Continued. Read Part I of the article here
The greatest threat to the ideal free-market economy and consumerism is not the government or regulations but the established religions with their absolute values. Established religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism just to name a few, do not approve of selfishness and blind pursuit of accumulation of wealth. Their values are absolute and can not be changed. It is not possible to change the words of Bible or Koran now. One may attempt at interpreting the texts differently, but the core values stay the same. For example all the established religions forbid greed, the very foundation of the free-market capitalism. If you look at the seven deadly sins: hubris/pride, avarice/greed, extravagance/ lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth; you’ll see that all are connected to selfishness and are exactly the things that are being promoted by the corporations.
How do they (these Economic Men) side-step this issue? There are several ways:
If one can buy into the religious establishment, then it is simple enough; get the religious leaders to bless the new way of thinking and preach it from the pulpits.
If one can not, then one can create similar religious establishments that are similar to the old establishments and then slowly change the underlying values until it fits one’s ideals, while at the same time trying to persuade the members of the old establishment to join the new congregations.
If that doesn’t work or seems to take a long time, then one can start a war between the religions and within the religions. In the ensuing confusion and chaos, one could penetrate and take over the old establishment. If nothing else, a religious war will distract the religious leaders and their followers sufficiently to allow the masses to be converted to the new religion of extreme individualism.
Meanwhile the missionary work is carried out post-haste through media. These Economic Men have acquired great fortunes and using some of that fortune have gotten hold of the Media. Using the media, they have entered into our homes and are trying hard to persuade us to accept their distorted picture of the world as reality. Today, almost any advertising for any product contains at least two of the 7 deadly sins as their “selling” points. To be egoistic and self-centred is promoted as the normal mode of behaviour. Look carefully at some old movies and see what they were promoting. Now look at some of the new ones and see what they are saying. Look at the TV shows and soap operas; you’ll see that they mostly deal with self-gratification, money and undermining of the absolute values.
Some may take issue with this, arguing that I am being paranoid. I may be; but one can not ignore the fact that as our values are becoming relative, the borders of what is acceptable are constantly pushed to include the unacceptable. Some values have been so distorted that what was considered a “sin” is now portrayed as a virtue. If you don’t believe me, just consider greed and the Wall Street. If you don’t believe me look at series such as “apprentice”, “Playboy”, “Big Brother”, etc. What are they trying to teach us? In guise of healthy competition, they are teaching us to be egoistic and selfish. The recurring theme in majority of these reality shows is this: try to be smart and look after the number one, yourself. Disloyalty, dishonesty, malevolence, and all other instruments of deceit are used by the contenders to win. If you examine these shows you’ll see that there is always a competition with one winner at the end. The participants have to lie, cheat, and deceit each other to advance to the next level. In the end the winner is the one that has managed to basically screw everyone else.
In these settings corruption of values is a given; indeed this corruption is required for the shows to exist. But the manipulation and brainwashing is not in the media alone. Our schools and institutes of higher education are also used to preach the gospel of free-market economics and extreme individualism.
We seldom think about universities as places where people are brainwashed or manipulated. We like to think that institutes of higher education are temples of knowledge, unsoiled by corporate greed, ideological preferences, etc. And to a certain degree this is correct. As long as you deal with the physical universe, Universities and Colleges are impartial and objective (if you disregard the current evolution vs. intelligent design argument). You see studying engineering, architecture or medicine is straight forward. One plus one makes two; and will remain two no matter how many tests you conduct and how many people argue for, or against it.
But as soon as you enquire about the working of the society, the power structure, the means by which power is attained and exercised; you enter the world of manipulation, half truths and lies. Universities and colleges suddenly become places where Machiavelli would feel right at home.
You see when students begin their studies in Business or Economics; they are presented with a set of “FACTS” about an ideal society and its inner workings. For example, it is taught that there is almost always an inverse relationship between unemployment and interest rate; with the exception of stagflation, when both rise together. The aim, the students are taught, is to keep certain figures within certain parameters. For example inflation should be kept bellow 2%, or ideal unemployment figure should not be about 5%. There is no or very little concern about the consequences of economic policies. When they teach students the concept of downsizing, or relocation of production facilities to a lower cost country etc, they emphasize economic efficiency and maximisation of profit, rather than its effect on the society as a whole. No one mentions the effect of this downsizing or exportation of jobs on the poor people who depend on these jobs. People are irrelevant; they are only numbers to be played with until the proper profit margin is achieved. The costs of broken homes, alcoholism, theft and violence is not discussed or considered. They hammer this into the heads of the students as being the truth, nothing but the truth, so help them God. Students are taught to see people as individuals driven by self-interest. Corporations are similarly presented as entities purely pursuing profit for their share-holders.
In these temples of knowledge profit is valued highly; an end to be achieved by all means. Consequently in our societies people have begun to worship the god of profit; and his successful disciples as heroes, people to be emulated and praised. Things such as ethics, moral values and decency are pooh-poohed and left to the philosophers to deal with.
Similarly in political science, nations are treated as individuals, blindly pursuing their own self-interests no matter what. When nations behave ruthlessly and selfishly, it is called REALPOLITIK (political realism or practical politics). Consequently wars are no longer started because of territorial disputes or the desire by a king for a greater kingdom, but because of economic interests. It is the monetary cost-benefit analysis that determines if millions are made homeless or hundred of thousands are murdered. And this is done by mercenary armies.
You see the armies are privatised. Regardless of how patriotic the poor soldier feels, at the end of the day he is a mercenary, fighting for a country that is controlled by big corporations that in turn are controlled by rich individuals. In effect he kills or is killed to advance the interest of those individuals. A certain German general once said that if the soldiers knew what they were fighting for, there would be no war. As for us, well, we are fooled into believing that it is our interest that the soldiers are fighting for. After all what is good for General Motors is good for America, right? Or what is good for Rimi (Norwegian supermarket chain) is good for Norway, right? Well it all depends doesn’t it? After all who can guarantee that General Motors or Rimi won’t become another Enron?
Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar lives in Norway. He is a consultant and a contributing writer for many online journals. He's a former associate professor of Nordland University, Norway. Bakhtiarspaceemail@example.com