On the hidden forces that control society
In the West youth in suburbs feel disinherited: unemployment, no future; talk of occult forces plotting against them. Capitalism seeking profits transfer companies to third world. Intellectuals get blacklisted. This leads to confrontation and riots
On the hidden forces that control society
Fernando Garcia Izquierdo
Twice in my life I have abandoned the law to go and try other avenues, unsuccessfully. Maybe, after all, that is all I am, a Iawyer. However, in my heart of hearts, I would have preferred to devote sometime to poetry. Also, once or twice I came to think that I could be more useful in society if I worked, say, to make fellow-humans see things that, because I saw them clearly, I thought others should know them too.
“It is wrong,” I said repeatedly to myself, “ for a few to accumulate, while the masses are deprived at times of the most essential things to lead a full, healthy and useful life.” Partly this happened because I was in the midst of this turmoil, an attorney.
Trying not to lay too much emphasis on this, I shall add that I am an affectionate family man, and that I have mostly led a peaceful happy life of relative abundance; and never more so than on the two occasions when I tried to change the course of my existence, becoming something different, somebody else.
When I entered Madrid university at eighteen, in 1948, there was no question that I would follow in my father’s steps; everything had been carefully planned so that, after some years, I would occupy a good post in the Administration. But I turned my back to all that and went abroad, as a migrant.
Perhaps unconsciously I hated what I was becoming, what I had been witnessing in my yet-short life. I mention this (which, for the reader, is neither here nor there), because I understand above all that every effect has its cause, and it is evident to me, even now, that reaching the age of reason in a period of Spanish history when there was horror after horror: a war, famine, the suffering of the the masses, etc. I must not have been personally happy, I mean with what I saw.
Anyhow I did become a lawyer. I practiced in Madrid, very briefly, then I studied abroad, I became a legal practioner in Sydney, etc. And that is how I earned my life, my daily bread, a lawyer in several countries. That is all.
Although I have never been a communist, I have read Lenin thoroughly, and I have passed exams at university, which include several courses on Economic History and more thoroughly on Political Thought. I studied Karl Marx.
The leader and hero of the bolshevik revolution, mentioned above, tells us in his writings what is the conduct to be followed in order to succeed in what (studying Marx and Engels) one calls scientific revolution, and speaks of ‘professional revolutionaries’, ready to work to change the world, secure a more just system of society. And I think we all shall agree that the world is not in a good shape. A change is needed.
Not a single minute did I think (when leaving Spain in May 1953) that fascism had a place in society. It is sad however to say that sometime after I discovered that capitalsm is a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. I said sad because I soon was immersed in it. I was part (an infinitesimal part) of it.
It was in the seventies that I began to see quite clearly all these things. I was working in the law, I had been thus earning my bread for at least ten years… and reading Marx, Lenin, etc. I don’t say that this means anything but everyone knows ‘man is a contradiction, and trying to find an answer to that contradiction, you live and die, at the same time.’
My heart wavered. And I literally floated about trying to do two different things at the same time. A writer! me? I had to sign my articles and essays under a penname, Francis Links.
And when I failed, this last detail made easier my reconversion. Mr. Links who? For a long time thereafter I devoted my intellect (whatever this may mean) to the law entirely. I joined a Manhattan law office, and began earning money again. Indeed, I became, within a year or two, a respected international lawyer, in my speciality.
There is a proverb in my mother tongue that goes as follows: “el burro es el único animal que tropieza dos veces en el mismo sitio”. Only an ass falls twice on the same place, commits the same mistake.
A quarrel with my (American) partners in Europe, where I was posted as managing partner of the branch, led us to the Tribunal de Commerce, in Paris; and although I won the case, I had to abandon the law, this time for good. No need to say that I could have avoided the battle. In the end, as in most cases, it was stubbornness that sank me.
And then my victory was halved. The judge nominated a so-called ‘enquêteur en justice’, who patched up what he called a quarrel, imposing silence, etc. And, what was I to do?
I went to Spain, for the first time leaving my home, my family. My wife was a teacher of English in Paris; and my daughters, one at university, the other shortly to enter it.
And here is another story which I shall try to make short, or as short as I can. I worked for months and all the time thinking, quite absurdly (the absurdity would soon hit me in the eye), that I could be useful in a higher sphere of society.
