While corrupt elected officials and elites feed at the public trough, the economic collapse is hitting people in the United States hard. According to the newly released Bureau of Labor Statistics figures 47.2 percent of working-age people are without work and businesses are finding it impossible to pay their rent or keep their employees. The basic ability to feed children is in crisis, as nearly 14 million children in the United States went hungry in June, an increase of 10 million since 2018, and nearly three times the number of children who went hungry during the Great Recession, according to an analysis of Census data.
Nearly half of U.S. households’ incomes have declined during the pandemic, with survey data showing both low-and high-income households being affected at about the same rate. For the week ending July 4, 1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Evictions are expected to skyrocket with 23 million people possibly facing eviction by September.
The impact of the economic collapse will hit even harder in the week of July 25, when the temporary weekly increase of $600 in unemployment benefits enacted in the CARES bill ends. There is strong opposition in Congress and the White House to continuing those benefits. The moratorium on evictions from federally subsidized housing will also end that week. The Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey found 30 percent of renters had little or no confidence that they could meet housing payments next month.
Amidst this crisis for most people, the investor class is doing well as the US stock market closed in June with one of the best quarterly rises in history. This is not surprising as the Federal Reserve and Treasury have funneled trillions to the wealthy. Pandemic capitalism is highlighting the wealth divide and the corruption of government working in cahoots with the super-wealthy.
The Rich Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out
While the government sought to hide where pandemic bailouts under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) were going, it is now being exposed. The PPP loans were intended to help small businesses maintain their payroll with loans that are fully forgiven if at least 60% of it is used on payroll costs. Recipients were kept secret, but public pressure forced them to release the information. The government is only releasing information on grants over $150,000. News agencies have filed suit to release all the information.
The self-dealing and corruption of big donors, members of Congress, the president and their families and friends are being exposed. These people are getting the bailout funds while others without those kinds of connections are suffering. Or, as Esquire mockingly described, the list of recipients “was stuffed to the gunwales with fatcats, friends of fatcats, deadbeat fatcats, fatcat-financed organizations, and fatcats with political influence.”
Bailout Dollars Go To Elected Officials, Their Families, and Associates
Roll Call reports that $14 million in relief funds wound up going to members of Congress and their families. Businesses owned by lawmakers and their families move to the front of the line for bailouts. “At least nine lawmakers and three congressional caucuses have ties to organizations that took millions of dollars in aid,” Politicoreports.
The Washington Post reports Elaine Cho, the wife of Majority Leader Mith McConnell (R-KY) received aid, “Among some of those receiving relief were Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family’s shipping business. In addition, at least seven members of Congress or their spouses received loans, including lawmakers who were directly involved in shaping regulations and also benefited from a blanket waiver of ethics concerns.”
KTAK Corp., a Tulsa-based operator of fast-food franchises owned by Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) received between $1 million and $2 million, according to the Post. Further, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) benefited when three of his car dealerships, located outside of Pittsburgh, received a combined total of between $450,000 and $1.05 million. Several plumbing businesses affiliated with Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), all based in Broken Arrow, Okla., each received between $350,000 and $1 million.
Among the lawmakers who own or have other ties to businesses that received loans are Republicans Reps. Rick Allen (GA), Vicky Harzler (MO), Kevin Hern (OK), Mike Kelly (PA), Markwayne Mullin (OK) and Roger Williams (TX) as well as Democratic Reps. Matt Cartwright (PA), Susie Lee (NV) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL). A company tied to the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) got a loan of between $350,000 and $1 million.
Forbes reports that West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a coal-mining tycoon, pulled in millions for his businesses. His Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs took a PPP loan ranging from $5 million to $10 million. His Greenbrier Sporting Club, a membership club that touts “luxury living,” infinity pools and more took a loan of $1 million to $2 million in April.
Trump Family, Friends and Business Associates Get Millions
ProPublica reports “Businesses tied to President Donald Trump’s family and associates stand to receive as much as $21 million in government loans designed to shore up payroll expenses for companies struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.” This includes a hydroponic lettuce farm backed by Dobald Trump, Jr., the president’s eldest son of at least $150,000.
Further, “several companies connected to the president’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, could get upward of $6 million.” ProPublica reports on Kushner-related grants, “The New York Observer, the news website that Kushner ran before entering the White House and is still owned by his brother-in-law’s investment firm, was approved for between $350,000 and $1 million, data shows. A company called Princeton Forrestal LLC that is at least 40 percent owned by Kushner family members, according to a 2018 securities filing, was approved for $1 million to $2 million. Esplanade Livingston LLC, whose address is the same as that of the Kushner Companies real estate development business, was approved for $350,000 to $1 million.” They also report that “up to $2 million was approved for the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, a nonprofit religious school in Livingston, N.J., that’s named for Jared Kushner’s grandfather and supported by the family.
It is not just Trump’s family, the Post reports, “At 40 Wall Street, an office building Trump owns in Lower Manhattan, 22 companies received loans, for a combined total of at least $16.6 million.” Similarly, tenants at Trump hotels received millions; e.g., “Triomphe Restaurant Corp, which operates the Jean-Georges restaurant at the Trump International Hotel on Central Park West, got between $2 million and $5 million. Sushi Nakazawa, a restaurant in the Trump D.C. hotel, received between $150,000 and $350,000 to support 22 jobs, according to the data.”
Also, Trumpfriends and associates such as “Albert Hazzouri, a dentist frequently spotted at Mar-a-Lago, asked for a similar amount. A hospital run by Maria Ryan, a close associate of Trump lawyer and former mayor Rudy Giuliani, requested more than $5 million.” A Trump lawyer also received millions: “a Manhattan law firm whose marquee attorney has fiercely defended Trump for almost two decades. Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP — whose managing partner, Marc Kasowitz, was at one point the president’s top lawyer in the special counsel’s Russia investigation — was set to receive between $5 million and $10 million from Citibank.”
The conservative online media outlet founded by Trump confidante and FOX News host Tucker Carlson, the Daily Caller received as much as $1 million. Carlson sold his stake in the company on June 10. And, Newsmax, the Conservative TV network and website owned by another presidential confidante, Christopher Ruddy, got a loan worth $2 million to $5 million.
End Socialism For The Rich
Bailout business “socialism” would be something you’d expect libertarians and small government anti-tax advocates to oppose; however, among the recipients of PPP funds was Grover Norquist who wants the government to shrink “to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” His organization, Americans for Tax Reform took $350,000. The Ayn Rand Institute, The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism, which advocates “laissez-faire capitalism,” took $1 million in PPP funds. Its board member, Harry Binswanger, said they would take the money because “the principle here is justice.”
In fact, if the principle were justice, then this kind of hypocrisy and corruption would be stopped and a program to help the vast majority of people who lack economic security, and the small businesses that will be unable to survive the economic collapse would be the recipients of this kind of funding. This is the second time in a decade that the government has had to bail out capitalism with trillions of dollars. Maybe it is time for economic democracy, an economy that serves the people, not the wealthy.
As Richard Wolff writes, “Capitalism serves capitalists first and foremost.” That’s why recovery from the COVID19 pandemic and the current recession require changing the economic system to one that puts people and the planet over profits. There are efforts to make that a reality by creating worker-owned cooperatives, participatory budgeting and public banks. Some communities are organizing mutual aid including solidarity gardens where the food produced is given to communities in need and there are programs to donate stimulus checks to people without incomes.
If there was ever a time to build a different world, that time is now. Ajamu Baraka explains, “The current ongoing capitalist crisis has created the most serious crisis of legitimacy since the collapse of the capitalist economy during the years referred to as the Great Depression.” He urges us to keep the focus on class and race so we cannot be divided and to have a broad lens to connect what is happening at home to what the US does abroad. We must also recognize how the state will try to coopt and water down our demands. Change is coming. What it looks like is up to us.
July 16 – The Embassy Protection Collective hosts the “Strengthening Solidarity between Social Movements in Venezuela and the US” meeting via Zoom at 2:00 pm. Click here for more information.
The system-wide challenges the United States faces with policing are entrenched and deeply rooted. When the historical and current practices of police are examined, it is evident police have been designed to uphold the status quo including racial injustice and class inequality. Whenever political movements develop to respond to racial and class unfairness, the police have undermined their politically-protected constitutional rights.
Police have used infiltration, surveillance, and violence against political movements seeking to end injustices throughout the history of the nation. It is the deeply embedded nature of these injustices and the structural problems in policing that are leading more people to conclude police must be completely transformed, if not abolished.
We advocate for democratic community control of the police as a starting point in addition to defunding the police and funding alternatives such as programs that provide mental health, public health, social work and conflict resolution services, and other nonviolent interventions. Funding is needed for the basic human needs of housing, education, employment, healthcare, and food especially in communities that have been neglected for years and whose low-wage labor has enriched the wealthy in this unequal society.
An alleged fugitive slave being seized (Getty Images)
The Roots of Policing are Rotten
The needs of the wealthy have been the driving force for the creation of police. Policing developed to control workers, many who were Irish, Italian and other immigrants seeking fair wages in the North and African people who were enslaved in the South. Victor E. Kappeler, Ph.D writes in “A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing” that “Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities.”
Police detain protesters as they march down the street during a solidarity rally for George Floyd on Saturday, May 30, 2020 (AP Photo: Wong Maye-E)
A. Southern Police Created to Protect Slavery
In the south, the driving force of the economy was slavery where people kidnapped in Africa were brought to the Americas as chattel slaves, workers who created wealth for their owners. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database lists 12.5 million Africans who were shipped to the Americas, 10.7 million of which survived the dreaded Middle Passage. Of that, 388,000 were brought to North America. African slaves were forced to reproduce for their owners and to sell.
