You put down the newspaper or turn off your computer because you can only take so much. Day after day an endless litany of idiocy and corruption. You know it can’t last, but when will it end? That’s the consolation—it can’t last—and there must be, sooner or later, some measure of justice. Something will happen that’s beyond the control of the controllers, the relentless grabbers of power and wealth, and their castles of cards will come tumbling down. There will be payback; they will get what they deserve—finally.
When you were a kid, what made you the maddest? The obnoxious know-it-alls who bossed you around? The bullies who took your stuff and humiliated you? The two-faced apple-polishing teachers’ pets? Maybe a day came when you had just had enough. You told a know-it-all off, got an apple-polisher in trouble, threw the first punch and gave a bully a real fight. Maybe you got sent to the principal or beat up, but whatever the consequences, what you had done was worth it. You rebelled against something fundamentally unfair, you let something out that you could no longer keep in, and in so doing, you found the best part of yourself. Damn it, nobody was going to tell you what to do!
Sacred rage: the rage felt by the right towards the wrong. Decent people get tired of being told what to do. The US became the US when a group of British colonists grew weary of The King’s decrees. Now, 239 years later, the US government is the leading two-faced, know-it-all bully on the planet, an immoral, out-of-control amalgamation of cynical and ruthless acolytes of absolute power.
Nothing is more cynical than buying votes with other people’s money. The chief beneficiaries of income redistribution have been the redistributionists. Washington now has the highest per capita income and wealth of any metropolitan area in the country. Shifting money from one pocket to another (with those doing the shifting taking their ample cut) does not produce wealth. It reduces it, as the money comes out of productive pockets and winds up in less or non-productive pockets, often the government’s. In economist-speak, it reduces incentives. In producer-speak, it’s: “Why should I bust my ass if I don’t get to keep what I make?”
The welfare state is a doomed experiment in how much a government can take from productive people, or borrow (which takes from future producers), before growth grinds to a halt and goes into reverse. Judging by growth rates in the most “advanced” welfare states, we’re close to the tipping point. Because in the US some benefits, like Social Security and Medicare, are partially funded by taxes, the illusion can be maintained that recipients are due what they receive since they “paid in.” What’s true for some can’t be true for all, or those systems wouldn’t be actuarially unsound, accountant-speak for “going broke.” Everyone talks about the “rage” of recipients if they don’t get their “entitlements.” Nobody talks about the rage of those who produce more than they ever get back, who are told that it’s their duty to support those recipients, and they’re lucky to keep what they’re allowed to keep.
The government produces laws, regulations, and rules—mountains of them—because it can. It’s a racket. The rules are drafted to benefit the favored few and disadvantage the many, who are charged with both knowledge and compliance. Failure by the unfortunate masses to follow a body of law that would take multiple lifetimes to read can lead to fines, loss of property and businesses, and incarceration. Failure by the favored few results in, at worst, wrist-slap penalties. Those are the visible consequences; nobody knows how much our government masters extort from the regulated under the table. Sometimes they make speeches about our “freedoms.” Those who’ve tangled with the regulatory beast, with administrative agencies that promulgate, enforce, and adjudicate the law, know that the separation of powers, and the freedom that arrangement was designed to help protect, are gone.
Notwithstanding its first call on the most productive economy in the world, the government spends more than it takes in—a lot more—and makes promises of future benefits it cannot keep. In a routine so manifestly stupid that only holders of advanced degrees from supposedly prestigious institutions believe it can work, or say they do, the central bank buys the government’s debt with money it creates, to promote “economic growth.” The only growth has been in: the national debt, the central bank’s balance sheet, manipulated stock and bond indexes, the dismay of older people who cannot earn a safe and honest return on their life savings, and the frustration of younger people, who are saddled with a stagnant, soon-to-be-shrinking economy, with nothing to look forward to but a lifetime of ever rising taxes to pay an inexorably mounting debt they did not incur.
Not content to destroy lives and dreams here at home, our government has made the world its remit. An observation grounded in history: a foreign country occupying another country will invariable incur animosity from the natives, regardless of the foreign country’s motives for the occupation. If it is hateful being forced to live by the dictates of a select group of one’s own countrymen, how much more hateful is it when the rulers are foreign, backed by their military? That is a lesson a country established by throwing off an occupying power should have relearned in Vietnam, but didn’t.
The politicians and generals professed mystification that many Vietnamese didn’t welcome the US with open arms, never mind the innocent civilian casualties, atrocities, torture, destroyed villages, ruined farms, denuded countryside, a puppet government and rampant corruption. However, underlying and magnifying Vietnamese enmity was that the US government—its military and its intelligence agencies—were running the country, just as the hated French and Japanese had before, subjugating the Vietnamese people, backed with massive and arbitrary force.
The title of this article is borrowed from Robin Wright’s excellent book, Sacred Rage, The Wrath Of Militant Islam. A graph of US involvement in the Middle East over time would show a steady trend from lower left to upper right. A graph of Islamic terrorist incidents would have the same slope. Correlation is not causation, but among the so-called brain trust that decides policy, that has been obstinate refusal to even consider a link. Instead, Middle East “experts” spring up like weeds in a poorly tended garden, ascribing terrorism to the tenets of Islam and warning of a conspiracy to establish a global caliphate and wipe out all infidels.
Everyone is entitled to their own interpretation, but not their own facts. The US is in the Middle East taking sides in various conflicts; supporting corrupt, repressive governments; killing—or supplying the weapons that kill—innocent civilians, and claiming the power to intervene and instill “order” any way it sees fit. It takes selective blindness to dig deep in the Koran to “prove” that Islam is inherently violent, but not to acknowledge that have-nots in corrupt, undemocratic, US-backed oligarchies like Saudi Arabia, or victims of the violence inflicted by the US and US-supported militaries, or people infuriated by continuous US intervention in their countries, might turn to terrorism. Under a religious banner they fight, in the only way possible, the occupying power. That was the motivation of many Vietnamese, whom the US government also called terrorists (and who were not Islamic). Before the US government waded into the Middle East, the idea of a conspiracy to establish a global caliphate was derisible. Now that the government has become the bull in the Middle Eastern china shop, and most of the region loathes it, the “conspiracy” has just enough plausibility for those peddling it to make their case for yet more intervention, although the conjured threat was caused by its purported solution.
The ever escalating blowback the government has kindled in the Middle East feeds into blowback at home. To see a string of disastrous military forays contribute to plunging what was once the greatest, richest, and freest nation on earth into ruinous debt, to see an all-encompassing surveillance apparatus instituted, supposedly to protect us from a threat that was in fact created by the those who control the apparatus, occasions sacred rage. It is impossible to predict when that rage will erupt, but assuredly it is out there, a conflagration awaiting its spark.
It would be foolish indeed for a government that has lost a string of wars in “backward” foreign lands to think, even with its military and police power and surveillance apparatus, that it could suppress an eruption among a substantial portion of its own well-armed and technologically enfranchised citizenry. Especially if their rage found expression and leadership among some of the warrior-victims it sent to its wars, who are well-schooled in the tactics that stymied them. And then the controllers, the relentless grabbers of power and wealth, will find that the security of their moats and thick walls is illusory, and while justice can be delayed, it will not be denied.
“The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.”
Harry S. Truman
GREAT HISTORY, A COMPELLING NOVEL: