Hegemony, Dichotomy and State
By Koren Frankfort
Revised Fall 2008
Final Essay: SOCIOLOGY OF RICH AND POOR NATIONS
Submitted to Prof. Francesca Bremner
My interpretation of the world based on her course packet and lectures
Part I: State Formation
State formation is a complex process of power involving the legitimization of what would otherwise be known as insurgency into a recognized governmental system, a state. The rearrangement of the structure of power is symptomatic of this process which initially is the exodus of civilizations that occupy the geographic location where the new state intends to colonize.
The first stage of state formation is done through means of hostility and brutality. For example, the United States first had to colonize the original settlements - like Roanoke and Jamestown - prior to becoming a recognized governmental body. It is in this stage where the brutality occurs and where the Native Americans were mass murdered through means of battle, biological warfare (deliberate transmission of small pox) and introduction to intoxicants (like alcohol).
However, in order for this stage of the power process to happen, the transition of occupation, there must be a psychological separation, a dichotomy between the two – the old and new inhabitants – which is created through descriptions, representations made by the discoverers of the land. In the case of America, the natives were represented as primitive, dressed in skins, wild, etc. The ability to represent another civilization on a wide scale is indicative of power in that you are able to convince whole societies that this particular culture is inferior. This shows power attained and cultivated via audience and allegiance.
The new state appeals to other states for support, perhaps a mother state, with similar interests and values. Once the other native civilization is viewed as primitive, lesser in value and society, the process of justification for brutality can be made. The new state would perhaps claim to be on a civilizing mission. It is this implied goodwill that is utilized in the step after the exodus of native state systems, the step of reconciliation and assimilation.
Not all Native Americans were massacred in the colonization of the U.S.; some survived. Surviving native inhabitants engage in treatises; they are geographically quarantined into territories or they are assimilated into the new state system. Those that are moved, that are quarantined to territories (typically with less resources), are expected to engage in trade within the legality of the new state. Those that are assimilated into the new state are placed into a new class hierarchy created by the state. This is when the power is intrinsically focused and the step of nation building occurs.
Class systems are made by those in power, the wealthy, the internationally recognized elite. The systems set expected payment for labors, usually setting lower value for the tasks that the assimilated native inhabitants do. The functionality of a state relates directly to the formation of the nation – those who are governed by the state. Nation building is perhaps one of the most important steps in giving the state power as there is a symbiosis between the state and the nation.
The exchange between the state and nation is crucial; the state provides certain benefits – like education and health care in exchange for allegiance and docility. There must be an exchange as to prevent uprising which has precedent in history. The goal of the state is to maintain the wealth and power of the elite – who created the state – whilst providing its nation, perhaps minimally, with their necessities to secure their allegiance.
The benefit of the allegiance of the nation is notably important with respect to international relations. The larger the allegiance, the larger the army, the more power is had by the state. This is probably best explained by the old saying, "wars are defined by conversations had by the old and rich and fought by the young and poor." However, allegiance is not easily attained; the process of allegiance to a state can be paralleled to the sale of a celebrity's image, PR, marketing which is utilized in the mass "education" of the nation.
The state must convince its constituents that they are an authority of morality and of structural functions of government. There are many obstacles that a state faces when convincing its people that they are an authority on morality, particularly because the first step in state formation involves brutality which is undeniably hypocritical. This is done through means of self representation and the portrayal of the history in schools. The U.S. begins in 1776, well after many formative events in statehood that had already happened according to history.
The elite have the power to write history in addition to the running of the state, so they teach a specific version of history elevating their actions to a level of nobility. Additionally, schools instill behavior and label outside behavior as vagabond behavioral tendency. In America, the Native Americans were described as savages who scalp vicariously and do silly noises with their hands and mouths. They were portrayed, represented as lesser people. Additionally, the nation in America was taught that the Native Americans were assimilated – civilized and socialized - and texts often fully omitted the mass genocide of the natives.
