Swans Commentary » swans.com June 6, 2005  



Old Set, Establishment And The Rest Of Us


by Milo Clark






(Swans - June 6, 2005)  Since the 2004 election in the once United States of America, I confess to confusion and confusing. Whatever it is out there, it ain't what I think it is or thought it was and it ain't what the pundits of any stripe claim it to be. I feel like I am coming out from a cloud of self-induced illusion.

Folks of my general stripe are mightily pissed off at the neocons, George W. Bush, et al. They are so blatant and, yes, uncouth, notice uncouth. I am uncomfortable that my stripers behave as though and seem to believe that those theys represent something new and different. Yet, as far as I can figure out, they are part and parcel of very Old Sets now fighting with gloves off.

Those of a socialist bent, European socialist I would be better to say, use class language in their analyses. Rarely now will any American of any persuasion openly identify with socialism of any stripe. Class struggle is a no-no. That behavioral quirk represents, in large part, a long and very concerted and very successful mind control campaign by the Old Sets.

How may Americans deal with the strong elements of class embodied in the neocons, et al.? Avoidance seems to be the norm. Denial is right up there, too, as norm. Media coverage? Forget it!

In the 1960s, '70s, into the '80s, and right up to today, Old Sets were confused with The Establishment. More accurately and more in perspective, Establishment figures were and remain the overt tools of the Old Sets. Old Set people sought the background. Old Set George H. W. Bush was more consistent in that role than his Old Set son. The Old Set plays Edgar Bergens to The Establishment's Charlie McCarthys.

Since September 11, 2001, the Old Sets have been less constrained than at any time in the last century. For the Old Sets, the constant in enemies has been class defined. Namely, all those in the other 99 or 98 percent of population not momentarily used as tools or quiescently constrained. External enemies served only a means to an end. And the end was very simple to define: dominance.

Granted there are some temporary exceptions within the American Dream of meritocracy. A Bill Gates can carry nouveau riche to the edges of Old Set but never quite gain acceptance. A Bill Clinton can go to the top politically yet be reviled and hated by The Establishment while used by the Old Set. He gained a degree of acceptance by advancing Old Set agendas in reducing social programs and willingness to deploy troops here and there in pursuit of Old Set demands.

War is an excellent tool for domination and exploitation. Vietnam was a grand example of a war bleeding resources, frustrating social programs (demolishing Johnson's War on Poverty) and killing off troublesome segments of population -- minorities and possible working class activists.

Prisons are very effective, too. The War on Drugs is primarily a war on drug users and on the peasants at the bottom of the supply lines. Demographically, the majority imprisoned for drug offenses are working class or minority people. The statistics of black and minority preponderance among those imprisoned are well known. Hawaiians form a plurality of those convicted in Hawaii. Hawaii's longer term prisoners are sent off to continental hell-hole prisons thousands of miles beyond reach of community or family support. Out of sight and out of mind.

Racism is easily camouflaged within class structure. Imprison and execute a skewed sample of population. The more than 2,000,000 Americans now in prison represent the largest percentage of population imprisoned anywhere (with the possible exception of PRChina).

The American Establishment sends off to war a majority of direct combat troops who are minority members. The overall statistics of the military may show a relative balance conforming to the general population while those few who actually enter combat do not conform. Combat units skew toward minorities. Vietnam, mainly 1960-1971, is a primary example in that statistics now hidden for subsequent wars are available.

A Vietnam case history with which I have some acquaintance involved what we now call "Special Forces." To test diabolical and experimental anti-personnel weapons, for example, it was important to get field data, part of which was film and early video recordings. For the generals and contractors involved these weapons "had" to be tested on live people.

Areas in what was then enemy North Vietnam, which were nominally declared off limits for active American field units, were carefully marked for experimental tests. Before air drops of the experimental anti-personnel devices, Special Forces teams were sent in, usually by helicopter, to place cameras and other recording devices.

The racial composition of these first teams was almost entirely Caucasian spiced by a few Hispanics now and then. Hispanics tend to be Caucasian in race even if reviled for other reasons. These teams generally surprised any locals in the affected areas. There were very few casualties, few of which were inflicted by "enemy" weapons.

However, after introduction of the experimental anti-personnel devices which wreaked hell on local people, their livestock, lands and forest animals, the element of surprise was gone. The locals knew exactly where to be and where to wait.

