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Lectures to the Chinese by Alfred De Grazia

PART ONE:  The Eight Bads

Conclusion to Part One:
A Culture of Force

The exponential increase of bureaucracy, breeding in every element of modern society, has an ultimate effect that has been called the culture of force. The society of coercion is intimate to your experience and close at hand in the American experience.


Bureaucracy narrows channels of activity and achievement, and restricts passage through them. It organizes people into hierarchical groups everywhere. It favors sovereign commands and primitive sanctions.

It is promoted by secrecy and deception. It raises and then feeds upon passivity and dependency. Like an overanxious mother, who is unconsciously domineering and berates and nags her child with fear of every small risk, the culture of force sees in every factional conflict and instance of violence a reason for subjecting individual differences and individual behavior to authoritative control and uniformity.

The prescription for alienation and anomia is doses of dependency and "welfare,"--the forcing of people into crowded shelters under half a thousand great annual budgets. The alienated people flock to the system for reassurance, and are herded into it because they appear to be lost sheep.

The principle of coordination in a coercive culture is that of the ancient Pharaohs of Egypt, hierarchical ordering of work gangs. The military and factory systems of the nineteenth century become the model of human organization. Free enterprise is misunderstood (and in fact detested); its most useful social effects are disregarded as aberrations of a system of profiteering, as if the bureaucracy is a non-profit enterprise.

But the bureaucracy commandeers the terminology. Differences in terms must be resolved "at the highest levels." And, purely for efficiency, it is said, not for reasons of power, everyone receives a convenient number that pursues him like his given name, while his activities and programs are baptized by acronyms: one becomes 340-14-5088 engaged in the HEW, JOB, FAC project.

The multitudinous laws and rules act to diminish protests directed at the bureaucratic system, for in order to resort to them upon need, one literally has to earn the means by serfdom or employment in the system. Medical aid is only available by a similar bondage to the system, for the medical system sets a price upon its aid that forces one into the bureaucratic governmental or non-governmental systems, either in the guise of insurance or as a dependent welfare recipient.

The culture of forces advertises its foresight. It announces that since it embraces everybody and everything, and carries them with it, foresight is no problem: nobody can be going any other way, by definition, than its own way. Yet it is inherently conservative and looks back to precedents, laws, orders, and statistics gathered on outmoded premises.

Ultimately its foresight is refreshed by periodic resort to charismatic leaders and demagogic dictators. It readily supplies vast crowds. No President, however repulsive, need fear that his bureaucratic mass inside and outside government will not provide him with a crowd. For the officialdom and their countless serfs need a personalized head to act as lightning rod for the bursts of fury that arise from the stupefied from time to time, and to bring in ever new bodies of recruits and activities to regulate.

"Bonapartism," this was once called, and it applies to the communist, militarist, and pseudo-capitalist societies of the late twentieth century. In 1800, only eight years after the French Revolution was to free and enlighten the Age of Man, an enthusiastic follower of Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed:

From the First Consul of France to the mayor of a village in the Pyrenees, everything holds together, all the links of the great chain are tightly bound together. The movement of power will be rapid as it will traverse a line whose points it surpasses. It will find everywhere execution and nowhere opposition, always instruments and no obstacles against it.

For "the First Consul of France" substitute "the Great Chairman of China" or a future "President of the United States of America."

The only obstacles to Napoleon were in fact the mass armies that were mustered to meet the mass armies of this proud system when it moved beyond its boundaries. But that it had to move beyond its boundaries in militaristic adventures was as predictable as that night follows day.

A culture of force cannot restrict its behavior and effects to the domestic sphere. Its military become equally proud. Its method of dealing with the outer world is unitary, and by fits and jerks, advances and reversals. World communications, the potentially infinite encounters and transactions of peoples with peoples, are shut down. What could give flexible services everywhere is forbidden in "the national interest."

But this age has gone beyond the forgiveness and healing of the wounds caused by militaristic and imperial adventure. Nature will no longer forgive: like the wives of the ancient warriors of the bloodied Greek cities, it will bewail the absurdity, refuse its love, and turn barren.


I have a license to talk only of America. Yet as I have proceeded, I could not help but think of the position of other countries relative to America with regard to the eight bads. The temptation to reflect upon such a comparison was too strong to resist. Therefore, I thought to make such comparisons, but only in a brief and figurative form that would introduce, rather than conclude, your thinking along the same lines.

I have therefore listed in a chart (Figure 5) the eight bads and, alongside, the names of various peoples of the world, constituting in all some three fourths of the world population. Each people is compared with the Americans to the best of my knowledge, which should better be called a series of intuitions.

Figure 5
Americans Compared with Other Peoples:
With the Stress upon Politics
(+ if Americans compare favorable;-if Americans compare unfavorably;=if little difference exists)

Where I thought Americans compared favorably (not absolutely good, merely better than another), I inserted a plus sign (+). Where Americans appeared to suffer a bad condition no more nor less than another people, I inserted an equal sign (=). And where the American "bad" was worse than the comparable people's, I placed a negative sign (-).

