Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Why Systems Become Murderous Exploitation Machines
By Denis G. Rancourt
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 8, 2010
On the racism and pathology of left progressive First-World
activism As opposed to what would be needed
was first posted on the Activist Teacher blog .
the three most influential end-point models of political organization are
best represented by Adam Smith (capitalism), Karl Marx
(socialism/communism), and Mikhail Bakunin (anarchism). These
three men and many other persons who contributed to critiquing, perfecting
and adapting or combining these end-point models were unquestionably
brilliant, acute and incisive.
Problem is none of these
models has ever been put into practice in a sustainable way. This is
because none of these models or their adaptations and combinations can
successfully be put into practice by engineering a system for people to
For these ideal models to work they must arise from a
self-organization in which every individual has both the capacity to
recognize when a foundational element of the model is being corrupted by a
particular practice and the capacity to intervene to prevent or correct
the corruption. With capacity to intervene comes capacity to recognize.
The American libertarians understood this and inspired a
revolutionary constitution that guaranteed the individual the right to
intervene (bear arms, free speech, etc.). This libertarianism also
nurtured a deep and healthy cultural distrust of governments,
institutions, banks and corporations.
To be sustainable, the
above-mentioned socio-politico-economic models and their combinations
cannot be imposed and managed from the top but instead must be driven from
the base; must be discovered and developed by the individual connected to
his/her community and must be controlled by the individual via personal
agency. As soon as the individual has little or no influence to correct
the system then there is runaway hierarchical command and control and all
the nasty oppressions that this necessarily implies.
all three men mentioned above knew (expressly believed) that capitalism
would lead to capital monopoly and the associated predation of the top
corporatists and financiers. Smith wanted to prevent this by government
and international regulations – although he underestimated the now obvious
reality that capital would always evolve to own government. Marx saw world
economic monopoly (globalization) as an inevitable consequence of
capitalism and he elevated globalization to the status of a natural law.
Bakunin saw that Marx’s model could not be applied without leading to the
same kind of irreversible hierarchical predation as with capitalism.
Instead of being based on the power of individuals to monitor and correct,
applied “capitalism” and “socialism” have been organized from the top, put
in place via elite-run social engineering, and have used theoretical
concepts of capitalism and socialism to rationalize and justify
unrestrained hierarchical control by a dominant elite which has graciously
provided illusions of democratic participation via workers councils,
unions owned by the bosses, and fixed elections of elite-selected
ACTIVISM TO STOP THE EXPLOITATION MACHINE
This brings us to the question of First-World activism. How can
individuals best obtain enough power to correct the most destructive
aberrations of the present runaway command and control hierarchy of
exploitation and oppression?
Here, in my view, two of the most
important critics and theorists of First-World activism are Herbert
Marcuse (One Dimensional Man) and Ward Churchill (Pacifism as
Pathology). Their work on the psycho-sociology of First-Wold
activism is as acute and incisive as the works of Smith-Marx-Bakunin on
socio-politico-economic models. I must add the canonical work of Paulo
Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed) geared towards liberation of the most
wrenched but, in my opinion, universal and applicable to First-World
Marcuse explains in detail the fundamental
challenge of activism seated in the relative comfort and relative personal
freedom of the modern middleclass. Churchill focuses on the main
psychological defence reaction of First-World activists challenged by
their consciousness of the broad murderous underbelly of the system.
Freire simply lays out the universal essence of liberation from a
necessarily-oppressive hierarchy, like few others have.
of activism within capitalist and socialist hierarchies is for the
individuals (ordinary citizens and mid-level managers) to find ways to
effectively challenge and correct the system, thereby flattening the
hierarchical pyramid rather than allowing or enabling its otherwise
incessant sharpening. The goal of the activist is to increase democratic
participation (i.e., direct influence) in all areas of activity and to
reverse or impede the otherwise increasing concentration of power.
Optimally, the activist practices direct influence at the point of his/her
strongest connection to the economy; at work for the worker, at school for
the student, on the street for the homeless person, etc. This is the point
at which the system has the strongest grip on the individual but it is
also the point where the individual has the most power against the
system’s authoritarian oppression. Expressed as the Freirian mantra – in
activism, in the struggle for liberation, “one can only fight one’s own
oppression.” Our oppression primarily results from the undemocratic
hierarchy that controls our lives.
As middleclass citizens of
an empire, if we create an increase in democracy and a reduction of
authoritarianism, then those exploited by the empire in the underclasses
and abroad immediately benefit from a loosening of the system’s grip.
