There are a variety of ways to hold power. Some are better than others and over the history of man everyone one has been tried with varying degrees of success. By far the most effective way of maintaining power is to get those over whom you hold power to think their interests lie in you remaining in power. If you can get your subjects to think that their very survival depends upon you remaining their ruler, not only will they obey your orders, but they will volunteer to defend your position.
Of course, convincing even a majority of this can be expensive and difficult, so a better way to work this is to convince the people at the top. Every society is hierarchical, so if you get the ruling class to think their interests are your interests, then your interests become their interests. Not only will they defend your position, but they will seek to strengthen it when they can, as it benefits them. With everyone’s interest commingled, opposing the king means threatening the system itself.
The best example of this is probably the court at Versailles under Louis XIV. He not only brought the nobility of France under one roof; he created a social milieu for them that transcended their existence. To be a noble meant having a place at court. Your position in the ruling class was defined by your position and status in court. The aristocracy of France, in effect, became a society in itself, isolated from and distinct from the people over whom it ruled. It was a society atop a society.
If you examine the run-up to the French Revolution, it is clear that the system that evolved to that point had overtaken the people in charge of it. It was clear to most everyone that reform was needed. The finances of the king were a disaster and the nobility were being overtaken by changes in technology and economics. Yet, all reform efforts failed as reform was a threat to the nature of the system. Like a sentient being, the system conspired to thwart all reform efforts.
A similar problem vexed the Soviet Empire. The long terrifying reign of Stalin triggered an evolution in the system. Instead of one man ruling with an iron fist, a collection of men at the top of the party would hold power. The man at the top would depend on the party for power and legitimacy, while members would depend on the party for their power within the system. It’s what allowed Khrushchev to outmaneuver Malenkov, but also what led to the fall of Khrushchev and the reversal of his reforms.
One very interesting thing about the Soviet system that evolved after the revolution is how the party became a social organ, rather than a technocratic one. To rise in the party meant to rise in the narrow communist society that ruled over the larger empire, much in the same way the French aristocracy ruled over France. To be outside the party was to be no one. That threat alone was enough for most party members to wake up every morning thinking about how best to serve the party.
The social aspect cannot be overstated. Like Versailles, party members lived among one another and socialized with one another. Their children went to the same schools and eventually married one another. In the case of the Moscow elite, they lived in the same building. The ruling elite was not just a separate class of people, but a separate and distinct society. If it had carried on for long enough, the communist party would have been a separate race of people.
We see the same thing has evolved in the American Empire. If you take time to read up on the Flynn case or the much larger plot around it, you see a large cast of people with one thing in common. They all live together as a social class. Some were having sex with one another. Others had been friends since college. Others developed their relationships when they came to Washington. All of these social relationships transcend the formal positions and titles of the people.
For example, one thing the plotters liked to do is plant stories in the community paper, the Washington Post, which they would then use as evidence of something needing official investigation. This was possible because the people in the FBI had old friends at the Post, who they could grab a bite with and pass on the information. The “reporter” was happy to oblige, because he had the same interests as the FBI man. They were friends indebted to the same system that made their lives possible.
Throughout the scandal, you see people happily going along with what they know is against the rules, possibly even illegal, because they just assume it is the right thing to do for the system. The righteous indignation from these people when questioned is not an act for the cameras. These are products of a social world that defines who they are as people. They see their actions as a defense of a system that makes it possible for them to exist. They think they are heroes.
In a way, they are heroes. The very core of western civilization is the Greek notion of the citizen, as a man defined by his relationship in his polis. In his final hours, Socrates explains to his old friend Crito that he must accept his fate, as to do otherwise would make him an enemy of that which defines him. To flee Athens and escape death would make him an enemy of the law. That would make him an enemy of Athens, and thus no longer part of it and no longer Socrates.
Now, none of the people in the seditious plot to overturn the 2016 election are Socrates or even capable of pronouncing his name. That’s not the point. It’s that they see themselves as members of a community. That membership not only provides for their material existence, it defines who they are as people. To defend it from a threat, even a duly elected threat, is to defend who they are as people. Even the slightest change in the system, no matter how necessary, threatens their existence.
This is why Trump has run into a stone wall as president. The entirety of the system, like a living organism fighting for its life, has organized itself against him. His failure to grasp this reality has made him entirely ineffective. It’s also why the investigation into the scandals will go nowhere. The system cannot testify against itself. It’s also why the Clintons were protected for so long. Once they were assimilated, they were another node in the system to be defended at all cost.
The lesson from the French Revolution is that once a ruling class becomes a ruling community, reform is no longer possible. The only way to change the system is to decapitate it. The lesson of the Soviet system is that technology can perpetuate the community until it exhausts itself. That is what happened with the Russians. The party eventually was overrun with people willing to ride in the wagon, but desperately short on men capable of pulling the wagon.
How the American system will end is anyone’s guess, but it will not carry on forever, as no organism lives forever. The low quality of the people involved in the FBI shenanigans suggests they are reaching the same point as the Soviets in the 1980’s. No matter how cleverly designed, a system needs capable operators. If John Brennan and James Comey are the elite, the community has a serious inbreeding problem. Still, the fact that it staggers on despite this speaks to the power of societal inertia.
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