Blundering Toward Mass Psychopathy

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

As a society we prey upon the weak and the vulnerable, writes Michael Topic. How has it come to this?

I don’t like authoritarians. I think they’re unwell. I also think that the outcomes, for most people, of a predominantly authoritarian society are extremely poor. So, it was with despair and alarm that I read the analysis contained in this article; ‘Neoliberalism’s War on Democracy‘.

The article, which I believe is, in fact, the introduction abstracted from a whole book on the matter, makes its points with such accuracy, lucidity, truth and honesty, that I found it excessively difficult to read on.

The article’s thesis is that we are being deluged by lawmakers and corporations that are leading us toward an undemocratic, authoritarian life. We increasingly, as a society, prey upon the weak and the vulnerable. We blame the victims. We consign whole sectors of society to disposability, based on their ethnicity, immigration status, skin colour, age or economic misfortune. There are some elites calling the shots, who have bought and paid for the entire project to hoover up the world’s wealth and call it their own, while saying screw the rest of us. We are increasingly dancing to the tune of the corporate-military-industrial-national security complex. We’ve succumbed to a brutal, cruel, uncaring, selfish, merciless regime of governance.

Now, this is not a new phenomenon. Adolf Hitler’s project had the same hallmarks. So did Napoleon’s and Alexander the Great, not to mention the Mongol hordes, the Plantagenet dynasty, the Crusades and any number of empire building projects of previous centuries. In each case, the weak and the vulnerable, the innocent and peaceful, were crushed under the wheels of a conquering machine, in the name of selfish enrichment and the accumulation of power and wealth.

What nobody has ever done, to my knowledge, is analysed whether or not all of this was sane and hence, whether the present course of events is sane either.

Last night, on one of the channels on my television, it was ‘Psychopath Night‘.

The show presented a series of investigations into and portraits of psychopathic people and their telltale characteristics. Some argued that we need psychopaths, because they “bravely” rescue people under certain circumstances, but this apology for their generally highly antisocial behaviour neglected the fact that a psychopath doesn’t do anything for other people’s benefit. They only appear to be the brave hero, if it means they gain something, usually material, for having done so.

What you begin to see when you juxtapose the article on Neoliberalism’s war on democracy with the telltale characteristics of the psychopath is that the leaders of Neoliberal policy and thought are, in fact, acting psychopathically. Let’s call it out for what it is. These people are not sane. They’re dangerous and have diseased minds. They want everything for themselves and don’t care who they crush to get it. The weaker the victims, the easier it is to take what’s theirs.

Worse than that, though is the fact that the Neoliberal project is actually a means of turning us all into psychopaths. At every confrontation with this authoritarian skein of thought, each of us must react. We can either save our own skin or stand up to it. Our choice is that we can either comply with or resist this sweeping, epidemic contagion of psychopathy coming from the authoritarian top. We either help the psychopaths get what they want, which is, in the final analysis, total domination and ownership of everything and everyone, or we hinder their progress.

Unfortunately, as in all previous centuries, there are legions of willing accomplices, who imagine themselves as James bloody Bonds or Gordon frickin’ Gekkos that are only too willing to chime in and support the psychopathic project. They want a piece of the action and they’re prepared to act psychopathically too, because they have been authorised to do so. They’re only following authoritarian orders, after all. They’re complying with the authorities. They don’t need to heed their personal consciences, ethics, morals or empathy for other human beings. That can all be suspended, because they have license to act like unconstrained psychopaths, just like their heroes.

In other words, the authoritarian, neoliberal, political project, which appears to be in the ascendency in the United States, Great Britain, Australia and to a large extent in the European Union, is actually a means of unleashing and spreading universal psychopathic behaviour. Every last man, woman and child gets to stab (metaphorically or physically) any opponent or obstructer, for personal profit. Is that really what we want? Is it even what a majority of people really want? Would we want it if we had the ability to think through the consequences, even personal consequences, of following such a path? Sadly, people have become not so much stupid as authentically lacking the ability to think clearly and critically. This has been by design, of course. Authoritarians like it this way. It preserves their project.

However, think of the gut wrenching remorse and heart breaking regret suffered by the German people after the Second World War, when they seemingly snapped out of their collective psychopathic states. Or perhaps there was no genuine remorse. Who can say?

Only the artists and academics can save us. Only the people still capable of critical analysis and thought, of imagining better alternatives, of articulating different, innovative choices and the problematic nature of widespread psychopathic behaviour, who can see things for what they are and see things differently to the authoritarian thought leaders, can guide the rest to an awakening and an awareness of the horrendous project many are blindly, blunderingly signing up to propagate.

The authoritarians, for their part, will do everything they can to shut them up.

Under authoritarianism, ‘everything they can’ becomes ‘anything they want’.

What choice will you make?

This article was first posted on Michael’s blog ‘‘ and reproduced with permission.


Categories: Social Justice

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43 replies

  1. Far too many bullies in politics these days….

  2. As well as artists and academics you could add philosophers and science fiction writers. Thinkers and futurists.

  3. Great article Michael and completely relevant to the situation facing our society, however, I would disagree on the use of the term “Psychopath”. I believe these people are better categorised as “Sociopaths”.

    While the distinction may be slight, most of the contemporary interpretation nominates Psychopathy with inherited anti-social traits and social dysfunction, whereas Sociopathy tends to stem from environmental conditioning that encourages anti-social behaviour within a more controlled framework.

    Simplistically, Psycopaths have difficulty comprehending social settings and controlling temperament, whereas Sociopaths are well aware of how they need to act in the larger society, they are able to consciously choose where and when to act against the social norms.

    Psycopaths tend toward unplanned acts of violence, but Sociopaths are more than capable of planning their actions and remorselessly carrying them out.

    Psycopaths display struggle demonstrating empathy at all to anyone, but the Sociopath is able to empathise within a distinct group of people, but show total disregard for everyone outside that group.

    Pyscopaths tend avoid relationships or are unable to maintain them because of their lack of empathy, whereas Sociopaths tend to often be charmers capable to developing careers and working to put themselves into positions of power, where they can use their intelligence to manipulate people to their own ends.

