This VERY LONG POST is a 9000 word essay pulled from my 600 page manuscript.
“Control” is an attempt to write in the style of the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, a story in which a deamon instructs his nephew on how to corrupt the hearts of men. In this case, the voice of Control speaks for the powers that corrupt the souls of the ambitious in the modern world.
Only about half of these ten essays will appear in my novel. I haven’t decided if I need any of them. I have been quite good about showing, not telling to the point that these communiques and dispatches need not be provided to the reader at all.
I would love to hear from you:
(1) Which of these essays are most intriguing? Which should I definitely keep?
(2) Is there an essay in here that I should keep if I rewrote it?
(3) Do you catch the subtle hints as to the evolving narrative in here, even though I haven’t posted any of the actual book?
I assume you’ll burn this communiqué in the virutal but real sense. From time to time I like to send personal dispatches to the little people who make what we do possible. You are one of those people.
Regarding your recent posts: You have a wonderful future in media. Every day, millions of people look to us for guidance on what to think, how to express it, and feedback on whether they expressed the thoughts we provided them in the cleverest way. We decide what choices they make because we artificially limit the apparent choices they can make. They see fifty items on a rack at the clothing store and never realize they are all variations on blue, green, white, and black. They choose one and we pretend they’ve made the choice; the outliers who actually recognize the confined dimensions of this “freedom” box you put them in are quickly culled or promoted, using the sort of harvesting process that brought you to us.
The artificial confines allow us to erase bigger ideas from consumers’ minds, such as making clothing. This allows us to engineer the kind of society that current limits to wealth and resources at present dictate. In time, we will warp all ideas so that our kind can be the weft of the ultimate social tapestry.
This weaving process requires that we reward them for riffing off our ideas; a witty person is apt to cling to our beliefs after he’s authored some pithier version of it. So we offer several mediums for “self-expression” and seed them with our idealogical suggestions across the many news and content providers. Your subtle message layering style shows you already understand this process and are off to a good start.
Few of our agents get such luxurious assignments, where the results of their work are so abundantly clear. Cherish your post. But of course share it with no one – the true nature should remain secret even to your family, your mom, and your maid. For there are three kinds of people who inhabit our world, and let neither blood nor brood fuzzy your judgment about who belongs in which group, and what each group is permitted to know about the others.
There largest group comprises the masses of unsuspecting peons whose role is to work jobs for adequate pay and pursue happiness as we’ve defined it for them. The very fact that this class is blind to the liesurely way that we’ve decoupled work and income for our privileged class is a testament to how effective our media department has been over the decades. Your life’s work, as a media specialist for Control, is to sustain this illusion.
The second type are people lucky enough to be in your position. These are the job creators, the difference makers, the managers, the overseers, and the creatives. If the rest are worker bees, you are the architects of their hives and their lives. Be proud of yourself, for few are chosen. Unlike the workers, you cannot blindly follow orders – you must understand the grand design in order to weave your patterns beautifully. That is why I bother to send these dispatches.
And of course there is a third caste – the decision makers. For over a century society has been slowly bending to our will, precessing over generations into a docile creature that is bound to us as ethereally as religion shackles a questioning mind.
This is the modern religion. We ask for no sacrifice. We have no heathens flailing themselves before idols, no brimstone, no shiny pretty things to adore. Our one law is the first law of motion – an object at rest must remain at rest – and our one sacrament is complacency. We imprint upon the tabla rasa of the mind a belief that every question has already been asked and every answer adorned in all its glory. History is complete. Shut up and enjoy everything.
We need this generation to believe that they were born too late to dream of radical breakthroughs or reshaping economic reality. It is so much more efficient to undermine a dream soon after birth than to besiege a conscience during adolesence. We want them to accept what they see and help them with planning victory parties, not planting trees.
Now you’re wondering, what justifies the decision-makers right to decide for everyone else?
Were we elected?
Did we officially earn the “consent of the governed?”
Our results justify our actions. We provide the majority in America with such an extreme level of comfort, luxury far beyond that of most of the world’s people, that their complacency is our endorsement. If they weren’t so fat, dumb, lazy, and happy minding their own business, we wouldn’t be able to keep their government on track with our Master Plan. When they are done shouting, their loudest message is that they want stability and prosperity, and we provide them both.
Word comes that you are very ambitious. This is admirable, in moderation. Though you might aspire to sit in my chair – don’t actually think for a moment that it will happen. Remember your station and be thankful you are a creative and not a peon. There is never a “spare seat” in Control. If you weren’t the one-in-a-million that gets to join the decider class, then it is “tough titties,” as the commoners say.
But what I can promise you is this – you will learn a great deal from these dispatches that will help you assume control of perhaps one or two of the real power brokering agencies on our planet. And that will give you clout, power, fame, and prestige over a great many people which will yield boundless comfort of a purity most people will never realize. But it will not give you actual control.
#2# On advertising
Your vocation is noble. Influence trumps all other tactics we have for herding the world’s billions along the narrow path we have devised. Advertisements are the carrier wave for a stream of consciousness that awakens the masses and moves them to think, feel, and act as we intend. It takes great skill to craft the landscape of advertisements into a tapestry of suggestions, and ten thousand imprints to sculpt a healthy worldview.
