Tools of Control
A Book about How Four Growing Power Structures Influence Human Thought, Identity and Action and How We Can Further Autonomy, Sustainability, Freedom, Production Based on Need, and Biodiversity
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
A Note to Readers About the Origins of this Book and My Criticisms of Religious Power Structures:
A few friends of mine inspired me to change the tone of my book. I don’t want to give people the impression the situation all hopeless, as if doomsday is coming tomorrow. That kind of fear-mongering is senseless. There are major problems in the world. I think we have to address them, but not get overwhelmed, so the tone of my book was changed to be a little more positive and I focused more on what can be done rather than how much we have been and are controlled because we must focus our emotions on current circumstances (while never forgetting our history) and not become emotionally trapped in the past.
This book is not intended to offend anyone for their religious beliefs. I respect and care about religious people just as much as I do secular individuals. I merely want the debate to be open, but right now it is too closed. If you can’t even question your own beliefs, this is destructive. I do it all the time. I am humble enough to admit I don’t know if there is a God or not, but I do know our universe is governed by physical laws, and we don’t have real proof of any God, aside from our own subjective experiences. Too many people use religion to deceive. People in power will pretend to be passionately religious, so they can influence the zeitgeist and religious people’s behaviors. They do it for money.
Religious behavior developed before organized religion and these behaviors were mostly positive and helpful. (Some examples I will discuss in this book are cave art, intentional burial, mediation, increased focus on others, increased self-awareness and wonder about the cosmos.) But organized religion and its power became centralized until it was another tool used to control people, unfortunately. Many religious leaders deeply influence the religious population by claiming to be so devoutly religious, and that their mission is “Godly.”
I don’t like labels, but if I had to identify with any school of thought on the subject it would be agnostic humanism. I know and have become more conscious of the fact that for many people (including good friends) “God” is a more of a metaphor. God can mean love for some people. For others God may mean unity consciousness or collective consciousness. For some it means all life forms and Earth. In this case, respecting and loving God means something very positive. I think these conceptions of “God” are ultimately positive. But the concept of God can become very harmful when people believe there is a divine reason all things occur. There isn’t. This belief is so dangerous because you must somehow justify every horrible thing on Earth that occurs. Some counter by saying these horrible things are “learning experiences,” but we’ve had enough learning experiences to know how to treat each other. Homo sapiens evolved about 100,000 years ago. Most of us know already how to treat each other. We all have some sense of morality, right or wrong. The main influence creating division is the richest of rich.
The problem is that we are deceived and misled, so not all of the actions we take promote a world the way we want it to be with humans and all life on Earth healthy. (For example, I smoke cigarettes, and I know tobacco kills five million people a year and also pollutes the atmosphere. Why this contradiction? Well, cigarettes are very addictive and no one is perfect.) Most current tragedies are man-made. They are systemic and broad. They affect billions of people, and they are controlled by a small minority of very rich and powerful people. The institutions and ideas that control us are what my book is about, but not the sole focus. These tragedies are not caused by God, unless God means humanity for you, in which case God represents a fragmented majority of honest people and small minority of parasites killing us all. I think it is important to be clear when talking about “God” what is meant because God is such an emotionally charged concept for so many people, and the word can mean so many different things. I think it is important to know how to talk about this sensitively. Some people don’t like their beliefs questioned at all and if that is you, you may not like the things I say.
I think it is important that people who understand the dangers of organized religion make our criticisms about religion and dogma, and let religious individuals know we are not criticizing them. Current organized religions like Islam and Christianity have been positively used for mass non-violent protest, charity, gatherings and demonstrations of unity but sometimes even non-violent protests become violent as the focus shifts to dogma and division or they are attacked because of the intolerance and hate for their beliefs by other extremist groups. The concept of organization is key, but we have to remember why we are really organizing. We all want and need the same things, regardless of our beliefs. I have faith that all of humanity will eventually unite and do the right thing.
We all have experiences which create a tapestry of beliefs. Before I get into the book, I should explain why I have formed my beliefs. When I was still a child, I was always very bothered by the big questions about life that no one I knew could answer. Questions about the meaning of life, our purpose and death racked my mind as soon as I was told about them, but no one else my age seemed to be as bothered by them as I did and I couldn’t see why. I saw so much undeserved suffering, conflict and death in the world and I wondered why God (who I was taught to believe in and who was supposedly omnipotent) would let all of this happen and give us so little guidance.