    It is a fine line, but if you look at the structures that support these types of individuals; private schools, closed social groups, corporate positions that imbue them with power and influence, I feel the term Sociopath is more relevant to these people.

    Look at the current mob running the government and you see people who were clearly formed from exclusive educational or religious affiliations, they plane and use these structures to shape and progress their agendas, displaying contempt and disregard for people outside their group. They are well versed is displaying the correct outward social display, but underneath they could not care less about anyone else, apart from their closed formation and furthering their own lust for power or money.

    Unfortunately, with the increased corporatisation of the world, the de-humanising of our people and fragmentation of our societies, we seem to creating a breeding ground that encourages the development and support of these types of individuals and their aberrant behaviour.

  4. “…the authoritarian, neoliberal, political project, which appears to be in the ascendency in the United States, Great Britain, Australia and to a large extent in the European Union, is actually a means of unleashing and spreading universal psychopathic behaviour.”

    “Sadly, people have become not so much stupid as authentically lacking the ability to think clearly and critically. This has been by design, of course. Authoritarians like it this way. It preserves their project.”

    Not sure that the connection to mass psychopathy really stacks up but the second quote looks pretty good to me.

    George Orwell was a bit premature calling his famous book ‘1984’. Perhaps ‘2020’ would have been closer to the mark. Otherwise his sixty five year old tale is shaping up quite well as a piece of prophecy.

  5. We need to get “Buy Nothing Days” going, as in the U.S.

    Boycott all major supermarket outlets and department stores.

    Gerry Harvey and Frank Lowy will get the message.

  6. Maybe too many honest and trustworthy people in the community.

    I must say, after 70+ years on this earth, I find the state of todays it hard to comprehend.

    I know I have been writing for years, what Abbott was up to and what he would deliver if ever elected.

    I find it hard to believe, what I wrote was far from what has occurred.

    It appears we have been to soft on Abbott and Co. Things are much worse than what one predicted.

    I felt at the time, I maybe was over exaggerating with my comments. Seems, I did get it wrong. The politics that Abbott is delivering are so far over the top, that it is hard to believe what is happening.

    I feel that for the last few years, when it comes to politics, I am living in a surreal world, that I will wake up, and everything will be OK.

    Sadly, what I see, is reality.

    Someone wrote yesterday, things must be bad, when the only one that seems to be making sense, is Palmer.

    As Swan said yesterday, ho can the budget and economy be so bad, when we still have that triple AAA rating. Yes, they are not given out o nations, who are in budget, an I assume economy emergencies.

    Budgets always need adjusting and a close eye kept on. That is the role of government. What Abbot is about, is dogma, extreme dogma at that and priorities.

    People are low in his choices.

    The truth is, that Labor has for years, been wining back expenditure and the size of government. There is simply no fat to cut.

    Labor did attempt to cut back some of the rebates to middle/upper income earners, that are affecting the revenues flow. Abbott has repealed al these efforts.

    Revenues is the problem, not spending.

  7. The conflict between the bourgeoisie (those that own the means of production) and the proletariat (those who sell their labour) is crucial to the maintenance of capitalism. Its function is to create an obedient, docile, uncritical workforce who will work to support the upper-class’s lifestyle and the economy. Keeping wages low, or debt pressure high, means workers will be less likely to complain or make demands. As workers struggle to provide their families with all the temptations that a capitalist society offers, they become far less likely to risk their employment, and less able to improve their situation.

    The current political debate surrounding the power of unions, work choices, and the importation of workers on 457 visas, is an attempt to disempower employees thus maintaining a compliant workforce. It is difficult for an individual to risk complaining about wages or working conditions, so removing the collective voice and protection of unions means people are unlikely to make waves if, by so doing, they risk unemployment or deportation.

    We must constantly remind ourselves of the power of the people rather than sitting back in shock as our country is divided up and sold off from under our feet whilst the poorest are asked to tighten their belts and pay for this corporatisation. We have the numbers when it comes to votes and when it comes to labour. All it takes is for the people to know the truth about what is happening. Tear down the political facade and expose the corrupt corporate guts. We must not allow ourselves to be bullied.

  8. Reblogged this on In my own opinion and commented:
    “Under authoritarianism, ‘everything they can’ becomes ‘anything they want’.”

    This is so true!

  9. The world is fukt, if you believe the paper.

  10. Psychopathy is a loaded term its more like these guys are on the sociopathy side of antisocial personality disorder with gobs of narcissism and some borderline personality traits thrown in to make things interesting. The problem is that Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV is a complex interpretative tool which sets out the categories of dysfunction, however to get to the core maladaptive attributes of an individual, some form of psyche testing is necessary. Consequently labeling is a real problem in mental health analysis. I would be more inclined to go for terms like lying; deceitful; elitist; supporter of entrenched inequality; demonstrable proof that austerity hurts the poor and marginalized most and therefore reflects a lack of compassion and empathy for those who live lives of hardship, in essence the real and factual attributes of political behavior that can be directly attributable to an individual.

    The other point is that real discernible behavioural traits are more easily interpreted by most people whereas loaded psychiatric terminology can be seen as extreme and demeaning to those who have substantial psychiatric problems and, in many cases, rightly so. Labeling has been a hot issue for decades.

    I think a dot point list of actual aberrant behaviour, and aberrant it certainly is, is much more effective. Deceitful, lying and immoral can be readily pinned to many of our current politicians. The other problem is universalizing traits to a specific group ignores those who are more reasonable and open to criticism.

    My visceral dislike of the LNP is based upon realizable objective facts which are substantially more useful than psychiatric labels.

  11. I think it truly comes down to their privileged upbringing. They know business so they think the way to help is to improve business. They don’t know poverty. They don’t know how teachers at underprivileged schools struggle. They talk about how tough we are doing it because of that nasty carbon tax whilst mooting increases to the GST. If they really were concerned about how low income families are coping would they be cutting the Low Income Allowance and the Schoolkids Bonus? They could make electricity GST free – problem solved.

