The Invisible Cage
In order to be able to dispose of us at will, the powerful hold us in a system of structural blackmail.
by Rubikon's World Editor
"It is as if there were a thousand rods, and behind a thousand rods there is no world." In "The Panther", Rainer Maria Rilke describes the awareness that prisoners have to endure. The ongoing Corona propaganda by politics and the media creates invisible bars of fear and lies. That there could be anything outside this spiritual cage no longer comes to mind. Thus our thoughts revolve restlessly and without finding a solution around themselves. The prevailing narratives have always been the narratives of the rulers. The deliberately stoked fear of exclusion and defamation also holds us in the spiritual upheaval intended for us. The reason for these maneuvers of the powerful has been the same for centuries: we should remain easy to care for, manipulable and economically exploitable. Japanese-born sculptor Hiroyuki Hamada helps us see clearly what is holding us captive, revealing a perspective of liberation.
by Hiroyuki Hamada
Will the whole society become the theatre of the absurd, do puppeteers become kings and queens of madness? While the monstrous fantasies of the disturbed ruling class devour humanity and nature, society loses its logic, its history, its facts, its honesty, its sincerity, its creativity and its imagination.
The invisible cage of authoritarianism has the form of a bottomless pyramid. Fear and hopelessness fill the dimly lit lower levels. Layer by layer separates us, alienates us from each other and dehumanizes us. The pain of the "others" becomes your gain. The power of the oppressors becomes your safety: the security of living in dangerous brains of kings and queens.
But such a thought evaporates as quickly as our minds are again flooded with the numbing noise of insane theatre, while our remaining logic, seriousness and honesty are ridiculed by anxious fellow human beings and attacked with cynicism, hopelessness and cowardice.
For those who belong to the Club of Kings and Queens, the world does not look like this at all. The unruly mass without any understanding of the just path of "humanity" is inherently expendable for them. This has always been proven anew: colonization of the indigenous people by by the Europeans, enslavement of Africans, genocides of many kinds.
But today the same blunt inhumanity can be seen among us: Homelessness, death from treatable diseases, hunger, death from substance abuse, suicide, poverty, refugees, mass incarceration, violence by the state, psychological torture of alienation. The kings and queens do not recognize these problems as problems to be solved by their means.
Instead, these problems represent forms of punishment for those who cannot secure promising positions within the capitalist hierarchy. Fear of punishment and fear of authority work together to lock us into positions within the hierarchy, forcing us to protect our positions that systematically and structurally threaten our well-being 24/7; we live in a system of structural blackmail.
By becoming free-range people on the "divine farm" of modern kings and queens, we have lost our access to fundamental material reality. A sterile cage of screens, forced injections, electronic contact tracking inside the invisible fence; human mice for profit, fodder for data collection, an ever-increasing level of mental decay. It's not hard to connect the dots and see that all of this could lead to a grim future.
But what does such fear do to a population that has endured a series of abuses as its "punishment"? With those who manage to ignore their fellow human beings living on the streets as invisible beings, or who cannot feel the pain of those pushed to drug abuse and desperate acts of self-destruction?
Would they believe the words of those who ask questions, or the words of the ruling class who promise a glorious future of Artificial Intelligence (AI), green capitalism, genetic engineering, digitization and financialization?
And before we ask such a question, we must ask whether such a question is even permissible when the socioeconomic/political trajectory of empire is firmly mapped out within the imperialist framework of the two capitalist political parties.
The capitalist hierarchy absorbs what it needs by assigning specific positions within it: natural resources, narratives, facts, history, people, political ideologies, or whatever is located in time and space. The kings and queens monopolize it - material resources are captured to serve, as are people with skills and knowledge. Once monopolized, the valuable things become commodities to be distributed in ways that benefit the same kings and queens.
Meanwhile, such a process takes place multi-layered, projecting myths, exploitative narratives, false history, and faulty facts onto our collective consciousness - an illusory reality that covers our eyes as we push our mortal bodies around in the real world.
The images projected into our psyche vary according to our position in the hierarchy. Each narrative confirms and justifies our positions in the hierarchy. Kings and queens perceive themselves as worthy rulers of the universe, while the masses see themselves as freedom-loving people doing their best in a world of opportunity.
