“A thousand thundering orders…a thousand trivial rules, each with a penalty for infraction, has made will-less robots of us all.” – From the book, Generals Die in Bed.

The View from the Trenches

There are few situations that more poignantly illustrate the darkness of the human condition than when life is intentionally, openly and unnecessarily wasted by the order of those with power and influence.

The term “cannon fodder” came to characterize the dehumanization of lower classes in the context of using them as disposable tools to advance an agenda in war.

Imagine being on the front line in the early days of the American Revolution, where officers schooled in the prevailing methods would order their troops to line up facing the opposition and advance as each side issued a volley from a single-shot weapon, then reload and waited for the other side to retaliate in kind. As bodies fell, the fighting escalated with cannons mowing down the soldiers standing in line while the colonels and generals watched from a distant hill, playing a chess game with their men.

In war, there is a long history of these practices from times when armies possessed nearly equal armament and the force of the power structure compelled soldiers to enter a situation where they would most surely die in a way that seemed at the time to be very wrong.

From the contemporary American view we have no way to truly comprehend the horrible, hopeless conditions confronting our troops in the vile, flooded, rat and lice infested trenches of World War I, and it is not the intent of any writing here to detract from the awareness of the sacrifices made. The only way to preserve our collective sanity is to maintain a death-grip on the belief that the sacrifices made by all our veterans were, in some way, for our greater good and protection.

Nonetheless, there are countless incidents documented in history where people were forced into deprived conditions unnecessarily. Likewise, the contempt of our politics, media, and economic greed are forcing hordes of citizens into an economic war zone. Thus, Cannon Fodder is a term applied here to represent the psychological warfare prevailing in the United States and Klamath today.

The Disconnect

The path to sympathy for those who faced death as cannon fodder during war is a clear and easy one. Less obvious is the psychological disruption driven by the consequences of the society we created as so many people have struggled to attain the prosperity they were raised to expect.

Like actors in a play, we go forth and execute our roles, only to learn that behind the scenes reality is quite different.

If you look with the right kind of eyes, you can see the resignation and contempt in the faces of the people working at McDonalds, Walmart, and most any restaurant or retail outlet where people with surplus money are demanding excellent, happy service from people who are barely surviving. To the working class, our society has come to resemble a treadmill that they are forced to run faster and faster on. The treadmill’s existence and speed is controlled by people they cannot see. These people on the frontlines, the cannon fodder, are stuck in an economy that doesn’t make anything. This economy outsources most of the real, physical production to other countries where other cannon fodder working for  a dime an hour makes the widgets we bring here to markup and peddle. They serve the upper classes food with ingredients that came from an agricultural mass production machine where petrochemicals grow things faster, biology is engineered genetically, and what grows is ground up and regurgitated into molds that make a consistent appearance for the masses to consume. And, like the Donner Party, they are forced to consume their own through being locked into a cycle where they can only afford to shop and eat the same way everyone else does.

As recent as 15 years ago, you could repair most common appliances such as televisions and microwaves. We now live a world where it is impossible to repair an item that breaks because it costs just a little bit more to buy a new item than repair it. Our grandfathers always used to wash and maintain their cars themselves. Now, practically everyone pays someone else to change their oil and pays a machine to wash their car for them.

Atrophy

The economically challenged are still trying to fix things out of necessity. They try, and fail, then give up. Their toilet leaks, so they make a repair with a plastic part designed to fail so they will soon buy another. When things don’t work, they try to call or email support, only to deal with another level of cannon fodder ordered to appease. The people who work at call centers are not empowered to provide remedies, they follow a script that creates the illusion that someone cares; a dead-end leading to more frustration.

The hard facts never make it to the top. Companies that design products outsource production overseas, outsource the transport, wrap the products in attention-grabbing packaging that consumes more resources than the products they contain, then outsource the support to companies that hire people destined to be screamed at and threatened by frustrated consumers. Somewhere in the rich boardrooms are the people in control, making all the decisions that trap the masses. Just like in the fable, The Emperor Has No Clothes, they make decisions that impact millions while living in a vacuum that intentionally isolates them from the shrapnel of the front lines. In such an environment, products and services don’t improve, they degrade further.

We, the people, desperately want to confront the puppet masters pulling the strings, but such a fantasy is far beyond our grasp. Now every facet of our society is configured to isolate elitists from interaction with anyone but other elitists. This is a very different environment than when small hardware stores existed. Back then, store owners would seek to stock items people needed. Even now, with 400 geothermal wells, there are no valves or washers in stock for repair. Chain stores don’t respond. They require you to adapt to your lifestyle to their collection of junk, which means using mainstream technologies that may suddenly change so they can churn more product. (Tried to refill a razor you bought five years ago?)

The exit strategy for people sick of working and living like this was once to start a business. But that dream, in effect, is gone. The structure of politics and government forces the same regulatory and licensing structure on all sizes of businesses. At this point, it has become an issue of scale because our economic system is geared to support large businesses and the blatant lack of differentiation may be the most important cause of the woes in our economy. The railroads won’t work with small shippers. Large companies offer other large companies wholesale prices far lower than a small business can secure. A large company can afford government fees, while a small business cannot. Small businesses simply cannot wade through the four levels of government red tape that large businesses hire others to do for them.

The marginalization of a majority is one of the main causes for societies to fall. History is littered with the wreckage, from the Roman Empire, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The ruling class is aware of this, so they also look to history to find ways to protect their pulpit. In India, the caste system has remained stable for a thousand years through the underpinning of religious beliefs that give the populace an exit strategy: be virtuous while accepting your station and you will be in a better position when you are reincarnated. American’s have been using similar controls through our prevailing religions, the media, and the ethos of patriotism.

How long we can maintain cohesion is anybody’s guess, but understanding that every generation of Americans has moved up in prosperity until now is a grim reminder that a population spoon-fed the ideals of liberty since birth will likely not stand for this once a crisis of suitable proportion emerges. We are on the precipice of something and the longer we wait, the worse will be the reaction.

In France in 1793, Mary Antoinette was beheaded for less….by the cannon fodder.