Tuesday, May 8, 2012

It’s Not a Conspiracy Theory, It’s a Collusion Theory


Sometimes, when conservatives are tired of using doublespeak to dismiss criticisms of our corporate plutocracy as “class warfare,” they try to dismiss them by saying they are “conspiracy theories.” Marx, or anybody on the Left today that criticizes globalization or says that corporations have too much power and wield it to the detriment of everybody else thus get lumped into the same category as JFK assassination conspiracy theorists, UFO watchers, and Holocaust deniers. Except that misses the point that it power and exploitation don’t have to be the work of an actual cabal or back-room plotters to involve the cooperation of members of the upper class. The overall result is, in effect, class collusion; I don’t mean the technical legal definition of collusion here, but a bias against, and tendency to exclude, those not already in the club of the wealthy. 
In this excellent article, Gary Younge makes the point that family, connections, friendships, and mutual interest in maintaining privilege are ossifying class differences and entrenching the wealthy in their elevated positions. Family still matter tremendously in the concentration of wealth, especially in the United States, where social mobility is stagnating. And wealthy people tend to go to the same schools, attend the same clubs and conferences, go to the same cocktail parties, and most importantly inhabit the same corporate boardrooms. This is all that’s needed for de facto collusion to occur -- sometimes it’s not even intended, it’s just that the major decision-makers end up with the same outlook and mindset, or set out to protect their own, or do (what seems to them to be) reasonable favors for friends and acquaintances. 
Class privilege, and the power it confers, is often conveniently misunderstood by its beneficiaries as the product of their own genius rather than generations of advantage, stoutly defended and faithfully bequeathed. Evidence of such advantages is not freely available. It is not in the powerful's interest for the rest of us to know how their influence is attained or exercised. But every now and then a dam bursts and the facts come flooding forth.

He discusses both the obvious unearned privileges that the Romney family has had, as well as the web of secret connivances laid bare by the Leveson inquiry into the Murdoch phone hacking scandal in the UK.
Issues of alleged criminality will eventually be determined in the courts. But while illegality would be more damning, much of what we now know that is legal is no less corrosive. The evidence has laid bare the intimate, extensive and insidious web of social, familial and personal ties between the political, corporate and legal forces that govern a country: a patchwork of individual and institutional associations so tightly interwoven that to pick at one part is to watch the whole thing unravel.
Although cloaked in the language of meritocracy, the claims of the wealthy to be best suited to rule us all are belied by their failures of leadership on every issue, from economic mismanagement to wars of choice to social and communal breakdown to environmental destruction. Our ruling class are not the best and the brightest, but are mainly narrow-minded, self-aggrandizing, short-sighted, decadent, gluttonous incompetents who should not be running the world. Since what happens in the world affects us all, ideally we all should be running it through some sort of global democracy -- or, until humanity is interconnected enough to overcome national, cultural, and linguistic differences, a federation of democracies. 
The first step is to make as many people as possible aware that class does exist, that most people are not in the upper or even middle class and never will be, and that the wealthy elite have interests that go against everyone else's and that they effectively collude against all of us to protect those interests. Only when a critical mass of common people understands that can real social transformation begin, a truly common spirit take hold, and an egalitarian, classless society be built.

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