A car ad no longer exists to sell a particular brand of car, but to reinforce the deeper belief that buying cars is a step up the mountain of prosperity. Toothpaste and body spray reinforce the belief that physical appearances and finding love matter more than freedom and ideas. For if every person is free to love and be beautiful, how can critics say that their freedom is constrained? “Who cares about ideas?” We want them to ask. Because only rejects and lone wolf outcasts cling to ideas after you offer them bubble gum redemption. You’ll never see our ads beatifying abstract beliefs over action – the path to prosperity is paved in purchases, primarily.
Without being facetious – I am placing our success in your hands. As a message crafter, you’ve earned our sacred trust. Since the dawn of time, people have looked to others to help them make “informed” decisions. We help them think for themselves. In the age of smarter evidence-based decisions, we are the caretakers of “evidence,” not because we control information (not yet, at least), but because we filter out noise and make the “best evidence” available to the free thinking majority, who are too busy to dig deeper and notice the underlying contradictions. (Note: I personally am convinced these “contradictions” are mere artifacts of imperfect knowledge, and that they will eventually be erased when better experiments are conducted. But I digress.)
To carry out our noble goal of ensuring prosperity for everyone that deserves it in a world with dwindling resources, it is imperative that we manage this shrinking pot of wealth delicately. Truth be told, the masses cannot ever notice that the pot is shrinking or panic will ensue. Under such chaos I’m not sure we will have it in our power to guide them through the crisis. Here, our Master Plan offers no solid advice. The whole path to prosperity would be in jeopardy. But never fear. Take solace in the fact that Control has mastered the art of financial obfuscation and “forecasting.” Ensuring that markets obsess over quarterly profits, while ignoring the long term resource trends (especially concerning oil reserves), simplifies your task immensely.
So much of the Master Plan for prosperity rides on the masses being distracted, misled, fearmongered, and confused about the future that I am going to offer you a few personal morsels of wisdom on how I might employ advertising, if I were you.
First, the easiest way to keep a person from grasping the urgency and panicking is to distract him or her. Why do you think we start from about the time they are old enough to comprehend? We’ve successfully remade education to be full of repetition (boredoom) and rich media (distraction) – so that there is no need to develop the power to focus on a single task and be in control of your whole mind’s faculties. Multitasking makes them inherently more susceptible to message injection.
In adolescence we focus them on group work and peer grading. These reinforce the idea that what others think of you matters. We get them to judge each other’s work, but they mostly internalize such feedback as a judgment about themselves through a simple trick of psychology. By the time they are adults, they can only imagine measuring their competence, work quality, and self-identity by how their superiors judge it, and not against some extrinsic standard, such as authenticity, beauty, or emotional potency.
By middle age, this hunger for distraction naturally causes their thinking to gravitate towards sports, games, sex, gambling, boozing, drugs, and uncreative loafing around. We’ve reinforced this by crafting a mainstream culture where people are told to live for now and given a myriad of options for self-entertainment. We create positions of faux power such as PTA committees, local citizen councils, reality TV voting, all of which keep their noses out of issues of real consequence.
(b) Categorization and Specialization
We have eliminated mathematical proofs and any teaching that crosses the lines between algebra, geomoetry, statistics, calculus, and chaos theory. All of these are really just manifestations of the same mathematics but to draw them up as a single source of understanding would obviously put the peons and the elites on a level playing field, and just make our job much more difficult. So education is about segregating the mysteries of the universe into distinct categories where their deep interrationships cannot provoke transcendental thinking, which would set them along a path that would ultimately threaten our status quo.
When distractions fail to occupy their minds, we misinform. People have generally figured out that the Internet has its share of quacky info sources. And so we must cater to the few that can tell good from bad science by creating think tanks that spew a careful digest of factually incorrect stuff on climate change and energy resources. Oil is a good example where “expert” contradictions and spurious reports about “proven” oil reserves have served to suppress worries about the future, questioning, and resistance to the Master Plan. So long as there is doubt about how much oil remains (and these projections are all overestimates), the price of oil remains low. If we can delay the crisis of peak oil, we have in fact averted the oil crisis for our lifetime. And who knows what solutions science may have in store by then?
Disinformation has also deflected the worse of the resource gap onto the rest of the world – the “Global South” in today’s political language of euphemisms. It is merely Malthusian that the most insignificant countires in Africa should lose in the global competition for oil in the 21st century. When it’s either Africa or us, we choose ourselves, obviously.
In your advertisements, you would be wise to emphasize the joys of entertainment. Appeal to the satisfaction of the life of leisure we provide, the thrill of seeing the story unfold, the glow of being recognized for accomplishing the work we admire, the confidence of mastering one specific skill or field, and when these fail, amplify the fear of questioning the unknown.
