Perspectives: A Review of 2009
by Graham Lea
(Swans - December 14, 2009) The end of the first decade of the third millennium could have been a tipping point for the world, a year in which the United States could have lurched towards improving both the condition of the American people and those it had oppressed throughout the world. There was an opportunity for President Obama to stop an aggressive US stance from its hundreds of military bases, many of which just happen to surround Russia, China, and oil-producing areas.
David Armstrong exposed in Harper's in 2002 how the US National Security Strategy was a template for the American Empire, a plan then advocated primarily by Cheney "for the United States to rule the world... It says not that the United States must be more powerful, or most powerful, but that it must be absolutely powerful." (1) The NSS also reserved the right of aggression to the United States -- an extraordinary hegemonic assumption that might is right. Obama continued this policy in 2009. There was a time when the United States denounced countries that wished to rule the world, but perhaps the beauty had become the beast.
Obama made two great mistakes concerning Afghanistan: he escalated an illegal, unwinnable, and unjust war; and he allowed the continuation and covert encouragement of the heroin trade there and in Pakistan, where the US-funded Pakistani intelligence agency ISI provides protection to the laboratories that convert opium to heroin. President Hamid Karzai is kept onside by the CIA, for whom he used to work, with his brother Ahmed Wali Karzai being the kingpin of the opium trade. (2) The brothers are the link between the U.S. and the Mujahideen (called by President Reagan freedom fighters, but now in practice known as the Taliban, many of whom are in effect resistance fighters, defending their homeland against invaders). They extract a tax on opium production. The U.S. is happy to see heroin ending up in Russia and Western Europe, since this creates expensive social problems, and lessens economic competitiveness for the United States.
Iraq was attacked by the U.S. using transparently false pretexts, with the whole world realising that the subtext was an oil grab. NATO became not just an adjunct to US policy, to the shame of NATO member states, but also a part of the US military apparatus.
In a book I have just completed, I defined three neologisms that have proved useful in trying to analyse and understand American behaviour, and in providing some insight into why the United States has such extraordinary domestic and foreign policies.
The first is Hegemania: hegemonism, in the form of excessive, manic greed, and exhibited by hegemanics. Examples of hegemanics include bonus-earners at Goldman Sachs, as well as many political, military, and religious leaders. Hegemanics distinguish themselves by their public behaviour, thereby making it possible for rational people to judge if they show hegemanic traits.
The second neologism is Hegepathy. Hegepaths exhibit non-violent psychopathic tendencies, and dominate hegemanics. Hegepaths have no conscience, lie a great deal, and are particularly domineering. Many hegepaths are also hegemanic, but some are much concerned with using power. Examples include many leading politicians in the Bush régime. A primary distinction is whether those with the condition could be cured (hegemanics), or not (hegepaths). Whether a hegepath is in fact a psychopath is a matter for clinical judgment, so the term is used for those suspected of being psychopaths. Unfortunately, the American Psychiatric Association has flunked a definition of psychopathy: its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) does not have a specific category for psychopaths. Those who consider that psychopathy is indeed a separate condition use the Canadian psychologist Robert Hare's Psychopathy Checklist - Revised (PCL-R), the widest-used measure of psychopathic traits. (3) Using Hare's criteria, more than 1% of the population consists of psychopaths, although only a minority is violent. It is highly regrettable that psychopaths are not excluded by law from public office and corporate governance.
Neocons are a sub-group of hegemanics and hegepaths, responsible for initiating a significant part of the problems that have beset the United States in recent years, but in conjunction with others who were not neoconservative at all.
The final neologism is Hegnorance, with two forms being distinguishable: raw ignorance; and pretended, feigned ignorance amounting to a conspiracy of silence to suppress the truth, an inability or an unwillingness to face unwelcome reality. Charles Marowitz touched on raw hegnorance when he noted Nietzsche's remark that "The only crime is ignorance" and observed that "more than half of America is marching along in a pathetic procession complacently beating their toy drums." (4) Another example is the observation that six years after the 9/11 attacks, a third of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved. (5) Alfred McCoy discussed what is here termed feigned hegnorance when he used the term studied ignorance to describe the CIA involvement in SE Asian drug trading. Hegnorance incorporates George Orwell's doublethink, discussed in his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, as a form of wilful intellectual blindness, a "controlled insanity" in which a doublethinking person chooses to believe a lie, and then forgets that it is a lie. Hegnorance is also seen where there is an inability to appreciate that rational people may change their views after assessing new evidence.
The hegnorants are the primary victims of hegmanics and hegepaths. Hegnorance had its best year in 2009. There was a further decline of news reporting and an increase in the coverage of meritless celebrities, with a dearth of investigative reporting or news analysis. Hegnorance prevents the recognition of what is really happening. The hegnorants are increasingly inattentive to matters that will affect them profoundly.
Hegnorance is an inevitable consequence of a failed education system. It is extraordinary that a country that gives many athletic scholarships falls shy of giving them to promising scholars. It is clear that Obama is not about to introduce a radical reform of US education, the quality of which appears to be at an all-time low. The universities are increasingly producing people who know very little, cannot write, cannot reason logically, and have no hard knowledge to be used in a career. There is no shortage of MBAs however (now increasingly out of work), but the U.S. obtains its scientists and engineers mostly from the cheapest international supplier (currently India).
