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I've always been intrigued about the degree to which power elites control the population.  I don't know exactly how or why, but just by simple observation about how society works, I've come to the conclusion that power elites exert an extraordinary level of control over the population.

Lately, I've been doing some research about this subject and to my surprise, many of the conclusions I've arrived to by simple observation, have been corroborated by research work done by experts in the field.

My motivation for studying this phenomena is to first understand the reason why the population remains so docile (and paralyzed) in the face of increased abuse by the power elite, in the hopes that that understanding will be useful in helping me find ways to motivate people to not only take action, but do it in a coordinated and strategic way.  I'm also very interested in connecting with groups already involved in social justice activism at this level.

At a very reductive level, the challenge I'm trying to tackle is related to the ability of a tiny ruling elite to manipulate the vast majority of the population into accepting and increasingly exploitative situation which clearly leads to subjugation and servitude.

It seems to me that if workers had a clear understanding of the situation, and were not mentally shackled by the manipulative control of the power elites, they would quickly be able to figure out a way to correct the situation.

Before I continue, I'd like to highlight a couple of diaries I've written about this subject recently, including "How Billionaires-Funded Propaganda is Unraveling The Country," and "The reason the population is acting irrationally, and what to do about it."  I also encourage the reader to watch the BBC documentary "The Century of Self."

A great resource on the subject is the book The Power Elite, written by sociologist, C. Wright Mills, in 1956.

In it Mills calls attention to the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate, and political elements of society and suggests that the ordinary citizen is a relatively powerless subject of manipulation by those entities.
Of that WikipidiA quote above, the phrase I'd like to highlight is "relatively powerless," because I happen to believe that it is true as long as people are not awaken to the reality of the situation; once a significant number of people become aware about how the system really works, and about the tools used to manipulate the citizenry, then that by itself could be enough to eventually change the power imbalance--more on that later.

In chapter 1 of the book Mills focuses on "The Higher Circles."

He describes the contemporary means of power as the hierarchies of state, military and the big corporate institutions. Other, previously decisive institutions such as family and religion are pushed aside in the contemporary United States. They adapt to contemporary life, which in turn is set and determined by the new means of power.
And of course, as I've argued before, one of the main tools for the control of the population is the corporate media conglomerate environment:
The creation of a pseudo-world by the mass media is made possible by the structure of the society which enables people to choose only that which is of the same opinion as they are. The remote possibility of debate and discussion, let alone action, disappears as the experience of the public turns into that of the mass: narrower and limited to their routine and structural (out-of-their-own-control) environment from which they cannot escape.
In a mass, far fewer people express opinions than receive them; for the community of publics becomes an abstract collection of individuals who receive impressions from the mass media. The communications that prevail are so organised that it is difficult or impossible for the individual to answer back immediately or with any effect.
Finally, the main problem with this arrangement is not the methods of crowd manipulation, but the lack of morality by those doing the manipulation:
  • Especially following the second half of the 1900s, the US power elite has been getting increasingly immoral, irresponsible, ignorant, stupid (in terms of not valuing reason as one's key characteristic in life), and mindless in its quest for wealth and power.
  • The higher immorality is a systematic, institutionalized feature of the US power elite, and the general acceptance of this immorality is an essential feature of the mass society.
  • The mass society itself is also left without any moral standards to hold on to, or even rise against. While fear, uncertainty, and doubt is spread through military and economic crisis, "as individuals they are defenseless; as groups, they are politically indifferent." Even though most relate (and wrongfully so) power with knowledge and ability, some have given in to the immorality embodied in accomplishment.
When it comes to social justice and anti-corruption activism, I consider the situation I describe above the number one challenge to any successful progressive movement.  In order to overcome that challenge, I've identified some spesific areas I'd like to focus on: The need to engage in a highly organized and strategic mass media counter-propaganda campaign; the need to help "awaken" and motivate a significant number of "hard-core" activists first, and as many people as possible in the general population; the need to identify specific strategies to remove the control by the "immoral" power elite on the population; and the need to be able to motivate a large-enough segment of the population act in concert, with cohesiveness, strategically.

These concepts may seem abstract or esoteric to some readers, but I argue that a very clear example of how the current "business activist movement" became a cohesive and highly effective force (of the immoral power elite) is because they organized in such fashion, inspired by people like former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.'s, who wrote what's become to be known as "The Powell Memo:" "Attack on American Free Enterprise System."