I was raised to be religious and I was taught my religion had many of the answers that I sought. I first embraced it and made every effort to be a good religious person because I was told it was necessary to be a moral person allowed access to a (good) afterlife. But I was fairly bored by the Church services and its school. Most of the reverends at my Church seemed like moral, well-intentioned people who cared for others, but they couldn’t answer the questions I had. When I asked, they couldn’t tell me why God would let so many people die every day from hunger, dehydration, disease and war or give me real proof that these people would live on eternally. Instead, they would recite the same familiar platitudes about morality, God and worship in their sermons, and the eerie choir songs that accompanied them often just made me uncomfortable. Their volume and pitch were supposed to be angelic, but when there were such serious issues going on I felt it was strange.
Since my ministers did not have the answers, I started studying my religion and others to see if they had the answers. What interested me most about religions was their attempt to answer the questions that could not be answered by science. Religions seemed to fill in the gaps, and I noticed they had major effects on ethics worldwide. But as I studied them more and more, I found more contradictions. I was told the Bible was a book of stories about moral principles. But the Old Testament has very few loving passages from God. In most parts, God acts as an apathetic, angry avenger for mankind’s “sins”. I also saw the Bible contradicts much of what science tells us about our history, and I found just as many, if not more, hateful, bizarre and violent stories than loving and inclusive ones.
I also saw religious extremism was fueling violence worldwide. I saw priests who were supposed to be the closest to God in the news for molestation scandals, and I saw the separation and boundaries created by people with strong, disparate religious convictions that prevent them from connecting with each other.
After being dragged to Church, I would sit in this lavish, extravagant building every Sunday and wonder about the hypocrisy of it all. While children were starving and dying, we sat in a Church worth millions and for what? I did not understand why I had to come to this certain building every Sunday to be a moral human being. I could do the same service and volunteer work the Church did without attending or even having religious beliefs.
Religion did not seem to be the answer from where I was sitting. It just seemed to be a distraction or a series of easy answers to very complex questions. Religion serves as a coping mechanism for what is unknown, and I was using it as most do. Eventually, I stopped going to Church, much to the dismay of my very religious mother.
I wrote about religion to try to make sense of it, and I tried to reconcile the positive aspects of it that I could see with the equally evident negative and contradictory parts, but I couldn’t do it. No religion had any of the answers to the moral questions I had, and I saw many religions doing more harm than good by giving people false hope who just wanted the answers like I did. So I abandoned my book about religion and I started to learn more about science.
I became certain the answers would be strongly rooted in science, and I wanted to learn about every piece of history from the Big Bang to the present. I learned how the very young universe evolved and eventually formed stars, solar systems, Earth and life. I also studied the evolution of life on Earth from its beginning around 3.85 billion years ago to the present. I studied human evolution, the development of language, tools and religious history.
My research on cosmology, physical laws and Earth history gave me perspective. There is consistency in the universe, and the universe has obeyed the same laws since almost immediately after the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago. This makes the future predictable. Regardless of the human impact, positive or negative, there is no known way to break physical laws. This means there cannot be a universal keeper of moral order. But this is actually positive. The universe has to act in consistent, predictable ways or otherwise we would constantly fear that the universe may become intentionally malicious and chaos would ensue. Some religious people do live in uncertainty because they believe God may punish them or their families. Some even believe God will bring the apocalypse at some point due to religious scriptures that make these predictions like the Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible and these concerns are often very troubling to these individuals.
When I discovered that inequality and suffering are not caused by supernatural forces or God or even physical laws alone, but rather are largely shaped by manmade institutions, I realized I needed to narrow my focus on these institutions.
During this time, I met with people from a variety of walks of life who helped inform me about these issues, such as professors, psychologists, prison counselors, politicians, political dissidents, authors, and struggling portions of the population like homeless individuals and drug addicts. What I learned from all of this is that there are four primary institutions that control us most today. They are large governments, the concentration of religious power and dogma, massive international corporations, and mass media outlets. These forces and their evolution is what this book is about.
It took about seven years of research and writing to complete this book, my third. It has been a long journey. Although the state of the world is palpably grim, the purpose of this book is not at all to depress you. When we all become aware of what is wrong, we get one step closer to resolving these problems. From studying these institutions, you learn how to fix them, and how the welfare of the everyday people could be so easily improved. The next section will introduce these four forces and how they have shaped humanity. The rest of the book will be an informal history about their development and the conclusions will be devoted to how they can be reformed for the wellbeing and happiness of us all.
1.1 What Controls Us
Social and economic inequalities are very evident today. They still exist in disturbing extremes and often in same places. Beverly Hills, for example, is known for its wealth and bourgeois, lavish mansions, but just about fourteen miles away there are sprawling L.A. ghettos heavily controlled by gangs. These kinds of inequities are largely due to what controls us. While these institutions have had plenty of positive effects on the world, they are primarily responsible for globalization in its current form.