    They marry within their own circle, their whole existence is within that circle. They start as Young Liberals with a life goal of becoming a politician. What do they know about Newstart other than it costs them a lot. Welfare recipients aren’t people with real stories, they are a drain on the public coffers, unlike, it seems, defence spending, grandstanding in a search for a plane that could take years, fossil fuel subsidies, private health insurance rebates, superannuation tax concessions, guarantees for big banks etc etc …all those things that belong to THEIR world.

  12. Kaye

    Now those are facts I accept and should be disseminated far and wide.

  13. Just look at the lying bullying thug in Abbott,supported by power hungry psycho Rupert Murdoch (among others.).People were ignorant enough to get him elected.

  14. One of the great insights on how control works, I wish i could write a article with such clarity, and good use of language, I think the commentators also make good points.
    My main problem with this article is the reference to artists and academics, with artists here I am meaning in the area I have worked in as a artist, I have found many of these people either aloof often arrogant, and highly egotistical, a sort of self righteousness, as also the highly competitiveness of this profession and the devotion paid to their craft, “In making it” is so exhausting that little time is left for checking out a wider understanding of what is going on in terms of history, psychology, politics, philosophy, finance to name a few disciplines, this is not a complete survey naturally as it would entail a book to be more comprehensive on this commentary of this profession, Secondly, the academic world is to me another problem, because of the linear standards of this profession and this becoming part of a authoritarian profession, the professor becomes intolerant as to how language is used in terms of correctness, and subsequently you as a lay are not able to put any views forward as the standards of what is required by academics will confound the writer who no longer is able to have a democratic point of view, this stifles ideas and destroys self esteem of those who may make a contribution.
    As for philosophy this is a rewarding subject, to some extent assisted by ideas of questioning what is by doubt, as a starting point, also in this profession can become also a problem as seen by arguments such as Popper and his emotional state in becoming so heated up by adverse criticism, I hate to suggest this but I think priesthood, and sage like characters, could be of a spiritual value, and useful on what this article is on about, unfortunately, they have become in decline as a result of corruption and in such a fast moving world that they have become redundant as a force that has credibility.
    Writers such as the contribution is of major importance, as to insight, unfortunately this article will only be read by the few.

  15. Well said kaye.Indeed they have NEVER lived in the real world,so for them to govern for the rest of us (They are ONLY governing for their rich mates anyway 😦 ),is truly frightening,as we are seeing.

  16. Thanks Douglas. I have no training or qualifications in psychology, so please take my interpretations with an appropriate grain of salt. But I do have a deep and abiding interest in human behaviour and in trying to understand how people think, because it is only through discovery and the sharing of knowledge we can hope to change individual attitudes for the better, in the hope of encouraging deeper thinking and analysis within the wider community.

    Thank you also Michael for the link to the “Liberalism’s War on Democracy” article. It is an amazingly succinct and chilling summation of the tactics being brought to bear against our social cohesion, all for the sake of money and power.

    The very fact so few of us seem to be outraged is deeply disturbing.

  17. Social Darwinism.

  18. Social Darwinism or Economic Darwinism is a gross simplification of Darwinian theory into the trite phrase “survival of the fittest”.

    Conveniently ignoring the interconnectedness of life and the very fact that we humans reached ascendancy not through competition but through our capacity to work collectively.

  19. “I think it truly comes down to their privileged upbringing. They know business so they think the way to help is to improve business. They don’t know poverty.”

    There are wealthy people with a privileged upbringing who are involved in philanthropic works, so I don’t think the privileged upbringing per se tells the whole story. They haven’t been living in a vacuum either. They’re greedy, selfish and full of themselves.

  20. John Ralston Saul analysed this brilliantly 20-odd years ago in “The Unconscious Civilization”.

  21. Thank you for article and Anomander for excellent definition of psychopath and sociopath – neatly expresses my reading of these personalities.

    BTW there are plenty of courageous people who perform incredible acts of bravery – for no more reason than “I had to do something”.

    Also evolution is not a one-way street, there are many branches, dead-ends, regeneration and completely new. We may be breeding more bullies, however, at the same time we are breeding more people able to resist them. The human primate is, at its core, a social and cooperative animal. Well, that’s my glass half-full take on getting through the Abbott tyranny – kind of like the virus that consumes its host, the virus dies as well, leaving all who are immune to virus.

  22. “Only the artists and academics can save us.”…………….but where are they?? There is a deafening silence from celebrity artists and academics. None that I am aware spoke at March in March. Instead they seem to be aligning themselves with the aggressor. The exception is comedians but even they are few.
    Aussies have NO-ONE to speak for them in the fight against fascism. We do not even have an opposition party – it is silent. Ordinary people on Social Media are the only ones telling the truth. The government can flick the switch and put a stop to this whenever they want by confecting a threat or emergency. Imagine if after a violent episode, Abbott and crew decided to ‘restrict’ the internet as a ‘temporary measure’ and we were again obliged to get our information via the TV news or Murdoch papers? If you think it will never happen in Australia you are not paying attention. There is no low to which this government will not sink. The government are terrified of SM because the citizens are able to communicate and spread information without reference to authority

    Please, everybody, read up on Authoritarianism and psychopathy. You need to know this shit.

  23. NeoLiberalism = NeoLibNat-zism …

  24. On the link to the Psychopath Night there is a simple non-scientific test to roughly gauge your Psychopathic Trait.

    Interesting, but not at all surprising, to see that the readers of the Financial Times are 67% psychopathic, while The Guardian comes in at 40%.

  25. Looking at human beings today, Darwin’s, theory seems anything but right, in many ways it would seem as if the freaks are now in ascendancy for lack of a better word, what I mean we seem to be ruled by a elite that are somewhat perverse, also the people ruled by these people do not seem to get that they are subject to being controlled and are complicit.

  26. Yes , good comment, and Pilger, was smart, not only did he have a great insight but he left the sinking ship, rarely will he come here, I know Australians that hate him.

  27. Looking at human beings today, Darwin’s, theory seems anything but right, in many ways it would seem as if the freaks are now in ascendancy…

    I think you’re confusing the natural environment and today’s society. The greedy arseholes are constantly ajusting the rules of our society… so of course they are most likely to thrive in it.

