Michael Parenti

Michael
Parenti
1933

American Political Scientist, Writer, Historian and Culture Critic

Author Quotes

The essence of capitalism is to turn nature into commodities and commodities into capital. The live green earth is transformed into dead gold bricks, with luxury items for the few and toxic slag heaps for the many. The glittering mansion overlooks a vast sprawl of shanty towns, wherein a desperate, demoralized humanity is kept in line with drugs, television, and armed force.

Candidates who win while spending less than their opponents still usually have to spend quite a lot. While not a surefire guarantor of victory, a large war chest—-even if not the largest--is usually a necessary condition. Money may not guarantee victory, but the lack of it usually guarantees defeat. Without large sums, there is rarely much of a campaign, as poorly funded 'minor' candidates have repeatedly discovered.

The guiding principle of ruling elites was--and still is: When change threatens to rule, then the rules are changed.

In almost every enterprise, government has provided business with opportunities for private gain at public expense. Government nurtures private capital accumulation through a process of subsidies, supports, and deficit spending and an increasingly inequitable tax system. From ranchers to resort owners, from brokers to bankers, from auto makers to missile makers, there prevails a welfare for the rich of such magnitude as to make us marvel at the corporate leaders’ audacity in preaching the virtues of self-reliance whenever lesser forms of public assistance threaten to reach hands other than their own.

The goal of a good society is to structure social relations and institutions so that cooperative and generous impulses are rewarded, while antisocial ones are discouraged. The problem with capitalism is that it best rewards the worst part of us: ruthless, competitive, conniving, opportunistic, acquisitive drives, giving little reward and often much punishment -- or at least much handicap -- to honesty, compassion, fair play, many forms of hard work, love of justice, and a concern for those in need.

In societies that worship money and success, the losers become objects of scorn. Those who work the hardest for the least are called lazy. Those forced to live in substandard housing are thought to be the authors of substandard lives. Those who do not finish high school or cannot afford to go to college are considered deficient or inept.

If one looks into the genealogies of many 'old families,' one discovers episodes of slave trafficking, bootlegging, gun running, opium trading, falsified land claims, violent acquisition of water and mineral rights, the extermination of indigenous peoples, sales of shoddy and unsafe goods, public funds used for private speculations, crooked deals in government bonds and vouchers, and payoffs for political favors. One finds fortunes built on slave labor, indentured labor, prison labor, immigrant labor, female labor, child labor, and scab labor -- backed by the lethal force of gun thugs and militia. 'Old money' is often little more than dirty money laundered by several generations of possession.

Between 1831 and 1891, US armed forces -- usually the Marines -- invaded Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, Colombia, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Brazil, Haiti, Argentina, and Chile a total of thirty-one times, a fact not many of us are informed about in school. The Marines intermittently occupied Nicaragua form 1909 to 1933, Mexico from 1914 to 1919, and Panama from 1903 to 1914. To 'restore order' the Marines occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934, killing over two thousand Haitians who resisted 'pacification.'

My point is that it's incorrect to say that the Iraq policy isn't working. It is working. It is doing what they want. They have got control of the oil and they are exporting it, and they have stripped a government that was 90% state owned and they are privatizing it. ... They have taken a country that was self defining and self developing and is now an impoverished prostrate devastated country where people will line up to work for slave wages or become members of the police or army because it's the only job they can get and serve as adjuncts to U.S. imperialism.

Far from being reluctantly propelled into hostilities by popular war fever, leaders incite that fever in order to gather support for their war policies. Thereby do they attempt to distract the public from pressing domestic matters, serve the overseas interests of U.S. investors, justify gargantuan military budgets, and present themselves as great leaders.

The worst forms of tyranny, or certainly the most successful ones, are not those we rail against but those that so insinuate themselves into the imagery of our consciousness, and the fabric of our lives, as not to be perceived as tyranny.

The American way is to criticize and debate openly, not to accept unthinkingly the doings of government officials of this or any other country.

If the test of patriotism comes only by reflexively falling into lockstep behind the leader whenever the flag is waved, then what we have is a formula for dictatorship, not democracy.

The enormous gap between what US leaders do in the world and what Americans think their leaders are doing is one of the great propaganda accomplishments of the dominant political mythology.

The god who presides over the Judeo-Christian belief system bears a disquieting resemblance to those imperfect creations known as human beings. This suggests that either he really did fashion us in his own image or we fashioned him in ours.

Ecology's implications for capitalism are too momentous for the capitalist to contemplate. [The plutocrats] are more wedded to their wealth than to the Earth upon which they live, more concerned with the fate of their fortunes than with the fate of humanity. The present ecological crisis has been created by the few at the expense of the many. In other words, the struggle over environmentalism is part of the class struggle itself, a fact that seems to have escaped many environmentalists but is well understood by the plutocrats---which is why they are unsparing in their derision and denunciations of the 'eco-terrorists' and 'tree huggers.'

Global warming is already acting upon us with an accelerated feedback and compounded effect that may be irreversible! We do not have eons or centuries or many decades. Most of us alive today may not even have the luxury of saying 'Après moi, le déluge' because we will be around to experience it ourselves. And if you think it will be 'interesting' or 'exciting,' ask the tsunami survivors if that’s how they felt. This time the plutocratic drive to 'accumulate, accumulate, accumulate' may take all of us down, once and forever.

Conventional opinions fit so comfortably into the dominant paradigm as to be seen not as opinions but as statements of fact, as 'the nature of things.' The very efficacy of opinion manipulation rests on the fact that we do not know we are being manipulated. The most insidious forms of oppression are those that so insinuate themselves into our communication universe and the recesses of our minds that we do not even realize they are acting upon us. The most powerful ideologies are not those that prevail against all challengers but those that are never challenged because in their ubiquity they appear as nothing more than the unadorned truth.

Radical views that are outside the mainstream generally (but not always) are more reliable than the dominant view because they are more regularly challenged and tested against evidence. They do not get to float freely down the mainstream; they must swim against the current. They cannot rest on the orthodox power to foreclose dissent, and they are not supported by the unanimity of bias that passes for objectivity.

All economic and political institutions are contrivances that should serve the interests of the people. When they fail to do so, they should be replaced by something more responsive, more just, and more democratic. Marx said this, and so did Jefferson. It is a revolutionary doctrine, and very much an American one.

Conservatives insist that government should be " run more like a business." One might wonder how that could be possible, since government does not market goods and services for the purpose of capital accumulation.

The peculiar danger of executive power is that it executes.

There is a century-old saying, "The dollar votes more times than the man.

Those who control the wealth of this society have an influence over political life far in excess of their number.

The two party electoral system performs the essential function of helping to legitimate the existing social order.

Author Picture
First Name
Michael
Last Name
Parenti
Birth Date
1933
Bio

American Political Scientist, Writer, Historian and Culture Critic