Furthermore, there may be romanticized legends, tales of the interaction between natives and newcomers. An example in America is the love story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith in which she saved the captain out of humanness and unwillingness to violently kill an enemy. The story was twisted to make it a love tale as to spin it in a way that isn't implicative of high ethics, but a youthful crush. However, history's accounts do not support the love story aspect of this event, but rather an act of kindness and virtue. When taught from a true historical standpoint, this story supports the notion that when the aggressed upon protest in a non-violent, humane way, that it interrupts the process of negative representation and poses a threat to the motivations of the newly forming state. This is why it is critical to skew the story and to spin it to romanticize the state. It is from the standpoint of romanticism that the state teaches the nation about the state, from a point that legitimizes the morality of the state and to create an emotional connection between the people and the leaders.
When this concept is explored in depth, the methodology behind protest can be explored. Since the utilization of representations is the medium for gaining support, it is made clear that when protests are done violently, the protestors are providing their enemies with content for negative representation. When a group blows up a Mosque in protest, for instance, they put their own humanity and moral legitimacy into question and often blind people to the motivations behind the attack. In doing this, they give their enemies ammunition for gaining support, photographs of carnage, stories of maimed children, etc. For this reason, it is fair to say that a potential consequence of this power to represent is an uprising of people that refuse to provide that form of ammunition.
Ghandi, one of history's greatest humanitarians, was an Indian assimilated into British culture. However, his assimilation lacked the docility and the acceptance of British hierarchy that excluded Indians from activities and placed them on a hierarchical platform implying lower worth, lower humanness. Ghandi realized that the position Indians held was a result of the dehumanization of his people, of his culture, that occurred in the initial colonization by the British. He realized that the justification – in itself - that kept his people down must be eliminated in order to reverse the effects of the justification, i.e. rights.
It is this idea of the reversal of justification that was the basis for his nonviolent protest strategy. He would not strike those who struck him, as his followers eventually mirrored, thereby elevating his people's humanity and lowering the humanity of the British. Additionally, when you teach the oppressed your rules of morality – Judeo-Christian ethics for the British – hypocrisy becomes blatantly evident and can be used to the benefit of the oppressed in that it gives them leverage with the nationals of the oppressive state.
Ghandi was able to use the Judeo-Christian morality to explain his actions, like turning the other cheek and tolerance, thereby forcing the British to violate the morals they instilled within their own society which reveals hypocrisy via projective identification to the nationals and creates sympathy among them. By forcing the British to strike someone who is upholding the Judeo-Christian ethics, they gave way for negative representations to be spread about the British which proved to be effective. It is for this reason that non-violent protests are often more effective. Because the violations of the state's instilled ethics were made by the state, the nation's self censorship (which is a psychological effect of allegiance) swayed in the favor of the oppressed, the colonized, the Indians.
The process of power in state formation, in brevity, is a process of mobilization. The mobilization against a native group. The mobilization in "civilizing" the remaining members of the ousted. The mobilization of the rich and powerful to mass educate a justification of the exodus of a native people and the degradation of those people whilst simultaneously assimilating them. The symbiosis between the state and nation is one of power; allegiance and numbers are power, but the state must maintain that allegiance which requires PR, representations and international support.
When one cannot distinguish which side is wrong, when both sides are the aggressed upon and are simultaneously the aggressors, it makes the power process step of allegiance and support harder to attain as both sides are able to present an argument in their own favor. Often this draws out questions regarding the brutality in the first step of power and moral legitimacy cannot be distinguished with ease.
To oust a state, however, the represented – THE EXORCISED – must reveal the state's hypocrisy to the nation in the terms that the nation will understand. They have been taught that their leaders are the morally defensible ones. The utility of the state's morals as explanation without the providing of adherence to stereotype, i.e. by acting in the less humane manner in which the state presents them, is the manner in which the deconstruction of presupposition - or the ideas that we have without us realizing them - occurs. This is the manner in which power is shifted which is historically supported by Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These tactics force the state to act in a clandestine manner, like smear campaigns – like the rumors of MLK's extramarital affair – to attempt to remove moral legitimacy. This often does not work because tangibility is somewhat necessary in representation. In the cases of the two aforementioned civil rights leaders, the non-violent aspect of their protest led the state to the frantic sentiment leading to their demise, assassination.
As a side note, the loss of life – in general – is the most and least obvious consequence of this process of power.
Part II: Hegemony
The United States is regarded as the policing nation of the world. The U.S. has designated itself as the maintainer of democracy of the world with the support of other capitalist nations which is, ironically enough, not democratic; self designation is more totalitarian.
The United States has become a superpower since its formation and one of the effects of super-powerdom is the need for more maintenance of said power. Maintaining power requires strategy in that a state has to maintain moral legitimacy within its nation in addition to maintaining power outside of it.
The maintenance of moral legitimacy and power involve conflicting practices in that the first step of power involves violence which is not an action that instills a sense of moral legitimacy, particularly since the U.S. was founded on the basis of Judeo-Christian morals which are truly intended to be of a charitable, peaceful nature. Therein lies the issue; how can power be maintained in the country and outside of the country without being a hypocrite to one's own people? The answer lies in the way the state represents itself in times of conflict.
The United States has a powerful media that is corporate owned. Corporations replaced the aristocracy (those who run the state) and - as a result - leads to the careful self-censorship of the media about what they choose to discuss, how and - more importantly - what they choose to omit.
Since World War II, the United States has been designated as a policing nation of all other nations and as a nation intended to spread democracy, a wholly UN-democratic idiom. Since that time, the American government has launched secret campaigns against "UN-democratic" nations in an attempt to create a "New World Order."
In doing so, the United States has compromised the ethics it preaches by inflicting violence upon less affluent nations that do not adhere to the rule of American dominance. What America has done in the past – inclusive of recent years – is oust political regimes and instate hegemony, the ruling and dominance of another state in America's favor.
The U.S. has participated in extreme violence towards other nations in which women, children and the uninvolved were slain. In spite of this, most Americans remain unaware of the coups in which the Americans took part. The reason is because these actions are either never addressed or addressed from the perspective in which the American government wants the events viewed: America as the morally defensible side.
When America does make mention of wars in which we are involved, it is only after approval from the legislature meaning the wars that have been officially declared and not coups d'etats. When we describe war, we describe the enemy in terms of good and evil, black and white with no shades of gray with the Americans on the pious end of the moral spectrum. The moral legitimacy is always placed on the side of America in American media. However, true motivation for war is seldom the way it is represented in media. Our current "war on terror" against insurgents is truly a war for profit. War is based on money and power, on money as power.
America has been in the Middle East profiting off of their natural resources for many years. The corporate aristocracy of America has interests in oil and antiquities and upon threat to our monetary interests there, we go to war based on created, faux ideas about the way the Middle East is functioning. These wars have been both in secret and in the media.
In the 1950s, Iran was ruled by Premier Mohammed Mossaddeq who wanted economic independence for the people of Iran. This idea was behind the desired ousting of the British owned companies in Iran. As a result, America and Britain boycotted Iranian oil and justified this by claiming that Iran was a communist sympathizing nation. This proved ineffective, and in the latter half of the era, a coup was staged by the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence.
The Americans instated a state unto the Iranians that violated human rights repetitiously via means of torture and arrests that would violate the U.S. Constitution had they occurred within our borders. The Americans trained the Iranian secret police on how to keep the Iranians at heel. The Americans, for monetary purposes, instated a totalitarian state in Iran as to maintain power within that country, to maintain monetary dominance and to lower the chance of attempts at economic independence.
Most Americans are blithely unaware of this event because it is us that would be viewed as fascist, like a Roman Caesar who instated an Eastern Caesar in Constantinople because it maintained the power of Rome outside of Rome. The media willfully censors themselves in the discussion of topics like these because it keeps the assignment of guilt away from our state.
The Iranians continued to suffer under this reign until the people had an uprising and rejected all Western ideals, like female independence and dress. They reinstated Islamic dress as to disassociate from all that is Western. This resulted in a movement referred to as the Iran Contra led by Reagan which is thought to have been funded through earnings made by his tolerance of cocaine and trafficking. These allegations were diffused by Nancy Reagan's anti-drug campaigns. This scandal may have been the motivation behind the movement.