In such an equation, authoritarianism presents itself as a swinging pendulum between fascism and social democracy as it progresses along the capitalist path through space and time.
Carrots and sticks carefully manage the projected images to keep them within the capitalist framework of acceptable ideas. Corporate politics and corporate activism play a crucial role in making the pendulum swing, thereby ensuring that it always advances in the capitalist interest while appearing "democratic."
Those who resort to terrorist tactics of whatever kind seek to resist the system by attacking the valuable, captive elements that work for the system. The damage affects social dynamics in ways that disadvantage those who have already been deprived, while dividing the population that should unite to tear down the oppressive system.
Righteous anger against oppressors is directed by agents provocateurs and corporatist NGOs and is a justification for draconian measures, for the destruction of communities of urban renewal, and a catalyst for new projects of exploitation.
Given that a number of capitalist imperatives stretch capitalist contradiction to its limit and completely deprive people of the ability to reconcile false perceptions with material reality, it is high time for a mobilization to redirect the trajectory of exploitation into a new field with a new set of rules. We are told that enemies, a natural disaster or a disease are approaching, which forces us to mobilize to adjust to a new path of plunder for the kings and queens.
Any crisis, real or not, against the backdrop of a hierarchical structure, unleashes two categories of momentum that keep us inside the capitalist farm. The first category has to do with fear of authority, which keeps our frustration directed against ourselves, each other, and the oppressed "other" while keeping a tight grip on the destabilized psyche of the population - creating an ironic psychology of supporting oppressive authority against our own interests.
The second category has to do with the material constraints imposed on us by the crisis at hand - we become enemies among ourselves, struggling to survive. We are in the capitalist cage. And we are forced to protect our cage, which is constructed with vertical bars to resist the fear of authority, horizontal bars to resist the attacks of competitors, and a solid floor to prevent anyone from falling from their position in the hierarchy. The whole structure is held together with the violent force of exploitation and subjugation.
The Great Reset
"The Great Reset" is packaged as a "great solution." Just as the ruling class has marketed "green capitalism" - with carbon trading, carbon capture, reforestation and other resource-guzzling green schemes and technologies for profit, it is supposed to prop up capitalism, but also transform capitalism to achieve more effective control of social relations while maintaining the capitalist hierarchy.
Capitalism is being given a new operating system and needs to be rebooted. Just as "green capitalism" destroyed the actual environmental movement in the name of saving the planet, the Great Reset is designed to destroy anti-capitalist activism in the name of "revolution."
One of the most important left tools in the capitalist framework has been grassroots activism to influence state legislation and state policies to curb the momentum of exploitation and oppression emanating from both Wall Street and capitalist social institutions. The stock market-driven economy - falsely advertised as the only system that works - allows the ruling class to dictate social policy according to its interests; it prioritizes the accumulation of wealth by the ruling class while sacrificing social relations within the population as a whole; it is extremely inefficient, unstable, and economically unjust.
The capitalist state has been a great tool for ensuring that the interests of the ruling classes take precedence. The socialist revolution takes over the capitalist state, nationalizes businesses, and aligns the economy, education, and the entire social institution and social relations with the interests of the people. Various expressions of the above strategies to counter capitalist exploitation and expanding imperial hegemony have attempted to do two significant things.
First, they have put people's interests first by promoting projects that benefit the population as a whole while ensuring networks of social protection, infrastructure for people, environmental protection laws, and so on. Secondly, they have enabled economic activities tailored to the needs of the people, allowing an organic community dynamic to grow, based on humanity and nature.
"The Great Reset," on the other hand, is a ruling class project aimed at taking these resources away from the people and using them to further solidify their rule over the people. Since the owners of the farm are already quite rich, they don't need a big farm. Their social engineering skills, as well as greater control over the economy, will be put to the test in building a sustainable agricultural enterprise with a smaller herd.
Therefore, all activism now seems to be to reaffirm or defy the various lockdown measures to combat the virus - which have been instrumentalized to move forward on the trajectory of the "Great Reset."
Remember how all environmental activism was swallowed up by the one idea of reducing CO2 emissions?