Globalization is the extension of social and economic relations worldwide. Systems of communications, transport and trade have flattened the world and sped up this process greatly. If socioeconomic relations were extended worldwide in the most responsible way, this would have great benefit. Equal and peaceful relations between all people could be established. Borders and languages would not have to be boundaries to the free exchange of information and ideas. But this does happen mainly because of a few selfish actors who misunderstand people. Globalization has mostly been driven by a desire for conquest and economic control, which has led to these unequal conditions.
There is nothing inherently malicious about governments, religions, corporations or the mass news media. They can have positive aspects, but the most significant problem with these institutions is that they have become too concentrated, powerful and large, and their direction is mostly determined by small groups of affluent, powerful, (and often bigoted) families and individuals. These people snuff out the most positive aspects of these institutions like brave dissenting journalists, political activists, honest politicians, and religious ideologies that promote the wellbeing of all. The most powerful and rich people do not want socioeconomic equality because they make their money from inequality.
Like the other institutions that control us, religion has become global as well. Christianity and Islam have spread to nearly every country in the world and 84% of the world was religious in 2010 according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. This had many very negative and positive aspects. Religion can be a comfort to many, but the world is also torn apart by it. Religion separates people with different, deeply held convictions, and it is the most common cause of war. Religious extremism still drives ethnic cleansing and genocide to this day, especially in Central, Eastern, and Northern Africa and the Middle East. Unfortunately, when some well-intentioned religious missionaries come to such places to help, they often end up fueling conflict by making inhabitants rely on a religion, which makes them targets for extremists and fuels internal extremism. When sacred beliefs are all that a group of people have to lose, they can become more inclined to act in extreme, irrational ways. Such missionaries often do not know about the history behind the imperialist indoctrination of native peoples and how it has spread massive violence in the past.
Most of the world is controlled by force, threat of force, and/or propaganda. These are the primary tools of governments. If individuals cannot be controlled by force, the easiest way to manipulate them is often by using words, and usually words that deceive or instill fear are the most effective. Our opinions are shaped largely by people we have never met and we are told to take positions that are against our own collective best interests so that the rich and powerful will benefit. We will be told about some ruthless and apocalyptic threat, so that we will support fighting it and even giving up our freedoms to “defeat” it.
Out of the four forces that control us, governments may have the most evident effects on people. To govern means to control. Governments are supposed to control production and people for common good and create order and civility, but most governments very clearly do not. Virtually all governments condone the use of state force to control people. Governments see force as a much needed tool. But force can only be justified if the state is morally sound and force is the only and last option. This is usually not the case. Violence is often the first and most popular option.
Governments do almost nothing to deter aggression and reduce the will for crime and violence, and they often commit the largest crimes of all. Most approach dissenters and critics of their actions with as much regard as criminals, which creates endless cycles of upheaval and violence. Millions of innocent people are also killed every year from unnecessary wars, which are also justified by concocting threats that they perpetuate.
As of 2013, there are more than ten million people in prison, and more than a fifth are locked up in America[i]. Most of us who live in “free” countries don’t believe that our government is a malicious influence because governments make the governed believe they need to be protected from the very people and problems (like criminals and poverty) governments help create. Most governments help produce these problems by creating and maintaining massive wealth discrepancy through the exploitation of the working classes and crime can follow. Even when (mostly rich) governments legislate very socially useful projects (like the construction of libraries and roads, the provision of healthcare and so forth) they do not do the physical work. Common people do the work. Common people fight their wars and buy their products. But large representative governments and their rules and actions are not determined by common people.
Most people can agree we do need various rules in the world for it to function well and I am among them. But most also agree we do not need the types of rules we have that were written by people with heavily concentrated power in order to maintain their power. Anarchy has become associated with chaos, but an anarchic system is just one in which force cannot be used by the state, and if we stop trying to fight violence with violence, chaos would not result. The result could be worldwide peace if other measures are taken to reduce the will for violence.
Although not all politicians are malicious, all governments control people to some degree in unnecessary ways primarily for their own benefit and they justify the ways they do so with their propaganda. Governments make people believe every one of their laws are just and that their wars are always worth fighting and even admirable, and that the people they lock in cages are just as inherently evil as those we are fighting abroad. But most of this is done merely to benefit the leaders of a country in some way. America has had a long history with slavery and racism, and our laws and prisons reflect that. Minorities make up a disproportionately large portion of the prison population. In 2008, one out of every 36 adult Hispanic men was behind bars and one out of every nine black men (ages 20-34) was imprisoned as well.[ii] That same year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of prevalence of incarceration for blacks of all age groups was 3,161 per 100,000 and the white rate was only 487 per 100,000. America has also been at war with the Middle East for about half a century or more due to their abundance of oil reserves and the presence of a disparate dominant religion. America is still the world’s number one empire and threat.
Criminals are products of society just like everyone else. They are molded by the environments they are raised in. Governments and the other forces that control us don’t like to define them in such a way because they want to constantly fight them instead of understand them. But widespread crime will never end without fixing the social and economic problems created by governments and corporations.