The retrieval teams had a high casualty rate, which in these cases was dominated by KIA (Killed In Action). Composition of retrieval teams was very skewed. At that time, minorities were under-represented in the Special Forces. Yet, retrieval teams were skewed toward minorities, the majority of whom were what was then called Negro, aka nigger, later Black, and later again African Americans.

In A Peoples' History of the Vietnam War, Jonathon Neale writes:

"Greg Payton was a marine in Vietnam in 1968:

The first sergeant was telling me one day about gooks (Vietnamese). . . gooks this and gooks that. This was the first time I [realized] 'a gook's the same as a nigger.' I remember telling him; then he said, 'You're a smart nigger.' He said that to me, just me and him." (1)

The first ship carrying Negroes from Africa landed briefly at Jamestown in the Virginia Colony during 1619. Twenty individuals taken from Africa were unloaded.

Howard Zinn, in his archetypal A Peoples' History of the United States, notes that slavery was introduced in the once United States of America nearly 160 years before its formation. "There is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important. . . . That combination of inferior status and derogatory thought we call racism." (2)

The Old Sets have been utterly consistent in unrelenting efforts to gain from what others lose. To share only what is surplus or of no consequence to them. Slavery, exploitation, and racism are norms for them. Momentary relaxations are common, take a step back and then, when appropriate, take three steps forward. We are now in a period within which the Old Set is attempting giant steps.

Zinn continues:

"In this uncertain situation of the [nineteen] seventies, going into the eighties, it is very important for the Establishment [a subset of the Old Set] -- that uneasy club of business executives, generals and politicos -- to maintain the historical pretension of national unity, in which the government represents all the people and the common enemy is overseas, not at home, where disasters of economics or war are unfortunate errors or tragic accidents, to be corrected by members of the same club that brought the disasters. It is important also to make sure this artificial unity of highly privileged [Old Set] and slightly privileged [Establishment] is the only unity -- that the 99 percent remain split in countless ways, and turn against each other to vent their angers.

But within all the controls of power and punishment . . .the Establishment has been unable to keep itself secure from revolt. [However], the Establishment would like [people] to forget -- the enormous capacity of apparently helpless people to demand change. To uncover such history is to find a powerful human impulse to assert one's humanity. To hold out, even in times of deep pessimism, the possibility of surprise." (3)

From Zinn's perspectives, with which Neale may concur, the Old Set's fear of surprise may be a radical insight. That fear of surprise may account for the Old Set's current and uncharacteristic rages, excesses, savagery and barbarity.

The 99 or 98 percent must be kept down. Notice, for example, the putting down of once Chief of Staff and once Secretary of Defense Colin Powell, octoroon and Establishment cast off. Keep an eye on Condi Rice in the coming years.

Texans have been notable in racist extremes.

Zinn also notes, perhaps more prophetically from today's perspective,

". . . people's movements, although they show an infinite capacity for recurrence, have so far been either defeated or absorbed or perverted, that 'socialist' revolutionists have betrayed socialism, that nationalist revolutions have led to new dictatorships.

But most histories understate revolt, overemphasize statesmanship and thus encourage impotency among citizens. When we look closely at resistance movements or even at isolated forms of rebellion, we discover that class consciousness, or any other awareness of injustice, has multiple levels. It has many ways of expression, many ways of revealing itself -- open, subtle, direct, distorted. In a system of intimidation and control, people do not show how much they know, how deeply they feel, until their practical sense informs them they can do so without being destroyed." (4)

Are these the best of worse times or the worst of best times?

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1.  A Peoples' History of the Vietnam War, Jonathon Neale, New Press edition, New York, New York, 2003, ISBN 1-56584-807-1, p. 128.  (back)

2.  A Peoples' History of the Unites States, Howard Zinn, Harper Perennial edition, 20th printing, New York, New York, 1990 (first published in 1980). ISBN 0-06-090792-4, p. 23.  (back)

3.  Zinn, p. 573.  (back)

4.  Zinn, p. 574.  (back)


Internal Resources

America the 'beautiful' on Swans

Patterns which Connect on Swans


About the Author

Milo Clark on Swans (with bio).



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Have The Meanings Of Words Been Hijacked? - Philip Greenspan

Decline And Fall Of The Plastic Empire - John Steppling

Funding A Rational Treatment For Obesity - Jan Baughman

Saul Bellow In Retrospect - Louis Proyect

Peter Brook At Eighty - Charles Marowitz

Stalin's Dream State - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith

A Plea To The US Antiwar Movement - Joe Davison

Blips #20 - From the Editor's desk

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Published June 6, 2005