#3# On politics
Our political interventions are the dirtiest and most sensitive part of the Master Plan that Control has managed for over a century. It would be nobler if we were able to simply rely on the wisdom of the crowds to pick able-bodied minds to lead our nation, but alas that is seldom the case. Most of the time we must goad the people back onto the path, and cajole leaders where their mistakes would jeopardize our future.
You probably wish I’d spare you these details. This is the sort of disturbingly honest letter I would rather write out in long hand and then burn, but I must enunciate the system if we are to fine tune your political course corrections department. Here is political subsection of Control’s Master Plan:
First, control information during elections. The press covers the issues we frame, and thereby ignores any candidates that refuse to campaign within our chosen narrative, which favors those who think as we do.
Second, control the legislation. All bills pass through our scruitiny before they are finalized. Votes remain fair and public as God intended in the US Constitution, but we simply ensure that any dangerous legislation has a loophole that will allow us to continue our work unimpeded.
Third, employ fear tactics to reign in leaders. Organize special recall elections when leaders challenge our core principles. Remove them from office within weeks. This has a chilling effect on all career politicians. But this is rare because we can spend one percent of our profits to flood the election with enough cash to buy it outright.
Fourth, construct “safe districts.” Here, we want to ensure that a slight majority those in power think exactly as we do, but not so many that vocal minorities are unable to get into power and give “Voice” to the “oppressed.” The calculus of maintaining the illusion of pluralism is an absolute necessity for suppressing real opposition. When the oppressed can see their powerlessness, they are much harder to contain. And though the majority may disagree with us, we need only a third of the country to agree with us, so long as we carefully draw up districts that will maximize their representation as much as possible. Last I checked, we had 40 more safe seats than the other side, making it easy to maintain a majority.
A “worst case scenario” whereby we fail in all four strategies would look something like this:
A subversive group succeeds in hijacking an election and provides the masses with unbiased information, changing the narrative. The public elects leaders who have no interest in their own long-term political future, and force through legislation that we oppose. Then, by some miracle, these leaders survive a recall eletion and are doubly emboldened to defy our will, setting a precedent that inspires future candidates in a downward spiral. They might even switch us to a parliamentarian system, with proportional representation, giving our elite decision-making class no proportional advantage at all. And finally, they could reverse the gerrymandering process by allowing computers to draw up truly random districts and depoliticize the appeals courts. In this nightmare scenario, Control would then be relegated to the political backwaters, and limited to other tactics.
I’ve heard grumblings in your ranks about this idea of “voice.” And frankly, you don’t seem to understand how much it could undermine the Master Plan. In your work you may have encountered misinformed protestors that speak about Progress as a climb that the downtrodden classes do themslves instead of a benefit done to them by society. They may complain that the underclasses have no voice or spokesperson in the politic. Don’t be fooled by this idea of “Voice!” These progressives are trying to foment anger so that the masses will assert their will upon the elites. But their will always manifests as demands and theft, never through opportunity and open competition – because Liberals don’t believe in such mechanisms, even if they are the basis for how our Modern Age came to offer so much prosperity to so many.
#4# On the insanity of altruism
Let us not be coy about our purpose. You may have thought about your job as serving the Machine of Progress, but I am here to explain why your job is really to keep people out of their minds. I am being sincere. People always ask others to level with them, but rarely is such candor appreciated when it is forthcoming. I hope you can follow along.
People must be kept out of their minds all the time, because humans are, as a matter of nature, insane as a species. But it is a unique brand of insanity, brought on by the conflict between our genetic encoding which has optimized itself for producing progeny (prosperity as a species), and our cultural programming which is optimized for wealth generation (personal prosperity).
These two aims are in direct conflict. At one extreme promiscuous men will end up with AIDS and die, and women will end up toothless barefoot crack whores with five children. Another form is insanity is the dangerous obsession with love. These people start to love relationships over all else. The most dangerous ones latch on the whole world itself. That is the worst kind of affection – blind, blunt, universal, unconditional, selfless love – and we can’t allow it. Love without limits rips the fabric of society apart. Love must have focus and purpose or it is madness.
Tempering this insanity are your efforts at getting people to live the “seven vices” – greed, envy, pride, jealousy, avarice, lust, sloth, and wrath. You cannot truly love others if you do not love yourself – and so love of self starts by getting the people to name and identify the things they love, namely money, power, pride, influence, prestige, comfort. These are the building blocks of personal prosperity, and thus of a stable society. Taken together these “vices” are bliss, a complete circle of satisfaction, leisure, and comfort.
I don’t mean to pry, but what the hell are you goons doing over there in the Ad Council? Has your collective wit sloshed into a soupy puddle of incoherent metaphors? I am referring to your botched messaging on the upcoming Thanksgiving Advert Season.
Your promotions are a bogus formulaic, flat fizz of stupefying platitutes. If you haven’t read your personal guidelines recently, let me reiterate one fundamental point: Thanksgiving is the single most important economic and emotional lever in Control’s toolkit.
Each year, we must remind people what is most important in life. They look to us – through all of our social outlets from public messages, to staged “reality” streams, to spontaneous street demonstrations of prompted emotion – to remind them that life is about happiness and working towards the economic prosperity that makes happiness possible. Work is hard. Thoughout most of the year we only give them two weeks of vacation because our fragile system of labor and rewards cannot handle a liesurely workforce. But when Thanksgiving comes along, we want them to relish the merits of that hard work, together, by shopping for each other.