Of course one also supports the struggles across social classes and
across national borders and one derives knowledge and inspiration from the
struggles of others but the murderous killing machine will only become
more powerful and more ferocious if we do not practice anti-hierarchy
activism at the point of our strongest contact with the
Of course this true activism against
our own oppression and against hierarchical domination, like any true
activism, is an activism that carries the highest potential risk for the
individual. One cannot fight an oppressor without exposing oneself to
backlash. And the best safety net against this consequence of the
battle is organization and community.
AND NOW THE PATHOLOGY
And this is where the pathology starts. Why lose a good thing? Why risk
job loss? Why create tension at work? Why not just get the degree and
climb the hierarchy from which one can act? Cannot more be achieved by
cooperation? Isn’t confrontation what oppressors do? Won’t we just become
There are a million elaborate and
slogan-supported rationalizations to not be an activist and most involve
re-definitions of activism in terms of actions that present no significant
risk to one’s socio-economic status.
For example, several
players pick up the above need in activism to “organize” and substitute
the organizing itself for the activism. The latter organizing is not one
rooted in necessity for safety and in self-defence but instead takes on
the characteristics of a membership drive and an educational program to
build shared opinions.
This avoidance often involves the mystical
notion of the “critical mass” whereby if enough citizens acquire the same
opinion then this opinion is magically implemented by the system, by some
unspecified mechanism never before observed in history. Critical mass is a
concept of physics and involves a nuclear chain reaction but it is only
relevant if one has a critical mass of radioactive nuclei – determined
individuals prepared to react and create an explosion. It doesn’t work for
opinions acquired mainly by reading flyers and watching documentary films.
Following this mythology of critical mass of opinion, organizers note
that the 1960s brought out 10s and 100s of thousands of protesters into
the streets and falsely conclude that we therefore need only bring out
large numbers of protesters to accomplish societal change. They fail to
realize that the protesters of the 1960s were protesting as an external
demonstration and extension of their real activism at work and in
community and that their mass movements included riots that were a serious
concern for power that was already overstretched in Vietnam.
In the present context of relatively advanced corporate fascism and
socially engineered compliance , power knows that even large
numbers of peaceful demonstrators will obediently go back to work on
Monday morning and will not spontaneously and physically unseat their
elected “representatives” or bosses.
Pacifism is the main
pathology identified by Churchill. Not the true combatant-pacifism of
Gandhi who said that it was better to take up arms than to practice a
false pacifism of cowardice , but the pacifism of dogmatic
non-violence as a substitute for direct anti-hierarchical activism. This
pacifism is often accompanied by pathological conflict avoidance and by
escapism into religion or ecological sectarianism and by the privileged
practice of isolated alternative community building as an escape from the
hierarchy of the dominant system. All these reactions were explained by
Other diversions include the amplification of valid but
secondary and privileged preoccupations to be oppressed fairly within
one’s class. Here I tentatively include: gay marriage, pay equity for
women, affirmative action, political correctness activism, co-optation
unionism, health care protection activism, ethical investment activism,
and so on.
I mean that these struggles are generally rigorously
confined by their practitioners in such a way as to protect and reinforce
the overarching (workplace) economic hierarchical domination which in turn
continues to increase its violent oppression of the included groups and to
increase its exploitation of the excluded groups.
activism is a move towards equal treatment for all but is practiced in
such a way to increase the state’s hierarchical control of relationships
by strengthening rather than reforming the intrusive institution of state
marriage; and the married gay couples continue to be oppressed by work and
their children by school.
Pay equity activism is equal treatment
by the oppressor in the wage slavery enterprise but is generally practiced
in such a way as to bring women into the fold without necessarily making
the workplace more democratic.
Affirmative action corrects a
wrong but maintains the oppressive workplace unless individual employees
directly fight against both racism and undemocratic authoritarianism.
Political correctness is an offshoot of pathological conflict
avoidance, a desire to isolate oneself from any risk of (verbal) conflict
via mental environment oversight rather than a commitment to participatory
Co-optation unionism, the dominant form
of unionism in North America, is a cancerous affliction in which workplace
democracy and individual responsibility (e.g., professional or
tradesperson independence) are horse traded away for salaries and
benefits, under the threat of global economic “restructuring.” It works
hand in hand with power to drive the system towards increased central
command and control, towards corporate fascism. It dehumanizes the worker.
