Within today’s capitalist world, particularly the core imperialist countries, the system is held together by a type of cultural hegemony which fits our increasingly grim conditions. This cultural hegemony goes deeper than the set of myths and propaganda narratives that the imperialist media spins to justify the U.S./NATO empire’s perpetual war operations, or the free market fundamentalist dogma that our ruling class uses to justify its cruel neoliberal economic designs. These ideological constructs remain dominant in our culture because for the average person in our society, no cohesive alternative cultural narratives are detectable. It’s due to our lack of culture and guiding ideology that the hypocritical, dishonest ideologies which our ruling class has manufactured are allowed to go unchallenged.
The centers of imperial power maintain this widespread ignorance and nihilism by cutting the masses off from knowledge about the societies which are developing outside the confines of our own hyper-exploitative socioeconomic paradigm. The socialist workers democracies in China, north Korea, and Cuba are vilified by our media as oppressive “dictatorships.” The leaps that they and the two other Marxist-Leninist countries Vietnam and Laos are making towards increased living standards and reduced greenhouse gas emissions get omitted from the imperialist portrayals of these countries. These and all of Washington’s other geopolitical rivals are painted as unambiguously evil, while the many actual dictatorships and genocidal regimes that Washington supports have their crimes sanitized.
As part of the empire’s reaction to the recent decline of U.S. global hegemony, this dynamic of separation from anything outside our system is being fortified-whether through tightening online censorship against journalists who question imperialist narratives, bans on any foreign members of communist parties from immigrating to the U.S., or literal walls that consist of increasingly militarized barriers and intensive digital border surveillance apparatuses. The goal is to isolate us from the socialist world so thoroughly that we can’t become aware of how much better our lives could be under a different system.
In this shrunken reality, where the residents of the core imperialist countries are detached from information that extends outside of what the empire wants them to be exposed to, the people nonetheless experience the growing horrors of our conditions under late-stage capitalism. We see how the government is refusing to implement a living wage despite the people’s rapidly growing poverty. We see how our leaders are cheating many of us out of stimulus money based on arbitrary loopholes like debt that we owe. We see how tens of millions within the U.S. alone have become permanently unemployed this last year as big tech companies have consolidated the job market into their cynically exploitative industry. We see how the deregulation of the power grid to serve corporate interests has left communities extremely vulnerable to electricity outages, as was just shown during the Texas storms.
We see how our corrupt leaders, who are deep in the pockets of Big Pharma and the healthcare industry, are showering insurance companies with taxpayer money instead of implementing a universal healthcare system amid the pandemic. We see how well over half a million people in the U.S. have so far died from Covid-19 due to the deadly austerity that our country’s exceptional militarism has produced. We see how billionaires have collectively grown over a trillion dollars richer in this last year while millions of lower class families have come to experience eviction, lack of food access, and inability to pay bills. We see how the latest stimulus, which is advertised to “cut child poverty in half,” will provide the poorest families with only temporary benefits that will ultimately do nothing to bring down our society’s ever-rising inequality. But most still remain demobilized in the face of this, simply because they’re deprived of the ideological tools and organizing mechanisms needed to wage class struggle.
It’s this cutting off of the information required for class consciousness, combined with the ways living under this system forces you to detach from political or intellectual pursuits so you can focus on your immediate survival needs, that reinforces our systematic lack of culture. The gaping holes in our educational resources and artistic centers, widened by half a century of austerity, are filled in by the vapid nihilism of consumer culture. Corporations exploit our growing insecurity and loneliness by selling us supposed quick fixes for our spiritual sickness. They try to get us to attach our personal identities to their brands, to admire them for the charity work that they’re doing even though they’re the reason why this miserable system continues to exist.
And because of the negative cultural space that this system creates, because of our society’s lack of a real ideological mold, we passively accept these manufactured cultural vestiges despite subconsciously knowing how hollow they are. We go on, enduring the daily pains of living under a social order that seeks to squeeze us to death and that views us as disposable, because we’re conditioned to know nothing else. Even if we’re aware that this social order is driving our planet towards ecological and climatic destruction, and that we’re going to suffer and potentially die because of this while the rich retreat to their fortified luxury enclaves, we conduct ourselves as if this is unavoidable. Because of the paralysis and confusion that occurs when we start to try to consider how capitalism and imperialism can be defeated, we often treat the already unfolding reality of climate collapse as something to laugh about, similarly to how people have often made jokes about nuclear war to cope with the prospect of atomic annihilation.
When you recognize this nihilistic attitude towards our capitalist crises that we’ve internalized, you see the incredible urgency of snapping out of it, of finding a way to throw down the system that drags us closer towards hell by the day. It doesn’t matter how much we try to psychologically distance ourselves from our necro-political reality, whether through digital distractions, retreats into reactionary ideologies, or ironic humor. The necro-politics are still right in front of our faces as proletarians and poor people. And they’re still going to get more oppressive as our economic and environmental breakdowns accelerate.
The logical conclusion of our current politics is a Blade Runner world, where most of humanity and nature has been sacrificed to the destructive appetite of capital while the remaining people live under a dystopian police state. The U.S. military has even admitted as such in one fairly recent document, anticipating that the coming decades will bring such deteriorated conditions for the majority of people that the army will need to be sent in to occupy the increasingly unstable “feral cities.” The document also names the wealthy metropolitan areas as “smart cities,” fleshing out a near future where the bourgeoisie live in high-tech bubbles while the rest of the country grows ever more militarized, impoverished, and kept in line through the kinds of mass pacification tactics Israel uses against the occupied Palestinians.
We can remain paralyzed, we can remain in the mentality of nihilistic detachment, or we can take up the tasks necessary for defeating the forces of capital. We must study the Marxist-Leninist systems of the nations which have broken free from bourgeois control, and figure out how we can each contribute to bringing proletarian revolution where we live. The best way to start is by reading the theory of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, and applying their analyses to your own conditions. If we use these resources to gain a coherent ideology, the system’s pacifying tactics will no longer work on us.
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