Those who would like to join the nationwide team we are putting together to tackle these issues can collaborate in multiple ways in accordance with their available time resources.  We will be developing think tanks on different topics, including employee-owned businesses, sustainable housing and food production, and social justice activism best practices.

I will always be focused on action, trying to find out how we can coordinate immediate action on certain area, as well as planning for mid- and long-term objectives.

Those interested to join our growing group of activists can start by joining the mailing list.  All our activities will always be peaceful and lawful.  I believe that the potential strength of this developing group lies on organization, cohesiveness and strategic thinking.

As always, I'm looking forward to comments, insights, and ideas about this topic.

Each blue dot on the map below represents a member of a growing nation-wide network of social justice and anti-corruption activists committed to finding the best way forward.  Join us in the effort!

Ray Pensador | Email List | Twitter | Facebook

Originally posted to Ray Pensador on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 01:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Fragile (13+ / 0-)

    The society re-engineered by the political and economic elites in their own interest is furthermore inherently very fragile -- maybe "brittle" is a better word.

    So, when cracks form, the elites need to take ever more drastic measures to keep it standing -- everything from bank bailouts on the public dime to subsequent militarization of police and surpression of mass public movements when people see what is happening and begin to revolt.

    This is smoothed over by media-created hysterias like the "culture wars" that have the effect of directing citizen anger against other citizens, rather than the elites that are responsible for the mess.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 03:42:58 AM PDT

  •  Best scholar of Mills' tradition useful (10+ / 0-)

    The best scholar in my opinion who takes up Mills' insights into the American manifestations of the capture, maintenance, and use of power by a socio-politico-economic elite system is G. William Domhoff.

    He has done far more work on empirical research showing the steps by which power connects to policy, including the actual origins of crucial U.S. institutions such as Social Security.

    There are others who do outstanding work & contributions -- Dye, Saenz, etc. -- but I've never seen anyone connect the theoretical and empirical dots as well and thoroughly as he has.

  •  In 2nd 1/2 of 20th C., Ownership RETURNED to (7+ / 0-)

    being its NATURAL and PREVIOUS immoral self thanks to capturing government and repealing regulations that for a time had forcibly tied its welfare to the welfare of the masses.

    For 10,000 years, ownership has always been greedy and sociopathic.

    This issue is roughly 1 part morality to a million parts regulation and system design.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 05:26:27 AM PDT

  •  Humans do have an innate sense (8+ / 0-)

    of fairness I believe. Just like they like things arranged a la the golden triangle but don't know of the concept, it just is.

    Some things just work, because they are natural.

    What the issue is to me is that the elites, or whoever "they" are, seek to control. There's got to be an anti-thesis to this uniformity which they crave. I don't crave it. I crave a little conformity, like where to store things, and we all agree on using hours and clocks and calendars, streetlights and stop signs, because they work.

    The elites control by stuff. Food, shelter, help etc., they withhold it, because they are hoarders and scorekeepers. Regular people tend to share. Anybody who is good at something ends up with more than they can use, like a gardener. If a gardener is proficient, he always ends up with an excess, and his first inclination is to share it, rather than waste it. Controllers would rather destroy extra inventory than share. It is the same with money. They hoard it. They keep it away from the rest of us. Then they try to mete it out in order to get what they want. I suppose they get to a point where stuff no longer appeases them so they go about trying to manipulate people to their own whims. This is where I think some sort of sickness lies.

    I could see it in Romney. While he might be a billionaire, which to us is unfathomable, he seemed to be intimidated by the likes of Adelson and others who are many times over hoarding more than he. I'm sure he saw the presidency as a means to grow his pot. After all, the Clintons went from relatively modest means to upwards of $250M after their political success. It was reported yesterday, that Chelsea and her husband purchased a 4 bedroom 6 bathroom apartment for 10 or so million. it's never enough.

    Look at Newt. He has a compartmentalized sort of thinking that led him to posit that poor kids should work as janitors. The rest of us recoiled, because that would put janitors out of work and send a ripple through the economy and deprive the poor student of time to spend studying and being a child. Yet Newt has this way of thinking that he'd like to organize which equals a stratum for each of his compartmentalized thoughts. He doesn't look at his concept as multiplied and having fallout. He sees people 'down there' and you know, they should just pull themselves up and quit complaining because he has a vision in mind and you are on this particular limited level in his mind. You are sorted.

