When I was just a kid, maybe nine or ten, my cousin was in a horrible car wreck. She was driving home from work one day, sixty miles through small Texas towns, and a man turned across traffic in front of her, forcing her off the road onto the gravel parking lot of a meat packing plant. Now, with virtually no brakes on the loose gravel, momentum drove her at fatal speeds into the side of this truck turning into the parking lot.
Being just a kid, I didn't know any of the details of this at the time. I just knew that all the sudden we were in a hospital in Dallas where my cousin, Tamara -- Tammy-toot to all her loved ones, for her proficiency at flatulence -- was in Intensive Care after a wreck on her way home. Her left eye had come loose from it's socket and the nerve endings damaged so that she could never see again. Her left ear drum destroyed beyond repair along with nerve and muscle damage along her whole left side. For those of you who wonder if amnesia ever really happens outside of Soap Operas: when she woke up, she didn't recognize anybody around her, but looking up at the TV in her room, she knew Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippin playing basketball.
She was seventeen at the time, and her seventeen year old boyfriend sat by her side the entire time she was in Intensive Care. When she woke up and didn't remember anything about her personal life, however, I guess that was too much for him. He left.
She still doesn't remember anything about her personal life before the wreck. A trust fund was set up for her from her insurance policy. Because of severe brain damage from swelling after the wreck, it was not known if she would ever be able to fully support herself.
This was all explained to me mere months ago. All the really gritty, dirty details. What happened in the next ten years of her life finally let me understand this whole "art of manipulation" thing. And it opened up my eyes to the manipulation of our Nation.
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Fear Based Manipulation in Four Easy Steps:
Step 1: The Mental State of Your Victim.
My cousin was obviously in something more than a fragile state after her accident. Her life, as she knew it, was over. Her future was torn to pieces. She was left with physical scars and disabilities that would make any woman in our beauty and independence based society squirm with self-loathing. She soon found herself undesirable and unlovable by the outside world. For a person who thrives on close and intimate relationships like my cousin, this left her in a state of fear. Fear that she would always be alone. Fear that she would never again be loved.
The Mental State of a Nation: After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the populace of the United States was left, first, in shock. In pure disbelief that anything like this could happen. That innocent people going about their lives could be turned into weapons against other Americans arriving at work in the morning. The people wondered how this happened. Why somebody would so senselessly kill people that they didn't so much as have personal offenses against. The nation was submerged in fear. Fear that this could happen again. Fear of something worse. The fear of suddenly realizing you are not invincible and immortal.
Step 2: The Wooing of Your Victim.
Soon a man entered my cousin's life. A man that pursued her despite her self-image of being undesirable. A man who told her she was beautiful in complete opposition to all the social standards of what beauty is. A man who loved her and wanted to spend time with her in spite of everything she believed about her lovableness. This man, he offered her everything her deepest fears told her she could never have again.
The Wooing of a Nation: After the dust settled and the smoke cleared our brave and valiant leader went, himself, to the scene of the crime. He climbed on top the fallen ruins of the once tall and proud buildings, showing his strength over all the death and destruction. He looked straight into the camera, the eyes of the American people, and told us there would be nothing to fear in the future. That those who did this would pay. That he would hunt them down and make sure that our shores were never touched again by those wishing us harm. He declared a War on Terrorism. He promised America to return us to the safety and innocence of our youth.
Step 3: Isolation and Programming.
Soon after their marriage, David, my cousin's husband, moved her and their newborn child away from our family, away from everything she has always known. They moved to Arkansas. He bought a house about ten miles outside of a nothing of a town. David got a job in town and, since they could supposedly afford only one car -- despite my cousin's trust fund, which David obviously didn't want to be touch -- my cousin was stuck at home, isolated from any civilization or socialization, to raise their children by herself. This is when an interesting and predictable form of emotional abuse began that I am going to refer to her as 'programming.'
- Return of Fear: Now that David has complete control over my cousin's life, controlling her socialization and activities through enforced isolation he began to bring back out the fears he initially quelled in her heart. He would tell her that she was ugly -- that there was nothing beautiful about her. He told her how he couldn't imagine how any man could ever find her desirable. How no man could ever truly love her.
- Dependency: With these fears brought back to the surface he began to instill a dependency on him in her. He told her how lucky she was that he was there for her. That, though she may not deserve it, he loved her. That, though she may not be beautiful, he would not reject her. He told her how lucky she was to have him because she would never find this kind of acceptance in any other man. And, with these wounds so close to the surface and isolated from all her loved ones, she was happy to have something, at least. Something is better than nothing. A bad husband is better than no husband.
- Victory of Love: And when she was close to breaking, when he could see it coming, or when it came faster than he expected and she threatened to leave he would declare his undying love for her. He would flower her with affection. He would promise that things were getting better, that he was just having a hard time at work and that they were turning a corner. He promised he would start treating her with all the love she deserved. If she would only not leave him, he would show her his full desire for her. For a while. And maybe he isn't such a bad husband after all. Then we repeat.
This kind of programming behavior is probably not new to you. I am sure you have seen it before in abusive relationships around you or, God forbid, in relationships you have been in.