Nonviolent prevention and deterrence of crime, violence and war is always better than using force to combat these problems. Crime can be prevented by eliminating poverty, desperation and suffering, which are created by the very same institutions that justify using violence and mass incarceration as a way to contain crime. Of course, there will always be some crime, and most people agree individuals should be separated from society if they are extremely violent and unwilling to change, but very few people go to prison for violent crime. Most people in prison in America and in almost every country are there for drug crimes. In 2011 1.7 million out of the 2.1 million people in prison in America were there because of a non-violent drug conviction.[iii] Prison, in almost all cases, makes people much more violent. If there wasn’t so much violence inflicted by powerful governments and corporations, very few people would be want to be violent.
Governments pursue criminals most when they are not making money that profits those in power (and criminals don’t usually pay taxes on money acquired illicitly), so they are put in prisons where they are forced to work for the government and its corporations for pennies. But prison is a place of punishment, not reformation. If the alleged purpose of imprisonment is to protect people, governments are doing the opposite by keeping prisoners in cages where they only become more anti-social, angry and connected with other criminals, which causes them to be greater threats to society when they are released. War is also often waged for financial gain and same fear tactics are used to garner public support for it. People need to be coerced into spending, and fear is generally the tool used to do it. But it is not just governments that instill this fear. It is corporations, which drive and profit from consumption far more than governments do.
1.3 Multinational Corporations
Large corporations exert just as much social and economic control over us as governments do, (if not more) but their primary tools are different. We are surrounded by corporations. Unless you live in the mountains of Siberia, corporate advertisements are likely hard to avoid. Not all corporations are malicious, controlling influences, but the most profitable ones only become so profitable by engaging in the most unfair trade possible. They will buy raw materials from far poorer people for the lowest price possible, ensuring poor countries stay poor, and they trade their employees the least amount of capital possible for their labor in order to create the cheapest products on the market. This creates monopolies on certain vital services and products, which are denied to those who can’t afford them in our “free market” system.
However, large corporations don’t merely dictate to the public which products made by the exploited masses that we “need” to buy. They also sell us medications that kill us and create addictions, loans, mortgages, and credit cards with unreasonably high interest rates that they know we will default on, and unhealthy foods that are primarily consumed by the poor because it is the cheapest food available. Corporations do this by flooding the airwaves and streets with invasive advertisements that create wants. They dictate what people want and make us fear the consequences of not owning what they are selling. They make people feel inadequate without the latest device or the biggest house, and they make people fear ending up alone if we don’t buy one product or another, and they make people value products over each other. We are told that somehow every product is “integral” to our otherwise empty lives because we’re not just being sold a product; we are often being sold a lifestyle or a whole identity, something that we can hide behind.
The most technologically advanced governments in history always felt entitled to more than they had, so they colonized new land to take its resources and exploit cultures that were less technologically advanced. Out of colonialism grew modern imperialism and hegemony driven by the most powerful governments and eventually by corporate powers as well. Modern corporations have managed to “re-brand” imperialism, so few people recognize that it what is being forced on them.
The British East India Company was one of the first modern transnational corporations that laid the groundwork for contemporary corporations. In the 17th century, The East India Company acted as another branch of the British government. It took over the governments of nations with its armies to exploit their inhabitants, and this eventually resulted in the Bengal Famine of 1770 that killed ten million Indians. The company also sold (literal) tons of opium to China, even after the country made the drugs illegal. This caused widespread addiction in China. Major corporations today are run by the same principles. They make money by exploiting poor people and they feel they have a right to as much money as they can possibly make without giving back to anyone who has less. This is misanthropic. Some individual corporations make almost as much money as entire continents. For example, Walmart’s revenue in 2010 ($421 billion) was greater than the individual GDP of about 165 officially recognized countries. Only about 27 of the richest countries had a GDP greater than Walmart’s 2010 revenue, and the corporation made most of this money by exploiting their underpaid Chinese and American workers.
The pursuit of profit is not wrong. But the morally bankrupt ways certain large institutions and people go about pursuing profit is very wrong. Corporations as a whole have also become more powerful than most governments, and politicians far more often do what corporations want them to do than what the general public wants, which has become a very serious problem.
1.4 The Mass News Media
As stated, governments and corporations use the media as a tool to manipulate people with their words, images, sounds, and videos. As the world’s most effective tool of this kind, mainstream media conglomerates do little else but instill fear and spread propaganda. Openly partisan political pundits instill most of this fear but even mainstream news castors who try to be objective are still very affected by corporate and political interests. Just a handful of large corporations own the most watched news stations in the world and they lie to viewers all of the time. Viacom owns CBS, Disney owns ABC, GE owns NBC, and the News Corporation owns Fox News. Even local news stations are owned by large corporations like Belo, Gannett, Media General, and Post-Newsweek stations. These giant conglomerates make billions of dollars by selling us the “big lies” as Josef Goebbels put it.
