G.W.F. Hegel. Philosopher of everything, and everything else not contained in the known universe. Hegel’s tough. Real tough. So much Hegel, so little time.
We’ve all had a bit of Hegel in our education. Maybe you had him in your high school world history/western civ class. Most draw a straight line from Hegel to Marx to communism. It can be argued, and I have…at great length, that he spawned fascism, too.
Maybe you had a taste of him in high school science. Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis. Remember that?
That simple formulation was Hegel’s most famous contribution. It’s scientific…but it’s also philosophical…and political.
But the language is off. Not totally off, but off enough to cloud the impact ol’ Heggie had on political thinkers and power elites.
Try this: Problem, Reaction, Solution. Notice the subtle difference? Not so antiseptic. A bit more ominous. A lot more enlightening.
It’s simple. You, “Mr Power Player,” want to get something done. But there is this new social reality…mass culture. Industrialization, the growth of cities, early democratic ideas and that damn bastard Guttenberg have changed the top heavy, aristocratic world into a new, mass-oriented world. A world that demands the active building of support from the governed. Consent of the governed, some dreamers called it.
But some of what you, Mr Power Player, want to do isn’t necessarily in the interest of the governed. Their consent is not a given. Not anymore. Let’s say…you want to invade another country…maybe to get their bananas. Maybe Bonzo is hungry. Whatever. You gotta feed the monkey.
What to do?
Turn to Hegel. He’s got the formula. You need to create a Problem. A big Problem. If it ain’t big? Well, make it dramatic enough to appear big, or ominous enough to sell it as big. Let’s just say, for the sake of our example, that evil, Godless, atheist, anti-freedom and anti-apple pie Badguys are about to take away the right of peasants to work tirelessly on huge banana plantations owned by a small clique of elites. Plantations that, it just so happens, ship cheap bananas to Bonzo through the loving and gracious auspices of Bananas for Bonzo, Inc.–a wholly-owned subsidiary of Freedom Businesses Worldwide. The Badguys take power through an “election” and…gasp…nationalize the banana plantations, and…gasp deeper…redistribute the land to the peasants.
Now, the Badguys may have been elected. But, c’mon…elections are conditional events. The condition being the outcome and whether that outcome works in the interest of Power Players. If not? Well, Great Men in History…as Hegel called them…are like great chefs. They gotta break some eggs to make those tasty omelets.
So the Problem is that Banana Country is now Godless Pinko dynamite and the battle to protect Apple Pie and Mom requires stopping the Pinkos there, before we have to fight them here. Propaganda, fear, disinformation. All good ways to illustrate the problem. Maybe you try bombings, start up a band of Freedom Fighters, fund a future dictator. The bombings are good, though. You might even be able to blame them on the Pinkos. No one will ever figure it out. The terrorism is clandestine, so anyone can be blamed. Massacres of peasants can be blamed on the regime, too. It’s all about the blame game.
Then comes the Reaction. Some of the indigenous Banana people will react. But, mostly, you want the international community and folks on the home-front to react. And react they will. Constant images and reports of Godlessness, of anti-Apple Pieism…of the de facto imprisonment of a people yearning for Freedom…will create support for the Freedom Fighters. For the need to intervene. For the need to stop them there before they come here.
Civil war will come. Death Squads, summary executions, torture. People will die. But the deaths will only show how desperately they need us to intervene. Yes, people will die. But remember those omelets…those tasty omelets that we eat when we consume. Omelets, with a side of ripe bananas.
You see, the Solution is already there…just waiting for enough of a Reaction to make it look organic. To get the consent of enough of the masses to make it all…well…democratic-esque.
After a bit of a civil war, Banana Land gets some intervention from the Marines, the regime is topple and a few bases are built. For “stabilization.” A large Embassy will do fine in the long run. The new rulers…democrats in word, but not deed…will be trained in the fine arts of suppression, armed with the fine weapons of defense contractors and paid the fine dollars of American taxpayers they need to do it all. And Bananas for Bonzo, Inc. will get access to cheap plantations and cheaper labor. A sweetheart deal for the company that just wants to lead Banana Land to the sort of free market economy that makes for free people.
Now, this sarcastic little yarn might seem far-fetched. Wars are generated? Can it all be so Machiavellian?
Problem, Reaction, Solution plays out more often that you’d think. Sometimes future enemies are supported…Noriegas, Saddams, Ho Chi Mihns and, yes, even Castro. Sometimes terrorists are organized and supported, through covert ops and allies…like Al Qaeda. It can be as banal as dressing up in your enemies’ uniforms and attacking yourself, like the Nazis did in Poland or the Japanese did in Manchuria. Sometimes it’s hard to pin down, like the bombing of the Maine…which gave us a nice little war with Spain and colonies in Cuba and the Philippines.
The banana story is real. Read Richard Barnet’s Intervention and Revolution about the United Fruit Company. The Bush family was heavily invested in United Fruit, by the way. Something similar happened to Iran when Mossadeq wanted to nationalize Iran’s oil fields.
Stephen Kinzer has revived some of Barnet in his new book,Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Kinzer exposes the sorry little truth about our American delusion that we are not, and have not been, an imperial power. We are. And even though he doesn’t mention Hegel, take a look and see how we…or our Power Players…have used Hegel’s formula to expand, expand, expand.
It happens. Problems are created. People React. Solutions are implemented. And we go on thinking that the hurly-burly of human events is organic. That wars just happen.
But they don’t. Not as often as they are created.
Hegel set the tone for History. Yes, that’s History with a capital H. The march of mankind. And he gave the Power Players their marching orders. Or gave them the formula for giving us our marching orders. Marching into other countries to take what the Power Players want, so they can feed us the omelets that keep us fat and happy. And Bonzo gets his bananas.