Where lies the Power?

Behind business and government


There is one crucial matter that is often quietly shoved to the side. It concerns the highest levels of power. Here we enter a complex world of unclear ownerships, big numbers, remote characters and smoke and mirrors, where little is verifiable.

Yet if we wish to see change, this matter must be raised. A small number of people hold a disproportionate capacity to block, slow, obfuscate, steer, nudge or, indeed, promote world change, without most of us knowing.

Power is intricately and broadly distributed, mainly through the agency of money. There are millions of stakeholders, yet the highest levels of power are concentrated in very few hands. No one fully understands or controls this multiplex global system, though sufficient is known to make it work well in many instances. Deceptions and illusions are involved.

This said, the tweaking and skewing doesn't always work and, by quirk or by decision, undercurrents, waves of change or reforms come about to counterbalance this tendency. Power structures can also become victim to their own illusions.

Instruments exist to influence political and market conditions and crucially affect the whole system, especially when big players act in consort. Such concerted pressures have been applied in many areas: wars have been fomented, inventions bought out and suppressed, inventors and dissidents ruined, funding withheld and ideas smothered, to further big-power interests.

The influence exercised by major players raises a problem of power, politics and accountability. Global structures are flexible and capable of adaptation, so we're not talking about destroying the existing system but shifting the way it is run and applied. Its rules and parameters are slanted in ways that create fundamental ecological, cultural and human problems.

The problem is that, in the modern world, markets are supposed to be free and responsive to supply and demand, and governments are supposed to be democratic and accountable. But the biggest players can dominate and rig the system, get rid of inconvenient public figures and steer things in their way.

This happens through networks of friends and common interests, and by powerful organisations and people - ultimately about 400 people worldwide. Whether or not Freemasons are involved, they operate in a well-evolved masonic style and pattern.

That is, members of power elites are nominated and chosen or vetted and approved. Things are sorted out behind closed doors according to a logic which has evolved over several centuries. The more that democracies and 'open societies' have developed, the more background and invisible these networks have become.

This isn't a single 'big brother' source, though there are key players - it's more of a power-system with well-established aims to introduce world government of a certain kind, to deflate the power of religions and popular movements and to promote secular values in which ordinary people are co-opted into becoming vested interests and reinforcers of this system. This power is transnational and outlasts generations, and the ability to get to the top is open only to those who are chosen or approved.

Background power


Power at the top is wielded by a very small number of people. They know each other. Only some are publicly well-known. They often work through protégés, front-organisations, via quiet personal chats, select meetings or specific pressures applied in specific directions.

Such background sources of power define the main parameters and agendas and, when necessary, decide what really happens. The ability to pull strings and control is not infinite or infallible, but these people constitute a more powerful force than any other grouping.

Here lies our problem. Left to itself, the world would generate a greater momentum for change than we have seen. But the world is not left to itself, and the international system is not responsive to public opinion and genuine human or ecological need - it responds mainly to dominant interests.

There are exceptions, things aren't and cannot be totally steered. But the ability of this system to absorb and co-opt new initiatives, influences and trends is one of its survival mechanisms.

Ultimately, the world is steered by about 300-500 people. Thousands more exercise contributory inputs - billionaires, key position-holders and high-ranking voices in the system. Background power structures plug into and depend on this overall layer of more publicly-visible power.

The paper value of assets controlled by the world's three richest people is equivalent to the annual GNP of the whole developed world. Out of all world investment in 1999, 76% went to the developed world and 24% to developing countries. Developing countries constitute 90% of the world's population. Enormous wealth is created on the back of enormous global poverty and dysfunctionality.

They have sufficient clout and resources to shape national and global trends, policy and de facto reality. They can pull strings of governments and bend ears in global institutions. Do things our way and you get promotion and success. Don't, and you pay a price. They know the right people and can usually tilt things one way or another.

Absolute hands-on control is not necessary, since the world economic system, geared to self-interest, sees to that. But on critical issues, they get their way. The world public doesn't usually stop it, and the media, education systems, incentives and pressures make sure the public doesn't feel a need to do so.

In recent times, this system has changed from one of force to one of incentive. The threat of loss of comfort, position and security are sufficient to keep people in place

Mechanisms and instruments


This isn't one formalised organisation, more an organism, a caucus of shared interests. Any system will always have a small number acting as its main brains, but the big question is how they are motivated and how much they are in touch with the realities most people experience.

Many of the world's top players show up in conferences, think-tanks and organisations such as the Davos and Bilderberg conferences, the Council for Foreign Affairs, OPEC, OECD and others. But even here, the basic policies and drift of these organisations are agreed quietly behind closed doors. This operates through private contacts or the confluence of ideas and intents shared by people with interlocking interests.