  28. This Debt Levy idea seems like B.F.Skinner type reinforced punishment.

    Every time you see it on your pay slip you will feel a rolled-up newspaper smacking your face and hear the incantation “This is what you get for voting Labor/Greens.”

  29. The debt levy is simply another case of Abbott opening his mouth before engaging his brain as he is wont to do.

    Most likely it was a proposal discussed in a cabinet meeting, but a decision made to defer the announcement until a later date, after the public had been softened-up a little more.

    But Abbott being a cretinous, attention-seeking child could not wait, he had to steal the glory of this great announcement for himself because he is THE Prime Minister, you know.

    I suspect his deformed and twisted little mind concocted some elaborate tale where he would make the announcement and the public would foist him upon their shoulders as the champion who solved Labor’s massive deficit in one fell swoop. Forgotten completely the promises made days, weeks and months ago.

    So he seized the opportunity to make the grand announcement, which left his entire party flat-footed, gasping for air and battling a huge public backlash, and surprisingly for him – the outrageous accusation of telling porkies and hypocrisy.

    I’ll bet he got a thorough tongue-lashing from Peta and the party, and that many of them must now be questioning the wisdom of continuing under his leadership.

    Yet another example of his complete ineptitude as a leader in any capacity, let along the Prime Minister of our nation.

    I’d love to think they would dump this clown from the leadership, but the pool of potential candidates following isn’t much better. I doubt it will happen because he is too much of a corporate meat-puppet to risk putting someone with half a mind in charge.

    The end of this government’s single term can’t come soon enough,

  30. Anomander the Bander

    Its not a tax its a er um like this thingy thingy, er um you know, um my gift to you to give to me to save my mendacity.

    No, no, no oops that doesn’t sound right. Labor made me do it because they bent me over a deficit and did unspeakable things to me. Oh the shock the horror now I gotta borrow some um er money. Sounds good to me. You know like its not an um er tax or anything like that its just a temporary er five year permanent loan plan.

    Bloody heel still not right.

    What’s that Creddy did you say I am not ready.

    Well hell I know that.

    Then why the hell did you spill the beans.

    It wasn’t beans silly it was a tax.

    Oh shit done it again.

  31. Bloody hell bozo.

  32. Anomander………..this ‘levy’ thing is a glimpse into the way Abbott and Credlin think, for you can be sure this going ahead before discussing it with Cabinet is Credlins idea. They are still in opposition mentality thinking whatever they do, the electorate will blame Labor and the press will back them up. It never occurs to idiot boy that the long suffering electorate will hold him to account and really, why would it after almost six years of free ride, no matter what depths he sunk to. Morrison recently blaming the Manus riot on Labor just reinforces the still in opposition mentality inside government. The public have had enough.

  33. The Queen really believes she is on the throne because God put her there.
    No, Henry The VIII wanted to swap one wife for another, the Pope would not allow it. So he made his own religion and made himself the high mucky muck!
    He began to use pirates to pillage the Spanish treasures and called them privateers. His daughter chartered equivalent of today’s corporations, those
    Chartered bodies raped India and duly paid Royalties to keep everything legal.
    The Yanks kicked them out and we ended up getting the role of penal colony.
    Royalty are part of the system used to exploit Australian minerals because ‘God’ also gave them ownership of everything 6 inches under the surface.
    Rio Tinto and all the other corporations just pay the ‘good old Royalties’ and everything is OK. They can even have a Prime Minister dumped for daring to tax them when they made “super taxes”, while at the same time Australian taxpayers pay the excise on their Diesel fuel to the tune of $ 100 Billion.
    So the Queen is making Shmucks of us “by the The Grace of God”.
    Are you still bending over Australia?
    Republic anyone?

    Corporations live forever, never eat, rely on humans to think and act for them, (or pretend to look after their interests), corporations cannot sign a treaty or write a cheque.

    Yet because of some legal trickery happened when an ex Senator Roscoe Conkling, lied to the Supreme Court in 1886 that the intent of the drafting of the Fourteenth Amendment to give citizenship to black male slaves, was also meant to apply to Corporations. By the 1930’s his notes of the drafting committee, from the time just after the civil war were studied in detail, and his perjury was exposed.
    However the horse had bolted and the corporation law change tsunami, had brought on the great depression and the Personhood of corporations (not citizenship) based on a lie, and fruit from a poisoned tree was treated with wilful blindness, by those that benefited by this fraud on an unsuspecting world. We still pretend that corporations are people, and allow them to rule the world like some alien invasion of robots.

    It is the pirates and the pirate-like operating philosophies of those who are directors who manipulate the system enabling them to rip the wealth of the world via corporate coffers into their own pockets, in violation of the duty of care they owe the the corporation they are meant to represent. It is this culture, that will ultimately bring us all to the next great recession and bloody revolution, or the rise once more, of fascism.

    We can refuse to accept this corporate madness or move our families to a safe place before the next wave of human madness (note the Arab Spring uprisings against oppression itself) overtakes us.

    Roscoe Conkling Drunkard, Womaniser , Perjurer and Senator.
    Died in a blizzard in New York, drunk as a Skunk!!

