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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Manufactured Loyalties

Via Ender's Review. Mike Rogers writes:

From the day a child gets old enough to understand, the brainwashing commences. Believe it or not, I’d even have to say that the brainwashing begins from the day a baby can recognize colors and objects; from the day a baby can start to understand the relationship between signs, gestures, and their meanings, is the day the brainwashing begins. And it doesn’t matter when or whether that child was born and raised in the Soviet Union, China, Japan, Nazi Germany, or the United States; if the home and area they are raised in has any sort of government or even one iota of jingoism or patriotism, you can bet that that child will grow up with a biased view on the world. You can be sure that the brainwashing has distorted that child’s thinking. You can also be sure that the child probably will grow up with an unwavering belief that his country is the best – and will get angry or defensive if challenged about it; you can bet that child will grow up being considered a dumb-bird and ill-educated by the very few who aren’t brainwashed; and you can bet your bottom dollar that that child will grow up being a believer that his country could do no wrong, no matter what the circumstances or the facts say....

Why do people care about someone whose only relationship to them actually is a government issued passport? Why don't people shed a tear for 10,000 dead in an earthquake in that foreign land? Could it really be because of a passport? Is it really just because of brainwashing and indoctrination we have all received since the day we were born?

More generally, people are brainwashed to feel loyalty to all sorts of institutions over whose creation, structure, functioning and goals they have absolutely no say; these manufactured loyalties to "my school," "my town," "my employer," etc., is attached and transferred from institution to institution as fast as authority figures hand them down.

For example: last summer, the Springdale school administration opened the town's second high school, Har-Ber High School, for classes (it was named after Harvey and Berniece Jones, the late billionaire owners of Jones Truck Lines). For the entire history of the original Springdale High School up until this year, the school administration has resisted creating a second school, because the existence of a single high school for the city would inculate a sense of common loyalty in students, and prevent the formation of divisive neighborhood loyalties that might lead to gang warfare. But the powers that be finally decided that the old high school had become unmanageably big, and it was time to manufacture a new high school (and the manufactured loyalty that went along with it). As the local newspaper reported last year,

The second public high school will be named Springdale Har-Ber High School with a mascot of the Wildcats, the Springdale School Board decided Tuesday.

There you have it: "your" high school, with prefabricated name and mascot--all nice and official like, just like the Inner Party trotted out Big Brother.

Of course, I had nothing but contempt for the idea of "school spirit" from the time I entered junior high. The decisions of where to build the school and what to call it, I thought, the decision of what to name the football team, and its colors and mascot, were made entirely by adults, with no input whatever by the students. The school was created to process us for purposes over which we had absolutely no control. But because we happened to be congregated in that same building, as a result of the decision of some faceless school administration bureaucrat as to which neighborhoods were "served" by Central JHS and which by Southwest, we were expected to think of it as "my school" and produce the appropriate emotion on command when the right songs were played.

Anyway, just this month, less than two months after classes first started in this school created from scratch just this year, I saw my first "Har-Ber Wildcats" sticker in a car window. That's getting your mind right, and in a hurry!

On the topic of national loyalty, I wrote this for Sean Gabb's Free Life a couple of years ago:

To hear some people talk, the greatest sin one can commit is "class warfare." Bob Novak denounces the "Marxist class war" of those who, unhelpfully, point out that government policies benefit one class at the expense of another (the guilty class warriors, it seems, being those who acknowledge the phenomenon rather than those who engage in it). Former Treasury Secretary O'Neil expressed his outraged sensibilities over "robber baron rhetoric." This class warfare is evil, they say, because it pits American against American--the worst form of filial impiety.

Just out of curiosity, what is so holy about the idea of "nation" or "country" as a form of common bond, as opposed to common class status, religion, or for that matter, race? What is it about the "mystic bonds" of union between those born in the same territory that makes the deaths of seven countrymen in a shuttle explosion more tragic than the deaths of, say, a thousand civilians in Iraq?...

And why is it so obviously silly to address another (according to Wobbly custom) as "fellow worker," but entirely "dulce et decorum" to hail an audience as "my fellow Americans"? It would seem to make at least as much sense to identify with others based on common status as producers, as on the basis of being born in the same geographical area....

Let's pose a hypothetical problem for those who so vehemently denounce "class warfare" for dividing Americans against one another. Imagine being held up at gunpoint by a mugger. Does it bother you less when you find out he's an American citizen? Does the knowledge that he was born between the 49th parallel and the Rio Grande suffice to absolve him of the crime of robbing you? Do you say, "Oh, well, since you're one of my American lodge brothers, we'll just let bygones be bygones?"

Well, from my free market anarchist viewpoint, that is exactly what the state capitalist elites in the United States are doing. They are using the coercive power of the State to rob the producing classes at gunpoint, in order to live off their labour.

So my instinctive response to those "united we stand" stickers is "Who's this 'we' you're talking about, Kemosabe?"


Blogger Bill said...


are you saying that people from Alabama and California have the exact same culture? The same experience even of federal insstitutions?

Over here we have widely different cultures between cities 50 miles apart - any bastard calls me a Geordie soon finds out my opinion of them...I'm a bloody Yorkshireman!

November 04, 2005 12:38 AM  
Blogger Eric H said...

...The generation that was to respond to the last man on Pearl Harbor's dawn had been conditioned to the last man to believe that wars accomplish nothing. Had America been an enormous laboratory and had we all been albino rats, no more elegant experiment could have been devised to test the powers of social conditioning. Perhaps its only equal has been that of the Soviet Union in its total effort half a century long to induce the Russian farmer to put his heart into crops raised on land not his own. Ours was as total in its way, and it lasted for twenty-three years, and it failed in a dawn's bad hour. Yet human gullibility is such that a generation who survived the experiment will instruct another generation that patriotism is something we are taught.

Robert Ardry, The Territorial Imperative, discussing his and his contemporaries' reaction to Pearl Harbor.

From David Friedman's website. Not that I disagree, but just thought you'd like an informed counterpoint.

November 04, 2005 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not wrong to love your country, town, city, or even high school. It's genetically programmed into humans to be part of groups and to defend those groups from outsiders. The problem comes when the group is used to incite rights violations.

Calling someone brainwashed for having school spirit is just reflexive misanthropy.

- Josh

November 04, 2005 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is artificial here is the target of these natural social instincts, and perhaps the degree of them. In "nature", they would have focussed on whatever tribe there was, not nation states or High Schools. There are other natural tendencies relating to the natural hierarchy within tribes (often age related), which have been adjusted to make class structures work - when they do. The USA does not actually have a mature class structure tapping into these things.

November 05, 2005 3:12 AM  

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