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BREAD, CIRCUSES & BOMBS – DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE – PART TWO

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on November 9, 2014

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In Part One of this article I discussed the similarities between the Roman Empire and the American Empire at a high level. In this article I’ll delve into some specific similarities and rhymes between the fall of the Roman Empire and our modern day empire of debt, decay and decline. I’ll address our expansive level of bread and circuses and how defects in our human nature lead to people willingly sacrificing their liberty for promises of safety and security. All empires decline due to the same human failings and ours is no exception. If anything, ours will be far more spectacular and rapid due to our extreme level of hubris, arrogance, willful ignorance and warlike preference for dealing with foreign powers.

It seems there were a few visionary thinkers in the late 1950s who foresaw the dire course our former Republic was setting. Their writings were a prophecy and a warning. There was still time to change course and avoid the pitfalls that led to the Roman Empire collapse. In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley warned against allowing a few amoral men using propaganda, scientific advancements, technology, brainwashing, and economics to control and manipulate a willfully ignorant populace into a dystopian dictatorship. The Soviet and Chinese dictatorships of the late 1950s are long gone, but Huxley foresaw how modern propaganda techniques would be used by the state to drown the masses in a sea of triviality, irrelevance, and consumerism.

“In their propaganda today’s dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationaliza­tion — the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationaliza­tion of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State. As the art and science of manip­ulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these tech­niques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrele­vance the rational propaganda essential to the mainten­ance of individual liberty and the survival of demo­cratic institutions.”

Another man of vision was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As someone who understood the military industrial complex and the world of politics and power, he knew the danger of allowing the arms industry to dictate the foreign policy of the country. Maintaining a military empire bankrupted Rome and it is bankrupting the American empire. Eisenhower’s warning was unheeded.

“We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.”

When I was researching the similarities between the fall of the Roman Empire and our American Empire fall in progress, I stumbled across an essay written in 1956 by Ben Moreell called Of Bread and Circuses  

Toxic Bread, iGadgets, Circuses, & Zoloft

“The evil was not in bread and circuses, per se, but in the willingness of the people to sell their rights as free men for full bellies and the excitement of the games which would serve to distract them from the other human hungers which bread and circuses can never appease. The moral decay of the people was not caused by the doles and the games. These merely provided a measure of their degradation. Things that were originally good had become perverted and, as Shakespeare reminds us, ‘Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.’”Ben Moreell – 1956 – Of Bread and Circuses

There is nothing inherently evil about food, iPhones, professional sports, television, computers, music or medicine. Human beings need food to sustain them, entertainment to provide relaxation and diversion from their daily labors, and medicine to alleviate illness and prolong their lives. Only when the people allow themselves to be lured into servitude by malevolent purveyors of bread and circuses does the perversion of seemingly harmless things begin to fester and overwhelm a nation with the fetid stench of decay and decadence. The moral degeneration of the American populace, like the Roman people before them, happened slowly over time as they sold their liberty, freedom, and self-respect for full bellies, an endless array of modern day distractions, and promises from their highly educated rulers they would be taken care of and protected from all threats to their well-being, whether foreign, domestic, physical, mental, or social.

It did not happen all at once. It happened gradually over time. We allowed the weaker facets of our human nature to succumb to the pleasurable promises of a minority of power seeking manipulative men who always attempt to control and influence the majority because they believe they are wiser and deserving of riches, glory and supremacy. The greediest, most arrogant, ambitious and well educated amongst us tend to rise to the top in all societies. As Ben Franklin stated, only a virtuous people can keep sociopaths from gaining control of our political, economic and financial systems and perverting a republic built upon a foundation of free markets, liberty, and self-sufficiency.

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”Benjamin Franklin

Historian Tacitus noted, as Rome became more and more corrupt, the number of laws grew rapidly. The Roman aristocracy, through corruption and thievery achieved lofty status in Roman society. Senators and wealthy knights engaged in extensive practices of conspicuous consumption, creating palatial town houses and monumental “art villas” to demonstrate their high rank in society. The peasants sank into poverty, while being satiated with bread and circuses. And it was all done legally, just as it is being done legally today by our beloved aristocracy and their minions.

“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” – Tacitus – The Annals of Imperial Rome

Has the proliferation of laws, rules, and regulations over the last century made us freer, safer and less corrupt?