Instead, unionism could be practiced as an arm in the struggle to
democratize the workplace but it almost never is.
care coverage activism is practiced in a way which further locks us into
the insane Big Pharma and technological medicine trap that the medical
establishment has driven us into and further moves us away from public
health and towards an ignorant dependence on a corrupt profession; whereas
it could be an occasion for citizen involvement and for a broad
participatory and empowered debate. Instead, it does nothing to put
individuals responsibly in charge of health priorities.
not even address the absurdity of “ethical investment activism”, an
oxymoron if ever there was one. It’s up there with the insanity of the
corporate plan to make ethanol from food as a substitute for oil which
some green anti-CO2 sectarians have supported. (If you don’t want to
produce CO2, kill yourself.)
And so on. Equal treatment
activism should be an occasion for anti-hierarchical activism not a
substitute for it. That is not what one observes.
Let us not
forget lifestyle and consumer choice false activisms, the less extreme
versions of isolated alternative community life. I vote with my consumer
choices? If we all just consumed responsibly and reduced our carbon
footprints the world could be saved? In fact all societal efficiency gains
are always made up for by increased global consumption. If cars can be
made to consume less energy then there will be more cars… This false
activism is a classic guilt alleviation strategy that does nothing to
confront the oppressive hierarchy. Instead, it protects the system by
diverting individual attention towards inconsequential pursuits.
There are as many creative psychological devices to rationalize and
internalize one’s subservience to the oppressor as there are individuals
that support the killing machine. Since the killing machine most brutally
targets brown people, Churchill proposes that this pathology of pacifism
(which enables the killing machine) is a supreme racism, no matter how
politically correct one’s language and consumer choices are.
RESILIENCE OF THE PATHOLOGY
The first problem is one of
The single largest barrier to human perception in a
hierarchy is the individual’s desire to maintain his/her status within the
hierarchy, as measured by economic and class status.
barrier to perception is so strong that it may as well be physiological.
In most circumstances it is just as difficult for a slave to perceive that
he/she is a slave as it would be for the slave to see in the ultraviolet
segment of the light spectrum. “I need the master because he protects us
and organizes the work…” Indeed, the largest practical challenge in
Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed is to create circumstances and
occasions in the hope that self-awareness of the subject’s oppression will
be catalyzed and nurtured.
Similarly, it is virtually impossible
for members of the First-World middleclass to perceive the depth of their
own oppression and exploitation. They reason that they are relatively
privileged and therefore cannot be oppressed and they adopt the
oppressions of others; or they blame themselves for all “failures” and
difficulties and practice self-destruction; or they displace their need
for meaningful work and societal agency with any number of transfers and
The second problem is one of perception.
Most of all, it is impossible for institutionalized individuals in the
First-World middleclass to perceive solutions that involve risk, the
possibility of losing economic and social status. We have no experience of
defending ourselves against our oppression. We only have the experience of
an institutionalized existence of compliance where our lives are laid out
in stages: school, graduations, diplomas, career development, student debt
management, mortgage payments, retirement savings…
In addition to
this, individuals subjected to a hierarchy of domination are trained to
seek approval and to fit in. They lose the natural tendency to seek truth
and instead accept and feed upon the “tapestry of lies” (both right and
left) provided and maintained by power and its army of service
intellectuals (see ). Information that is contrary to the approved
mental environment is considered threatening and is either vehemently
rejected or ridiculed. A good example of this response is the vicious
cynicism of so-called-progressive left citizens and “activists” that is
reserved for “conspiracy nuts” such as the proponents (truthers) of the
Information that would cause the First World
middleclass activist to question his/her no-risk-to-status response to
perceived (and transferred/displaced) injustices or to question the value
of his/her longstanding investment in the particular adopted
no-risk-to-status response to the perceived injustices is denied entry and
attacked . It cannot be perceived as something that is potentially
true. The truthers themselves, for example, can delve into off-the-charts
considerations only because this information is not threatening to them:
They have adopted the belief that simply uncovering the truth and exposing
it and explaining it can produce the needed change, if only a critical
mass of informed citizens can be achieved via cyber space and public event
or media activism.
All in all, truth is not compatible with
approval and individuals subjected to a hierarchy of domination have
little regard for truth. The substitute of choice is “like-mindedness”.
This is why so-called-progressives hold “education” in such high regard.
They intuitively understand that flyering and documentary films (etc.) are
effective ways to sway institutionalized citizens into a given variety of
There is almost no realization among First World
activists of Freire’s praxis of liberation via fighting one’s own
oppression as the only way to uncover the truth about one’s life.
