Introduction

Forget for a moment about the “War On Terror”, the “War On Drugs” and even the “War On Christmas”.

There’s a much more important war going on and you’re unlikely to hear about it in the media or from your government.

It’s not a war they want to talk about because, like FIGHT CLUB, the first rule of this war is that you don’t talk about it. If the general public became too aware of it, it would stop being effective. So they try to distract us by focusing our attention on the other wars, real and imaginary, with televised sports, reality shows and celebrity gossip – but they won’t talk about this other war because it isn’t in their best interests.

This other war has been going on, in it’s present form, since the rise of modern democracies, billions of dollars are spent on it every year and yet it gets almost zero coverage in the nightly news or from our elected leaders.

The war I’m talking about is the war on your mind. It’s a battle to control how you think, feel and act regarding the political and economic issues of the day. It is being fought every day on the battlegrounds of television, talk-back radio, newspapers, films, magazines, books and, now, the Internet.

The reason for this war on your mind is the oldest reason of all – power.

In every society, there is a relatively small percentage of the population, let’s say it’s around 1%, who feel it is their destiny to control as much of the money and power in that society as possible. This is the main goal of their life and they will do anything it takes to achieve it. Most people aren’t built that way – they are more interested in living simple lives, raising a family, enjoying their weekend, and smelling the roses. And this just makes it easier for the power hungry people, the 1%, to hack and slash their way to the top. However, since the rise of modern mass media in the 20th century, it has become harder for the 1% to get away with certain kinds of behaviour. Even though they may control more money and power than the rest of society, there are still ninety-nine of us to every one of them, so they need to play their cards carefully. The revolutions in Europe during the 18th and 19th century were examples of what can happen when the majority of people feel too oppressed by a wealthy minority. So to avoid revolutions, they 1% need to manipulate how the 99% think and feel so they can continue to control immense wealth and power without focused opposition. They and their forebears have been manipulating our thinking with propaganda and distraction theatre since we were born and it’s been going on so long that you probably aren’t even very conscious of it. It’s just part of the background noise that you’ve grown used to.

It’s a bit like the laugh track on a sitcom – it’s always been there, telling us when to laugh and what to think, how to vote and why we should go to war, what to focus on and what to ignore. Most of us are so used to it, we don’t even notice it, let alone think much about it and that’s exactly what the elite – the most wealthy and powerful people in each country – are counting on. They are counting on the fact that you’ll accept their conditioning without questioning it or fighting it. They are counting on the fact that the average person is too tired after working a long day or feeling just too helpless to do anything to take back control of their thinking. They are counting on us just sitting in front of the television and letting it wash over us, every night and every day, for the rest of our lives. They will tell us how to think, how to vote, what to buy and constantly keep us scared about the enemy du jour who is coming to destroy our way of life, looming diseases, natural disasters and our financial future.

Let me share a quote from the man that Time Magazine declared their “Person Of The Century”, as it neatly sums up the main premise of the book:

“Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.”

Who do you think said this? Che Guevara? Fidel Castro? Vladimir Lenin? Noam Chomsky?

Not even close. This is actually a quote from Albert Einstein. [1]

I was shocked and surprised in my early 20’s when I first read that quote. I had, up until that time, believed that capitalism was a benevolent force for good and that Western democracies were free, fair and “by the people, for the people”. The fact that one of the most celebrated intellects of the 20th century cast doubt on capitalism rattled me. Of course, being a brilliant physicist doesn’t mean you are necessarily right about everything, so I made a decision to learn more about what makes the world tick, to try to get to the bottom of things and find out if I agreed with Albert. As it turns out, I now do.

This isn’t to suggest that capitalism is rotten to the core and hasn’t produced some positive effects on lifting the standard of living for millions of people around the world. Of course it has. However I don’t believe it’s a binary situation – capitalism doesn’t have to be either good or bad. The same is true, by the way, of socialism and communism. They all lie on a spectrum. As I live in a country that is a capitalist democracy, I think it’s important to understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths of our socio-economic model, and that’s what this book is about.

This book presents a working model for understanding how the forces of capitalism keep the majority of the population distracted, broke, scared and politically disempowered. I’ll try to explain, using a simple framework of conjoined interests, how capitalism allows a small number of powerful (and potentially psychopathic) individuals to maintain control over the rest of the population, creating a series of rippling negative affects that might be in our best interests as a society to avoid. I’ll attempt to provide a logical explanation for why we regularly hear stories about corporations, governments and religions making horrible decisions that damage the lives of individuals, families, the environment and economies and try to provide a method for empowering each of us to re-calibrate our own lives, taking back control of our finances, our minds and the lives of our families and societies.

