The Visible Face of Oppression

In Europe we have a long history of our rulers inviting stateless Jewish people into our countries to play roles that were carefully chosen, and often enforced by law. For example tax collectors, money lenders, court officials, and others. In this way Jews were forced to become the ‘visible face’ of oppression in the eyes of the general population. The rulers could then maintain a good, clean, romanticised image among the general population by diverting resentment about the unfair conditions in the society on to ‘the Jews’. (Only a small section of the Jewish community actually played these roles; most Jews were poor peasants or workers.)

To maintain this decoy system, anti-Jewish propaganda was systematically encouraged, but maintained at a low level, ready to be built up when the need arose. When the repression of the majority population reached a level that revolt was imminent, it was the Jews who were offered up to the anger of the peasants or workers, by the ruling class. In this way, the struggles for liberation by oppressed peoples have been repeatedly ‘short circuited’, or diverted, and the rulings classes have been able to maintain their position – at the expense of Jews.

Once the pogroms, enforced deportations and looting were over, the ordinarily people who had carried out these acts, and those who stood by while they happened (the majority), generally felt a deep shame for their part in it. These feelings of shame and complicity made it hard for them to later stand up for points of principle in general, thus making it even easier for the ruling class to exploit them.

The primary target of anti-Jewish oppression has always been the majority population, not Jews. This mechanism has been, and still is, very effective. It will lose its effectiveness only when it is widely recognised and understood.

Recent history

Now, shifting the focus to more recent times…

The West controls access to energy reserves in the Middle Eastern states by ‘buying off’ the Arab ruling class: we put in place and cultivate repressive rulers who sell us their country’s natural resources for their private gain. These repressive rulers need an external enemy, so that their own Arab populations can be kept preoccupied with that, rather than noticing they’ve been sold out. Israel has been deliberately manipulated into the role of that external enemy, by us in the West: first by the UK, when Israel was created, and later by the USA.

Israel now plays the same role on the world stage that Jews have long been manipulated into: that of the visible face of oppression, while we in the West (awarely or unawarely) hide behind Israel, offering it up as an easy target, to divert the anger of oppressed peoples. Just as with the corrupt Arab rulers, it is in the (narrow economic) interest of the ruling class in Israel to collude with this.

The middle agent role

The historical position of (some) Jews in Europe, and the position of Israel now, are just examples of a much more general phenomenon: the ‘middle agent’ role. The job of middle agents is to carry out the policies of the ruling class in return for some limited privilege and protection. However, they have another job that is just as important – to be resented, or better still, hated – to take the blame for, and deflect attention away from, the wider exploitative system.

The middle agent role is one of the most confusing (and effective) of the structures that hold in place the exploitative societies that we live in currently.  If you find yourself resentful of, angry about, or hating a particular group (because they clearly do bad things), it is likely that you are participating in this structure.

What makes people play middle agent roles?

I haven’t finished exploring this topic, but this is a short summary: If a group of people feel insecure and separate from other groups, they become vulnerable to accepting a position in society that has the appearance of safety or security.  Almost everyone is insecure and separated at some level, and so almost everyone is vulnerable to playing a middle agent role, if it is offered.

The people playing these roles are not generally aware of the role – they are just trying to feel safe or secure, or get on in life. It is likely that most of the people reading this article occupy at least one middle agent role, though most of these positions aren’t as high profile as, say, Israel.  The classic one is being middle class.

There is a lot to say about this topic, and probably even more to explore. I’ve made a start on this in my article A framework for understanding exploitative societies, though perhaps an article focussing specifically on the middle agent role might be useful.

Karl Lam