by Caitlin Johnstone
There's a scene from John Steinbeck's
The Pearl that's been coming back
to me over and over again ever since I started writing about US
I find it amazing that
this scene hasn't become a political meme yet, given Steinbeck's
fame and given its perfect illustration of the fake two-party
system that we see in western so-called 'democracies'.
The Pearl is a short novel about a poor fisherman, Kino,
who discovers the titular enormous gem in an oyster and goes to sell
it to the pearl buyers in town.
What he doesn't know is
that the buyers, while they have multiple offices and pretend to
compete with each other, all actually work for the same owner...
"Kino has found
the Pearl of the World," Steinbeck writes.
"In the town, in
little offices, sat the men who bought pearls from the
fishers. They waited in their chairs until the pearls came
in, and then they cackled and fought and shouted and
threatened until they reached the lowest price the fisherman
"And when the buying was over, these buyers sat alone and
their fingers played restlessly with the pearls, and they
wished they owned the pearls.
For there were
not many buyers really - there was only one, and he kept
these agents in separate offices to give a semblance of
When Kino brings the
priceless pearl to the sellers, they put on a performance,
working together to deceive him into thinking it has no value in
order to cheat him out of it for a ridiculously low price.
The man behind the desk said:
"I have put a
value on this pearl. The owner here does not think it fair.
I will ask you to examine this - this thing and make an
"Notice," he said
to Kino, "I have not mentioned what I have offered."
The first dealer, dry
and stringy, seemed now to see the pearl for the first time.
He took it up, rolled
it quickly between thumb and forefinger, and then cast it
contemptuously back into the tray.
"Do not include
me in the discussion," he said dryly. "I will make no offer
at all. I do not want it. This is not a pearl - it is a
His thin lips curled.
Now the second dealer, a little man with a shy soft voice, took
up the pearl, and he examined it carefully. He took a glass from
his pocket and inspected it under magnification.
Then he laughed
are made of paste," he said. "I know these things. This is
soft and chalky, it will lose its color and die in a few
He offered the glass
to Kino, showed him how to use it, and Kino, who had never seen
a pearl's surface magnified, was shocked at the strange-looking
The third dealer took the pearl from Kino's hands.
"One of my
clients likes such things," he said. "I will offer five
hundred pesos, and perhaps I can sell it to my client for
Kino reached quickly
and snatched the pearl from his hand. He wrapped it in the
deerskin and thrust it inside his shirt.
The man behind the
"I'm a fool, I
know, but my first offer stands. I still offer one thousand.
What are you doing?" he asked, as Kino thrust the pearl out
"I am cheated," Kino cried fiercely. "My pearl is not for
sale here. I will go, perhaps even to the capital."
Now the dealers
glanced quickly at one another.
They knew they had
played too hard; they knew they would be disciplined for their
failure, and the man at the desk said quickly,
"I might go to
This is exactly how the
two-headed one-party system works, in America and elsewhere.
One party owned by
one imperialist oligarchic class is
placed in two separate offices "to give some semblance of
competition," just like Steinbeck's pearl buyers.
And just like Steinbeck's
pearl buyers, they work together to deceive the people into
accepting the lowest possible bid, in their case meaning the
acceptance of virtually no change at all from the
imperialist oligarchic status quo.
You see this kleptocratic dynamic at play regardless of who
is in office...
When the two-headed
one-party system convinced Americans to sell their pearl to
Barack Obama, for example,
their payment took the form of a corporatist healthcare scam
deceitfully labeled the 'Affordable Care Act' (Obamacare)
and a pathetic temporary band-aid on the sucking chest wound of
environmental peril, along with a continuation and expansion of all
of Bush's most depraved foreign and domestic policies.
Then Kino, angry and determined never again to be deceived, sold his
pearl to the Republican Party.
This time his payment
consisted of a tax break for the wealthy and some verbiage about
a wall, along with a continuation and expansion of all of
Obama's most depraved foreign and domestic policies.
This pattern repeats over and over and over again,
whether it's the presidency or Congress, and the people never learn
They're trained to think
of the two parties as competing, when really they're more like the
left fist and the right fist on the same boxer.
boxer uses the left jab and the right cross in conjunction with
each other in one-two punch combinations to accomplish the same
goal, namely to leave his opponent staring up at the arena
lights and rethinking his life decisions.
And in this case, the
boxer's opponent is you...
Ralph Nader, who to this day is still falsely smeared as
George W Bush's pseudo-victory
over Al Gore in 2000, occasionally shares an anecdote about the
time he told his father that what America needs is a good third
"I'll settle for a
second," his father replied.
This is the kind of clear
seeing we all need to have.
We need to not fall
into the drama of the two-handed puppet show and mistake what we
are seeing for two separate and competing entities.
We need to see and be
aware of the puppeteer at all times.
Look past the "semblance of competition" and watch what the
pearl buyers are actually doing.
Ignore their words.
Ignore their fake pro-wrestling kayfabe combat over
impeachment agendas they know will never bear fruit and
their Russia conspiracies they know are pure nonsense.
Watch their actual behaviors instead.
Don't fall for the illusion.
Don't get sucked into the drama of the two-handed puppet show.
Don't be deceived, Kino.
Don't sell your pearl...