In his segment New Rule on this week’s “Real Time“, Bill Maher argues that socialism can work wonders when used as a supplement to capitalism.
Mar 31 2019
Oct 11 2015
I set out here to write about capitalism and how it shapes our relationships to everything. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. I had planned to write about how competition, individualism, and the insecurity of having to “earn a living” or be denied survival, defines how we approach one another and the way in which we interact with people in our lives. I started by examining the definition of capitalism. I turned to Wikipedia first and got this:
capitalism is “an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are privately owned and operated via profit and loss calculation (price signals) through the price system.”
Most of my prior thinking had been focused on the profit and loss aspect and how the only valuation system capitalism uses is money. I had originally thought that I would want to discuss the lack of any ethics or social values in the definition and how that void gets filled by the profit imperative.
However, what I found myself focusing on first was the phrase “privately owned”. I was immediately writing about the concept of ownership. In the wake of three mass shootings in the US, this week, I found myself reaching the conclusion that any society which embraces the idea of private property is, at it’s core, violent. Violence is the very foundation that society. I found myself unable to focus on anything else. I realized that any system which includes any kind of ownership claim has to be violent. So, this isn’t a strictly anti-capitalist exploration. It’s an ownership exploration.
So, can we talk about how we are a fundamentally violent culture? How that’s a feature and not a bug? Can we talk about whether we want to be that? Whether we can change that?
I’ll walk you through my thoughts which led to “ownership = violence” and my not-yet-fully-formed ideas of alternatives and a vague sense of how to get there. My hope is that we spark the beginning of a growing dialogue.
Aug 03 2015
I don’t know about you, but if I never have to read another piece that mentions the Koch brothers in the first sentence that would be fine with me. Oops. It seems so unnatural to do so, especially during a hot summer of so much fun, except for the police killings, right wing terrorism, ongoing Greek tragedy, and countless other bummers that are absolutely ruining my beach blanket bingo.
But I generally assume their will to power must be confronted by mine at every opportunity. And because their will to power (collectively including that of their amazing retinue of bought and paid for attendants) is way bigger than mine, it’s going to be pretty miserable if I spend much of my time dreaming of how to bring down their kingdom, but I do it anyway.
They alone (and they are not alone) also have a huge head start in cultural hegemony, with a massive perpetual intellectual propaganda campaign involving not only think tanks, billions of dollars, binders of semi-famous dead and living capitalist economists and other scholars, and a famous dead mercenary woman with a cool first name who wrote two incredibly awful but famously anti-altruistic novels in the 1940s and 50s followed by decades of mostly inhumane essay writing, but also by a famous and imposing dead German philosopher whose name until recently I could neither spell nor pronounce.
I suppose I should on some level study up. Instead, what a major part of me really feels compelled to do down deep on hot summer days with the planet melting is to ignore my anti-capitalist comrades, to practice the fine art of chilling out, which apparently involves working on thinking more happy and grateful thoughts, appreciating family, friends, and neighbors more, and whimsically watching life drift by with the thermostat turned way down. And I think on some level those ultra-rich superior brothers know that, which disturbs my reverie-potential even more. So, in truth, for me, it is much easier to want to fight them compulsively with all my meager energy and will to power, every single waking minute until, like the Black Knight in Monty Python, I can fight no longer, the assholes.
But I awake need more than my compulsions, even my compulsion for fighting the power. I awake need to be both among the familiar and a small hopeful part of nurturing a better world. I awake do not wish to be a human commodity waiting on economic growth to trickle my way or anyone else’s, but neither do I wish to be the silly Black Knight.
I awake am not, and you are not, to use the term in Le Gauchiste’s piece last Sunday, “homo oeconomicus.” I awake want to be unchained, and I awake want others to be as well.
But how can we take power away from the Koch brothers and those like them without saying their names with the repetition of a liturgy, becoming fixated on their power and our lack thereof, and even routinely employing martial metaphors in our theory and practice? I am not talking about “eliminationist” language, which of course is disgusting, authoritarian, and rightly verboten. I am talking about the language “of force,” using imagery we may routinely feel justified if not compelled to use, but which we sometimes would prefer not to use on some internal level.
