Saturday, August 30, 2014

On Ethos - a 2011 Documentary

Our ethos is all that we currently hold to be true. It is what we act upon. It governs our manners, our business and our politics.” -  Howard Zinn

Directed by Pete McGrain, and hosted by Woody Harrelson, this 68 minute film explores how we got here and what to do about it as we "fight for a new democracy."   It's nothing new, but it's succinct and watchable, and divided into sections which is handy in a classroom.  My notes are below, after the film in its entirety.

Like in Go Further, which is a much lighter film with weird musical interludes, Harrelson is espousing a simplistic solution:  "Dare to feel responsible for every dollar you put down."  Since our purchases can make or break corporations, we have the power to change the world by carefully choosing which products to buy.  But, how do we deal with the reality that most people are blind followers too complacent to act, or, as Chomsky calls it, "the stupidity of the average man"?

But Diamond makes the same suggestion in Collapse.  I'm not confident it'll work, but it might be all we've got.


"We don’t have a democratic society. The U.S. is a polyarchy and always has been. Nobody in power wants democracy because it challenges their power structures." - Noam Chomsky

We think politicians pander to the public, which creates the impression that the political system has problems but it’s still accountable to the public, but the reality is that politicians largely ignore public opinion.  The corporate-owned media sets the agenda, which makes it seem like we have a choice, but we don’t. Politicians are more similar than different because they answer to the same master – corporations. We don’t have elections anymore, we have auctions. Government is for sale. Money in politics gives the power to those with money, and it’s unlikely for politicians to change the system that gives them power.


"Corporations only have the bottom line." - Michael Moore

Governments have to balance the needs of the whole society including big business based on ethics and social and moral responsibility. But if corporations have more power than governments, we have to understand the effects that will have on the whole system.  Corporations are required by law to work only for the stakeholders, so they externalize costs, and they must expand, so use up more resources. The damage is terrifying and morally bankrupt. Typical corporations are extractive, wasteful, abusive, linear, and global, i.e. not under the power of any one government. They've replaced governments.  We need corporations to bring us new technologies, but the system encourages a thirst for short-term profit.


The Federal Reserve Bank of the US is owned by a private cartel, not by the government.

“The world is governed by different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.” - Benjamin Disraeli

“The one aim of these financiers is world control by the creation of inextinguishable debt.” - Henry Ford

“Since I have entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the US are afraid of something. They know there is a power somewhere. A power so subtle, so organized, so complete and pervasive that they better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.”  - Woodrow Wilson


Our great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Therefore all of our activities are in the hands of a small group of men who chill and check true economic freedom. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, completely controlled and dominated governments in the world. No longer a government of the majority but a government of the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.” - Woodrow Wilson - 1921

The value of money is determined by how much is in circulation. This should be controlled by the government, but it’s controlled by the Federal Reserve. If the government needs money, the Federal Reserve loans it money and the government has to pay it back with interest. The reserve was set up by some of the richest men in U.S. (e.g. J.P. Morgan).  They caused a panic in order to convince Wilson to sign and get elected in 1929.


"Because of the stupidity of the average man, he follows not reason but faith. In a military state, it doesn’t matter what people think because they can be controlled by force. When the state loses that control, and people can speak up, then we have to control what people think. That’s what media is for."  - Noam Chomsky

We tend to base our opinions on biased news. The media presents two sides of an issue, but as if it’s a narrow issue rather than offer a broad and complex discussion.

Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, took the new science of psychiatry and used it to manipulate the masses.  He invented Public Relations and worked for major corporations and advised political figures. He held big parties and all politicians, businessmen, and artists showed up.  He recognized that the way to sell products isn’t to appeal to the intellect, but to feelings: “You’ll feel better if you have it.” Companies can tap into people's deepest desires and deepest fears and use that for their own benefit.  Democracy is about maintaining the power imbalance even if it means stimulating the psychological needs of the masses. Democracy changed from the idea of active citizenry to public consumers driven by instinctual or unconscious desires. If you can trigger those needs and desires, you can get what you want. People need to be trained to want new things before the old are consumed. Make people want things they don’t need by linking the product to their unconscious desires.  It's all old hat now.


"The so called independent media is so lazy and controlled by interests that are commercial and political that there is no investigating reporting – it’s just repeating the lines of the people with the most influence." - Edward Said

If we’re going to make decisions about the future of our society, the single most important thing we need is the truth. The nightmare scenario refers to the implications when a powerful group of businessmen with access to the White House make obscene amounts of money whenever there’s a war.  Contractors went in to Afghanistan and Iraq to look for business deals. All of them had ties to the White House (e.g. The Carlyle Group). There's been an Iron Triangle created between military, big business, and politics. Military contractors can affect governmental policy and are rewarded financially for doing so (i.e. starting wars). Military organization can work behind the scenes without accountability and ruin careers of people who are too inquisitive or too honest. It develops the means for unprecedented global control. It’s an immensely powerful company without public scrutiny. Congress fails us because they’re paid off by the corporations. When war becomes that profitable, you’re going to see more of it even though going to war should only happen when the honest reasons for the war are laid out and allowed to be scrutinized by the public. 

In the popular media, Muslims are terrorists. In 2003, most people thought, wrongly, that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11. The US took over strategic positions in Iraq for easier invasions of other countries and to have the oil. War is about getting American control over the areas, not about freeing people. Freedom means allowing dissent and debate. Politics of fear dictates that the media perpetuate myths that we have lots of enemies - evil-doers - so we can never be weak. We have to be ready to fight. Government programs our level of fear without any justification. The rigged American economy can’t go on forever. The system is set up to find wars. Spectatorship is an invitation to fear. Citizenship is how we fight the politics of fear – taking responsibility, taking action, being engaged citizens. We, as individuals, drive the demand for these resources. As long as we are all aware of the fact that there’s blood in this oil, and that is the decision we make, then so be it.


We shall have a world government whether we like it or not. The only question is whether it will be by conquest or consent.” Paul Warburg, Council on Foreign Relations

Denial is understandable. The rights to freedom of speech, free assembly, and fair trial are no longer protected by law. Acts against the government can be seen as terrorism (e.g. Patriot Act and Harper’s attack on scientists and environmentalists). There's a political movement towards making citizens carry ID in the U.S. which could lead towards chips implanted in us. Will our sense of fear lead us to accept and even welcome totalitarian control by the government? Historically governments use fear to control the masses. In the War on Terror, there are no real enemies.  They've convince people it’s real in order to take away our freedoms. That which the system holds most deal is its greatest weakness.


This system cannot continue. The idea of allowing wealthy elites to make decisions is terrifying. The great heroes of our times couldn’t create change on their own. Only the will of the people can do that. Together we can accomplish anything. The way to win back democracy has just one cure, and it’s simple: We live in a capitalist system. It’s turned us into obedient consumers. This creates demands on resources so that we invade to get more. Then using wealth and power, corporations undermine democracy and justice. The ironic outcome of consumerism is it makes you, the consumer, all powerful. The way we choose to spend our money can change everything.


Owen Gray said...

Sounds like a terrific film, Marie. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Marie.

Marie Snyder said...

Cool video, anon - a perfect fit to Ethos.