The virtue of the American people has dissipated rapidly over the last century through their willful ignorance, laziness, apathy, vanity, greed and covetousness, while the true ruling power has consciously and intelligently manipulated the masses without them being aware they were being molded, controlled, dominated and influenced by Ivy League educated men of no conscious, empathy, or sense of decency. The paragraph below, written in 1928 by Edward Bernays, reveals the true nature of our “democracy” and our real masters:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” – Edward Bernays – Propaganda

Bernays and his disciples believed the American citizenry nothing more than a herd of irrational animals that needed to be led by enlightened despots like him and other highly educated wealthy men who knew what was best in a democratic society. The term propaganda developed negative connotations after some Germans used it so effectively during the 1930s, so modern American despots changed the term to public relations. It’s all about the message. As media tools have become more technologically advanced and the study of human psychology perfected, the members of the invisible government have achieved their goal of governing, molding, and pulling the wires that control the public mind in a way that enriches them and their benefactors while satisfying the base needs of the masses and keeping them distracted with trivialities, technological wonders, and a myriad of bogeyman threats. These men have contempt for the common man. They have contempt for the U.S. Constitution. They have contempt for free markets. And they have control of our country.

Needs, Wants & Desires

The concept of bread and circuses ties closely to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. The ruling class realizes the masses must be kept fed, clothed and housed or revolution would ensue. The human needs documented by Maslow were satisfied or not satisfied by humans prior to the 20th century. Once the ruling class gained control of the monetary system through their jurisdiction over the Federal Reserve and the fiscal system through their manipulation of taxes and spending, they were able to bribe the masses with their own money. The rise of the welfare state has not reduced poverty or boosted the standard of living of the poor. It has enslaved tens of millions at the basic human needs level. Once those in power had successfully bribed the masses with bread (SNAP), shelter (subsidized housing), subsistence (unemployment compensation & welfare), security (Social Security) and safety (Medicare, Medicaid), it was only necessary to keep them distracted with circuses to efficiently teach them to love their servitude.

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

abraham-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs1.preview.jpg

The invisible governing authorities don’t want the masses to actually satisfy their psychological and self-fulfillment needs. The last thing they want is an educated, aware, critical thinking, independent, courageous, self-reliant, civic minded populace questioning the motivations of their keepers. This is where the corporate fascists who control the mass media propaganda machine and the sickcare industrial complex have combined forces to create a painless concentration camp of prisoners enjoying their servitude and happy to sacrifice their liberty for perceived safety. An uneducated, obese, sickly, depressed, overly-medicated populace is not a threat to the ruling class. They have been conditioned and pharmacologically sedated to such an extent the governing class feels indestructible, displaying arrogance and hubris in dangerous doses.

“There will be in the next generation or so a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them but will rather enjoy it.” – Aldous Huxley

The concept of voluntary servitude has been a constant theme across the ages as most people want to be led, told what to do, and will not question or contest those in authority. Liberty and freedom require effort, sacrifice, honor and a people with a strong moral character. The Roman people succumbed to tyranny by abandoning their liberty to despots for a full belly and grand spectacles. The American people have succumbed to modern day banker, billionaire and politician oligarchs for a belly full of toxic corporate processed food, cable HDTV with 600 stations, iGadgets, a never ending supply of cheap Chinese produced crap at big box retail stores, Facebook, Twitter, 24 hour drive thru Dunkin Donuts joints, and an endless array of professional sporting events, all paid for with an infinite supply of cheap consumer debt from the Wall Street fraud machine. We live in a warfare/welfare surveillance state built on a foundation of debt, consumerism, and delusion, with no tears. We’ve learned to love our servitude.

French philosopher Etienne de La Boetie captured the degradation of the once noble Roman people five centuries ago, and his words ring true today as the American people have foolishly relinquished their liberty to a corporate aristocracy that has bankrupted the nation, debased the currency, pillaged the middle class and set in motion an irreversible decline of the empire.

“Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books. Roman tyrants invented a further refinement. They often provided the city wards with feasts to cajole the rabble, always more readily tempted by the pleasure of eating than by anything else.

The most intelligent and understanding amongst them would not have quit his soup bowl to recover the liberty of the Republic of Plato. Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: and then everybody would shamelessly cry, ‘Long live the King!’ The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.” – Etienne de La Boétie – Discourse on Voluntary Servitude – 1548

We are fools to not realize the governing authorities who benevolently distribute bread and entitlements to the masses have already taken the money at gunpoint from the people, while syphoning off their cut, favoring their courtesans and taking away our liberties and freedoms. H.L. Mencken, who could match de La Boetie in contempt for the ignorant masses and corrupt politicians, understood our democracy was destined for the trash heap of history.

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” – H.L. Mencken – Notes on Democracy

In Part Three of this article I will address how the creation of the Federal Reserve has led to a century of currency debasement, mindless consumption and endless warfare, while impoverishing the masses and setting in motion the dynamics of empire collapse.

