The police have been in the news lately but the police are only the blunt end of the stick. The softer end, more like the tip of the pool cue that nudges participants into useful roles for the Oligarchy, is the nonprofits. Private, nonprofit organizations or 501(C)(3)s ‐ of which there are over 1000 in Omaha according to Guidestar – are the creatures of their funders. Their funders are sometimes the Federal Government, more rarely City or other local governmental body, but most often foundations — local or national philanthropies – in other words, oligarchs.
Employed in the rank-and-file of these organizations are often the naive, trusting, idealistic offspring of the Professional-Managerial Class; especially those who do not want to sully their hands in business or politics. They have been told all their lives that they are the nation’s leaders and that they can create a better world from the flawed one they find before them; they just have to work within the system to change the system from within. They are plied with stories of heroic individuals who have done just that, never being told just how rare that is or just how great the odds are against it.
THE PROFESSIONAL-MANAGERIAL CLASS
According to the American Community Survey, about 36% of the Omaha population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is one way to define the Professional-Managerial Class. But many are engineers, computer experts, accountants, etc., who have little direct power in maintaining the system and can be brought to recognize that they would actually be better off with a Democratic Socialist system.
Generally speaking, only the upper third income tier of the 10% is heavily invested in maintaining the status quo. These are the well-paid executives whose job is to make sure that their organizations do not stray too far outside of the boundaries set by the Oligarchs – the .01%.
It is the job of the executives to maintain the fiction that we live in a democracy (we don’t – see this thoroughly-researched study showing that the country is run by Oligarchs), that all citizens can be successful if they just work hard enough, that the poor are poor because of some character flaw or lack, and that working within the system is the only way to change the system.
Small business owners and farmers are a special case and often opposed to the PMC. They are a more independent lot and are buffeted constantly by the whims of big business. Because of that they are more volatile and occasionally prone to even joining populist movements to oppose the Oligarchs. Or they can be recruited by the extreme Right. They are open to any appeals that promise to get them out from under the heels of Big Business. Or, as a friend once put it: “Small Business hates and fears Big Business and, when they grow up, they want to be just like them”.
You might say that Small Business also hates and fears Big Government, but that’s redundant. Big Government is largely just a subdivision of Big Business (as pointed out in the Oligarchy article mentioned above).
The 10% accomplish their mission by channeling dissent and misery in safe directions. This is done in two main ways: by creating nonprofit organizations to soften somewhat the harshest effects of the System and by keeping the electoral and governing process as far out of the reach of the public as possible.
Nonprofit organizations work within the system and adamantly avoid anything that smacks of being impolite or demanding. (This discussion of nonprofits does not include Labor Unions — one of the best ways to actually improve Working Class lives.)
Nonprofits make great efforts to persuade local, small time oligarchs or highly placed members of the 10% to join their board of directors. These individuals are then expected to help secure funding to keep the nonprofit going.
There are, of course, no representatives from the population the nonprofit ostensibly serves on the board of directors.
Lacking any input at the top from the people they are supposedly helping, nonprofits cannot but maintain social stability. Dissent from below rarely even gets voiced and when voiced, is ignored. The board in turn keeps the nonprofit going as long as it helps maintain the status quo.
ELECTIONS – THE ROCKY ROAD
The second way of channeling dissent and misery in safe directions is by controlling the electoral process. Candidates who schmooze with and flatter the local elite are rewarded with campaign donations and introductions to local movers and shakers and the organizations they control (civic and fraternal organizations, business groups, churches, etc.) Those candidates then usually win. They are in turn rewarded with prestige, publicity and – some would claim – inside information on good investments.
When minorities are getting restive, minority representation in the governing councils becomes imperative, Select individuals are sought after, groomed and promoted as “good minorities” who can talk to the minority in their own terms. They are touted as successes who have made it in the White Man’s world and who will fight the power. They don’t. They use enough of the right rhetoric to confuse people but do nothing to disturb the Oligarch’s control.
The Professional-Managerial Class has room for tokens.
Some actual fighters do manage to slip by and annoy the Oligarchs no end.
Another way to control elections is by ensuring that elections are held in the middle of the week when the pesky rabble would have to take time off work or otherwise cut into family time or second job time by voting. In Omaha, local City Council elections are sensibly kept out of the hands of the “deplorables” by scheduling them in off years, when there is less excitement about voting but the well-to-do can be counted on to do their civic duty.
Then too, the actual meetings of the City Council and County Board, where the day-to-day decisions that affect everyone’s lives are made, are held in the middle of the day – convenient for bankers, lawyers and the real estate industry but hardly for people who work for a living.
The Professional-Managerial Class, especially the 10%, relies on the police to keep order. The 10% believe that they need the police because they have a lot of “stuff” and they know that many others don’t have anywhere near as much. Also, in their neighborhoods they have no contact with those who live far away in poverty-ridden, crime-infested areas. These latter unfortunates become more frightening for being almost wholly imagined.
THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA
The MainStreamMedia, staffed by more Professional-Managerial types, contribute to the fear by reporting sensational crime – if there is none locally, they pull it from national news feeds.
The job of the MainStreamMedia is to peddle the standard Oligarch narrative – The world is a scary place, someone might be lurking about to grab your “stuff” and maybe harm you; so we need police and the military to keep us safe and to maintain order.
The efforts of minorities, women, gays and other working people have been undermining this order for many years now and, with the advent of cell phones, the ability of the public to self-organize has increased exponentially.
Attempts to neutralize the power of dissent on the internet are ongoing. It will be interesting to see how far the Oligarchs can go in strangling public use of the internet before either the public catches on and revolts and/or it interferes with actual business uses, the internet having also become essential to conducting business.
The pressure from the Oligarchs has been increasing. Much like the Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels, the Oligarchs have been busy tying down the great body of the Republic with thousands of tiny (and some not so tiny) threads – Supreme Court decisions, gerrymandering, voter suppression, corporate-sponsored legislation, Right-wing “think tanks”, elimination of the “Fairness Doctrine“, media consolidation, police impunity, senseless wars and on and on and on and on.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE
So what do we do? We get together as best we can – on Zoom, Facebook, social media and in small, socially distanced groups to work on how we can metaphorically throw our bodies onto the gears of The Machine. It doesn’t take much – a conversation with an acquaintance, friend, neighbor or co-worker, a suggestion of a book or article to read. Just keep in mind that facts don’t change minds; relationships do.