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Feature Story April 5, 2002
 
HALT! - the eXile Guide To State Repression
 
Page 2 of 4
 
Indeed most Americans spend more time in the autocratic work world than in the free, democratic world outside the office.

For some twenty years now, America's citizens have grown increasingly accustomed to living in fear, taking orders and looking over their shoulders during the ten or twelve hours per day they spend in their offices. They've adapted, and they've adapted damn well, as America's increasingly authoritarian corporations zoomed past the rest of the world's--where people still agitate for job security, reduced work hours, health and retirement benefits, and all the other things that American workers ditched long ago.

In other words, Americans, given not just a choice but even years of official brainwashing about the inherent goodness of individuality, equality and liberty, still found a way to create a parallel superstate within America, an autocratic archipelago from industrial park to glass skyscraper in every city, town and suburb, a world far more powerful and far more meaningful to people's increasingly atomized lives than the liberal state which it pledges allegiance to.

Given the choices out there in the freest country on earth, Americans JUMPED for autocracy, and not just any autocracy, but the harshest ones out there, where management theory, advanced by iron-fisted despots like Andy Grove and Jack Welch, consciously pushes fear as a formula for success. Fear is the whip of autocracies; fear is the whip of modern American corporations.

Americans like it there in the office--today it defines a person's life and worth--working more hours and more productively than at any time in human history, while the family and community, institutions that once competed for the American's time, have withered into irrelevance. Is that a surprise? After the hippie revolution, the family ceased to be autocratic--and, not coincidentally, ceased to matter. Community--the very word implies an absence of fear and hierarchy. Who wants to waste their time at a neighborhood cookie bake when you can put in ten hours at the office on a holiday? Americans ditched it like a bad date.

All that remains for the 21st century American, after the "freeing" of the family, the community and religion--the only thing still solid, constant, and comforting, is the office world, the corporation, the only place, coincidentally, that became increasingly authoritarian while the other institutions wilted. In the office, you know your limits. In the top-down world of the corporation, your world is framed by the people above you. And that's why it's so... addictive?

Before entering that autocratic office world, there is the modern autocratic school, with its snitching hotlines, metal detectors, random drug tests, imposing hierarchy (principal/dean/teacher), zero-tolerance discipline, and, yes, pressure to succeed in an increasingly competitive world offering proportionately fewer opportunities as more and more struggle to fill the same number of limited slots in the same twenty or thirty universities that best ensure a place in a better office a few years hence.

Put a kid in a hippie school where he's free to think and behave as he pleases, and the next thing you know he's stealing hubcaps and smoking banana leaves in the bathroom. Send him to a pricey bootcamp in Utah, and he'll come back saluting you for "turning my life around."

How did we get there? Who did this to us?

Is it the fault of a few evil cabalists in Manhattan that a majority of Americans, whenever given the choice enshrined in their constitution, elect to spend their lives in grim mini-autocracies?

That sounds too easy, blaming the People's problems on the anti-People.

This is the last refuge for the liberal humanist horrified by how completely, and how eagerly, Americans abandoned liberal rights for the chance to be ruled with an iron fist. It must be some bad person's fault. It can't be in our nature, can it?

We start our eXile Guide To Repression with a dossier on contemporary America in large part because for years now, American Russia-watchers have been accusing the Russians of harboring a peculiar genetic preference for a "strong hand", an "iron fist", "authoritarianism", "the sting of the knout", "the heel of the boot," and so on. This supposedly unique penchant for strong authority was slung by self-congratulatory Westerners ostensibly to explain democracy's failure and the KGB's return to power under Putin. Of course it has a far more direct and obvious purpose: to make Americans oblivious to their own moth-to-lamp-like attraction to authoritarianism of one form or another.


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