From the start, African people revolted against slavery and fought to escape it. This 400 years legacy of racist injustice that helped form the United States is the history we must confront. The roots of policing in what became the Confederacy and later the sheriffs who enforced Jim Crow grew out of the containment of slaves, the most valuable ‘property’ in the nation.
Olivia Waxman describes this history writing that in the South, “the economics that drove the creation of police forces were centered . . . on the preservation of the slavery system.” She describes “slave patrols tasked with chasing down runaways and preventing slave revolts” as one of the primary police institutions.
Slave patrols had three primary functions: (1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves; (2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts; and, (3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside of the law, if they violated any plantation rules.
The purpose of slave patrols was to protect the wealth of the white people who owned slaves.
The first formal slave patrol had been created in the Carolina colonies in 1704. During the Civil War, the military became the primary form of law enforcement in the South, but during Reconstruction, many local sheriffs functioned in a way analogous to the earlier slave patrols, enforcing segregation and the disenfranchisement of freed slaves.
Hundreds of laws were passed in the South around slavery and its enforcement but laws were also passed in northern colonies including Connecticut, New York, and others to control slaves. The US Congress passed fugitive Slave Laws allowing the detention and return of escaped slaves, in 1793 and 1850. Racist police made up the “kidnap gang” in New York City in 1830 who would capture Africans and bring them to a rubber stamp court that would send them to the South as captured slaves – often before their families knew they were arrested. Throughout this history, there were people who fought police violence and abuse as is discussed in The Black New Yorker Who Led The Charge Against Police Violence In The 1830s.
The history of racist policing did not end with the abolition of slavery. Police forces were involved in enforcing the racist Black Code, the Convict-Lease System, and JimCrow segregation. The terrorism of white supremacist groups like the KKK, the burning of black schools and churches and lynching became the common realities of the south. White police often did not stop, or seriously investigate these crimes; some even participated. In the era of Civil Rights, southern police used violence against nonviolent protesters – beatings, fire hoses and dogs.
This also occurred in the north. For example, Minnesota was infamous for arresting indigenous people on charges like vagrancy and forcing them to work for no pay. This spurred the formation of the American Indian Movement. Dennis Banks describes, “The cops concentrated on the Indian bars. They would bring their paddy wagons around behind a bar and open the back doors. Then they would go around to the front and chase everybody toward the rear. ” They would be taken to stadiums and convention centers and forced to work for no pay. The police did not do this at white bars, only bars where Native Americans gathered.
The War on Drugs became the new disguise for police violence against black people. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news,” said President Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman to Harper’s Magazine. Mass incarceration of the 1980s, begun under President Reagan and continued under President Clinton with Joe Biden leading efforts in the Senate, disproportionately impacted black and brown people. Now slavery legally continues as prison labor.
AT&T workers on strike (Socialist Worker)
B. Northern Police Protect Commercial Interests, Hold Down Wages
The history of policing in the northern colonies was also driven by economics. Commercial interests protected their property through an informal, private for-profit form of hiring people part-time. Towns relied on a “night-watch” to enforce laws. Boston started a night-watch in 1636, New York followed in 1658 and Philadelphia created one in 1700.
As cities become more populated, the night-watch system was ineffective. Commercial interests needed more regular policing and so they hired people to protect their property and goods as they were transported from ports to other areas. Boston, a large shipping commercial center, became the first city to form a police force when merchants convinced the government that police were needed for the “collective good” thereby transferring the cost of maintaining a police force to the citizens.
Sam Mitrani, author ofThe Rise of the Chicago Police Department: Class and Conflict, 1850-1894, writes inIn These Times that “as Northern cities grew and filled with mostly immigrant wage workers who were physically and socially separated from the ruling class, the wealthy elite who ran the various municipal governments hired hundreds and then thousands of armed men to impose order on the new working-class neighborhoods. Class conflict roiled late-19th century American cities like Chicago, which experienced major strikes and riots in 1867, 1877, 1886, and 1894. In each of these upheavals, the police attacked strikers with extreme violence, even if in 1877 and 1894 the U.S. Army played a bigger role in ultimately repressing the working class.”
Throughout labor history, one finds innumerable accounts of cops engaging in anti-union violence. Police viciously attacked unarmed pickets during the 1994 Staley strike in Decatur, Ill., as well as the 1995 Detroit newspaper strike, to name a few examples. They arrested and harassed UAW members during last year’s strike against GM.
Protesters march in a Black Lives Matter demonstration organized by the Dallas Black Firefighters Association on Juneteenth 2020 in Dallas (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Historic Time Of Uprising and Unrest Rattles the Police and Power Structure
The rebellion by workers and anti-racism activists is unprecedented in the lives of most people alive today. There is a nationwide uprising in every state and in thousands of cities and towns. Repression by the power structure with militarized police and the National Guard has failed to stop the protests. Democrats have failed to divert the movement of the energy into the elections, as Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi have offered inadequate reforms such as more police training. Fundamental changes are needed.
Police will continue to make efforts to shut down the unrest. The FBI and local police have a long history of combatting movements. In addition to the violent response that has been well documented against the current rebellion, we should expect infiltration, surveillance, creation of internal divisions, and other tactics, even murder.
All of these acts against labor, civil rights, peace, environmental, and other movements have happened before and we should expect them again. Documents show a nationwide effort of police and the FBI to defeat the Occupy Movement that included entrapment of activists in crimes. There has also been aggressive police violence against people protesting pipelines and seeking climate justice.
Black activists continue to be a major focus of the FBI and law enforcement. Media Justice and the ACLU reported last week that one million pages of materials on FBI surveillance were discovered in a FOIA request showing widespread surveillance of black activists.
New York City police are planning a strike on the Fourth of July to show people what life would be like without police. However, this may backfire as during a 1997 slowdown and also during a 2014–2015 slowdown, crime did not spike, and may even have declined a bit. The nation’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Bob Barr threatened in December 2019 that if some communities don’t begin showing more respect to law enforcement, then they could potentially not be protected by police officers.
New York Police Department (NYPD) officers guard the main entrance of the Trump Tower in New York on November 14, 2016 (Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images)
To Transform the Police, The Economy Must Be Transformed
The US Constitution, written by slaveholders and businessmen who profited from slave products, puts property rights ahead of individual rights. The Bill of Rights was an afterthought. The result of treating people as property, Jim Crow laws, redlining, and other racially unfair economic practices has left Black Americans with a $13 trillion dollar wealth gap.
Max Rameau told us in a recent podcast, To Deal With Police, We Must Understand Why They Even Exist, that when we understand the purpose of police is to protect property, it becomes more evident why they cannot be reformed. Unless we confront neoliberal capitalism that creates inequality and a hyper-class-based society, the wealthy will always find someone to pay to protect them.
In fact, the call to defund the police can be easily thrown off course by getting activists fighting for small gains of cuts to police budgets, while the police are increasing their funding from private corporations. Already, as reported by Eyes on the Ties, “Police foundations across the country are partnering with corporations to raise money to supplement police budgets by funding programs and purchasing tech and weaponry for law enforcement with little public oversight.” Their report documents support to police from Wall Street and finance, retail and food industries, Big Tech, fossil fuel corporations, sports, and universities.
It is fantasy to believe police exist for public safety. As Justin Podur writes, “Society doesn’t need a large group with a license to kill.” Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report advocates for community control over police but he doesn’t stop there, writing “communities should control, not just the police, but much of the rest of their neighborhoods’ vital services and resources.”
Racism, police brutality, and economic injustice can be thought of as separate boxes, but they are part of one self-reinforcing system. And that system’s defining characteristic – the feature most resistant to change – is that it is based on the production of goods and services for profit, not to satisfy basic human needs.
Like many conflicts in the United States, the problems of police violence comes down to corporate-capitalists vs. the people. Racial separation and inequality are ways the ownership class keeps people divided so the people can be controlled. This is the reality of the US political system and the reality of policing in the United States, but we can change that reality by continuing to organize, staying in the streets and building our power.
Caught with their proverbial pants down? The blustery conversations tied to corona virus, lockdown, Trump LLC, Pelosi and Comp., and the failed state that is the USA are to be expected.
It is a country of nanosecond attention spans.
A country with amnesia in vitro.
A country that has sacrificed future and future-future generations for the all mighty dollar.
Survival of the fittest (or in the reverse Darwinism, survival of the least fit, the least smart, the least humane, the least human).
Yeah, sure, trolls abound in the social media morass. The putridity of a buffoon on one local Facebook page can be tiring.
The King Rat in High (he is high, by all accounts of his Adderall sniffing) Office is a troll, yep.
CEO, the Apprentice Blob, the guy who made head of CBS orgasmic during the last run-up to the POTUS election – “I might not agree with Mister Trump’s politics, but Donald Trump is really-really good for business.”
The bottom line is money for nothing. With Corona Capitalism, it’s money for the bail-out queens and kings – corporations. Wall Street is bullish. Studdly, in fact.
Make that 40 million unemployed. In USA, but we know that figure is so much higher using the other Bureau of Labor stats. Like U3, U5, U6 and UB-40!
Protective mask shaming by the trolls, including King Rat Donny, and then mask illiteracy by the masses.
