23 December 2011

Prophets and Profits

Karen Armstrong [Religion Scholar]
It has been suggested that Jesus was crucified by the Romans for an attempted rebellion: some Biblical scholars have seen the account of his overturning the tables of the moneylenders in the Temple as a truncated version of a coup, by means of which he and his followers took over the Temple for a period of three days.

The Woman with the Alabaster Jar by Margaret Starbird
The action that led to his immediate arrest by the authorities in Jerusalem was the overturning of the tables of moneychangers in the temple of Jerusalem during the Passover festival. Scattering coins all over the temple floor was a radical attack on the religious establishment of the Temple priests and Sadducees, the ruling elite who collaborated with the Roman authorities to preserve peace and order in the province.

 Muhammad - A Biography of the Prophet by Karen Armstrong, 1993, Excerpts
The Quraysh had become rich beyond their wildest dreams in the old nomadic days. They saw wealth and capitalism as their salvation, which seemed to have rescued them from a life of poverty and danger and given them an almost godlike security. They were no longer hungry, no longer plagued by enemy tribes. Money began to acquire a quasi-religious value. But aggressive capitalism was not really compatible with the old communal tribal ethic. It encouraged a rampant greed and individualism.

Instead of sharing their wealth equally, according to the old tribal ethic, individuals were building up personal fortunes. They were exploiting the rights of orphans and widows, absorbing their inheritance into their own estates, and were not looking after the weaker, poorer members of the tribe as the old ethos had required. Their new prosperity had severed their links with traditional values and many of the less successful Quraysh felt obscurely disoriented and lost. Naturally the most successful merchants, bankers, and financiers were delighted with the new system. Only two generations away from the penury of the nomadic life, they believed that money and material goods could save them. They made a new religion of money.

The new prosperity drew people’s attention to the disparity between rich and poor. All the great religious leaders and prophets had addressed themselves to these issues and provided their own distinctive solutions. The younger generation was growing disenchanted and seemed to be searching for a new spiritual and political solution to the malaise and disquiet in the city.

Richest 2% Own ‘Half the Wealth'
06 Dec 2006
The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all household wealth, according to a new study by a United Nations research institute. The report, from the World Institute for Development Economics Research at the UN University, says that the poorer half of the world's population own barely 1% of global wealth. What they mean by wealth in this study is what people own, less what they owe - their debts. The assets include land, buildings, animals and financial assets. Wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe and some countries in the Asia Pacific region, such as Japan and Australia. These countries account for 90% of household wealth.

Chairman Alan Greenspan -- Monetary Policy Report to the Congress
16 Feb 2005
In a democratic society, such a stark bifurcation of wealth and income trends among large segments of the population can fuel resentment and political polarization. These social developments can lead to political clashes and misguided economic policies that work to the detriment of the economy and society as a whole.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Money Changers and Merchants

Roll on up Jerusalem,
Come on in Jerusalem,
Sunday here we go again,
Live in me Jerusalem.

Here you live Jerusalem,
Here you breathe Jerusalem,
While your temple still survives,
You at least are still alive.
I got things you won't believe,

Name your pleasure I will sell.
I can fix your wildest needs,
I got heaven and I got hell.
Roll on up, for my price is down.
Come on in for the best in town.
Take your pick of the finest wine.
Lay your bets on this bird of mine.

What you see is what you get.
No one's been disappointed yet.
Don't be scared give me a try,
There is nothing you can't buy.

Name your price, I got everything.
Hurry it's going fast.
Borrow cash on the finest terms.
Hurry now while stocks still last.
Roll on up Jerusalem,
Come on in Jerusalem,
Sunday here we go again,

Live in me Jerusalem.
Here you live Jerusalem,
Here you breathe Jerusalem,
While your temple still survives,
You at least are still alive.
I got things you won't believe,
Name your pleasure I will sell.
I can fix your


My temple should be a house of prayer,
But you have made it a den of thieves.
Get out! Get out!

Carl Heinrich Bloch - Casting Out the Money Changers

14 December 2011

Elite Moneyed Life

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
Whenever the standards of the moneyed life prevail, the man with money, no matter how he got it, will eventually be respected. A million dollars, it is said, covers a multitude of sins. It is not only that men want money; it is that their very standards are pecuniary. In a society in which the money-maker has had no serious rival for repute and honor, the word ‘practical’ comes to mean useful for private gain, and ‘common sense,’ sense to get ahead financially. The pursuit of the moneyed life is the commanding value, in relation to which the influence of other values has declined, so men easily become morally ruthless in the pursuit of easy money and fast estate-building.

The very rich in America have been culturally among the very poor; the only kinds of experience for which they have been models are the material ones of money-getting and money-keeping. Material success is their sole basis of authority. The elite of wealth and power do not feel in need of any ideology. Perhaps nothing is of more importance to the conservative mood than the rhetorical victory and the intellectual and political collapse of American liberalism.