  34. The early conservatives of the fifteenth century, were monarchists who considered democracy a threat to social order and the seas were ruled by buccaneers and privateers.
    Buccaneer is a colourful name for the pirates of old who pursued personal fortune with rules of their own making. They were, in their time, an iconic expression of “free market” capitalism.
    This all in the time of Shakespeare and “much ado about
    Privateers were buccaneers to whom a king granted legal immunity and safe harbour in return for a share of the booty (Royalties) as Elizabeth the First, used Walter Raleigh. Their (the Privateers) charge was to extract physical wealth from foreign lands and peoples by whatever means—including the execution of rulers and the slaughter and enslavement of native inhabitants of India, Indonesia, Incas, and Mexicans.
    Some privateers operated powerful naval forces. In 1671, Sir Henry Morgan (yes, appreciative British kings granted favoured privateers with titles of nobility in recognition of their service, e.g. Sir Walter Raleigh), launched an assault on Panama City with thirty-six ships and nearly two thousand brigands, defeating a large Spanish force and looting the city as it burned to the ground.
    Hernán Cortés claimed the Mexican empire of Montezuma for Spain.
    Hernando de Soto made his initial mark trading slaves in Central America and later allied with Francisco Pizarro to take control of the Inca empire based in Peru. 
    Eventually, the ruling monarchs turned from swashbuckling adventurers and chartered pirates to, in 1600 Elizabeth the First chartered corporations as their favoured instruments of colonial expansion, administration, and pillage. The sale of public shares enabled a single firm to amass virtually unlimited financial capital and assured the continuity of the enterprise beyond the death of its founders. Limited liability absolved the owners of personal liability for the firm’s losses or misdeeds.
    Corporations chartered by the British Crown established several of the earliest colonial settlements in what later became the United States and populated them with bonded labourers—many involuntarily transported from England—to work their properties. The importation of slaves from Africa followed.
    The East India Company (chartered in 1600) was the primary instrument of Britain’s colonisation of India, a country the company ruled until 1784 much as if it were a private estate. In the early 1800s, the East India Company established a thriving business exporting tea from China, paying for its purchases with illegal opium , in doing so, starting the “Boxer Wars”.
    The Dutch East India Company (chartered in 1602) established its sovereignty over what is now Indonesia and reduced the local people to poverty by displacing them from their lands to grow spices for sale in Europe and denying generations an Education to keep such a large population subdued.
    It is no exaggeration to characterise these forerunners of contemporary publicly traded limited liability corporations as, in effect, legally sanctioned and protected crime syndicates with private armies and navies backed by a mandate from their home governments to extort tribute, expropriate land and other wealth, monopolise markets, trade slaves, deal drugs, and profit from financial scams. Following generations maintained the ruthlessness and unswerving need to conquer. Many are sociopathic and dangerous to even to the corporations they lead.
    Wall Street hedge fund managers, day traders, currency traders, and other unlicensed phantom-wealth speculators are the independent, unlicensed buccaneers of our day. Wall Street banks are modern day commissioned privateers who ply a similar trade with state backing and safe harbour. The economy is their ocean. Publicly traded corporations serve as their favoured vessels of plunder, financial leverage is their favoured weapon, and the state is their servant-guardian.
    As with the buccaneers and privateers of days past, Wall Street’s major players find it more profitable to expropriate the wealth of others than to find honest jobs producing goods and services beneficial to their communities.
    Why are so many corporations ploughing their excess cash into mergers and dividends and buybacks instead of jobs and research and development? Because the executives who run these corporations have all the incentive in the world to do just that.
    Top executives today don’t get rich making the sorts of investments that create jobs and make their companies more efficient and effective. Instead, 21st century execs take the fast track to fortune. They manipulate their corporate share price. The higher and quicker their share price rises, the bigger their personal windfall — since top execs get the vast bulk of their pay in stock-related compensation.
    After adjusting for inflation, as an Institute for Policy Studies report recently noted, CEO pay last year more than doubled the CEO pay average for the 1990s and more than quadrupled the CEO pay average for the 1980s.
    Since the 1980s, the economic  recovery from recessions have also been getting weaker and weaker. The share price manipulation strategies that work just fine for executives aren’t working for everyone else.

    They walk away with their fees, commissions, and bonus packages and leave it to others to pick up the costs of federal bailouts, gyrating economic cycles, collapsing environmental systems, broken families, shattered communities, and the export of jobs along with the manufacturing, technology, and research capacities that go with them.
    They seek self-enrichment by plundering wealth they had no part in creating, enjoy substantial legal immunity, and acknowledge no duty or accountability other than to themselves. Legal or not, taking the property of another through deception, fraud, and expropriation is theft. Only tyrannies guarantee the liberty of the few to plunder the wealth of the many.

    Profit is the ultimate measure of all corporate decisions. It takes precedence over community well-being, worker health, public health, peace, environmental preservation or national security. Corporations will even find ways to trade with national “enemies”—Libya, Iran, the former Soviet Union, Cuba—when public policy abhors it. The profit imperative and the growth imperative are the most fundamental corporate drives; together they represent the corporation’s instinct to “live.”
    Corporations live or die by whether they can sustain growth. On this depends relationships to investors, to the stock market, to banks and to public perception. The growth imperative also fuels the corporate desire to find and develop scarce resources in obscure parts of the world.

    This effect is now clearly visible, as the world’s few remaining pristine places are sacrificed to corporate production. The peoples who inhabit these resource-rich regions are similarly pressured to give up their traditional ways and climb on the wheel of production-consumption. Corporate planners consciously attempt to bring “less developed societies into the modem world” to create infrastructures for development, as well as new workers and new consumers. Corporations claim that they do this for altruistic reasons to raise the living standard—but corporations have no altruism.

    American rhetoric claims that commodity society delivers greater choice and diversity than other societies. “Choice” in this context means product choice in the marketplace: many brands to choose from and diverse features on otherwise identical products. Actually, corporations have a stake in all of us living our lives in a similar manner, achieving our pleasures from things that we buy in a world where each family lives isolated in a single family home and has the same machines as every other family on the block. The “singles” phenomenon has proved even more productive than the nuclear family, since each person duplicates the consumption patterns of every other person.

    Lifestyles and economic systems that emphasise sharing commodities and work, that do not encourage commodity accumulation or that celebrate non-material values, are not good for business. People living collectively, sharing such “hard” goods as washing machines, cars and appliances (or worse, getting along without them) are outrageous to corporate commodity society.

    Native societies are regarded as backward, inferior and unenlightened. We are told that they envy the choices we have. To the degree these societies continue to exist, they represent a threat to the homogenisation of worldwide markets and culture. Corporate society works hard to retrain such people in attitudes and values appropriate to corporate goals.

    In undeveloped parts of the world, satellite communication introduces Western television and advertising, while improvements in the technical infrastructure speed up the pace of development. Most of this activity is funded by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as agencies such as the US Agency for International Development, the Inter-American Bank and the Asian-American Bank, all of which serve multinational corporate enterprise.