It was apparent from the moment that Obama appointed his economic, foreign policy, and defence teams that it would be business as usual. The president, it turned out, was weaker than the system. We now face the end of hope. It seems unlikely that we shall in our time see peaceful coexistence. The Nobel peace prize committee should smoke something else, because Obama is no more a man of peace than Kissinger.
Fear of attacks by al Qaeda (primarily a CIA construct, of course) continued to be propagated by the US government following the humiliation of the 9/11 attacks, and an inability to admit that a very small ad hoc group had carried them out and mostly killed themselves in the process. The attacks gave a pretext for developing a large security industry, in effect a privatised army paid for by taxpayers.
There is a long history of hegemanics and hegepaths having grave responsibility for the rackets and scares in the United States, using fear to exploit the gullible hegnorant. An example was the First Red Scare, from 1917 to 1920, which was used by the government (and business rivals) against supposed communist agitators and anarchists. Fearmongers use religion as a means of dominating and fleecing the hegnorant, suppressing radicalism, and ensuring social conformity. Fear is manufactured to cause governments to spend unnecessary money, thereby giving profits to hegemanics. Remember Y2K, the belief that there would be a computer-generated catastrophe at the millennium unless millions of lines of COBOL code were scrutinised? Then there are the pharmaceutical and food supplement companies making false claims in order to increase sales.
It has been a bad year for those who prefer belief systems to factual systems. It was revealed that self-identified Christians were down 10 percentage points in two decades. (6) Schlomo Sand's magisterial work The Invention of the Jewish people, which had been well received by the intelligentsia in its French and Hebrew editions, finally appeared in English in October 2009 (Verso). Here was at last a fact-based history, rather than a collection of myths. Sand noted that almost all his material "had previously been uncovered by Zionist and Israeli historiographers," but was "swept under the ... rug" or "forgotten because ... [it] did not fit the ideological needs of the evolving national identity." It was hegnorance in action.
Sand added weight to Arthur Koestler's 1976 work The Thirteenth Tribe: the Khazar Empire and its heritage. The Ashkenazi are not Jews genetically, it turns out, since they descend from Slavic tribes of the Khazaria (then straddling the Silk Road, from the Ukraine to Georgia). The Khazars converted to Judaism around 740CE, some 170 years after the birth of Muhammad. As for the situation in the Levant, there was also a great deal of Jewish proselytising. Sand pointed out that Jewish history was a modern invention; that the Old Testament accounts are false; and that there was no exodus from Egypt. Sand only touched on the DNA evidence, which had already indicated that Palestinians and Sephardi are genetic brothers. The founding narrative of Israel is therefore false, and the moral consequence is very great. But just as King Canute was unable to stop the incoming tide, so it must eventually be with the true story of the invention of the Jewish people.
It is a matter of considerable concern that the chattering classes know no science whatsoever. So it is that 2009 has seen a triumph of false beliefs over scientific facts. As a classically-trained geologist, it is both amusing and rather sad to see such hegnorance about climate change, desertification, and sea level changes. There is now a rush to "correct" data being used, since it is better to be accused of incompetence rather than the fraudulent invention of data and their invalid manipulation in mathematical models in order to get jobs, research funds, and travel grants. The University of East Anglia was at last exposed for fraud at its Climate Research Unit, where they tried to fix the data around their hegnorant beliefs. Many other institutions internationally are running for cover. Climate and carbon exchanges are of course rackets, using false science, and should cease operations.
Financial fraud worsened in the American casino. Financial reporting was increasingly imaginative. The Obama administration continued the Bush bank bailouts, instead of taking them into public ownership or forcing their bankruptcy. A glance at the hegemanic composition of the Obama Treasury team is clear evidence that the intention is fraudulent business as usual. The top three bailout banks even spent $71 million in 2009 lobbying against financial reform proposals. Effectively nothing has been done in 2009 to bring in controls to curtail financial rackets. Corporations still have the status of a legal person, with more rights than those accorded to American citizens. By looking after the financiers, politicians made sure that they would be welcomed in boardrooms as soon as they left their role in government.
The price of oil was manipulated through futures markets, principally by Goldman Sachs, in what amounted to insider trading. This became known quite widely in 2009, yet the financiers involved are not yet in prison. The misleading notion of peak oil was less mentioned in 2009 as it became better known that reserves have been increasing for some time, whilst the demand for oil has decreased.
Lest this should all sound like America bashing, let it be said that the United States deserves to be castigated for its hegemania and hegepathy towards other nations. It is for the American people to put their house in order, although how the economic problems can be overcome short of a financial default or war is hard to envisage.
This diminishing band of the intelligentsia, we Swans readers, we hoi oligoi, should withdraw from the games played by hoi polloi, stop watching the latter-day soma of television, strengthen our intellectual resilience, and help Swans as much as we can before we reach the point when the last of us has the responsibility of switching off the light.
Alas, there is no Hercules in Washington: fundamental reform by Barack Obama, and cultural change by Americans, is as unlikely as seeing a troupe of buffalo flying over the White House singing pastoral songs.
3. RD Hare: Manual for the revised Psychopathy Checklist. Multi-Health Systems, Toronto, 2003 (2nd edition).
Robert Hare: Psychopathy: Theory and research. Wiley, 1970.
Robert Hare: Without conscience. The disturbing world of the psychopaths among us. Pocket Books, 1993. (back)
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