Slave Nation - Nature or Nurture?
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It’s remarkable the extent to which we all engage in our daily ritualistic behavior and even more so how it is carefully hidden in plain sight and perfectly blended into all we call normal. Our rituals bring us great comfort and a false sense of security while also trapping us into narrow thinking and confirmation bias seeking. And best of all, at least for those who wish to control us, our rituals feed our normalcy bias and for the most part keep us sated and fulfilled. Sated, that is, until the flimsy façade and cheap material becomes thread bare and worn out and denial finally collapses as we stand chest deep in sea water.
But that doesn’t stop the great Manufacturing Consent machine. Nope, they just floor the throttle and peg the tachometer in the red, all in the pursuit of glorious green and an increasingly productive slave nation. Remember boys and girls, consumers are created for one purpose only and that purpose is to consume. So go ahead and eat your little hearts out, then harass mom and dad for the latest transformer or anorexic doll.
You’ve got to admire it for it is brilliantly simple. If they can control the advertising message that tells us what our rituals should be, then all that is left is to supply us with the material and the means. Voila, as if by magic we now have one consumer driven slave nation idling at the curb. Now all that’s left is to beat it like the wholly owned mules we are.
I was struck with this rather unpleasant thought when I visited one of my favorite web sites and pulled up the image below. Click the link (here) to see the original and just soak it all in for a minute or so. BTW take a peek at the second image in the series, a satellite view of Hurricane Irene consuming half of the USA’s East Coast. Looks to me like an economic storm is coming.
The two people sitting on the wooden stairs to nowhere in the middle of nothing but water is an iconic image if ever I saw one, not just because it represents the full force and fury of Hurricane Irene, but how appropriate it is in illustrating the present condition of the consumer nations. What exactly do we have left after several decades of frenzied spending and mindless consumption? I’ll tell you what we have left. We have our rituals and dogma, and soon enough not much more.
Let me reproduce the caption for this image that was posted in Boston.com’s excellent ‘The Big Picture’. “Billy Stinson comforts his daughter Erin Stinson as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood on August 28, 2011 in Nags Head, N.C. The cottage, built in 1903 and destroyed by Hurricane Irene, was one of the first vacation cottages built on Albemarle Sound in Nags Head. Stinson has owned the home, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, since 1963. "We were pretending, just for a moment, that the cottage was still behind us and we were just sitting there watching the sunset," said Erin afterward. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)”
That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? All that is left for Billy and Erin is the ritual practice of sitting on the steps to watch the sunset before fully internalizing the massive and unwanted change in their lives. And the impulse to act out this ritual is incredibly strong. Look closely and you can see that Billy is soaked up to the middle of his chest, meaning he probably waded out into 4 foot deep sea water to sit on his steps one last time. The shadows in the photo hide Erin’s wet clothes, but it appears she is soaked as well. It isn’t just salmon who will overcome so much to return to their ritual place of birth or beginning.
For those who were evacuated from their homes and have returned to find damage (or not) and for those who rode out the storm and were or are still without power, the disrupted rituals of our lives come into stark contrast when viewed from the current reality. I was without power for nearly 48 hours and I can’t tell you how many times I turned right at the end of the hall into my now darkened home office to check my email or begin a new article, only to quickly back out of the now useless room full of dead electronic devices.
At one point I felt my home had turned hostile and was no longer the friendly and comfortable place I remembered it to be. Silly rabbit, it was me who was lost and out of sorts because my comforting rituals had been removed without my consent. My home had not changed, only me. Yet the impulse to return again and again was at times overwhelming, an urge I suspect is ‘felt’ in all animals and plants at one time or another. Nature or nurture? That’s the real question here. Though I suspect it is both. The new born baby doesn’t require much coaching to find mother’s nipple, regardless of whether those babies are people, pandas or PIIGS.