    But people are a lot more complex and messy than that. They don't come with papers or instruction manuals. In much the same way some people here tend to think of certain types, races and ages as monolithic sometimes, it just doesn't work that way. Yet, it does work that way for some things, like healthcare, because we are the same organism, or currency, because we agreed on some sort of rate of exchange rather than trading actual things, and clocks and calendars.........

    •  The less we need from them (10+ / 0-)

      the less they control us.

      I'm coming to think that one of the most important direct actions we can undertake is helping people become sustainably self-sufficient.

      Consider this work being down by the Texas Intentional Earthship Community and Cooperative:

      We are forming Communities and cooperatives in the Dallas and Austin TX areas. We started a non-profit to offer training, and building off-grid "earthship" houses, Permaculture and aquaponic farming to grow fruits, vegetables and fish. These systems provide for all basic human needs: shelter, food, water, and power; because no one should have to pay a cost just for living. The cooperatives and communities are based on each individual or family owning their own land. Owners have the option of building an earthship of their own. We will co-op with aquaponics farming to provide food for the cooperative. Participation in this is optional.
      Consider people free from earning an income to pay for the basic necessities of shelter, food, water and power. How much is that freedom worth? Consider a generation freed from pursuing and then being saddled -- and saddled is a perfect metaphor, with a high-paying, stressful, distracting career -- by a large mortgage and the kind of career necessary to fund it.

      Consider what we could accomplish socially to overcome the shortcomings that have led to the monumentally horrendous decisions and consequences.

      Consider how this would defund and deflate the consumption matrix of the power elite.

      One of the major differences between Democrats and Republicans is that the former have the moral imagination to see the moral dimension of financial affairs, while the latter do not. Some pragmatists are exceptions.

      by Words In Action on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 07:03:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree (7+ / 0-)

        it will require cooperatives and actual physical communities in situ.

        What is stalling it Most specifically, the downturn in housing values has made it hard for people to move to where their situations might be better. They are treading water.

        I'd definitely be up for something like that. I would have moved already if I could sell my house. I was looking at West Virginia. I wanted solar, wind and chickens and a large garden. Maybe a cow or two and a horse.

        It's all logistics. Finding like minded people that like each other and have complimentary skills and attributes. The internet could be a useful tool for that.

        •  Yes. Here's a place to look for a community (4+ / 0-)

          The Intentional Communities Directory

          I agree with your assessment. We need cooperatives just to deal with that. People who provide transportation (perhaps relays), people who can provide temporary housing, people who can provide food, people who provide and/or help find work...

          Can you rent and move?

          One of the major differences between Democrats and Republicans is that the former have the moral imagination to see the moral dimension of financial affairs, while the latter do not. Some pragmatists are exceptions.

          by Words In Action on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 07:58:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Rent and move? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I'm not sure I'd want to do that. Renting is a hassle. A person who could afford to rent this house could buy one I'd imagine.

            •  Yeah, there are property management (0+ / 0-)

              companies that take care of the details for a cut of the rent, and you may not cover all the expenses. But it could be a way to get out of the trap?

              Maybe the extra cost there could be offset where you're going, either through income and/or reduced cost. Maybe you could find a place to stay cheaply in the meantime.

              Are you underwater?

              One of the major differences between Democrats and Republicans is that the former have the moral imagination to see the moral dimension of financial affairs, while the latter do not. Some pragmatists are exceptions.

              by Words In Action on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 08:47:20 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  No, I'm free and clear. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Words In Action

                I know about property management.

                I looked at your link. The ideal for me would be some sort of cluster neighborhood with the most land left available for allotments for various agrarian projects, mainly food.

                The move I wanted would have involved already in place solar hot water heating and I would have added a wind turbine and more solar.

                I'm not trapped per se, I like where I live. I have a large lot, but not large enough for any livestock and it isn't the greatest for growing food or solar or wind.

      •  That is the key right there. Exactly that. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Words In Action, isabelle hayes

        I will check out the information about the Texas Intentional Earthship Community and Cooperative.  In my next diary, I will share some ideas I've been thinking about how we can reach the maximum number of people in order to propagate these new way of looking at socioeconomic relationships.

      •  Do you have a link for that? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ray Pensador

        I too have envisioned that if we could just get past our conditioning to go it alone we could then band together and combine resources which would give us all more than we have alone. And we could experiment a la Findhorn or the horticulture method and create sustainable growing.

