somewhere on the System with their last breath, is a vast gray area of fear, compromise, caution, grim endurance, selfish private manoeuvring, hoping that whoever gets smashed next won't be me, desperate attempts to believe elite rhetoric so as to stave off despair, etc....  in other words the mentality of survivors in a prison or camp:  take it one day at a time, keep yer head down, there's no percentage in trying anything, you'll never get enough people with you 'cos everyone else is thinking cautiously just like you are.  kick in a healthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome and Prisoners Dilemma and it's not surprising that the system works and that Bush and his merry men are laughing all the way to the offshore bank...

hey, The System Works.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Apr 13th, 2006 at 09:45:44 PM EST
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