The Systems of Power-a brief history
In this article we will have a brief look at some examples from history, which illustrate the corrupt nature of power, as well as the systems of control stemming from the source of power. We will also shed light on the susceptibility of the human mind to manipulation and coercion, leading to collective acts of true evil.
The Witch trials- From the 15th to the 18th century, Europe fell under the spell of witch hysteria. During this time thousands of people, mostly women, were accused of witchcraft before being executed by being burned at the stake. In many cases the accused was tortured until they confessed to their crime prior to being executed and if they didn’t confess it was also taken as a sign of guilt. The belief in dark magic lead to mass hysteria and mob justice, which resulted in a significant number of innocent people being executed. Despite the absurd nature of the witch hunts and trials, people still believed and followed through with their version of justice.
The slaughter of Jews during the bubonic plague- During the time of the bubonic plague there was another form of dis-ease killing people, namely Jews. Rumors spread throughout parts of Europe that Jews were poisoning the town wells in Christian communities. At the time the hysteria and fear that had spread due to the bubonic plague fanned the flames of other ideas, claims, rumors and beliefs. There seemed to be a connection between Jews poisoning wells and the plague itself, but this was based on nothing more than lies driven by sinister motivations. Nevertheless, Jews were rounded up and burned alive. Again, logic and reason did not stop the mob from committing heinous crimes against humanity.
The Holocaust- Another example of the mass slaughter of Jewish people occurred during World War 2. Probably the most well known and one of the worst atrocities in history was the mass murder of Jewish people by the Nazis. Jewish people were enslaved and executed, under the orders of Adolf Hitler, often ending up in concentration camps where they worked until they either perished or were executed. Many German soldiers and people apparently shunned the concept of humanity and embraced the idea that Jews were less than human, which made it easier to accept the horrific ideas and actions of the Nazis during that time. Genocide was normalized and accepted despite its horrific reality. Basic values and morals were cast aside for the sake of the cause.
The Soviet Purge- As is common in many of the cases outlined in this article, Joseph Stalin’s addiction to power and control lead to mass slavery and the slaughter of the innocent. During ‘The Purge’, trials were held to determine whether certain prominent officials were guilty of treason, which of course they were as their guilt was predetermined and had nothing to do with justice. Anyone considered to be an enemy of the Party was either executed or sent to the labour camps throughout the Soviet Union. Over time the definition of treason was expanded to include anyone who posed a threat to the leadership, this included government officials, writers, scientists, doctors and intellectuals. Anyone who was perceived as having individual power and influence that could potentially be used against Stalin was arrested and taken to one of the many labour camps throughout Russia. Millions of innocent people were executed, enslaved or simply perished in the labour camps due to the extremely harsh conditions.
Slavery in U.S- Slavery was an accepted practice throughout the U.S, particularly in the 17th and 18th century. African and African American people were treated as property to be owned, and used for labour, usually as servants or workers on farms. The slaves during this time were subjected to harsh punishments and often worked in horrible conditions. Blacks were seen as less and were therefore separated from whites in most cases. Lynching was also practiced particularly in the Southern states and although many whites were also lynched, the vast majority of lynching’s were against black slaves and former slaves. Again, the horrific treatment of a defined group had become normalized and widely accepted.
North Korea- North Korea is a prime example of perception control and order through fear. North Korea could be considered to be a micromanaged country. Existence within North Korea is strictly controlled, as is the perception of the leadership, success of the Country and external world. People must support the workers party of Korea and if they do not they will surely face repercussions for their thought crimes. The justice system is also designed to maintain strict order. The three generations punishment for instance, is an example of a severe law designed to ensure absolute obedience. If someone commits a crime against the party then three generations of their family may face punishment despite their innocence. It is possible for individuals to reach a point where they are willing to die for a cause, but this is less likely to occur when they know that their entire family will also be punished for their crime. This is an example of a country’s entire population being controlled through fear, lies and perception.
The Peoples Temple- This was a cult that originally started as an inclusive and seemingly positive group. The founder and leader, Jim Jones, invited people from all walks of life into a world that appeared to be progressive and welcoming. Over time this positive environment slowly eroded and as Jones gained greater power and influence his desire to maintain that power and influence also increased. Eventually the government started paying attention to the growing power of the Peoples Temple and so decided to look a little deeper. Jones did not like the idea of government intervention, so he flew all of his followers to Guyana South America where they created ‘Jonestown’. Jonestown was a small town created by the Peoples Temple in the rainforest. The American government continued to pursue Jones based on reports from within the Peoples Temple community. This eventually led to the collapse of the Peoples Temple. The tragic events were set in motion when a U.S congressman arrived in Guyana accompanied by journalists to talk to some of the Peoples Temple followers. His arrival triggered a horrific event. Jones ordered his men to kill the congressman and the journalists before turning attention to his followers. Following the murder or the congressman, Jones persuaded and coerced all of his followers to commit what he referred to as revolutionary suicide. Over 900 people died after drinking a cyanide laced drink, many of them giving it to their children. Jones’s influence was so profound that almost 1000 people willingly committed suicide and even murdered their own children. Of course many of them were victims caught in an impossible situation where they had little choice.
Heavens Gate- Founded by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, Heavens Gate was a cult that believed in the existence of a higher level of being which could only be attained once the individual volunteered to leave earth on an extra terrestrial spacecraft. Applewhite convinced his followers that he was the second coming of Jesus, often suggesting a spiritual transfer from one physical body to another. Applewhite manipulated his followers into believing in the idea of a second level of existence, which they could access upon their ritual suicide. In March 1997, 39 members of the Heavens Gate cult, including Applwhite himself, committed suicide following the plans and ritual outlined by Applewhite. Prior to their deaths each member made an exit video stating their intention and happiness in knowing they would transcend to another level of existence. The exit videos can be found on YouTube.
The above list of examples, both historic and current in the case of North Korea, should serve as evidence that the human mind is in fact highly malleable and susceptible to influence, manipulation and coercion. It also demonstrates not only the need to maintain power once it has been acquired by those who desire such power, but also their willingness to do whatever it takes to preserve and advance that power. In each example there are two sides, the victims and those in power. The people in power either use their powers of influence and persuasion to acquire and maintain their power and if that doesn’t work, they exert force against those who threaten their position of power.
Consider the willingness of people to follow and carry out the orders of these so-called leaders and tyrants. Consider the susceptibility of the masses to manipulation and perception altering lies. Consider how every horrific act was justified and how the ideas emerged prior to the atrocities. Consider how obvious injustice, immorality and evil was normalized and accepted by the masses.
There is much to learn from the past and great awareness to be acquired through the understanding of humanity’s extreme failures throughout history. Take some time to reflect on the above examples and ask yourself these questions-
Do you really believe that we are beyond the reach of such forces in the present time?
Do you really think, you are not being currently influenced and manipulated by those with power?
Do you really believe we are beyond repeating the atrocities littered throughout history?
Next Article- Part 3- Stealing Silence and Attention