“No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth.”
“I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can
Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise, to leave them open for so long
Cause I have wondered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from this dream.
Doctor my eyes
They cannot see the sky
Is this the prize
For having learned how not to cry”
Jackson Browne, Doctor My Eyes
Throughout the past ten years, those of us looking for free market capitalism and the opportunities enabled by it have been frustrated to say the least, and at times disillusioned, but still this period has been dotted with hope and excitement at the potential for things to improve, and the belief that eventually they will.
I. The Winds of Change Upon Us
Today, tectonic shifts are taking place around the world in our economies, our geopolitics, our natural resources, and our capital markets … shifts that will establish a new baseline of human existence in the decades ahead. We are, unmistakably, living through an incredible time in human history. This note is intended as an exercise of taking stock of where we are today, presenting parts of my view on how we got here, and on where we are headed from here.
Right on schedule to Strauss-Howe generational theory, we appear to be upon our Fourth Turning, with a high probability that our society 10 – 15 years from now will be unrecognizable from its present form.
Today, large portions of society are disillusioned by the low levels of integrity and high levels of deception within key State and social institutions that are meant to govern our society in a manner that achieves fairness and stability, while at the same time large factions of society are starkly at odds concerning what constitutes fairness and stability. It means different things to different people depending on factors including socioeconomic standing, personal/family circumstances and personal values held dear.
Many now predict the end of Oligarch reign, the end of absurdly manipulated capital markets dominated/controlled by central bank policy, the end of industries controlled through regulatory capture, and the return to the principles of free markets and meritocracy. Many also predict a new form of capitalism will emerge – one that harnesses emerging technologies to offer more transparency and accountability, and one based one that utilizes natural resources more responsibly and promotes modes of human existence that are more equitable and more likely to be sustainable. Whether or not any such changes occur remains to be seen, but what is near certain is that changes are coming, and that the period of change will bring volatility to society’s institutions small and large.
While COVID-19 and the actions taken by governments in response to the pandemic have accelerated many structural shifts and changes that in truth were a long time coming, they were already inevitable and are the result of many factors that we can trace back 100 years or more in our history.
This 100-year history is the result of human nature and aspects of it that we can observe by looking back at the events of preceding millennia. This series of notes, of which this is Part I, will attempt to scratch the surface in this regard and then to dig a little deeper to point out some truths that, at this time of transition, I consider helpful to explore and understand. I hope that your will also find them helpful in your business and personal lives.
II, The Predicted Death of Crony Capitalism and a Bright New Dawn
Within the current Strauss-Howe cycle, the aftermath of 2008’s Great Financial Crisis and the central bank policies that followed brought in the age of manipulated capital markets and the end of free market price discovery for financial assets. This broke the system of capital flows and weakened the investment process to the point of total zombification all capital market participants. During the last ten years we’ve seen the rise of Oligarch influence over governments and regulators reach levels not seen since the early 1900’s, with increasingly brazen acts of corruption and self-interest without any form of consequence. In relation to these issues and events, Ben Hunt, co-founder of the globally-followed Epsilon Theory blog, aptly coined the phrase “They’re. Not. Even. Pretending. Anymore.”, before later coining the beautifully apt phrase “Burn. It. The. Fuck. Down.”. Both Ben and Epsilon Theory are highly recommended follows on social media.
In seems the spark for Ben’s fire, to BITFD, is manifesting itself as I write this note, but let’s recognize that a spark is not a fire, it is only the potential for a fire. Reversion to the status quo for another ten years is still possible, and in parts of this note I will cynically argue that it is in fact probable in many respects. Let me say right now that I hope the world will prove me wrong in that regard. I hope to witness, and to be part of the positive changes that many people talk about. The challenges to these achieving these changes is great. Success won’t come without a long hard fight and many sacrifices, and so it’s important to know clearly what we’re fighting for … so we can maintain our morale and stay the course through the setbacks and sacrifice, and in some ways the building of that determined fighting mindset is what this note will hopefully help achieve.
Global human society is at a crossroad. What we must all recognize right now is that throughout history positive change has never come easy. The end of Oligarch-managed crony capitalism and commercial tyranny through regulatory capture is now more possible than ever, but it won’t come without a painful and costly fall of the terribly corrupted system. Crony capitalism’s demise, once complete (we’re nearly there now), provides an exciting opportunity for us to rediscover the true spirit capitalism upon which great societies were built, but with adjusted focus to suit modern conditions. The end of indoctrination must begin with disillusionment before moving on to self-discovery and learning, while moving toward the rediscovery of true freedom.
