8/14/2010

Why We Believe Them

In an interview during a break in his Nuremberg trial, Hermann Goering explained, "Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece.

"Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship."

Goering's interviewer, German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist Gustave Gilbert, naively argued, "There is one difference. In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

Goering answered, "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Repeatedly, we are suckers for these lame arguments. At the beginning of the Iraq invasion, I argued that this was Tonkin Gulf and Vietnam all over again. I was told there was no similarity between the two wars and Vietnam was much more complicated than Iraq would be because of the terrain. Unless you are willing to kill everyone in the country you invade, terrain makes no difference. Of course, some of the crazy convinced poor slobs on farms can't see any reason not to kill everyone in the country, in an effort to "save" those people from whatever awful situation we've been convinced they are in.

Nothing changes, unless humans become dumber every generation. Eugene Debs said, "“The people can have anything they want, the only problem is they do not want anything.” The trinkets that most Americans consider the important "production" of our so-called capitalist society amount to nothing in more brief intervals as we wind down our civilization. Today's $700 Apple iPad will become tomorrow's near-useless $25 eBay auction item by the end of the year. The most important entertainment tidbit will be forgotten and no more than a SNL laughable moment three months later. The useless drug promoted by Big Pharma on prime time television will turn out to have known side-effects far worse than the imaginary mental or physical disease the drug was advertised to cure. Today's Gulf oil spill will seem as minor as the Exxon Valdez tomorrow.

Mr. Debs also said,
“I am not a labor leader. I don't want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out.”

Every tiny step forward humanity has taken has been followed by a race backwards. John Kennedy was followed by Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. Carter, as lame but well-intended as he was, was followed by Reagan and Bush; two people who never had a good intention in their lives. Clinton, a man who was equal parts progressive and regressive, was followed by Bush-Cheney; two men who make the word "regressive" sound impotent. Obama is probably more in the Carter mold than Clinton, so we can count on the follow-up to Obama to be something along the line of another Bush; probably Jeb. Humans can always be counted on to do the dumbest thing possible.

Mark Twain probably wrapped it all when he said, "
Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion-- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven.

"The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste" [The Lowest Animal essay, 1897]

Obviously, religion is a human invention designed to keep "some poor slob on a farm" distracted while he is being sent to some idiot war and being sold a pile of useless toys. The real question is, "What could possibly convince humans that a god would be interested in an animal as idiotic as that?" The reason we believe them is because we are dumb enough to fall for the same stupid trick ad infinitum.

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