It is okay to promote Thanksgiving as part of a season of giving, but what you did last week twisted our time tested message in a particularly insiduous direction. You must always connect the giving with some form of reciprocation, for without receiving something in return, our careless citizens start to slip into a downward spiral of unreciprocated behavior. Pretty soon – and luckily this is a very rare occurrence – people start regularly giving with no expectation of reward. People need to associate giving with getting a tax benefit, or giving with the gaining applause and envy from peers, or giving with feeling good about giving, and thus their own vanity. Let us review your pitiful display of undisciplined public messaging:
“This holiday season,”
Okay, let me just stop right there. The war on Christmas is one of our stronger campaigns, and you just gave a nod to the counterveiling current by not talking about Christmas. Without Christmas, you cannot exclude some groups while making other groups feel guilty for hogging the season. But I digress.
“This holiday season,
When there are so many families wrestling with loved ones fighting in distant lands.”
Okay okay, this is just shit. First, we never say fight without following it with an object of what we’re fighting for. You can fight for freedom, and you can fight for our way of life, but you can never just fight. That vagary concocts imagery of soldiers with guns actually engaging in combat – and as we all know – the more imagination we cede in our battle of ideals, the more this vacuum gets filled with violent imagary and hyperbole when people think about our measured use of force to protect ourselves.
And to make matters worse, you juxtraposed this raw unqualified image of violence with an image of families torn apart by such gun-centered conflict? This is inane incomprehensible emotional drivel. I am running out of words to describe the depths of buffoonery this concocts in my mind. Do you see how dangerous open ideas can be when applied to mental scaffolding message dynamics?
As much as it pains me, let’s progress.
“…ones fighting in distant lands.
We ask you to honor that memory by taking a trip to the [insert local mall reference] where you can enjoy the freedoms that we are working to spread to other besieged lands. This thanksgiving, drop your worries and pick up gifts for everyone in your life.”
If I could transcribe the sounds of retching here, I would. But since this is an instructional cable, let me break down your failures sequentially. That phrase – “honor that memory” – points the emotional cursor in the exact wrong direction. Have you been to a wake at the local funeral home lately, or were you just stoned at the time? You never use a phrase that is so highly cross-indexed in our emotional phrases registry with memories of the dead. Death is an inevitable facet of our culture (for the moment) but we are doing our best to expunge references to it. Did your supervisors even bother to screen this propagandistic refuse? Oh, that’s right, I sacked them for your last fail-o-rama. Why can’t we find a few competent agents within the ad council?
Moreover, I have a bone to pick with ‘pick up gifts for everyone’ – it is too vague. Too close to that anathema idea of agape. Giving must be evocative, a one-to-one endeavor, lest the connection with reciprocation be broken.
I am certain, given the severity of your shortcomings, that you will digest this communiqué with great trepidation and thoughtfulness, so that I shant need to pay a personal visit. Last time I did, heads did roll.
– Slitherip on behalf of Control.
One of my colleagues suggested that I inject a little sugar to the fire spice that permeates my former explanation. So let me provide you with a little historical perspective on how to flip a holiday through careful messaging.
Going way back to the turn of the twentieth century – Wilson was president. America was still fiercely isolationist, and merely a part time proponent of World War I. The war was taking too long and families were not fully distracted from the conflict. Back then people only read the news once a day, and then they were given 23 hours to mull over that news. We’ve learned from out mistakes. The advent of 24 hour cable TV enabled 24 hour entertainment. We could finally remind people of the correct interpretation of history before they had a chance to misunderstand it by themselves. But back in 1916, mothers – women with no jobs and no right to vote, mind you – mobilized and marched for peace. They started doing it twice a year – first around May in which was for a short time called a Mother’s Day for Peace, and later on the anniversary of the end of world war I – again mothers marched to end war.
In the 1930s, Roosevelt officially recognized these anti-social movements as national holidays. It was a dark time for Control, but by the 1960s we’d found a way to turn the tide.
The Mothers’ Day for Peace was easy. By shortening the title to just Mothers’ Day, and then encouraging sons to give flowers to their mothers and tell them how much they loved them, we managed to subvert it. When women got the right to vote in the 1940s, we put them to work and they stopped marching in protest, for the most part.
The second holiday – Armistice Day – was a head scratcher. But like most of our greatest triumphs, the best approach is to subvert an idea with it’s exact opposite. So we started branding it as Veteran’s Day. Nobody noticed much at first. Yes, people were marching to commemorate the end of WWI, but after a generation, people were just marching, and eventually only soldiers were marching. This was a brilliant move because marching with pomp and circumstance is anathema to the Peaceniks’ purpose. Now they only make speeches about the importance of the military, and by proxy – about government, authority, discipline, and the virtues of Control.
Even the word “veteran” was exactly in point. No soldier can become a veteran without war, so this revised holiday was in a sense propagating the very thing that women were once marching to end.