Perhaps sometimes to be squeamish is to be healthy. I may be hesitant, but I cannot simply stay inside and ignore the cries and gasps of my brothers and sisters on the outside who cannot breathe. In that situation, I have no choice, if I am to be moral, but to go outside and to join some way in the revolt against the hands and ropes literally around their throats.
Interestingly, Dr. Fanon’s full quote begins with, “When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture.” Revolution is not culturally, much less genetically, predestined, and neither is it designed in advance to implement this or that 10-point plan. “We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”
If I am not of the particular culture that is the oppressed group outside my window, I cannot pretend to be in a position to lead them in their time of greatest need, to tell them what their priorities should be, or to attempt to move their gaze from the hands and ropes around their necks back to the Koch brothers, income inequality, global warming, TPP, or even to the holistic and fundamental need for global system change from anti-human unsustainable capitalism to deep democracy with economic, social, and cultural, as well as civil and political, rights for all. It is their breath being lost in that moment, not mine.
Similarly, if one is being deported, or one’s parent or spouse is, in that moment, nothing else matters. Or, if a woman is being forced to abandon control of her own body because of someone else’s religion or brutality, the invasion of her person, her human dignity, and her most personal liberty and privacy is being violated, which cannot be condoned or made to wait.
While never forgetting root causes, I need to join them, follow them, take whatever solidarity positions in the masses they prefer me to have. I may even catch some words or glances of misdirected hostility or suspicion from time to time, because, THEY CAN’T BREATHE and can’t be expected always to speak or see clearly and fairly in their agony toward those who fit the outward description of the oppressor group who show up in peaceful support. Within strict limits of my right and duty to protect my own person, I should be tolerant and forgiving of their occasional minor mistakes that result from the confusing plight for which they did not ask.
And indeed, if I am not in the oppressed group, I may make mistakes too–some of my “fighting words” and show of support from time to time may not be helpful or revolutionary but rather inauthentic, presumptuous, or pretentious. While self-flagellation helps no one, neither does grandiosity.
More broadly, even from a revolutionary perspective, by being a fighter all or most of the time when I want or need more than anything to be a lover, am I not thereby becoming in some way part of the system I detest? I want to have a clean conscience as regards my friends and even my enemies as much as possible, but it is more than that. I awake want to reject holistically the system that has been foisted upon us, but even “to reject” at every turn is to live in contrast to that system rather than in freedom from it.
I am guilty as charged in some or all this and raise this complex issue of “just means” in all sincerity. In fact, I recently, ironically rather haughtily, stated as such in a religiously-themed piece I published at Daily Kos, which thankfully only a few of my best buds read (which may be the same with this here piece!): “[I] don’t claim to be pious and admit to being something of a fighter out of a sense of obligation, but with words only.”
In my opinion, apathy, not confrontation, is the social disease of our time. Faced with the seeming choice between allowing myself to be apathetic and risking imperfect confrontation, I often feel obligated to do the latter in part because so many choose the former. But is that wise? Is that the best I can be doing as a species-being?
We won’t get any modicum of heaven on Earth without raising a lot of hell. We still live in a “fighting age” and need to put on our “fighting clothes” (shout out to JayRaye and the Hellraisers like Mother Jones who are daily chronicled in Hellraisers Journal). But how we each choose to raise hell must be personally authentic to the time, place, and particular Hellraiser, with justice in the service of love not unforgiving fanaticism.
Many of us would prefer to stay in our caves, preferably a well-appointed man or woman cave. Nonetheless, caring humans crawl out even when we do not have to, blink at the uncaring sky, and seek out peace, liberty, and justice for all or at least for those we see before us being choked by “the man.” In that case, our duty is to do whatever we can to stop the choking. Our solitude and circumspection may have to wait.
But they cannot always wait. We must in general follow our bliss even as, when duty calls, we “confront,” “battle,” and “defeat” the “foes” who are the beneficiaries of divide and rule. Not always an easy balancing act. Even to begin to describe the system is to risk a migraine and to expose our own disproportionate political-economic weakness as individuals in it–a bubble-driven system powered by financial gimmickry, non-dischargeable consumer debt, production based on profits and not human need, and environmental destruction; the unsustainable but seemingly unstoppable use of non-renewable resources; the exploitation of labor and the reserve army of the unemployed; and prejudice and discrimination by “race”/ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, place of birth or other happenstance that has nothing to do with one’s infinite value as a beautiful human being; and which, in a workplace and on a street near us, is reinforced not only by institutionalized state violence but also by cultural hegemony.