The ties these media corporations have to politicians and other government sources are usually significant and sometimes very obvious. For example, mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, (worth $27 billion) owns Bloomberg L.P., the multinational mass media corporation, which includes Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Television, WBBR radio station, and Bloomberg Terminal, a computer terminal subscription service that provides in-depth, privileged stock information mainly to large financial firms. He also has the NYPD. On November 29th 2011 he told MIT during a speech: “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world.” This army has virtually created a police-state in New York and police corruption there is rampant.
The mass media has a more subtle influence on individuals than governments because it doesn’t use force to control people, but words are often more powerful. Even without using force, the media has blood on its hands. Despite having the ability to stop mass atrocities by promoting awareness of them, the mass media usually avoids reporting such stories, especially if they implicate their own government. The US-sponsored massacre of innocent civilians in East Timor in 1991 is an example. Most major US news outlets did not report it. Many of the most deadly conflicts are not reported on. But the attacks on September 11th (which killed 3000 people) have received more press than perhaps any other tragic attack in history.
Much of the reporting on the Cold War efforts were spun incredibly on both sides of the conflict and this is another example that I will discuss this in book. Today, we hear about the U.S. soldiers who have died in the wars in the Middle East nearly every day from US news media conglomerates, but we rarely hear about the hundreds of thousands of civilians (and counting) who have been killed in the region by the US army and military contractors.
The mass media in general does not want to report on any humanitarian crises that are too polarizing, depressing or that implicate their government for fear that they will lose their sponsors or the support of the government. Investigative journalists often get their information from government officials who will be reluctant to keep giving them newsworthy information if it is not spun in the government’s favor. So we sometimes hear more about the sex lives of politicians than their policies because this is what sells.
The current famine in East Africa is almost never talked about on major news stations in America and in other rich countries, and millions more may die as a result. (The recent genocide in the Congo that killed five million came and went with little US coverage or intervention.) Catastrophes like hurricanes do not usually get worldwide attention, unless they are very severe or they involve a rich country or are close to one in which case reporters suddenly become bleeding hearts ostensibly to increase viewership.
News media in rich countries often distracts people from issues that truly matter. The news media and most electronic media mainly keep people complacent in rich countries because most corporations and politicians do not want wealthier citizens to dissent since they have the resources to affect inequality. There are brilliant exceptions, of course, but they are rare and often less popular.
These media distractions exist because there is a demand for them. Many television programs, songs, films and other types of media have also made people obsessed with celebrity life and the pursuit of wealth, which is what corporations and governments want. They make many of us believe that we can become rich and famous as long as we work hard enough, which makes us work hard in our unsatisfying jobs to no avail. The goal is to keep us chasing the dream without ever reaching it.
Even when hard work pays off and a person is able to achieve mass appeal through their talent or knowledge, they are often exploited by the private sector to benefit those who already have a great deal of capital. The smartest students, for example, are very often exploited for their knowledge and ideas by large corporations and left penniless. But students can fix this problem by collaborating and spreading knowledge freely and democratically.
The news media in poor countries generally invokes even more fear and demonizes certain groups of people (usually minorities) unapologetically to explain why there is massive inequality and suffering. This is often done to incite action, rather than complacency. Poor countries have less access to education, so this can prevent them from knowing when they are being lied to, and these power structures take advantage of that. There are less mindless distractions in poor countries because they don’t have the money for them.
Extreme wealth is rarely the product of hard work, but rather of inherited advantages. (Almost no billionaires are truly “self-made.”) This is especially true in countries that have even less opportunities than America or none at all. Too many people want to be celebrities in rich countries like America and so they broadcast and expose themselves in every way that technology allows them to do so until nothing in their lives is private anymore, and nothing is considered too banal to share. Too many are unaware of world-wide problems because of this, and this makes some spend more on cell phones and make-up than they do on efforts to prevent genocide and starvation. (Americans spent $52 billion on their pets in 2012.[iv] Foreign aid to Africa was nowhere near that amount.) However, if most people were made aware of these humanitarian crises would likely be much more compelled to fix them and donate. The lack of awareness created by large media outlets that are supposed to keep us informed is largely to blame.
Again, not all media should be condemned, of course. There are incredible television programs, films, political pundits, and reliable trustworthy news stations nearly globally. But overall there is far too much corporate and political influence on the media, and this is responsible for global problems. The most widely disseminated media ought to be the most socially useful, educational or valuable in some capacity. But what is disseminated is whatever will sell.