The past of our rebranding trifecta – July 4th – was once called Independence Day. It was the easiest holiday to rebrand from being about the ideals of democracy to being about revolution and armed resistance to foreign powers, which is at the heart of Control’s Master Plan.
I hope these insights give you a bit of rope to pull yourselves out of this hole you’ve created, or something with which to hang yourself. Either way, your incompetence will be remedied.
I apologize for my last remark. My fellow decision-makers did not find it to be in line with the ‘sugary’ tone I was supposed to reflect. (But you’ve been warned, fools!)
#6# On Religion
How preposterous is it that for centuries, men of God have made a war on these “seven vices?” Don’t deceive yourselves into believing that Christians act out of concern for others. They are every bit as self-serving as the rest of the lot. They just had a head start in understanding the power of propaganda. Nothing cuts through peoples’ innate sense of resistance than a religious zealous demanding that you obey without thinking.
In my reearch on human behavior and schools of thought, I’ve found there exists a contiuum ranging from coplete selfishness to complete self-destruction:
Self-sacrifice – altrusim – reciprocation – freeloading – selfishness – exploitation
Obviously, our built-in sense of self-preservation pushes people away from the self-denial end of this spectrum. Likewise, individuals avoid the exploitation end out of fear of retribution. But when they can exploit with impunity, history has shown that most humans will. Within Control, we should encourage more exploitation so long as it is sactioned by us. This keeps the masses divided and suspicious, and makes them much easier to manage.
We should always quash altruistic tendencies. When we cannot, we should deny it even exists. Self-sacrifice, should it ever become conceivable among ordinary folks, would really spell the destruction of path that the Master Plan has set forth.
#7# On religious movements
I hesitate to bother even sending this communiqué but it has come to my attention that your office has done a pathetic job discrediting this new religious movement. We cannot allow even a cult to swell in numbers because the metaphysical focus of such groups raises a collective consciousness among the masses.
We are a one religion society. Capitalist fervor is our raison d’être. You seem to need some more potent propaganda to counter this religion. Here are a few:
Attempts to create a classless, moneyless society always fail. Secular attempts more so, because the totality of the cult leader’s promises can be refuted by evidence. Take, for example, predictions made in the 1970s that mineral resources would run out in the 1990s. These pundits were made into fools, just as those of the 1990s who predicted that global oil would peak in 2016. Our world still runs on oil today. More problematic are leaders whose visions extend to the supernatural. One part always lies beyond the realm of the empirical, clinging to hope. To some extent all the world’s major religions have a supernatural element that makes their claims empirically un-disprovable. 70% of practicing christians believe in miracles. Catholics believe that Christ is transfigured into bread wafers every Sunday. Hindus believe in reincarnation – which is harder to disprove but tenants of hindu cults relating to past-life-memories are empirically falsifiable. Thus it is useful when we want to establish Money as our religion to demonstrate that Money promises prosperity to those who work for it, whereas other religions promise prosperity through such indirect mechanisms as Karma or Grace. We cannot have a planet of thinking people running amok with nothing more than a vague notion that doing good for others will some day come back to them – it creates mass irrational behavior that leads to chaos, and ultimately society’s demise.
Religious people stockpile “cultural capital” – all the prayers uttered, versus memorized, and days spent sitting in the pews in the view of their peers. We cannot easily upend this intertia, so instead we incoporate it into our “behavior change” strategy. “Our” people have been climbing into their pulpits and television programs and preaching that salvation comes through a capitalism and personal prosperity for decades now. We’ve eliminated any reference to the poor, the meek, and the sick all without needing to censor a single bible – since people don’t read books. Only 24% can cite any of the Beatitudes. That’s progress. Unfortunately, this new cult and the financial crisis have been reversing this trend. You need to do something about it.
You disgust me. But to be fair, most people disgust me. So maybe you don’t deserve any special recognition for your inadequacies.
There was a time when egalitarianism was the way of the future. Our forefathers wrote: “We believe that all men are created equal” and yada yada… but it was propaganda, not sound science. And we shouldn’t believe it, though some within Control are still misguided and confused.
Were we created equal through evolution?
Evolution – the survival of the fittest – says precisely the opposite. We are not clones. Even “identical twins” is a misnomer, as DNA is expressed to different degrees in each twin, yielding actual differences in phenotype.
What we need for progress is a common sense approach. I call it Regalitarianism – the idea that in an unequal world, there are those of us who rise to the top and deserve our just rewards. A meritocracy yields over time an aristocracy. Eventually it provides a regal class of better leader and worker than the rest. All that remains is to recognize their unique superiority and give them the lion’s share of power, influence, and wealth. Prosperity IS a team sport – and you want to be the star of the winning team. Regalitarianism recognizes that the past was a competition, that the cream rose to the top, and thus their control of the power is justified on the basis of their natural superiority.
In contrast, egalitarian – the idea that society ought to give everyone an equal opportunity – is based on a myth. Evolution does not create us as equals. I liken our tenacity in clinging to this myth to salmon swimming against the current, ignoring the torrents of water that flow against them. This new religious cult has somehow confused egalitarianism with a renewed devotion to God and to each other.