Yes, those valiant cloth masks with coffee filter inserts, hmm, vanity, for sure. We know the physics of a sneeze – 23 feet and a 100,000 microbes spread out in one big let-go.
Yet we have these Disneyland parameters — elbow greetings and six foot circle jerks. Social distancing is the racist caste system of India, and now, alas, we have meme after meme, two bit prognosticator yammering about what it means to be, well, self-quarantining.
Call it lockdown, and it then becomes a policing issue. It always has been a policing issue — for the 80 percent. Fines, regs, fees, tolls, levies, penalties, triple penalties, interest, laws, measures, arrests, convictions. prosecutions.
If you question the myriad of narratives spewed by left and right of the manure pile called USA politics, then, well, you suffer ire, de-platforming.
Called a Trumpie or Republican or Money First American if you dare question the entire idea of forced lockdown without forced government and private industry supporting people in real time; and without forced collective safety nets for food, health care, social services during this tsunami of destruction these lockdowns and falsifying narratives daily.
You gotta be consistent, the old American way, right? No counter-intuitive thinking, no systems thinking, no whole picture thinking, right?
So many “duh moments,” that each and every duh thing said by left and right of the political center dung pit are just too numerous to mention or answer.
This is no joke – United States of Amnesia, maybe on a daily diet.
Weren’t we warning about the military industrial complex in the 1930s by the general, Smedley Butler and War is a Racket? I get hammered for being a conspiracy nut, that how could there be a deep state, how could there be the big lie in such a big bad diverse country? How can I say a vaccination ID chip program could be real?
In 1934, a colossal claim reached the American news media: There had been a plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in favor of a fascist government. Supposedly in the works since 1933, the claims of the conspiracy came from a very conspicuous and reliable source: Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most decorated war heroes of his time. Even more unbelievable were his claims of who was involved in the plot – respected names like Robert Sterling Clark, Grayson M.P. Murphy, and Prescott Bush. While news media at the time mocked Butler’s story, recently discovered archives have revealed the truth behind Major General Butler’s claims. Source!
When was The Jungle written? A century and change ago, and, of course, the meat industry is so-so cleaned up?
Decades after Upton Sinclair exposed the horrors of meatpacking, radical labor organizing transformed the industry into a bastion of worker power. Now, a century later, after decades of union-busting and the coronavirus decimating workers throughout the industry, the meatpacking industry is back to The Jungle. Source!
Try that argument with trolls on F/Zuck-err-berg or anywhere. Then you have that fourth grade level thinking King Rat, Adderall Donny, until whack a mole is more than some child’s game. It’s the SARS-CoV-2 plan, it’s the diplomacy of this Clear and Present Danger, United of Snakes? Did I say, William Blum?
This book could be entitled: Serial chain-saw baby killers and the women who love them.
The women don’t really believe that their beloved would do such a thing, even if they’re shown a severed limb or a headless torso. Or if they believe it, they know down to their bone marrow that lover-boy really had the best of intentions; it must have been some kind of very unfortunate accident, a well-meaning blunder; in fact, even more likely, it was an act of humanitarianism.
For more than 70 years, the United States convinced much of the world that there was an international conspiracy out there. An International Communist Conspiracy, seeking no less than control over the entire planet, for purposes which had no socially redeeming values. And the world was made to believe that it somehow needed the United States to save it from communist darkness. “Just buy our weapons,” said Washington, “let our military and our corporations roam freely across your land, and give us veto power over who your leaders will be, and we’ll protect you.”
So, all the evidence of USA bioweapons work, all the machinations by more than 13,000 scientists working on US programs for DARPA, Plum Island, Fort Detrick, University of North Carolina, et al, none of that counts? Doesn’t matter who might agree with the minutiae. Grand conspiracy to mess with coronavirus, and great work on bat viruses. We know that the USA is the free world’s biggest gangster, and we can go on and on about the toxins unleashed, the Japanese prisoners captured in bioweapons facilities and brought to the USA. Along with those Sieg Heil missile boys.
Does it matter if there are many opposing and counterpointing ideas? Can we not maybe entertain the idea that the USA (with help from UK and Israel) might be concocting viruses or chemicals for infertility or bombs that kill people but keep buildings intact? Depleted uranium shells? Goo that burns the skin off the bodies. Agent orange was not just a defoliant for exposing the heroes who fought the great American menace in their land. The McNamara and DOW papers state that agent orange (Your grandson’s Round-Up weed killer) would be something of the gift that keeps on giving. Papers reveal the idea was to ruin the rice crop of Vietnam. Contaminate the soil for generations.
Oh, that Round-Up Ready America. The media, the police, the finance, the insurance, the real estate, the hedge funds, the legal eagles, the university system, the chemical-fumigant-herbicide-pesticide purveyors. Big Pharma, Big Med, Big Private Prison. Big big big and too big to take on, fail, and frog march to the gallows.
Yet, this compliance for lockdown, even now, May 27. I live on the coast of Oregon, near Newport.
No industry, no shipping lanes, no stagnation, no burning coal or burning anything really, yet my mean greenie weenie acquaintances are still putting their Zoom Doom out there for environmental programs.
I have a new book – all my readings cancelled because of Corona Capitalism. But now, no light at the end of the lockdown tunnel. All those libraries? Outside parking lots, hell, I will stand away with bullhorn and read and talk.
Let the people sit outside, even with their vanity masks. The cleanest air in the world, and it circulates in an open house every ten minutes – completely new air in a house. Outside? Nope!
Tele-Zoom, man. These white great hopes, the middle and upper middle classes, they love the Zoom Doom. Tele-marketing turned into tele-ed, tele-med, tele-sex, tele-retail.
All these congealing ideas coming out now, with the absurdity of a fourth world country like USA. No clinics in every neighborhood. No dental care. No regulating polluters to not pollute zero emissions or toxins. All this colonizing of higher and lower education by the MBA’s and profiteers and for-profit investment vehicles.
All this racism and racist policies and the one hundred percent of Native American treaties broken by Uncle Sam.
I live here in Lincoln County, and the Siletz tribe has the big casino. Big attraction for addicts. But what is a disenfranchised tribe to do?
Even after all the theft and rapine, the Siletz Tribe in the 1820s was given a million acres, yet those white devils we praise as the great wagon trains of the Oh Pioneers, like a coronavirus, came into the Oregon Territory, and over time, all those deeded acres disappeared. The tribe now has 3,600 acres – fractured to be sure – in its sovereign name.
I have friends who do some amazing things looking at the numbers game, the To Die With Corona or Not to Die. You betcha being skeptical of Gates and Vaccine Purveyors and Alex Azar and Fauchi and the Surgeon General and Trump LLC, you bet, best way to be. Davos, Rockefeller, all the pandemic planning way before Dec. 2019.
Unfortunately we are in some contradictory and counter-intuitive times. Yes, coronavirus, in it’s novel form, is worse than the H1N1 or Swine flu. Two times? Three? Hmm.
Locking down healthy people without safety nets — and we know ALL the safety nets necessary for closing down the economy and day to day life, and schools – is insane.
So are meat packing plants and Amazon warehouses. So are the freaks dictating that private companies do not have to report sick employees with coronavirus. So is a country without test. So is a country that still rams its military whores into other parts of the world, still keeps those weapons deals going, yet this pathetic country can’t even amass MASH tents and hearts and minds soldiers (without weapons) to be part of the so-called coronavirus mitigation.
I read a lot as well as work a lot, and gain of function for DNA and RNA tweaking of viruses should never be allowed. But then never should there have been a patent given on seeds.
This is all pre-dating the Adderall Addict in Chief. Predates his scum lording in the Oval Office.
You can hate Donald Trump on so many levels and see him as a felon (in a long line of American president felons) and still not believe the Russian Investigation.
You can doubt lockdown and still decry armed racists and their white breed from going to state capitals with fully loaded AR-15’s.
You can decry Zoom and Facebook and parse the Fourth Industrial Revolution and rail against Internet of Things and AI and self-driving cars, and 5G, and still have pure science background in biology and ecology.
You can attack the Planet of the Humans for its total lack of embracing the reality that the majority of the world – non-white, thank god – is doing many things to fight against green capitalism, carbon markets, REDD, and the other tricks of the capitalists. You can hate Michael Moore for being a multimillionaire. You can doubt Bill McKibben and tire of the Naomi Klein getting gazillion minutes of air time on the Soros Show, Democracy Now, and endless copy on the Intercept.
Yet, you can still embrace Bowling for Columbine, Shock Doctrine, The End of Nature, and rail against Green as the New Black.
It’s possible to think the lockdown is absurd on one level, and that business as usual is absurd, too.
You can be for universal health care, universal public education, for nationalizing (people-izing) industries, ending the billionaire class and still be for retail, mom and pop’s, good food, good weed and great wine.
Communists are for democracy and for the people’s rights over all rights of the business and investing class. Yes, the world is global and so is weather and so is the water cycle, winds, precipitation, and culture. Yes, we need to relocalize, but we need deep-deep ecology with deep-deep cultural survival.
Yes, peasant culture and collective enterprises, and looking at workers own their work and the industries, and yes, ending perpetual wars, any walls against people’s freedom of moment, well, call this neo-communism, or Marx-taken-to-the-next level, or Utopian?
But instead we argue whether cruise lines should come back, the value of a hair salon, and what about air traffic?