In fact the tendency for humans to be severely out of sorts and thoroughly disorientated is being exploited by the ruling elite during the current shock and awe economic rape and destruction. Funny how the wealthy elite prosper during good times and bad, how the card game seems rigged in their favor and the die are all loaded. It must be in their genes because it most certainly is in their pocketbooks, the product of a centuries long breeding program I am told. Although it is exceedingly obvious that secret knowledge and understanding is passed down from father to son and from mother to daughter. Nature or nurture? That’s the real question here.
So why do we always fall for the same stupid elite pet tricks time after time, then wade out chest deep to sit on the remains of our lives just to pretend and pantomime? Why do we hand over our sovereignty and inalienable rights for the privilege of being corn holed by the same people using the same methods they used the last time? How is it that we don’t learn at least as quickly as my old dog Rover, probably the dumbest mutt that ever lived? Nature or nurture? That’s the real question here.
Nature or Nurture
I was 21 and up to no good, sitting at the bar sucking on some suds and plying my illegal trade. Out of the blue the bartender gave me some unsolicited advice that most likely saved my life and the memory of it is etched into my brain. He was 30 years my senior and had seen everything in the book, one of those guys you just didn’t mess with if you had any smarts at all, something the drunks rarely possessed. He had always seemed indifferent to me and what I was doing, probably because I was fair and honest, a rarity in my trade. Plus I never caused him any grief and my tips were usually the best of the night. What wasn’t to like about me?
It was a slow weekday night and Jake used the excuse of serving up another beer to start the conversation. Or should I say lecture. He fixed me with one of those hard stares of his and then just flat out asked me.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
I was genuinely surprised and equally confused by his question. I really had no idea what he was talking about and I said as much. He just stared back at me, his dark eyes boring in which made me increasingly uncomfortable. “So this is what the hot seat feels like,” I remember thinking to myself.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you don’t you’re even stupider than I thought.”
I could feel my ears going red and I was getting hot under the collar. What did I do to deserve this? But of course I instantly knew what he was talking about, at least now that he had challenged me. At first I thought it was a shake down, so I reached into my pocket to pull out some bills. But Jake quickly reached across the bar and grabbed my arm.
“No, that’s not what I want.”
Now I was starting to freak out because it was clear this guy had my number and I had no way out. He released my arm and told me to wait while he served a new customer. It was the kind of order you didn’t ignore so I waited in quiet panic. But in those few minutes I quickly assessed my situation, then calmed down a bit when it dawned on me that if he intended me harm I would already be hurting. So if this wasn’t a shake down and all he wanted to do was talk, what could he possibly say to me other than to get the hell out of his place?
Much relieved and feeling my oats for being so smart, I relaxed and waited for Jake’s return. He must have sensed my changed demeanor because he quickly pounced and went straight for my jugular.
“Do you have any idea what you’re into? Or are you just so stupid you’re blind?”
How do you answer a question like that when the person asking can take you apart, then quickly move on to the next mess? I very wisely decided to say nothing and quickly swallowed my pride. You just don’t mess with Jake unless you have a death wish, and I most assuredly did not.
“This isn’t for you and you know it. Why don’t you just get out now before you live to regret it?”
In the year or so that I’d know Jake, never had I witnessed this side of him. Normally he was quiet, though he could get a bit animated when he wanted to close and was trying to push the drunks out the door. And when he was pissed off or trying to break up a fight, he became silent and the regulars knew to either back off or prepare to be bloodied. While I knew deep down inside exactly what he was telling me, for some reason I wanted to hear him say it. So I tempted fate and asked him to explain. His answer was short and to the point and all that I needed to hear.
“You lack the killer instinct bud.”
And there it was. With a couple of blunt words and a few figurative flicks of his wrist with the Buck knife he kept strapped to his belt, Jake had sliced me from neck to nuts and laid me out on the bar to bleed, exposed to all the world and in particular to me. All my ugly self important pretentions and fanciful pretending, together with its supporting cast of lies, self deception and justifications, was laid bare in all its beautiful buffoonery. I was playing House of Barbie while the principal players were engaged in a deadly game of cat and mouse. And Jake was telling me that I was in way past waist deep and the worst was yet to come.
