Bang and Blame

I can still remember Monday mornings at my elementary school, the Governor Winslow School of Marshfield, Massachusetts. We would all begin the week by walking down to the school auditorium, one of the sides of the cafeteria, and lining up in rows according to age to recite the National Anthem and sing one of America’s many patriotic songs (rarely the national anthem, for that was too hard for the little five-year-olds). It is certainly a good thing that I didn’t grow up in a country like Cuba, where students are indoctrinated by the state. All sarcasm aside, the propagation of the modern propaganda state has been a serious problem in world history since the time of the French Revolution, when people first experienced the raw power inherent in the mob mind. Ever since, the art of maintaining power in the western world has lain in the ability of the government to sway the opinion of the masses. In times of surplus and plenty, this feat is exceedingly simple, as you can simply take credit for what is the result of good weather, an industrious bourgeois or an environment of unbacked speculation (namely the 1920’s and 1990’s in American history). The problem arises when the economy stumbles or falls. How can a nation that is having problems at home possibly convince its people to still feel good about themselves and their government? Easy, convince the average citizen that some place far away, preferably filled with a race not often found at home, is the victim of an evil government (an autocracy works best), and then proceed to beat the hell out of them. Managing to gain land or other capital in the process in order to rejuvenate the domestic economy is an added bonus which alleviates the need for another war, at least for a little while. This same strategy has been used by countries for over two hundred years, though sometimes a country expands to prove to the rest of the world that they are better (i.e. colonial Britain and Nazi Germany). Regardless, the recipients of this beating will clearly suffer, as war by definition destroys resources and populations, but the aggressors may also pay a high price for its strategy if they choose an opponent of too great a strength. This is a lesson the United States learned years ago, which led to a long-standing policy of only fighting people clearly weaker than ourselves. The question remains, however, whether the responsibility of these actions falls on the shoulders of the government which initiates them, or on the citizens who are appeased by them. A man with cancer will not simply roll over and die without even attempting chemotherapy, and along the same line, a government will not accept the loss of its mandate without a fight. Who is left to blame?