If you believe that people are basically evil, regardless of the system of power that we live under, then your argument really falls into line with a long history of violent and elitist behavior by Europeans, going back to Plato’s cave. It probably goes back much farther than that, to an even earlier cave, but let’s start with Plato’s allegory, shall we?
Plato had lost confidence in Athenian democracy which had killed his teacher Socrates. Of course, this democracy (of sorts) in Athens had always applied only to a certain elevated class in its slave-based, patriarchal society. So the practice of egalitarianism by Athenians didn’t live up to their stated principle of democratic government, which is that all humans are fundamentally equal. Consequently, the Athenians had put Socrates on trial, and following his death, his most famous disciple Plato couldn’t forgive the people for their betrayal of the principles which had been championed by his beloved teacher.
In reaction, Plato wrote The Republic, a highly reactionary work. And now, in Plato’s view, the people were placed in the darkness of the cave, in total ignorance, and the truth was on the outside, the knowledge of which was able to be acquired by only a select few. These few were the only individuals fit to govern, because they alone had access to the knowledge of what is real and good, as merely symbolized by the image of the object.
Plato’s view in The Republic goes something like this: there is the whole perceptible world (or the material universe) around us, but the majority of humanity can only recognize the object (matter) and not the true meaning of the object (idea). Thus, we are born into ignorance about not only what is real, but what is good. And thus the Academy was born: an elite class of intellectuals who would train the select few how to lead, so that they may then guide the people (some of us) out of darkness, or keep us in it. And, of course, this meant power.
A number of centuries passed after Plato’s death before Constantine, the Roman emperor, had a vision of a shining, fiery cross, and heard a voice saying: “In this sign you will conquer.” The version of Christianity which came to Constantine in this symbol and in its accompanying voice had been heavily influenced by the teachings of Plato and the Academy. And it was this political and ideological synthesis of Roman imperialism with seemingly contradictory ideas of Christian religion (via Plato) which has given the necessary unity and dynamic thrust to European thought, and its governing and economic systems, up to the point we’re at today under global capitalism.
Through Plato’s conception of the universe, synthesized with a European or white version of Jesus (Isa) and the Gospel (Injeel), the philosopher-kings and “Western” oligarchies have been able to go into Africa, and the so-called Americas, and the rest of the globe (including Europe) and say to the people: “You are basically evil, you are in the dark, you lack knowledge of the Truth, and you are doomed to an eternity in Hell– but we can save you, and bring order to your chaos, providing an antidote to your inherent (self-)destructiveness … and all you have to do in return is give us your land and your wealth, and buy our book or watch our video on YouTube.”
However, before the anti-egalitarian (or oligarchical) systems of slavery, feudalism and capitalism– based on philosophical idealism– could reach this point of history, with YouTube videos, and Patreon, and bestselling books on Amazon, and book tours, it was necessary for the European conquerors to consolidate the mass (un)consciousness of the people under their (or our) control.
If you argue that the majority of humanity is in the darkness of the cave– which is to say, you think people are inherently ignorant or evil– then you must enforce this argument, which not only requires power, but also requires the people to believe in the legitimacy of this systemic power.
People have a natural hunger and thirst for justice and truth, and for knowledge: we want everything to be free, fair and equal. It’s in our nature. And in order exploit this natural wish on our part– our wish to be just and to promote humane principles– under a system where only a select few wealthy individuals are judged (by themselves) to be exclusively worthy to enjoy most of the benefits of society’s ongoing struggle within and against our environment, it has become necessary for these rulers of society to bring about a certain disassociation, not of sensibility, but of senses.
For many centuries, an imperialist and elitist version of “Christianity” was an adequate means to divide human consciousness from the environment and its inhabitants who produced and shaped this consciousness, in order to divide humans from our money or the products of our labor. Europeans named slave ships, weighed down by the “cargo” of enslaved African lives, after Jesus. Europeans used the labor of enslaved Indigenous people and Africans in the so-called Americas to build churches, and to build an empire which became “the United States of America,” and to build the White House, which is meant to symbolize justice, freedom and equality. What humans know to be true through our senses, or through our ability to observe and measure and quantify (as well as qualify), has been separated and isolated from the “Truth” and from “Goodness” (and “God”) by the oligarchical rulers of a rapidly growing global system of power: capitalism.