The U.S. gives incomplete reports to its people to diffuse allegations of unethical inhumane practices from its constituents. The reason for this, the significance of this is that the people they send to war are members of the nation and people do not risk death to line the pockets of other people. Soldiers go to war on the basis that they are defending "true" moral legitimacy; that is what they are told. Because of this, America dehumanizes the enemy so that no emotional connection can be made between American families and other families in the nations we oppress.
An example of this are the derogatory names we assign to our Middle Eastern counterparts, like "dune coon," "sand nigger," "camel jockey," and others. What is interesting is that the aforementioned are predominantly echoes of horrible things said about the ancestors of many of our current constituents. It may be implicative that they are referred to in this manner to partially pose relief to African Americans in war because those derogatory names have been reassigned to a specific enemy who is no longer them. This may serve a double purpose of escalation of some of our people and degradation of others.
We also strip people of their dignity over seas and cover it up through censorship and omission. For instance, in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the prisoners were tortured, they were forced to participate in sexually explicit photography and were harassed with the utility of attack dogs – to mention a few. However, it wasn't until photographs were discovered that any mention was made at all of these events. The media does not seek out these events. Furthermore, when these events are uncovered, there is always the question of self responsibility presented with negation of any mention of orders to torture and of training on how to torture. They don't teach torture in k-12; it's simply not in the curriculum. The United States punishes the individual (minimally) for torture of another human being overseas only to maintain moral legitimacy and sweeps the rest under the rug without admitting to supporting the atrocity.
Another way that America influences other countries is that the U.S. essentially bribes other countries into oppressing their people by promising trade with those countries, essentially promising to make a few autocrats rich like us. General Sudarto of Indonesia participated in funding like this in the coup that occurred in 1965 where approximately one million people were slain.
On the other hand, when countries oppose us, we often group them together by saying that they "do not like freedom," that they "do not like democracy," and that they must conform to our democracy whilst waving the flag of irony frantically. Can freedom be forced upon someone and is that freedom at all? The basic truth is that we give other states the "freedom" to succumb to our rule or to be our enemy and perish to have their land claimed as ours and placed under our rule. Additionally, when we are forcing our freedom on other nations, the American nationals are often unaware of what is happening. Our country sends the CIA, essentially our secret army, to other nations to commence massacre and to instate new government that will exist as American allies who we will train to torture and abuse their people.
To link this all together, the United States governs the world without consequence as we are not members of the World Court. If we were members, many members of our government would be imprisoned and possibly put to death for war crimes, like Kissinger to name one unpunished criminal. America maintains the loyalty of its own army by reinforcing the idea that America fights for freedom when, in actuality, it often inhibits it. The American media reinforces this because the state needs the nationals to feel patriotic and proud to fight so that the ranks of the army are not diminished and therefore the power of the state is not diminished; the symbiosis relates to the military. This may mean - at least in my own view - that an effective manner to revolt would be to inspire a mass protest of the military to fight for the state. A military sit in would be both peaceful protest - the most morally defensible form - and would strip the state of its power without causing physical harm.
In other countries, America controls trade and subsidizes the importation and exportation of goods as well as crop subsidization. To maintain the superpower position, the younger generations are taught nothing of these coups in school and are therefore brought up to believe that the superpower nature of the United States' political place is heroic in nature and is not politically driven. This version of historical education is creeping into higher education therefore making people more unaware of the fact that the CIA is largely composed of trained murderers who commence secret wars and follow secret orders.
America's effect on other nations is evident of a pattern amongst great empires of old, like the plentitude of Alexandrias, like Rome, like King Shakazulu's Southern Africa. The greater the power had by the state, the greater the need for an Army which implies a greater need for allegiance and a greater need for ethnocentrism and dichotomy. America's state creates the ethnocentrism and dichotomy as justification, keeps its subjects ignorant as to not appear hypocritical and does the rest in secret, the rest being secret business and secret war.
Part III: Representation
Representation is by far the most important tool used throughout the world. It holds the power to shape the views of a whole nation about a whole other nation. Representations create thoughts that exist prior to cognitive awareness of the thoughts created, thoughts before thoughts. In these representations, presuppositions – expectations – of other cultures are reinforced. Representations can be made through any medium; they can be made in literature, media, art, music, theory, etc.
