Thursday :: Oct 9, 2003

Ve Followink Der Leader

by pessimist

Today's economic and political manipulation of the public by corporate media reminds me of the situation presented in H. G. Wells' Time Machine. Remember the Morlocks and the Eloi? In some ways, society today isn't much different. We are the prey to their predator, only the "meat" is our money. It is our function to provide for our Keepers the Good Life of wealth and leasure that they desire.

It may be no accident that this very situation is very similar to the Antebellum south, the top 1% being the plantation Massas while the rest of us are to serve and obey. They will tell us what to do, when to do it, and how it is to be done. They will lead, and we are to follow the leader.

UPDATE: The Guardian has some thoughts on this topic

One of the major problems today is that people are all too willing to play follow the leader without any thought to their choice of action. We've been conditioned by scientific management for at least three generations that the corporate expert knows better than we do. This wouldn't be a false statement considering the vast research resources a corporation has compared to an individual, except that moral corruption from the almighty profit motive makes it false. Profit is not a bad thing in and of itself, but when profit has become the only moral standard by which society lives, it has become corrupt. And now, thanks to the economic power of this corrupt profit motive, the corporations can now psychologically manipulate us to accept and perform their will through the use of popular culture and its icons.

One of the reasons Arnold Schwarzenegger is so popular with people is his movie image. This has by now become his public persona. People who are frustrated with the complexity of life enjoy his short-sighted knee-jerk solutions to the problems we face in California today, wishing secretly that they could act on their own problems as they see him doing in the movies. These problem "solutions" will incur severe repercussions further down the road, but most people aren't mentally prepared to deal with long-term issues. For example, if it takes longer than a week to resolve a sitcom plot line, the episode is wasted on them - they will have lost the thread. So with most of the world's complex issues - far too complex to keep simple, so it's quickly forgotten. Wait a couple of weeks and people will forget. (What war in Iraq? Rush who? What's a Plame?)

Now that Arnold is the public face for ex-Governor Pete Wilson, people will forget all about substance over *STYLE!*. HOW Arnold "governs" will prove to be more important than what he accomplishes. Legislature grid locked? Not Arnold's fault! He wanted to send them all home! Budget deficits not shrinking? Not Arnold's fault! It's the fault of those liberal tax-and-spend Democrats who won't cut funding for any of their pet projects! Who will care that much of the State's spending is mandated by various laws, federal and local? And that these same voters had made many of these laws through the initiative process? Not the typical voter in California! Substance means nothing if it requires that someone take a minute and think.

How Knee-Jerk Solutions "Work"

Take our decades of assaults against Iran as an example of knee-jerk problem-solving. An Arnold-style person, ex-General Dwight D. Eisenhower, decided that the Iranian government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, after nationalizing the oil industry in 1951, was not friendly to the interests of the United States, so he was toppled in a coup led by Kermit Roosevelt (Teddy's grandson) for the CIA, with the assistance of Normal Schwartzkopf (father of the Gulf War general). The harsh political repression by the subsequent puppet regime of the Shah caused a religious fundamentalist counter-coup decades later, once US support weakened enough. There wouldn't have been much Jimmy Carter could have done differently without starting a large war, with us caught up in the middle of it - just like we are now caught in Iraq with no way out. In March 2000, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright admitted in a New York Times article that "the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs."

Losing control of Iran's oil made us more dependent on the Saudis, but this connection was shaky due to the fundamentalist leanings of the royal family.

Hence the focus on Iraq. Beginning with a CIA coup of Iraq's government in 1963, Iraq gradually became a tool to be used by the United States against Iran in an effort to topple the Muslim fundamentalists ruling there. Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1979 publicly encouraged Iraq to attack Iran and take back the Shatt-al-Arab waterway. In 1980, the U.S. provided Iraq with intelligence reports that Iran would quickly collapse in the face of an Iraqi advance, prompting Saddam Hussein to unleash a war with Iran in which hundreds of thousands died. By 1985, publicly the US was the ally of Iraq, but through Oliver North's Iran-Contra activities made secret promises to Iran that the US would topple Saddam and end the war. It appears that control of one of these countries' oil fields was the end to justify the means of betraying one or the other country. As this strategy failed to produce the desired result, the US took sides, attacking Iranian Gulf oil installations and naval boats in 1987.