Different interest groups, schools of thought and generations are united by a common interest in controlling power and resources and stopping other things happening. This is elastic: people, ideas and dynasties rise and fall. Things shift and change, but not fundamentally.

This isn't necessarily a unified conspiracy: it is a network of common interests. In any society, this happens - those with experience, seniority, information and influence get together to collaborate, talk things through, engineer things, consult trusted friends, build coalitions, do each other favours, pull off wheezes, promote ideas, pull strings and, when necessary, sabotage, discredit, exclude or clamp down on whatever threatens them.

Some participants represent old money (such as the Rothschilds) or newer money (Bill Gates); there are key resource-holders (de Beers and oil-sheikhs) and corporate interests (Rockefellers, Fords, the Carlyle Groupl); royal dynasties (Windsors and ibn Sauds); key organisations (CIA, EU and OPEC); groups of interests (military-industrial, finance, energy, pharmaceuticals); statespeople and office-holders, key advisors, professors, diplomats and executives; central banks, big investors, market leaders and strategic business consultants. There are organised-crime (Mafia, Colombians) and covert-ops members (NSA, MI6) and an assortment of oddbods (such as arms traders and offshore fixers). Wealth, influence, placing and acceptability determine participation, and there is no formal admissions procedure. But you don't succeed unless permitted.

There are conspiracies: cabals, lobbies and secret schemes that promote shady, narrow aims, some of which are highly questionable. But top nobs can have large-scale effects on humanity and nature, prioritising the interests of the few over the many, without actually constituting an intentional conspiracy.

Absolute control is unnecessary since the system as a whole, with its rules, norms, managers and enforcers, handles the majority of issues. Instead strategic interventions are made to influence longterm trends by nudging specific ideas or initiatives into action.

Yet top-down control suffers from organisational clunkiness, poor intelligence, insulation from reality, internal argument, the law of unintended outcomes, competing vested interests, near-sightedness, rogue operators, conflicting issues and force majeure - so this business is not easy.

Glitches in the system


The system is not entirely foolproof, and here lies a crucial point. Its priority is to perpetuate the overall status quo of power and to promote its agenda. Society is awash with change and innovations, yet somehow the wider and deeper agenda remains the same.

Yet this system, though powerful, is not all-knowing: it sees what it can see, and is limited to its own viewpoint.

Something else is going on too: a new agenda surfaced in the 1960s, suitably constrained in the 1970s-80s but nevertheless growing as an historic undercurrent. New factors have appeared on the world stage: the environmental and climatic crisis, soaring demographics, the rising impetus of the former Third World, changing public values and humanity's maturing psycho-spiritual condition.

The impact of these factors is not fully seen by the world's controlling interests because they live in a world of their own. As long as the world's population is disunited and kept busy scrabbling for crusts, all is well, but when larger forces take over, power comes into question.

There is conscience and foresight amongst people at the top, and some are deeply concerned for the future. Anti-capitalist demonstrations jolted them and exposed a rift. The rift is not clear-cut, but American neo-conservative actions since 9/11 have driven a wedge into the cracks.

The rift resolves into two main camps.

One camp inclines toward humane, forward-thinking, liberalising values incorporating ecological, humanitarian and planetary issues - at least inasmuch as money-making and continued power rely on thinking ahead and thinking big. It tends toward soft power (business and culture) and internationalism.

The other camp is reactive, promoting a narrower, harder-hearted conservatism and self-preservation instinct, tending to deny change and stop it happening, except when it is in its own interests. It tends toward hard (military) power and American superpower dominance.

This global power setup has largely been centred in USA and Europe, with Europe tilting toward the first camp and America toward the second. And it is not simple and clear-cut, because there are various agendas at stake, and power-mongers, while interdependent, are individualists.



That old thorny question. Both conspiracy-deniers and conspiracy-promoters are very emphatic about their positions, distorting the question. There are shades of conspiracy.

There are secret projects and black ops which intentionally pursue a master-plan - some of them longterm.

There are background manoeuvrings to promote certain big ideas - such as scientific, pharmaceutical and ideological interests - or simply the accruing of wealth.

There are groupings who share interests and thus act as a powerful bloc, both public, discreet and hidden. With significant influence or wealth, an assertive group can swing markets, pull off political stunts or influence public opinion or governments sufficiently to control or skew things considerably.

There are groupings who implicitly act together without intentionally cooperating - they have shared or converging interests and therefore make similar decisions or act along similar lines.

There are conspiracies that appear to be so, but they don't exist, or they're not really as they are described.

There is also fantasy injected into the arena. And there's truth in it too.