I was again living in the country of my birth, I had to go back to my mother tongue, I read ‘Don Quijote’ for the eighth time (once I even read it in English, in Sydney); I tried to see my friends and comrades of childhood, university… and (this is the most glorious) spent many hours walking along the paths and avenues of my childhood and youth.
For months I moved about, I read and wrote a good deal. I wrote about many different things. But mostly I prepared an old text, rewriting it in the Castilian language. And then I tried in Madrid, Barcelona and other places to have it published. But let us leave it at that, as I promised.
My wife was waiting for me at the station, Versailles Chantiers. “Nicky, darling,” I hesitated, “un fracaso rotundo. And now, what am I going to do?”
All my previous life, concerning politics, society, desire, romanticism… in my mind, had proved wrong. False. To do something which is worthwhile doing . A harebrain idea! I was done for.
“This time, my love,” I added, “it is definite. Gone over a cliff… down, down, down. The end of my career… of my whole existence: I am done for, done for… What a silly man I’ve been.”
“Oh, no! Darling, don’t despair,” she exclaimed, embracing me with love, for I had lain my head on her shoulder.
I was fifty-five. And yes, my professional life was finished! I was ruined. I had burned myself out, so uselessly... “An essay in futility!” I kept repeating to myself. “Now, what am I going to do?”
We lived in a beautiful place, the building in which we owned a flat was situated in what was then ‘la campagne’ (now a town), about two hundred yards away from a back entrance into the Park of Versailles.
It was still summer when I returned home in the ‘Puerta del Sol’, the overnight-train (Madrid-Paris.)
I have always been a tremendously good walker, and then those many days which I lived bitterly as a redundant worker in my house alone (for my wife had her profession and studies) l walked. I read and walked in Versailles grounds. Not in the ‘Chateau’ galleries or saloons, nor in the other palaces, or the gardens, around the fountains and beautiful marble statues and figures, on the promenades or around the Grand Canal, where innumerable men,women and children are always strolling, admiring real art and refined living…, but where I could be alone (there are such places there.) I went to the most recondite corners of Le Parc, where I met nobody.
And being left alone I thought. I contemplated the colourful prospect, and I had the leisure to think about my life, looking at the leafy trees, and other plants, hearing the birds twittering.
One thing is that I thought I must walk and walk to be afterwards able to sleep calmly at night. More importantly, I read… I read a lot those days (and months and years.)
Every day the months of September, October and part of November I was, as Aristotles’ disciples are said to have been, a peripatecian (or peripatetic, I am not sure how it is.) If I got very tired, and there chanced to be a bench about or a felled tree, a big boulder, something, I sat down. Sometimes I took notes.
I have always carried in my jacket-pocket a writing pad and a pen or two. If I liked what I read, not on all occasions but fairly often, I made a note of it. I did that systematically, with no particular purpose, just to satisfy an instant pleasure, because I liked some passage.
Speaking generally, it seems to me that young people nowadays don’t act like that. They probably do not realise the hand has an extraordinary influence in the shaping of the brain, your ideas, your mind. The Hominid became ‘Homo-sapiens’ not because his brain developed by some act from Heaven, and Reason appeared on earth. Historical materialism teaches that hand and brain acted together in the shaping of the mind in primeval times. Comprehension. The birth of human reason. So I think that, by filling those days my writing-pads with the most beautiful (as I thought) portions of the brains of the great women and men of the past, my eyes on the book, my hand pushing the pen on the paper, I did a good thing.
Thinking of the notes I took those days(and not only in the park) I have come to the conclusion that I had a great idea. I had kept the writing-blocks and consult them from time to time, and they help me to know what is great or sublime art, who are the really great men and women of different times, and who deserve to be read and reread a thousand times if necessary.
Here are two examples of what I liked and still like:
“Let me look back upon thee, O thou wall that girdlest in those wolves, dive in the earth and fence not Athens! Matrons, turn incontinent! Obedience fail in children! slaves and fools, pluck the grave wrinkled senate from the bench and minister in their steads!... …”
This is only the beginning of a very long quotation. No need for me to say that Shakespeare, as most great artists, was a revolutionary. All his plays are full of life and revolution. “Timon of Athens” is not his most revolutionary tragedy; but it is the one from which I have taken a greater number of notes.