        We could then control our own buying and borrowing to the point that we could really avoid the banksters, the fraudsters and the tricksters.

        True we would still interact with that world but not so much as before. If there were enough communities like this the interactions could be more between them and not the sociopaths.

        American Television is a vast sea of stupid. -xxdr zombiexx

        by glitterscale on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 06:55:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Mills is a great resource. (5+ / 0-)

    Ray, I know you've purchased the e-book for Beautiful Trouble: A Tool Box for Revolution (from the people who bought you the Yes Men, Billionaires for Bush, etc.).

    It's a wonderful resource for activists, containing tactics, principles, theories, case studies and practitioners.
    The contributors are a who's who of activists and activism trainers.

    And it's available for free online!

    A couple I see that relate to this topic:

    Narrative Power Analysis: What makes a story powerful is not necessarily facts, but how the story creates meaning in the hearts and minds of the listeners.

    Pedagogy of the Oppressed: An approach to education that seeks to transform oppressive structures by engaging people who have been marginalized and de-humanized and drawing what they already know.

    Pillars of Support: Power stems not just from a ruler's ability to use force, but from the consent and cooperation of the ruled, which can be voluntarily and non-violently withdrawn. by identifying, targeting and undermining the ruler's "pillars of support", the institutions and organizations that sustain its power.

    Points of Intervention: A point of intervention is a physical or conceptual place within a system where pressure can be put to disrupt its smooth functioning and push for change.

    The Propaganda Model: We can develop media tactics that take advantage of the contradictions within corporate-sponsored journalism.

    The Social Cure: People are more likely to be motivated by action by peer groups than by information or appeals to fear. The social cure is a method of harnessing this power of social groups for social change.

    There are others, as well. I think we should be mindful of some of these theories, the issues they raise and the suggestions the make as we construct our appoach(es).

    One of the major differences between Democrats and Republicans is that the former have the moral imagination to see the moral dimension of financial affairs, while the latter do not. Some pragmatists are exceptions.

    by Words In Action on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 07:29:29 AM PDT

  •  Divide and Conquer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, NancyWH, isabelle hayes

    Step one for the elites is to convince the masses that their opinion is as good as anyone elses.  Individualism, privatism, and the commodification of society all work to divide society into individuals who are more vulnerable to manipulation by elites.

  •  A little under the weather (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador

    this past week, but had to stop by & say Hi, and thank you, as always.  

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 12:15:36 PM PDT

  •  No mention of Chomsky and Herman? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Manufacturing Consent was the first serious left-wing political book I ever read.

    Of course, the question is, what do we do about it? Yes, organized, but then, having organized, we should collectively.... do what?

    We are in a rather unique position historically in that the elites no longer really depend on the masses, thanks to technology. We can't really cause the system to grind to a halt by non-participation, and we can't fight it directly; what does that even leave?

    Visit Lacking All Conviction, your patch of grey on those too-sunny days.

    by eataTREE on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 01:16:23 PM PDT

  •  90% of people don't care. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ray Pensador, isabelle hayes
    I've always been intrigued about the degree to which power elites control the population.  I don't know exactly how or why, but just by simple observation about how society works, I've come to the conclusion that power elites exert an extraordinary level of control over the population.
    Most people have no principles or goals which guide their lives.  "Democracy" is a distant and uninteresting concept.

    Most people are worried about getting through today and tomorrow.  They do not think beyond the next paycheck.

    Most people literally do not care about anyone beyond their immediate family and friends.  Tribalism is the rule, not the exception.

    Communication still takes time and effort.  Many people do not communicate well.  A tiny minority bother to read any part of any canon.  Even "thought leaders" like Krugman reach fewer than 1% of citizens.

    The level of inertia is amazing.  Literally, amazing.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 04:19:51 PM PDT

    •  Yes, that's the biggest challenge in trying to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Musial, isabelle hayes

      organize people against corrupt systems of government.  I keep coming back to the impact the massive amount of distorted mass communication stimuli people are subjected to as one of the main reasons for the inertia.

      •  Gov. Ventura got a lot of first (3+ / 0-)

        time voters from the non-voting plurality because he gave them something to vote against. Utimately radical movements must deliver radical legislation. This has been done typically by controling the votes against the enemies of the movement. The many single issue movements that have brought us this far constitute our history, as Howard Zinn documented. The New Deal was supported by a supermajority. Populism is always abundantly supported.

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