While I wanted to believe that all would be well if I just played fair and didn’t fight; you know, by the rules (and you can bet that I carefully and deliberately constructed a false reality to convince myself that I was doing precisely that) Jake was busy cutting my illusion to ribbons and telling me to my face that at best I would be stranded on some wooden stairs in four feet of water, and he was betting I would be in the popsicle stick house when the Cat 5 roars ashore.
This was a crucial decision point for me. Better yet, this was one of those rare times when you get to see the end game before you’re in too deep and can’t back out. In effect Jake was telling me I didn’t have it in me. That I didn’t have what it takes to play with the big boys, those who either by nature or nurture wouldn’t bat an eye as they backed over my body for the third time. Jake wasn’t shining a light on anything I didn’t already know. On the contrary, he was informing me of something I’d been diligently trying to ignore, or better yet, paper over.
Sometimes angels take the form of beautiful winged nymphs and sometimes as grizzled old bartenders. I packed up and got the hell out of there, never to return to Jake’s place or any of my other usual haunts. Within 24 hours I had given my roommate 2 months’ rent to cover the lack of notice and any of the stuff I couldn’t jam into my car and I got the hell out of Dodge. The truth of his words was self evident and something only a true fool would ignore. Right there and then I decided that I had neither the nature nor the nurture and that the only sane decision was to totally and completely withdraw.
So how did Billy and Erin find themselves sitting on stairs to nowhere in four feet of salt water, watching the pretty sunset while pretending their lovely little cottage was still behind them? And how do we find ourselves once again corn holed by the same financial elites using the exact same method of lies, deceit and false promises which we gratefully lap up in order to support our own House of Barbie? Hey, I promise to play by the new rules so please, please, please deal me back into your rigged game. Nature or nurture? That’s the real question.
While there is no doubt that countless millions, the so-called working poor, have very little choice and must play or die, we do have a choice and we choose to play the game because we just know we will win. We’re smarter or faster or better or stronger or whatever little lie we can concoct in order to justify bellying back up to the bar for another hand of cards. We know the game is rigged and yet we still play, certain in our belief that out of all the millions of deluded fools we will win the Gold ring and safely retire with our prize. The rigged game itself is our comforting ritual which we all endlessly act out.
But wait, what’s that I hear? Is that a collective moan of piety, a self righteous cry from the peanut gallery complaining that the lying bastards have changed the rules of the game again, that now they get to keep even more of the pie while sticking you and me with the bill? Now that the elite have 80% of the chips on their side of the table and are demanding another 10%, now we complain that the game isn’t fair? Now? You mean they cheated us again? If I understand this correctly, we have rationalized and justified our own greed and self interest in order to elbow our way into the rigged game, only to complain about their egregious greed and self interest? You can’t make this shit up.
So what are our demands here? This must be a negotiation because it sure as hell ain’t a strike or a work stoppage. All of us non working poor peons and enablers are still trudging off to our office trading cubes or fiat factory floors, so there doesn’t seem to be much resistance here. So where exactly is our leverage? How does one negotiate with someone or something when the terms are hidden from view, all the cards aren’t on the table and there’s a gun to our head?
Oh, wait a minute, I get it now. We want to be unequal partners. So this isn’t a negotiation, is it? This is about the reordering of the conditions of our slavery because we don’t like the way things have progressed. We want to go back to the time when we were cut in for a bigger slice of the pie. This isn’t about overall social justice; this is about justice for us. If the working poor just so happen to make out in the deal, well then all the better. But they sure as hell ain’t getting anything out of my slice of the pie. No way in hell. Let them eat cake or get their old percentage cut from the man just like I’m trying to do.
