Guest Post: Self-Interest And The Pathology Of Power: The Corruption Of America Part 2

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

Self-Interest And The Pathology Of Power: The Corruption Of America Part 2

The self-interest of the alcoholic is to keep drinking. Is this truly in his best interests? The answer illuminates the pathology of power in America.

If we ignore the lip-service showered on "reform," we find that there is really only one strategy in America: extend and pretend. Individuals, households, communities, cities, states, enterprises and the vast sprawling Empire of the Federal government and its many proxies--all are engaged in extend and pretend.

The closest analog is a seriously ill alcoholic who tells himself he just has a hang-over when it's abundantly clear he is suffering from potentially terminal cancer. With a hang-over, extend and pretend is the only strategy that works: you can try various "magic potions" to relieve the symptoms, but the only real cure is to give the body enough time to cleanse itself of the toxins you've created and pretend to be functioning in the meantime.

In the case of aggressive cancer, then extend and pretend is the worst possible strategy: ignoring the rapid progression of the disease only makes eventual treatment more difficult and uncertain.

The only way to treat cancer is to face it straight-on, learn as much as you can about the disease and the spectrum of treatments, consider the side-effects and consequences of various treatment strategies, and then get to work radically transforming your entire life, mind, body and spirit to effect the cure.

Why do we perpetrate the delusion of a hang-over when it's painfully clear we have cancer? We're afraid, of course; we fear the unknown and find comfort in the belief that nothing has to really change. We call this denial, but it arises from fear and risk aversion.

In the moment, amidst all the swirling chaos of fear and uncertainty, we choose extend and pretend because it seems to be in our self-interest.

This is the ontology of extend and pretend: a delusional view of our self-interest. The drunk is terrified of not being able to drink himself into a stupor; in that dysfunctional state of being, then he perceives his self-interest as denying he has cancer because he knows that treatment will require him to stop drinking.

In effect, what he perceives as acting in his self-interest is actually an act of self-destruction.

Political and social revolutions occur when the productive classes realize the Status Quo no longer serves their self-interests. In other words, the revolution is first and foremost an internal process of recognition and enlightenment: all the propaganda issued by the Status Quo, i.e. that it serves the best interests of the productive classes, is finally recognized as false.

As this awakening begins, a divergence between the definitions of self-interest by the Power Elites (financial and political) and the productive classes begins to open. This is extremely dangerous to the Power Elites, who are fundamentally parasitical and predatory: their wealth and power all flow from the labor, taxes, debt service and passivity/complicity of the productive classes.

The Power Elites' time-honored strategy to protect their own wealth and grip on power has three components: one is to pursue a strategy of pervasive, ceaseless propaganda to persuade the productive classes that the system is sound, fair and working for them; the second is to fund diversionary "bread and circuses" for the potentially troublesome lower classes, and the third is to harden the fiefdoms of power and wealth into an aristocracy that is impervious to the protests of debt-serfs and laborers below.

In addition to "the system is working for you" social control myth, the wealth/power aristocracy also invokes various fear-based social control myths: external enemies are threatening us all, so ignore your debt-serfdom and powerlessness, etc.

In the ideal Power Elite scenario, a theocracy combines faith and State: not only is it illegal to resist the Aristocracy, you will suffer eternal damnation for even thinking about it.

Ask yourself this: how much influence do you as a citizen, voter and taxpayer have over the Federal Reserve? If we're honest, we must confess that the Federal Reserve is as remote to us as any branch of the North Korean government: we have zero influence over it, and the same can be said of our elected representatives.

This is the definition of an aristocracy, oligarchy (a power structure in which power is held by a small number of people), kleptocracy, etc.

The Power Elite has a key advantage over the citizenry: its own self-interest is clear. The citizenry must entertain this question: is the Status Quo really working for me or not? The Power Elite aristocracy has no such confusion: the Status Quo is working beautifully for them, and the only threat to their wealth and power is the possibility that the productive classes might opt out and stop paying the taxes and debt service which funds the parasitical Power Elite.

