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Virtue is not chosen,
the chosen becomes virtuous

By Martyn Jones

The title of this essay is "Virtue is not chosen, the chosen becomes virtuous", it aims to argue that we have been conditioned to accept that what is "popularly acclaimed" is generally more legitimate than that which is not, and that the popularity and legitimacy of "things" is a result of a heightened and wide-spread sense of discernment, judgment and perspicacity, and not the result of big lies, propaganda and unceasing conditioning carried out via channels such as the entertainment industry at the behest of the beneficiaries of globalisation. The argument is that although we may consider that we do have choice and that we do choose what we want from a whole range of possibilities, this is not in fact the case, and instead of building on the democratic advances and gains of the past we are in fact being pushed backwards into the future, going forward in time whilst going back in the direction of the laws of the jungle, we witness the illusion of progress and are oblivious to the reality of regression.

My concern then is that we have been sucked into a quagmire of disarming blandness where most people are content to wallow in unwitting ignorance, cosseted by vague ideas of moral uprightness, and the fallacy that we have the right to pick and choose as we please and that we are well informed. As for the few who might refuse to go along with all of the big lies, we are told that resistance is futile, and indeed the fight for decency, honour and integrity sometimes takes on the feeling of pushing against a very large and immovable mattress.

The message is clear, none of us is free from the all-pervasive influence of a sub-movement that is destroying the value of meaning, the credibility of definitions and the acceptance of terms of reference. We have seen a quantum leap in the use and abuse or power and the language used to justify it, we have become used to a constant bombardment of pornographic relativity that beggars description - sometimes all we can do is point at things, aghast. When all language, truth and logic is destroyed then, in its most obtuse manifestation: the interpretation of anything can mean anything or nothing at all. But take particular care here, not for nothing are we told that class and context mean nothing, it is through such big lies and the use of deceitful relativity that we are being led by the nose down the garden path to a globalisation that will serve no one other than the profit rate.

Indeed, there are many examples of the loss of meaning and the abuse of language and logic; there are many ways of showing the shameful relativism that pervades the mentality of those who would seek to retain power.

In the invasion of Iraq more than 20,000 Iraqi men, women and children were killed, but curiously in the realms of many people's minds this is seen as a relatively small number when compared to those who were killed in the twin-towers in New York.

European Jews murdered in a holocaust organized and executed by Nazis were direct victims of one of the most terrible acts of mans inhumanity to man in history, however the Jews have not been the only people in history to have been subject to such genocide. It is well documented that in the concentration camps of the nazis more than 5 million people of Jewish origin and affiliation were murdered, there are many movies and books about the holocaust[1], there are no "Hollywood" movies that I know of that address the plight of the millions of communists, socialists and unionists who were murdered at the hands of the nazis.

We now learn that the Iraqi regime was overthrown, not because they really had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), or that the Iraqis were an imminent threat to the USA, but because Saddam Hussein was a very bad man who murdered and tortured his people. However, and at the same time - actually in more recent memory - tyrants and dictators in Africa have murdered millions of people, yet the west does nothing, there is no regime change and there are no embargoes worth mentioning and there is no corrective or remedial action. Of course, in the places in Africa where these atrocities were committed they do not have either oil or liquefied gas.

When Bill Clinton was President of the USA many Republicans and some Democrats accused him of bringing down shame and dishonour upon the highest office in the land. Part of the Republican Presidential election platform for the 2000 USA elections was the highly touted return of honour and integrity to the White House. Some people are still convinced that there is now greater moral authority in the administration of the USA than there was during the two Clinton administrations.

The Republican party and the Bush administration in the USA makes much play of the fact that Castro's Cuba sits on the axis of evil, and as if by way of demonstrating the nature of the Cuban government they point to things like the detainment of citizens and political prisoners and the summary trial and execution of people charged with crimes such as terrorism. At the same time, the BBC - probably the most reliable English speaking news agency - reports that the handling of alleged Al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters detained at the US base in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay has developed into an international controversy. In addition, the Red Cross has broken with tradition to condemn conditions at the camps. In addition, former US under-secretary of state William Rogers stated that there was concern that the situation in Guantanamo would take the US from the moral high ground. Rogers and 18 past US diplomats, including 11 former ambassadors, filed papers which stated: "The perception of this case abroad - that the power of the United States can be exercised outside the law and even, it is presumed, in conflict with the law - will diminish our stature in the wider world". All of this coming on the heels of allegations that the US troops were passive witnesses to the gross mistreatment and execution of suspected Taleban prisoners of war[2].

From just a few examples of the many we might see that the crass immorality in the abuse of relativism is clear, but this relativism is hardly surprising considering that we live in times in which: warmongers are peacemakers; lies are truth; hate is love; perversion is variety; torture is legitimated by the biggest bully on the block; invasion and occupation is liberation and rebuilding; debt is wealth; and, thievery is enterprise.