We’ve already had the reading of the charges against the financial elite and their henchmen. So we basically understand their alleged transgressions, though there are so many layers to this 10 dimensional chess board that I doubt anyone other than those at the top really know what’s going on and who’s screwing whom. But assuming that we know just enough to be dangerous to ourselves and those around us, what’s the plan man? Because if you think about it for a minute or so there must be fifty ways to leave your master. Unless, that is, you really don’t want to leave and instead, you just want your old deal with the devil back.
You see I’ve been asking a trick question since the beginning, this nature or nurture query. I’ve been distracting you with useless information and the false hope that if you could just answer the question you could figure it all out and win the Gold ring. It has nothing to do with nature or nurture and everything to do with whether we have it in us or not. We have deluded ourselves into thinking that we are playing a game of Barbie when in fact we are bit players, slaves if we really want to be honest, to the high stakes game of keeps where we get to keep what we are told we can keep.
Our underlying incentive to remain captive slaves, carefully hidden from view under the false promise of a system of laws meted out by the scrupulously just, but blessedly blind, lady with the scale, comes from the implied threat of violence if we don’t do as we are told. That’s it, it’s really not more complicated than that, no fancy whistles or bells or complicated playbooks to learn, though the ‘rules of the game’ is the Golden lure that keeps us all enthralled and thoroughly hooked.
The so called capitalist economic system is nothing more than a system of slave on slave competition for the betterment of the master and to the detriment of the slave. The goal is to take more blood from your fellow slave that you spill, and the incentive is to avoid being shot or imprisoned by the guard slaves who ring the arena, all of which is draped with “Democracy is Freedom” banners for our emotional and intellectual self delusion. The best and most productive slaves are those who keep themselves and we are most certainly the supreme slave nation.
The leverage used against us is provided by us, our extorted, connived and wide eyed willing participation in this macabre dance of servitude. Our slave quarters are just nice enough, what with central heat and A/C, running hot and cold water and a TV in every room feeding us 500 ritualistic propaganda channels that only the really stupid slaves would want to run for the hills and save themselves. These conditions aren’t really that bad considering. So what if the master is demanding two more pounds of flesh. If I fight real good and I’m smarter than the average slave, it won’t be my flesh that’s taken and I might just come out of this OK.
And you know what, if those conditions are good enough for you and me, if we are OK with being a slave, then fine. Let’s all just do our master’s bidding to receive our pieces of eight, then watch our cable TV to our heart’s content. Just don’t give me any bullshit about how unfair the game is and how the cheating has gotten out of hand because it is you and me who are powering our own slavery. And it is you and me who can stop it all today by just withdrawing and walking away.
The self evident truth is that at this point we don’t have it in us because walking away just might cause us all some pain, at least temporarily. And our ritual training tells us that pain relief is just another piece of eight away. So we capitulate long before we begin. Every time I hear someone bellow in self righteous tones about truth and justice and The American Way, then demand someone else step up and free our asses, all we are doing is proving my point, that we are slaves who regularly demonstrate our slave mentality by asking permission to pee on our own graves.
Slaves do as they are told. Slaves ask for permission. Slaves are seen, but not heard. Those with the slave mentality ask their masters for their leave even when the door is wide open and the coast is clear. Most importantly, slaves delude themselves into thinking that slavery is better than the alternative. Then they convince themselves that the only alternative is certain death if they resist. The best and most productive plantation slaves are those who keep themselves.
As a nation of individual slaves we are getting real close to our own Jake moment, that point when all our lies and justifications will be exposed for us to see. Will we have it in us to do what we need to do? Will we have our epiphany, that moment of clarity recovering alcoholics speak of when they realize they have used every lie, deception and ruse to avoid the truth, that they and they alone are the source of their problems? Personally I think we have it in us, but only after we shed our own emperor’s clothes and stand naked to the world and to ourselves.
Special thanks to Zero Hedge's Dagny Taggart for the penetrating conversations that always lead to inspiration.
Special thanks to Zero Hedge's Dagny Taggart for the penetrating conversations that always lead to inspiration.