Pass me the bong. As bad as the global system is, we the people, taken off the farm and often wedged into inhumane living conditions, are not at all inclined to or interested in external violence. Stress results in massive self-medication involving alcohol and other drugs, at its worst a form of internal violence. However, right wing terrorists who say, for instance, that they are trying to provoke a two-way “race” “war” are not only grotesquely immoral but also liars. It is a one-way war of right wing terror and police violence against people of color. The former (and sometimes the latter) hope to dehumanize African Americans and to encourage other lone wolves and small groups of racist killers. They do not seriously expect that African Americans are going to engage in retributive racially murderous acts.
Almost all working people, regardless of our race or ethnicity, first and foremost want peace and security for ourselves, children, elderly, and other vulnerable persons with whom we may come into contact and will not purposely engage in violence except as a last resort. In short, except for the terrorist who is exercising a bloodthirsty and hateful will to power, every normal human instinct is to walk or even run away from a gunfight. That is why stand your ground laws are not only completely unnecessary but also causative of violence. They pretend people are in harm’s way who are not in order to sell unnecessary guns that cause unnecessary injury and death. We may chafe at and hopefully do protest injustice, but we do not use violence unless truly exceptional circumstances are presented–unless, that is, we are among those mercenaries engaged in state-sanctioned local or international police action or those desperate who have been unable to find lawful employment and get caught up in the illegal non-prescription drug industry.
But how do we ourselves also avoid wallowing in the toxic language of hate?–for there are things to hate. Should we avoid the intellectual exercises and temptations involved with understanding and refuting the intellectuals and propaganda gurus of the powerful? Must we ourselves eschew aesthetics, intellectual development, and intellectual pleasure? How can we engage in the study that leads to greater ability to engage in argumentation against the philosophers of the powerful, such as Nietzsche and Rand, without becoming mesmerized or coopted in the process?
I will not link to “The Atlas Society” website, but in a 3/5/11 piece by one Stephen Hicks, the many differences in the two are, to my view, overwhelmed by their similarity in rejecting socialism and aid to society’s losers and exalting “the hero”:
In politics, they agree that contemporary civilization has very significant problems, and that socialism and the welfare state are nauseating; but while Nietzsche has good things to say about aristocracy, slavery, and war and bad things to say about capitalism, Rand says the opposite. Finally, they share the same exalted, heroic struggle sense of life–although Nietzsche adds to that a strong dose of bloodthirstiness that we do not find in Rand, while Rand regularly adds a strong dose of anger that we do not find in Nietzsche.
We have no choice but to “fight the power” and the ideas they use to blind us to the fact that they are not actually engaged in exalted, heroic struggles but mass injustice to maintain their system of divide and rule by any means necessary for the purpose of controlling the world’s resources for their own profit-taking and capital accumulation. However, we refuse to lose sight of what makes us beautiful, which has nothing to do with how we look or winning spelling contests, or our fighting ability
or winning anything else, from awards to games to wars to battles for interpretation of our history.
True allies respect the disrespected:
“I cant speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it,” [Spike Lee] tells VIBETV. “All I’m going to say is that it’s disrespectful to my ancestors. That’s just me…I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody else.”
We must also respect ourselves and our own imperfect humanity. Permanent deployment is deadly, including participating in endless political battles against mercenary politicians, pundits, think tanks, and advertising gurus who wish to define and commodify us at so many dollars per vote under a “First Amendment” that speaks not the language of justice in the service of love but the language of money in the service of more money. And it is not simply a matter of getting back to the future either. Our ancestors made horrible mistakes too, often of tribalism, paternalism, sexism, and other forms of division and social hierarchy, so that to awake is not merely a retrospective cultural event.
So not only the will to power but also power itself as an end or a means to money stinks with the stench of greed, selfishness, and death. We absolutely don’t want to become like the Koch brothers.
But is there an easy, or at least emotionally cathartic way out? When we awake, as we must, should we try to make being a loser “cool”?