The Isolation of a Nation. The Programming of the Populace: After the September 11th, 2001 attacks the people of America were afraid to travel. They were afraid that the same thing might happen to them, aboard a plane. They were afraid of the hostility and terror they would find among the people of the world. Stories of journalists and Americans around the world being kidnapped began to crop up. Not many, but just enough. The President asked "Why?" He asked, "Why do these people want to destroy us?" And the President rejected the views of the world at large. They hated us because we are so wonderful. They hate us because we have more than they could ever have. Intense nationalism began to spread throughout the nation. People began to sing, again, the Star Spangled Banner at high school football games, hands over hearts. The people isolated themselves from the rest of the world -- a world they perceived as having rejected them.
- Return of Fear: A system was designed by the President's administration to inform the American public of the level of threats of terrorist violence against them. A system to let us all know when we are in danger. This system, this color-coded catastrophe of a system, it does not work. It was most likely never meant to work. If the system was meant to be informative it could have easily been. The system, however, is most likely designed to bring about the emotional response of fear -- not as a rational information dispensing device. And soon the President looked straight into the camera again, from his office, directly into the eyes of Americans. He told us, here and there, the coming and escalating threats of violence against us. The government warned against traveling and told us all to be on the look out for those who might want to hurt us.
- Dependency: The President told us there was no other way. The administration and Congress told us that the only way to protect us was to take away some of the freedoms we hold so dear. They told us that we were lucky that they were looking out for us, because who else would? They told us that to not accept the passing of laws like the USA Patriot Act and laws to allow the unwarranted spying on communication between private citizens they could not protect us from all the people in this world that wanted to destroy us. With those scars and fears so close to the surface, the American public agreed -- some reluctantly, some enthusiastically -- that, yes, we must make certain sacrifices to our freedom in order to remain safe.
- The Victory of War: And when the American people grew tired of the impending doom, when murmuring begins to be heard among the populace, the President looks into the eyes of Americans again and declares a victory: the capture or assassination of a leading terrorist, the derailing of some major plan for another attack on our land. When the American people grow tired of the way things are, the President announces a new strategy, a new war, a new offensive that will make us all safe again. He promises, just as long as we do not loss faith in him, that things will change. That things have been hard, sure, but we are just around the corner from a real breakthrough. Things get better for a little while. And maybe he isn't the horrible leader we have all imagined him to be. Then we repeat.
Step 4: Control of the Prize
After a sufficient amount of time. After my cousin's spirit was broken and David felt safe that he could get away with anything, they returned. They moved back to the town our family has always lived in. But now, he is in control. My cousin now has two children, boys, with her husband. She works two jobs to support herself and the boys. David has a job, but he does not contribute to the family. Not financially and not in any other way. He drinks and gambles away his paychecks. He spends his nights with random women and friends. He returns home every few days to reassert his dominance over the situation. And whenever my cousin has had enough, and she threatens to leave, all the programming has already been installed, and it is a quick little application to run. To remind her that she is unlovable, that she is lucky to have him around at all, that without him she would be alone like she deserves to be. After a while you don't even have to say these things, she knows to think them all on her own now.
My cousin raises their kids. Takes care of their house. Gives David a place to sleep when he is not in the bed of another woman. Gives him a fuck when he is desperate enough. Gives him access to his children, whom learn to treat their mother exactly as he treats her. She is his tool. She is his provider and lifeline. She is his slave.
Control of the People: To be fair, George W. Bush is no master manipulator. This story, on the national level, is as old as our nation. As old as control has had to come through fear and propaganda -- since the public has refused to be lead by the club. With this fear programming thoroughly installed in the people, the populace agrees -- over and over -- to it's own manipulation and exploitation in the name of safety and nationalism
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The real question, then, is why people do this? Why manipulate others? Power. Control. Creating easy personal benefit from the situation.
My cousin's husband, David, now has free reign of his life, to do whatever he wants. He has a house and a wife and kids that he never has to take care of, but they are his. He also has his nights and weekends (and his days between jobs) to do with as he pleases. To fool around with other women. To spend drinking with his buddies. And, most importantly, to feel like a man who controls everything around him.
President Bush has used the fear of the American people for similar gain for himself and those around him. To ensure control of major oil pipelines in the East (Afghanistan). To ensure control (note: not use of, but control) of one of the major supplies of oil for the world (Iraq). To ensure control of major shipping lanes for oil (The Strait of Hormuz). (Side Note: Remember, even if we do not consume Middle East oil, controlling that oil's use in the world is basically to control the world.) To ensure control over the American people (the USA Patriot Act: seriously, read it). To ensure financial gain for his comrades and those who have helped him rise to power (corporate control in our current wars, along with the immense war spending with the so called 'Military Industrial Complex'). And, well... I guess we will have to see how the rest of this plays out, as I believe we are just at the beginning of things.
Or maybe we are just in the middle of a continuous cycle of this kind of control through fear: The Cold War and Communism, The War on Drugs, The First War on Terrorism, The new War on Terrorism, recession, etc....