So much evil in this world is projected as good. Some of the best writer/propagandists have taken on this task of conflating the Satanic with the sacred.
Take Max Weber, who depicted God’s divine intentions throughout the Industrial Revolution to hide the savage reality of peasants being driven from their farms to toil away in the factories as wage slaves. This divinely sanctioned view of industrial life became known as the Protestant work ethic. This projection allowed proponents of capitalism to turn Christian traditions and values upside down.
In the biblical story of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve knew pure happiness in a setting where idleness abounded with God’s express approval. Work was a burden that limited enjoyment and fun, a bane of life. But this hippy view of human nature provided no ideological basis on which to launch and sustain the Industrial Revolution. From the 17th century with capitalism’s requirement for masses of laborers, a profound moral revision took place and soon this new work ethic was well established.
Suddenly, work wasn’t a punishment, it was mans duty to toil away endlessly for the profit of the capitalist. Idleness and sloth were considered to be the work of the devil.
The role of obfuscation and projection in Christianity was longstanding. The basic problem was Jesus as a peacemaker, pacifist and enemy of money-changers. As soon as Christianity underwent the metamorphosis from small, radical sect to Holy-Roman Empire, that shit went out the window and suddenly there was warrior Christ, as depicted by Augustine of Hippo, and Thomas Aquinas, waging a just war against evil. Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus tells his followers to give up earthly possessions and love one another? Forget about it. There’s prosperity gospel instead.
The economic system of neoliberalism has benefitted tremendously from this phenomenon. Fredrick von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, and Milton Friedman deployed their considerable writing skills to depict the modern welfare state as the “road to serfdom.” Never mind that the welfare state provided economic security, healthcare and old age pensions to the vast majority of citizens and was incredibly popular. The welfare state wasn’t as profitable for the captains of industry as neoliberalism, so best to describe it as the work of Satan.
In the US, both Republicans and Democrats have enabled neoliberal economic policies that produced a deregulated marketplace, global free trade, the outsourcing of manufacturing and other industries, the privatization of public services, and the destruction of the social safety net. All of these neoliberal policies together gutted the welfare state that made the American middle-class the envy of the world.
But, of course, that’s not how this state of affairs is described by the projectionists, who’ve re-packaged this as economic freedom, a euphemism, which disguised the re-concentration of power, wealth and income over the last three decades. These writers make their bones by turning reality on its head. And, yes I’m looking at you–Thomas Friedman. Hack.
The truth usually seeps out years after the damage has been done. Case in point, the IMF just released a study that called into question the benefits of neoliberalism.
“Many of the report’s findings which strike to the core of the ideology echo what critics and victims of neoliberalism have been saying for decades. Instead of delivering growth, the report explains that neoliberal policies of austerity and lowered regulation for capital movement have in fact “increased inequality.”
The IMF suggests neoliberalism has been a failure. But it has worked very well for the global 1 percent, which was always the IMF and World Bank’s intent.”
Wait, you mean that the policies of neoliberalism, that it’s promoters promised would provide economic freedom and avoid the road to serfdom, did the opposite?
That’s the name of the game–turn the Satanic into the sacred and the sacred into the Satanic.
Sometimes I think Tom Waits is right and there’s no such being as Satan—“there ain’t no devil, there’s just God when he’s drunk.”
Update: Here’s Yves Smith, at Naked Capitalism, recounting how this process took place in the US.
“It is also important to recall that the shift in social norms to our current weird idea that markets are more important than communities or social relationships did not just happen. As I recounted in ECONNED, extreme conservatives started working in the 1960s to roll back the New Deal. Their ideas were codified in the Powell Memorandum in 1971, which envisaged an open-ended, long-term campaign, backed by ample corporate funding, to make society at large more business-friendly and cut social programs. One of its core elements was the funding of think tanks to give right-wing programs a veneer of intellectual legitimacy. Another initiative that came out of this campaign was the law and economics movement, which has succeeded in undermining the fundamental idea of jurisprudence of equity and has indoctrinated lawyers and jurists to regard economic efficiency, aka expediency, as paramount.”