Learned helplessness is ubiquitous in civilized humans, and perhaps the most significant psychological threat to meaningful resistance.
The machine nurtures learned helplessness by exercising a complete monopoly on violence. Those at the top of the power hierarchy reserve the right to use overwhelming force against any act of rebellion that threatens the integrity of the status quo. The entire resources of the US National Guard will be employed to deal with a single resistant individual if need be. The message: “The machine’s directives will be followed. Resistance is futile.”
Minor forms of protest are allowed as part of the need to maintain a minimum level of friction in the system. All machines need some resistance to function properly. But protesting has to be kept within strict limits, and when it approaches these limits—which are a moving target that changes with cause and political climate—it will be met with violent and potentially deadly force. If a threat to the system is detected, it must be removed regardless of the cost or consequences.
So in one sense the recent police action in Oakland is good news. It is evidence that the Occupy Movement is starting to be viewed as a potential threat to the system. The bad news is that the machine has no off switch, no mechanism that allows it to back away from the use of overwhelming force once the process has been engaged.
I suspect that things are about to get real ugly.