A Letter from Your Uncle

My Dear Nephew,

I hope this letter finds you well.

I’m enjoying my retirement. Gardening has become very therapeutic.

Congratulations on your recent success! Being elected into such a noble office is a great accomplishment.

Now that you are entering into the halls of power, I have a few reflections to offer. I believe they will assist you in the noble task of subjugating the population. I hope you find them useful. I offer them to you with my deepest affections.

Entertainment in a capitalist society functions as a sort of soothing distraction that simultaneously placates a populace while also generating revenue for corporations. When possible, as much as possible, use entertainment as a means of control. It makes everyone feel better. And happy subjects tend to be the best subjects.

Religion in a capitalist society also functions as a sort of soothing distraction (though it doesn’t offer pleasurable soothing so much as it offers moral soothing). However, it doesn’t generate much profit for corporations. Rather, through the use of moralizing, it names enemies and victims as a way of generating a sort of social capital that can be traded for political power. Some religions work better than others toward this end. But since most in this society are Christian, use Christianity. Be sure to inject enough nationalist mythology to over-ride some of the bits about loving one’s enemy and all of that rubbish. But don’t overdue it. Folks still remember the Nazis too much to entirely replace the Cross with the Eagle.

When the population cannot be effectively managed by entertainment and religion, potential dissent can be slowed and dulled by bureaucracy and complexity. If you don’t want to allow people to aggressively assert themselves, you provide a legitimate way for them to passively assert themselves. This gives the illusion that the system can change. And you give them a limited range of options for self-advocacy. This gives the illusion of choice.

When a population cannot be effectively managed by entertainment, religion, or bureaucracy, it becomes necessary to use force. This is tricky. If you use too much force to suppress the people, they will realize they live under a police state and may rebel so strongly that the bonds of entertainment, religion, and bureaucracy shatter. In such a case, they are likely to respond to force with their own force.

On the other hand, you can’t get rid of all elements of force. Just enough violence must be used, preferably on marginalized or outcast elements. This has several benefits.

Firstly, it too functions as a form of distraction; if you carefully administer the threat of violence, it keeps people from recognizing the ways they are being controlled by entertainment, religion, and bureaucracy.

Secondly, the use of violence against despised or marginalized members of society helps more “mainstream” elements feel secure…like honored citizens who maintain their liberties. They will say to themselves “I am a good citizen, unlike those scum.” By believing themselves to be free citizens, they believe themselves to be more valuable to those in power than they actually are.

Thirdly, the use of force is a very natural way to instill fear. People do not like to experience pain or death. The threat of it will keep some docile. And those who feel relatively safe from the threat of sanctioned violence realize, in the back of their mind, that circumstances may change. At some point, if they themselves don’t stay in line, violence may visit them as well. This feeling must remain a mere background thought among the mainstream of society–just enough to serve as a gentle reminder, but never enough to provoke them to action.

I’m always willing to offer you more advice…that is, if you welcome the ramblings of your old uncle. I wouldn’t want to put you out.

Your Uncle,

sam