Opinions of Peter Belmont
Speaking Truth to Power

Our Political Habits Are Ending The Human Race

by Peter A. Belmont / 2023-11-21
© 2023 Peter Belmont


Recent Essays (All Topics)
•(12/23) How did we get to October 7th?
•(11/23) Our Political Habits Are Ending The Human Race
•(10/23) Sketch of Israel-Palestine History
•(10/23) Whoever controls the discourse controls emotional reactions to reality
•(08/23) Russia On Trial
•(01/23) The Purpose of "Conservatism"
•(10/22) The project of returning the earth to the cockroaches couldn't be in better hands!
•(05/22) Abortion, The Constitution, And The Supreme Court
•(03/22) The Problem of Climate Change Framing or Discourse or Understanding
•(06/21) Israel-Palestine: If not apartheid, then what?
The topic of this essay is HABITS: my habits, the habits of the very rich, the habits of centrist Democratic politicians, and the habits of American society.

A lot of these habits are not good for life on earth.

This essay is descriptive, not prescriptive. There is no but an implied “What to do?.

America, today, is a quasi-feudal society where the CEOs of the great corporations are the feudal lords and legislators, judges, et al. are the vassals.

The society is only quasi-feudal, because the lords refuse to offer protection to the vassals: there is no reciprocal responsibility.

The feudal lords refuse to protect us all from climate change and other environmental problems.

Is all this refusal of responsibility short-sighted? Well, that depends. If you think that the continued existence of life on earth is a goal worth striving for, then, “YES!”, it is short-sighted. But if tunnel-vision, or ideology, or laziness, or ignorance, or class-conformity, or anything else allows (or compels) the feudal lords to ignore the impending end-of-life-on-earth, then, “NO!”, it is not short-sighted, but is merely business-as-usual.


Open letter to the “Centrist” Democratic Party:

Centrist Democratic Politicians may jump to the section, below, titled “The Habits Of Centrist Democratic Politicians”.

Note On Generalizations

In this essay, I will make generalizations about various classes of people. My generalizations about the very rich and about “centrist” Democratic politicians will, from my own point of view, be “slams” but may well, from their point of view, be high praise. In any case, there will be exceptions and to these I offer apology. Today there are so many billionaires, for instance, that some of them must have a social conscience. If so they hide it well. As I perceive matters, the well-publicized political spending of the very rich has been to the detriment of poor people, the middle class, most foreigners, democracy at home and abroad, and the environment.

My Habits And The Habits Of The Very Rich

First, My Habits

Everyone is a creature of their habits, some habits being helpful in certain ways, others being unhelpful in other ways.

Politically, I am a “progressive”. By that I mean that, as a fixed matter of habit, I favor spending a lot of government money to reverse climate change and otherwise to protect the environment and for what I perceive as social benefits at home and human rights everywhere.

Also, as a matter of habit, I favor ending America’s long-standing habit (“imperialism”) of making aggressive war and of imposing dictators on “lesser” peoples. I favor ending America’s support for Israel, especially in times of war as now, American support for Israel being, as I see it, support for Israeli imperialism and settler-colonialism and apartheid—and, now (11/2023), genocide in Gaza. I favor an end to America’s or anyone else’s aggressive “endless war”. As a matter of habit. My habit.

All of these “progressive” ideas, if actualized, would be perceived as hurting other people, mostly the very rich and rich corporations, because reversing climate change will require spending a lot of government tax-collected money and only the very rich and rich corporations have such money. In my opinion a great deal of that money must be spent if humankind is to survive this century. I am of the habit of thinking that preserving animal and plant life on earth is a good thing which justifies much change including a radical change to America’s tax system.

Ending “endless war” would be perceived as hurting the military, those who provide mercenary soldiers to the USA, and the armaments-manufacturing sector and those who own it. It would also be seen as hurting various international corporations—mining companies, oil companies, banana growers—whose profits have often been supposed to depend on America’s heavy military hand in poor countries.

Of course, ending “endless war” would also save a lot of money which could be re-directed to saving the environment and other “social goods” which, also as a matter of habit, I favor. It might also be a big human rights “plus” in poorer countries, long suffering under the yoke of American military imperialism. As a matter of fixed habit, I favor human rights over corporate profits.

The Habits Of The Very Rich

Millionaires and, nowadays, billionaires are also creatures of habit. So are the CEOs of large corporations, and often they are the same people.