The culture business projects an idea of what is popularly desired. They invent idols by proxy, in much the same way that Feuerbach[3] stated that god was just a projection of humankind, so it is with cultural and political manipulation, our demigods and idols may appear to be identified by the masses, but they are created for us and they are chosen for us, and when they are no longer useful they are removed, in the main, and primarily and ultimately, by big-time corporate capitalism. In reality the new industry 'culture god' is sold partially as if it were a projection of humankind and partially as something divine, when it is merely a projection of long term marketing plans that are solely driven by the profit rate. This is why there is no real difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican party in the US, or the Conservative party and the New Labour party in the UK, for example. Political parties of the right and centre (and here we find some of the old parties of the left) are in the pockets of capital, as much as they may project the idea of choice and affinity, the only real attraction they have is to business, to capitalism, so they play the democratic game, but for a master who essentially doesn't like democracy.

However, the culture business is as much an arm of global corporate monopolistic capitalism as the war or terrorism or electoral manipulation or the creation of useful scenarios. The culture industry serves as a business and as a means is a service of global capital, in it's many guises, it decides and promotes its values in all the channels that it has at its disposal to reach a susceptive audience, whether it's a movie idealising fascistic violence or one that glorifies conspicuous consumption, the motive is the same. A whole generation is being brought up getting its values from movies and technology based games and we, in the main, let it happen. We are given the media that we have been trained to want, as much as Pavlov's dogs were trained, they were probably not as highly subservient as we have become, but this is the picture, we are global capitalism's willing band of collaborators, sometimes we complain, mostly we do not. Clearly then the media is part of the culture industry, and not for nothing does Fox News describe itself as being part of the entertainment industry, and subsequently the entertainment industry (also known as the culture industry[4]) is at the service of capitalism.

The "information" that we get is no information at all, the first gulf war was supposed to have been the first war that provided all the information, all the facts of the event unfolding before our eyes, directly to the living rooms and board-rooms those who wanted it. Of course, this is complete and utter rubbish, the coverage of the first gulf war was nothing more than a projection of fantasy and half-truths, with in reality very little content at all, what happened was that we were given much less information than in previous times, and all under the guise of providing us with all the information, real-time and around the clock, very clever but also exceedingly corrupt.

Take Dylan Thomas for example, as an unexceptional case in point, some people say that he was perhaps the best Welsh poet of the 20th century, which is arguably nonsense. As I see it, Dylan Thomas was one of the most influential poets in the English language of his time, maybe in part this was due to the fact that his poetry was popular amongst English and especially US academics and mainly because he wrote in English, he was after all, the "Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive", but if he had been in fact had been the Dylan Thomas of the Boulevard de Saint-Germain writing his poetry in French, would he have received so much attention in the Anglo-Saxon controlled world of the culture industry? To say nothing of what would have happened if he had written all his work in Welsh. His "Welshness" was not essential to his success, some would say it's a bit of a hindrance at times, neither was success found essentially through the quality of what he produced, because many produce works of quality in many languages, but do not have the same success, no, it was, in my opinion, because he was chosen.

Indeed, in terms of language and presentation it is well worth remembering, if our sole aim is ingratiating ourselves with the masters of the moment, that we must do so using terms and references and even style that will find favour with those who would listen to us or read us. This is why people of cultural/"ethnic" groups that adopt the culture of their masters fair better than if they did not, it may be a humiliating perversion driven by a fear of alienation and the need for self preservation, acquired to avoid death, destruction and perpetual exile, but nonetheless it has happened. Maybe this is why capitalism has such a hard time from time to time with Islam, and an easier time with older religions - the older the easier - in that there are certain moral values that people in the Muslim world will not sacrifice, even in the name of globalisation or the making of money. It could also be, as we have witnessed, that the conception of other religions has been radically altered by their media style makeovers. We have become accustomed to powers ability to reconfigure old-time religion to suit it's needs that we believe that this is normal and that anything else, for example, an unwillingness to change values to suit capitalist goals, is just plain unadulterated fundamentalism, and if this was not enough, we need to associate certain fundamentalism, not ours of course, with things like terrorism, repression and a hatred of our way of life, completely bogus manipulation, but nonetheless a series of lies and half-truths that many people believe.