That “loser as coolness” commodity was produced and sold two decades ago to great aesthetic effect … seems like yesterday
We should refuse to be purchased by a consumer culture that can even package the language of the desperate and their would-be allies for commercial purposes. Surely the stuff of revolution is more than adoption of a certain fashion consciousness. Signs of solidarity must be more than proudly affecting the pose of “losers” in some kind of kubuki show of support for those who truly suffer from the grosser forms of injustice.
As a precaution from being frauds, do members of the left then need to adopt cultural austerity? Do we need to stop reading all books other than our chosen school of socialist thought and lose what little sense of humor we still have? Will doing otherwise lead us down the slippery slope to being poseurs? Of course not. We should not try so hard to “fight” “the winners” in their own fixed games that we either adopt the tokens and terminology to which we have been assigned or only speak with our own insider terms of reference.
The advertisers and other mercenaries working for the ruling class have decided all manner of linguistic packaging to keep us enticed and preoccupied when all the while inside the packages there is very little there there. “Mystique” itself is such an impressive French-sounding word. But we should not adopt an anti-intellectual pose any more than we should adopt the pose of “loser.”
Still, when we unwrap the supposedly precious intellectual commodities of the ruling class, when we touch those rings of power, we should be careful and realize that, like Frodo Baggins, there is nothing so special or moral about any of us that makes us beyond temptation.
Let us begin to be awake by giving up our craving for acceptance in the supposedly glamorous world of waiting for Mr. Übermensch. Let us not be so occupied with the minds of our enemies that we are unable to free up our mental energy away from that which does not make us more loving global citizens, including the “correct” spelling and pronunciation of the names of mercenary intellectuals we are expected to admire. Let us not be taken in either by their brilliance and mental dexterity or our own.
We do not want to become one of the ruling class or one of their mercenary class who gets to stand nearby in the high places, feed our betters grapes, and wave fans over them in their exalted, heroic struggles.
Nov 09 2014
Yes, comrades, we need to talk about crises again, the term recession simply does not explain what is really going on! Just in case you might not have noticed or perhaps the mainstream media where you live ignored it, the obvious has happened and the end of the so-called recession has disappeared into the fantasy novel. Once again there is a slowdown in growth and the financial markets are not particularly happy. This time, Germany and China are showing signs of slowdown. Globalisation has not ended the potential towards crises in the capitalist economic system; in fact, the greater interconnectedness of the world economy has exacerbated the situation and ensured that the contagion spreads.
For those who believe the fantasies of neoliberal economics, the shock of these latest failures of neoliberalism must come as a surprise. But for those of us that have been warning of the stupidity of squeezing wages and destroying work conditions, rising inequality in income and wealth, the dangers of export-led growth when wage incomes are being squeezed meaning that unless governments become the sole purchasers of goods and services that are being produced (and they are not) that obviously there comes a point when working people cannot purchase goods and services as their incomes are too low, wiping out of savings has happened and personal indebtedness leads to default and bankruptcy. Neither of these things helps to maintain capitalist growth, accumulation and profitability in the long run; forget that, it hasn’t even lasted in the short run.
I will be giving a run through on what is going on and why our lives feel as though we are living through the Shock Doctrine (which we are) then address the proposals of dealing with persistent unemployment under capitalism from the Left on which there is significant disagreement.
Nov 03 2014
Mexico has a lot more to be fearful of than its rural educators and those rural young people who try to make the best of things and both learn and fight to make a just society where students do not have to fight over bones with other students. However, to capitalists, naturally when a poor Latin American country is being destroyed by the capitalist drug war, after being weakened to the point of desperation by capitalist neoliberalism, after being exploited for nearly two centuries by the big neighbor to the north for purposes of capital accumulation, it is time to start changing the subject. Because, after all, Mexico’s problems, as we all know, emanate from the failure of its public school system. That darn Mexican public school system is slow to emulate the wise and knowing educational plans cooked up in conservative Washington think tanks to distract U.S. residents from their own systemic problems, which, among other things, create massive amounts of insecurity and stress which drive demand for legal and illegal hard drugs among U.S. residents, which provides the irrational rationale for the never ending, never succeeding drug war.