Fear-mongering slogans of apocalyptic narratives about climate change, strong NGO-driven activism, and corporate-driven science emphasizing the global warming issue have created the huge, very much accelerating momentum to fight climate change at all costs, pushing aside and out-compelling all other major environmental activism.
This has also contributed to the irrelevance of insisting on being part of systematic efforts to dismantle the capitalist system and build an alternative system that allows for a harmonious balance of human and nature. We are told that we no longer have time to build socialism. We are encouraged, therefore, to be part of green solutions by capitalists.
We are told that profit-driven casino capitalism must give way to "stakeholder capitalism." But since the idea comes from profiteers who have colonized, corporatized, militarized, and financialized, we may naturally assume that they are concerned with securing their own interests by controlling economic decisions rather than continuing the show of an "invisible hand" economy. We are told that we are to receive an unconditional basic income, free housing, and other social services as long as we submit to the rules and guidelines of the public-private partnership.
What kind of conditioning will we be subjected to after being stripped of our inherent relationships with ourselves, each other, our communities, and nature, after being forced to be part of destructive industrial agriculture, universal digitalization with massive resource consumption, colonization of our communities by multinational franchises, and enslavement of our souls in the invisible cage of indoctrination and propaganda?
We already have such a system in the U.S. - it's called mass incarceration in the private prison system. We are told that the economy must not be focused only on growth, but must be replaced by a sustainable one.
However, when this comes from those who have massively restricted meaningful economic growth of the total population in order to subject livelihoods to the brutal capitalist framework, it really means restricting productive social relationships among people so that they are forced to subsistence levels and eventually cornered to be more easily controlled as a smaller herd using fewer resources - an economic solution that can only be devised by criminal minds. Who knows what role vaccines will play in this.
Who knows what kind of hell on earth humans will be at the mercy of when our lives are managed like numbers in high frequency trading, or our entire lives are put on hold by AI account managers.
Notice how the political approach is made actionable by linking it to leftist demands. The invisible hand has been busily building a new invisible cage to perpetuate the violent rule of kings and queens in the name of "revolution" - a fascist revolution.
Now I want to emphasize that this trajectory is not set in stone. The problem is that the likelihood of concerned people considering these possibilities is extremely low in the capitalist framework. There is a structural problem in the system. Let me come back to the pendulum. Like any other capitalist social institution, the capitalist political institution serves the ruling class; it can serve as a white-washing facility for crime. As soon as an issue involving criminal activity is to become "political," it dissociates itself from anything criminal and becomes "legitimate."
Various social institutions step up to the plate to support such a view, as they are all funded by the ruling class - the media presents such a view, the legislature codifies such a view, the executive branch executes such a view, the courts adjudicate such a view, academics support such a view, educational institutions cement such a view, and so on. It is normalized as part of social policy.
Once the issue is on the political agenda, adorned with a glorious history and national myths of the United States of America, the issue becomes officially "political," is no longer criminal, and is now safely and generously handled by corporate bodies.
The rendered subject floats in an artificial sphere of political myths, traditions, and gladiatorial combat culture of political authorities as a commodified symbol that is a fictional version of the actual subject. Ordinary people can no longer coherently approach it for what it is, unless they are rich and influential enough to have access to all monetized social institutions. More than that, all criminal records of public officials are discarded, forgiven and forgotten when every four years comes with the start of a new regime.
In this way, a destructive foreign policy of colonialism, corporatism and militarism, as well as exploitative predatory domestic policies of all kinds, have been imposed in the name of freedom, justice and humanity. Thus, environmental concerns have been inverted into "green capitalism." This is how we are mobilized today under the pretext of viral defense.
People watch and cheer the oscillation between political extremes within the capitalist framework. Fragments of consciousness beyond the imperialist framework can only be perceived with tools approved by the framework, effectively keeping those with awake consciousness within the ruling class spectrum of ideas.
If you espouse a worldview that does not fit this, you are categorized as a supporter of a political villain or simply labeled a "fascist," "communist," and so on. Needless to say, these terms are defined solely by acceptable ideas, acceptable history, and acceptable myths of capitalist hegemony.
