A Culture of Powerlessness

“Powerlessness is the single factor that makes you most angry, if you think about it.  Put powerlessness and frustration together, which they usually are, and you have an explosive mix. It’s at the root of all violence, powerlessness and shame over being powerless.  It’s supposed to be the shame that makes people into violent psychopaths.

“I wish I’d had this insight sixty years ago, had some time to work on it before I was given eternity to mull it over when it was already too late.  

“In fact, I am only having this thought at all due to my son, a dreamer who marches to his own marching band, who carries on this extended conversation, even though he knows he’s not really talking to me. Don’t you, Elie?”

That’s right, dad.

“To everybody else, I’m already long dead, going on twelve years this April 29th.  It’ll be seven years for mom not long after that.  Then, possibly you, motherfucker.”  The skeleton flashed a sardonic smile.  

“Seriously, Elie, I’m glad and touched that you’re doing the book.”

That’s enough of that.

“A culture of powerlessness is an engine of discontent and violence, it produces crowds of people who seethe, but there is nothing they can do about how fucking mad they are all the time. They have their powerlessness shoved in their faces over and over, they are bitches and will be slapped and handled like bitches.  The rage is like a toxic river, ready to overflow its banks and gush forth in a torrent, causing mass death.  The trick of the elites who profit from the utter powerlessness of the majority of the society is to turn the anger away from themselves on to the Other, as that vilified other is called.

“You get the lynch mob killing blacks and whites for being ‘uppity’ and causing trouble, the Ukranians, literally starved to death by the millions courtesy of fucking Stalin, taking some vodka and the satisfaction of getting to shoot a line of Socialist kykes in the heads, taking their clothes and kicking some dirt over their dead bodies.  Over and over in history massive societal rage has called for organized atrocities.  The dark side of the homo sapiens genius for organization, if you will: the pogrom, the lynch mob, war, the chanting, arm raising crowds.

“The other dark side of powerlessness is that the people who are powerless, members of the frightened herd that works for low pay to enlarge the immense profits of a few, having no other healthy outlet, often become extremely mean to those closest to them.  It’s safer to snarl at your kid than at the guy your size, younger and in much better shape, who just cut in front of you on line at the DMV.  

“Since a culture of powerlessmess keeps most people without any power in any sphere of their lives, they become peevish, bossy, and snappish.  So when you’re dealing with a powerless person, you’re often dealing with someone who seems mild mannered enough but who can deliver a nasty bite.  

“There are few happy people in a powerless culture, and these are often low status people in the society, at least as far as my experience.  These are committed and serious artists and people like that who opt out and live by their own values rather than the ‘free market’ values that fuel the engine of our economy.  These low-status people are not weighted down by and preoccupied with their accumulated failings the same way their striving, stressed out, more successful fellow citizens are.”  The skeleton pantomimed the average commuter, hunched grimly under the weight of his life.    

“Or maybe I’m just romanticizing the whole thing.  Homo sapiens has been power thirsty from the start, weak, cunning, terrified, vicious prey animals who figured out how to become the number one predator at the top of the planetary food chain.   As a species, impressive, perhaps.  On a one to one level, in a straightforward ‘power’ relationship, fucking horrifying, Elie, if you think about it for a moment.”

You’re singing to the choir director, pops.

“Hah, you know, I wonder how it can possibly be that I seem to keep hitting every note you have me sing?”  

The universe is mysterious, my father, and God is unknowable.


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