The reactionary mind must have an enemy, or two, or three. It must always believe it is threatened by something dire (and Other), and must rally to fight that threat — whether that threat truly exists or not. Nine times out of ten, the threat as described is pure invention, and the powers that be manipulate reactionaries further down the totem poll, play them like violins, hypnotize them like sheep. Those pulling the strings know full well that the threat they describe does not exist, but they gain greater power when they create bogeymen, as this distracts the masses from their true enemies — those who strip the value of (and from) labor, endlessly redistribute it upward, and concentrate all value at the top. They know full well that if they can turn the masses against each other, keep them fighting about race, ethnicity, gender, religion and national myths and symbols, the masses will be too busy to look up at the people really screwing them over.
“Jack of all Trades,” by Bruce Springsteen
In decades past, at least in America, those powers — our plutocrats and oligarchs — had far more to worry about than they do now. There were in times past actual emancipatory movements in the field of battle — for minorities, women, workers’ rights, civil rights, etc. Once upon a time in America, many moons ago, there was actually a real Left, unlike today, that could put the fear of lost privilege in the hearts of the ruling class, and give them actual reasons to invent bogeymen and manipulate the reactionary mind.
Today, not so much. Since roughly the early 1970s, America and most of the world have been dominated by a triumphant capitalism and a Right that serves no other purpose than to maintain the privilege of the ruling class. We have, in fact, been living through a “conservative age” for nearly forty years and it shows few signs of abating, at least when it comes to the levers of power. Emancipatory movements are a shadow of their former selves, compared with the 1930s thru the 1960s, bereft of the single most important key to their potential success:
Ironically, during this time of all too weak or non-existent rebellion against the power elite, the ruling class have organized like never before to create an elaborate counter-narrative to reality and further strengthen their grip on power. This counter-narrative posits an upside down world in which the ruling class is under siege, victimized and virtually powerless against the rising forces of emancipatory movements on the Left, which, the ruling class tells its minions, must be shut down. And, despite the facts on the ground, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the millions of jobs lost, bailouts for billionaires, endless wars that benefit the ruling class, record levels of wealth and income inequality and the violent suppression of Occupy, the reactionary mind is willing to go along. In fact, it rushes head long, hysterically into the breach, screeching the script handed to it by its masters, talking nonsense about socialism, taxes, market regulations and the supposed glory of the “job creators.”
Some Americans, of course, see things a little differently . . .
Bruce Springsteen, “Death to my Hometown.”