Thus the Power Elite has a single goal: to persuade and coerce the citizenry into accepting their powerlessness and debt-serfdom as a pathological form of self-interest.

There is another dynamic to the Power Elite aristocracy's grip on concentrated wealth and power: the self-selecting, self-perpetuating pathology of the aristocracy and the Upper Caste that so slavishly serves them. Author Chris Sullins identified this dynamic as one of self-propagating fractals (The MacRib is Back! September 23, 2008):

There are readers who might feel I’m being very hard on the public with the comparison so far. But look how people have allowed their names to be changed. They have gone from being called citizens to consumers. A citizen is a very human word which denotes awareness, involvement, and participation. It’s a word that sounds active and conscious in its very nature. A consumer by contrast sounds far more passive. A lot of other animals and even inanimate processes consume things. A consumer sounds like sheep grazing.

Once a populace accepts a self-definition that strips out their participation as anything but passive consumers, then the maintenance of power boils down to test-marketing new social control myths and fear-mongering.

This sophisticated level of marketing and predation requires a highly trained class of servants: an Upper Caste of technocrats, middle managers, marketers, lobbyists, "creatives," engineers, etc. who do the heavy lifting that keeps the Power Elite's wealth and status not just intact but expanding.

The reward for this service is a hefty salary that enables the purchase of the signifiers of upper-middle class existence and an intoxicating proximity to power and status visibility, i.e. some measure of recognition as "being somebody important."

Until very recently I reckoned this Upper Caste of loyal servants comprised about 20% of the American populace, but upon closer examination of various levels of wealth and analysis of advert targeting (adverts only target those with enough money/credit to buy the goods being offered), I now identify the Upper Caste as only the top 10% (the aristocracy is at most the top 1/10th of 1%).

Wealth and income both fall rather precipitously below the top 10% line, and as globalization and other systemic forces relentlessly press productivity into fewer hands, then the rewards aggregate into a smaller circle of laborers.

As noted yesterday in Social Fractals and the Corruption of America (February 8, 2012), you cannot aggregate healthy, thrifty, honest, caring and responsible people into a group that is dysfunctional, spendthrift, venal and dishonest unless those individuals have themselves become dysfunctional, spendthrift, venal and dishonest.

This is the ontology of the pathology of power: If you want to join the elite levels of the Upper Caste, where "doing God's work" is a daily practice of fraud, embezzlement, misrepresentation, collusion, purposeful obfuscation, all in service of a pathologically self-destructive notion of self-interest, then you must become dysfunctional, venal and dishonest (with becoming spendthrift in service of acquiring signifiers of status a close fourth).

Since non-pathological people will quit or be fired, then these fractals of corruption are self-selecting and self-perpetuating. This is true not just of financial America but of elected officialdom. Anyone who is still naive or delusional enough to think that getting elected to Congress or the state legislature will empower "doing good" will soon learn the ropes: the next election is less than two years away, and if you want to retain your grip on power you're going to need a couple million dollars.

And if you want to "get something done," you will need to take orders from your party leadership and service your donors.

I once had a friend who by extraordinary effort got himself elected to the state legislature. Being a young idealist, he actually refused to vote as his party leadership directed: thus identified as a rebel, he was predictably out two years later.

So much for "working within the system." By the time all the donors, lobbyists, leeches and parasites have been properly serviced, the "reform" bill is 2,000 pages long.

As a result of the feudal structure of wealth and power in America and the self-reinforcing, self-propagating fractals of pathological servitude, the citizenry are increasingly remote from power. The aristocracy, like feudal lords in distant, fortified castles, demands obedient service of the powerless citizenry-- work hard, pay your taxes and service your debt--and fears any awakening of true self-interest.

Just because a devoted member of the Upper Caste is allowed to enter the castle to do his work doesn't mean he is part of the aristocracy. That glow of proximity to power is his reward for dutifully slaving away as a higher-order serf.