Capitalists are so darn smart, handsome, cuddly, and good (except when they get to murderin’ and such) that the Washington Consensus keeps rearing its dapper head–even if it means Mexican teenagers must now lose theirs, and faces too, after standing in solidarity with poor teachers who stand in solidarity with Mexico’s poor. But first, the U.S. Presidential Campaign of 1848 in a nutshell:
◾ Henry Clay, frustrated by Taylor’s popularity as Old “Rough and Ready,” the war hero of Buena Visita, sighed: “I wish I could slay a Mexican.” Don’t sell yourself short dear Henry dear Henry. The U.S. is the gift that keeps on giving–Freeeeeeeedom!
Ah yes, who can forget the son of Freeeeeeeedom, Zachary Taylor, Rumadum Dum? “He’s the boy can skin and beat ’em. … Everybody!” Sounds vaguely familiar, if you are the parent of a missing Mexican college student.
And who can forget the need for the accumulation of U.S. capital (why did Rosa Luxemburg have to go and talk about that?) in our neighbor to the south (which led to all that debt, which led to the Washington Consensus to get debtor nations out of debt so they can incur more debt), which led to resentment by Mexican landed gentry and capitalists, so that, to this day, the Mexican people totter between exploitation by foreign and domestic capitalists–when they are not dodging bullets, heh heh.
I digress (or do I?):
◾”Crisis in Mexico: Could Forty-Three Missing Students Spark a Revolution?” Well, yes, they could. But let’s consider the dry kindling to which the spark has been applied, shall we?
We in the U.S. “know” all about the drug violence. Hell, we know a lot about Mexico. We “know” about the dirty water, heh heh.
Little known in the U.S. is that some Mexican teachers want SYSTEM CHANGE and are paying for it with their careers and even their lives.
“Those thousands of teachers you see blocking the streets of the City have the courage millions of workers in other industries have not had in recent years.”
Mexico City August 30, 2013.
L, the logo of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), the leftist teachers’ group working in Mexico’s poor southern states which is the radical offshoot of the sell-out Mexican teachers’ union, SNTE:
Radical teachers’ syndicate returns to Mexico City streets
School strike in Oaxaca, Chiapas enters sixth week, as far left union continues disrupting the capital …
SNTE demands firing of CNTE teachers
In a related development today the president of another educators’ union, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), called for all CNTE strikers to be fired immediately in accord with the just enacted reforms. The new laws provide that any school teacher who fails to show up in the classroom for three consecutive days will be automatically terminated. In Oaxaca state alone 74,000 CNTE teachers have not worked a single day since the new school year opened on Aug. 19, but none have been dismissed. SNTE staged its own work stoppage in Yucatán in early September, but members very responsibly returned to the classroom a week later after reaching an agreement with the PRI state government. “There are thousands of teachers looking for work who would love to fill those spots so children can return to classrooms,” SNTE’s president noted in a public appeal.
CNTE is a splinter group that broke off from SNTE in 1979. Since then union leaders have taken the membership down an increasingly radical political course, often far removed from educational issues.
So reported the conservative Mexico GulfReporter.com over a year ago (http://www.mexicogulfreporter.com/2013/10/radical-teacher-syndicate-returns-to.html)
CNTE provided not only a courageous voice on the streets but also a detailed and thoughtful analysis (Note: the analysis is 218 pages long, so don’t open it if you are in a hurry and don’t read Spanish or wish to use a Translator) of neoliberal educational reforms implemented as part of Mexico’s implementation of the Washington Consensus. And it was a lesson the students of Ayotzinapa learned. The “background” for the students’ own protests and resulting kidnapping was the earlier, and continuing, protesting by the CNTE, joined in solidarity by the sympathetic students.
In an especially chilling twist, the violence seems to have been partly set in motion by the students’ plans to travel to the capital for the commemoration of modern Mexico’s most notorious incident of political violence: the Tlatelolco massacre of Oct 2, 1968.
The Tlatelolco slayings took place 10 days before the opening of the Olympic games in Mexico City. After days of anti-government demonstrations, police and soldiers opened fire on a group of protesters, killing dozens or possibly hundreds. The massacre has been a rallying cry for rights activists and student radicals ever since.
In Iguala, a group of 80 to 120 students from the local teaching college gathered Sept 26 to demonstrate against education reforms and to raise money for their trip to Mexico City.
