Howard Zinn gives his nemesis–the abusive, acquisitive ruling elite–the enormous credit of attributing to that class the malice with forethought, the brilliance of having designed by intent a system of government in the U.S. of unimaginable hypocrisy and capacity to delude: not direct enslavement but a system that persuades us all that we want to live in our sometimes gilded cage, that we the people run this system of highly, highly preferential treatment for a very tiny minority of great people who care for and protect us from…something…out there.
With such continuing malaise, it is very important for the Establishment-that uneasy club of business executives, generals, and politicos-to maintain the historic pretension of national unity, in which the government represents all the people, and the common enemy is overseas, not at home, where disasters of economics or war are unfortunate errors or tragic accidents, to be corrected by the members of the same club that brought the disasters. It is important for them also to make sure this artificial unity of highly privileged and slightly privileged is the only unity-that the 99 percent remain split in countless ways, and turn against one another to vent their angers.
How skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! How adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods, in a violent exchange of impoverished schools, while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the wealth of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers. How ingenious to meet the demands of blacks and women for equality by giving them small special benefits, and setting them in competition with everyone else for jobs made scarce by an irrational, wasteful system. How wise to turn the fear and anger of the majority toward a class of criminals bred-by economic inequity-faster than they can be put away, deflecting attention from the huge thefts of national resources carried out within the law by men in executive offices. [A People’s History of the United States.]
Without questioning for a moment the accuracy of Zinn’s description of America, I ask this: is our abusive, acquisitive ruling elite really so brilliant that they created this gilded cage by design?