So many of the long-in-the-tooth conservative democrats I mingle with here on the coast have shit to say about the chronically homeless, the chronically one-paycheck from hell, the very people who hammer their roofs, flip their halibut steaks, clean granny’s bedpans, and the like.
They are glad the air is cleaner (that’s a big fat joke) and that air travel is curtailed. It is lockdown, and the rich still travel, and these conservative democrats who vote “green” are glad all that wasteful Disneyland travel is gone . . . while they still shuttle themselves to grand-kids across the land, go to their language immersion schools in Cuernavaca or Tibet.
Bring back the spotted owl, but screw the people. The dichotomies, the trolls on both ends, the split society, the false balancing of issues, the I-know-I-am-right pukes on all sides of the manure pile, well, they are Making America Great Again (that was Reagan’s line 40 years before another mentally-challenged foe is in the Oval office).
You see this was all predicted – shit, how many books and articles and even movies have been produced discussing a virus or other bacterial outbreak? And yet, this was not seen coming?
The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities. In the technotronic society the trend would seem to be towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities exploiting the latest communications techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.
― Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era
Researcher Alison Hawver McDowell: “A new global economic apparatus is being laid down that is profoundly anti-human. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will dispossess people from their means of survival and replace “work” with robots and AI. Through UBI and pay for success data surveillance the masses become batteries for predatory financial deals and the data extracted from them will be used to advance the Singularity.” Source.
The FOIA document, obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), was produced by a little-known U.S. government organization called the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI). It was created by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its official purpose is “to consider the methods and means necessary to advance the development of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and associated technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States.”
The NSCAI is a key part of the government’s response to what is often referred to as the coming “fourth industrial revolution,” which has been described as “a revolution characterized by discontinuous technological development in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), big data, fifth-generation telecommunications networking (5G), nanotechnology and biotechnology, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and quantum computing.” Source
How do we get Americans off their high horses? Those Earth Day people I have associated with who will continue to Zoom Doom their groups, now that this is the new normal – “Oh, so easy, just open up that laptop, sit back, sip chamomile and listen to those cool scientists and naturalists without having to strap in a car and driving someplace.”
This is a time of idiotic calls for a universal basic income while not making calls to create good work, that is, grow legions of people in paid-volunteer work, community-based work; real community-based schooling; clinics in each neighborhood; gardens and food distribution in all neighborhoods. Cancelling the billionaire class. Worthy public transportation that reaches the outskirts and is 24/7. Universal Basic Bum’s Income My Ass.
That UBI (not UB40) is based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Disruptive Economies and Viral Economic and Digital models.
You know, self-driving cars, buses and trucks? Who said this was okay? And those jobs? Oh, yeah, we shall be locked up in cubicle mini-apartments and forced to receive our digital crypto currency monthly to pay for capitalism on steroids.
Foolish. And yet, the Andrew Yang’s and others call for this stupidity?
How about social security increased, total publicly-funded health care, state banks, cooperative utilities, true safety nets and creative organizations and self-organizing communities and agricultural-based intentional communities and real work.
There is a shit-ton of work to be done. Micro-homes built, foster homes visited, retirement communities to be built and energized.
But the masters of the universe and those other oddities want what? Get your pay, with your vaccination chip approved. All data and all history captured in the span of a human hair.
Some of us do not want the Trump World, the Biden World, the Gates World, the Naomi Klein World, the Goldman Sachs World, the World Bank World. Some of us imagine narratives and viewpoints that do not fit some consistent, packaged, inside-the-dreadful-lines of left-right (not really left, but right-super right) politic correctness.
It doesn’t take a million PhD’s in plethora of fields to define what works, what might work, what isn’t working, and how it works. This is common sense, and yet, we have prognosticators, idiots with Microphones and Makeup yammering pure nothingness.
I have had deeper conversations with old men halfway in their dementia while withdrawing from a weekend of meth than with a majority of people I also associate with. Or used to associate with.
Because the new normal allows for more and more sculpted venues, more Skype-up-your-ass and Zoom Doom sessions. “You can join BUT if we notice any derogatory language and counter spin, we shall pull the proverbial plug.”
The “I can’t breathe” yet again is the comment for a generation, for generations. Emblematic of the entire bullshit world of Cop Capitalism, the Police State Mentality of Bezos, Gates, F/Zuckerberg and any of the other Google and Digital Demigods.
How many times are we going to be subjected to the Blue Plague and the Green Plague – The Police State and the Finance State?
And yet, this is it for USA? Not an outcry and complete shut down of the country and the Fox News drumbeat with yet another hit-man cop running free. This cop, one of the Biden VP pick’s boys:
As Chief Prosecutor, Klobuchar Declined to Bring Charges Against Cop that Killed George Floyd; While serving as Minnesota’s chief prosecutor between 1999 and 2007, Klobuchar declined to bring charges against more than two dozen officers who had killed citizens while on duty – including against the cop that killed George Floyd.
So how do we have conversations now when the distance unlearning is taking hold not only for overpriced higher education (what idiocy is this when kids get to leave home, leave hometowns, end up on a bricks and mortar campus and end up spending 75 percent of their time in their dorms or apartments with on-line miseducation?) but for public schools.
Troll after troll want the end of childhood, they want the four horsemen of the apocalypse to come riding into their AR-1 and Glock-infested neighborhoods. They think and believe their Jesus was a Duck Dynasty aficionado. These cretins are cretins, easily flushed out in MAGA America.
It’s the greenie weenies, the ameliorating, the corrective ones – the straight democratic ticket lovers, the Hillary supporters, the ones blaming Nader, Stein and others for the victories of what they deem the more evil of the lesser evils.
Back to the future means we have Noam Chomsky again railing and lecturing us to believe his wonderful genius and vote with noses held by backing Biden over Trump. Whew, the new Hitler, uh? Is that so, Trump? Hmm, more bumbling misuse of the language and symbol.
Funny world, man, funny world. The entire mess is co-opted by the death star that is capitalism one all 12 cylinders or sputtering away in the throes of death.
Evil begotten country, evil penetrating imperialism, evil perversions of humanity, the cancer that is consumerism, the virus that is waste/waste/waste. Disease treatment so throw out preventative cures.
Until we are in Oregon, with busy signal for weeks at the unemployment office. Boosted prices at the grocery store. Entitled versus poor, and yet the poor seem entitled to believe in Yankee Doodle Dandy and their Stars and Bars.
A Truth Commission
Since the early 1990s the people of South Africa, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile and El Salvador have held official Truth Commissions to look squarely in the eyes of the crimes committed by their governments. There will never be any such official body to investigate and document the wide body of Washington’s crimes, although several unofficial citizens’ commissions have done so over the years for specific interventions, such as in Vietnam, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq; their findings were of course totally ignored by the establishment media (whose ideology is a belief that it doesn’t have any ideology).
In the absence of an official Truth Commission in the United States, this book is offered up as testimony.
— William Blum, Washington, DC/ May 2005/ Rogue State
And so we do this on our people, no? Care homes, workers in confined working operations, the elderly, the physically compromised. Ya think Bill and Melinda and his cronies aren’t thinking about eugenics?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people in care homes have been dying in droves.
Why is this happening? Is it simply because older adults are very vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 and therefore it’s not unexpected that many would succumb?
Or do care homes deserve the lion’s share of the blame, such as by paying so poorly that many workers have to split their time between several facilities, spreading the virus in the process?
Alternatively, could medical experts and government bureaucrats, with the full knowledge of at least the top tier of government officials, have created conditions shortly after the pandemic struck that contribute to the high death tolls while engendering virtually no public backlash against themselves?
This article shows that the third hypothesis is highly plausible. The people who created the conditions may be unaware of, or oblivious to, their implications. But it’s also possible that at least some of them know exactly what they’re doing.
After all – seeing it from an amoral government’s point of view – the growing numbers of elderly are a big burden on today’s fiscally strained governments, because in aggregate they’re paying much less into the tax base than younger people while causing the costs of healthcare and retirement programs to skyrocket.
The abstract science of mathematics is a language like music. But while music is in the realm of pure emotion, the language of mathematics only speaks to the mind not the heart. Numbers and equations do not lie. They are not, by essence, subjective. This being said, when the numbers are those of the dead, they can have the chilling emotional effect of a meat cleaver cutting through bones. While we have tried to stay away from the mainstream media litany of the death tolls, on April 25, 2020 we had passed 200,000 deaths globally. In the United States alone, by the end of April, the COVID-19 pandemic will have killed more people than the reported 58,220 US soldiers who died during the Vietnam war.
Ironically, two political leaders who are supposed to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum have framed their COVID-19 crisis narrative as a war. One is French President Macron, a neoliberal globalist champion, and the other one is nationalist-populist US President Trump. Both, however, have a lot in common: they are proponents of global corporatism, are Commanders in Chief of their respective military but did not serve in the military. Trump was a reputed Vietnam war draft dodger, while Macron was born too late to have done the mandatory French military service. In either case, their war on COVID-19 is not going well. As matter of fact Trump and Macron are winning their war on COVID-19 like the US won in Vietnam or NATO won in Afghanistan. And incidentally, if the COVID-19 is a world war, both of these presidents and other world leaders should consider ordering a military draft.
The COVID-19 killing spree is not yet over, even in its first installment. It is hard to forecast, but in a month or two, once countries such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the entire African continent are computed in the tragic body count, we could globally have reached 350,000 deaths. The worldwide government incompetence will continue and the litany of deaths will keep ticking away. Meanwhile human suffering is not a great concern for capitalism’s ruling class, the economy and the financial markets are now their main focus.