    The ultimate goal of corporate multinationals was expressed in a revealing quote by the president of Nabisco Corporation: “One world of homogeneous consumption. . . [I am] looking forward to the day when Arabs and Americans, Latinos and Scandinavians, will be munching Ritz crackers as enthusiastically as they already drink Coke or brush their teeth with Colgate.” Page 31

    In the book, Trilateralism, editor Holly Sklar wrote: “Corporations not only advertise products, they promote lifestyles rooted in consumption, patterned largely after the United States…. [They] look forward to a post-national age in which [Western] social, economic and political values are transformed into universal values… a world economy in which all national economies beat to the rhythm of transnational corporate capitalism…. The Western way is the good way; national culture is inferior.”

    Form Is Content Corporations are inherently bold, aggressive and competitive. Though they exist in a society that claims to operate by moral principles, they are structurally amoral. It is inevitable that they will dehumanise people who work for them and the overall society as well. They are disloyal to workers, including their own managers. Corporations can be disloyal to the communities they have been part of for many years. Corporations do not care about nations; they live beyond boundaries. They are intrinsically committed to destroying nature. And they have an inexorable, unbeatable, voracious need to grow and to expand. In dominating other cultures, in digging up the Earth, corporations blindly follow the codes that have been built into them as if they were genes.

    We must abandon the idea that corporations can reform themselves. To ask corporate executives to behave in a morally defensible manner is absurd. Corporations, and the people within them, are following a system of logic that leads inexorably toward dominant behaviours. To ask corporations to behave otherwise is like asking an army to adopt pacifism.

    Corporation: n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
    —Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914.

    It is time for people to stand up to the tyrants among us, be they politicians or faceless corporations. A corporation — a legal fiction — can live forever, collects enormous wealth, and has no morals, no conscience, and no need for clean air, water, or food.

    Corporate owners and officers must be held liable for the harms they cause. The economic, environmental and human costs of corporate power and wealth are staggering. From the destruction of rainforests to the profits of war to toxic waste dumps to the mad science of genetically modified foods to global warming, the frenzied, cancerous quest for money knows no limits in terms of human suffering and planetary destruction.

    To put the above remarks into historical context consider the following quotes.

    “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

    Thomas Jefferson
    President of the United States, 1812

    “Of the cases in the United States Supreme Court in which the Fourteenth Amendment was applied during its first fifty years after its adoption, less than one half of one percent invoked it in protection of the Negro race, and more than fifty percent asked that its benefits be extended to corporations.
    Hugo Black
    Supreme Court Justice, 1938

    “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

    Abraham Lincoln
    President of the United States, 1864

    Rights for corporations, because they’re about property, is about who is excluded:
    Rights for human beings is about who is included.
    “Corporate Personhood,” most people who hear that phrase for the first time scratch their heads. The absurdity of corporate personhood has that effect on people — it just doesn’t make sense! But corporate personhood is not only real under law, it has an enormous impact on all of us. so it behoves us to know what it is, how it got here, and why we need to get rid of it.
    To understand what’s going on, you need to to go back to the Constitution of the United States of America. This document was written by 55 gentlemen cleverly described by one historian as “the well-bred, the well-fed, the well-read, and the well-wed.” As some of the wealthiest, most privileged people in the new country, they were highly aware that their power had everything to do with how much property they owned — land, crops, buildings, personal goods, and — for most of them — property in the form of human beings, their slaves. As some of the best- educated men in the world (by European standards, anyway), they also knew about democracy, and they understood what a threat the real thing represented to their personal power.

    The kind of democracy they prized and wrote about so eloquently could only be practiced by people like them — certainly not by the rabble, or, as Alexander Hamilton so fondly referred to us, as “the mob at the gate.”

    So in the Constitution they created a republic and a system of government that is designed to protect property, not people. And not surprisingly, when folks in the new United States got their first look at the proposed Constitution, they howled! At least half of the population was very much opposed to the Constitution. They had just fought a long, bloody revolutionary war focused on words like “liberty” and “freedom,” not “president” or “congress” or “supreme court.” But the Federalists who proposed the Constitution had the finances and the unity to promote their ideas strongly, and after a lot of politicking they got the Constitution ratified — but only with the assurance that a Bill of Rights would be added to protect people from the excesses by the government that would be possible under the new system.

    It’s worth noting that nowhere in the Constitution does the word “democracy” appear; nor the word “corporation,” nor “slave.” But we’ll come back to these in a minute. First let’s look at the basic structure they created to protect property.
    They start with the sacred words “We the People of the United States” who are sovereign and have individual rights (human?). And then we have a government to serve those people that is accountable and has specific duties. The People delegate some of their power to the government in order to perform its specific duties. In a representative democracy, this system should work just fine.
    There’s just one little problem. It’s that word “People.” At the time the Constitution was ratified, in order to be considered one of “We the People,” you had to be an adult male, you had to be white, and you had to have a certain amount of property. At the time of the Constitution, this narrowed “People” down to about 10% of the population. Those who owned property, including human property, were very clear that this was rule by the minority — and that’s the way they wanted it.
    The word “corporation” appears nowhere in the Constitution, and the reason is that the Founding Fathers had zero interest in using them to run their new government. In colonial times, corporations had been chartered by the king for the purpose of exploiting the so-called “New World” and shovelling wealth back into Europe. Corporations like the Hudson Bay Company and the British East India Company and the Massachusetts Bay Colony had a lot of autonomy to do this work — they could pass laws, levy taxes, and even raise armies to manage and control property and commerce.

    They were not popular with the colonists.
    So when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they threw control of corporations to state legislatures where they would get the closest supervision by the people. Early corporate charters were very explicit about what a corporation could do, how, for how long, with whom, where, and when. Individual stockholders were held personally liable for any harms done in the name of the corporation, and most charters only lasted for 10 or 15 years.

    Most importantly, in order to receive the profit-making privileges they sought, corporations had to represent a clear benefit for the public good. And when corporations violated any of these terms, their charters were frequently revoked by the state legislatures.
    Time passed and memories of royal oppression faded, the wealthy folks increasingly started eyeing corporations as a convenient way to shield their personal fortunes. They could sniff the winds of change and see that their minority rule through property was under serious threat of being diluted. In 1865 the 13th Amendment was ratified, freeing the slaves. Three years later, the 14th Amendment was ratified, giving citizenship rights to all persons born or naturalised in the United States — the intended beneficiaries being the newly freed slaves.