The governments of wealthy, “democratic” countries need to create the illusion of freedom and manufacture opinion. But in poorer countries ruled by unapologetic dictators, monarchs or oligarchs, this illusion of freedom does not need to exist to maintain their wealth. Force is used far more often because citizens there are only considered useful to the government as instruments of production or warfare. They don’t have the money to buy products and consume, and individuals can only be useful to governments and corporations as producers, consumers or soldiers and occasionally voters, (although elections can always be rigged). Therefore, subtle propaganda is often more commonly used tool in wealthy countries. As the world-renowned writer, professor and intellectual, Noam Chomsky, said “Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorship.”
1.5 Religion: The Forth and Most Unique Influence
The rulers of the largest governments, corporations, media outlets and religions cause most of the suffering that exists in the world. They are responsible for most of the poverty, income-related health problems and deaths from wars. Nearly everyone on Earth is affected by these forces in some way, but most people don’t blame these forces for the unequal conditions in the world because they are so successful at manipulating people. Many of us instead blame or seek help from God or other supernatural forces.
Governments and religious leaders also tell people that there is a good reason that they and others suffer, and most either believe this or remain unaware of all of the severity of the suffering in the world, but we (common people) have the ability to prevent this suffering and I believe the moral obligation to do so. The individuals whom governments make us fear and hate the most (like the people we fight in wars and the people we imprison) are often not much different from us. Most of the people we fight were just unfortunate enough to be born in a place that has something another government wants. Most people in prison are also not much different than those who obey the law either. People convicted of the most heinous, violent crimes may belong where they are, but most people only become “criminals” because they have experienced a great deal of misfortune in their lives, which made them seek desperate measures, much like we all would if put in their situations. But because we want to believe so badly that people do not suffer undeservedly, many of us believe governments and other self-righteous forces when they tell us they all deserve to suffer. We also all have our own pain and struggles and pointing to one group of people as the sole cause is a quick-fix for some people.
People often fail to wonder what makes a person break the law and risk imprisonment, and what makes a person “evil”? People often have convictions about these ideas that come from their own experiences. But as long as the people who are seen as evil are being punished, many people do not feel the need to question their convictions. Most people who do wrong do not knowingly do so without provocation. Our environments provoke evil responses. Sometimes, a series of unfortunate events is all that it takes to transform a person into people some may call “bad” or “evil.” Desperation leads to desperate measures, and the law and especially vicious prosecutors and judges have little regard for our troubles. Many of our laws are created just because of greed or prejudice.
More evil is usually created than destroyed when people are imprisoned and countries go to war. Good people can become vicious and violent when they are locked in a cage or they see their family killed in war. But we have a way of attributing the occurrence of unfortunate events to an even greater authority like the universe or God. If a person is suffering or being punished, people tend to believe there is a reason for it. If they did not, there would not be so much undeserved suffering in the world.
We are often told not to care about people who act in ways that are socially or traditionally unacceptable because many of us do not understand why individuals take these actions. But no one is born misanthropic or humanitarian. The will to do “evil” or be immoral is not inherent in anyone. In an interview for The Corporation, Noam Chomsky said “every one of us under some circumstances could be a gas chamber attendant and a saint.” Right and wrong, good and bad, and identity are oversimplified concepts and who we become can sometimes be very much out of our control because of our environments and our DNA which we do not choose.
People are generally treated and viewed based on how they act, look and represent themselves while other significant factors (like what made them that way) are mostly ignored. Identity is complex and fluid. No one can choose their exact appearance, of course, but identity is not completely chosen either. These larger malicious forces at work that do control us for their own (usually financial) benefit or because of their own prejudices can be more difficult to detect than the more benign influences on identity. If more of us knew how these negative forces affect people, we would be far less dismissive of struggling people who are accused of being the problem. These forces that control us often create the groups of people that are judged most harshly and perceived as immoral, indolent or evil.
People, in general, tend not to consider humanity as a whole. Most people care about their friends, family and a few others because these people have had a positive effect on their lives. But this love is not usually extended globally. We are all people deserving of the same rights and only a few altruistic people have been able to recognize that through time. However, there are reasons for this general distrust. Firstly, the internet and other devices that enable global communication have only been fairly recently invented and people are just beginning to see and learn about the world as a whole, so some just don’t know that widespread suffering and oppression exist.
Many also do know what influenced their friends and family for better or for worse, so we are able to look past their shortcomings and forgive them. But it is difficult to know this about everyone on Earth. Therefore, it is easier to generalize and not care about a certain distant person, race, religious group, or country. This is a major problem because if the majority of people are only driven to positively influence those within their own social groups or even within their own countries then the massive inequality and suffering that exists in the world will always exist when it does not have to.