In literature, the use of adjectives and re-contextualized synonyms are utilized in a way to shape the understanding of the reader. In Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad the words used to describe the inhabitants of the Congo and the white colonizers differed. White women were described as having a "… mature capacity for fidelity, for belief, for suffering" whilst the description of black women involved word assignment like "savage" and "wild eyed" placing an idea of great stature on the white woman and placing an idea that that is an unattainable stature for the black woman to reach for which she should inherently feel shame.
In art, there is a methodology of teaching that presents a blatant dichotomy on the understanding of art. When one views many college course catalogues, one can look at the Art History courses to see Art History of Western Civilization: Prehistoric to Medieval, Art History of Western Civilization: Renaissance to Modern, Contemporary [Western] Art History and Art History of Non-Western Civilizations; there may be a few specifically focusing on particular ancient cultures, but those aren't guaranteed offerings. This means that art students are required to take three courses on Western art that separates it by period and one course on everything else with every era, every other culture incorporated. This is a blatant dichotomy that shows the under-appreciation of nonwestern art forms as well as a blatant statement of Western superiority. Furthermore, when one visits major art venues like the Met, one may notice that the majority celebrates Western art whilst the non-Western art forms aren't even placed in the front galleries. This reinforces - via representation - the idea of validity in Western art and the unimportant nature of the other.
In media, the so called "poor" nations, the so-called third world countries are filmed, photographed and described in a manner that reinforces presupposition in that they frame the representation around an idea of what one expects to see in a third world country. This is explained in the Kleinmann article about the photograph taken Kevin Carter, in which a young, famine-stricken girl was lying beneath a vulture who was preparing to eat her. This photo initiates a train of thought, much like the manner in which word association does, that creates a scene, an imposed context where and in which the photo was taken.
In the photo by Kevin Carter, questions like, "Where are her parents?" "Why aren't they helping her?" and "How can they live like that?" are brought about and the dichotomization and self acclamation/ethnocentrism occurs as a result of it. The truth is that Carter sat and waited for that particular shot and that he framed it excluding elements of society and civilization deliberately, that he was doing a job with clear instructions, that he HIMSELF – the Western man – was in the position to be humane and help but chose not to and instead chose to paint a picture of a grim, third-world society. He chose to reinforce damaging presupposition by creating imagery that portrayed an uncivilized, neglectful culture. He killed himself a few months after he took the photograph.
The truth is that there is no human UN-effected by representation; all people in every society have been shaped by representation, but when imagery and description is deliberate in framing, it can borderline and teeter along the edges of propaganda. Was Carter's photo propaganda? It was a real incident, but did it portray reality?
Perhaps not. Reality is a concept that is difficult to define since everyone's reality is the combination of different experiences and representations. However, if one were to define reality on the basis that reality is the combination of incidents, that the incident is to reality as an atom is to all of the matter in the universe – a small element of the large and undefinable which is real, but is not reality, then one may determine that the photo is and is not reality, a paradox.
The importance of representation is that very seldom can one determine whether a representation is an account of reality or whether it is staged. A camera is capable of turning a New Jersey backyard into South Africa. It is because of this that ethics are brought into question and the relevance of deliberate swaying of beliefs are brought into account. Representations made with moral intent can potentially be as damaging as outright slander, like the pictures of children with flies in their eyelashes that imply ill grooming and "savagery." However, representations that are deliberately meant to be propaganda are incredibly damaging, but are easier to detect. This is like with the education about Jews in Nazi Germany. People are naturally more suspicious when the ending goal isn't to "feed the children."
Representations shape the views had by all people about the unseen. It is unavoidable, however, some are capable of seeing through the representations – deliberate or not – and are able to see the actual workings of their function. This is the story teller; this is the person who "breaks it down." Even so, without the representations to analyze, the analysis may never have been made by the storyteller.
Representations are words, communications, art, education and all in between that shape view. Representations are the collective understanding of the world and in the ability to control the representations, the controller has the ability to govern the world. It is for all the aforementioned reasons that people must attempt to seek out outside representations because a whole truth is unattainable, but the more pieces of what is real that you attain, the more likely you are to reach a closer approximation of a whole truth, a whole reality.