The higher immorality is a systematic feature of the American elite; its general acceptance is an essential feature of the mass society. The absence of any firm moral order of belief makes men in the mass all the more open to the manipulation and distraction of the world of the celebrities. A great deal of American corruption is simply a part of the old effort to get rich and then to become richer.

13 December 2011

Elite Military Policy

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
There is no free and wide debate of military policy or of policies of military relevance. It is in line with a mass society for manipulation to replace explicitly debated authority, as well as with the fact of total war in which the distinction between soldier and civilian is obliterated. The military manipulation of civilian opinion and the military invasion of the civilian mind are now important ways in which the power of the warlords is steadily exerted. The content of this great effort reveals its fundamental pose: to define the reality of international relations in a military way, to portray the armed forces in a manner attractive to civilians, and thus to emphasize the need for the expansion of military facilities.

The younger are growing up in the atmosphere of the economic-military alliance and are being intensively and explicitly educated to carry it on. Religion, virtually without fail, provides the army at war with its blessings, and recruits from among its officials the chaplain, who in military costume counsels and consoles and stiffens the morale of men at war.

11 December 2011

Elite Propaganda

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
The rise of the power elite rests upon the transformation of the publics of America into a mass society. Life in a society of masses implants insecurity and furthers impotence; it makes men uneasy and vaguely anxious; it isolates the individual from the solid group; it destroys firm group standards. Acting without goals, the man in the mass just feels pointless.

As the scale of institutions has become larger and more centralized, so has the range and intensity of the opinion-makers’ efforts. The means of opinion-making have paralleled in range and efficiency of the other institutions that cradle the modern society of masses. The mass media, especially television, encroach upon the small-scale discussion, and destroy the chance for the reasonable and leisurely and human interchange of opinion.

Alongside the elite, there is the propagandist, the publicity expert, the public-relations man, [Edward Bernays] who controls the very formation of public opinion. The greatest kind of propaganda with which America is beset, the greatest at least in terms of volume and loudness, is commercial propaganda for soap and cigarettes and automobiles; it is to such things or rather to Their Names, that this society most frequently sings its loudest praises.

[1] The media tell the man in the mass who he is – they give him identity.
[2] They tell him what he wants to be – they give him aspirations.
[3] They tell him how to get that way – they give him technique.
[4] They tell him how to feel that he is that way even when he is not – they give him escape.

10 December 2011

Elite Educational Path

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
The daughter of an old upper-class New York family, for example, is usually under the care of nurse and mother until she is four years of age, after which she is under the daily care of a governess who often speaks French as well as English. When she is six or seven, she goes to a private day school, perhaps Mis Chapin’s or Brearley. She is often driven to and from school by the family chauffeur and in the afternoons, after school, she is in the general care of the governess, who now spends most of her time with the younger children. When she is about fourteen she goes to boarding school, perhaps to St. Timothy’s in Maryland or Miss Porter’s or Westover in Connecticut. Then she may attend Finch Junior College of New York City and thus be ‘finished,’ or if she is to attend college proper, she will be enrolled in Bryn Mawr or Vassar or Wellesley or Smith or Bennington. She will marry soon after finishing school or college, and presumably begin to guide her own children through the same educational sequence.

The boy of this family, while under seven years of age, will follow a similar pattern. Then he too will go to day school and to prep school: St. Mark’s or St. Paul’s, Choate or Groton, Andover or Lawrenceville, Phillips Exeter or Hotchkiss. Then he will go to Princeton or Harvard, Yale or Dartmouth. As likely not, he will finish with a law school attached to one of these colleges.

Harvard or Yale or Princeton is not enough. It is the really exclusive prep school that counts, for that determines which of the ‘two Harvards’ one attends. That is why in the upper social classes, it does not by itself mean much merely to have a degree for an Ivy League college. That is assumed: the point is not Harvard, but which Harvard? By Harvard, one means Porcellian, Fly, or A.D.: by Yale, one means Zeta Psi or Fence or Delta Kappa Epsilon; by Princeton, Cottage, Tiger, Cap and Gown, or Ivy. It is the prestige of a properly certified secondary education followed by a proper club in a proper Ivy League college that is the standard admission ticket to the world of urban clubs and parties in any major city of the nation.

Harvard Porcellian Club - Social Network

09 December 2011

Elite Schooling

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
The one deep experience that distinguishes the social rich from the merely rich and those below is their schooling, and with it, all the associations, the sense and sensibility, to which this educational routine leads throughout their lives. Each stage of this education is important to the formation of the upper-class man or woman; it is an educational sequence that is common to the upper classes in all the leading cities of the nation.

As a selection and training place of the upper classes, both old and new, the private school is a unifying influence, a force for the nationalization of the upper classes. The school – rather than the upper-class family – is the most important agency for transmitting the traditions of the upper social classes and regulating the admission of the new wealth and talent. It is the characterizing point in the upper-class experience. In the top fifteen or twenty such schools, one finds a prime organizing center of the national upon social classes. For in these private schools for adolescents, the religious and family and educational tasks of the upper social classes are fused, and in them the major tasks of upholding such standards as prevail in these classes are centered.