As stated, about 85% of the world is religious and almost everyone believes in some form of magical thinking, which is thinking or beliefs that are not scientific, particularly about causality. Most people believe what happens to them happens for a reason (this is an example “magical thinking”) because it is too difficult to believe otherwise. Most people believe everything that happens is part of “God’s plan” and even many nonreligious like to believe there is some esoteric, universal “keeper of moral order.” If things don’t always happen for meaningful reasons, then we are just at the mercy of other people (and the forces that truly control us), and the futures of our identities are largely out of our hands. Most people do not want to believe this because we do not trust each other. Most want to believe there is some higher power out there that cares about them, and we especially need to believe there is a meaningful reason suffering exists because if there isn’t, there is no assurance it will end. The world just looks like absolute chaos otherwise and this is too painful for most people to accept, but it is controlled chaos that we can prevent.
Many people either become convinced that all people who do suffer deserve it or they ignore these people and focus on their own lives. They will pray for an ‘A’ on their book reports and believe God can help them get it, while children who pray for food must not be quite as deserving in their minds. Some people have little difficulty believing people do not suffer without good reason because they have only suffered for meaningful reasons or they have at least convinced themselves they have. But they must ignore all of the people who have endured so much senseless suffering. Because the desire to believe that things happen for meaningful reasons is so strong, even the people who suffer needlessly the most often still believe there is a reason for their pain. And the forces that actually control people and cause the most suffering reinforce this perception to avoid being seen as the enemy.
Most people will explain their situation in life (good or bad) is the will of God or the universe. If they are suffering, they will say that one of these entities is attempting to teach them a lesson or better them in some way by making them suffer. But the true major causes of suffering that control and manipulate us are not supernatural or esoteric. They are manmade, and it is these forces that have so successfully convinced people that the supernatural is cause of their ups and downs and even who we become as people. These forces also justify what they do by saying their God is on their side; they claim natural disasters or catastrophic mistakes that kill thousands are acts of God, (in the terms of service agreements for most major corporation, there are provisions that explain they cannot be sued for “acts of God”) and they ask people to pray to their Gods when they could easily fix the problems they are creating.
All of these forces I have discussed that control us are connected. They are motivated by the same things; they use the same methods to control people and they all make controlling people easier for each other. But religion, the fourth controlling force, is a very unique controlling influence in that it is often affects the elites in charge as much as it does the poor masses, and this makes it one of the most powerful forces. Religious leaders may control and shape people’s minds in negative ways, but not always for selfish reasons because many do not see the harm they are doing. Some are just as controlled by their own dogma as the people they preach to.
Like corporate executives and politicians, religious leaders and speakers use fear and force a great deal. People are made to fear God, and the consequences of not believing in whatever holy book their religion espouses. Force has been used historically a great deal by religious groups, and religion is still the cause of most wars and massive attacks. The Holocaust, The Inquisition, the Taiping Rebellion, The Thirty Years War, the Crusades, the French Religious wars, the witch hunts in the middle evil period, the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the current suicide bombings in Iraq, Christopher Columbus’s genocide of the Native Americans and the many wars fought over Israel were driven by religious extremism; and wars that weren’t solely motivated by religion were often waged by people who felt they were doing God’s bidding, which is not surprising considering most religious texts say that murder and war under the right circumstances are acceptable. Most are more fearful of God than they are of their enemies or their government, so if politicians or clergy can convince them they will be punished by their God if they don’t do what they want them to do, they can be control them nearly completely.
When you consider how many people suffer undeservedly and are helpless to change this or themselves in a significant way, you see that fate is a ridiculous concept. Not everything occurs for a good or meaningful reason. Events occur because of preceding events and these events occur because of scientific laws that govern the universe. Those among us who believe all events happen for meaningful reasons or that there is God who can and does affect humanity in a positive way are neglecting scientific laws and everything we know about how the world functions and identity develops. This is another reason religion is so dangerous, and it is made even more dangerous by governments that take advantage of it to control people. Although the American government is supposed to separate Church and state (it is required by the first amendment of the constitution) some politicians have still succeeded in passing measures that require children be taught religious theories instead of scientific ones. This is one of the reasons the majority of Americans still believe in Creationism. In some regions of the world, schools only have one book and it is a religious one.
Science can explain why just about everything occurs with irrefutable evidence, and yet so many people still cling to their supernatural explanations because these forces that truly control us have a tremendous aptitude for manipulation and these supernatural explanations can be very sensitive issues. The maintenance of strong, disparate religious ensures conflict. However, it is exceedingly dangerous to live in a world that functions on scientific knowledge and denies its very validity at the same time. Scientific technology is applied and used every day without a second thought by people who say they don’t believe the most basic scientific principles.