The public pays a high price by failing to identify society's true controllers. It makes people more susceptible to manipulation, coercion and exploitation.

It is naive to believe they can be got rid of - history has shown that revolutions and sudden regime changes can bring back the same problems in different clothing. Because the key issue is that people as a whole permit society to be hijacked and hoodwinked and, until this pattern ends, such problems will continue.

In our time, the key question is the motivation, intentions, competence and wisdom of power-holders. Because while they can be a key part of the problem, they have the wherewithal to be a key part of the solution.

But it's not quite that easy. Moral preferences, human rights, the natural world, poverty and peace are not the highest of priorities when questions of money and power are at stake.

There are and have been conspiracies based not just on self-interest, but on a big idea, and some are relatively benign in intent, even if the outcomes are very mixed - the Masonic writers of the American constitution, the Socialist International of 100 years ago and the recent environmental movement are examples.

And there are those whose big idea is to oppose timely and appropriate developments and block change, even at the cost of many lives and whole landscapes.

How we judge these complex matters depends very much on our own position and attitudes.

Abuse of power


The world is in a precarious state, and this makes the operations of background power-holders critically harmful to humanity. At present there is a strong coincidence of a collective psychology of fear of change interlocking with the manoeuvrings of background vested interests, whose main agenda is to promote and maintain a state of war, division and excessive resource exploitation across the planet.

War is a key method for diverting humanity from addressing its primary questions. It creates not only mayhem and destruction, but also damaged individuals and societies living in a skewed emotional field.

One historical example is Israelis who, with the founding of Israel in 1948, switched from being Jews persecuted by Europeans to oppressors of Arabs. Emotionally, their justification is defence from further threat - understandable, but arguably in excess to need and creating the very threat they fear.

Their sense of proportion has been skewed by painful historical experience, to the extent that they feel their own security overrides that of anyone else. The price it charges Palestinians and the rest of the world is clearly excessive.

Many Israelis will experience this as a harsh or anti-Semitic sentiment. This is part of the fight-back psychology programmed into the vortex of collective pain arising from the Holocaust. It is part of the defence, as are Israel's military prowess, security walls and strategic volatility.

It makes Israelis permit military interests to dominate their society. Since Israel is a settler nation founded on an idealistic basis, this is tragic. The whole nation is geared to a war footing, psychologically, socially and economically.

Israelis are not unique in this - they provide but a clear-cut example. Pakistan is another. Britain is another. Up to the 1980s, many South American countries were in thrall to military dictators, and today every country worldwide except Costa Rica feels driven to possess armed forces and to invest heavily in war preparedness. This is ludicrous.

It is driven by the interlocking of a psychology of fear and vested interests with sufficient power to infect society with military-acquiescent values and, at times, to set wars in motion.

Sometimes this can be a very small number of people, a lobby, who set out intentionally to promote war. The Nazis started out small.

The New American Century


During the Bush presidency, we saw a classic example of the public exposure of a form of conspiracy, the Project for the New American Century. PNAC was intended to ensure US dominance in the 21st C. Its effect was actually the opposite, hastening America's downfall.

PNAC was a bundle of ideas developed since the 1970s by interests believing in American superiority and seeking to maintain the primacy of the oil, weapons and high-tech industries of the 20th C. On the benign side, it perceived the international community incapable of organising international relations, except in a context of superpower geometry.

It represented a mindset whose day was ending, and incompetent execution of missions like the Iraq war hastened the process. This demonstrates that, while serious conspiracies do happen, seeking to jolt human history one way or another, their omnipotence, foresight and understanding of the world situation and the drift of history are not god-like or foolproof. In fact, their methods, and the complex situations they tamper with, can make their activities seriously flawed.

But still, they cause a lot of damage and suffering, and the emotional psychology of recipient societies can be damaged for generations.

How can this be ended? To some extent this pattern is integral to humanity - though background lobbies and conspiracies could nevertheless be more benign in effect. But what permits it is humanity as a whole, and its tendency to acquiesce in the arrogation of power by elites and vested interests.

As the philosopher Burke said in the 1700s: For the triumph of evil it is necessary only that good people do nothing. But ultimately, the only antidote to conspiracy is a rebuilding of the 'ring of power' in humanity and its nations and communities.

This involves a depth-psychological transformation of enormous proportions. But in the shorter term, two things can help: an increase in public vigilance and intuition, and a willingness to follow through on it.

This is serious, wide and deep. It is fundamental to human progress. If we had no background vested interests manoeuvring things, the world would probably not be facing an environmental crisis today, and many, many things would be different.


NEXT: Our Ghosts and Ghouls

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