Those who allow seriousness to get in the way of imagination, fail to discover what they need to free themselves from.
For many decades I have been aware of knocking on the door of Western Imperialism from the inside in search of a universal perspective. Maybe it started 80 years ago when I first experienced authority (de jour) in the person of Mother Church. It was my first exposure to the elephant-in-the-room phenomenon of authority from above, but by no means my last. It was merely a foretaste of things to come; a life-long battle with sugar-coated narratives, religious and secular… not mutually exclusive…that were spreading across the globe.
As time passed, I realized ever more that the concept of the moral high ground was essentially a power stratagem. It gave one the right to assume that the view from the higher ground enabled a person some incontestable advantage in matters rhetorical or proprietorial. It was this issue that worried me throughout my formative years upon realizing that to go there meant embracing demagoguery.
With the arrival of nascent political awareness came an understanding of how an obdurate secular elephant-in-the-room culture, upon crossing the Atlantic to the USA, succeeded in creating a modern version of the evangelical narrative. The pedagogues who trafficked in the belief that it was their God-given right to occupy the role of pedagogic-overseers to the ‘sheeple-people’, whom they regarded as people lacking the ability to self-govern, had moved shop to establish a hybridised culture, where salvation and material possession came together seeking the Lord’s blessing. Over time, this entity would corporatize…and militarize…identity as had its European predecessors, by means of ‘follow-me’ style indoctrination.
It was this arrogant inversion in matters concerning ‘God-rights’, and the use of veto powers used to stifle reason, that led me to jettison this pie-in-the-sky obfuscation of human imagination for something more imaginative…like ideas that might counteract tyranny.
However, on leaving the ‘fold’, I discovered that I no longer had a home, but conversely, found that my home could be anywhere goodwill might exist.
On reflection, I first encountered racism when exposed to the Christian Brother’s educational system in Dublin, (circa 1944) where redemption was promulgated as the quintessential purpose in life, and salvation the reward offered to those who submitted to this belief. A Follow-Me philosophy based on the idea that people in general were incapable of participating in governance, became the cornerstone of a system designed to emasculate the imaginative resources of the people.
After some years of being exposed to a form of righteousness that I could neither identify in, nor understand, I decided that it was time to free myself from these influences. I decided that I would protect my ‘original-sin’ and my ‘defective-nature’ from the holy water threatening to quench the fire-in-my-miscreant-belly…my fire in the belly, my chance of remaining free from the ‘sheeple’ condition… redemption from redemption as exit strategy!
Aware that the faces of the teachers above their clerical collars presented countenances conveying unhappiness, made me more determined to seek a counter-magical-formulae. As I was unfree and in need of time to work out which obsession was more likely to have lasting value, my efforts to escape the “dark Satanic mills” were, thankfully, not without comic relief. As I became ever more alienated, I took to wondering if a celibacy virus might exist as mumps and measles did, and if so, could I catch it from too close a contact with the pious people around me.
The us-and-them ethnographic map of the world which thrust ‘white’ culture into the pedagogic pulpit to explain Christian propriety and pagan incivility left me struggling with feelings that I would come back to again and again for many years to come. My recollection of the then Archbishop of Dublin (Dr. McQuaid) and his occasional visits to our school to exhort us boys into committing to the ‘ministry of the church’ …the priesthood…for the purpose of bringing the African heathen into the orbit of Christian hegemony, remains tattooed on my psyche. It left me with the feeling that I had to investigate the source of this militancy.
As time passed, I managed to separate myself from the early experiences of institutional fatuity and canon law ‘insightfulness’ that had infiltrated my mind. It was as though my imagination had discovered that it could travel without the aid of training-wheels. It happened while sitting in a Dublin café listening to a group of African medical students playing jazz. It dawned on me that there was more to life than mere partisanship. As my monochromatic baggage silently collapsed around my feet-of-clay, I felt I was finally free to find my own way in the real world. As I was not one to hold the position that the-devil-you-know is better than the-devil-you-don’t, curiosity soon became the mechanism that released me from being a subaltern player in Mother Church’s drama.