For example, the fact that the U.S. government has supported fascist regimes around the world while brutally intervening against socialist states around the world is not admitted.
How the Capitalist Hierarchy Shapes Ideas
If someone holds a view that opposes the dominant narrative, the individual can become both a target of authority and a target of multiple political extremes within the capitalist hegemony. For example, if you oppose Israeli war crimes from an anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist position, you can be persecuted as a dissident by the establishment and simultaneously categorized as anti-Semitic by supporters of Israeli policies. You can also be labeled a Zionist by those who believe the Jews are taking over the world, and so on.
The position that indicates that Israel is a crucial part of the imperialist structure and serves the imperial hierarchy while at the same time it benefits from its generous support cannot be fully discussed because the narratives are shaped by the network of imperial institutions. The political pendulum not only creates an illusion of "democracy," it also defines what is acceptable to be considered, tearing communities apart in the process. It uses its violence as a springboard to perpetuate its grip on the exploited.
For this reason, the hell of life for the Palestinian people continues to function as an instrument of imperialism - the more Palestinians suffer, the more anti-Semite sentiments arise, which in turn justifies Israeli violence, which in turn serves imperial agendas.
That is why the victims of Katarina had to become victims of "urban renewal" after the severe tragic event.
Capitalist hegemony does not allow for honest discussion because imperialism is kept invisible by default, the capitalist cage is invisible, and the guiding hand of the capitalists is invisible. The capitalist framework simply forces people into the impasse of argumentation. Item.
In the virus situation, we are told that there are good people who wear masks and stay home, and bad people who selfishly break the rules and spread "conspiracy theories." The dynamic between acceptable narratives within the capitalist framework creates the circular arguments of a shouting match.
This dynamic excludes and demeans any understanding that goes beyond the range of ideas created by capitalist institutions: you are spreading Fake News, you are a denier, you are a conspiracy theorist, you are a grandmother killer, the communists are taking over, and so on. Without recognizing this mechanism, any attempt to unify the dynamics will lead to populism that mimics existing social structures - at best, another reactionary revolution. But more likely it will lead to further divisions and disruptions among people, and ultimately to the preservation of the capitalist hierarchy.
Therefore, there is no discussion of responsibility for the death and suffering caused by the lockdown measures, and there is no discussion of the meaning of why we are going through structural change. And if the death and suffering then get onto the political agenda, they are gobbled up by the financial vultures of the emerging Social Impact Bond markets (1).
The invisible hand that was supposed to guide us to freedom, justice and humanity has created an empire dominated by an unprecedented accumulation of power for the few.
The invisible hand has created an invisible cage over us that blinds and divides us and allows the ruling class to exploit and subjugate us.
Now it must be clearly stated that what we perceive as the dystopian future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution - AI, blockchain, digitalization, financialization, green capitalism, and so on - cannot be separated from the invisible hand and the invisible cage. Capitalist institutions cannot be allowed to define it as a "legitimate political issue" instead of what it really is. The newly built cage has not been built, but if we fail to see it for what it is in its context, we will simply be forced to accept some version of it as one of the "legitimate" trajectories of capitalism. That's just how it goes when our society becomes a theater of the absurd.
I want to live a life that breaks the invisible cage and firmly reaches out to nature and humanity. If you've stuck with me this far, I'm confident you feel the same way ... or not. Either way, we need to start talking.
Hiroyuki Hamada is a sculptor born in Japan in 1968 who lives in East Hampton, New York. He has presented numerous exhibitions in both galleries and non-commercial venues. Hamada has received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Fellowship, has twice been awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Sculpture, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2018. In addition to his studio work, his writings have appeared on various online portals.
Editorial Note: This text appeared on OffGuardian on February 14, 2021 under the title "The Mechanism of Invisible Empire." It was translated by Thorsten Schewe of the volunteer Rubicon translation team and proofread by the volunteer Rubicon proofreading team.
There is little point in stewing in one's own, albeit exquisite, juices. That's why the Rubikon World editorial team regularly collects and publishes voices from around the world, primarily from the Anglo-American and Arab regions. What do critical contemporaries there think about geopolitical events? What ideas do they have for solving global problems? What developments are they observing that we in Europe may soon be facing as well? The view over the edge of the plate is also encouraging, because it makes clear: We are many, not alone!