The second quotation, which I offer hereinunder, is of quite a different nature. I regret to say that I never wrote down the name of the author, I am now very sorry. There are many instances in my books of quotations of similar deficiencies; other times the quotations are incomplete or nearly illegible:
“Today, economic and political power is entrenched in a network of interest groups whose influence on policy lies in the scope and intricacy of the mutually- benefited (though often uneasy) alliances that hold them together… …”
Anyhow this writer confirmed what I already knew. The forces that control our society do all they can to keep the power usurped from the people.
In this poor earth of ours, generally speaking, we live under a system of misery-and-more-to-come. Today even the most virulent defender of ‘Free-World-Imperialism’ admits that more than one half of the human race is dispossessed, deprived of essential things, men, women and children daily dying in a state of terror, wars and criminality. And there are a few hidden elements, working with power from the privileged few, making sure that the latter will perpetuate their domination.
About a fortnight ago I heard a French boy on the radio (‘France-Inter’) speaking about the entrenched power that kept people in submission and how the selected few did so. I started listening with interest when I heard him refer to certain occult forces that deprive the people of their rights. In particular, the forces representing the exploiters (the boy said) are attacking the young people of the “Banlieues” (of which the translation is ‘suburbs’.) The powers that be are intent on crushing in the bud all attempts (so normal in the youth) at LIFE and REVOLUTION in France, specially in the suburbs of the great cities. He was a boy of fifteen who was telling us all that. He did not go to school, lived in the streets and probably did not live what we call a normal existence. No family or human relation or conduct, except things relating to the gang.
And yet (I was surprised to see) he was very intelligent. On political thought he was much more savvy than the journalist interviewing him. When the man questioned him, he replied and we were informed that he had not read a single book. All his knowledge came from other sources, namely computers, tablets, mobile phones, etc. One can see now everywhere every day children and grown-ups stalking about with little things in their hands or glued to their ears…
The boy was a native of Saint Denis, a town north of Paris. The Communist Party used to have its headquarters there. I don’t know if there are many true communists today here or elsewhere, but all through the twentieth century the suburbs around the capital were governed, or partially governed by the communists. I have been with my wife in Saint-Denis, we found it a beautiful, well-kept town suburb, with one of the most famous churches in France (an old gothic cathedral.) Now, I hear, it is almost suicidal to go and visit; riots and tumult, small and big squabbles, fights, drugs, criminality, even blood crimes. And of course unemployment, lack of medical care, schooling, culture, etc.
Our boy of fifteen explained that there was all that because there was a plot by the rich against the young, and the reporter, amused, confirmed that there was a RUMOUR about. “La théorie du complot”. Evil people tried to subvert the young, to make them believe that our Democratic State was tyrannical, and caused unemployment, closed factories, hospitals and ‘maisons des loisirs’ etc.
Economic and political power held by the rich, how absurd! Those that hold capital are enterpreneurs who will give them work if they behave.
If the reader is not French and ìsn’t well-acquainted with French affairs, he or she will probably not know the state of utter despair in which people live in said ‘banlieues’, the deliberate degradation of working classes, hunger, poverty, the state of disintegration of society there and elsewhere. For those who like myself saw those places, say forty years ago, the wealthy abundance of the French then, their prosperity, full employment, good medical and social security, teaching, culture, art, etc. Little of that exists today, and everybody knows that worse things are to come.
The radio programme must have lasted a quarter of an hour. When it finished I rose from my chair and went to a small room where I write and work several hours a day, and looked into the drawer where I keep my notes about quotations referred to above, searched for the corresponding block, and read.
“Today, economic and political power is entrenched in a network of interest groups whose influence on policy lies in the scope and intricacy of the mutually-benefited (though often uneasy) alliances that hold them together. Such alliances now bind industrialists to government officials, politicians to inividual companies, companies to the military, the military to the state, the state to aid agencies, aid agencies to corporations, corporations to academia, academia to regulatory agencies, and regulatory agencies to industry. Although the alliances may be unequal, all the partners have something to gain by joining forces. The result is a web of interlocking interests that effectively assures that what is deemed ‘good’ for those interests is deemed ‘good’ for society at large.” Unfortunately, as I said before, I was then not attentive enough to note the name of the author of these lines.