Once free of my baggage, I turned my attention to matters secular. I had become aware that institutions basically function as micro entities serving the state; parliament, judiciary, church, media, financial, art etc. to exist, in theory, as micro entities purporting to perform productive services that define the identity of the state as the macro context wherein diverse elements are assimilated into a single context. Inevitably my thoughts turned to focus on corporeal hegemons…the spiritual ones being in the pockets of the new ‘masters-of-the-universe’, alas!
In America, where greatness defines the cultural spirit, Mammon reigns supreme. Gratifying private consumption has become an all-purpose obsession that keeps the capitalist system functioning to the max. The idea that everybody can become a millionaire creates a desire for celebrity status. In the pursuit of greatness or celebrity, America has become the hegemon-with-the-most-of-just-about-everything, except wisdom.
What is achieved in the media and in the arts…particularly Hollywood… is the creation of a circumambient impression of exceptionality with regards to all things that particularize the American way of doing things as exemplary. This myth has become the cornerstone of the American ‘church’. Enclosed within the confines of the circumambient state, the population reacts to the effects of information technology by creating a form of identity that presupposes that it is America’s right to segue into an empire…an empire to rule the world. …that the rest of the world will like it is irrelevant.
Turning a blind eye to the exploitive nature of its ‘mission’ to conquer, reveals how isolated Americans are in their cognitive dissonance. Sadly, the ambient screams of those who suffer at the hands of American aggression as it attempts to achieve full spectrum dominance, do not penetrate the thick skin of inverted exceptionalism.
A continuous process of expansion and growth is fostered in order to hold the centre together…an illusionist existential rapport that defines the common good as rewards for all in the capillarity of social life where discourse, managed by the established media from behind closed doors, becomes the glue that cements the status quo from within. The nature of the capitalist system is at once direct and circuitous, forever actively extracting profit at the micro and macro levels to sustain its insatiable appetites. It is forever at war with alternative systems, as its sole purpose is to guard its ‘right’ to feed off everything it can capture in its maw.
The all-encompassing nature of the capitalist system in America and the West in general has long been in overreach. Like the Catholic system I was inducted into, capitalism has sought to attain global dominance with scant regard for the ethnographic make-up or understanding of the scientific reality of people and cultures and their customs, habits and mutual differences. The traders and men of God who marched into the Americas, Australia and many other countries with guns and bibles went there to subvert, not save.
And, history has a habit of repeating itself…America the hegemon baptised in oil… imposes its oil-based-hegemony left, right and centre on defenceless countries under the guise of bringing ‘democracy’ to the people of the world, whether they like it or not. Any move to resist the will of the hegemon is fraught with uncertainty…or destruction…as resistance implies non-compliance…and non-compliance equals economic heresy and punishment (sanctions) or consignment back to the Stone Age, as is frequently attempted.
Which begs the question; does President Trump and his white evangelical base believe that there are no stops and starts or punctuation marks in the patriarchal playbook? Is their racism a product of the hegemonic classroom, where medium and message are subsumed to the wiles of charlatans who reappear with monotonous regularity believing their base to be God’s invincible continuum and therefore fin-de-siecle proof?
Witness how impervious America is to ideas that originate beyond its borders. It is worth noting that the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin coined the term inverted totalitarianism in 2003 to describe what he saw as the emerging form of the government of the United States.
Wolin analysed the United States as increasingly turning into a managed democracy. He uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” to draw attention to the totalitarian aspects of the American political system while emphasizing its differences from proper totalitarianism, such as Nazi and Stalinist regimes.
The corporate behemoths who came to manage American corporate capitalism ended up owning America by assimilating and subsuming every conceivable idea…democracy included…to the service of ‘a-grand plan’. One that was designed to capture the oil resources etc of the world (foremostly) and as much else as possible so that they could run their ‘show’ as a colossal family business without having to negotiate with troublesome outsiders.
With the help of a compliant media, the stratagems employed to achieve these ends are delivered in the form of soporific interventions that laud American values. Here, plastic commodification comes to the rescue, proving that the American narrative has gone plastic and Tinseltown mythology is at the core of American culture. No stone is left unturned; no trick is missed. Witness Barbie’s new bodies…her multiple new bodies ushering in an era of ethical body inclusiveness works to distract the masses from the macro-picture long enough to assuage any distress they might feel in a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer…vanilla for the spectator class…and don’t forget to send in the clowns, eh?
