Monday, March 04, 2013


Stuck in a caste system posing as democracy

The deep structure generating these anomalies in the political formation is in the social formation: the millennia old caste-class system with clergy, aristocrats, merchants on top, ruling with words, bullets and money respectively; trying to convince, coerce, corrupt; using their cultural, military, economic power as the key component to political power.  They compete, they circulate–maybe in the order military-cultural-economic, we now live in the Age of the Merchant–they cooperate.  They have one shared goal: prevail over the people, like Tocqueville praised Democracy in America because it was not.

by Larry Geller

I find a lot of wisdom in Johan Galtung’s writing. It’s hard keeping up—for one thing, he doesn’t waste or mince words. For another, his habit of rising early to start writing at 4:30 a.m. each day has produced well over 100 books and probably 1000 articles. Check out his article posted below, from which I extracted the pull-quote above.

I read Galtung’s editorial just after reading a Reuters article

President Barack Obama raised anew the issue of cutting entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security as a way out of damaging budget cuts, a White House official said on Sunday, as both sides in Washington tried to limit a fiscal crisis that may soon hit millions of Americans.

Signaling he might be ready to explore a compromise to end automatic spending cuts that began late Friday, Obama mentioned reforming these entitlement programs in calls with lawmakers from both parties on Saturday afternoon.

[CNBC (Reuters), Obama Renews Offer to Cut Social Safety Net in Big Budget Deal, 3/3/2013] [hat tip to Patricia Blair]

Obama was not re-elected to do this. But the election is over. Our one day of democracy was back in November. I suspect that Obama’s legacy, which pundits are fond of discussing, will note that he excelled at selling out his constituents.

Certainly, from the point of view of minorities, Obama was better than the Republican opponent, but on the other hand, it was well known that he was pushing the gas pedal on deportations, often breaking up families in the process. Have the deportations decreased? We’ll have to see. But for the moment, senior citizens are on the chopping block. Actually, every American’s ability to survive after a lifetime of work is at risk.

Who cares about us, though?

We’re back to “prevail over the people” business as usual.

In a democracy, no one should rule over us. Yet we go through a process of elections every few years to determine who the rulers will be. We banished the physical George III, now we need to banish the mental monarch.

I often leave Galtung’s articles with a sense of depression. How can we change “the millennia old caste-class system with clergy, aristocrats, merchants on top, ruling with words, bullets and money respectively?” Next comes a feeling that although it will take time, change is possible if people work at it.

My disappointment, as I grow older, is that we have not achieved what I expected we would when I was a kid. The March on Washington, so long ago, has failed to stop voter suppression and mass incarceration of African-Americans today. The largest environmental protest in history (Feb. 17 in DC) didn’t even make the local newspaper. I don’t think I’m being too impatient. This sort of crap should have been behind us already.

Yet there is progress. For example, despite the never-ending wars this country is engaged in, fewer people are killed now than in the past. While we are not yet good at peace, perhaps this is progress. There also seems to be a spread of both education and information (even if via 140-character tweets) that may counter the caste system eventually, though it’s too early to tell.

But instead of reading this, please scroll down to Galtung’s article.


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