How the West fell: A brief history of Social Justice
In order to understand a problem, you must first understand its scope.
In the fascinating tale of How the West fell, we must begin with the earliest economic and political systems which would lead us to today.
The idea of democracy is actually sort of new, in the perspective of human history. The majority of civilizations throughout time have operated on the notion of might. Whether owning land, owning resources, or having the biggest military, politics was once squarely in the hands of a few dozen people at best who were considered to be the leaders. Kings, Queens, Lords and Ladies, if you weren’t one of these or in close relation to them, you were a peasant. Depending on the country/city-state/etc, you might retain some ownership of the goods you produce and be able to trade and barter with them, or they may go to the leader.
Then everything got very messy, lots of unhappy peasants killed lots of unfair leaders, and democracy was sort of born. Yay!
But this changed a lot of things about the economy. Companies, in addition to kingdoms, had power because they had their own workers and own goods. The state of trade being rather limited in sailing ship days, if you made an enemy of the only shipping company that would travel to your port, your city might just stop existing. This laid the groundwork for capitalism, where investors purchase stakes of a company to have some say in how its run, and those with the most capital have the most power.
It’s important to have an understanding of this human history, or else you won’t understand what follows (which I would argue the majority of people do not).
Democracy is cool and all, but land owners and capitalists weren’t too keen on giving a voice to every random peasantcitizen, so they explicitly limited the rights of who could vote to people like themselves; land owners, business owners, and the like. Despite revisionist history, this did include women and ‘people of color’ if they fit the wealth criteria, particularly depending on which country you’re talking about; but because the general sentiment towards that portion of the population in the US, and most wealth in the early nation coming directly from the white European nations, the perception is that ‘only white men’ had any power.
Again, a basic history lesson proves that land ownership was more important to early voting rights than race or gender as it wasn’t until almost 100 years after the country’s founding that the vote was opened up to ‘all white men’, more than 15 years after advocates of “universal voting laws”. But the fact of the matter is that citizenship wasn’t even granted to a number of peoples until significantly later, and even then it didn’t ensure any sort of equal treatment as immigrants from certain countries were discriminated against no matter their skin color (Irish being a popular example).
The truth is that no part of the country’s founding penned a specific race or gender, but historical ignorance has conflated the fact that the majority of land owners being white men with the idea that all white men could always vote.
America has been a slow boiling pot when it comes to the expansion of rights, and a large part of that is due to libertarian ideals of small government and states rights, complicated further by its size and the distance which people live from each other. The problems of “all Americans” are often difficult to recognize until they become large enough to see from the capital; so while Wyoming was the first state to allow women voters in 1890, it wasn’t until 1920 that it became national, and it would be another 40 years before the ‘civil rights era’ did another major revamp ensuring protections against discrimination.
Now let’s get back to talking about economics for a moment, because while Millennials have been spoon fed propaganda about white men being the root of all evil, we actually need to focus on the land owners and capitalists.
By the 1860s, waves of new inventions had given rise to some very concentrated wealth to the industrialists who had taken advantage of early mechanization and steam power, and this in turn allowed fewer people to accomplish greater things. Unlike the land owners before them, they no longer had to worry about managing a large number of people to keep their resources in check, because machines could help do it for them. Trans-oceanic voyages became fast and common, and trade exploded. It paved the way for a new era of colonialism, where industrialists worked with government to expand their empires by seizing the land of indigenous peoples rather than just fighting over the same European territories. The pursuit of profit, not race or gender, plunged the world into turmoil and we got two world wars out of it (the industrialists did pretty well there too!).
But this sort of unchecked capitalism sent the world into considerable chaos. ‘Robber Barons’ and monopolies ran wild, and while the West embraced a sort of ‘socialism lite’ with Keynesian economics, Eastern Europe slanted in the other direction and went full socialist and ultimately communist. Specifically in terms of post World War 1, the heavy tolls and reliance on outside trade partners turned Russia against the wealth hoarding Tsar and gave way into a new socialist utopia where the wealth of “the motherland” was shared with all its people. As the anti-thesis of capitalism, the West and Russia developed a mutual dislike from each other, especially after Soviet Russia does a pretty bang up job at defending themselves from the Nazis so quickly after the Tsar is toppled. And this lead to the Cold War.
The Cold War is pretty important, because it wasn’t just a conflict between the US and Russia, it was the defining conflict between Communism and Capitalism. The Capitalists had every right to be worried, because Socialism threatened to destroy all of the power of the wealthy. The people would be fine, Soviet Russia had actually flourished compared to its prior monarchy; but the ruling class in the West wanted no part of being dethroned. While other European nations tried some socialism and determined it was alright in small doses (nationalizing education and healthcare in particular), the US wanted nothing to do with that, especially not after the industrialists had made a killing off of World War 2. On the other hand, Communists were super sick of people (capitalists) trying to take their shit so they built up their military just in case; this was great for the US because now they could tell the public that this was an impending military threat and with Hitler fresh in the populace’s mind that Communism was a threat to the American way of life (aka, capitalism).