The topsy-turvy culture that has come into being requires the common people to accede to the stealthy shenanigans of the 1%. The great majority of people are required to remain passive as the wealth of the nation is sucked upwards while the spirit of democracy is buried in the graveyard of failed dreams. These inversions represent the status quo. The people are expected to accept the fact that they need to be managed and wave goodbye to ‘conscionable’ reveries concerning the democratic polity.
To realize how inverted American culture has become, it is necessary to understand that the American narrative has coalesced into a technology of the self…where ends continuously justify means…and self-reflection is no longer considered a way to discovering the value of human life. America’s circumambient culture casts a long shadow across the national imagination, if not spirit, by glorifying a non-existent exceptionalism to propel itself towards global dominance.
It imagines itself the empire of choice, while ignoring its abominable history of land theft, genocide, use of weapons of mass destruction on countless millions of people across the globe…Vlad Putin did point this out in a speech at the UN saying, “does America not see what it has done in the Middle East”.
From the outside, Americans appear to exist as a mass 300 million strong, enclosed in a circumambient ether like fish, forever propelling themselves round and round while gazing at their own reflections in the patina that coats the interior of their fish-bowl culture. Knowledge of cultures that exist beyond their purview are sometimes presented to them in the form of backdrops created by Hollywood.
Sometimes fresh perspectives can adjust or partially reconfigure the analytics of governmentality simply by understanding how government and the institutions supporting them work. In the modern American context, this is no longer possible. The government is in the pocket of ‘inverted-interests’ where information must remain concealed from public scrutiny, simply because of the unsavoury methods used to influence the decision-making process that Corporate America has adopted to inflate its hegemonic alter ego…too bad that Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning must suffer. The Espionage Act is in the pocket of those to control the inverted narrative.
The deep state is where ‘deep-pockets’ meet ephemerally and variously for the purpose of planning the next spin of the roulette wheel knowing that it’s the taxpayer who will take the fall if some financial skulduggery goes badly wrong. Otherwise, it’s that other component in the inverted-interest formulae that may well be resorted to; the mighty American military on standby for forays into foreign territories that must be subjected to regime change to facilitate the interests of the corporate state. American foreign policy is the thin edge of a wedge that puts in place programs to contain egressions that might undermine its triumphalism. Programs designed to silence dissidents for instance.
So, what about it? What are the chances of Americans taking stock of themselves? Will the next Mardi Gras…Fat Tuesday…be again controlled by the Fat Cats who control the myriad mice who skulk by their TV sets awaiting the appearance of the inevitable danse macabre?
But what I find strangest of all in my 85th year is the realization that whichever part of the colonized world you may live in, you are inevitable labelled a ‘Westerner’, which automatically presumes that we all must submit to the values of the capitalist system. Having lived in Australia for most of my adult life, I am still at odds with the values that the settler-culture upholds. Like our American counterparts, values are something we talk about when appraising our material assets.
A strange staleness applies to this toadying place called Australia where coal and iron ore are mined, sheep are shorn, where whiteness is the pigment of choice, where the indigenous population languish in mythologic inner-space, where mateship celebrates pragmatism, where other people’s wars are fought, where obeisance to capitalism’s penchant for war spurs us on to build vehicle-mounted platforms that hold cannons, machine guns and missile launchers to sell to Saudi Arabia. And we do all this in the name of pragmatism; if we didn’t do so, someone else would, is the reasoning. Sadly, as part of the capitalist ‘West’, we have adopted the three features that define it; armament production, pragmatism and propaganda.
So, this is what Australia has become, a settler-nation ready to bomb the shit out of people in some faraway place for the sake of feeling secure in being part of an unholy alliance with our ‘partners’…those ‘mates’ who would take us under their hegemonic wing. Does this suggest that the settler’s self-centred perspective ends at his or her back gate?
Too bad that little Yemen is on the receiving end of the vile things we manufacture for profit. Doing it to be part of the ‘Western’ club shows how cringeworthy we have become. Too bad we are joiners and not leaders. Too bad the settler gene is also too inverted to reimagine a future for itself.
Home: I’m still looking for it! One thing I’m certain of though; we need to cure ourselves of the narcissistic personality disorder circulating throughout the ‘Western’ sphere in order to be free. When I free myself from that, I’ll have found a home…a home where imagination chooses truth as its lingua franca.
Denis A. Conroy