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  • Hubert Marlin

Elitism and Political Power


Humans being tend to want better and in this quest for the better, some believe that they are the best asset to lead the human society, towards the banks of benevolence and abundance for all. An illusory island where the society would finally find, thanks to the influence of exceptional individuals, the realization of its aspirations. Some people accept as true, that beyond the populace they have an extraordinary skill, which would allow them to carry out the heavy burden of making the happiness of humanity. An ideal that is unfortunately lost between the ego of those who say they serve society, by constituting themselves into a caste of elected, and the enslavement of the masses to a concept that never does them justice.

Traditionally, elitism is defined as the belief or attitude that individuals who form an elite, a distinguished group of people with a certain ancestry, intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, special skills or experience, are more likely to be constructive for society as a whole. To achieve this feat, they deserve influence or authority towards others. In the United States, the term elitism often refers to the concentration of power in the northeastern corridor and on the west coast, where the atypical American elite resides - journalists, lawyers, doctors, senior officials, businessmen, university professors, entrepreneurs and financial advisers. However, in the era of all-out technology, the technological oligarchy, which comes from both the Ivy league colleges and personal engineering, completes the caste of the out-of-the-ordinary beings, who should guide American society and, by extension, the rest of the world, towards the choices that guarantee its happiness. A happiness, alas that is often decreed on the basis of visions, said global, that do not always respond to the real aspirations of peoples. In general, the elite tries to pass the pill by making the plebs believe that it would not be smart enough to understand, what would really make it happy. So, the elite makes a point of telling it, which would be good for it. However, this dictate is very far from altruism. While the same elite holds the levers of liberal economy and profit, the orientation of society towards a lifestyle which it defines as good for the masses, is only a manipulation to consumerism, which enrich it. So, for the last 30 years, as the middle class has collapsed in Western countries, the political and economic elite has never made so much profit in the history of humanity, practically doubling its profits every ten years.

One of the most perverse effects of elitism is its anti-egalitarian character in the Third World regions, where for decades the colonial powers have struggled to create an elite that would continue its work of spoliation and oppression. In a continent like Africa, the colonial state set up a policy of indigenous elite factories, in French West Africa. These elites had to be the relays of policies decided in France, and loyal to the French population, not to the African population they came from. In 1892, Jules Ferry produced a report predicting that the education of the natives would serve France, as well as the colonized. Complementary to the work of spreading influence, it was considered the most effective way to establish the territorial domination of France, and penetrate the conquered souls.

This educational mission had a strong impact on the destinies of future independent African countries; for many of their leaders of independence came from colonial schools, where their way of thinking had been shaped by the ideal of enslavement. Many, for example, would even protest against separatist movements judging that an African people living under the laws of apartheid, like the indigenous code that had nothing to envy to American segregationist laws, with curfews in black districts and the prohibition to natives to frequent certain places reserved for the whites under the penalty of public spankings, could still wait before accessing inalienable rights such as the freedom to circulate in their own country.

One of the most important missions of education in French West Africa, was to convey the high opinion that French colonists had of French civilization. The colonial school served as an instrument of propaganda to convince native students of the superiority of this French civilization. Georges Hardy, normalien ( schooled at Ecole Normale) in literature and general inspector of education in French West Africa from 1912 to 1919, articulates the civilizing mission of France in his book Une Conquete Morale : L’Enseignement en AOF (A Moral Conquest: Teaching in FWA (1912).

"To transform the primitive peoples of our colonies, to render them as devoted as possible to our cause, and useful to our enterprises, we have at our disposal only a very limited number of means, and the surest means, is to take the native from childhood, [...], to open schools where his mind is formed to our intentions". Also, over 50 years after independence, the African continent remains dependent on the West because the elites who had to break with the servility of the period of slavery and colonization have been trained to defend a predatory system that will have made them half-gods in the tropics and servile jesters of the predatory West.

In view of what precedes as long as the political class in Africa will remain formatted to these ideals, any attempt to get out of the rut of endemic underdevelopment that makes the fortune of the West, remains a mere sight of the mind, because the elite formatted to the ideal of enslavement of the continent holds the levers of political power in the tropics. The pseudo-democratization of the 90s, as well as the independence gained 30 years before, have only helped to solidify a system, where the only individuals often judged capable of leading these countries come from the same molds, which, like ENAM, the National school of administration and magistrates of a country like Cameroon, have simply tropicalized. It’s a sort of decentralization of the mother schools of the French metropolis like the ENA (national school of administration). As long as sub Saharan Africa has not created academies worthy of the name, where elites are taught to defeat Western supremacy and self-determination, efforts to change the game will remain illusory.