Religion is the oldest controlling force. It was first created to answer questions we did not have real answers to. The cause of all events was first attributed to supernatural forces because there was so much around that we could not explain. Eventually, the beliefs we formed about these supernatural forces became sacred and issues we took very personally, and many were willing to die to defend them, and many did because their beliefs predictably conflicted. The ancient rulers of Egypt and Mesopotamia are examples of governments that took advantage of this to concentrate their power. Many of the first leaders of governments claimed to be close to Gods or gods themselves and this was the main reason people listened to them and let them rule. The same is true today. Some leaders pretend to be God-like or else close to God in order to manipulate others. Many religions and governments only subsist because of each other, and it tremendously dangerous that they do.
Corporations also sometimes use God to justify what they do. Some call their own catastrophic mistakes or the destructive impacts of their greed “acts of God.” (Most terms of service [TOS] agreements large corporations write up also include “acts of God” as one the many events they cannot be held accountable for.) Corporations and governments can do essentially whatever they want for their own benefit and many blame the outcome on God or use God to justify it. One of the most serious examples is global warming. The mass production and use of poisonous chemicals and fossil fuels is responsible for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of deaths, and religion is often used to placate people about these problems. The combustion of fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas) oxygenates many elements in them, creating various byproducts including carbon dioxide. Excess CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere, raising global temperatures and reducing solid water (ice) on Earth. If we continue burning these fuels at current rates or faster, worldwide flooding and another ice age could result. Flooding is already occurring as the sea level slowly rises. But many religious politicians and media talking heads have said global warming won’t cause another flood because God declared there will not be another global flood in Genesis in the Bible. These kinds of ridiculous claims persuade many, despite the fact that the flooding is already occurring.
Due to the excess moisture in the air caused by global warming, devastating natural disasters have become far more common in recent years. These natural disasters do far more damage in poorer countries like Haiti, which experienced an Earthquake in 2010 that killed 380,000 people, because they lack the funding to prepare for emergency situations and the money to rebuild when they do strike. Many construction companies also want to ignore the building codes required to reinforce buildings and prevent collapse to save money on supplies. The disaster in Haiti, as well as many others that are caused or made worse by global warming (like Hurricane Katrina) and even terrorist attacks, have been called “acts of God” by various religious, right-wing political pundits and corporate leaders.
Steve Lafermine of Columbia Christians for Life said Hurricane Katrina was punishment for the country’s tolerance of abortion because he believed the satellite photo of the disaster looked like an aborted fetus. On the popular Christian TV program, “The 700 Club,” Reverend Jerry Falwell called the September 11th attacks acts of God. He said “I really believe the Pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are trying to make an alternate lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.” Host of the show and former Baptist minister, Pat Robertson, agreed.
If the forces that control us aren’t stopped or reformed, they may destroy us completely either by polluting the Earth or waging world war. If they do not destroy us they will at the very least continue to completely redefine identity and what it means to be human. If the most negative of these forces had their way we would just be mindless, indistinguishable drones, constantly producing, consuming, fighting for the benefit of the few while, and always praying for change. The (admittedly ambitious) purpose of this book is to help prevent that. In this book, I will explore the history of these forces. I mostly discuss the history of these forces in America because America’s largest corporations, media outlets, and government agencies are the most controlling of the world as a whole, and yet America is perceived as the freest country on Earth by many people because of nation’s manipulation. I will show how and why these forces evolved to better understand them. I will also determine how these forces became connected and explain why these forces use fear more than force to control people today and why the opposite was true in the past.
The conclusion of the book will tie all of these elements together and explain what I believe is the most fundamental problem that causes these forces to continue to feel entitled to control people. This will help us understand what we can do to reform these institutions, so that we can regain control over our own identities and improve our lives and the lives of others worldwide in the process.
 A prominent, historic example of a chemical created by corporations that resulted in mass death is Agent Orange. During the Vietnam War, Monsanto and Dow Chemical created this herbicide, which was airdropped over Vietnam to destroy the forests, but what they supposedly did not realize at the time was that the chemical they sprayed was infected with extremely toxic dioxins. 400,000 died and 500,000 were born with severe physical defects as a result. Many Vietnamese people are still affected by these toxins to this day.
 The majority of the deaths from Katrina were caused by the negligence of the US Army Corps of Engineers who designed the hurricane levees, FEMA and the Bush administration, as well as corporations that use or extract fossil fuels.
[i] UNODC: “Prison Settings.” October 12th 2010. PDF.
[ii] The Pew Charitable Trusts: “One in 100 Behind Bars in America in 2008” January 26 2008, Pg. 6. Print.
[iii] Harrop, Froma: “Booze or Drugs: Prohibition Makes No Sense.” The Providence Journal. 2008. Newspaper.
[iv] Thompson, Derek: “These Four Charts Explain Exactly How Americans Spend 52 Billion on Our Pets in A Year.” The Atlantic. February 23rd 2013. Newspaper.