    During and after the Civil War there was a rapid increase in the number and size of corporations, and this form of business was starting to become a more important way of holding and protecting property and power.
    President Abraham Lincoln wrote.
    “We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. . . .
    It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.
    God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”
    The passage appears in a letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.

    Increasingly through their corporations, the ruling class started influencing legislators, bribing public officials, and employing lawyers to write new laws and file court cases challenging the existing laws that restricted corporate behaviour.

    Lincoln again. “These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people’s money to settle the quarrel.”
    Speech to Illinois legislature, Jan. 1837.
    See Vol. 1, p. 24 of Lincoln’s Complete Works,
    ed. by Nicolay and Hay, 1905)

    Bit by bit state legislatures increased corporate charter length while they decreased corporate liability and citizen authority over corporate structure, governance, production, and labour. But they were only going to be able to go just so far with this strategy. Because corporations were a creation of the Government — chartered by the state legislatures — they still fell on this side of the line with duties accountable to the people. If minority rule by property was going to be accomplished through corporations, they had to cross the line and become entitled to rights instead.
    And their tool to do this was the 14th Amendment which was passed in 1868.

    After a series of lower court cases, the watershed moment came in 1886 when the US Supreme Court heard a case called Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. Citing the 14th Amendment, and without hearing any arguments, the Supremes declared unanimously that corporations are persons deserving the law’s protection. There was no public debate about this and no law passed in Congress — corporations received the status of persons by simple judicial fiat. And they did this at a time when all women, all Native Americans, and even most African American men were still denied the right to vote.
    A key witness before the Supreme Court in the lead up to the 1886 was Roscoe Conkling.
    A former Senator who helped draft the 14th amendment. In his evidence he claimed that reading from his diaries of the time, it was the intention of the drafting committee that the rights to be conferred on former slaves to citizenship were meant to be equally applied to corporations.
    It was not till thirty years after his death that his diaries, were examined and found to have no such reference.
    He had lied to the Supreme Court, but by then the legal fiction of corporate personhood had defined corporates’ as natural persons.

    Ten years later, in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court established the “separate but equal” doctrine that legalised racial segregation through what became known as “Jim Crow” laws.

    Fifteen years later the writers of the Australian Constitution included reference to corporation powers in Section 51 xx.
    Four referendums from 1911 to 1926at which the people of Australia had been asked to enlarge the scope of Commonwealth power in relations to corporations were defeated. However in 1971 the high Court overruled its 1908 decision and thereby rendered those four referendums irrelevant.

    In less than 30 years, African-Americans had effectively lost their legal personhood rights while corporations had acquired them. And in case you’re still wondering whether the primary purpose of the Constitution and the body of law it spawned is about protecting property rather than people,

    listen to this. Of the 14th Amendment cases heard in the Supreme Court in the first 50 years after its adoption, less than one-half of one percent invoked it in protection of African- Americans, and more than 50% asked that its benefits be extended to corporations.
    When you look at two-plus centuries of US legal history, the pattern is that people acquire rights by amendment to the Constitution — a long, drawn-out, difficult process — and corporations acquire them by Supreme Court decisions.
    Rights for corporations, because they’re about property, is about who is excluded; Rights for human beings is about who is included.
    Once corporations had jumped the line, they proceeded to pursue the Bill of Rights through more Supreme Court cases.
    In 1893 they were assured 5th Amendment protection of due process.
    In 1906 they got 4th Amendment search and seizure protection.
    In 1925 it was freedom of the press and speech.
    In 1976 the Supremes determined that money is equal to speech, and since corporate persons have First Amendment rights, they can basically contribute as much money as they want to political parties and candidates.
    And so we find ourselves in a time when corporations have amassed enormous power and wealth, and control nearly every aspect of our lives, because they
    masquerade — under the law at least — as one of us.
    But most of us don’t know it. A key reason for that is that the whole thing is pretty esoteric.

    A corporation is a legal fiction, an abstraction. You can’t see or hear or touch or smell a corporation — it’s just an idea that people agree to and put into writing. But because they have legal personhood status, corporations are like super humans with all the advantages and none of the disadvantages that we mere mortals have. Corporations now have infinite life spans so they can continue to accumulate wealth and power forever. You can cut off the figurative arm or leg or even head of a corporation and it can still continue to exist. Furthermore, corporate lawyers invoke their personhood status or not at their convenience, allowing them to be whatever they want according to their needs.
    Along with this abstract existence, corporations have acquired a lot more abstract property.

    Ownership of land and buildings is still important, but now corporate property also includes concepts like mineral rights, drilling rights, air pollution credits, intellectual property, and even — under NAFTA — rights to future profits.
    All this abstraction fits in to the ways property is used to maintain minority rule. When corporations were over on the duties side of the line, the primary technique for enforcing minority rule was to establish that only a tiny percentage could qualify as “We the People” — in other words, that most people were subhuman. As different groups of people struggled to be included in those first three words of the Constitution and eventually succeeded, the corporation crossed over to the rights side and ultimately became superhuman, still maintaining an artificially elevated status for a small number of people.

    Today the work of corporatists is to take this system global.
    Having acquired the ability to govern in the United States, the corporation is the ideal instrument to gain control of the rest of the world. The concepts, laws, and techniques perfected by the ruling minority here are now being forced down the throats of people everywhere. First, a complicit ruling elite is co-opted, installed, or propped up by the US military and the government.

    Then, just as slavery and immigrant status once kept wages nonexistent or at poverty levels, now sweatshops, and the prison-industrial complex provide ultra-cheap labour with little or no regulation. Just as sharecropping and company store scrip once kept people trapped in permanently subservient production roles, now the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s structural adjustment programs keep entire countries in permanent debt, the world’s poorest people forced to feed interest payments to the world’s richest while their own families go hungry.

    Just as war was waged against native populations that lived sustainably on the land, now wars are instigated against peoples and regimes that resist the so-called “free trade” mantra because they have the audacity to hold their own ideas about governance and resource distribution.

    Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and divisive religious, ethnic, ideological, and cultural distrust were all intentionally instituted to prevent people from making common cause against the ruling minority, and those systems continue their destructive work today.
    These systems of oppression that I’ve been talking about weren’t established overnight; they were gradually and sometimes surreptitiously introduced and refined in ways that made them acceptable.

    At the time of the Constitution, corporations were widely reviled, but a century later they were a commonplace business institution, and a century after that they’ve become our invisible government! They accomplished this over decades, changing a little piece of law here and incorporating a throw-away comment in a judicial decision there.
    Resistance to these oppressions evolved in a similar way. Those who wished to end slavery, for example, worked for many years collecting information, refining their analysis, and debating among themselves. They came to understand the issue as one of human rights and that the whole institution of slavery was fundamentally wrong.
    They didn’t come up with a Slavery Regulatory Agency or voluntary codes of conduct for slave owners. They called themselves Abolitionists — the whole thing had to go.

    If you look at corporate personhood the same way, you will see that corporate personhood was wrongly given — not by We the People, but by nine Supreme Court judges. We further see that corporate personhood is a bad thing, because it was the pivotal achievement that allowed an artificial entity to obtain the rights of people, thus relegating us to subhuman status. And finally, because of the way corporate personhood has enabled corporations to govern us, it is so bad, we must eradicate it.
    Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. Like abolishing slavery, the work of eradicating corporate personhood takes us to the deepest questions of what it means to be human. And if we are to live in a democracy, what does it mean to be sovereign?
    The hardest part of eliminating corporate personhood is believing, that We the People have the sovereign right to do this. It comes down to us being clear about who’s in charge.
    What would change if corporations did not have personhood?
    Well, here are a few examples. If corporate persons no longer had first amendment right of free speech, we could prohibit all corporate political activity — no more contributions to candidates or parties, no more lobbying. Just think of the ripple effect on our political process if no corporate money could contaminate it!

    Corporate persons are now protected against search without a warrant under the 4th Amendment.
    This means that OH&S and the EPA have to schedule their inspections at a time convenient to corporate managers. If you think the air, land, or water in your community is being polluted, or the workers mistreated, neither you nor the government can go on corporate property to get information without legal permission. Just think of the consequences if corporate polluters were no longer shielded by the US Constitution!
    Without their protections under the 5th and 14th Amendments, corporations could be prevented from merging and owning stock in other corporations.

    The referendums held 1n 1911, 1913, 1919 and 1926 were designed to enhance the power of the Commonwealth over the economy, especially in relation to trade and commerce, corporations and monopolies. They were all rejected.
    Yet The High Court was able to amend by judicial decision, and enlarge the scope of Commonwealth in relation to corporations power (section 51 (xx) of the constitution). In Strickland v Rocla Concrete Pipes Ltd (1971), the High Court overruled its earlier decision in Huddart, Parker &Co Pty Ltd v Moorehead (1908) thereby rendering irrelevant the four failed referendums at which the people had been asked to do the same thing.

    My point is to stand any chance of denying corporate Directors any further control over the people’s rights, or indeed gather any more power to themselves.
    Right now the people who run corporations hide from the law behind this legal fiction, to the detriment of the organisations they are bound to represent , society and their shareholders
    Your language must be clear and able to withstand the argument that; “Where the meaning of the words in question is not self evident, the interpreter must go beyond them”.
    This is why I suggest by inserting a clear and unambiguous exclusion of corporate personhood into our constitution we may have some measure of success, if you really do intend to specifically rule out corporations from the Human Rights Charter.
    I want to make it clear that the history of corporations’ powers go back beyond the first “tea party”. The Americans fought a war of independence over this issue. Yet they lost that war finally in 1886 when their Supreme Court handed the new rules over to Roscoe Conkling’s benefactors some 15 years before we in Australia had our constitution approved by Queen Victoria.

  35. John I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Usually avers to overly long explanations but this whole historic outline of the rise of corptocracy and the pervasive impact of US legal and political influence upon Australia tracing back to the British Empire is important to understand.

    We must get a handle on the history of corptocracy if we are going to challenge it. There is no doubt we are living in an age of corporate globalization and the influence of the US is disturbing.

  36. John:

    As an aside it would be helpful if Australians read Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” very readable and full of critical analysis of the standards hero waving you-beaut Patriotic Servility.

  37. Reblogged this on The Kettle Press and commented:
    We are on the edge of a precipice and Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are claiming Labor has pushed us over when, in fact, it is they are in the process of catapulting us over at the greatest rate of knots they can muster.

  38. I had a strong urge to respond to this article the other day-but it hadn’t yet been posted-my response was initially to an article about whether TA was or wasn’t a monster?

    However this article has prompted the same response. After reading the responses to the ‘Monster Article’ I realised that for years now since before he donned the George W Bush baby blue neck tie and declared himself “Kinder/gentler” and then went rabid, that he and his cohorts were doing my head in. They had my attention and each time that I engaged I found myself looking down Cormac McCarthy’s Road and I don’t want to go there.

    You don’t need to read everything Irvine Welsh writes to see what Thatcher did to the UK-enough is enough is enough and no good will ever come of it. So my response is that it’s time for Art and Literature to step up take charge and tell the story. By this I mean we can’t wait for and trust that Labour and the Greens will produce a vision. It is not their job it’s ours and it’s theirs to represent it. I agreed with Scott Ludlam when he said “give us our country back” but it’s not the LNP’s or IPA’s to give back, it never was, it never will be and they wouldn’t know it if they fell over it.

    ‘It’ doesnt belong to them or Celebrity Artists so don’t hold your breath waiting for them to produce a miracle. Art and Literature have to liberate themselves from the IPA and the constraints of fame fortune and comodity. Art is our way of celebrating the life that we have and passing this vision on to enable the next generations to inherit it intact and protect it respectfuly. The great “Unknown Artists/Craftsman” have been herocially performing this function since the first marks appeared on cave walls ‘For Us’. The Angry Penguins performed admirably in their time when it was called for, now it’s our time and we have to be able to do better than a perfectly detailed description of “what they have done to us” now that we call this time ours.


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  1. Blundering Toward Mass Psychopathy | OzHouse

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