In France the elite is generally recruited within the elitist institutions, the most famous of which is the ENA, which since 1945 has been the nest of the French elite. The "necessity" of such a school finds its origin in the Vichy Regime, which during the Nazi occupation inaugurated the takeover of power by the formalized technocracy. The Liberation of 1945 kept this "Nazi blessing" with the creation of the ENA. The influence of this school in the management of France, will give rise to the neologism, enarchy, which designates the absolute influence of the elites from this school on the state apparatus at all levels. Benefiting from a most effective network, the members of the Enarchy confiscate since the post-war, power of decisions at all levels. And critics against this gargantuan order are only logical.

Sectarianism favors the oligarchic endogamy of the French elites by co-opting former students in the public, parastatal, and private spheres. The connivance capitalism, with its corollary that is the abuse of social goods is the favorite sport of this elite who as in the Chinese Mandarin system, members of the elite (the "literati") spend more time looking for means to increase their influence and to fight each other only to forbid freedom and social justice to perpetuate themselves in the country.

In the United States, a country that originates from agriculture and slavery, access to higher education has always been a determining factor in the categorization of the populace. Knowledge, helps to distinguish by adding a surplus value, or a certain class, to individuals. Technological knowledge has created the most recent elite formed by the tech oligarchy, which developed in the age of computerization of the 1970s, and the Internet in the 90s. The biggest fortunes are recruited now in the cyber technology industry from Microsoft to Amazon, through Facebook or Google. The tech oligarchy is unique, since it is composed of the power of science and money. However, sociologists distinguish two large groups of elites in the United States, as in all the countries of the northern hemisphere. The state elite that forms the political class and the economic elite that is made up of finance and different industries magnates. William Domhoff, in Who Rules America? demonstrates that both classes enjoy a homogeneity that is cemented by an identical education, but also by a common taste for property. The allegory of have and have not, is thus justified. The similarity of social origins, their mode of recruitment and their privileged relationships, which is often surrounded by a cloud of secrecy with the influence of secret societies from academic institutions, only adds to the sense of complicity that exists between these two major components of Western elite. A complicity which is seen by the layman rightly or wrongly, as a conspiracy against the needy masses, uneducated and often penniless. The crisis in the relations between the people and the elites, thus originates not only in the class struggle resulting from differences, for every man knows that even the chance of birth, always allows some to have some advantages compared to others, but especially to the lack of confidence, and the feeling of conspiracy of the privileged against the plebs, which it would exploit shamelessly to maintain its privileges. Also, what in the beginning is a difference, becomes in the end, an inequality that must be fought, by the means of expression of desires of the population of the country, like the vote.

However, the political field despite the slogans remains very little open to those who do not belong to the elite, because the ways of accession to the management of the affairs of the city, favors only a certain category of individuals, in the Western democracies, that it becomes fairer to call capitalist democracy. As in capitalist ideology, the seat, like the product of consumption, generally returns only to the highest bidder. And to make an offer you have to be wealthy.

However, it should be noted that what is to be offered, generally does not concern the effective response to the grievances of the people; but the influx of means to gain power. In the West Electoral processes cannot work without funding. Also, where money plays a determining role, it translates economic inequalities into political inequalities, and undermines the principle of "one person, one vote". One can thus be a valid candidate, only if one has substantial means.

The 2002 UNDP Human Development Report estimates that in the United States presidential candidates spent $ 92 million in 1980, then $ 211 million in 1988 and $ 343 million in 2000. If including political party spending, the total cost exceeded $ 1 billion in 2000. A study of the 1970s election campaigns showed that candidates running against outgoing Congressmen earned one percentage point of votes for every additional $ 10,000 spent. The report states that such spending destroys equal opportunities, because it is virtually impossible for a candidate with limited financial resources to enter the race. They also increase the dependence of politicians on certain sources of funding. The democratic system thus becomes vulnerable to the adverse influence of special interest groups, especially the business community.

Decision-making mechanisms in the northern hemisphere and third world countries allow the political and economic elites to confiscate power. Having official means of violence, entrusted to them by a system they control, they have a tendency to abuse them in order to muzzle any dissension to the established order. Dissent that can only come from the part of the state that feels deprived by the management of public affairs, namely the people. These dissatisfactions of the people, are generally used by the militant political elite in the opposition, which seeks to recover the power against the ruling class. It happens that the elite extends or regenerates, outside political families or oligarchy. In case of revolt of the masses the leaders of the refractory movements are often co-opted into the circle of the elite. A cooptation that in the long term often corrupts these leaders, because lonely they rarely resist the temptation of bourgeoisie.

Hubert Marlin

Journalist


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