Never mind their countless failures and shortcomings through the crisis. What mostly concerns our callous and cynical political and business leaders is COVID-19’s impact on the global economy. While the lockdown of half of humanity could have been beneficial for an extra couple of weeks from a healthcare stand point, the enforcers of the imperative of global capitalism do not care. As far as salvaging what can still be saved from the current economic collapse, the political technocrats who serve the billionaire class, are perfectly willing to sacrifice thousands of human lives. People are dying. Poor people are starving even in the so-called developed world and relying on food banks in places like Queens, New York; New Orleans; or Seine St. Denis, in Paris’ poor northern suburbs. But what truly matters for the worshippers of capitalism is the well being of their free-market God, a profane deity brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanity is facing a time of reckoning. Despite what the global ruling class hopes for, the global economy has collapsed, and things will never return to normal.
The COVID-19 Great Depression
In just two months, the global economy was brought to a standstill. Airplanes are not flying; factories are not manufacturing, with the exception of face masks; oil has become worthless; three billion people are not consuming, at the exception of food products. The imposed hiatus for most global consumption and circulation of people and goods has blown a giant hole in the complex capitalist edifice. The main question now is will it recover. While the notion of a Great COVID-19 Depression has become accepted, governments worldwide are trying to give their citizens the idea that ultimately it will be okay again. As during the crash of 2008, worldwide national or supra-national banking institutions have followed the lead of the US Federal Reserve. Worldwide, the equivalent of about $7 trillion have been printed, and they are in the process of being injected in the financial markets. Without this, Wall Street and the other markets would already be worth as little as a barrel of US crude oil.
The oil war has come home to roost in the US
On April 21, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark for US crude dropped below zero. As matter of fact, it was trading at -$4.29 a barrel. Needless to say, despite the federal money injection, the impact on the US economy energy sector will be catastrophic. This situation was completely predictable. It was years in the making, with one geopolitical blunder after another. After all, for decades the US and its Saudi allies have used oil price as a weapon. The oil war has come home to roost.
During the Clinton administration an oil price drop was used against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; Bush Jr.’s administration used it against Iran; and the Obama administration used it against Russia as a retaliation over Ukraine. The Trump administration has applied the same policies with regime change goals in Iran and Venezuela. Like his predecessors, the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin-Salman, has been fully on board for decades. The mechanics are simple: you try to achieve your regime change goals by bankrupting another country’s economy, especially if it mainly relies on oil extraction, as does Venezuela. But Maduro is still in place and the Iranians are holding on against all odds.
The Trump administration, despite its claim of being an America-First isolationist, has dutifully followed the post World War II US empire’s geopolitical strategy of asserting a worldwide dominance, even bigger than the Monroe doctrine, by engineering failed states. It is likely, however, that with 26 million unemployed, millions relying on food banks to eat, and an economy that has imploded, the US empire will have to scale back its ambitions. For global neoliberalism’s prodigal son, Emmanuel Macron, the economic and social landscapes are equally grim.
Anger in France: “la racaille” & Gilets Jaunes’ new sans-culottes?
Despite the tough lockdown for more than six weeks in France, clashes have occurred between youths in poor French suburbs and the police. It started Saturday April 18 in Villeneuve La Garrenne with what appears to have been excessive police force against a motorcyclist. From there, it snowballed to the poor suburbs in other parts of Paris and elsewhere in France, specifically in Strasbourg, Roubaix and a Lyon suburb. In Strasbourg a police station was set on fire. The French far-right has done its best to capitalize on the incident, which involved mainly young French citizens of North African or African origin. The far-right populist leader of the Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen, called for a severe crackdown on the culprits of the social unrest. She made the racist claimed that “la racaille” (the human scum) had to be neutralized. Le Pen also attacked the Macron administration for doing something right, which was the release of 8,000 prisoners from prisons to avoid COVID-19 mass infections. This was to be expected from racist tough-on-crime Le Pen, but Eric Ciotti, a congressman from Les Republicains, a party that is supposed to be less Fascist than Le Pen’s, went a step further and called for L’intervention de l’armee et un couvre feu (a deployment of the military and a curfew).
Most people understand that, without the work of the six million French citizens of North African or African origin, France’s confinement would be a lot more challenging. Just like in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles or New Orleans, the mothers and fathers of the angry youths in France are largely the ones who have kept the country going during the lockdown, day in and day out, often risking their lives, anonymously. They are the clerks in supermarkets, the truck drivers and other delivery persons, the janitors, the garbage collectors, the bus drivers and low-paid support staff in hospitals and nursing homes. Generation after generation, since the early 1960s, the largely North African immigrants have done the hard work that the Caucasian French no longer care to do. Former president Chirac called this social inequality a fracture sociale in the 1990s. So it was identified but never fixed, and the COVID-19 crisis has just made it more blatant. France will ease its lockdown after May 11. After this, if the social inequalities are not addressed by actions instead of only words, the angry youths of the poor suburbs could be joined by the Gilets Jaunes, whose movement just went underground.
So far the central banks’ remedy, quantitative easing — a euphemism for printing money — has been largely futile. The 3 trillion dollars and 1.5 trillion Euros injected are financial band-aids on our global economical Titanic. If this doomed ship represents our pre-COVID-19 mode of development, it should be cheerfully sacrificed along with the giant cargo ships and planes, which are the nervous system of a globalization that is chocking on itself. The unfolding COVID-19 crisis has fully exposed the failures of governance and socio-economic systems worldwide.
Beyond their short-term post-COVID-19 strategies, few policy makers or business leaders have any valid answers. The ruling class’ model of globalization, based on corporate imperialism’s core principle of profit over people, is in ruins. In the middle of an unstoppable worldwide paradigm shift, so-called leaders and thinkers are in paradigm paralysis. They are trapped in a pre-COVID-19 reality bubble, unable to think outside the box.
As citizens of the world, we may look ahead possibly to a better future for the many. One critical systemic problem unlikely to survive COVID-19 is the extreme social inequality driven by hyper-capitalist wealth concentration. In a nutshell, the existential problem of capitalism that could cause its end is as follows: exactly 2,019 billionaires worldwide have more wealth than 60 percent of the world population. This is not only immoral but also unsustainable. Let us travel back in time to 1788 for a moment. In France absolute King Louis XVI, who presumably combined the power of Macron and the wealth of France’s richest man Bernard Arnault, thought he was firmly in power. But within a year he was swept away by the French Revolution. The motto of the revolution and subsequent French Republic was Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. These three notions still have power and value. If climate justice is added to them, this could be the foundation of an ecosocialist society.
While the Great Depression of 1929 unquestionably triggered the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, humanity cannot afford for that history to repeat itself. The COVID-19 Great Depression upon us might be capitalism’s end game and the birth of a new global ecosocialist era based on social equality, real democracy with sound governance, zero economic growth, zero global military spending, and respectful harmony with what is left of the natural world.
According to Mark Twain (supposedly), history doesn’t repeat itself, but it frequently rhymes. He was right. Donald Trump, for example, rhymes with Mussolini. The decline of organized labor in recent decades rhymes with its decline in the 1920s. And the coming depression will rhyme, in many respects, with the Great Depression.
For decades, in fact, it has been clear that the political economy of neoliberalism “rhymes” with the political economy that caused the Depression. In addition to (and in part because of) the analogous collapses of organized labor, economic inequality skyrocketed in both eras: in 1929 the richest 0.1% of families in the U.S. owned 25% of all wealth, which is almost exactly the same amount as today. Real wages in the last forty years have stagnated or even declined, as in the 1920s. What these trends, coinciding with an explosion of debt, have indicated is a dangerous weakness in aggregate demand, which has heralded an eventual collapse of markets.
Now that markets are imploding (although from an unforeseen trigger, the coronavirus pandemic), we can observe history rhyming yet again: the fiscal policy responses today, especially by states, mimic those of the Great Depression.
It is of interest to consider government policies in that earlier period, for there may be lessons to heed as states and the federal government confront our own generation-defining economic cataclysm. While political officials don’t always learn from the past, at least activists and the public can.
The most striking fact about the fiscal policy of states in the 1930s is that they consistently underfunded unemployment relief, even in the years when many of them, far from being strapped for cash, had budget surpluses. This is a paradoxical and frequently forgotten fact: U.S. states ended the Depression in a much stronger financial position than when it began.
The reason is simple: it was in these years that states discovered the sales tax, and came to rely on it (together with taxes on alcohol, tobacco, gasoline, and soft drinks) for the majority of their revenue. By 1940, they had doubled the amount they collected in 1930. And yet even the wealthiest states, such as Illinois, continued to plead poverty as an excuse not to adequately fund relief for the unemployed.
It is also noteworthy that states typically preferred to enact regressive forms of taxation such as the sales tax rather than raise taxes on property, individual and corporate incomes, estates, and the like.
The very agenda of austerity, which was a near-religion for states and municipalities in the 1930s (except insofar as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal counteracted it), was not the “economic necessity” authorities claimed it was. It was hardly unavoidable that governments would—as they did—deeply cut spending on such services as public health, sanitation, education, libraries, and transportation. Instead, they could have collected more taxes from corporations and the wealthy, as liberals, labor unions, Communists, and various popular organizations advocated.