At the end of the day, they allegedly forced their way onto three buses. It’s unclear if they intended to commandeer them for a trip back their college or all the way to Mexico City.
Could capitalist divide and rule be backfiring in Mexico? Is this marching, so solemn and sad, part of the march to real “freedom,” not U.S.-mandated freedom to be hungry and hopeless at home or invisible and hated on the streets of the U.S.? Where oh where are our leftist divisions in a potentially-revolutionary time like this? Can “WE” finally start sharing our hard-won quasi-jurisdictions and terms of art? E.g., dirt poor Trotskyite teachers, “of all people,” sending of what little they have to provide anarchist-like “mutual aid” to the suffering families of Ayotzinapa, as Zapatistas also now overtly struggle with their non-agrarian comrades.
The mass crime of the 43 missing students and related murders of students may, in its enormity, reinforce efforts to unite the serious Mexican left, something which has not been achieved for much of Mexico’s post-Spanish-independence history. Tragically, over a hundred years ago, agrarian anarcho-communist ancestors of the present-day Zapatistas were rebuffed partly because they did not fully understand factory worker demands but also because many urban anarcho-syndicalists would not accept the Catholic religious traditions of their rural comrades. (For an excellent review of Mexican revolutionary history, focused on 1870-1920, see http://www.selfed.org.uk/node/…
Meanwhile, “I” search for the clicker, and I like think, in between doses of my favorite mind-numbing substance:
What? Mexico is too far away from Nowheresville for me to give a damn (except when it is invading our sacred border, now at the Rio Grande, with Ebola-carrying brown people). Who is Trotsky anyway? Zapatistas? And “anarchy” sounds bad, almost, uh, “Mexicany.” What the hell is “mutual aid”? I got your mutual aid right here. Get me my AR-quince!
“I” may be about to learn a lot more about Mexico and revolution south of the border.
Please go below for a brief caveat from this writer sitting comfortably numb north of the border, far even from Mom’s Opa-Locka, finally trying not to be another brick in the wall.
Sep 28 2014
At the end of Part I, I said we, as communities, regions and nations should be able to ask the following, when it comes to public projects, without worrying in the slightest about funding:
1. Is this something we all want?
2. Is this something we can build together?
3. Is this something we can maintain together?
4. Does it benefit the community?
5. Is it Green? Is it sustainable?
6. Do we need it now?
I also talked about money being a bizarre concept and a fiction. Another thing that is truly strange? That a government would print money, give it to bankers so they can distribute it as they see fit, with the government getting some of that back in the form of taxes later. Much later. Not to mention the incredibly complex system of taxation and collection, which still manages to miss hundreds of billions per year in potential revenue.
A conservative might think this is strange/wrong because, to them, far too much money goes back to the government in the first place. A minarchist would want very close to nothing going back to a public sector they’d rather see shrink to the size of a peanut. Me? I think it’s all quite bizarre for a totally different reason. Not that it’s inefficient and bad because a portion of the money flows back to the government, instead of remaining in private hands. But that the public sector sends it out into the private sector in the first place. This I find to be absurd.
It’s like if you had plans to build a house, and you had all the resources needed — labor, funding, time, etc.. But the system said you have to send all of your tangible resources out into the private world first, and then wait until a portion of them come back to you. You had everything you needed to begin with. But the system says you can’t just build your house. You have to accumulate tiny portions (percentages) over time before you can build it.
An alternative to that would be that the public sector starts with a permanent store/pool of funding that never runs out. It’s always there. It’s already there, waiting to be used. And it’s owned by everyone. We all own it in common. No one owns more of it than anyone else. There is no need for taxes, debt, borrowing or investors. All funding would come from commonly owned banks on the community, regional and national levels. Not from the price of merchandise. Not from the exchange of dollars for that merchandise. The banks would completely supplant the former revenue stream used in capitalism. That revenue stream would now be obsolete and non-existent. Funding would only flow from the commonly owned banks.
How would this work internationally, once it took hold nationally? More below the fold.
Sep 21 2014
Think outside the box. Way outside it. That’s the key when it comes to the “vision” thing. Most attempts at vision handcuff themselves to the strange idea that everything must work within the frame of the already done, the conventional, the status quo. Which is strange, given that the desire for change must assume that the status quo isn’t working. That being the case, why would we chain ourselves to it and its (arbitrary) rules?