You can scrutinize and argue with me over these estimates. I may not be able to defend them to your satisfaction. I find only a certain chauvinistic consolation in them however, inasmuch as Americans seem to suffer less than nine other peoples from the eight bads and more than three other peoples from them. I use the words "chauvinistic consolation" because it is not right to be happy over others' sharing of your misfortunes, and I should really be happier if all the world were better off than us and America would only need to catch up with the world.


American politics has not been successful at home or abroad. I have told you thus far mostly of the bad side, and much good is to be discovered in the chapters ahead of you. If you do not go further, you will make a mistake, for the story is only half told. There is some hope for that republic. In any case, the U.S.A. will continue to affect the lives of all Chinese, just as it has affected all the world in the generation gone by.

To send a bureaucratically trained general like George Marshall to reconcile the communist and nationalist forces in China after World War II was a sad error from which both the Americans and Chinese have suffered. Worse mistakes, because they were repeated, occurred in treating with the Soviet Union. First a halfhearted intervention was attempted in an effort to crush the Soviet revolutionary government after World War I. Neither the Soviet government nor the Soviet people had any reason to listen to or learn from America thereafter.

Then when World War II forced the Soviet government to accept vast quantities of American aid, and the Soviet leaders were therefore compelled to listen, the U.S.A., out of compassion for Russian suffering in the war and in the hope of winning cooperation afterward, let the Soviets work their will with a vengeance upon eastern and central Europe. The West German and Japanese policies of the U.S.A. were exceptionally beneficial and wise, however.

The United Nations was soon effectively abandoned by the U.S.A. owing to the presence there of the Soviet Union. No other scheme of world order was proposed; communist containment, nuclear deterrence, economic imperialism, and sporadic military adventures characterized Americans on the world stage. Western Europe, until now, followed largely American policies in international affairs and domestic affairs, eager, it would seem, to acquire the eight bads of America.

So high had American prestige risen by the end of World War II that not until 1973 was it generally appreciated how far its prestige had fallen. The collapse of the Vietnam military intervention, the devaluation of the dollar, and the Arab oil embargo marked the end of an epoch. Faith in America had flown from the breast of humanity.

America had become trapped in a culture of bureaucracy and force. One contradiction after another had brought triumphs of evil over good. In the search for the future, the Americans had been trapped in the past. In the search for an open society and politics, Americans had encountered deception. While inventing representation, they produced injurious myths about the presidency, the people, and the Constitution. In the flight from the Old Poverty they had discovered the New poverty. In bursting all bonds to locate the great community, they found a ruleless and restless alienation. Against the myth of participatory democracy stood the fact of apathy. In the interests of special groups, they became pleased, or at least determined, to deny larger ideals of the public, nation, and world. In the effort to gain effective democracy they created bureaucracy. To fight bureaucracy and gain justice, they prompted legalism. Suffering the illusion of free enterprise, they supported the super-rich. In the delusion of protecting the peace of the world, they built, distributed, and exploded vast quantities of war material.

"The American Dream has become a nightmare." Such is the word going the rounds in these days. The reasons are understandable. Once most Americans thought of a world of open spaces; their world has become crowded. Once they thought of a land of plenty; today they face an indefinitely long period of increasing shortages.

Once they believed that business enterprise would be free and become enlightened; today they are in the hands of giant companies and new ventures are formed only under heavy handicaps. Once they thought that government could be small and limited; now it is huge and regulates all aspects of life.

Once they believed that education would free them; now they see that it is basically a bureaucratic machine for the mastication of many years of life.

Once they thought that they could take or leave the outside world; now they are ensnarled in it. Once they boasted that they were a nation of individualists with indomitable civic courage; today the people have become what used to be called contemptuously "the mass," and even the highest leadership appears to be idiotic and paralyzed in the face of the country's problems. Unless an improbable, great change occurs, the bicentennial of 1976 will pass judgement of failure upon the American Dream.

Americans generally dislike pessimists, partly because they have achieved great projects through optimism, and partly because pessimists stir up feelings of guilt and failure. People refuse to look beyond the next few yards ahead from fear that the future will not be what it used to be. Moreover, benevolent people who, it happens, are usually materially comfortable, own bonds, and fill secure positions, hush the people like babies, with expressions such as "we shall invent something when the time comes." So it happens that those who boast of their "practical view" join with good and kind people to denounce and deny the stark facts of the reality facing the country.

This alliance is weak. Those who are shortsighted out of desperation become the most hardened and resistant opponents of reasonable change. And those who are softhearted walk away from the facts, saying that no one really believes in this old American Dream any more but in a new American vision.

This new vision they refuse to define. They are elusive. They turn out to be, in fact, nothing but a crowd of liberals--the "meliorists" they are called in social theory--who have dominated the progressive movement in American politics, in Washington, D.C., and the large states, since 1930, the full life span of over half of all living Americans.

The fact is that there has been no new American Dream. There is no new vision. Americans are still trying to cope with a drastically changed world with the attitudes of a gone world. They have an overload of cynicism, ashes of a consumed dream, and are inclined to dump it upon any new vision. if one does not feel this national malaise in one's heart, one can believe it through volumes of statistics. I warn you, however, that you will never find in statistics what is not in your heart to find.


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