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The WMail Newsletter Essays
Volume II - Issue #16: October 2001

"The Priests of Commerce"

        The basic Working Minds philosophy is post-objectivist and post-existential, taking concepts from both areas, as well as from many other disciplines, building upon each of them, combining here and there, and extending matters further in each case.
        Randian, Objectivist-leaning readers will especially like this month's essay.

        Ayn Rand's opposition to the 'Priests of Religion' and to the 'Priests of War' is covered in many essays; she also used the terms 'witch doctors' and 'the Atillas of history' in the essay "For The New Intellectual", and the terms 'the mystic' and 'the dictator' in John Galt's speech in "Atlas Shrugged".
        Both these systems are derived from fear, primarily a fear that others have been accorded Some Quality, some natural Value, that the Priests & Prophets of Religion and the Priests & Prophets of War have not – that the only access to such an absent, mysterious Quality is by seeking command over others who do seem to have such an inherent Quality (or Value): the only way to obtain the Power of such a Quality or Value is second-hand.

        Their belief is that others have Something which can only be obtained thru control of those others: control either by mysticism or by military force.

*          *          *          *

        Religion offers fear of eternal death and-or damnation (or fear of bad karma or fear of reincarnation as someone of a lower caste), for which Religion also presents a false antidote: obey the Religion and the non-existent bogeyman will not get you.
        Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" offers fear of subjugation by foreign hordes, for which the Priests of War also present an identical false antidote: preparation against armed destruction by the non-existent menace, under either outright dictatorship or subtler means of control – better subjugation by local masters than by outsiders.
        Neither premise, however, is valid in light of Reason: Remove systems of Religion, and you have only existential reality; remove the machinery of War, and you are left with six-billion-plus people as passengers on Spaceship Earth.
        We are all in this together, all equal Citizens of a water-covered planet we call Earth, or Terra.

*          *          *          *

        In recent times, a NEW false priesthood has arisen, for whom I use the term 'Priests & Prophets of Commerce'.
        Ayn Rand hinged her base philosophy on the Value 'Reason', that Reason is Mankind's only tool for survival. She also promoted Capitalism as the only economic system based in Reason: that productivity of the Individual is the source of wealth, and that the Individual has the Natural Right to negotiate a contract for his/her services without coercion; the Individual has the right to accept or to decline any contract – the slave does not.
        Rand's book "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" covers her views, and also – surprising to most – how it is that Capitalism has never actually been put into practice. She writes often that the enemy of the Priests of Religion and of the Priests of War are the Thinkers of the world: business people, industrialists, inventors, and scientists.

        But much has changed since 1961 when "For The New Intellectual" was written and published. Computers and satellites and cable channels galore have radically altered the ways that Individuals operate, in even the poorest countries.
        The means of communication have expanded. But the content is still attuned to the policies of the Culture Structure, which chooses virtually all of what the Citizenry see and hear – and yes indeed, even what you do or do not think.
        (You think that you Think, but you do not: If what you are doing is Thinking, then how come you cannot halt the automaticity of the Little Voice In Your Head, your personal version of the Culture Structure-induced False Mind? How come new ideas are always outside the Main Stream, never inside, and always presented as the Radical Fringe? – unless and until the Culture Structure co-opts the concept for commercial consumption, of course.)

        So a new set of fears has been established – it's the economy, stupid! – and the newly-anointed Priests and Prophets of Commerce will solve the problem for you. All that you have to do is give them obedience – sound familiar? – and all will be well, into Eternity. Pay extortion to the Oligarchy, give fealty to the Culture Structure, and they will grant you the right of servitude.

        Sacrifice your inherent and natural Value as an Individual, adhere to the reactionary rules of Political Correctness, hype any crap that the Oligarchy-owned corporations produce in Third World sweatshops, speak not a murmur of curiosity about why nothing ever changes for the better – in short, do not question their authority – and the Priests and Prophets of Commerce will, out of the kindness of their shriveled hearts – ta-da! – prevent economic collapse.

*          *          *          *

        But again, Objective Reason cannot tolerate this premise. The prophesied economic collapse, when it does indeed occur, will be caused by the Priests of Commerce, acting for the Oligarchy, from their co-extortion of great portions of the actual Economic Value derived (only!) from the labor of Individuals, and because that money-value was diverted to the pockets of the Oligarchy.
        (For newly-arrived readers: the Oligarchy is defined as 'rule by the few', while the in-practice meaning is 'rule by the owners'. To wit: the Oligarchy is the 1% of the population in America and elsewhere around this planet that own 50% of everything.)

        The Oligarchy has increased their possessions by forty percent in the fifteen years since Dr. Ravi Batra defined the problem. Such money-value diversion can only occur by reducing the possessions of the remaining 99% of the population, which includes every single reader of this essay.
        Fifteen percent of all assets in America changed hands during this time, ownership moving from the 99% to the Oligarchy: They have a bigger piece of the pie, and you, oblivious reader, have that much less.