In an open letter, students of the FU Berlin call for a debate room on corona policy.
by Rubikon's Youth Editor
In the wake of the Corona crisis, the space of the sayable is even narrowing at universities. The often poorly justified measures should not be questioned there either, but should be followed in good measure. However, since universities have always been regarded as an area of qualified discourse, it must also be possible, especially in the crisis, to discuss the effectiveness of the measures as well as their downsides, while respecting scientific standards. This demand is now made by some students from different disciplines in an open letter to the Presidium of the Free University (FU) Berlin.
by Ronny Ebel
The open letter of the Berlin students reads in full:
"The Corona measures severely restrict the quality of life and fundamental rights of all citizens. As a result of the measures, 40 percent of students have already lost their jobs, and there was an increase in ex-matriculations at Berlin's universities last year. To this end, student debt continues to rise due to the high rejection rate of bridging funds; their debt mountain grew to just over one billion euros after just over five months (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
We, students of the FU-Berlin from different disciplines, are committed to the return to classroom teaching for the summer semester 2021 as well as for the immediate opening of a debate room in the FU-Berlin.
In our view, it is an important sign that this debate room is not somewhere, but at the Free university. The fact that our university has freedom in its name illustrates what the founders of the FU were about: they wanted to create a place where young scientists could not be under the influence of political intervention and be able to think and discuss far from 'compulsion' (6). For the founders, this university stood 'representative of society' (7):
'It's about building a free university that serves the truth for its own sake. Every student should know that he can freely develop into a personality there in the sense of real democracy and not become the object of one-sided propaganda' (8).
Where else would the required debate room be possible, if not in a university of excellence that bears the terms Veritas, Iustitia and Libertas in the seal?
The Corona measures must be able to be measured according to scientific criteria – so we are advocating an interdisciplinary debate area in which the Corona measures and their social impact can be considered and discussed as a whole; for a debate room in which every interested person is invited and in which not their membership of a group, party or similar is in the foreground, but the content of their statements. We stand for mutual respect and a debate that is open to criticism."
The Freedom of Education
Basically, of course, there is nothing against the debate room that has been called for. The university has been empty since March 2020 and the current situation, despite its numerous rules, allows meetings (see Corona Ordinance Berlin). The fact that this letter had to be written in the first place shows how much the culture of discussion has already changed. Two points in particular become clear here:
1. It is alarmingly expressive when high school students first have to demand what should be taken for granted at universities. The required debate room, organized and moderated by the students of the FU itself, would be well suited to analysing the Corona measures that are already imposed on them in the university, such as the compulsory mask in the libraries. From Studis for Studis and all other visitors to the university. Interdisciplinary, objective and fair.
2. This letter was signed by some students from different disciplines. Now the focus on the number of signatures alone would not be helpful, as no one else would pay attention to the content of the letter. But what is interesting is the reason why a significant number of those who had read the letter before it was sent did not want to sign it publicly: they fear reprisals, both outside and within the university. This is despite the fact that they agree with the content of the letter. This speaks volumes about the narrowing of the debate space and the taboo of critical thinking, even at a university.
In the meantime, other students have taken up this letter and, sometimes slightly modified, sent it to the Bureau in their own name or put it in the field of university staff. So the small group has already grown - we are curious to see how big it will be, and even more so to the Bureau's response.
Ronny Ebel is a trained electronics engineer, state-recognized educator and is currently studying philosophy and general and comparative literature in Berlin.
Sources and notes:
(1) Survey: 40 percent of students have lost their jobs due to corona crisis.
(2) Without a degree from the university. More students are dropping out of university in Berlin.
(3) Bridging assistance for students. Many applications are rejected.
(4) Students take on almost one billion euros in debt.
(5) "I will be standing with a debt mountain of several thousand euros."
(6) FU70: Counter-representations. asta magazine. October 2018. p. 8. Print.
(7) FU70: Counter-notifications. asta magazine. October 2018. p. 9. Print.
(8) The foundation and its history.