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Forum Post: hedges on chomsky - wage slavery, occupy and elite education

Posted 5 months ago on June 16, 2014, 9:02 a.m. EST by flip (7590)
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“We can draw many very good lessons from the early period of the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “The Industrial Revolution took off right around here in eastern Massachusetts in the mid-19th century. This was a period when independent farmers were being driven into the industrial system. Men and women—women left the farms to be ‘factory girls’—bitterly resented it. This was also a period of a very free press, the freest in the history of the country. There were a wide variety of journals. When you read them they are pretty fascinating. The people driven into the industrial system regarded it as an attack on their personal dignity, on their rights as human beings. They were free human beings being forced into what they called ‘wage labor,’ which they regarded as not very different from chattel slavery. In fact this was such a popular mood it was a slogan of the Republican Party—‘The only difference between working for a wage and being a slave is that working for the wage is supposed to be temporary..........................................................................................Today’s elite schools and universities inculcate into their students the worldview endorsed by the power elite. They train students to be deferential to authority. Chomsky calls education at most of these schools, including Harvard, a few blocks away from MIT, “a deep indoctrination system.”

“There is the understanding that there are certain things you do not say and do not think,” Chomsky said. “This is very broad among the educated classes. It is why they overwhelmingly support state power and state violence, with some qualifications. Obama is regarded as a critic of the invasion of Iraq. Why? Because he thought it was a strategic blunder. That puts him on the same moral level as a Nazi general who thought the second front was a strategic blunder. That’s what we call criticism.”

And yet, Chomsky does not discount a resurgent populism.

“In the 1920s the labor movement had been practically destroyed,” he said. “This had been a very militant labor movement. In the 1930s it changed, and it changed because of popular activism. There were circumstances [the Great Depression] that led to the opportunity to do something. We are living with that constantly. Take the last 30 years. For a majority of the population it has been stagnation or worse. It is not the deep Depression, but it is a semi-permanent depression for most of the population. There is plenty of kindling out there that can be lighted.”

Chomsky believes that the propaganda used to manufacture consent, even in the age of digital media, is losing its effectiveness as our reality bears less and less resemblance to the portrayal of reality by the organs of mass media. While state propaganda can still “drive the population into terror and fear and war hysteria, as we saw before the invasion of Iraq,” it is failing to maintain an unquestioned faith in the systems of power. Chomsky credits the Occupy movement, which he describes as a tactic, with “lighting a spark” and, most important, “breaking through the atomization of society.”

“There are all sorts of efforts to separate people from one another,” he said. “The ideal social unit [in the world of state propagandists] is you and your television screen. The Occupy actions brought that down for a large part of the population. People recognized that we could get together and do things for ourselves. We can have a common kitchen. We can have a place for public discourse. We can form our ideas. We can do something. This is an important attack on the core of the means by which the public is controlled. You are not just an individual trying to maximize consumption. You find there are other concerns in life. If those attitudes and associations can be sustained and move in new directions, that will be important.”.....................................................The rise of powerful populist movements in the early 20th century meant that the business class could no longer keep workers subjugated purely through violence. Business interests had to build systems of mass propaganda to control opinions and attitudes. The rise of the public relations industry, initiated by President Wilson’s Committee on Public Information to instill a pro-war sentiment in the population, ushered in an era of not only permanent war but also permanent propaganda. Consumption was instilled as an inner compulsion. The cult of the self became paramount. And opinions and attitudes, as they are today, were crafted and shaped by the centers of power.

“A pacifist population was driven to become war-mongering fanatics,” Chomsky said. “It was this experience that led the power elite to discover that through effective propaganda they could, as Walter Lippmann wrote, employ “a new art in democracy, manufacturing consent.’ ”

Democracy was eviscerated. Citizens became spectators rather than participants in power. The few intellectuals, including Randolph Bourne, who maintained their independence and who refused to serve the power elite were pushed out of the mainstream, as Chomsky has been.

“Most of the intellectuals on all sides were passionately dedicated to the national cause,” Chomsky said of the First World War. “There were only a few fringe dissenters. Bertrand Russell went to jail. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were killed. Randolph Bourne was marginalized. Eugene Debs was in jail. They dared to question the magnificence of the war.”

This war hysteria has never ceased, moving seamlessly from a fear of the German Hun to a fear of communists to a fear of Islamic jihadists and terrorists.

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