Having a new working model to interpret the behaviours and actions of large organisations (be they corporations, governments or religious) might enable us to avoid the pitfalls of life in a modern economy and, hopefully, build a safer, more sustainable and fairer world for us, our children and the global population of our distant brothers and sisters.

Hardly a month goes by when we aren’t presented with evidence that one or another powerful organisation has led us astray in one way or another. They lied about WMD in Iraq. They lied about Vietnam. About child molestation in the ranks of their priests. About the cause of the Global Financial Crisis. About recording our private telephone calls and reading our emails. About phone hacking our voicemails. About manipulation of election results. About promises they made in their last election campaign which were broken as soon as they got into power. The list goes on.

When someone in the past has proven to be a habitual liar, would you implicitly trust everything they say in the future? Unfortunately, that’s the position we now find ourselves in when it comes to the governments, corporations, intelligence agencies, religious organisations and media of Western democracies. If someone has lied to you repeatedly in the past, isn’t it natural to keep a healthy distrust about everything they say afterwards? Does it make you a “conspiracy theorist” to suggest that these organisations, who have continually lied in the past, might not always be telling us the truth about their actions and statements?

Today, perhaps more then ever before, we have proof that the Powers That Be are deceiving us. Edward Snowden’s revelations that ”western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction” using what they call “The Four D’s” – Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, Deceive – to mislead the general public and destroy not only the efforts of political activists and but also their personal reputations, should cause even the most conservative member of the public to re-consider what kind of democracy we have. [2]

Too often, when such behaviour is revealed, when companies are caught dumping toxic waste “[3] or when the Vatican gets an average of one credible rape complaint a day[4] or when politicians are caught misleading the public [5], the suggestion is usually that it’s either the behaviour of “a few bad eggs” or that someone made an unfortunate mistake, chalk it up to “bad intel”. This “few bad eggs” or “bad intel” theory of understanding the causes of organisational malfeasance is, we believe, another deliberate attempt to mislead us.

While it might be convenient to lay the blame for this kind of behaviour at the feet of “a few bad eggs”, the aim of this book is to demonstrate that, on the contrary, this kind of deliberate misleading of the public is the natural outcome of the culture of large organisations of all flavours (business, religious and political). The “few bad eggs” model is used to distract us from the truth – that this kind of bad behaviour is actually a natural result of organisational culture and should be expected. That isn’t to suggest that all large organisations conduct themselves this way or to imply that all organisations are inherently evil – on the contrary, organised efforts by large groups of people are central to any significant undertaking. What I do want to suggest is that organisations are often susceptible to making decisions that have negative public outcomes because their interests often don’t overlap directly with the interests of the general population and that the kind of person who ends up running a large organisation is often the sort who is more than happy to make decisions that will increase his own wealth even if it requires hurting others.

Adopting this working model of understanding the behaviour of organisations will allow us to better protect ourselves from their more dangerous impulses because we will be expecting it, not allowing it to take us by surprise, over and over again. And by exploring the inter-connected interests of governments, corporations and religions, as suggested by Einstein, we will appreciate why they often seem to act in concert, without requiring any kind of smoke-filled room, Cigarette Smoking Man level of conspiracy.

We will also explore the kinds of personal behaviours that organisations tend to encourage, how they map conveniently to those that come naturally to psychopaths, and whether or not those two things might be connected.

Once you make the conceptual leap from “a few bad eggs” to understanding that it is often in the best self-interests of organisations to deceive us, it fundamentally changes the way you interpret the daily news – and suddenly things start to make a lot more sense.

If you’ve ever struggled to understand why people in power can do such immoral and destructive things, we believe this model of “Organisational Darwinism” will help provide an explanation.

By the end of this book, you’ll understand that you are being deceived by organisations on a regular basis and that it isn’t a case of a few bad eggs, but exactly what you should expect from organisations and the psychopaths who often end up running them.

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[1] Albert Einstein, Ideas And Opinions http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0517884402?ie=UTF8&creativeASIN=0517884402&linkCode=xm2&tag=thepodcastnet-20

[2] How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations By Glenn Greenwald 24 Feb 2014 https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/02/24/jtrig-manipulation/

[3] Orica fined $430K over Gladstone cyanide release”, ABC News,http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-02/orica-fined-430k-over-gladstone-cyanide-release/4348808

[4] “Vatican releases figures on how it disciplined priests accused of sex abuse”, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/06/vatican-figures-disciplined-priests-sex-abuse

[5] “Children Overboard affair”, Wikipedia,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_Overboard_affair

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