In retrospect, such progressive policies seem both just and economically wise, in that they would have increased purchasing power among lower-income groups and thus expanded markets, incentivizing businesses to invest. But the political power of business groups like Chambers of Commerce, Real Estate Boards, and the National Association of Manufacturers ensured that more regressive fiscal policies were enacted and large proportions of the unemployed were left to fend for themselves.
In short, governments made choices; they were not forced to act as they did. They chose to rely on sales taxes instead of something more progressive; they chose not to spend budget surpluses on relief programs for the unemployed; they chose to cut spending on institutions that disproportionately benefited the working and middle classes.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because governments are making the same choices today (as they did following the Great Recession).
Other states are following the same playbook, making significant cuts without committing to raising taxes on the wealthy.
In the end, what the Great Depression and its solution in the colossal spending for World War II showed is that ultimate responsibility rests with the federal government. A mobilization of society’s resources on the level of the 1940s—under the auspices, say, of a Green New Deal—would not only solve the coming economic crisis but lay the foundation for sustained prosperity.
Nevertheless, states are not without their own resources, which they have an obligation to tap in order to mitigate the burden on the most vulnerable.
Let us, for once, avoid making the present “rhyme” with the past and instead set foot on a more enlightened path.
None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Bk. II, Ch. 5; source: Die Wahlverwandtschaften, Hamburger Ausgabe, Bd. 6 (Romane und Novellen I), dtv Verlag, München, 1982, p. 397 (II.5).
I keep plotting a revolution no one else seems to be interested in having. So be it. I’ll have my solitary revolution. There will be no pink hats, guillotines, or marches, just me and a bitter jaded middle finger saluting towards the firmaments in utter rejection of most what this society represents. Although I hold no lasting contempt for anyone in this society because I understand we all have fallen into cultural traps and have done things that we believed we had to do so that we could be accepted, or just to be allowed to sleep indoors somewhere and be fed; we’ve had to commodify and sell out pieces of ourselves to serve the desires of those in a system of power who sanction and control the flow of money backed by military forces and institutions of incarceration, and this way of being was set into motion a long time ago, but it doesn’t have to continue if that’s not what we really desire, but for right now it’s close to all we know.
So, it does seem a revolution of sorts is inevitable due to inequality reaching grotesque heights of avarice where there is no longer any excuse for the wealthy to hide behind in order to explain why it is they have so much and others have so little. However, this just emphasizes the point that this population is largely not wise enough yet to create a revolution worth having, because a more enlightened culture would have taken a stand a long time ago before things became an emergency. Every second we acquiesce to power and don’t push for something radically better we compound an already grim situation. Globally there seems to be a majority who don’t understand what it is to be free, they merely fight to be better treated servants. So it’s highly likely their coming revolution will be a flailing inchoate attempt at something marginally better than what is here now and won’t set out to correct much, if any, of the underlying structural problems.
Consequently, the odds are the revolution we’ll end up with will circle directly back to where we are now or worse in no time at all. But my critiques and frustrations are mine, not a concern for the coming revolution. I must remember it’s their revolution, not mine. I’m not invited to theirs — well, that’s not entirely true. I just have to ignore most of what I believe to be true, then I’m invited. As things are, I have only a single pathetic pity party scheduled as an event to prove my revolution ever existed, but I should be appreciative of what I have and cease bemoaning what I do not.
So this is where I will make my stand. The beginning and likely end of my revolution of one. In reality my revolution is simply a rough translation through the English language describing my light of truth within, which I’ve gone to great pains to keep safe, dry, and burning from a clean source of fuel. Probably all done in futility except to selfishly inoculate my own mind from the lurking darkness of the culture cave; still, a lingering desire remains to light a path out for others to follow who have become stuck watching dark Platonic shadows flicker across the walls.
With that said, here’s the path I’m lighting with argumentation and I believe it to be a solid one. We, as in the we consisting of the global middle/lower classes of the entire planet, aka the 99%, are not a free people now nor have ever truly been free while living in the bounds of a social hierarchy. While many a winsome word has been applied to parchment declaring this or that people free, unfortunately soon thereafter the founding document is handed over to record keepers to energize the narratives of posterity while the same ole domination and ownership-driven society meters out the same ole grind. The reward and punishment operant conditioning culture is uniformly applied and chosen specifically to keep people compliant, reactive, and rutted into perpetual business as usual subservience to authoritative forces.
Constitutions supply grandiose ideas which are undermined by underlying conditional legislature where the original words are made into feckless futile notions that allows the ruling authority to do all the draconian bullshit they’ve always done with prettier sounding words. The powers that be couch authoritarian ideas in language that sometimes sounds reasonable on the surface but ultimately leads people to a deleterious state of believing they are free when they are nothing close to any working definition of freedom. Freedom is a condition which is now only possible within our own minds, but our physical bodies are fodder for the whims of a class of people who clearly believe themselves superior to just about everyone else.
Those causing the most damage are simply playing out a cultural role that’s a legacy of deceit passed down from one generation to the next, and each falling prey to traps of chasing after things; endless shiny carrots on shiny sticks. And not just chasing, but lusting, demanding, an obsessive hedonistic pursuit wanting total ego domination at any macabre cost. Pure obsession with the chase. While irony sits on many of their own bookshelves as Melville’s whale tale of wisdom lies fallow and ignored serving only as bookcase filler to give guests the impression they’re well read.
The ego-driven mind thinks primarily in the language of temporal imperatives. Short term must do this, must do that kind of thinking where all thought is disseminated through a lens of self importance with agendas to accomplish to validate that self importance. And if it thinks itself important enough it will eventually see itself as messianic. After they have assumed role of savior it’s just logically congruent that the ruling class allocate all the resources they desire for themselves so they can help all the people they will eventually save, and they need deep pockets to be the inspiration for the entire world.
Over time the ruling class creates rules and cultural dogmas that they claim are for the good of the people, but oddly enough their beliefs always result in making them richer and giving them more power. What an odd purported symbiosis they have dreamed up. The surest sign of being under an authoritarian power is when they make it really difficult to live independent of them. They demand you be hooked up to their electrical grid, pay taxes to live on the land, and hooked into the public water system. Total forced dependency on their system and it is barely noticed yet subtly removing choice and creating an artificial cage. Creating dependency is the best way to control people, and tyranny is then accepted under the umbrella of the common good, so the messianic ones can provide shelter from the storm while, of course, the common person sacrifices most of their free will in the process in a Faustian bargain which is the default role we are thrust into in this world of imperial forces.
Social hierarchies hold their grip on power in increasingly sophisticated ways. They’ve mostly advanced past public executions to keep people in line. They’ve learned it’s far more effective to manipulate minds into believing all are equals and free, and stoke the fear response towards something external that threatens that equality and freedom. It’s become understood by hierarchy that if the ruling power is perceived as the threat they are far more likely to be ousted from that power, so the engines of power must diffuse the blame of their actions lest they be held responsible for the tyranny they impose.
So semi-plausible sounding fears are brought to the forefront so they can provide you with adequate safety, which gives them the power to deprive you of the liberty they are telling you they are protecting, since you know they care so much about you. The gas-lighting of the masses creates reactionary conditioning that puts people in a state where they no longer trust their own mind and become prone to believing all the fears power claims are real. And fear is then used as a prod to move the human animal in a chosen direction power wishes.
Revolution of a real kind, one where our relationship to power radically changes, will be a series of progressions in pulling our minds out of this culture trap. Change will come in relation to how well we come to understand the implications of centralized power and ultimately integrate that knowledge into how we live. Further, how well we learn to work together cooperatively in a voluntary manner will correlate directly to how likely it is our species survives past the next hundred years. But curing ourselves of these brutal mental afflictions is not an easy path to traverse. However, I’ll argue a radical change is needed if we want to once again have human lives worth living with real choice and agency over our own mind, body, and time.
Since the 2008 economic collapse engineered by Wall Street, most of the world’s economies have been running on gas fumes and more bankrupt schemes and failed policies. Few, if any, economies have been able to return to weak pre-2008 economic growth levels. Even the Chinese and Indian economic “miracles” are not that miraculous.
To be sure, major capitalist economies have been declining since the late 1970s, and for the past few years imperialist organizations like the IMF and World Bank have routinely reviseddownward multiple economic growth estimates that are low to begin with.
Financialization, stock market manipulation, the refusal to strengthen the productive sector that actually produces what people need (the real economy), large declines in consumer spending, enormous sums of debt in all forms and at all levels,1 more personal and corporate bankruptcies, endless money printing by central banks around the world, extremely low interest rates, and the non-stop invention of toxic financial instruments, “utilities,” “vehicles,” “facilities,” and arrangements to rescue the rich now dominate the retrogressive direction of humanity. These and other antisocial developments point to a historically exhausted ruling class that is unfit to rule. The financial oligarchy has no solutions for any of the serious problems confronting humanity, just more tragedies.
The last few months have unmasked the most massive economic collapse the U.S. has ever experienced. Officially, 30 million people in the U.S. lost their jobs in about 6 weeks. The St. Louis Federal Reserve noted recently that around 50 million Americans may be unemployed in the coming months, resulting in an “official” unemployment rate exceeding 32 percent.2 The jobless rate at the height of the 1930s Great Depression was 25%.
Millions have also seen their pensions and savings drop substantially and rapidly. Not surprisingly, the mental, emotional, and physical health of millions has also further deteriorated, causing more harm than the coronavirus itself. Insecurity and uncertainty have never been higher.