These are the waning days for deities. Since the dawn of time, God has been been a stand in for the set of all things that cannot be explained within the set of all things, mathematically speaking. With our understanding of evolution and the rest of knowledge about the universe, what need have we for God anymore? Man concocted gods long ago to fill the voids in his knowledge, and ever since, Knowledge has grown while God has shrunk. These days God serves more as a convenient banner on which to hang a calendar of celebrations than as any spiritual master.
As a point of internal policy, Control should support the major religions because they provide a convenient framework for carrying out the Master Plan for our future, sustained prosperity, but shun and discredit any new cults or religious movements that conflate submission to God with a sense of egalitarianism.
My dear Educators,
As you convene this week as the board of trustees at this prestigious institution, I’d like to remind you why we ensured your prepetual appointment here in the first place. As much as you blowhards love to tout your accolates and hobnob with the politicians that toss a few cookies to the dogs of education, you should remain humble because your whole institution is not the end all and be all of education, but merely another cog in a great machine serving the kind of society we are all working to create.
As many of you hardly may know of it, let me briefly remind you what the great society will be one day with your contined placation involvement:
We are the the few, the elites, the moneyd-class that have ruled over the world for many generatios. I’m not at liberty to say how many of us there are and where each of us reigns, but let us just leave it at this: we are vast, we are all powerful and we have been in control for generations.
When you buy and sell stocks, we take your money. When you apply for a loan, we’re there to supervise. When you try to run for office, we count the votes. When you fill up your tank with gas, we’re inside the pipelines. And when you enroll your child in school, we’re choosing the courses that child will be offered. We set the agenda and control the flow of money and power in the world. And that is where you come in.
As most schools are too insignificant to matter much to us, we hardly bother to keep them “in the loop” so-to-speak. But yours is a storied and ancient bastion of liberalism. Your endowment accrues more wealth each year than the 100 poorest countries combined. Your wealth is stable and ever blossoming precisely because we want you to succeed. We facilitate the growth of such wealth, and you in turn have stabilized one aspect of our Master Plan for generations. So don’t think of us as your overlords, more of as your symbiotes.
This year we have some few requests to spicen the stew of academia. You’ll notice that ther are over 200 qualified applicants for every opening in higher education now. That was a necessary precondition – as it gives us maximum flexibility to keep out the flood of liberal firebrands and activist researchers, awhile retaining those liberal voices who have by their livelong struggle in irrelevance, maintain every pretense of being a liberal voice without any of the actual threats of being effective at inspiring others to do anything about problems in society. They are a stabiliziing force for the master plan, as we cannot have ytoung people working in chaotic fashion – most will undermine our plans.
When you advertise and evaluate new faculty candidates, your first criteria should be those whom have stayed steadfast in their fields. Interacting professors are apt to stuibmle onto interesting things in other fields and such cross pollenation has caused trouble for us in the past. We want those who have stayed squarely in aademia. Second… as those who have done a fair share of field work and public service tend to be restless in their academic department cages.
And third, we want professors that have no apparent interest in the lives of their students, no excitement about teaching and passing on konwledge, but purely see classrooms as a necessary means to ensuring job security for their own research programs. Nothing could be less effective as a combination of time and effort; the average number of times an acaemic paper is cited is close to zero, and the average paper gets resubmitted for peer-review five times. That amount of redundancy is the perfect means to placate this army of otherwise intelligent, capable people.
In return, we will ensure that your endowment continues to grow year after year. You have nothing to worry about financially.
#10# Philanthropic Foundations
Dear friends and board of these select prestigious philanthropic foundations,
Greetings. Let me introduce myself by way of our connections and mutual interests. I represent a group of financial institutions that manage your endowments and portfolios. My forefathers managed the private wealth of the very founders of your institutions, so our history precedes us. For many years I have sought to bring together like minded institutions for the common good. It is about our shared future that I write to you about now.
Recent events in the financial market have forced our hand, and we stand at a precipice between two futures; one guided by a rational plan for progress, and the other – a slow decline into the murky land of individualism.
By nature of your endowments, you have a powerful influence over others who are confused and uncertain about how to position themselves. They say that money has gravity, that bad money will often follow good money and accumulate under the machinations of capitalism. It is this engine of growth that spins off residual benefits for all the strata of society with each turn of the wheel, and I am writing to invite you to join a ground swell of like-minded people in making this wheel crank through the crisis.
Your founders were captains of industry who set a great example of giving back to the people, after securing a future legacy for their families and their companies. I trace this tradition back to our Christian roots, where the churches encouraged their congregations to tithe, to give ten percent of their income each year after ensuring for their own needs. You too have a role to play, if you each would commit a portion of your endowment to a market stabilization fund that we are putting together. Time is running out. We cannot wait for a political solution to an impending economic collapse. It is a strong word, but if you could see the evidence that I have on my desk, you would use an even stronger word.
Your have sway over a broad swath of activists, practitioners, and community projects. You have the power to change the flavor of activism and the direction of protests. You can guide others back towards stability.
