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Friday, January 30, 2015

Why the Myths are Bad

Two articles about Honduras were in my news feed. One was about the horrific consequences of Neo-Liberalism (see neoliberalism-versus-economic-policy]. The other was about the wonderful prospects of privatizing Honduran Cities -- which is a neo-liberal myth! The two articles illustrate the evil that is done by authoritarian privateers using neo-colonialist methods, neoliberalism myths and corrupt power to advance private separate wealth and power over the general welfare of their own countries.

The Article also illustrate why it is so hard to the avatars of neoliberalism. Neo-liberalism (called Conservatism in the USA) is hard to fight because the myths around it are "social dominance" enhancing myths, they make it easier for the ambitious "social climbers" to create and climb hierarchies of wealth and power -- and to seize niches in those hierarchies. I'm going to use Honduras as the example for today. But the exact same narrative occurs when talking to authoritarian followers from Russia, other Eastern-European countries and where-ever there is a constant churn between anarchism, oligarchy and dictatorship. It also is occurring under the auspices of International Banking and the IMF with pirates who don't wear Eye Patches but tend to prefer Armani Power Suits instead.

Understanding Social Dominance Theory

Now Oligarchy is based on human pecking orders where the persons at the top are like dominant roosters and the rest form a hierarchy of oppression:


This hierarchy leads those near the top of the pecking order to feel relatively safe and secure. Especially when there is a Dominant Alpha "fearless leader" at the top of the pecking order. This gives the pyramid the illusion of being stable as long as there is a current "King" or dictator at the top. The trouble starts when the Dictator (or King) dies and there is a succession fight for which Rooster will take his or her place as Dominant Alpha. During the fight the numbers of "pecked" Chickens (and ones served for dinner) increases.


Trouble is that the official narrative looks back at naked tyranny with nostalgia. The problem with dictatorships is that both dictatorship and internal strife are symptoms of oligarchy, and the oligarchs rewrite the history to blame their victims for the insurrections that their oppression causes. So the period when a dictator sat on the lid of economic and social progress seem like peaceful times compared to what happens when the lid blows off!


Now if you remember this chart:


The chart showed one square with "hierarchy enhancing" and "hierarchy attenuating" myths. The myth of the fearless leader, the "wise monarch" the better days when there was a King, is a myth that is a 'hierarchy enhancing" myth. Democracy, "equality", "equal rights" and "equal justice" are Hierarchy attenuating myths." But myths get established because causality and correlation are not always the same. But the "king" in his place seems (especially to dominant individuals or folks who see their place in the middle of a hierarchy) to be a preferable state to the anarchy of transition or what happens when folks don't accept the pecking order. Thus you get folks who look back to naked tyranny of past times as a good thing.


Two Radically different reactions to the Same information

Thus you get two radically different reactions to the same information.

The New Republic reports:

"Octavio Sanchez is one reason charter cities came to Honduras. Harvard-educated and dimpled, Sanchez is young but powerful. As the chief of staff to ex-President Pepe Lobo, he searched for privatized solutions to national problems: impunity, poverty and violence." ["]

Octavio Sanchez' solution to impunity, poverty and violence is what?

"Sanchez heard Romer’s argument—that cities are the best, cheapest way to offer people a good life, and therefore building new cities for the world is a smart approach to solving poverty—and he brought it home. Its Honduran and U.S. promoters compare the ZEDEs to Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Cayman Islands." [New Republic article]

That sounds good to me too. What's so bad about having healthy cities? But then you have the reasoning that Sanchez employs:

"times of peace came in periods where it seemed possible to make a profit at home—even if that profit came by powerful multinational corporations, like the United Fruit Company. He believes that business is the surest way to peace, and a better life for his countrymen. “It’s the way to a police force that works, quality education and health care, and to overcome impunity,” Sanchez says." ["]

Did he really say that? Say What? In the meanwhile Salon Reports:

"Since the 2009 coup against President José Manuel Zelaya and subsequent election of Porfirio “Pepe Lobo” Sosa and his favored successor Juan Orlando Hernandez, Honduras has embarked on a devastating neoliberal economic program that has contributed to its status as one of the poorest and most unequal countries in the region. The privatization of Honduran society has been accompanied by a militarization of public security efforts in the country, both of which have been fueled by a network of U.S.-supported policies and programs."[ ""]

But it doesn't work

So Sanchez's solution to the lawlessness and impunity problem is to give free reign to multinationalist companies (and give the police more impunity). Yet the policies he's putting into effect are actually increasing impunity (impunidad), inequality and oppression. What gives? Sanchez' project would:

"According to the ZEDE law, the project will work like this: An investor, either international or local, builds infrastructure—a port, a mine, or a textile factory, for instance. The territory in which they invest becomes an autonomous zone from Honduras, like Hong Kong nominally is to China. The investing company must write the laws that govern the territory, establish the local government, hire a private police force, and even has the right to set the educational system and collect taxes." ["]

What is happening is that Sanchez and his group believe in the "hierarchy" enhancing myths of free enterprise and top down government, while other myths are at war with them. Notions like social equality, socialism, and democracy. Free enterprise is a great idea, but it's a myth that oligarchic companies practice it. Instead they practice oppression, which:

"Despite the country’s crackdown on crime, violence in Honduras has skyrocketed in recent years. Honduras now has the world’s second-highest national murder rate and is home to two of the world’s five most violent cities. Unchecked gang activity has contributed to widespread corruption and impunity within police and government institutions."[ ""]

In Sanchez' Schema once everyone accepts the hierarchy he's establishing and the "criminal elements" are locked up or eliminated the country will once again experience paradise. But to many of his people they are already experiencing a nightmare.

"This weekend, a coalition of leftist opposition parties came together temporarily to defeat a proposed amendment to the Honduran constitution that would have given permanent status to the country’s militarized police force, known as the Policía Militar de Orden Público, or PMOP."[ ""]

Somehow Sanchez seems to believe that arrogating power to a centralized unchecked unregulated and self policing "elite" force will minimize "impunity, poverty and violence", something that objective facts don't support. But it makes a nice slogan. Giving police more impunity will reduce their impunity. Yeah, right.

"This “elite” police unit, which serves under the direct command of the presidency, is intended to support President Hernandez’s heavy-handed crime reduction efforts. President Hernandez created the PMOP shortly after coming to office in 2014, with support from a legislature dominated by his conservative National Party. The Hernandez administration’s police militarization efforts also had the backing of the country’s business sector."[ ""]

But of course it's not really intended to do that. What it's intended to do is to dominate Honduran Society for the sake of social dominant folks like Sanchez and the "foreign investors" who want to run the country. What they depend on are socially submissive "Authoritarian followers" to accept their place in the hierarchy so that the top Rooster will rule the roost and the social dominance pecking order myths can be told to little children as fairy tales. They depend on the sort of thinking described in the New Republic piece:

"Raul shakes his head. “We need this,” he says. “Sure, it could have a dark side, but the truth is that in countries like ours—third world countries—that’s a necessary evil if we want development.” "

In places like Honduras Social Dominance seems to bear out it's mythic claims, at least for those not being served for Dinner. Until it doesn't.

Sources for Article:
Understanding Social Dominance Theory:
Chart source:
Written 1/30/2015, updated 1/8/2016

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