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The Mendacity of the Elites
Text by Henrik Nordborg
WE WILL BEAR WITNESS to this moment in history. This “glocal” media project feature stories from earth's citizens, recording climate destruction, devastation, resilience and hope. WE WILL BEAR WITNESS is a community project and pays contributors lifetime dividends. Pitch us to donate or contribute.
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If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
In 1910, the world was ruled by the men in the picture above. The result was predictably calamitous. In a futile attempt to remain relevant, they summoned the gods of war and sent millions of people to their untimely deaths. No price was ever considered too high for the mighty to stay in power.
The hand that signed the paper felled a city;
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;
These five kings did a king to death.
The First World War was a war to avoid peace. Not wanting to accept necessary social and political reforms, the European aristocracy cynically played the jingoist card and declared war without a purpose. What better way to prevent the workers of the world from uniting than to have them kill each other? The men who started the war watched from a safe distance.
I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder.
I always thought everyone was against war, until I found out there are those who are all for it, especially those who do not have to go there.
Erich Maria Remarque
The pointlessness of the First World War was not lost on the men who were supposed to fight it. On December 25, 1914, peace broke out on the Western front as soldiers from both sides left the trenches to fraternize and share a drink in no man’s land. The Christmas Truce was a remarkable testament to the kindness of the human spirit. It lasted one day and was never repeated. Christ was banned to allow the slaughter to continue.
The lesson from World War One is about power. The aristocracy of the early 20th century never considered doing the right thing. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo, the only possible response of an empire was war. As the terrorist was a Serbian nationalist, Serbia had to suffer. In August 1914, the lights went out in Europe. The continent never recovered.
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
Oh, what made fatuous sunbeams toil, to break Earth’s sleep at all?
Today, this behavior is all too common. Empires and the people who run them will never be loved and therefore need to be feared. They respond to every challenge with indiscriminate violence and excessive force. Collateral damage – or terror – is part of the plan.
A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable.
Capitalist society was built on an illusion. We were told to ignore the wealth accumulation at the top because enough of it would trickle down to make us all happy. Growth was good because a rising tide floats all boats, which is bad news if you do not own a boat.
And yet, most of us played along. We ignored the growing inequalities and the environmental damage since technological progress made life more comfortable and allowed us to do and buy things our parents could only have dreamt of. It was the ultimate Faustian bargain, but rather than selling our souls to the devil, we sacrificed the future of our children.
As soon as the capitalists got powerful enough, they stopped pretending to be useful and switched from innovation to extorsion. The financial sector exists to transfer money directly from the bottom to the top without ever passing through a tangible product.
Only a child dared to point out the nakedness of the lie. With her uncompromising and passionate message, Greta Thunberg rallied young people to challenge the established world order. Calls for “system change” and “climate justice” sent chills down the spines of the Oiligarchs. Finally, it looked like things could change for the better.
COVID killed the climate movement. In a touching and somewhat naïve gesture of solidarity, the young decided to put their future on hold to protect the elderly. Schools and universities – traditionally the breeding ground for progressive ideas – were closed, and large manifestations were banned. Policies normally introduced to quell protests were suddenly acceptable to stop the spread of the virus. And the rich and powerful were reminded of a truth as old as human civilization: frightened people are docile.
Once the COVID pandemic was declared to be over, the world started to prepare for war. As in 1914, nobody really understood why. The existing geopolitical hotspots had been managed by diplomacy for years and did not call for an immediate military resolution. Furthermore, apart from killing and maiming a lot of people and not solving any problems, wars require enormous amounts of resources and cause massive ecological damage and carbon emissions. Given the state of the planet, there would be better ways to use the Earth’s remaining resources.
We are currently at the most dangerous point in human history, and today’s world leaders do not inspire more confidence than those running the show in 1910. Again, their priority is to keep an obsolete system alive. The Oiligarchs always understood that they were destroying the planet and that the available resources were finite. It was only a question of time before capitalism would be unable to fulfill its part of the Faustian bargain. The elites might be dishonest or even evil, but they are not stupid. Now, their only goal is to cling to power by force, fraud, lies, and fear. To keep people in line, bogeymen more terrifying than climate change were created. The problem is that once you declare your opponents to be evil, they tend to respond in kind. Propaganda wars turn into real wars, and people get killed. Once again, young people are asked to die to protect their oppressors.
You can tell when a war starts, but when does the pre-war start? If there are rules for that, we should pass them on. Hand them down inscribed in clay, in stone. What would they say? Among other things they would say: do not let your own people deceive you.
Christa Wolf, Cassandra
The global world order is unraveling. The political challenges facing humanity are now so overwhelming that mainly idiots, opportunists, and outright crocks run for political office. To them, politics is about saving themselves, not building a better society. To avoid disaster, we must see through the lies and accept that our leaders are not to be trusted. Given the choice between losing power and sacrificing people, they will choose the latter if we let them. The real threat to our future comes from the people at the top, hiding their mendacity behind a facade of respectability and false hopes.
Will it be so again
that the brave, the gifted are lost from view,
and empty, scheming men
are left in peace their lunatic age to renew?
Will it be so again?
This is not a drill! The only thing we have to fear is fear of the elites.
Henrik Nordborg is a physics professor at the Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences, and program director for the university’s Renewable Energy and Environmental Technology. He began giving public lectures about the climate crisis some years ago when he felt his students deserved more honest information about the state of the world and the looming crisis. This led to him developing the Global Climate Compensation, a plan to tax fossil fuel companies and redistribute those funds to every nation around the world.
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