Pay Back for the Oligarchy

What is Trump and Russiagate for? Yes, I call them “one thing” instead of “two things” because they are simply different faces of the same coin.

Heads/Tails   Obverse/Reverse  Athena/Her Owl

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On a Tetradrachma of Athens, struck c. 490 BC, the head of Athena, (left), is regarded as the obverse because of its larger scale and because it is a portrait head; the entire owl is depicted in a smaller scale on the reverse.

by O Society July 30, 2019

What is their utility? As in follow the money and who benefits from the distraction provided by the Bread & Circuses they provide?

bread-and-circuses

Distracting us from the outcomes of neoliberal and neoconservative  ideology. Inequality and forever wars. Namely, Rome is burning and the normal people are broke! There’s no one you can trust… no one worthy of our belief… but hey, there’s a WWF president on the Twitter and the TV – Woo HOO!

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Dark days for democracy? No worries! You can buy our way out of it with this handy T-shirt! Because you see, the hammer for all nails is money. That’s right. Got an Anthropocene global extinction climate crises?

No worries! Just buy more stuff! Like an airconditioner manufacturing factory or water rights to the nearest lake, and make a fortune off your fellow man’s misery! When it floods, real estate prices go up, up, up supply and demand, baby!

Bread & circuses is the distraction, but we’ll make loads off it too in the meanwhile!

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Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, you say?

No one in the Western world with an original thought, you say?

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How about Athena? She’s goddess of wisdom. We could ask her…

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Looks like she’ll tell it to us straight, seeing as how it’s her on the money…

Here’s Athena’s take:

The United States of America, Inc® is an oligarchy, dear sir. And the way to deal with oligarchs is to get them fighting amongst themselves to see whom’s big fat ass sits atop the peak as the apex predator.

Voting don’t mean diddly because the democracy ain’t a democracy, it is an oligarchy. Gilens and Page prove as much in this paper. It’s not survival of the fittest, dear mortal, it’s survival of the worst.

So the real question is if We the People have no power because voting doesn’t matter, then how do we set the Bushes against the Clintons against the Kochs against the Mercers against the Trumps against the Waltons… do you see?

The aristocrat families are the oligarchy. We know their names. So how do we get the oligarchs to turn on each other and kill each other instead of being a bootheel forever stamping on the face of We the People?

That is the question! Here’s a list of 100 names for you to get started.

Umm… maybe we should have asked the Owl.  Did we mention Athena is goddess of war too?

Let’s ask Aristotle for clarification, shall we? What’s an oligarchy? The words of the ancient Greeks are colored in blue simply to distinguish them as original.

We have next to consider how many forms of government there are, and what they are; and in the first place what are the true forms, for when they are determined the perversions of them will at once be apparent.

The words constitution and government have the same meaning, and the government, which is the supreme authority in states, must be in the hands of one, or of a few, or of the many. The true forms of government, therefore, are those in which the one, or the few, or the many, govern with a view to the common interest; but governments which rule with a view to the private interest, whether of the one or of the few, or of the many, are perversions. For the members of a state, if they are truly citizens, ought to participate in its advantages.

Of forms of government in which one rules, we call that which regards the common interests, kingship or royalty; that in which more than one, but not many, rule, aristocracy; and it is so called, either because the rulers are the best men, or because they have at heart the best interests of the state and of the citizens. But when the citizens at large administer the state for the common interest, the government is called by the generic name: a constitution.

And there is a reason for this use of language. One man or a few may excel in virtue; but as the number increases, it becomes more difficult for them to attain perfection in every kind of virtue, though they may in military virtue, for this is found in the masses. Hence, in a constitutional government, the fighting-men have the supreme power, and those who possess arms are the citizens.

Of the above-mentioned forms, the perversions are as follows: of royalty, tyranny; of aristocracy, oligarchy; of constitutional government, democracy. For tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy: none of them the common good of all.

But there are difficulties about these forms of government, and it will therefore be necessary to state a little more at length the nature of each of them. For he who would make a philosophical study of the various sciences, and does not regard practice only, ought not to overlook or omit anything, but to set forth the truth in every particular.

Tyranny, as I was saying, is monarchy exercising the rule of a master over the political society; oligarchy is when men of property have the government in their hands; democracy, the opposite, when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers. And here arises the first of our difficulties, and it relates to the distinction drawn. For democracy is said to be the government of the many.

But what if the many are men of property and have the power in their hands? In like manner oligarchy is said to be the government of the few; but what if the poor are fewer than the rich, and have the power in their hands because they are stronger? In these cases the distinction which we have drawn between these different forms of government would no longer hold good.

Suppose, once more, that we add wealth to the few and poverty to the many, and name the governments accordingly – an oligarchy is said to be that in which the few and the wealthyand a democracy that in which the many and the poor are the rulers- there will still be a difficulty. For, if the only forms of government are the ones already mentioned, how shall we describe those other governments also just mentioned by us, in which the rich are the more numerous and the poor are the fewer, and both govern in their respective states?

The argument seems to show that, whether in oligarchies or in democracies, the number of the governing body, whether the greater number, as in a democracy, or the smaller number, as in an oligarchy, is an accident due to the fact that the rich everywhere are few, and the poor numerous. But if so, there is a misapprehension of the causes of the difference between them. For the real difference between democracy and oligarchy is poverty and wealth.

Wherever men rule by reason of their wealth, whether they be few or many, that is an oligarchy, and where the poor rule, that is a democracy. But as a fact the rich are few and the poor many; for few are well-to-do, whereas freedom is enjoyed by an, and wealth and freedom are the grounds on which the oligarchical and democratical parties respectively claim power in the state.