Except by inheritance, no-one could become a millionaire or billionaire or a CEO, I believe, unless equipped with a habit of making money ruthlessly, without empathy for business opponents, employees, the environment, or humanity in general; on the whole they act as if they are without conscience and without social responsibility. Or as if they were soldiers or commanders in a class war and war of environmental destruction. The CEOs of large corporations are, of course, required to seek a maximum profit for their corporations without regard—beyond that minimum required by law—for the health and well-being of employees or of the environment or of people living in industrial neighborhoods. And as is discussed soon below, these very rich and powerful people intervene to control the very legislatures which make the laws that govern that “minimum required by law”. The very rich are, by habit, enemies of “anti-business” regulations.

No-one needs multi-millions or billions of dollars: anyone who feels that he or she needs such things is merely expressing the habit of acquisitiveness, the habit of selfish “entitlement” on a large scale, and the lack of any sufficiently strong countervailing habit of caring for anyone else or for the environment.

Since the very rich, these days, are opposing efforts to increase their own income taxes, and although presumably knowing as much about climate change as anyone else nevertheless fail to demand that Congress take major steps to reverse climate change—see below: Congress usually does what big-money wants it to do—it is clear that they, the super-rich, as a matter of inflexible habit, are quite willing to condemn humankind and the rest of animal and vegetable life on earth to an eventual heat-death. And, of course, that “eventual” is much closer in time than once thought, because we all, but especially the very rich, continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere as if there were no tomorrow. And that “as if” is increasingly looking likely.

The habit of suppressing empathy or attention to the needs of others and of the environment is not only a habit of the very rich. Psychopaths and criminals also lack empathy. Must be comforting not to be alone in one’s habits!

While on the theme of environmental destruction, it is worthwhile to recall that in the 1800’s Americans killed nearly to extinction the buffaloes that once populated the western prairies. They started doing this for “sport”, continued doing it in order to dispossess the native Americans who depended on the buffaloes, and ultimately speeded up this deliberate extermination for commercial reasons because the buffalo hides and bones were discovered to be valuable for industrial purposes. If today’s destruction of the earth’s beneficent climate system has a “purpose” for these rich and industrious people, it must be to further profits from oil production and other destructive enterprises, in this case threatening to make everything—and not just buffaloes—extinct.

A habit of the very rich, part of its unconcern for the environmental destructiveness of its enterprises, is the habit of denying or ignoring responsibility for the well-known but so-called unintended consequences of its actions.
Gather ‘round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun
A man whose allegiance
Is ruled by expedience
Call him a Nazi, he won’t even frown
”Nazi, Schmazi!” says Wernher von Braun

Don’t say that he’s hypocritical
Say rather that he’s apolitical
”Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That’s not my department!” says Wernher von Braun

Some have harsh words for this man of renown
But some think our attitude
Should be one of gratitude
Like the widows and cripples in old London town
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun

You too may be a big hero
Once you’ve learned to count backwards to zero
”In German, und Englisch, I know how to count down
Und I’m learning Chinese!” says Wernher von Braun
TomLehrer song

Another habit of the very rich, and of rich corporations, is the use of a portion of their wealth to purchase control of or influence over political opinion and action:
     • by use of propaganda (largely by ownership or control of mainstream media), by the funding of “conservative” think-tanks, “conservative” legal-action groups, and other pressure groups,
     • by making or threatening to withhold legalized (and perhaps some illegal) “bribery” of politicians (usually as “campaign contributions” and gifts to “legal action funds”), by gifts to PACs. Super-PACs, and Dark-Money Groups, by providing supreme court justices and others with expensive vacations, by providing jobs to politicians or their family members, hiring law firms associated with politicians, and the like.

Some call such very rich folks “plutocrats”:
The more disturbing Trump’s public proclamations become, the more US plutocrats seem to want him to win.

As an ever-greater portion of the nation’s total wealth goes to the top, it’s hardly surprising that ever more of that wealth is corrupting US politics.
(See here).

The Habits Of Centrist Democratic Politicians

By a “centrist” Democratic politician (hereafter ”CDP”), I mean to designate a holder and/or seeker of political office whose general practice is to seek and accept money (“campaign contributions”) from millionaires, billionaires, rich corporations, and PACs. Seeking and accepting money from big--money sources may, with justice, be called being “on the take”.

The Democratic politicians who generally refuse such money are those who call themselves “progressives” such as members of “The Squad”.

By all appearances, the large majority of CDPs—and 100% of Republican politicians—have the habit of near unquestioning obedience to the desires of:

     • pro-Israel donors
     • arms-manufacturing companies
     • medical insurance companies
     • pharmaceutical companies
     • oil and gas companies

and many other corporate interests.