Ebola & the Management of Mass Psychology

Off the keyboard of Brian Davey

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Published on FEASTA on October 8, 2014

plague

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Public Health or Public Relations Crisis?

In the discussion about Ebola there appears to be a public relations message that we are all expected to accept that it is far less likely to run out of control in “developed countries” which have healthcare systems. In an article yesterday the chief concern of the Guardian‘s health editor, Sarah Boseley, was one of the management of mass psychology, the headline being: “Spanish Ebola case requires rapid response to allay western fears. It is important to ascertain exactly how Madrid nurse was infected to prevent inaccurate scare stories circulating on the internet.”

As one person commented after this article:

“No, it’s important to prevent the frigging ebola virus from infecting more people, especially medical staff and their families.”

In a potential epidemic situation like this we really all are in this together and it irritates the f*** out of me when journalists, officials and managers see it as their main job to “reassure the public”. This is because this “reassuring the public” starts from a presumption that everything will be OK – in other words it starts with the smug complacency that we always hear from “senior people” – that we can trust them, that they know what they are doing, that they are somehow immune from making mistakes and screwing things up. It is exactly the same attitude with fracking – oh there will be no problems here “because we have the best regulations in the world”.

And yet the experience in Spain and the USA shows quite clearly how the real world deviates from the ideal world which we are supposed to believe in – once we delve into it we find that staff at the hospital were protesting about the inadequate equipment and protective clothing for example and used the same lifts used by everyone else to take out infected materials and how they were generally unprepared for what happened. Exactly what you would expect from a lumbering management bureaucracy in the face of a complex challenge.

In this regard the situation in the USA in Dallas shows a similar failure to think things through in advance – like no arrangements to remove sweat soaked and infected bedding, like the need to trace people who are difficult to trace like homeless people.

Let me say in this regard that it does not seem obvious to me that the provisions for disease control and preventing an epidemic in “developed countries” are much more robust than in places like West Africa. That’s because (1) although there are a tiny number of super sophisticated centres for containing highly infectious diseases there is obviously a threshold magnitude of imported infections beyond which the arrangements for containing the disease would outstrip these resources and the system would likely break down entirely; (2) because the “developed countries” have much more mobile populations using mass transport systems where anonymous contact with large numbers of people can take place and (3) because there will be reluctance to impose the necessary controls because of the economic disruptive effects until it is too late – by which time (4) the economic disruptive effects could feed back into and amplify the chaos.

Let me explain each of these points in turn.

Firstly even a cursory reading of descriptions about medical procedures shows that containing this disease is highly resource intensive. In Nigeria at this time it looks as if the importation of the virus by a single traveller who flew in has been contained. But how has this been possible? It is interesting to note that from a single traveller there were 19 confirmed cases of further infection. 8 of these resulted in death and the last was detected on 31st August. So how on earth have the Nigerians contained it. The answer is that they have had a polio eradication programme using much the same procedure and skills and this programme has spare capacity because of its success. But get this:

“It took two weeks for the first isolation ward to open and health workers were initially reluctant to work in it. However, 1,800 health workers were eventually trained, protective gear was provided, and safe wards with enough beds and access to chlorinated water were set up so that patients could be treated safely. In total, health workers made 18,000 visits to 900 people to check the temperatures of possible contacts. As with polio eradication, this wasn’t easy but it was imperative to stopping the disease in its tracks.”[1]

So just one man entering the country requires a resource effort of 1,800 workers, properly trained and equipped with safe wards to fall back on – able to make 18,000 visits and checking 900 people!

Is our health service ready to do that? To deploy that level of resources? It seems to me that the resource intensity of this is such that there is likely to be massive overwhelm if there are not one but a few cases – for example an infected family not an infected individual comes into the country, the children go to a school and the parents travel around on work commitments.

This brings me to the second point. West African countries are by and large settled communities by comparison with our society. Yesterday I started to think about these matters when I wanted to get on a Nottingham tram just before 9 in the morning to go an get a flu jab. I let a couple of trams go by because of the difficulty that would be involved in getting in to the cram. Someone vomiting in a mass transportation system like this would be rather difficult to follow up – as indeed in a shopping centre or in the loos of my local pub. How would an epidemiological team follow that up? Or how do they follow up if and when infection circulates in a network of drug addicts?

