Homo Americanus meets Homo Sovieticus

Opinion pieces by Derek Monroe, a writer and consultant who has reported on international and US foreign policy issues from Latin America, Poland, Japan, Iraq, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and India.

Job seekers browse tables at a veterans' job fair in Burbank, Los Angeles, California (Reuters / Lucy Nicholson)

Last month the US TV network CBS premiered a new reality show, which is a milestone that has been largely missed by media critics worldwide.

It is called “The
and the premise of the show is to use the
desperation and guilt of the poor in what essentially amounts to
economic “Hunger Games”. Each “lucky” recipient
family gets $101,000 and they are tasked with making a decision
to pay off their debts, buy clothes and feed themselves, or pass
it onto another family whose circumstances are may be even more
desperate than theirs.

Notwithstanding the perversity of this economic pornography that
feeds on the hungry voyeurism of our national psyche, the head of
the CBS network, Les Moonves, made $54 million last year alone
turning the show into a statement beyond its ratings and TV
status. Our society has now finally achieved the status of
participatory plebs, able to put its thumbs up or down in the
Colosseum of “personal responsibility”, while the poor
are not us but a mystical and figurative OTHER.

The process of the internalization of corporate mentality into
personal psyche, has been on the way since the 1970s, when the
economist Milton Friedman’s school of economic insanity started
setting a benchmark for new societal norms. It negated the
existence of society as a necessary construct, as British Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher so famously pronounced: “There is
no such thing as society.”
This coincided with the economic
deregulation of the financial industry leading to major bailouts
in the now largely forgotten S L crisis of the 1980s and
1990s, and internationally during the so-called Mexican Tequilla
Crisis (bailout of US banking investments in that country). What
followed was the final nail in the coffin of regulatory framework
under Clinton, which elevated financial fraud and exploitation
into a system that by the time of the 2008 crisis became an
integral part of state machinery.

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anti-fracking activism

The “too big to fail” system of parasitic existence
enshrined the ruling elite’s dependence on a new political system
that one could call a financial plantation republic. However, the
trend coming from the top that leaves certain people beyond
reproach has also migrated downwards as corporate employees
realized the double tier of rules and laws can also bring a
benefit for themselves, whether used for their own careerism,
financial gain or pure personal satisfaction. Thus the system of
bottom line short-termism has taken precedence over societal
norms such as honesty, decency or even family.

Since 2000, I have been conducting an interesting experiment
where I get a close up of American society at its most extreme.
Anytime some corporate entity or business committed fraud or
indulged in deceptive marketing practices, I would file a
lawsuit in the 19th Judicial Court in
Waukegan, IL and watch the response unfold.

The game, however, was not about money but an individual look at
my own mental makeup and something of an apology. After filing
over 70 lawsuits and litigating them in the past 14 years, I came
to experience an amazing view of the societal layer cake, which
chooses to transform itself from an unwitting and stupid pawn to
an enthusiastically participatory mentality based on
gladiatorial-like thirst for competition and winning. The
principle of decency or basic ethics has become irrelevant as the
winner’s syndrome takes over, even when ultimately it makes him
or her lose in the end. The narrative of winning and not taking
responsibility for one’s actions when above a certain income
level, has created a binary system of individual psychopathic
schizophrenia on a high level (the winners) and highly functional
autism for the lower level (ordinary people i.e. losers).

Job seekers browse tables at a veterans' job fair in Burbank, Los Angeles, California (Reuters / Lucy Nicholson)

Everyone is supposed to play his/her role according to their
station in life. It is based on an individual and not a societal
environment reinforced by the all American myth of self-made man.
However, if one has a willingness to progress upwards societally
and economically, the pattern is already available for its
emulation downwards. The illusion of power is a powerful
substitute for meaningful existence especially when it wears a
uniform. Recently, as my family was checking in for a flight, an
American Airlines uniformed employee disrespected me and my wife
in the front of my children. When I objected in a polite but firm
manner, we were verbally attacked by an expletive-laced tirade as
my children and other passengers watched. The supervisor was
nowhere to be found so the situation was resolved by us moving
away while nobody stepped in to defend us. When I reported the
issue, about a week later I received a form letter reply that was
followed by a call reading the same over the phone. It is obvious
that American Airlines feels it doesn’t owe anything to anyone
using its services. It also operates on the illusion of the power
template that under close inspection not only defies logic but
good business sense.

Basic ethics and morality are also excluded from the system as I
recently experienced when I sent a package to NY by USPS. The
two-day package was re-routed to a completely different location
in Pennsylvania and took six days instead. At the end the
contents were removed and when I reported the matter to USPS I
was told to file for insurance as USPS wouldn’t investigate the
matter. When I approached the USPS office of the postmaster
general in Washington DC, nobody cared to comment on the matter
or be available for assistance, which leads me to the conclusion
that the post office is in the business of aiding and abetting

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bombing American tax payer-paid equipment in Iraq’

The social engineering project that is defacto our economy has
taken a most insidious form: controlling access to education and
the institutionalization of poverty as the most common
characteristic of a neo-feudal class system. Since the financial
circumstances of the majority of Americans are leaving them with
enormous educational debts that have no chance of being repaid in
a low wage environment, the squeeze is on at the other end as
well. It is no coincidence that despite the alleged economic
upturn, the Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is effectively
planning to deconstruct America’s finest institution of
public higher education by ushering in $250 million in cuts at
the University of Wisconsin.

Concerning those in
power, their control must be reinforced and nothing works better
than the most elaborate system of propaganda and surveillance
ever to exist. Ingeniously, all data gathered and stored
guarantees that anybody’s innocent pranks and misdeeds can be
used down the road of life, 10, 20, 30 years later, giving a new
dimension to the cliché of who controls the past controls the
future. However, it also allows the power to trickle down and be
abused depending on circumstance and individual station in life,
closing the perfect circle of never ending co-dependence. The
genius of its design is also based on its own self-propelled
economic dynamics as the larger part of the economy now depends
on it. It is now relegated to a level of holy sacrament in the
religion called Capitalism: the almighty GDP.

In the Soviet era of social engineering, the idea of new Soviet
Man was created to reflect the new economic and political reality
of revolutionary change, while discarding the baggage of peasant
and religious superstition that dominated Tsarist Russia. The
Soviet writer Aleksandr Zinoviyev has coined the phrase Homo
Sovieticus as a sarcastic and critical reference to ordinary
citizens of the time being subjected to a Frankenstein-like
experimentation, which in the end turned on its master. In our
times, the experiment has been resurrected, this time with the
assistance of cutting edge technology in control, manipulation
and propaganda. It also has the purpose of creating a new and
improved version of the previous Soviet failure. Homo Americanus
is the better fed, entertained, overworked, distracted and
dressed up version of its poor cousin, but both will end up on
the scrapheap of history fed on a steady diet of ideological
HOPIUM for a better tomorrow that will never come.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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