If we take a look at the seventh art we may note that, despite honourable exceptions, there is as much morality in "Hollywood" as there is in US foreign policy. For more than 60 years we have been targeted with cinema that is comfortably built on a reusable product framework and a mix and match of a variety of ingredients: the shallowness of pathos; the vulgarity of cheap sentimentality; the crookedness of patriotism; the perversion and simplification of history, and the exclusive and selective and distorted view of history; the promotion of righteous and unlimited violence; the trivializing of humanity that doesn't fit the Judaic-Christian view; the enforcement of ideas that class and privilege are the natural order of things; the vilification of socialism, communism and unionism; and a plethora of assorted cracker-barrel "philosophy" and bullshit "sociology" that is not even worth mentioning. However, if we were completely discerning and aware this in itself would not be a problem, however, one of the main problems with popular cinema and our relationship to it lies in its pervasive influence, and it is easy to confuse the direction of the references between cinema and ourselves. At times we forget where we get our references from, this is quite normal, and although in our intellectual lives we may wish to believe that we get our references from serious and reputable sources it is also clear that we sometimes ascribe values and attributes to cinema that in fact do not exist. One of the problems with cinema, and to some extent television, is that they provide palpable and reassuring surrogates for realities that would otherwise make us uncomfortable and would make us significantly more aware of the effects of alienation. With the expeditious use of cinema we can ensure that history can be rewritten to our satisfaction, wars won, evildoers slain and the anxiety of modern living dispelled momentarily through a strong identification and association with otherwise fantastic stories of romance, rags to riches transformations and happy endings. Another of the problems with cinema and reference is in the simplicity and vividness of cinema, which means, that we have a tendency to imbue references from cinema with strength greater than references obtained from other sources and experience, which may not have quite the same fundamental impact on some of our senses. This is why nazi propaganda relied so much on the vividness of imagery, and why it was so successful, indeed this is why "Hollywood" adopted exactly the same techniques to promote the rise of the US empire - actually the continuation of the English empire, and this is why it still continues to use these techniques, only now in a much more subtler form, and in a much more commercial way - the nazis never managed to make anything like as much money with the marketing of their conditioning propaganda - and for a seemingly much more understated form of imperialism: globalisation.

In popular music for example, a highly subjective area, do we really believe that what is widely known is necessarily the best? What is most acclaimed has some intrinsic merit that other things do not possess? Is the fact that we do not hear all the music that is really out there mean that in essence it does not exist? Does this non-existent popular music have any less merit than music and musicians that have been chosen? Of course, political correctness has dictated that we must believe that all music has its own merit, that all music has value, that there is no better music or worse music, that all music has equal validity. This is clearly nonsense, popular music, as we know it, as is being flogged via satellite to yet another know-nothing generation, is generally very cleverly packaged crap, that generates vast sums of business based on the fact it is tied so clearly with puerile and easy manipulation of culture, of capitalistic social alienation, of mass fashion, to those who do not want difficult music anymore than their parents want difficult TV or difficult moral questions and difficult political decisions. Parents and children alike want their choices, but they also want their choices to be easy, sterilised and devoid of intellectual vitamins yet full of the fat and chemicals of ignorance. So as a result we get over-fatted kids and amoral adults - fat heads with fat butts.

Now, the citizen in general is both a consumer and producer, and as a citizen is paying the profit margin in terms of the gap between the value they generate and the rewards they accrue from such, we also pay the second profit margin for goods or services when we buy them, a double subjugation in any language. If we add the element of popular culture, then we can add another factor, the culture is exploited for commercial gain, for the gain of corporate business, not for the society they created popular culture movements - this results in a trilogy of exploitation. Globalisation and empire is therefore reflected in popular culture, as we can see for sure, it is clearly reflected in products of the culture industry, in the predominance of Anglo-Saxon culture over others, of the acceptance of Anglo-Saxon culture over others, even the seemingly political correct notion of the promotion of world music is controlled and contained by elements of the empire and its capitalist backers, this is another way of validating the claim that the days of empire are not over, yet.

Why are there howls of rage from stage right when the media circus is occasionally used as platform for outspoken liberals[5], is it because of what they say? Some state it is because they should not mix up entertainment and politics, but this is just a bogus argument, as entertainment and politics are inextricably linked. In part it is a question of shame and the anger comes from getting the moral finger pointed at you in flagrante delicto so to speak, for example people do not like to be told that their war is immoral and illegitimate. But, I also see that people despise the fact that their channels of control, their darling news networks and media freak shows, are occasionally subverted by media terrorists.[6]

Typically when virtue is not chosen but given then we find that the virtues that we are given lack a certain something, and usually this lack of a certain something has a lot to do with an absence of wisdom, a perversion of justice, a bizarre interpretation of courage and a lack of temperance. Indeed, in this world in which we live "Virtue is not chosen, the chosen becomes virtuous", and we, the vast majority of us, do not do the choosing. Even if this is the very idea that we carry around in our heads all day, that we have real choices and that we exercise our discernment as an act of free will, it does not make it true. We are trading in our culture of enlightened decency for a culture of contentment, of blissful ignorance and morally corrupt gratification, and if we don't wake up and try and put things right, to correct the rise of fascism by stealth and to derail a globalisation that only really benefits the rich at the expense of the poor; then this indigence of decency and lack of respect for hard won rights will come back to eat us alive.


  1. - The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering by Norman G. Finkelstein
  2. - The subject of the documentary Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death by Jamie Doran
  3. - The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach
  4. - The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception, from Dialectic of Enlightenment by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (1944)
  5. - For example, Michael Moore's acceptance speech at the Oscars for his movie Bowling For Columbine, which included the polemic comment "Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up"
  6. - On the Sunday, March 9th 2003, in CNN's Late Edition show with Wolf Blitzer, Richard Perle accused New Yorker Magazine investigative reporter Seymour Hersh of being a terrorist.

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