#11# On the illusion of choice in markets
I know that it has been a long time since I wrote to you, and that is a compliment. You’ve done such a good job over the years that I hardly find reason to spare my pen on what you could do better. After all, the financial markets have churned out favorable returns to our close knit group of decision maker and job creators year after year. It’s as close to being a guarantee as one can make it.
But I do see you drifting from the program as of late, I am sorry to say. The problem area is around your recent financial innovations that emphasize more individual choice and decision making in personal finance. Perhaps your transgressions will become apparent if I reiterate the plan and how your financial innovation department fits into the larger picture.
In the era of modern financial markets we have always enjoyed unparalleled freedom – it is the freedom to define the rules under which the masses can invest their money that have ensured so much of it remains tied to our needs. In the 19th century we were too cautious, but even then our bank loans were no fairer than roulette tables, in that the odds were always stacked in our favor. We colluded to set the interest rates that others pay us back as high as we could maintain them without risking too many defaulters, while offering these same simple folk the lowest possible interest on their savings that they essentially loaned us. The spread usually was between 7 and 12 percent, meaning the bare minimum of 7 percent matched the maximum profit margin that the Catholic church (in their heavy handed market controlling mindset) deemed fair for believers to charge. So for a century banks and other corporate things sought to take in more than the church would have allowed an individual in every case, ensuring that these things became permanently more powerful than any man.
Fast forward a century and we began to become more creative and adventurous, leaving behind the slow dreary concepts of loans in favor of stocks and then derivatives of stocks. For what is a stock other than a loan in disguise. We ask people to give our corporate beings their money and don’t even have to pay it back. At first the stock share holders balked so we offered 1 or 2 percent back each year as a dividend, but eventually even this was not needed. All we needed to do was get our shareholders to stop thinking about buying a stock as something similar to offering us a loan. We published the prices instead and focused all of our newspapers’ attention on the price of the stock alone. After all, if you buy at a low price and sell at a higher price, you could make, say 30 percent return in just a few years time. Never mind that our banks were making 300 percent returns over 15 to 20 years averaging out to a much higher return per annum than anyone could hope to make selling stock on any reputable business.
Then the most aggressive traders demanded riskier investments, and we were happy to oblige with derivatives. No longer did you need to loan the company money in the form of stock shares; instead you could just place a bet on the future of that stock price. It was legalized gambling and we took many peoples’ good money in the same fashion that suckers line up in casinos to fork over cash for bets with poor odds.
But in all of these examples, the illusion of choice remains a central feature – which is why they have stood the test of time and remain crucial money makers for our kind. With loans we set the amount, the interest rate, the collateral, and the rate of return and the only choice is whether the chump accepts our terms or goes to another bank, where they may tweak the numbers but ultimately offer them nearly the same deal. The illusion of choice is that while the specific terms may vary, the basic profit margin is similar everywhere – always stacked in our favor. Anyone who manages to slither out from under these terms probably is paying a huge principal amount up front in cash, which almost always means they have some ill gotten gains. This means we can always use the law to punish them to trying to cheat out system.
Mutual funds were a logical extension of that power to provide choice without giving up actual power to the little guy. Mutual funds have many names but if you drill down to their core assets, you’ll find they all have a little bit of the same companies inside them – the powerful oil and financial companies that these very same people fear are taking over the world. It is a testament to our success that you won’t find a mutual fund to invest in that lacks at least one of the companies that is an asset of Control. And if you do, that fund has probably been losing money.
This brings me to your latest offerings. While we depend on the wealth of the masses going directly into their retirement funds and propping up OUR enterprises, some of your related ideas for 401k are giving people too much flexibility. Once you get them thinking about retirement too much, they may start to investigate what they are buying, exactly. This is a slippery slope. Each month about 60% of the market capitalization comes from people blindly investing in funds through retirement plans. But if you give them thousands of options (like the healthcare exchanges have been doing – to paralyze shoppers with too much choice) they will eventually notice that all are bits and pieces of the same companies. Then they might ask why are no real choices offered? That could bring our whole scheme crashing down.
The illusion of choice needs to have rock solid limits on what people can actually buy into, lest our financial system becomes leaky to the little guy.
We need to find a way to ensure that these outside companies never seriously get a foothold in the retirement market. Perhaps a little fearmongering about the dangers of investing in small companies or new companies is in order? Perhaps you should encourage more computerized transactions.
Our entire plan depends on stability in markets.
#12# The Crisis (The first actual Control narrative in the book)
High and mighty, the view of the city from up top the skyscrapper inspired bold action. But today Slitherip, as he paced along the expansive window of the boardroom, refused to succumb to the temptress of panoramic views. He had a revolution to thwart for everyone’s good.
How had it come to this? Decades of planning and cooperation out the window, as he observed streams of people crossing busy streets like ants below. These unforeseen events, the acts of just a few rogue traders, would bring the spires of this world crashing down.