In the same tradition of Plato’s Academy (the leaders in the bright white light outside the cave, the forces of chaos deep inside it, waiting to be saved, or bombed), as well as in the tradition of Constantine’s vision of the burning cross, the capitalist rulers of “American” society today are able to convince the people that objective reality is, in fact, not real, and also not good. Why? Because the essence of the “Truth” (with a capital[ist] “T”) in bourgeois society lies beyond the shadowy object, the thing itself, the image of which only symbolizes this eternal, unchanging essence.
And what is the essence of “Truth”™? The brand. In the free exchange of ideas– free thought, free speech– as these are controlled under a capitalist democracy, the marketplace for “the Truth” requires a trademark, a symbol for your unique ownership of a piece of this reality, which is now something either in demand, or not.
If you can grow richer off the brand, it’s the Good™, the Truth™; but if you should fail, then for heaven’s sake (or Wall Street’s), don’t you dare blame the capitalist system of power, a system which requires that poverty and hardship be imposed on the masses. Instead, take Personal Responsibility™ for your own failure to make it out of the cave, and to become one of the select few, counted among the Blessed or Lucky (copyright pending). Just sit up straight, pet a cat, get off the mat, dust yourself off and start all over again (with apologies to Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields).
In the land of the politically unconscious (“America” or “the West”), where poverty, disease, genocide, and suffering aren’t real, and are just bad luck or spiritual deficiency or laziness on the part of the victims (who must learn to transcend their “victimhood”), the Brand is King. Your authentic Brand. Your unique Brand.
Like the burning cross that appeared before Constantine, proclaiming “In this sign you will conquer,” it is in the goodness, the truth, of the brand’s authenticity (and forced humility) that the entrepreneur and the “business leader”– the man with a plan– will go forth, growing wealthier, happier, and more successful.
Or not. But if you cannot unlock the secrets of the brand’s success, then you just lack imagination, or drive, or intelligence– you must not be enlightened enough, you’re not worthy, you lack Self-Worth™.
The message of the capitalist ruling class is messy but nonetheless unrelenting in its main dominant theme: you are not enough.
The system isn’t the problem, the rulers aren’t the problem, and, in fact, the whole universe of dialectical matter shouldn’t be the focus of your “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The problem is you. You the individual, in isolation. However, you can be saved. All you have to do is put yourself (and your family, your “loved ones,” your house, your car) ahead of everyone else, and behave in a manner which brings greater wealth and greater power to the existing ruling class, through greater exploitation of the working masses– except you do get to enjoy some of the riches of this bargain.
And your individualistic, predatory behavior is entirely justified, so no need to worry about that (no “white liberal guilt” is necessary, nor any “postmodernist” classes teaching us the meaning of “white privilege”).
The secondary theme to the message of bourgeois thought is : do not get caught up in divisive “identity politics,” for only the individual matters, the individual as a Brand among Brands. Build your Brand. Wield your Brand. With your swoosh of Victory, your apple, your peacock, your red-white-and-blue “American flag,” your golden arches, the sword or cross of you “unique Brand,” go forth young man and conquer the world, and thereby grow wealthier, happier … and to hell with everyone else.
Under capitalist rule, things are not things and people are not people: humans are embodied in brands (individuals isolated from the objective conditions which give us life), while “free thought” (as well as “freedom”) is disembodied from the perceptible object at hand … that is, until it has gained Significance in the “marketplace of ideas,” as a commodity, and its reality and value have been measured against its profitability to the few.
Under capitalism, the symbol of the thing (or person) has gained precedence over the substance, and thus the hierarchy of class power can be enforced by those elites who alone hold the key to Goodness, to Truth … to Profit.
Your own unique brand is your ticket out of the cave, as a kind of (trade)mark of superiority: bacon or oatmeal, “real woman” or transgender woman, citizen or illegal alien [sic], individual with intelligence and imagination, or an individual who is brown, “fat,” shops at Walmart, drinks bad coffee and eats greasy fries from Burger King.
Believe in yourself– “I think I’m a success, therefore I am”– and achieve freedom, not only from the darkness of the cave, but from the political consciousness of suffering by the inherently lazy, evil or mediocre homogeneous masses, each shadowy inferior soul damned to a harsh and brief lifetime of toil and hardship, while you enjoy your vacation on some colonized beach …
And you earned it, Jack, because you developed your bright shiny Brand.