Globally, a bigger disaster is unfolding. An April 29, 2020 press release from the International Labor Organization states that, “The continued sharp decline in working hours globally due to the COVID-19 outbreak means that 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – that is nearly half of the global workforce – stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed.”3
The coming months and years will be horrendous for millions worldwide. More intense social, economic, and political turmoil is bound to arise. Few will be unaffected by coming developments.
Fortunately, the fear, hysteria, and disinformation built into the ready-made “COVID Pandemic” narrative promoted by the rich and their allies has not caused everyone to become anticonscious or paralyzed. Many have not abandoned conscious acts of finding out the truth.
The “COVID Pandemic” did not trigger, induce, or cause the current economic meltdown, it simply diverted attention from it temporarily and provided convenient cover for what was inevitable.4 For years, many have been accurately predicting a major stock market crash and a deepening of the economic depression that started 12 years ago. It was not a matter of if the house of cards would collapse, but when it would break down. Many actually came very close to predicting the exact timeline of the economic collapse as well. There really were no mysteries or secrets.
Capitalism has always lurched from crisis to crisis, ensuring instability and insecurity for millions. Chaos, anarchy, and violence are inherent core features of the so-called “free market.” Economic upheavals, slumps, recessions, booms, and busts are fellow-travelers of this anachronistic economic system that further destroys the social and natural environment with each passing day. This will continue so long as conscious human control of the economy is blocked by existing political-economic arrangements.
While comparing the current economic catastrophe to the deep economic crises of 2008 or the 1930s has some value, this value is limited because the breadth, depth, and nature of the current economic collapse is far greater and qualitatively different given the all-around level of development and interconnectedness of contemporary societies and economies around the world. Wealth and power are also more concentrated in fewer hands today than just 12 years ago. Geo-political and geo-economic configurations have evolved and changed as well, presenting humanity with new realities. And never before has most of the world been put on a top-down extended lockdown (a prison term) for months at the same time.
In this dark context, while various benefits, stimulus checks, waivers and extensions for bills, and other social insurance programs are being considered and implemented in order to provide people with some relief, these are all temporary and inadequate—they are largely “stop-gap measures.” Student loans, for example, will have to start being repaid eventually, as will rent, credit cards, mortgages, car payments, service fees, and utility bills.
Here it is worth recalling that the U.S. Federal Reserve recently printed $4 trillion to prop up the big banks and big business. This is in addition to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed a few weeks ago,5 which also benefits mainly the rich. Most of the money that was printed in three seconds will not go to the majority. It will not substantively help the millions who have been harmed by the severe economic collapse that could have been prevented if decisions were made by the people and not the financial oligarchy. This is even more alarming when considering that the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari, recently stated that the Federal Reserve has an “infinite amount of cash” to bail out the super-rich.
But if an “infinite amount of cash” can arbitrarily and instantly be printed on a whim, why should anything go unfunded? Why not fully fund excellent healthcare for all right now? Why not fully fund America’s public schools? Why not eliminate $1.7 trillion of humiliating student debt immediately? Why should anyone even pay taxes? What meaning does money have if it bears no relationship to the real world and the sphere of production that humanity depends on? Replacing real value with fictitious value is not a recipe for social progress; it lays the groundwork for deeper problems down the road.
The current crisis will lead to the further concentration of wealth in even fewer hands. Everything will be even more monopolized by the super-rich.
Monopoly in economics means monopoly in politics, and monopoly in politics means less democracy and more authoritarianism, repression, surveillance, and war. Things cannot be otherwise in the final and highest stage of capitalism. Economic parasitism and decay will only intensify until a new direction, motivation, and outlook for society and the economy are established by the people themselves.
On May 2, 2020, the Washington Post wrote:
In a matter of months, tens of millions of people in dozens of countries have been placed under surveillance. Governments, private companies and researchers observe the health, habits and movements of citizens, often without their consent…. At least 27 countries are using data from cellphone companies to track the movements of citizens, according to Edin Omanovic, the advocacy director for Privacy International, which is keeping a record of surveillance programs.6
It is no accident that we are seeing a broad range of enhanced police-state arrangements being put into place during the “COVID Pandemic.” Police-state arrangements are multiplying, often out of sight and with zero scrutiny.
New police-state arrangements include stepping up the number of police departments in dozens of U.S. cities using more drones to “protect public health”—usually without telling anyone. A dystopian atmosphere has even emerged in some places.
We are also seeing big tech companies like Apple launching “tracing apps” so as to “find infected people” and “improve public health.” Such apps will gather, store, and misuse gigantic quantities of private information, creating much anguish and many headaches for people in a variety of ways.
State “digital checkpoints” have also conveniently emerged during the “COVID Pandemic.” Some states are now setting up arrangements that require those driving into their state to stop at some place close to the state border and complete some sort of digital personal inventory and questionnaire before being permitted to enter the state. Putting aside the many embarrassing logistical and technical problems that have emerged with these poorly-conceived antisocial arrangements, this is nonetheless an effective way to gather extensive private and personal information—and it is probably unconstitutional; certainly not something Americans are used to or should get used to.
Perhaps worse, several mayors of major cities have publicly, casually, and openly called on people to snitch on each other in the name of “improving public heath.” Snitching all of a sudden has been cynically turned into a virtue, even a heroic act. But is such an approach a progressive, responsible, and ethical way to build a modern society that honors the dignity and personality of people? How is sowing distrust, animosity, and fear between neighbors helpful and acceptable? Is this how unity and mutual support are built?
A massive top-down effort to shift many different services and work online is also exposing millions more to frequent invasions of their privacy and hacking, not to mention a range of technology-related health problems (e.g., headaches, eye strain, neck pain, hand problems, shoulder tension, and sedentary behavior). Technology is great in many ways, but it is also excellent at delivering many problems.
It is critical to consciously reject and condemn police state arrangements and government abdicating its responsibility to the people. As grim and sometimes apocalyptic as the dark situation we are collectively suffering through feels like at times, all is not lost. All is not doom and gloom.
Contradictions, cracks, and openings abound.
While various things have (inadvertently) improved during the “COVID Pandemic,” such as less pollution around the world, clearer skies, cleaner lakes, fewer car accidents, and lower gas prices, to name just a few, we are experiencing a deep crisis, and a crisis presents various opportunities.
What happens next is significant.
It is critical to deprive the rich and their allies of any initiative to further wreck everything. Their ideas and policies are bankrupt and do not serve the public interest. The rich and their retinue, including the cartel political parties, must not be allowed to set the agenda for anything. They have no real solutions.
People are tired of being told what to do by unaccountable “leaders” and politicians, and they reject the ready-made diversionary answers “leaders” are tirelessly promoting. People do not want any more top-down “solutions” that leave them out of the equation. They want to be the decision-makers themselves, which means giving more than occasional “input” that is routinely disregarded or used against them anyway. Decision-making and “input” are not the same. The entire polity must be part of all decision-making. Sovereignty lies with the polity, not “leaders,” different factions of the rich, and politicians.
People can and must boldly speak out in their own name and be accountable only to themselves and their peers. The polity is very creative and has many intelligent solutions for everything, as well as a strong desire to enact such solutions.
It is harmful to rely on the rich and their political representatives. It is best to avoid them altogether and find new ways to come together and think about, analyze, and discuss new directions, motivations, agendas, and programs for society and the economy. There is an alternative to the highly untenable status quo.
It is worth noting that, intended or not, social and physical distancing rules have played a big role in blocking rallies, protests, and demonstrations against assaults on people’s rights and livelihoods.
Note that millions of people have still not received their meager stimulus check.
Additional to the global health crisis and the coming worldwide economic collapse, Covid-19 is fuelling a humanitarian crisis. The World Food Program (WFP) warns that, “millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations, including many women and children, face being pushed to the brink of starvation, with the spectre of famine a very real and dangerous possibility.” The WFP’s view that the biggest impact of the pandemic will not by caused by the virus directly, but the hunger that flows from it, is in line with other concerned groups.
In a recent statement the WFP warned that “unless swift action is taken”, by the end of the year we “will see more than a quarter of a billion people suffering acute hunger…in low and middle-income countries.” This is made up of 135 million already facing food shortages, plus an estimated 130 million people (it could well be more), as a result of Covid-19. This would take the total number of people who go to bed hungry every night to over a billion – approximately, for all such statistics serve as a guide only; inevitably they miss the hidden hungry, people living on the fringes of society in every country, rich and poor.
In addition to the ‘130 million’ there are the tens of millions of casual workers who can only eat if they work. “Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs,” says Dr. Arif Husain, chief economist at WFP, “it only takes one more shock – like Covid-19 – to push them over the edge.”
Countries dependent on food imports and the export of oil are particularly at risk of increased levels of hunger, as well as communities that rely on remittance income from overseas, and tourism. In addition there is the uncertainty around foreign aid as donor countries face the prospect of recession. Those in greatest danger are in 10 countries affected by conflict, economic crisis and climate change – all of which are interconnected. The 2020Global Report on Food Criseshighlights Yemen (where two deaths from Covid-19 have already been reported), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti. Drought and the worst locust infestation for decades (triggered by climate change) have already caused food shortages in South Asia and the Horn of Africa, where according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 12 million people are living under the frightening shadow of food insecurity.
Unless we prepare and act now – “to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade,” the WFP statement state, “we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.”
If the virus takes hold in locations where war is raging, in countries which have weak health care systems, the UN has warned that it would be impossible to limit the impact and/or deliver much needed humanitarian supplies, including food. In an attempt to safeguard these countries the UN Secretary general António Guterres has called for a global ceasefire. While some 70 member states, regional partners, non-state actors, civil society networks and organizations,” have so far endorsed his plea, “there was”, he said, “still a distance between declarations and deeds in many countries.”