Surely, the perpetrators would be exposed and punished, and the market would find a way to bring about the collapse of this hitherto insignificant Dubai investment fund (DREI), but justice was not his concern. It was the loss of control of a major lever he relied upon for getting the masses to remain on the narrow tract of progress. Under all scenarios, DREI would be able to transfer home ownership to the millions of poor people who inhabited them, and block the owners – the banks – from reclaiming them. This would send the economic growth cycle into free fall.
Even worse, Slitherip feared the poor would get a taste of unearned gifts and demand everything, sucking the system dry until so little of the wealth remained in the hands of investors and job creators that growth would be impossible and grind to a halt – the end of capitalism.
The virtuous cycle and its mirror image were suddenly so clear: Virtuous prosperity came from borrowing from the rich, paying it back, and growing the economy; The antivirtue cycle was borrowing, defaulting, and being forgiven. It would only yield contraction, and then ruin.
There were seventeen banks, regulatory agencies, and investment firms in the room by the time they started. Slitherip stared into the eyes of each member round the table, and introduced himself.
“Only a few of you know me, but I am the reason that you have all quietly been enjoying the good life all these years.”
He paused, took a sip of water, and waited for his audience to react. He’d done this sort of thing before many times, and he loved to see how each person reacted. It revealed so much about what would be their achilles heels, if they needed to be bought.
“Still wondering, I see. Where have I seen this guy before, you must be wondering. Was it that night that I got hazy drunk? Or maybe he was the silent face in the back of the room at that conference.
I assure you none of these apply. I am the face behind those anonymous tips that have gotten each of you rich in your respective industries. You got your break when it served our collective aims to invest in your future with our knowledge and control. And today it serves all of us to work together more explicitly.”
The members looked around the room at each other. Slitherip smiled and soaked in the slow recognition, the casual loss of complacency on faces as each one realized that others would soon know that the secret of their success was not a well-kept secret. Slitherip made a mental note that most faces betrayed the hidden personal doubts of their wearers, all except for one of the youngest and brightest prospects at the far end – a market manipulation consultant named Jake Hanchar he’d recruited a few years back. Jake was a cool cat. Either he misunderstood or his denial ran so deep as to be pathological.
“You have had your little shock at the revelation that not all of your successes are yours alone to claim credit for. And for those of you who are market traders, I am sure that this is a huge blow to your ego. Some of you did not even realize why mysterious trades were being placed with your account, and were perfectly willing to be complicit in the acts so long as the profits kept coming in. You believed you could simply deny knowledge of the acts if they came to light in some future SEC or federal investigation. Well I am here to put to rest any such fears for the lot of you, as well as remind you that should you not cooperate we have all the power we need to end any one of your careers. Mr. Szlerichik, can you please approach?”
Out of the shadows from the service entrace to the long meeting hall entered a stony faced man in a dark suit.
“I’m with the SEC, and a close partner with Slitherip here.” He flashed an id briefly and continued. “If need be, we are prepared to indict any one of you for securities fraud and a whole host of other charges. But of course none of us wish any of this upon you. We’d rather see your cooperation and continued prosperity.”
“Thank you Mtr. Szlerichik. Now, what is it that our cartel – for lack of a better word – aims to do? We intend to reverse this sudden economic crisis with your collective leverage. Your positions represent a good fraction if not an outright majority of all the wealth on the planet.”
A thin asian executive with careful mannerisms raised his hand to interrupt. “Why aren’t the CEOs here?”
“Because, Mr. Watanabe, the CEOs must get board approval. You are the best in the league of extraordinary rogue traders.” Slitherip paused to style his grin for the rest in a way that met the usual criteria with none of the warmth or authenticity.
“Now. Any more questions?”
Now what we’ve designed is a way to leverage nearly a trillion dollars of all of our assets to stabilize the housing mortgage futures market, which is hemoraging value as we speak. Each of you will be instructed to make a series of trades this week that will instill confidence in the market, and each of you will be taking identical losses.”
“How can that be guaranteed?”
“How?” Slitherip asked, incredulous. “That’s a stupid question. Because we control the outcomes. That’s how. What you seem to forget in your fervor to make as much money for yourselves as you can is that the price of anything is only what someone is willing to pay for it. And up until this week, there was a collective 56 trillion dollars in assets worldwide. This Dubai firm has just found a trick that cancels debt while erasing trillions in value from that total. If this were to continue, and firms were suddenly unloading assets in fire sale mode we could lose half the value of the global market.”
“But that will never happen, because I am going to instruct each of you on exactly how greedy you will get and when, so that we ensure that greed wins over the givebacks that are eating away at our market.”
The SEC man added, “There will be no jubilee.”
“How much? And will this appear on our balance sheets?” One of the traders from Morgan Stanley asked.
“If by that, you mean, is your end of year bonus going to be affected? Yes. But you’ve all done well over the years. You can handle it. And don’t even dream of passing it off on a junior trader in your offices. We need your name and your reputation on the trades to give the position credibility.”
A skeptical trader from BoA barked at him. “You didn’t say how much.”
“Oh, just 34 million. From each of you.”
A round of murmurs and whispers spread through the room at this number.
“A small price to pay to the gods of capitalism I think.”
… [story continues] …