12 November 2015
I grew up during the Cold War. I was born a couple of weeks before the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, so I suppose I’m a ‘nuclear baby’. The threat of nuclear annihilation dominated our lives. I can dimly remember not being able to drink milk for a couple of weeks following a ‘leak’ of radiation from one of the government’s atomic weapons plants. I was on the first and many of the subsequent Aldermaston CND marches including the one where we penetrated one of the RSG’s or ‘Regional Seat’s of Government’ near Reading, underground bunkers that dotted the country where selected representatives of the state and business would take refuge in case of nuclear attack. The RSG was a bump on the landscape with aerials poking out of the top and a ramp leading down to metal doors. The government of course, denied that they existed.
For almost fifty years the Soviet ‘threat’ determined the policies of Europe and we became the frontline ‘defence’ of the ‘free world’. I remember all too well the “three minute warning’ when we were told to take cover, paint the windows white, wrap ourselves in brown paper and pray, all in the three minutes we had before the first Soviet ICBM ‘arrived’. The Co-op, the nation’s largest manufacturer of coffins won the government contract to supply millions of cardboard coffins for the corpses, although who was supposed to bury them was never explained.
The fear of the ‘Red Menace’ determined the policies of every UK government whether of the Labour or Tory flavour. Billions were spent on ‘defending’ the ‘free world’ and England was rightly described as a nuclear-armed US aircraft carrier floating off the edge of Europe. In the event of war, ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ would become uninhabitable, probably for thousands of years. I can testify that the fear engendered by the imperialist propaganda onslaught was palpable and until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, never-ending.
But with the end of the Cold War we were promised the ‘peace dividend’. Our swords would be turned into plowshares etc, etc. The promise lasted less than the time taken to say it, for in short shrift, we had Desert Storm and then the inexorable build-up to the next ‘threat’ to the Western way of life. And just as with the first ‘threat’ the new one also had to be laboriously invented.
Ironically, the end of the Cold War has led to an onslaught on our civil liberties that has no precedent in ‘peacetime’. It would seem that with the end of the threat of ‘mutually assured destruction’, some kind of political ‘inverse square law’ operates that dictates that with the end of a supposedly real threat from nuclear destruction, capitalism is incapable of existing without another ‘threat’ to replace it. The greater the danger of peace actually breaking out, the greater the need to find a reason to keep the people living in fear.
And given that no real threat existed, one had to be invented, only this time just to make sure it would never go away, the threat had to be effectively undefinable. So unlike the ‘Red Menace’ that at least had some physical substance albeit ‘over there’ and actually did have weapons of mass destruction whether or not they would have used them, the new threat has the advantage of not being anywhere in particular. It’s the ultimate ‘bogey man’, the monster under the bed, the unseen force liable to leap out and bite you. An insane invention used to justify the perpetuation of an insane economic and political system.
It’s probably accurate to describe the governments of the US and the UK as having entered the terminal stage of the state equivalent of a psychopath. Governments that are composed of people who are incapable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality, for what else can describe the behaviour of our ‘leaders’ as they lead us down their newly constructed path toward destruction.
Take for example Osama bin Laden, the son of a millionaire Saudi Arabian businessman, and a virulent anti-communist, a perfect candidate for the war against communism. So off to Afghanistan goes Osama, where the US fund his war against the Soviets (plus of course, a rake-off from the heroin trade).
With the Soviets beaten and the national state destroyed, the various and sundry warlords, armed to the teeth by the Reagan/Bush government start fighting over the spoils that was Afghanistan. Then the Taliban take power. Not a problem as long they don’t get in the way of US expansion eastward, toward the Caspian (where the oil is). The problem however, is that the Taliban won’t play ball. One, they don’t like the heroin trade, so they shut it down and two, they’re not too keen on the idea of US expansion through their country. After all, the professed aim of US support was to gain Afghanistan’s independence.
Then conveniently, we get 9/11, an event that couldn’t have occurred a ‘better’ time as far the US government was concerned. The peacetime equivalent of Pearl Harbour, that gave the green light for the psychopaths to really get going on the ‘war on terror’. The dogs of war are unleashed and the scourge of racism used as the defence of civilisation as the thinly veiled attacks on Muslims and on Islam reminiscent of the racist propaganda used against the Germans and the Japanese during WWII demonstrates.
Roosevelt called the Japanese “monkeys, baboons and gorillas”. Time Magazine called the Japanese following Pearl Harbour “[T]he little yellow bastards!” Elliot Roosevelt, FDR’s son, advocated that the US should kill “about half the Japanese civilian population”. Paul McNutt, chairman of the War Manpower Commission wanted “the extermination of the Japanese in toto”.
“You either have to castrate [the Germans] or you have got to treat them…so they can’t just go on reproducing people who want to continue the way they have in the past.”
“There has never been—there never can be—successful compromise between good and evil. Only total victory can reward the champions of tolerance, and decency, and faith.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1942. — From The People as Enemy by John Spritzler
The same words, different time but the effect is the same. There are two issues here that have to be addressed and both are intertwined. One is the length the leaders of capitalism will go to in order to maintain their power, including starting wars and inciting entire populations with racist propaganda in order to justify their policies and putting the fear of their god into everyone. The other is the mentality of the elite that is surely an intrinsic part of the process. Are our leaders insane in the ‘clinical’ sense? Were they ‘ordinary’ private citizens engaged in the same practices they would in all likelihood either end up in jail or mental institutions. They are at the same time coldly calculating and able to present themselves as rational individuals, a sure sign of psychopathic behaviour.
Does it matter that they’re all insane, after all it’s the ‘system’ that does it, yet the system is a direct reflection of the people who run it. I suppose what I have a hard time doing is separating the two. And it’s difficult for many people to even entertain the idea that the people they see parading around the White House or pontificating in the House of Commons are actually completely loony. They walk the walk and talk the talk don’t they. They are taken seriously by the pundits who ponder over their words as well as their deeds as if they are normal human beings. Libraries are full of their books, television, radio and the newspapers report their actions as if they’re normal. But take these self-same people out of their penguin suits and their state banquets and what do you have?
Nobody wants to believe that their leaders are actually insane, insane in their pursuit of power and hanging onto it. Yet what other conclusion is there? Just look at the people they hire to do the actual dirty work. And whether it’s the system that drives them crazy or their being crazy that makes the system what it is, makes no difference. What is central is destroying the mystique and this is probably the most difficult obstacle that confronts us because it means people have to be weaned from the notion that just because somebody is rich and powerful, they have something going for them that the rest of us don’t. It is after all, the dominant myth of capitalism that anybody can be president, anybody can be a millionaire, you just have to be ruthless enough to do whatever it takes. And it’s this that I believe separates the sane from the insane and the power of self-delusion, a delusion so complete that it envelopes us all.