III. Unification and Collectivity Versus Atomization and Individuality
The note, in its essence, postulates that we are at an important crossroad in our existence where unified, peaceful collective action will be our only path forward to success. That the individualistic and tribal modes that broad us to this point will no longer be the road we take, and from here peaceful collective action is the only viable path toward achievement of the desired changes that many factions of our society are now openly seeking.
On the other hand, we could now continue to move in the opposite direction, toward greater atomization of society, which tends to make it even easier for the State and Oligarchy to manage and manipulate human society. A progression from atomization toward a more unified and cohesive fluid mode is needed sooner than later, provided the fluid mode we settle into is one that can unify us around a set of positive views, beliefs, objectives and strategies. History, particularly colonial history, demonstrates how the promotion of self-oriented individualism divides and conquers the power of collective unity, and yields absolute control to [often tyrannical, corrupt and abusive] outside rulers. Our current social culture, fueled by decades of social manipulation that became accelerated with advances in communications technology, is an atomized one of sub-cultures and countercultures that keep us divided and in conflict with each other, instead of collectively seeing and addressing the oppression and wasted potential that characterizes our existence. This is discussed at greater length further on in this note.
Whether or not we can overcome this, whether or not we use technology to achieve greater unity and collective action or to greater atomization and splintered actions, will significantly impact the outcome of our Fourth Turning.
IV. The Game of Change
The social change that should occur if we are to change our social course away from stark and rising inequality, zombie capital markets and industries stagnating under regulatory capture, it’s going to require a unified collective movement. However, those who have benefited from the status quo, most notably the Oligarchs, have an interest in preventing collective unity and suppressing change. This clash or conflict of interest regarding the future direction of society is what we can view as The Game of Change.
If you follow SIFF Capital on Twitter then hopefully you’ve noticed the pinned tweet on our profile that’s been there since June 10, 2019 – “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery …”. That is in fact the key to The Game of Change … we the people must seek to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery so that we can see the objective truth rather than the manipulated truths, and the false or misleading information with which we are bombarded every day.
So, who or what is it that has mentally enslaved us? It is of course the Oligarchy and the Nudging State directed (owned) by the Oligarchy, and the contingent of Missionaries sponsored (owned) by the Oligarchy. The Nudging State part is easy to understand, and I assume it needs little explanation. It’s everything that the political class is directed to do by the Oligarchs … because they know that most people trust the government. The directions toward the State are often static across political parties on issues such as monetary policy, where in the last decade we see the goal is always to dress up the use of public funds and interest rate policy to artificially boost the prices of financial assets and enrich the investor class and managerial class. It is sold as “trickle down” policy that will enrich all of society, except it doesn’t, but there is always an alternative explanation of why it doesn’t. But in other cases … in many cases … it changes depending on the party in power regarding some issues, such as gun control, where generally speaking the left promotes gun control in the name of public safety and the right promotes the right to gun ownership in the name of freedom. These kinds of issues are most important to the State/Oligarchy in The Change Game because they serve to divide society, and a divided society will always struggle to mount a unified collective action. It is shown throughout history that unified collective action by the people is the only thing that can bring down tyrannical rule, and it requires that the unified people are of the same or at least similar hearts and minds. That would mean seeing the objective truths … it would require emancipation from mental slavery so that people can become focused on collective action against their common adversary. That would be No Bueno for the Oligarchy and the Nudging State.
This note is already getting longer than what most people’s attention span can hold, but please stay with me for this next point. Will close out this Part I of the series after this last point.
The last point I want to make, which I’ll expand upon much further in Part II, is that those among us who want to make positive changes happen are the primary targets of the Oligarch brainwashing, and the Oligarchs are so practiced at this, they are so damn good at it that they can make us turn against our own kind and act against our own interests. There are two major social phenomena that brought about the current era of highly effective brainwashing. The first was the change movements that took hold during the 19th century, those being the quests for gender equality, for the abolition of slavery and for the fair treatment of labor. These all held the frightening (if you’re an Oligarch) potential of unified collective action by people who were willing to make immense personal sacrifices for their causes. These social phenomena cause the Oligarchs to start mounting their defenses, most obviously through the tried and true method of government corruption and authoritarianism, but there were clear indications that this alone may not suffice for them to maintain oppressive control. The second major social phenomena, engineered by Edward Bernays (nephew of Sigmund Freud) and his political accomplice Walter Lippman, is the era of self-centered consumerism … the discovery that the hidden fears and desires inside humans could be prodded and manipulated to get them to make irrational decisions that went against their own interests. That humans could be made to direct their money, their productive energies and their voting rights in whatever direction they were led.