Aristotle: Politics Book 3, Parts VI & VII

Clear as an unmuddied lake. According to Aristotle – who seems to be the one to have made all of this up – when a few rule, it’s called “aristocracy.” Question is whether or not these oligarchs are capable to rule in everyone’s interests or incapable and simply their own interests… ahem

I’m going with B) their own interests as our current state in America. This perversion of the aristocracy is called “oligarchy.”

Here’s the thing: According to Aristotle, democracy is a perversion as well. A perversion of constitutional government. Uh oh! Why’s this?

Well if the rich few get all the goodies, this is called oligarchy and if the poor folks get all the goodies, this is called democracy. Neither situation is what we’d call “fair” now is it?

There must be some sort of middle way, a way to walk two roads, to redistribute money and power fairly, isn’t there?

We can’t have rampant inequality because it leads to unending violence.

Yes it does. As in the biggest source of violence there is happens to be inequality.

Why? Ask Socrates. No, not So-crates, Neo.

Dialog between So-crates and Glaucon:

Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is created; and possibly there is no harm in this, for in such a State we shall be more likely to see how justice and injustice originate.

In my opinion the true and healthy constitution of the State is the one which I have described. But if you wish also to see a State at fever heat, I have no objection. For I suspect that many will not be satisfied with the simpler way of living. They will be for adding sofas, and tables, and other furniture; also dainties, and perfumes, and incense, and courtesans, and cakes, all these not of one sort only, but in every variety; we must go beyond the necessaries of which I was at first speaking, such as houses, and clothes, and shoes: the arts of the painter and the embroiderer will have to be set in motion, and gold and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured.

True, he said.

Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State is no longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with a multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want; such as the whole tribe of hunters and actors, of whom one large class have to do with forms and colours; another will be the votaries of music–poets and their attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, contractors; also makers of divers kinds of articles, including women’s dresses. And we shall want more servants. Will not tutors be also in request, and nurses wet and dry, tirewomen and barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and swineherds, too, who were not needed and therefore had no place in the former edition of our State, but are needed now? They must not be forgotten: and there will be animals of many other kinds, if people eat them.

Certainly.

And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians than before?

Much greater.

And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants will be too small now, and not enough?

Quite true.

Then a slice of our neighbours’ land will be wanted by us for pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?

That, Socrates, will be inevitable.

And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?

Most certainly, he replied.

Then without determining as yet whether war does good or harm, this much we may affirm, now we have discovered war to be derived from causes which are also the causes of almost all the evils in States, private as well as public.

Undoubtedly.

The Republic

Most Excellent version: So-crates says as long as we can look over our neighbor Noah’s fence, and see his most excellent wife, Joan of Ark, and he has more stuff than we have, then there always will  be war, as in fighting over stuff. Dude, you ever notice how Noah’s wife looks like Tawny Kitaen?

There we have it. Athena, Aristotle, and Socrates all seem to agree there’s nothing for the rampant inequality in todays’s America but war. And indeed we see throughout human history, this is the case. It is going to take some sort of catastrophe, war, discord, violence, plague, something as Scheidel shows us here.

So how do we bring this about? We the People have no power in government (ahem, see Gilens and Martin), so what can we do?

First of all, we have to do something outside the usual government thing of voting because this doesn’t work. If we have no power, then we must get the ones who do have power to fight amongst themselves. Once again, the men and women (and goddesses) of Athens knew this long ago:

While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods. It is hard not to think about how the fragmentation of our media platforms is a modern instantiation of dividing the public sphere, or how employees and workers are sometimes chilled from speaking out.

The most interesting discussion is how ancient oligarchs used information to preserve their regime. They combined secrecy in governance with selective messaging to targeted audiences, not unlike our modern spinmasters and communications consultants. They projected power through rituals and processions.

One of the primary threats to oligarchy is the oligarchs would become divided, and one from their number would defect, take leadership of the people, and overthrow the oligarchy.

The challenge in seeing how oligarchy works is we don’t normally think about the realms of politics and economics as fused together. At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes. Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality.

How the Oligarchy Wins – Lessons from Ancient Greece

Notice the divide and conquer method on both sides of the equation. Oligarchs divide the people purposely. This is the purpose identity politics serves in the US. Get the black folks arguing with the white folks and we’ll never unify long enough to challenge the oligarchy. This tactic is utilized since the BC days, folks.

A solution is to divide the oligarchs. Get them fighting amongst themselves and taking sides. Just as they do to us.

The way to break up the oligarchy is to turn them upon each other. If we turn to Aristotle and the Greeks, they are aware of this when they coin the term “oligarchy.”

Hence, given the people – the American democracy -have no power, what we must do is find real meaningful ways to get Bezos and Zuckerberg and Clinton and Trump and Koch and Mercer to fight for the position of who leads the oligarchy, and enable them to destroy each other.

Chaos must come before a new society can be achieved.

Hate to sound like ^ this ^ fellow, but it is a τετράδραχμον worth of ancient wisdom and truth, which is why it does not sound much like the sugar-coated bullshit your dollar will buy you these days.

2 thoughts on “Pay Back for the Oligarchy

  1. “Chaos must come before a new society can be achieved.”

    That is something that gets misunderstood about the Joker in The Dark Knight.

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/the-fantasy-of-creative-destruction/

    “In The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred Pennyworth describes the Joker in saying, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” But that isn’t quite right. In his own words, the Joker explains himself: “Introduce a little anarchy – upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos – it’s fair.” Exactly! It’s fair. Death and destruction is the last refuge of fairness, what is necessary to bring on justice, even if it is the justice of a mad man’s chaos. The slate must be wiped clean. Then something new can emerge from the ashes.”

    Liked by 1 person

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