With the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, the US looked to gain control Iraq instead, seeing as Saddam had proven to be too weak to overthrow Iran. Plans were made to invade Iraq, and war games tested the strategies and tactics. The only way this action could be justified would be to cause Saddam, an already-proven compliant type with a lot of ambition, to create a situation that the US would have to correct through occupation of the country. The US used Kuwait, who occupied about 900 square miles of Iraq's Rumalia oil field while Saddam was busy tussling with the Ayatollah. This was the initial cause for Saddam to invade Kuwait once US Ambassador April Glaspie verbally told Saddam that his dispute with the al-Sabbah Family was not the concern of the US. Thus inspired into acting rashly against Kuwait, his invasion enabled the world (read: US) to take military action against him (remember back that far?). Bush I stopped short of taking complete control of the Iraqi oil, for reasons which are still not clear. It took over a decade for the American people to be manipulated enough into accepting another Bush as leader, with a "mandate" to finish the job that Poppy dropped. The jimmied-open door to Iraqi oil field control we now frantically try to close and bolt behind us, despite what the locals have to say about it. It's like the rationale is "It's OUR oil! We STOLE it fair and square!"

And just what problem got solved in all of this? Have we not added to our problem list through these actions? DUH! IZ DERE A PROBLUM?

I have read Arnold's Hundred Day plan (Who does he think he is - FDR?) and have some serious concerns about it. He's taken on a lot of troubles for which he proposes simplistic solutions: Cut the car tax increase, renegotiate labor contracts, reform worker's compensation, and come up with next year's budget without raising taxes. And what of trying to extort money from the Indian Gaming Tribes, legally sovereign nations under US law and thus not the concern of a state governor? {See Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution and PL 83-280, 28 USC 1360 (2001) part b)} How the members of the Legislature respond to these moves will largely determine his success or failure, but then the legislators start out in a position of relative weakness - they don't control the media.

As Arnold deftly demonstrated, media was the campaign. What he said and did was merely window dressing. During the campaign up to Tuesday's (s)election, California television was All Arnold All The Time, constantly presenting his good side, figuratively as well as literally. Arnold was always shown taking strong action, making strong statements, receiving strong public response, declaring strong results to follow, all without saying anything about WHAT he was strong about, until he released the Hundred Day Fiscal Budget Diet Plan. But then, who in the public was going to take the time to read that? Especially when FAUX always referred to Arnold as "Governor Schwarzenegger" beginning early last week? It's almost like they were saying "Arnold is your Governor! Vote for Him on Tuesday!"

So Why Did Arnold Win?

"Hero-worship is strongest where there is least regard for human freedom."
- Herbert Spencer

The general consensus seems to be that Arnold won through movie-fan hero worship. Marie T. Russell has a few words on the topic of hero worship:

Hero worship has existed "forever"... it seems that humans have a need to worship someone or something "greater than" themselves. Whether we choose to worship an external God figure (like a saint), or a hero figure from a comic strip or movie, or the movie stars themselves, (emphasis added - ed) the concept is the same. We look up to someone else, someone other than ourselves, as "better than us" or "higher" than we are in our esteem and opinion.

Webster's has two definitions for hero. One which is similar to the concept mentioned above, and that is: a man of great courage, nobility, etc., or one admired for his exploits. However, Webster's has a second definition for hero, and this is the one I'd like us to consider: the central male character in a novel, play, etc.

So a hero is the central figure in a play... Being that, as Shakespeare so well put it in "As You Like It",

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts...

... then, we are all heroes, or central figures in our own play. We are the players on the stage of our life. Yet, many of us insist on living our lives as if we are a Cinderella type of main character... you know the one who is looked down upon, despised, taken advantage of, not loved, not appreciated, etc. etc.

