Opiate of the Intelligentsia

This post is a coalescence of a discussion I had with my friend Nick over Facebook status updates. I thought it worthwhile to share the outcome of the discussion.

Recently, Jon Stewart did his piece “I give up” on the fact that while the conservative political machine has been painting the public workers (like teachers and firemen) as the greedy ones who are bleeding the nation dry, in reality it is corporations like GE who are the problem because despite a $9B profit, GE paid $0 federal income tax and got a $3.2B tax benefit. Now, it is considered common or ‘folk’ knowledge that corporations exploit all kinds of tax loopholes and lobby heavily to ensure that tax laws leave open several such loopholes to be exploited by these corporations. So why are Stewart and other so-called pundits (including news organizations) ‘noticing’ this only now and then pretending to be salient critics of such incongruities while at the same time depending on, and profiting from, the very same incongruities.  This is a real conflict of interest! One that hasn’t been adequately explained. My discussion on Facebook yielded the following.

Acting as an apologist for Stewart and co, it may be argued that while they do not contribute anything for affecting a change or reform, at least they enlighten us on how we are being screwed over. Many times we already know of it, and at other times it is news. But through it all, at least we are laughing. Then again, isn’t it a little bit like Elle Driver reading to Budd “Sidewinder” about the effects of the venom of a Black Mamba, in Kill Bill Vol. 2, after the Black Mamba has bitten him?

Consider the following hypothesis: This country has been and continues to be run by corporations. The political parties and the politicians are simply the means by which the corporations accomplish this task. There is little by means of democracy or “the system” that can be done to change this fact. So the only way out is perhaps a revolution. And the existing power brokers want to ensure that it never happens. They do this by drugging the entire population, intellectually speaking, of course.

The population in question can be broadly classified as the “vulgar” (and by vulgar I mean “Of or associated with the great masses of people”) or the “intelligentsia“. The vulgar have the numbers and the ability to affect such a revolution, but they lack the knowledge and understanding to accomplish this; the intelligentsia, on the other hand, have the knowledge and the intellect to use the abilities of the vulgar to affect the revolution. So together, the population can make the change. But they will not, by design. And here’s why.

Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and others serve as the ”opiate of the vulgar” in ensuring that the masses focus their frustrations, anger, and action against all the wrong issues and attribute the problems to all the wrong reasons. Simultaneously, Stewart, Colbert, and others serve as the “opiate of the intelligentsia” by convincing their audience to simply resign to the status quo and not advocate for any change. Between the two, the existing power structures ensure perpetuation.

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