Okay. So the vision thing in this case is primarily about the way we do business, the tools we use and who benefits. At present, we know that business is set up and structured to rain down benefits on a select few at the very top. Any system that creates the kind of inequality we’ve had since its inception isn’t working, and every single aspect of its structure and reason to be should at least be questioned. At least. Offering an alternative vision is common sense, given the horribly unequal results of the capitalist system, and instead of mocking or dismissing those attempts, it’s long past the time when we should be actively seeking those alternatives.
Money. Money is a strange concept, if you think about it. In the capitalist system, it is a store of value, a form of accounting and a means of exchange. But it is also a fiction. It has no inherent value, at least outside societal and international agreements. The key variable is those agreements, which means, logically, that other agreements could be made instead (there have been so many other kinds of agreements in the past). Again, money is a fiction in the capitalist system. It is printed by central banks all over the world, and virtually all of that is done behind closed doors, without any transparency, and without much rhyme or reason. Our Fed, for instance, a few years ago, printed some 16 trillion dollars and handed it out to banks and billionaires all across the globe. They did this in hopes of avoiding yet another world-wide depression, but still clung to the old ways in that the money went to the richest and most powerful, instead of the people who really needed it.
Money is fiction that works especially well in the real lives of the rich. Right now, roughly $1000 trillion in derivatives trading is being conducted worldwide, with a fraction of a fraction in concrete assets backing this. Even after the crash of 2008/2009, when we should have learned that billions in assets backing trillions in trade is never a good idea, things have actually gotten worse along those lines. And why? Because the fiction of money works so well in reality for the financial elite. They make billions on the fiction, while inequality gets more and more severe.
So, what if we made the fiction work for 100% of the people, instead of 1%? What if we agreed to use common sense when it came to funding what we needed, the ownership of that funding and its distribution? What if we made the fictional world fully accessible to everyone, thus making it, finally, a reality?
Sep 07 2014
I am back to work, and actually excited about being a wage slave once again – the pay is good, but the training hours are brutal. 60 hour weeks are not what they were when I was 21. 51 is a whole ‘nother ball game. I mention this for two relevant reasons: 1) It may make you forgiving of any errors found within, since I am penning this an hour before deadline, and much more importantly 2) Yesterday I took a nap and had a fairly lucid dream in which I ended up explaining to a teenaged girl why “Americans are so dumb…”
I whipped it off as a short story of almost the same title to keep the epiphany I had fresh in my mind for today’s missive.
I want to offer the idea in a more cohesive manner to this esteemed audience, rather than the off-the-cuff explanation my sub-conscience offered the little girl.
I also am asking you to check your historical preconceived notions, and consider the possibility of what I am thinking, as well as offer your thoughts on it.
“Lily, think about it. France had a long time to grow up. Wars, revolts, leaders and kings, assassinations and like most of Europe, has had time to try and balance between what is ‘good for the people’ and ‘what the rich want.’ Its not so hard to convince the French after hard times, that all Frenchmen – something they all hold in common – deserve to have nice things. Not just a few.
The same for every Country in Europe, they have an identity that binds them. The US not so much. There is no sense of countrymen for people from so many places. Each identity group- primarily the white anglo-saxon capitalists think they are the ONLY face of Americanism.
Its not just that though. Because in Europe they have fought hard – I mean the richest that rule – to make sure that Socialism only goes so far. Far enough to keep them from revolting, bonding against the power. They worked hard to make sure Capitalism was always in charge and to this day paint Russia as a demon.
America, the US? I think, really was a new experiment in Capitalism.
Why do you think that so many in Europe are multi-lingual like you? And we are not? Europeans can ride a train and be in another country in an instant – quicker than we can go state to state, and realize how cool other people are and never want to war on them. USers are isolated.
If you were making a new country and wanted your rule to be unquestioned; create a belief that the elites know whats best, and that Capitalism, English and the cycle of working and buying to make you rich, what would you do? You certainly wouldn’t want to have to share with the poor. Socialism is painted as helping ‘others’ not ‘USers’ I mean, they aren’t helping you get rich, so why would you allow people to think helping them is good? You wouldn’t want too good an education to happen, then there would be no one willing to work for nothing. You certainly wouldn’t want them to know too much world history – only American History which you make sound like we were the best place with the best way on Earth.