*          *          *          *

        The Oligarchy and its system of obedience – which I term the Culture Structure – has done this...
         • by clear-cutting America's forests and leveling mountaintops, filling our streams and rivers with run-off dirt;
         • by polluting the aquifers with arsenic and PCBs and selenium and a whole pharmacopoeia of poisons;
         • by sending jobs overseas;
         • by paying outright for political officials – from George Dubya down to your local utility boards and school boards;
         • by downsizing, which is the practice of dumping productive workers into the street while rewarding bloated and incompetent management teams;
         • by careful and blatant manipulation of corporate structures: taking over a company and-or declaring bankruptcy, liquidation of assets, and then starting over with line employees paid at half the prior rate

        ...all for the purpose of protecting the Holy Bottom Line.

        The Oligarchy orchestrates policy in corporate boardrooms, the Culture Structure supports the Oligarchy by declaring, "What's the problem – you have a job, don't you?", meanwhile diverting attention to the latest Washington sex scandal or foreign guerrilla war.
        The result? Once-trusting employees suffer shell shock and scramble to get back into the good graces of the Culture Structure, back into the evil Economic Game of the Oligarchy: "Please, please, let me back on the team!"

        Where the Culture Structure has the Citizenry by the proverbial 'short hairs' is that until masses of Individuals stand outside of this lethal Economic Game, the fear-ridden slaves of the Culture Structure perpetuate the problem by their obedience.

        Every time that you purchase some product whose purpose is 'Conspicuous Consumption' [see Thorstein Veblen link below], then the Oligarchy and the Culture Structure benefit. Not you, cuz you don't even own that product: you bought it on credit!
        Meanwhile there remains a vast backlog of work in merely attempting the survival of Mankind, of the species Homo sapiens. Such work would create direct Value, both physically and economically (as opposed to paying extortion to the Oligarchy): replacing the deteriorating infrastructure creates jobs; education creates jobs and produces a population of Individuals, ready to live productive lives; healthcare creates jobs and provides Value.

        In fact, the benefit of jobs that create Value, of productive work for a legitimate portion of the economic pie, is two-fold: actual money-value is created by employment (all Value is created only by the Individual), and the Culture Structure cannot extort a piece of any Value created at the level of productive work. The extortion by the Oligarchy occurs after the Individual has produced such money-value.
        Yet jobs are being eliminated in every industry, while profits paid to the Oligarchy are increased. The Oligarchy runs the show, the 'ticket in' is giving fealty to the Culture Structure, the Individual produces wealth, but does not get to keep any.

*          *          *          *

        The Sacramento Bee newspaper (of California) used to have a reader-written column called "If I Were King", wherein ideas were presented for the solution of various local and humanity-wide problems, no matter how politically impossible.
        One such idea would be to eliminate the industries of hype: eliminate advertising from every corporate budget, for example, or at the very least, remove its tax deductibility. Spend all those billions of dollars instead on replanting America's forests. Or on fixing neglected roads and bridges that are increasingly on the brink of collapse.

        Or on Education [see WMail Issue #6].
        Folks outside academia may not think of Education as an industry – the Culture Structure does not want you to entertain such a concept – but such is indeed the case. The same Oligarchy policies and Culture Structure strategies apply: takeover and-or bankruptcy, liquidation of assets, setting up operations elsewhere (the purpose of school voucher proposals).

        The policies of management in use by the Priests and Prophets of Commerce produce shoddier goods at greater cost by ever-larger corporations obliterating free enterprise. In academia, the product is so worthless that 25% of students drop out before completing high school, since school is a waste of time. And as in other industries, union agitation for responsible management results in lockouts, so you dare not rock the boat one little bit.
        Forget notions of disobedience. Even non-obedience in academia is dealt with harshly: teachers transferred to the ghetto, denial of tenure, negative performance reviews. The vicious circle of Fear leads to worsening results, but if you sign up for slavery, the Oligarchy will provide you certainty of survival – as a slave!
        Pick your industry, it is the same.

        Across the Culture Structure, from country to country, from nation to city to village to farm, the benumbed masses are willing to abrogate all Responsibility to the Priests and Prophets of Commerce, in the blind hope of attaining crumbs of profit or security. The marginally productive are kept to perform any actual value-producing labor, while the most-capable – any self-actuated Individuals who live inside of an empowering Objectivity-based Personal Purpose in Life – are treated as heretics, eventually removed as a threat to the Culture Structure. Open your mouth to question authority and your chances of feeding yourself become limited.

*          *          *          *

        Do you know anyone who is out of debt (residential mortgage excepted)? Do you know anyone who is at peace with their present circumstances, who are certain that they and their loved ones will never have to sell out their self-generated Individuality (sourced by empowering values) in order to participate in the Economic Game?
        Do you know anyone who is free to speak candidly to superiors – note that term – in the workplace? Do you know any organization eager for correction by worker bees of internal unworkability? Do you know any organization not rooted in deception, complacency, shoddy work, exploitation of the weak and ignorant, and the wishful pretense that all is well?

        Do you know any business or organization or governmental body today that does NOT use fear and intimidation as the primary relationship with its employees and vendors and customers?

        Where there is a steady state of Fear, the Priests & Prophets of Commerce – and the Priests & Prophets of Religion and the Priests & Prophets of War – rule a complicit mob.

[copyright 2001 by Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved]

        The preceding is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, "Working Minds: A Philosophy of Empowerment".

        For the full contents of this issue of the free 'WMail' exine, click here.

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