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Us and Them

December 20, 2009

By Nick P

Black Sun Gazette

The lion’s share of the world’s problems stem from one larger metaproblem. That problem is the profit system, and the control of the world’s resources by a privileged few. In other words, human resources are not allocated for the sum total of human need. Rather, the world’s needs are subordinated to the profit margins of the global financial elite. An important consequence of this is that political opinions often have less to do with a person’s beliefs than they do with defending one or another social class. While Republican administrations very obviously shill for the most naked forms of exploitation by the financial aristocracy, Democratic administrations play a more balanced role. Still, the present administration provides an excellent case study in “us vs. them” and the role that individuals play in propping up one side or another.

It’s not a terribly controversial position to take that those who defend exploitation either benefit from it or think that they soon will. While there exists confusion among the working class- in particular the American working class- most people, if asked the right way, believe that no one should have to go bankrupt because they have cancer, that anyone who can hack it should have access to the best education possible, that having more money doesn’t mean you get a bigger say in how the world is run, and that no one should have to work 50 hours a week just to survive. Again, confusion may set in when things are framed in the way they typically are in the news media. But it’s noteworthy that almost everyone in the national news media is a millionaire, or thinks that they soon will be.

The current intensification of the assault on Afghanistan provides an excellent case study in this. The opposition to Obama’s impending genocide against the Afghan peoples is almost nonexistent among elected officials. Opposition, when voiced, takes the most naked forms of nationalism (”we” should spend that money on Americans, rather than in a “misguided” war). This has little to do with individual opinion as we are used to thinking about it. Rather, individual opinions function as a means for expressing the class interests of one group or another. One the one hand, there is the interest of the military and energy companies in Central Asia. On the other hand, there is the interest of the international working class, whose interests are diametrically opposed to the former, and directly in line with the interests of the people in Afghanistan who are about to be slaughtered. It’s not an attempt to make sociology into politics or vice versa. It’s a simple statement that one opinion serves our plutocratic rulers and the other directly assaults the legitimacy of their rule.

Look at the current administration from a macro perspective. The Obama Administration has proven itself the most shameless defender of corporate power since… Bush 43? Indeed, all evidence points to the Obama Administration continuing the same policies of Bush. The differences lie in tactics, not strategy. The Obama Administration still tortures, still erodes democratic rights, still pursues an illegal and genocidal war in Central Asia- indeed, in some cases (”AfPak”) it pursues these policies even more aggressively than its Republican predecessors. Sometimes this is a marked difference from the rhetoric used on the campaign. For his own part, Mr. Obama does not seem to have any opinions that are not grounded in realpolitik. To cite but one example, it strikes me as a bit odd that a man raised by atheists should have the profound religious faith that Mr. Obama professes.

But let’s talk about policy. The alleged “ideas” of the Obama Administration serve a clear purpose, as much as the administration that preceded them. That purpose is buttressing the international hegemony of American capitalism. This can be seen rather clearly in both the expansion of the war in Central Asia, but also in Obama’s response to the economic crisis. There is trillion dollars for Wall Street bonuses (and, of course, war), but no money for jobs, education, or health care. His rhetoric on the latter almost always invokes promises to insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical equipment giants that he will not encroach on their ability to make money off of people getting sick. The elephant in the room is the idea that Kaiser Permanente’s ability to give out multi-million dollar bonuses shouldn’t have anything to do with who gets cancer treatment and who doesn’t. Are these policies borne of amorphous “opinions” or the needs of one social class over another.

When assessing a political opinion, the only metric is the age old question cui bono? Treating opinions as formless, shapeless things that drop out of the sky without reason is a wholly inadequate means. Rather, I ask who benefits from the position taken to its logical conclusion. It also seems useful to ask who gets the shit end of the stick. My unwavering belief that those who create wealth- rather than those who steal it- should and must rule guides my understanding of everything. It shows me that there is indeed an us (those of us who own nothing and eat and sleep at the whims of the owning class) and a them (those who fine on caviar while people sleep in the streets, entirely unaware of their role in creating such a system).

Yes, Virginia, there is an “us” and a “them.” Anyone who thinks otherwise is urged to take a long, hard look at the world around us and get a fucking clue. Be extremely wary of anyone who thinks of the American military-industrial complex as “us” and faceless brown people with a funny language and religion as “them.” Call into doubt anyone who identifies what’s good for General Motors as being what’s good for America. Dismiss immediately any and all opinions from people who blame the current economic crisis on the people suffering from it. Because now you know that they don’t have opinions. Rather, they have interests and allegiances. These interests and allegiances may have them impressed with a shiny black uniform and a truncheon sooner than either of you think.

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