Because of this “unquestioning obedience” to big-money:

     • despite wide-spread popular concern about climate change, the USA has made very little progress as either a leader or a follower in global efforts—such as they are—to reverse climate change. The corporations do not want what they perceive as disruption and the CEO’s of the corporations certainly don’t want higher corporate taxes, personal income taxes, or personal wealth taxes. Let the public, and future generations, be damned, full speed ahead with the economy! And the CDPs comply.

     • despite popular uproar in favor of a cease-fire in Israel’s genocidal war-of-obliteration against Gaza, the USA (President Biden) has not seen fit to use or allow the UNSC to impose a cease-fire.

     • the CDPs who take that corporate money are themselves also enemies of democracy. We saw that in various congressional elections when, despite the possible voter-popularity of progressive candidates, central funding mechanisms of the (centrist) Democratic Party, in order to prevent election of non “centrist” (corporate-compliant) Democrats, denied funds and otherwise interfered with the electioneering of “progressive” candidates running in primaries against CDPs (see: here and here).

     • despite losing war after war (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan come to mind), the USA has not entirely abandoned its “forever wars”, its “war on terror”, or its military support for Israel (all very profitable for the arms-manufacturing sector), even as Israel seems engaged in a genocidal “war” of obliteration in Gaza.

Back to CDP habits.

The CDPs are definitely in the habit of doing as they’ve been paid (or threatened) to do by the big-money boys which they do even when those policies make little electoral sense. If AIPAC says, “no ceasefire,” then “no ceasefire” it is, even as the (voting) public is calling for a cease-fire. CDPs are in the habit of knowing which side their bread is buttered on, but not in the habit of trying to do as voters want.

Habits Of American Social Organization

Over the years, America has morphed from a society of small-scale capitalism to large-scale, quasi-feudal capitalism.

When capitalism was small-scale, people owned small things—farms, grist-mills, printing presses—and were “in business” in a small way as organic parts of their communities. They were parts, not rulers, of their communities. Governance was democratic, controlled by the voters.

When capitalism got to where it is today—large-scale quasi-feudal capitalism—many things had changed.

First, the biggest of the enterprises had generated such profits that the businesses could afford to spend money influencing legislatures, administrative agencies, and judges.

This influence allowed the businesses to push and pull legislation and regulation of business in directions they wanted.

Second, the new feudal lords persuaded the courts that money spent to influence government, no matter how much the money was or how it was spent, was the equivalent of “speech” and therefore protected from regulation by the American Constitution’s protection of “political speech”.

Third, even before Trump, the new feudal lords were able to use their political spending to influence the appointment or election of judges at all levels, now even the Supreme Court.

And then—since the CEOs of these big businesses were increasingly very rich, they used the influence of the businesses—using corporate money—to influence legislatures to keep business taxes and regulation of businesses low and to keep individual taxation rates low as well. The CEOs had acquired such power socially that they acted like the feudal lords, controlling the societies in which they flourished.
Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was a combination of legal, economic, military, cultural, and political customs that flourished in medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries.

Very little in America today is not under control of these new feudal lords, the CEOs of the great corporations. In regard to any matter which is of interest to these lords, America is no longer a democracy but a feudal system in which the nominal highest power (king or president) is in fact controlled by the feudal lords—these CEOs.

(Of course, under the old feudalism, the feudal lords had responsibilities to the people they controlled: they had a duty to protect them. Today the CEOs, to put it mildly, are not protecting us from climate change. So call it quasi-feudalism.

A consequence of all this is that taxes on the very rich are lower than on the middle class, because the CEOs have used their influence to pass tax laws friendly to themselves. How the government ever pays for its grotesquely over-blown military I don’’t know, because tax-revenues are held down.

As another consequence, the business regulations and laws make each business responsible for profit-making without responsibility for anything much else.

If the nation requires money to fight climate change, to pick the current example, let it find that money elsewhere!

Is all this refusal of responsibility short-sighted? Well, that depends. If you think that the continued existence of life on earth is a goal worth striving for, then, “YES!”, it is short-sighted. But if tunnel-vision, or ideology, or laziness, or ignorance, or class-conformity, or anything else allows (or compels) the feudal lords to ignore the impending end-of-life-on-earth, then, “NO!”, it is not short-sighted, but is merely business-as-usual.

No More Habits

I’ve run out of habits to assign to the CDPs, or anybody else. I hope some of this has made sense.


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