The American Revolution was triggered not by a sudden upwelling of noble ideals, but by the realization of the landed nobility and productive classes that the commercial and political domination of Great Britain was placing their wealth and liberty at risk.

Put another way: they awoke to the fact that the Status Quo no longer served their essential self-interests. When the Upper Caste and productive classes reach this same conclusion, then perhaps they will elect a transformational third party to sweep away the corrupt political class.

This new party must embody a moral imperative that acts as a social fractal: retaining power is not the goal. If the people want to restore the pathological aristocracy to power in two years, then by all means let them have it. They will do so without our complicity, interest payments, labor and servitude, for we have opted out of pathology.

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Orange Pekoe's picture

Ask yourself this: how much influence do you as a citizen, voter and taxpayer have over the Federal Reserve?

Stop buying their stupid dollars.

Clam McCain's picture

Its the end of the world as we know - and because i have physical i feel fine

falak pema's picture

fatal illusion unless you drink good wine. Its wine that is the silk of time and not this physical manifestation of Midas. What flows is better than what glows, 'cos its life.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Actually the best way to cure cancer is to prevent it in the first place.

Which is exactly analogous to our current situation. The Federal Reserve System is the source of the cancer. Prevent the Fed from happening and you prevent the cancer.

Moral of the story: it's too late for our current economic system, the cancer has overwhelmed the patient. When our economic system is re-born (and it will be) we'll simply have to make sure to do it without a central bank this time around.

falak pema's picture

if I were a redemption freak who believed in the other faith to cure you of your dejected state I would say :

grow a beard say Ya allah and your cancer will hey presto!! Sell the FED to the Sauds and no more problems; the Saud Oil is yours to sing and their to fling for US fiat!

LawsofPhysics's picture

Precisely, define your own wealth, value, and money, don't let someone else define that for you.  Look what the BRICs are doing with respect to their trade.  The dollar is being dropped and will continue to be worth less.

resurger's picture

i loved this part 2 article, so true.

Here is man with Fat BALL'z

Ecuador is to default officially on billions of dollars of foreign debt it considers "illegitimate", says President Rafael Correa.

moondog's picture

It's too bad that valiant leaders like this get "removed" by TPTB.

He should get body doubles like Saddam, it will buy him some time

Cynthia11640's picture

Do you know who holds their debt?

Husk-Erzulie's picture

Correspondents say Ecuador's decision to effectively cut itself off from outside financing could lead to a budget shortfall, especially if the price of oil - the country's main revenue earner - continues to fall.

This guy must be some kinda fun on poker night.  I'll take total war in the Eastern Med, a debt bomb explosion in the EU and call...

Flakmeister's picture

But...but... Uncle Miltie told me greed was good..


LawsofPhysics's picture

"When the Upper Caste and productive classes reach this same conclusion, then perhaps they will elect a transformational third party to sweep away the corrupt political class."

Name one time in the history of the world when such an event occured.  Hitler was swept into power on such public outrage and how did that turn out again?  Nothing short of revolution will sort this out now, hedge accordingly.

MissCellany's picture

Yeah, it was a good article until that voting part deflated the whole argument (and sense of actually being able to do something about the problem).

LFMayor's picture

It worked pretty damn good for about 6 years.  Then it got wobbly.
6 up, 5 down.
Gotta build slow and strong for the ages.

Flakmeister's picture

Are you referring to the 3rd Reich???

The thirties were a Keynsian wet dream in Germany.....

Not to mention a few other issues...

LFMayor's picture

nobody was unemployed, now were they?  And everybody raved about it early on, even CA Lindberg and J Kennedy senior.

Think about what it took to shut them down, for a while it was a near thing.   That was basically one country telling the bankster leeches to get bent, nationalizing industry and production.

What if all of Europe and the USA decided to sign on the next time around?  A lot harder these days for the banksters to sow their propaganda. 

A Lunatic's picture

Most people will turn their backs on the truth before they will face starvation.........

Flakmeister's picture

As a life long student of the rise and fall of European fascism, I can assure you that you have a *very* selective memory...

