Most progressive economists can see through the smoke and mirrors bilking that is the ponzi/pyramid-scheme American economy. Many moons ago when taking sociology 101 I came upon that staggering stat of over 90% of the world's resources as being controlled by 5% of the population (or whatever it is). At first I couldn't believe it, but this was, after all, a text book. It just had to be true.
Aside from the stuff we can detect relatively easy, our economy really is about marketing. After all, for stuff to be this bad, on this many fronts, with one of the gloomiest and unprecedented futures in history ahead with no form of massive revolt is a triumph of marketing. My favorite theme in life, illusions, is playing out big time. I think that's easy enough to see, and, as the title quote by Farber here says...
This then explains the major theme in my life. Ever since Bertolucci's masterpiece, Il Conformista, I've been more or less pre-occupied with the theme of illusions; how they're manufactured, propagated, reified in art. Ellison's Invisible Man is the bible, but it also explains why I like Hitch's Vertigo and Arndt, Farris & Dayton's Little Miss Sunshine.
But here's another element, what I'll call, "This modern life." It's characterized by the "I'm so busy," syndrome, and it plays into the feeling that our lives really do have meaning and are worth a damn. In fairness, who was it that said, "Being poor is very time consuming"?
I had an experience recently where I caught up with some old friends and observed them with the objectivity of time in-between us. And while I still think they're "nice" enough people, I found myself being quite bored and dis-interested in them. Again, they're not bad people at all, but there's nothing at all that distinguishes them as analytical and critical thinkers. This doesn't mean someone should have a standard according to a particular canon, but that one has the wheels turning. Sojourner Truth, that homespun critic of great importance, laid it out flat for all to see, and her words were more cutting, prescient and incisive than all of the post-modern bullshit I read in and out of college. She didn't have book learnin', she had brains and used them. That's all I ask.
Where is this going? I think it explains in part why the great swindle that is the Amerikkkan economy is so successful at extracting capital from the majority economic bottom and funneling it up to the small percentage of economic elites. Factor in conglomerated mass media, replete with CNBC that "explains" all of the casino games being run (mutual funds, 401k, pensions, hedge funds, derivatives...), a consumer market rife with a myriad of choices (that some capitalists equate to an obvious expression of "freedom"), a material standard of living that's the highest in history, pacification through mindless entertainment (again, dominated by conglomerated mass media oligarchs), the monetization of everything, and perhaps the greatest of all elements, the myth of America, of freedom... and you have a confluence, a system, a perfect storm of exploitation.
It's not brain washing, it's something else, in scale, unprecedented. We, the unwashed masses do our part as well. Notice, all of the oligarchs, from professional sports, to politicians, to the mega corporations and conglomerates, they're all organized. But the public isn't, outside of the game of "republican and democrat." Instead, we're atomized, each in our individual cells, like larva, apart from one another except for the most superficial, ineffective and illusory of ways. That's a major strategic and tactical flaw.