In short, people seek a hero, a Ubermensch, to deal with their problems for them. Gray Davis was seen as causing problems, so he didn't qualify. The only candidate with the persona of a hero in the minds of the voters was Arnold, and that through his movies.

Celebrity Versus Hero

Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models.
- Daniel J. Boorstin

Why Did So Many Women Vote For Arnold?

"[H]ero worship requires another, one who is the object and recipient of worship .... Men are metaphysically the dominant sex ... an ideal woman is a man-worshiper, and an ideal man is the highest symbol of mankind."
- Ayn Rand

Many women see themselves as the "second sex" despite all these years of women's lib and empowerment. In many ways, Arnold fits the ideal male image deep within women's psyche - dominant, powerful, strong. To those women who have strong urges toward this image, Arnold would fit this role to a T3. After all, with men being the butt of the joke in commercials almost all the time, and with male bashing appearing to be an acceptable cultural activity among men and women, most of us don't seem to merit the respect from women that is freely given by some to Arnold enough to overlook his peccadillos and vote for him. In fact, some women would cheerfully submit to a groping as long as Arnold was the groper.

Is this what "Happily ever after" means? Being groped forever by manly-man Prince Charming-Groper? If this is so, maybe Freud was right about women and rape fantasies.

Marylaine Block has different take on rape fantasies:

I also don't much care for rape fantasies, though I understand the service they perform. For women who have been raised in that branch of the Judaeo-Christian tradition that regards women as snares to tempt men from the path of godliness, these books are liberating. They can experience vicariously all the heroine's guilt-free exploration of her own sexuality, because, after all, she was forced against her will, and (surprise!) oh, did it feel good. (The down side of this is that, because these rape fantasies exist, many men believe that women seriously want to be raped. They're wrong.)

Just like Arnie is wrong that women like and deserve the sort of attention he bestows upon them. But why would this act seem like a good thing to a woman to the point she would be willing to allow it?

Remember all the heat that Monica Lewinsky got when she was performing skin flute solos in the Oval Office? How can you women not be equally upset that some of your sisters don't think that Arnold should be responsible for his inappropriate actions? That they even consider such activity a good thing, as long as he fits this archetype? That he is deserving of their support to lead?

Maybe these women could benefit from the words of Marie T. Russell:

Who is the hero in your own life? If your hero is someone outside of yourself, then you have given your power away to someone else. If you are waiting for someone else to make a difference in your life (to rescue you, to save you, to make your life better, to make you whole), then you are wasting your time.

So Why Did So Many Men Vote For Arnold?

Arnold represents the image that all of us men secretly wish we could be. Fred Northup has a few words on why this is:

When I was in the 8th grade, Dave Bamford was a senior. I first noticed him carrying the football during the fall. He was a halfback, short and quick, with powerful legs. He would appear coming through the line dragging a lineman, free himself and dart in and out for large gains. He was the most impressive runner I had ever seen. I knew it was only a matter of time before he was in the NFL. He became my idol. In basketball season he was one of the starting guards. Again, quick, agile, with a good jumpshot and tenacious defense, he maintained his lofty status in my imagination. Finally, in the spring, as the catcher on the baseball team he was the heart of the team and an outstanding hitter. During the year I watched how Dave Bamford walked, how he talked with his friends, how he carried himself with others. I wanted to be like Dave

(Emphasis added - ed).

In an era of "reality television" we seem to seek fantasy. We would rather live in a dream world than live in the real one. We would rather think that Arnold could really solve all the problems California faces, that George W. Bush really can defend us against terror, that the Tooth Fairy will always come, and that Santa is really in charge of the North Pole. We would rather that someone else have control and use it to protect us.

We are the heroes in our own lives. We have to pull ourselves up and do what it takes to make a difference in our own lives, and in the lives of the people around us, and in the life of this planet. The time is over when we waited around for some other hero to rescue us... All heroes are busy in their own lives. We must come to our own rescue.
- Marie T. Russell

pessimist :: 4:18 PM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!