By Corey Wolf. Corey can be found on Twitter @DrCoreyWolf
In 1528 Mughal invaders toppled a Hindu temple to Lord Ram in Ayodhya, India and erected the Baburi mosque. Centuries later on December 6, 1992, Hindu politicians led a rowdy crowd to the Baburi mosque and extracted revenge; a crowd of hundreds of thousands rendered it dust in hours. The Urdu press broadcast outrage, the Hindi press celebrated. In the chaos, rumors spread that Muslim doctors were killing Hindus in hospitals. Hindu mobs dragged Muslims off of trains and beat them to death. Within a month, thousands of people were dead. Cities were in flames.
A decade ago, Americans would have shook their heads at this because they lived in a country where this could not happen. But those days of high social cohesion and trust are over. We can no longer stroll to the 7-11 at night, and we can no longer expect political and civic stability. But we won’t devolve into India. Our fate is worse and it involves Jeff Bezos and robots.
Beginning with context, it’s important we understand that the Indian ethnic violence only happened in cities, even though a majority of India’s citizens lived in rural areas. And only a handful of cities at that: Ahmedabad, Aligarh, Hyderabad, Meerut, Mumbai, and Baroda comprised about 5% of India’s population, yet were responsible for 94% of the ethnic violence. What’s the explanation, and how is it relevant to 2020s America?
Ashutosh Varshney, a sociologist at Brown University, concludes in his book “Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life” that ethnic violence was the result of politicians inflaming ethnic tensions to get votes. One finding of political science is that what motivates people to vote is not love for their favorite candidate, but fear of the other candidate. Politicians have tapped into this, and campaigns now routinely manipulate voters based on fear.
Varshney writes that Hindu politicians sow fear against Muslims, and Muslim politicians do the same against Hindus. Rumors spread. Fake rumors spread faster than truth. Sometimes the fear and hatred boil over and killing commences.
So why violence in cities but not rural areas? In rural communities each person knows a relatively large portion of the village. Rural Hindus know rural Muslims and vice versa. It’s easy to kill strangers, but hard to kill people you know.
By contrast, in cities people naturally sort themselves into ethnic bubbles and thus there are fewer ties between the communities. City Hindus don’t know city Muslims. City Muslims don’t know city Hindus. This also leads to group polarization, wherein individuals become more extreme in their beliefs.
But why some cities and not others? Varshney found that peaceful cities had robust multi-ethnic civic networks, like business associations, professional organizations, book clubs, sports clubs, and trade unions. But what is the connection between Rotary Clubs and peace? The connection is that riots are bad for small businesses. Owners of small businesses do not want riots. When owners of small businesses of different ethnicities know and trust each other, they work together to prevent ethnic rioting. They squash beefs and work to prevent politicians from ripping the fabric of society apart to score votes.
The key lesson is that small business owners have a financial incentive to promote order while politicians have incentives to promote chaos. (Perhaps the famous equation “diversity + proximity = war” should be “democracy + diversity + proximity – small businessmen = race war”.) The small business owners who kept the peace in India (and elsewhere) were engaged in what we’ll call “human capitalism,” meaning capitalism that broadly benefits people.
However, not all capitalism is human capitalism. Often oligarchs enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. Slavery and usury are two examples of “oligarchic capitalism,” as is the mass-importation of debt-slaves into the West.
In contrast to small businessmen, oligarchs often have a financial incentive to promote disorder. Such “divide-and-rule” tactics make people fight each other, rather than focus on those who are exploiting them. Consider that after the Occupy Wall St. protest of 2011, the oligarch’s top propaganda outfits, the New York Times and the Washington Post, started promoting racially divisive propaganda. Was this divide-and-rule? Or does it just look exactly like divide-and-rule?
Is it just a coincidence that mom and pop stores were destroyed by riots and pandemic measures supported by Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post and Amazon’s stock price went from about $1900 in January 2020 to about $3100 in January 2021?
Is this the world’s biggest coincidence, or an oligarch using his media outlet as propaganda to further oligarchic capitalism?
Nothing distracts from declining birth rates, financial collapse, cultural genocide, financial exploitation, opioid epidemic, ethnic erasure of Americans, and increasing suicide rates quite like a race war.
A question we must face is: are we now on the verge of permanent oligarchic capitalism? As the capabilities of artificial intelligence increase, it will make billions of people unemployable while enriching the oligarchs. For example, tens of millions of people in the USA are truck drivers. Many companies are working to make truck drivers obsolete, replaced by self-driving vehicles. No matter how willing some former truck drivers may be to work, they will be too expensive and incompetent compared to the machines. They will not “learn to code.” This is not limited to truck drivers; AI and robotics is coming for all of us.
Some might say, “What’s the big deal with oligarchs having power? What’s new? The system eventually rights itself.” But previous oligarchs weren’t working to make humans obsolete. Today that is not true. And more importantly, as described in liberal economist Joel Kotkin’s book The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, today’s tech moguls see themselves as “more enlightened and progressive” than the moguls of the past – so progressive they don’t believe in upward mobility. Instead, many of them believe in an expanded welfare state and assume 21st century peasants should be grateful for Universal Basic Income instead of dignified, meaningful labor.
The oligarchs say that this “frees” normal people to do other things. True in a sense, but it also robs regular people of their power. In the 1700s when the peasants felt they weren’t treated well by the overlords, they could revolt. The overlords could kill some to send a message, but they couldn’t kill all the peasants because the peasants grew food and provided security for the overlords.
As technology reduces the number of people needed to produce food, and as armed robots come to replace human Marines, the ruler’s need for “ordinary” people decreases.
It’s not that the obsolete will provide zero benefit to the elites. Even worse, the obsolete will extract a cost. The oligarchs will resent forking over heaps of money to support the obsoletes, and they will fear an uprising of billions of people with nothing left to lose.
Perhaps this can be staved off by “boiling the frog slowly” – a UBI at first. As time goes on, “efficiency” will be pushed, resulting in stuffing people in pods, feeding them insect protein, and feeding women birth control pills.
During this time, the number of small business owners will dwindle because technology favors oligopolies. Tens of millions of an ethnically diverse useless class. Race-hustling politicians peddling grievances. And no small business owners to act as a counter force. What could possibly go wrong? And this is on top of rising secularism and multiculturalism in the West, trends that only reduce social cohesion and fan the flames of conflict.
Will the oligarchs go the divide-and-rule tactic route, using the media to create a state of permanent race war to prevent the useless from uniting? Will they use all means, including the mass surveillance capabilities of the State, to dispose of any leaders against them?
So welcome to Indian-style democracy! But with more unemployed people in cities. And fewer small business owners. And a more fractured populace. And a massive surveillance state. And Oligarchs, Media, and State united in viewing the Posterity of the Founders as scum. And, one day in the not too distant future, armed robots controlled by Bolsheviks.
Not quite the future the Jetsons promised.