Society is much like a barnyard in which various animals compete for ascendancy. Today in America, the pigs rule. Not the pigs on George Orwell’s mythical “Animal Farm,” and not the pig in the movie “Babe.” Those pigs are not your typical porkers. They are highly idealized fictional characters. Growing up in Jamaica, I raised my share of real pigs, and I can assure you that they are not the most noble creatures in God’s kingdom.
And this is the type of character that dominates American politics today.
In a democracy as massive and diverse as America’s, we the people don’t dictate policy. All we can do is help to determine what faction of the elite grabs the reins of power. And, as education deteriorates and mass media proliferates, public opinion is less and less informed and more and more easily manipulated.
In places like Jamaica, you can often buy a vote with a QQ of white rum and a platter of curry goat and rice. Here in America votes are bought with diabolically contrived TV commercials and Internet ads.
And who has the most money to buy those ads? The pigs.
Here’s how Alternet’s Sara Robinson puts it in an article reproduced today by Salon.com:
For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they’ve done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.
Among the presidents, this strain gave us both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Poppy Bush — nerdy, wonky intellectuals who, for all their faults, at least took the business of good government seriously. Among financial elites, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet still both partake strongly of this traditional view of wealth as power to be used for good. Even if we don’t like their specific choices, the core impulse to improve the world is a good one — and one that’s been conspicuously absent in other aristocratic cultures.
Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility — the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.
Pigs rule. We Jamaicans know them well. Not just the ones in the pig pen, but also those in the Great House.
Here’s more from Robinson’s article:
As described by Colin Woodard in “American Nations: The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America,” the elites of the Deep South are descended mainly from the owners of sugar, rum and cotton plantations from Barbados — the younger sons of the British nobility who’d farmed up the Caribbean islands, and then came ashore to the southern coasts seeking more land. Woodward described the culture they created in the crescent stretching from Charleston, SC around to New Orleans this way:
It was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity….From the outset, Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state-sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.
Barbados woke up and shook off the slave culture’s legacy. Jamaica woke up and shook off the slave culture’s legacy. But – amazingly – the slave culture is alive and thriving in America.
As Robinson declares:
It’s not an overstatement to say that we’re now living in Plantation America.
And with the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows unlimited and unmonitored political campaign spending, the plantation bosses are digging into their war chests to ensure even more dominance in the future.
The only weapon we the people have is the ballot box. It is up to us to close our eyes and ears to the flood of right-wing propaganda that will flood the airwaves this election season and vote against the plantation owners.