It was a full blown Keynsian stimulus program....

There were number of noteworthy people fooled by the Fascist and Communist "miracles" in the 30's....

The Soviet Union underwent one of the most dramatic heavy industrializations ever seen...

semperfi's picture

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything."--Joseph Stalin

I'm willing to bet the Aristocracy has read Stalin's playbook.  So, us serfs will just have to counter with Jefferson's playbook....

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." 

--Thomas Jefferson

...on 2 - ready - break...


garcam123's picture

Never so well said!

How sad that the balless American sheeple can continue to be drugged by "Dancing with the Stars" and Idol.

Right down to their new condo under a run down bridge.  Pick you box, slugs, that's all there is for you!

If and when the barricades go up, I, for one, will be manning them.

Do we have a patriot leader?

Please GOD, send us one!

There is No Spoon's picture

We have a patriot leader, his name is Ron Paul, the problem is that he doesn't have enough supporters because we are a hopelessly corrupt nation, as described in the post. God helps those who help themselves.

Dugald's picture

Based on your record to date...

    What makes you think you deserve one....

         And how long before he's assassinated?

Archon7's picture

Well, if 2008 was any indication, I'd say that yes, the Aristocracy has already learned how to steal elections - two senate races, one in Alaska and the other in Minnesota, gave them a filibuster-proof senate majority.  I believe they'll stop at nothing to get their man re-elected in Nov., also.  We'll see more vote fraud in this election than we ever believed would be possible in a free democratic country.

Flakmeister's picture

The presidential election in 2000 didn't pique your curiousity?? 

Everybodys All American's picture

Speaking of corruption ... the solar stocks moving up today. Short covering triggers are all over the place and today they have gone after solar stocks.

dick cheneys ghost's picture

"There is no way to vote against the interest of Golman Sacks"-Chris Hedges

Henry Chinaski's picture

This drunk analogy hits too close to home.

1eyedman's picture

george III didnt go quietly.   arab spring only occured when enough people had zero to lose.  as long as there is a carrot (credit cards/consumerism) dont expect any spontaneous meetings at community centers

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

I would check your assumptions about the "arab spring". That happened because a lot of very powerful people wanted it to happen. Had nothing to do with the typical "arab in the street".

tony bonn's picture

"... If the people want to restore the pathological aristocracy to power in two years, ...."

they do desperately.....they will vote for either of the psychopaths running for office - you have a choice of arsenic or cyanide....

you can vote for a bankster document shredder or you can vote for an indonesian citizen...

same dichotomy applies to nearly all races

Apocalicious's picture

Yes, Socialism or Feudalism? Hmmm, tough choice.

Apocalicious's picture

Did the Roman plebians sweep away the corrupt aristocracy, or did they allow themselves to be lead to quietly to the slaughter? Baaaah-baaaah, America...

LFMayor's picture

I think they outsourced to Alaric and his goth plebes.

2discern's picture

everyone file an extension on April 15th. yeah, the penalties, interests, blah blah... starve the debt until October when filing is due. Then ask for payment plan. Millions of citizens asking for minimal monthly payments to accomodate their tax burden.

garcam123's picture

exactly!  DO NOT PAY ANYTHING! No credit cards, no mortgages, no rent, no insurance, no hospital bills, no registrations.....bring down the cabal! Buy local food, help those who you can help and build local communities.

The treachery has reached down to include our communities what with their "codes".  Give a little hitler a little power and they'll have their noses in your back yard and your bedroom.  I say show em a shot gun and tell them to get the fuck off of your property. Little nazis they are.


Bring down the rotten cabal

Winston Smith 2009's picture

Here's an easier path that vastly more people would take than one that could ruin their credit rating and maybe get them evicted or thrown in jail:  transfer all accounts, credit cards, mortgages, etc. from their TBTF bank into a small community bank or, better yet, a credit union.  Credit unions are by US law not allowed to play the dangerous investment bank games that the TBTF banks are allowed to play (thanks to the foolish repeal of Glass-Steagall).  Plus, as a credit union member, you are one of the OWNERS of the financial institution instead of one of the victims.

