Chomsky’s take on his title question can be reduced to this: Nation-states rule the world but who rules nation states? The 1%. He persuasively demonstrates this, and how even in so-called democracies it holds. For example, in the U.S., when 70% of the population favor a certain policy, like diplomacy over war, or health care, the population is ignored, the minority position prevails, the majority position “not feasible”. The policy-makers, the over-seers, do not put the interests of the people as their prime concern but rather the interests of that minority who put them, and keep them, where they are, in positions of power and prestige. This is certainly at odds with the patriotic narrative woven into our lives from birth, in school, church, hell, sports events where the national anthem is played before every game as if it were the most natural thing. No, the population’s function is spectator, and consumer, or, they’d like you blind yes boss your mind no thought sleepin at the tube feelin no pain*. The important actors will take care of business.
But there must be a narrative to placate anyone paying attention. In foreign policy for example, Iran is a “destabilizing” actor in the mid-east whereas the U.S., “…illegally invading Iraq, resulting in hundreds of thousands killed, millions of refugees along with barbarous torture and destruction… igniting sectarian conflict that is tearing the region to shreds and laying the basis for the ISIS monstrosity, – that is stabilization.” In 1970s Chile, a freely elected government must be overthrown because we seek the “stabilization” of General Pinochet’s dictatorship. In 1953 Iran, we must overturn a democratically elected parliament, replacing it with a brutal dictatorship, with all the trappings – torture, secret police etc; in order to create “stability”. In Central America “stability” requires the support of more dictators, death squads etc; attacks on any signs of democracy brave enough to show themselves and, when those policies produce refugees fleeing violence, why we must create more stability with, say a nice border wall. Trade agreements, like NAFTA and GATT, which are actually investor protection agreements, also have their “stabilizing” effects, undermining local food production, sending rural people to sweat shops or the border where, once in the “belly of the beast” there is some opportunity for a bare living. One constant in this desire for “stability” is that the boss must be in charge, capitalism must not be questioned, no alternatives need apply.
One area where the boss is clearly not pursuing the interests of the general population is nuclear weapons. Proposals for a nuclear-free middle-east, supported by all area governments except Israel and its, ah, U.S. Patron, are shot down by those two governments. Hair-trigger nuclear warheads remain on alert in both Russia and the U.S., and nuclear plans for massive retaliation which would annihilate the life system and civilization remain locked in, violating treaties, international law and common sense. Plans for expansion of nuclear weapons, in the trillion-dollar range, routinely sail through the system despite the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) which, if honored, might give our species a shot at survival. There is no cry of, “How ever can we afford such projects?!” That is saved for proposals like health care and a minimum, livable wage.
Climate change, Naomi Klein asserts, is resisted so vehemently because the 1% and its minions recognize, or intuite, that capitalism, as currently practiced, is incompatible with what is needed to address that crisis. Denial at all costs! the order of the day. Apparently sea-level rise will be turned away at gated communities and elite mansions. The Republican party, Chomsky claims, is the most dangerous organization in history, committed as it is to the destruction of democracy and civilization. Via the bribery system known as campaign contributions, many democrats are also roped in as enablers.
It is clear to any serious student of history, or perhaps I should say, of Chomsky, that the narratives put forth by the ruling class have been shown to be false, on capitalism, Vietnam, the Middle-east, Central America, Latin America, U.S. History, Socialism, Cuba, Israel-Palestine… that the U.S., far from the benevolent, democracy-promoting, “exceptionalist” state, is the most murderous, plundering national entity on the planet. The current narrative, repeated constantly in the institutions and media, is difficult to shake off. The horrifying truth is immensely discouraging but, exactly where resistance must begin.
*From ”Power’s Your Angel”, a song by the author.
Image Credit: the featured image of the shootout was created by the author, © Tom Ferguson.