He hadn’t yet told CUCKOO what had happened, and wasn’t sure he was going to. They were discussing major events. SNAKE’s abortive attack was a small matter in the scheme of things. CUCKOO didn’t need to be bothered.
Once prompted to get back on topic, CUCKOO returned to his professorial demeanor.
“Where the Right Mugs are concerned, think of the Seventies as PREPARATION; the Eighties as EXECUTION; the Nineties as as CONSOLIDATION; and the TENS as the period when the Right Mugs, and their backers, went too far; and delivered EXCESS.
“That adds up to the acronym PECE - pronounced ‘pecky,’ by the way. Very bird-like. And from the national point of view it spelled disaster, and uttered in the Great Recession – which, for most humans, is still going on. And whose effects look like being felt for decades.”
“Got it,” said EAGLE uncertainly. “I think.” He preferred stories to hang his history on. He liked heroes and villains and characters and things. He had to put up with enough acronyms when spending time with his beloved 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles. Along with the rest of the U.S. Army, they were on a mission to defeat the innate clarity of the English language; and clearly they were winning.
When they weren’t jumping out of perfectly good aircraft, or flying helicopters at tree-top height, the troopers breathed acronyms, and had reached such an advanced stage of that arcane art that they could work up a PowerPoint briefing on a fairly comprehensible topic, for, for instance, a bunch of visiting generals; and no one could understand anything. FUBAR as normal! HOOAH!
The generals would nod, nonetheless, because no general would ever admit that he didn’t understand. One wag had commented that their level of cognition stopped at recognizing the enlarged dots that indicated bullet points.
But, EAGLE wasn’t a human so retained some commonsense. “I do better with stories about birds and people,” he said frankly.
CUCKOO gave him a look of respect. “Ok, he said. “Well, think of it this way. In the early Seventies, a bunch of the Super Rich decided they were fed up paying high taxes and fighting unions so determined they would fight back. And their weapons would be money and words. And they would put out propaganda based upon the ideas of a man called Edward Bernays.
“He is best known as the inventor of public relations and the man who persuaded American women to smoke. That single act alone killed millions of the fair sex in some considerable agony. But, to be fair, the medical profession, and Big Insurance – not to mention the lawyers – made billions. GDP went up. Where cancer grows, so does the economy.”
“Sick!” said EAGLE.
“But literally true,” said EAGLE. “But the point about Bernays and his techniques was that he learned how to lie scientifically. He did not just lie, and hope people would believe him.
“He evolved methods which he knew, with scientific certainty, would get his message believed. He had moved on from putting out a message, to blatantly manipulating people’s minds on a mass basis. He was much admired by Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Goebels, for very good reason. Bernay’s methods worked; and they still work, and are much used.
“Pretty damn evil,” said EAGLE. He quickly looked up the man on his iPad and thought that Bernays looked remarkably like SNAKE. Bernays had lived to be over a hundred. He had been born when Queen Victoria reigned and had died when Carter was president. That was a long time for a malign influence to flourish; and was seriously creepy.
“There have always been lies in politics,” said EAGLE, “but the application of the scientific method changed the game fundamentally. It took time, but it meant that people could be persuaded to vote for just about anything; even against their own interests. Mind you, the whole thing was made even easier if the candidate was likeable. So they went searching for a front man; a stooge, if you will. Better yet if he was an actor because then he could project any message with equal conviction.”
“Ronald Reagan,” said EAGLE.
“Just so,” said CUCKOO. “Now, he stood for a lot of things that were against the interests of the average American, but he was an amiable type with a sense of humor, and he looked and acted like you you would want a president to look and act; and those facts, combined with Bernays type propaganda, got him elected.”
“All of this reminds me of that old movie, the one with Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey,” said EAGLE. “The Manchurian Candidate.”
“There are common themes,” said CUCKOO. “Greed, ambition, and manipulation. And screw the American people.”
“The rich Right Mugs were not just content to use propaganda and put up Right Mug candidates in the SEVENTIES,” said CUCKOO. “They also set up think tanks to write reports to support their policies, and they established an organization called ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council in 1973 – to write legislation that they could then submit to all the state governments. ”
“Pre-packaged government,” said EAGLE thoughtfully, “which favors the Rich and Big Business; and which is not prepared by elected officials. Call it ‘Corporate Law’ if you will. The so-and-sos write it, market it, and ram it through; and voters are not involved. Sounds remarkably efficient to me. Clearly, we should eliminate voters from the democratic process. They’re just clogging it up. They can’t even agree.”
“Absolutely right,” said CUCKOO, “but here is the cleverest trick of all. They also embarked on a plan to denigrate government. They argued that government was undermining Americans’ legendary rugged individualism; and was the cause of most people’s problems. It took away freedoms through regulations; it took away people’s income through taxes; it got their children killed in wars – and, above all – it was astoundingly inefficient. So, everything it did cost too much.”
“So who do I turn to if have a broken wing?” said EAGLE metaphorically.
“Business,” said CUCKOO. “And Big Business at that. Because the profit motive is all. And the people at the top are ruthless; and that word doesn’t mean they’re tough, or smart, or far-sighted, or patriotic. It means they are without pity. It means they don’t care. It means there is no such thing as the common good. It means every man for himself.”
“You mean the same people, and the same organizations who are fouling the air I breathe, the water I drink, the food I eat, and the ground I fly over?” said EAGLE.
“Well,” said CUCKOO, “those are details that they prefer we would not focus on. In eagleomics, they are known as ‘negative externalities.’ Costs of doing business that are not reflected in the transaction itself – which the business, needless to say, doesn’t pay for.”
“How can any sane human believe these kind of ideas to be right?” said EAGLE.
“Excessively greedy ones,” said CUCKOO. “And they are not in short supply in a nation whose churches are run like businesses; and whose only God is money. This is hypocrisy on a continental scale. There are many exceptions, fortunately - there are some very fine corporations in EAGLE-LAND – but the prevailing ethos, particularly in the financial sector, is unadulterated greed; and, if anything, it’s getting worse.”.
EAGLE looked upset. “I know what you say is true,” he said, “but you know I like Americans – well, most of them.”
“So do I,” said CUCKOO. “But the fact remains that they’ve got this country into one hell of a mess. And they, themselves, don’t even know why. They think this is just another recession followed by a slow recovery. But, it isn’t. This is like finding the branches you’ve built your eyrie on are rotten; and you have caused the rot.”
EAGLE’S eyes widened. This was getting a little too close to home for comfort.
CUCKOO looked vaguely embarrassed and muttered something apologetic.
“Which is why they don’t know what to do,” said EAGLE.
“Egg-zakerly,” said CUCKOO
“Clearly, we need a drink,” said EAGLE, and opened a bottle of wine, or two.
Later that evening, they did Russian dancing by the light of the moon; and had a high old time; in a bitter-sweet kind of way. They knew that time was running out.Technorati Tags: Satire,Humor,Social Comment,Irony,Economics,U.S. Economy,U.S. Business,Financial Crisis,Recession,Europe,European Union,EU,Ireland,Irish Authors,Irish Writers,Writing,Writers,Short Stories,Victor O'Reilly,Fun