08 December 2011

Elite Law and Finance

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
The very rich have used existing laws, they have circumvented and violated existing laws, and they have had laws created and enforced for their direct benefit. The inner core of the power elite includes men of the higher legal and financial type from the great law factories and investment firms, who are professional go-betweens of economic, political and military affairs, and who thus act to unify the power elite. By the nature of their work, they transcend the narrower milieu of any one industry, and accordingly are in a position to speak and act for the corporate world.

The corporation lawyer and the investment banker perform the functions of the go-between effectively and powerfully. The corporation lawyer is a key link between the economic and military and political areas; the investment banker is a key organizer and unifier of the corporate world and a person well versed in spending the huge amounts of money the American military establishment now ponders. When you get a lawyer who handles the legal work of investment bankers, you get a key member of the power elite.

06 December 2011

Elite Prestige

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
Prestige is the shadow of money and power. Since the men of the higher political, economic, and military circles are an elite of money and power, they accumulate a prestige that is considerably above the ordinary; all of them have publicity value and some of them are downright eminent; increasingly, by virtue of their position and by means of conscious public relations, they strive to make their names notable, their actions acceptable, their policies popular, to become national celebrities.

The celebrities are The Names that need no further identification. Wherever the celebrities go, they are recognized, and moreover, recognized with some excitement and awe. Whatever they do has publicity value. More or less continuously, over a period of time, they are the material for the media of communication and entertainment. These national means of mass communication have been the channels through which those at the top reach the underlying population.

As military men have become more powerful during the wars and during the war-like interludes between, they too have joined the new national prestige scheme. They derive such importance as they have from the simple fact that violence is the final support of power and the final resort of those who would contest it. Only when war threaten international order do the generals and admirals come to be recognized for what at all times they are: indispensable elements of the order of power that prevails within and between the national states of the world.

04 December 2011

Elite Clique

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
Those who sit in the seats of the high and the mighty are selected and formed by the means of power, the sources of wealth, and the mechanics of celebrity. As the requirements of the top places in each of the major hierarchies become similar, the types of men occupying these roles at the top – by selection and by training in the jobs – become similar. That it is a fact revealed by the heavy traffic that has been going on between the three structures, often in very intricate patterns.

The chief executives, warlords, and politicians came into contact with one another in an intimate, working way during World War II; after that war ended, they continued their associations, out of common beliefs, social congeniality, and coinciding interests. Noticeable proportions of top men from the military, the economic, and the political worlds have during the last fifteen years occupied positions in one or both of the other worlds. They have come to look upon the government as an umbrella under whose authority they do their work.

The men of the higher circles are not representative men; their high position is not a result of moral virtues; their fabulous success is not firmly connected with meritorious ability. They are not men selected and formed by a civil service that is linked with the world of knowledge and sensibility. They are not men shaped by nationally responsible parties that debate openly and clearly the issues this nation now so unintelligently confronts. They are not men held in responsible check by plurality of voluntary associations which connect debating publics with the pinnacle of decision.

03 December 2011

Elite War Economy

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
The story of the American economy since the Civil War is the story of the creation and consolidation of this corporate world of centralized property. During World War II, the merger of the corporate economy and the military bureaucracy came into its present-day significance. Within the span of one generation, America has become the leading industrial society of the world, and at the same time one of the leading military states. Without the industrial economy, the modern army could not exist; it is an army of machines.

Since World War II, the general direction of pure scientific research has been set by the military. Scientific and technological development has increasingly become part of the military order, which is now the largest single supporter and director of scientific research. Some universities are financial branches of the military establishment.

The military has become enlarged and decisive to the shape of the entire economic structure; and, moreover, the economic and the military have become structurally and deeply interrelated, as the economy has become a seemingly permanent war economy; and military men and policies have increasingly penetrated the corporate economy.

American capitalism is now in considerable part military capitalism, and the most important relation of the big corporation to the state rests on the coincidence of interests between military and corporate needs. Within the elite as a whole, this coincidence of interest between the high military and the corporate chieftains strengthens both of them and further subordinates the role of the merely political men.


02 December 2011

Elite Centralization - Political, Economic, and Military

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, 1956, Excerpts
The political order has become a centralized executive establishment which has taken up into itself many powers previously scattered, and now enters into each and every cranny of the social structure.

The economy has become dominated by two or three hundred giant corporations, administratively and politically interrelated, which together hold the keys to economic decisions. The trend within the corporate world is toward larger financial units tied into intricate management networks. Today the great American corporations seem more like states within states than simply private businesses. The economy of America has been largely incorporated.

The military order has become the largest and most expensive feature of government, and, although well versed in smiling public relations, now has all the grim and clumsy efficiency of a sprawling bureaucratic domain.

In each of these institutional areas, the means of power at the disposal of decision makers have increased enormously; their central executive powers have been enhanced; within each of them modern administrative routines have been elaborated and tightened up. Religious, educational, and family institutions are increasingly shaped by the big three.

Jekyll Island