ZNet | VisionStrategy
The Immaculate Dictatorship
by Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez; September 22, 2003
Most people in the United States and other countries would say that this country is extraordinary and probably unique in world history. They will cite its size, wealth, technology, power. They are not likely to mention its most remarkable achievement.
The United States is the first immaculate dictatorship in modern times..
Unlike other societies where the rulers have maintained control over their populations by means of unlimited repression, those in the U.S. developed a unique formula to guarantee domination with minimum bloodshed. If a serious challenge appears and co-optation becomes insufficient, violent repression may be used, especially against people of color. But the fundamental means of control here is maintaining the consensus of the dominated that the existing system of rule is just. Such consensus gives legitimacy and stability.
The U.S. ruling class has established that consensus by an application of psychological and cultural repression. Despite the fact that as a nation the United States was born from genocide, slavery, military expansion and colonization, most of its inhabitants have been taught over the centuries to believe this nation is a democracy and the best country in the world. This enables the majority, primarily but not only white, to see themselves as superior to others: a species chosen by God to dominate. Thus the people of this land are compelled by usually non-violent means to see the U.S. system of rule as just.
That view is sustained, first, by elaborate structures of constitutional and legal protection for civil and democratic rights-on paper. Those structures do not threaten continuation of the class dictatorship; in fact their existence protects the rulers' claims to democracy. Second, people need to be told lies so astutely and so consistently that massive rebellion rarely becomes a problem. The fine art of hocus-pocus, turning lies into truth, goes back centuries but has now reached dazzling heights. To turn repression into patriotism is just one recent example.
Third, people need to be taught to define well-being in terms of themselves and their families, not other peoples or the planet. When necessary, a perceived threat to the nation's well-being may temporarily transcend the dominant value system of individualism. "I" becomes "we," as in the military. But the basic U.S. worldview remains unchanged: no other person or country anywhere really matters.
The U.S. ruling class formula must not be seen as simplistic brainwashing. A significant degree of opportunity and free expression must exist. The illusion of freedom must also be sustained by an economy that guarantees a certain standard of living for a certain percent of the population. This makes possible the culture of consumerism, which defines yet another "freedom": choice between products.
Compared to many other countries, the United States is in fact relatively free, with space to protest injustice and demand reforms. We need to recognize these realities-and also use them--while never forgetting that they don't permit a fundamental transformation of power relations. Immaculateness exists to guarantee such basic change cannot happen.
Ours is an immaculate dictatorship, with no visible blood on its hands. To keep most people convinced they live in a democracy, it functions in an almost surreal fashion. Today, for example, many serious Californians believe the way to uproot racism is not to record its existence. This dictatorship rarely has to act like one. Other industrialized countries may seem the same in certain ways but none can compete with the U.S. in its conviction of absolute superiority and its indifference to truth.
How to break through the hypocrisy called democracy? Today we see a worldwide wave of new challenges to the immorality of empire. More and more Americans have detected the odor of dictatorship. It is even possible to imagine a national nervous breakdown taking place, as people see how they have been fooled for so many years and become desperate or cynical--but cannot imagine a new, better kind of society.
Within the U.S., the dictatorship's weakest spot is racism, which has been vital to its wealth and imperialist expansion from birth. To workingclass peoples of color, the dictatorship has never been immaculate; they have often been the first to tear away the veil of lies that say the U.S. system of rule is just. Keeping them divided has been crucial for over 300 years, and their unity is its great nightmare.
Let us all reject that legitimacy rooted in lies. Let us join forces in an irresistible tide of humanity rolling toward history's most powerful empire. Has this ever seem more necessary than now? And perhaps more possible, even on the long moonless night of our present era when hope can seem unbearably elusive? Yes, we who live in the heart of the empire have the heaviest of duties. Let us consider that the greatest of honors.