CONCLUSION AND THE VITALITY OF THE RIGHT
We should despise both
the authoritarian right which leads to corporate fascism and the
paternalistic left of socialism and communism which leads to communal
castration and death of the individual. Both right authoritarianism and
left paternalism depend on and produce control hierarchies. All
hierarchies are violently oppressive by nature. 
citizens cannot significantly contribute to the needed anti-hierarchy
activism and will only accommodate power and protect the killing machine
as long as they are unable to authentically perceive their own oppression
by the same hierarchy that is violently oppressing us all – because the
obedience training of school, the indoctrination of graduate and
professional schools, and the complete control of the worker by the
finance-corporate economy are unmistakably violent processes that deprive
us of our humanity.
In this regard, the right is more effective
than the left. Left progressives mistakenly see their privilege as proof
that they are not oppressed. In fact, their “privilege” is only the reward
for accepting to be violated in making them into gatekeepers and
supporters of the hierarchy. Intuitively they know that effective activism
could compromise their “privilege”.
The right activists, on the
other hand, root their politics in individual rights and see themselves as
threatened by structures and changes that would remove their individual
rights. In this way, they are closer to the true impulse of the
anti-hierarchy activist and therefore represent a formidable instrument of
power when they are manipulated.
Leaving aside the religious
fanatics on the right that would impose their beliefs on us all and the
political correctness fanatics on the left that would impose their beliefs
on us all, American libertarianism has deep roots and is a powerful
potential ally of anarchy-inspired anti-hierarchy (pro-democracy!)
To my reading, American libertarianism is not an
insignificant fringe movement and probably has not been co-opted to the
same degree as fringe left anarchism. Dedicated anti-hierarchy activists,
the only hope for significant First World contributions to liberation,
would do well to ally themselves with libertarians and to participate in
the societal discourse about the place of libertarianism in society.
Damn yes, own guns, no required schooling, no bank bail outs, no head
office corporate decisions, voluntary taxation, accountable politicians,
no insurance company controls, accessible cost-recovery-interest
community-bank loans to individuals, coops and small businesses, no
party-selected candidates, no wars abroad, no surveillance or personal
information gathering, complete transparency in public and corporate
affairs, no prohibition of any substances, no personal lifestyle and work
choice criminalization, voluntary personal safety decisions, no
restrictions on growing your own food, decriminalized assisted (or not)
suicides, no legal or government bankruptcy protections for creditors
(people first), health freedom, no barriers to work, no corporate or
government controlled media, only community-controlled corporations…
A consistent application of libertarian principles anchored in individual
freedom could go a long way to dismantling oppressive structures.
essay URL on Activist Teacher blog
And see "RELATED WEB POSTS" below.
 “An Inquiry into the
Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith, 1776.
Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1848.
Basic Bakunin – Writtings 1869-1871” by Mikhail Bakunin.
 For a
discussion of the illusions provided and maintained by power see the essay
“Some big lies of science” by Denis G. Rancourt, 2010.
 “One Dimensional Man” by Herbert Marcuse, 1964.
“Pacifism as Pathology” by Ward Churchill, 1986.
 “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire, 1970.
“Need for and Practice of Student Liberation” (essay) by Denis G. Rancourt,
 For an explanation applicable to the professional work
environment see “Disciplined Minds” by Jeff Schmidt, 2000.
 “A People’s History
of the United States” by Howard Zinn, 1980.
 “Activism and Risk - Life beyond altruism” (essay) by Denis
G. Rancourt, 2007.
 For example, see “Understanding Power – The indispensable
Chomsky” by Noam Chomsky, 2002.
 “Canadian Education as an Impetus towards Fascism” (essay) by
Denis G. Rancourt, 2009.
 “G20-Toronto and lost sovereignty - A critical examination
of the role of the CCLA” (essay) by Denis G. Rancourt, 2010.
 "Resolving the Israel-Palestine Conflict: What we can learn
from Gandhi" by Norman G. Finkelstein, 2009.
 See note-, “Some Big Lies of Science”, for a discussion
of the “medicine is health” lie.
 “Taking CO2 Seriously”
(essay) by David F. Noble and Denis G. Rancourt, 2007.
 “Against Chomsky” (essay) by Denis G. Rancourt, 2008.
 “The Activist Wars” (essay) by Denis G. Rancourt, 2009.
RELATED WEB POSTS:
Put your body on the
gears… Mario Savio – youTube videos
Pacifying Resistance – youTube video
MALCOLM X: The
Bloodless Revolution – youTube video
“The Ballot or the
Bullet” (speech) by Malcolm X
of the Diversity of Tactics" by Alex Hundert, 2010
More echoes of pacifism as pathology… Dalai Lama on the CIA payroll…
Criticism of the Dalai Lama – so positive and forgiving that it
On the Need to Embrace Hatred