DC Exile's picture

I've had to file for IRS extensions and a payment plan out of necessity. Looks like I'll need to do it again this year. I'd welcome the chance to "starve the beast" in a concerted effort with other serfs. Then the coup de grace to the entire system would be a national non-consent day on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2012. I figure at least half the voting eligible population won't vote in the sham election anyway. Can we increase that percentage and put a name on it? Something like "Not in Our Name,"" We Do Not Consent," "None of the Above" or "We Call Bullshit." If we organize now we could tap into a huge constituency and remove any last remaining patina of legitimacy that the political and ruling class maintain. It would be a light unto the world. An American Spring!

twotraps's picture

Good point, my knee jerk reaction would be that absolutely Nothing would happen....our tax dollars are a drop in the bucket.   It would be used against everyone by political masters....programs would 'starve' with no money from heartless americans and others would spring up like a miracle!  Net net the same game goes on.  I wonder what would happen if we were ALL taxed at 100% one year, Buffet too, how long would that money last??  A month?  Its a silly game, taxes are part of control/guilt/mirage that 'the govt balances its checkbook like everyone else...'

TradingJoe's picture

you folks keep dreaming of ANYONE waking up in this country, they are all sedated with american idol and dancing with the stars etc etc, NO ONE will ever wake up again, capisci?!?! <super sarc>

battlestargalactica's picture

Not with the boot on their throat. Not with their children in chains. Not even during blindfolded ride to a regional gubbermint camp.

They don't want to wake up.

A Lunatic's picture

And why should they?  Knowledge is not's a tiresome fucking burden with few rewards. You go from Sheep to Terrorist, lofl. Some days I think my life was better when I was an alcoholic simpleton.

Apocalicious's picture

I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill?

chistletoe's picture

The entire system rests on the expolicit acceptance that the U.S. dollar embodies "value".


While many people have cited the old fable of the emperor's new clothes, they fail to observe

that in the present iteration, everybody is wearing vestments fabricated from the same material.  Everybody.  Even the little boy.

So far, the result has been that no one wants to go first.  No one wants to deny that there is any value in the paper, or computer blips, that they are holding.  Mass insanity can go on for quite a long time, you know, when everyone benefits.


But not forever.

Flakmeister's picture


As long as you can trade fiat dollars for oil, they *do* represent value...

The game might go on a little longer than expected... hell, it might even last another 15 years, but I would not count on it...

Given an over under of 7 years.... I'd take the over, but I sure as hell would be hedging.

LFMayor's picture

I hope we get seven years to get ready.  I wouldn't want to extend past that though... not getting any younger.

Liposuction's picture

Since non-pathological people will quit or be fired, then these fractals of corruption are self-selecting and self-perpetuating. This is true not just of financial America but of elected officialdom. Anyone who is still naive or delusional enough to think that getting elected to Congress or the state legislature will empower "doing good" will soon learn the ropes: the next election is less than two years away, and if you want to retain your grip on power you're going to need a couple million dollars.

Yeah that's been true for eons in Washington however.....

This guy is worth a look, and his page doesn't require a Facebook login:

He posts and explains all of his votes for the world to see.  It's ruffled the feathers in the GOP as the powers-that-be in Michigan have already tried to preemptively redistrict him out of the next election.

He's the kind of guy the article mentions is usually pushed out.

anonnn's picture

...the third is to harden the fiefdoms of power and wealth  [privileges] into an aristocracy that is impervious to the protests of debt-serfs and laborers below.

Privileges, literally "private laws".

The power to grant privileges begets tyrants. And tyranny.

mirac's picture

When the sheeple do awake it maybe too Libertarian and your soul will thank you.  It's all rigged anyways...

NotApplicable's picture

Better yet, vote libetarian (small L) and retain your coherence by staying home on selection day. Otherwise you're just playing a rigged game in order to soothe your soul.

The only valid form of government is self-government . All the rest are merely madmen with guns,