That’s why socialized medicine that everyone else has hasn’t been allowed in the States. They tell us its bad, and won’t work. And for a while? Most Americans had more “stuff” than other people, but to get it, and having known nothing else, they don’t realize the actual quality of their life sucks compared to most places. They don’t have TIME, they don’t have community and a feeling of belonging, beyond “I got a new Iphone too!” They have no sense of pura vida. We have become convinced our only value is not in how we live, but what we have.
Americans aren’t stupid, they just were raised in a system that isolated them from reality. If they knew other languages, they would know what other people thought or said. If you don’t know what they are saying, you trust the so-called smart guys when they tell you that they are evil. That they have bad intent.
So, really, if you were planning on starting from scratch, and wanted to be the new rulers, and untouchable? You would plan a country exactly like how they made the US.
They made sure that we wouldn’t get any ideas, right from day one, and if we did? The McCarthy era cinched it.
In fact, if you remember nothing else – the US’s real motto is – “Don’t give them any ideas.” In the rest of the world, the ideas are already there in their history. We don’t have that. Our history is only one system period. Rule of the rich, by and for the rich. ”
Jul 21 2014
Money is violence
Our system of money visits violence on people.
Economic sanctions are an obvious example:
In case you’re not video enabled, here’s a transcript of a portion of the conversation between 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl and Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright on May 12, 1996:
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”
What Stahl and the ghastly gasbag Albright are discussing are the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq allegedly in order to compel Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait and pay reparations, but more likely the unstated plan was to induce the people of Iraq to rise up and overthrow Saddam.
Economic sanctions are the weaponization of money. Government talking heads call this “soft power,” because apparently arranging for the slow, wasting death by starvation and disease of hundreds of thousands of children is a lot nicer than bombing them or sending soldiers to terrify and shoot them.
Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz had a particular gift for expressing the barely repressed beliefs of the most reprehensible people in the country. According to Wikiquote, Butz said two memorable things while Secretary, one was the tasteless, racist joke that got him fired, the other was the following:
“Food is a tool. It is a weapon in the U.S. negotiating kit.”
In one of the most brutal examples of the use of this technique, the Israeli government, with the complicity of the US government have for years kept the Palestinians’ economy in Gaza “on the brink of collapse.” As the Israelis kept the economy from performing, they made a “calorie count” to “put Gaza on a diet.” Israel’s sanctions and periodic bombings of Gaza have largely destroyed Gaza’s water infrastructure and “hundreds of thousands of people are now without water.”
There can be no doubt that the diet devised for Gaza – much like Israel’s blockade in general – was intended as a form of collective punishment, one directed at every man, woman and child. The goal, according to the Israeli defense ministry, was to wage “economic warfare” that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular uprising against Hamas.
While these are shocking, overt uses of the power of economic systems, there are more subtle and refined means of using economic power to coerce and subjugate peoples that are often brought to bear. Economic sanctions, by depriving people of their means of survival through the manipulation of money and goods is a means of an elite asserting control over a population. While these techniques are used as a tool of foreign policy or in tandem with wartime goals, this is far from the only situation under which these techniques are used by elites.
Jul 20 2014
As a first group diary, this will be fairly narrow in scope and ambition. There have already been numerous excellent reviews of The Making of Global Capitalism, and a symposium over at Jacobin. It’s a bit too late at this point for me to try to compete with any of that, so I thought I’d just intro one of the most important books of the last decade, in hopes that it might spark debate here.
Leave it to the Canadians to get things right — or left, as the case may be. Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin are both Canadian professors, socialists, and schooled in Marxism, but unlike their American peers, not subject to automatic censure and scorn. As this group is no doubt aware, socialists and/or Marxists in America are pretty much shut out of public discussion, demonized without a hearing, and absent from debates in a field they should dominate. No “school” of economic thought comes close to the rigor, objectivity, depth of analysis or independence of the Marxians, and no analysis is more needed in our day. But in America, the system and its willing executioners have effectively silenced them.
Again, this is not the case in Canada, or Europe, where a far healthier, but still less than optimum diversity exists.
More after the fold . . .