Third point. It is obvious from this that, at a particular point, the level of infection, or protective measures against infection, are likely to be severely disruptive of “hub interdependencies of society” – like transport networks. Beyond a certain threshold magnitude of infection people are going to be fearful of using shared facilities – I can think of times I have not wanted to use a cash machine that someone appears to have spat upon. One such hub interdependency in a global economy is air travel itself. An article by an ebola expert in the German news magazine Der Spiegel mentions his fear that ebola will spread into the slums of India via air traffic hubs in the middle east. “Dubai could become a location of super contagion for those who change planes there are not subjected to any kind of health monitoring and travellers from Europe, America and Asia all sit together in the transit area in a colourful mix with people from Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria with no controls at all. Then they fly off to everywhere in the world”.[2]

Now the point here is that the logical thing to do would be some form of quarantine arrangements for a number of weeks before travel is allowed between countries but the consequences of this on the world airline industry would be catastrophic – and quite soon we are talking about a collapse or severe disruption of a large part of the global economy. Yet we know how our betters react to this – when “Mad Cow Disease” was identified in the UK it took 6 months to acknowledge the problem for the public so great was the fear of disrupting the meat market. And of course a disruption of the global economy should not be talked of lightly anyway – the pharmaceutical giants who. in principle, might eventually deliver us a treatment operate transnationally too.

In the meantime though there is a threshold, a tipping point in which a disease outbreak would be amplified by disruption to the economy. We can already see that in West Africa where ebola has led to rising food prices because it has disrupted the cultivation of food. In our own society it is easy to see that we cannot easily withdraw from close interpersonal contact without economic effects – for example it seems obvious that schools might be vectors of infection yet closing schools has profound effects on the ability of parents to work….

So…should we be fearful? I think that we should and if we could direct our reasoned fear at the politicians, officials and health managers to wake them up from their complacent attitude and devote a lot of resources and attention then that would be a thoroughly good thing….

More to follow…for now let me conclude with the following remark: in 1348 – 1349 probably one third of the population of the UK died from the Black Death that had already killed millions of people in India and the middle east. it then re-occured repeatedly over the next few hundred years. The depopulation of the Americas by disease introduced by the invading europeans was even more startling – with a death toll from disease by a startling 90%.

It could happen again – if we don’t want it to we will need a lot more focused attention and resources to prevent it – and a lot less complacency.

——————————-

PS [added at 15:41, October 8]: People are very concerned about airborne infection and I think a concern about droplet infection assumes that people are “producing droplets” – yet, I’ve not heard of coughs and sneezes from Ebola victims.

It seems to me that the problem is more likely to be that, once ill, people may soil themselves, vomit, sweat, bleed and pee too – and that has to be cleared up somehow. It has to be cleared up in a specially constructed highly controlled medical setting ideally – but there will be a need to deal with this in their own homes, in hotel rooms, on trains and planes, perhaps in public loos and so on – and in many cases it may not be known to the person concerned or those clearing up that this might be infectious stuff because this is at the early stage of the onset of symptoms and a diagnosis has not yet been made.

So what are the protocols for clearing up in these multiple different settings and for cleaners, nurses or family members, working in a hotel or public lavatory, for knowing whether a drunk just spewed up because s/he had too many or there is something more serious on the floor of a public lavatory?

What do you say to people who have been living with someone found to have ebola – what are they to do with those sheets? How does a teacher or nursery nurse know that the small child that soiled itself is from an infected family?

And here’s another thing to be concerned about. I’ve translated it from the latest copy of Der Spiegel (Issue number 41: 2014 page 117) This really is an example of Murphy’s Law

“Protective suits becoming scarce

Because of the ebola infection in west africa the demand for suits to protect against viral infection has risen so steeply that there is a threat of a bottleneck in the supply. DuPont, one of the world’s largest suppliers of these protective suits, is speaking of a “critical situation”. Because the the overalls can only be used once the need of international health organisations can barely be met. Already many hundreds of thousands of such protective suits are used every month according to DuPonts business manager Albrecht Gerland. There will soon be a need for a million. The Dutch business Imres, which has also produced more than 270,000 protective overalls since the beginning of the epidemic, is complaining that the production of overalls is becoming ever more difficult”

Further discussion of the effects of a global pandemic can be found in David Korowicz’s paper Catastrophic shocks through complex socio-economic systems: a pandemic perspective.

Endnote

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/oct/07/nigeria-ebola-experience-teach-world
[2] Der Spiegel 40/2014 (Print Issue ) “Seuchen. Indien ist schutzlos” Interview with Gerd Antes page 104

Feautered image: Ebola virus. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus#mediaviewer/File:Ebola_virus_em.png

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Barocaloric is a solid-state not-in-kind technology, for cooling and heat pumping, rising as an alte [...]

Terrestrial ecosystems and their vegetation are linked to climate. With the potential of accelerated [...]

The Antarctic Centennial Oscillation (ACO) is a paleoclimate temperature cycle that originates in th [...]