First, all societies – all nations – are alike in that they are all populated by humans, and in human society there are ever those who reject the concept of a society of equals and rather than choose civilization, choose instead to pander to their baser instincts. To such, status is all…but because they lack the emotional characteristics – compassion, empathy, altruism – that have over time bound humans first into societies and then into civilization, they see attaining status by oppressing the many as preferable to earning status by working towards the common good.
Secondly, throughout human history the underlying cause of all of the catastrophes – war, artificial famines, torture and worse in the name of religion, mass poisonings from toxic pollution, etc. – that we have inflicted upon ourselves can be traced back to the few (to what are, essentially, proto-humans) who are emotionally incapable of valuing others as equals…and so incapable of coexisting as equals…and so driven to attain status – to attain power – over others; status and power that they will inevitably abuse for the same reasons that they are driven to attain it.
Distinguishing between those who have or can earn status and those who are driven to take status by some other means is, in fact, the great trick to maintaining a democracy…a nation…a civilization. This is no secret in the modern political realm; as evidence, I give you the ever growing masses of advertising and other forms of propaganda focused either on attacking the opposition or hate- and fear-mongering; such is designed to ensure that you don’t look too closely at the candidate or judge them or their party by what they have done rather than by what they say.
More to the point, throughout human history the weapons of oppression have ever been the manipulation of truth, wealth, and the force of arms (usually in that order and, unfortunately, eventually all three). You can judge the likely direction of a society or a nation by the deployment of those weapons. For example, a society or nation devaluing truth (or, conversely, routinely permitting untruth within their political discourse – in their media and political advertising, today) is one clue. Wealth being deployed against truth (such as was enshrined in law in America recently by Citizens United) or being so casually used to corrupt government that it becomes a national joke are yet more clues.
Further, consider how much wealth America poured into organizations designed to spread the truth – Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, Radio y Televisión Martí, etc. – because we knew the truth was the single greatest enemy of totalitarian regimes; now consider how much wealth is being used against the truth in America by the American right. To use an antiquated term, the sands of time are slipping by…
And this go-round, America’s enemies are primarily internal and so much more effective; there is an all too great possibility that America’s lifespan will be compressed to the same extent as history’s other examples of nations destroyed…free one day, totalitarian the next, and gone the following – all within a single generation.