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Excerpt from The Culture of Make Believe

The Rulers (p. 512)

From chapter "The View From Inside"

From the perspective of the already metabolized, there would be, let’s say, four classes of people, each of which must, if the system is to perpetuate itself, be treated far differently from each other. The first is the rulers, those whose job it is these days to appear very much like human beings as they serve the inhuman ends of the maximization of production, to smile as they convert the living to the dead, first psychically, and then in the physical world. Smiles have not always been part of their job description. At one point, not even that long ago, autocrats were simply autocrats—think of Stalin, for example—but that type of enforcement is expensive, only resorted to when ideology is insufficient to allow contempt to remain contempt and not turn over into outright hatred. Another way to say this is that this form of governance is most necessary when the mass of people have not been sufficiently metabolized—worked overwould be an other way to put it—to not resist, to cause them to give up hope of another way of being, or, best of all, to believe that no other way of being has ever existed. Naked force is the form of governance typically perpetrated at the frontier (and the frontier need not be far from home, if even the homebound exploited have been insufficiently inculcated) where straightforward conquest is the order of the day. Naked force is especially necessary where land is plentiful, meaning that, self-sufficiency is feasible, meaning that, human beings are human beings, meaning it will take a sword or gun to compel them to work for you. Naked force on the part of the governors is not so necessary where land (and self-sufficiency) are more scarce, or when people have come to believe that title to land is more than a convenient (for those who hold title) legal fiction.

Far more efficient for repression is what we’ve got in the United States, where the second class, the majority of those who labor so the decent white men may enjoy the comforts and elegancies of life, have bought into the system of repression, to the point where they no longer see themselves as repressed. They have by this point become self-regulating, not wanting to seem deviant, pathological, a blight on society. Within our culture there are tremendous pressures on people to be “high-functioning,” to be “productive,” to “realize their potential.” When I finished my degree in physics, which I did not enjoy, then bailed partway through a graduate degree in economics, which I enjoyed just as little, and took up beekeeping, the father of one of my friends decried the waste of my potential. Never mind that I was happy. When he later learned I was a writer, he was mollified. At least I was, in his worldview, producing.

Another way to say all of this is that those in power—and, remember, those in power are not really the point, because they, too, are serving an ideology, and are essentially as replaceable as any of the rest of us in this mass-produced machine culture—have no need to hate us or to do us violence, because we are not resisting, and, indeed, are helping them along. If you don’t believe me, step far enough out of line, and we’ll talk again, maybe in one of my creative writing classes.

This internalization of the goals and motivations and modes of perceiving and experiencing of those whose emphasis is on production, the civilized, the decent white men, means that we live under a tyranny more absolute and more dangerous than that of any dictator who has ever lived. It is the tyranny of an internalized and eventually self-imposed idea, or a cluster of ideas, that take precedence over everything.