The long hard fight of opposing the land owners would perish as Communism really doesn’t work that well with only a handful of countries playing along and everyone else limiting or blocking trade. Capitalism isn’t the greatest for people, but boy howdy do people compete in terms of innovation to be set for life millionaires. The post-war recovery of the West was goddamn amazing compared to the Soviet slow simmer, and USSR leadership was eventually persuaded to give up the ghost after seeing just how far behind they were compared to a booming UK and US which had switched gears from Keynesian economics to Hayek, which further expanded capitalist policies and privatization of essential goods and services. The shackles industrialists had been burdened with were finally lifted, and the information age kicked off like a rocket without a means to steer. The Cold War was over, and Capitalism had won hands down thanks to obstruction and propaganda. And that sets the stage for modern discourse.
Propaganda is such an effective tool when you silence your opposition.
The misrepresentation of facts to outright lies become fervor when unchallenged, like religious indoctrination. And as the social programs of the US and UK, schools particularly, began to decline and so much history was left on the cutting room floor to prop up the capitalists, it became incredibly simple to mislead the public.
Advertising surged, this is applied psychology; but at the same time people were urged not to question the authority of business, they were encouraged to question the authority of government. “Nationalizing is bad”, they said. “The government can’t be trusted to run things”, they insisted; and despite all evidence to the contrary, the government policies which had resulted in a post-war economic miracle so poignant it’s literally referred to as “the golden age of capitalism”, the people nodded along and agreed. Industry had given them cars, and televisions, and microwaves; government had been forgotten for giving them highways, and national parks, and social security. Propaganda works.
And that is precisely why we are where we are. The public institution of education has been sacrificed on the alter of capitalism. From tuition to textbooks, we live in a culture that quite literally charges you for the privilege of information, and that means that the average person putting in the least possible tax money for schools is going to walk away with a poor education. Knowledge is power, and power is only allowed to those who can afford it. That is the western ideal.
So now you have a society which is once again bound to the robber baron. Child labor is bad, but child neglect is fine, so we have standardized the two working parent household. Even if the quality of our schools wasn’t lagging significantly behind other developed countries, we no longer have full time mentors to raise children, we have full time workers and part time parents. We have an entire generation of people with a murky-at-best world view that was poorly solidified by absentee parents and deteriorating schools. The parents hardly notice if their children are struggling, because they’re struggling too. Wages have actually gone down as productivity has increased, and “the American Dream” of owning a car, house, and starting a family seems to be evaporating entirely off the plate of the younger generation.
But propaganda is strong. The capitalists can’t be implicated in this clear exploitation of a nation, or the world at large (climate change cover-up much?). Like Vaccinations causing Autism, the answer to a complex problem the ordinary person doesn’t understand has to be distilled down into a simple concept: It must be systemic oppression!
The best solution to distract from the problems of how a nation is run is to turn neighbor against neighbor, and it’s hard to find a better story for community conflict than group bias and xenophobia. It’s fueled by propaganda and it distracts perfectly from nearly everything else, it’s a Cold Civil War. Brother against brother, children against parents; all of the crimes and evidence are implied, correlations distorted into vendettas. And the best part is, you barely have to pull the strings in order for the puppets to keep dancing for decades. The actual racists and sexists will feed the fire, all you have to do is prop them up and make them louder. Amplify the paranoid, bigoted ramblings of the unhinged with the almighty power of media and they will do your work for you.
That is how the lunatic fringe of second-wave feminism became the main act of the third wave. Misandrist writers like Dworkin and works such as the SCUM manifesto (that’s “Society for Cutting Up Men”) seized control of a post-civil rights era Feminism, advocating that it wasn’t enough to be equals with men, women had to recognize a sexist conspiracy of systemic oppression against women. It didn’t catch on immediately, but as the women of Generation X found themselves making less than their parents, the ramblings of man-haters began to seem more credible; after all, this was still in the late Cold War and the capitalists certainly weren’t going to answer for the stagnation of the working class.
It’s a distraction, you see. The upper echelons of power are not a “boys club”, it’s a money club. There are numerous women in power and positions of significant wealth all around the world, but the person most attacked in the Primaries wasn’t a woman.. it was the Socialist. It’s not that women and minorities were excluded from the corporate ladder because of their gender or race, it’s because they just came out of a pretty big “equality for everyone” movement and that kind of thinking is fundamentally incompatible with cut-throat business. Do you honestly think Kathie Lee Gifford didn’t know about the sweatshops? Of course she did. The women you see in power got there by playing by the rules of capitalism: Take advantage of every single resource and every last opportunity.
Ever notice how people will often speculate how “things would be better with a woman’s touch” in politics and/or business? Kind, motherly, giving, conflict resolving… All those positive warm fuzzies we associate with women? Ever notice how once women get in power, they never bring any of that to the table? That’s because those kinds of people, regardless of gender, don’t make it into power. Humanitarians are bad for business.
A Cold Civil War
But for people outside the money club, the barrier to entry is a mystery. Relentless propaganda about the sanctity of business looms large over American society, as companies get away with enormous eco-system disasters and devastating economic blunders with little to no recourse; “Too big to fail”, as they say. We’ve been discouraged from forming or joining unions, we’re told that attempting to improve healthcare will ruin us all, we’re told that raising the minimum wage to a living wage will hurt business (no mention of helping people, of course).
And then there’s the distraction: Social Justice. Intersectional Feminism. Black Lives Matter. Not necessarily started by the powers that be, but good god do they thrive with the help of the media. Misinformation runs large, feelings in place of facts, correlations becoming condemnations; in the quest to find what ails us as a society, we turn against each other and a deliberately irresponsible corporate run media stokes the fires.
What we are given, as our rights are eroded and our wages stolen, is nothing more than bread and circuses.