(Un)witting Servitude and Minds Manipulation

 

Alejandro Teitelbaum

D
espite the profound crisis of the capitalist system, which is now more evident than ever in all aspects of social and individual life, there is no organised anti-establishment reaction from the majorities nor a rigorous and coherent discourse. A messenger, without populist or opportunistic concessions of a revolutionary ideal, is conspicuously absent. The collapse of real socialism and the fictitious and corrupt “socialism of the 21st century” have also contributed to a conditioned rejection of the idea of a socialist transformation of society.

With this combination of circumstances, and on the basis of the almost absolute control of the instruments and means of production and communication, the latter with a practically unlimited capacity for the manipulation of minds, the dominant system is winning the battle. We hope that, sooner rather than later, this balance of power, which is disastrous for the future of humanity, will radically change.

The ideas of the ruling class are the dominant ideas in every epoch; or the class which exercises the dominant material power in society is at the same time its dominant spiritual power. The class which has at its disposal the means of material production has at the same time at its disposal the means of spiritual production, so the ideas of those who lack the means of spiritual production are at the same time, on the average, subjected to it. (Marx and Engels, German Ideology, 1846. On the Production of Consciousness).

This was first described by the Roman poet and writer Juvenal 2000 years ago in his Satires when he coined the expression “Bread and Circus”, where he attributes the apathy of the Roman people in the face of the abuses of power to the fact that power hands out food and organises grandiose spectacles. As long as the people have enough to eat (from time to time) and have fun, power can do what it pleases. Juvenal’s vision of the relationship between power and people has strengthened a lot since then: the means used by power to manipulate minds are now very sophisticated. And the “bread” that the people receive today—relative to the exponential growth of different basic needs (food, health, housing, education, healthy environment, etc.)—is proportionally less today than in the time of the Roman Empire.

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