In the late 1920’s Walter Lippman coined the term The Bewildered Herd, to describe the masses of people in Western society who implicitly wanted to be told what to do and when to do it. Edward Bernays formed the world’s first public relations firm when he reasoned that if propaganda could be used effectively in war, then it could be used with equal effectiveness in peace. That is how the modern advertising and PR industry was born, and how the era of consumer branding was kicked off.
Future notes in this series will go into more detail about how Bernays and Lippman helped corporations, the entertainment industry and national governments to seize control of and manipulate the minds of the masses. The final point of this note will be about the phenomena of Non-Governmental Organizations or NGO’s, which in recent years spawned the term ENGO or Environmental Non-Governmental Organization.
During the 1800’s when collective movements began to take hold it became clear that there were groups of high-minded people among the masses who felt so strongly about certain causes that they could put aside other differences with people in order to harness the powers of collectivity to advance their causes. This at first appeared to be a manageable problem as long as it was simply the blacks seeking freedom, because there were enough people against that to maintain a reasonably divided society, and it seemed manageable when groups of women began seeking gender equality because there were enough conservative-minded men and women to shout them down as radical crazies, and it seemed manageable when indentured servant immigrants started asking for rights because … c’mon … really … but the real problem occurred with the labor movement started seeking safer work environments and more equitable employment terms for all. ALL! Now there was a real problem of grave concern because this was truly a unified collective.
Not coincidentally, this was the point at which the Oligarchy and the State began sponsoring and supporting the establishment of NGO’s, providing them with seed funding and helping them to build their constitutions, define their mandates, and establish their Oligarch-laden boards of directors. You can see that a wave of NGO’s were established between 1890 and 1920, just in time to capture the hearts, minds and professional energies of some of the strongest minded strong willed people out the unified collective and incentivize them under an agenda heavily influenced by Oligarchs. It gave the people what they hungered for – the chance to make use of their skills and determination to really make a difference. Perhaps not all the difference they wanted, in fact just as much difference as the Oligarchs were comfortable allowing them to make, under constant supervision of course. This helped to draw strength away from the labor movement, and it gave the Oligarchs a new tool for influencing the direction of society. One that offered the appearance of true benevolence, and a tax-deductible mechanism through which they could then (through the NGOs) tap public funds as leverage for advancing their agendas. Still today, the largest source of revenue for NGOs remain public funding sources, the boards of many NGOs remain Oligarch-laden, contributions to NGO’s remain tax deductible, and of course the influence of large donors remains very substantial. The next large wave of NGO formation came after WWI as Bernays and Lippman ramped up the brainwashing and manipulation of The Bewildered Herd, and the third wave came following WWII. By that time the NGO model had evolved so swimmingly well that the State and Oligarchs decided to create the mother of all NGOs – the United Nations.
Today, as for the last 100+ years, NGOs (certainly including the UN) serve as the finger-waiving Missionaries who direct the masses of the Bewildered Herd as to what is right and what is wrong … who should be targeted and who should be supported … which policies should be adopted and which should be shamed with protests, boycotts, online mob attacks, etc.’
This entire NGO model was and is a Conflict Transfer Mechanism. At first the conflict was between the unified collectives of women, black slaves, immigrants and the Oligarchs and their State servants, then as the broad labor movement took hold it was between the Fully Unified Masses and the Oligarchs … but then, with the advent of NGOs … it was between the Oligarch controlled NGOs and the Oligarchs. They figured if that if the doing of good by and for the masses was inevitable, they should at least control and moderate the doing of good so that it didn’t get out of control … so that it didn’t result in any true loss of power. And the best part was that other than some token seed monies that were tax deductible, the masses would effectively pay for the whole thing through public funding of NGO initiatives.
The concludes Part I of The Bewildered Herd – Doctor, My Eyes. The next part will look much further back in history, thousands of years, to examine herd management in a different context, and will look at technology in modern times and explore if technology can be the key to our psychological and cognitive emancipation, or the instrument of our further demise.