If a ‘Pandemic of Hunger’ is to be avoided, in addition to peace and humanitarian access, supply chains, which have been disrupted, must remain open and fluid, allowing food to be transported easily. And, as WFP makes clear, states must not introduce export bans or import duties, which would lead to price rises.
These are urgent steps that must be taken to meet the immediate threat. But these measures will not feed the 800 million or so suffering from chronic hunger. The primary cause of hunger in our world is not conflict or access to food, it is poverty – there is nowhere in the world where the rich go hungry. To banish hunger for good, lasting fundamental change must be introduced. Systemic change and behavioral change, and the two are inextricably connected.
A perfect storm
Even before Covid-19 the head of the WFP forecast “2020 would be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.” He cites wars in Syria and Yemen; the crisis in South Sudan, Burkino Faso and the Central Sahel region in Africa, where UNICEF says, “4.3 million children are now in need of humanitarian assistance,” the economic crisis in Lebanon, as well as countries like Ethiopia, the DRC and Sudan. The list, he says, ‘goes on…we’re already facing a perfect storm.’
The ‘perfect storm’ is an extreme consequence of a series of interconnected causes; many, if not all of which flow from the all-pervasive socio-economic order and the divisive values and attitudes that are promoted. Crystallized as it is, the system is a construct of the consciousness of the past. It is not of the now or the time we are moving into, nevertheless it dominates all life. Like many of our structures and forms it needs to change, many know this and Covid-19 is highlighting the need for change and presenting an opportunity. It is acting as a mirror, an agency of revelation, bringing issues into focus and pouring fuel on already simmering fires, insisting we attend. With businesses closed large numbers of people are being forced to slow down, to stop consuming, stop travelling. A space has opened up in which to reflect and examine how we live, individually as well as collectively.
A range of festering issues, known but either ignored or inflamed, are being brought to the surface; interrelated crises that have been percolating for decades demanding attention and a new approach. The man-made environmental crisis, which is the pressing issue of the age, and the outdated economic structure, inadequate or non-existent public services, the crisis of wealth/income and power inequality and social injustice among a number of other pressing social wounds.
After the pandemic has retreated and lockdowns are released the world economy is, by all predictions set to crash. The IMF estimate The Great Lockdown, as they are calling it, will result in the “worst recession since the Great Depression, and far worse than the Global Financial Crisis.” But as the head of the body, Kristalina Georgieva admits, it could be worse, they don’t know. If the coming crash is met, not with desperation and despair, but with creative imagination and compassion, it may, indeed could, bring about widespread liberation, allowing for a new and just, long overdue, reorganization of the socio-economic and political spheres.
The Age of Reason
Consistent with the new time we are moving into, a shift in collective consciousness is taking place among large numbers of people all over the world. To accommodate this shift, this new awareness that is slowly emerging, new ways of thinking, new institutions and structures are badly needed, including crucially a radically overhauled socio-economic system. A flexible evolving model anchored in certain Principles of Goodness: Unity, sharing and justice.
This common-sense trinity is interdependent and encourages values of cooperation and understanding, responsibility and tolerance. By the expression of one quality the other is strengthened, reinforced, expanded. Key is unity, the recognition that all of life is interconnected, whole, that humanity is one and that all have the same and equal rights. That we all have a responsibility to one another and the natural world and our actions should proceed from a position of awareness. Any new system must have sharing at its core. Sharing would end for good the abomination of men, women, and children dying of starvation – with or without a pandemic –, or living stunted crippled lives due to malnutrition in a world overflowing with food. Acknowledging what each nation has to offer the world at large (natural resource, including food and water, knowledge and skills, etc.) and what it lacks, what it needs from others. And thirdly, Justice, – social and environmental justice –, under the doctrine of the present order there is neither. The system is inherently unjust and cruel, benefiting these that have, punishing and abusing those that are vulnerable and have not. The natural environment – forests, rivers, oceans, habitat, all are sacrificed or exploited for profit. All need to be protected, nurtured, and allowed to heal, as does humanity.
Through the introduction of sharing as the primary organizing principle underlying the socio-economic order and animating widespread change, trust would be created, relationships built, divisions eroded, allowing for peace to come into being. Peace and freedom are perennial ideals held within the hearts of mankind. Sharing, unity and justice are the means of entry into a world in which they become not just hopes and unrealized dreams, but vibrant qualities animating all modes of living.
The prophecies are here and it is a foregone conclusion: the post-coronavirus world will look fundamentally different from anything that we have seen or experienced, at least since the end of World War II.
Even before the ‘curve flattened’ in many countries that have experienced high death tolls — let alone economic devastation — as a result of the unhindered spread of the COVID-19 disease, thinkers and philosophers began speculating, from the comfort of their own quarantines, about the many scenarios that await us.
The devastation inflicted by the coronavirus is likely to be as consequential as “the fall of the Berlin Wall or the collapse of the Lehman Brothers,” wrote Foreign Policy magazine in a widely read analysis, entitled ‘How the World Will Look After the Coronavirus Pandemic’.
While major newspapers and news media outlets jumped on the bandwagon of trying to construct the various post-coronavirus possibilities, Foreign Policy sought the views of twelve thinkers, each providing their own reading of the future.
Stephen M. Walt concluded that “COVID-19 will create a world that is less open, less prosperous, and less free”.
Robin Niblett wrote that it is “highly unlikely… that the world will return to the idea of mutually beneficial globalization that defined the early 21st century”.
‘Mutually beneficial’ is a phrase deserving of a completely different essay, as it is a claim that can easily be contested by many small and poor countries.
Be that as it may, globalization was a focal point of discussion among many of the twelve thinkers, although a major point of contention was whether globalization will remain in place in its current form, whether it will be redefined or discarded altogether.
Kishore Mahbubani wrote that, “the COVID-19 pandemic will not fundamentally alter global economic directions. It will only accelerate a change that had already begun: a move away from US-centric globalization to a more China-centric globalization”.
And so on…
While political economists focused on COVID-19’s impact on major economic trends, globalization and the resultant shift of political power, environmentalists emphasized the fact that the quarantine, which has affected the vast majority of the world’s population, raises hopes that it might not be too late for Planet Earth after all.
Numerous articles, citing scientific research and accompanied by photo galleries that illustrate the blue skies over Delhi and the clean waters of Venice, all underline the point that the upcoming ‘change’ will prove most consequential for the environment.
With prophecies afoot, even discredited philosophers such as Slavoj Zizek, tried to stage a comeback, offering their own predictions of ‘ideological viruses’, including “the virus of thinking about an alternate society, a society beyond nation-state, a society that actualizes itself in the forms of global solidarity and cooperation”.
In his article, published in the German newspaper Die Welt, Zizek proposes what he describes as a ‘paradox’: while COVID-19 constitutes a ‘blow to capitalism’ it “will also compel us to re-invent communism based on trust in the people and in science”.
Ironically, only a few years ago, Zizek, who is often referred to as a ‘celebrity philosopher’, advocated an ethnocentric discourse targeting refugees, immigrants and Muslims.
“I never liked this humanitarian approach that if you really talk with them (meaning war refugees who sought safety in Europe) you discover we are all the same people,” Zizek said in his book Refugees, Terror and other Troubles with the Neighbors. “No, we are not — we have fundamental differences.”
In an article discussing Zizek’s book, published in Quartz, Annalisa Merelli wrote, “Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, Zizek warned that liberals need to let go of the taboos that prevent open discussion of the problems that come from admitting people of different cultures to Europe, and in particular the denial of any public safety danger caused by refugees.”
This supposedly ‘Marxist philosopher’ went even further, borrowing from Christian theology in explaining that “the Christian motto ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ is not as simple as it appears,” criticizing the alleged ‘prohibition’ by some leftist circles of “any critique of Islam”.
“It is a simple fact that most of the refugees come from a culture that is incompatible with Western European notions of human rights,” Zizek wrote, conveniently omitting that it is Western imperialism, colonialism and wars of economic dominance that have been the main triggers of Middle Eastern crises for at least a century.
It would be safe to assume that Zizek’s unorthodox ‘reinvention of communism’ excludes millions of refugees who are paying the price, not for the ills of ‘the global economy’ – as he conveniently proposes – but for war-driven Western hegemony and neo-colonialism.
Our seemingly-disproportionate emphasis on Zizek’s unsettling ideas is only meant to illustrate that ‘celebrity philosophy’ is not only useless in this context, but also a distraction from a truly urgent discussion on the mechanics of equitable change in society, a process currently hindered by war, racism, xenophobia, and populist-centric far-right ideologies.
In truth, it is far easier to predict the future of globalization or air-pollution when analysts are confronted with straight-forward indicators – technological advancement, exports, currency valuation, and air quality.
But speaking of the reinvention of society, with little credibility to boot, is the equivalence of intellectual guesswork, especially when the so-called intellectual is almost entirely detached from the trials of everyday society.
The problem with most analyses of the various ‘futures’ that lie ahead is that very few of these predictions are predicated on an honest examination of the problems that have plagued our past and afflicted our present.
But how are we to chart a better understanding and a suitable response to the future and its many challenges if we do not truly and honestly confront and dissect the problems that have taken us to this dismal point of global crisis?
We concur. The future will bring about change. It ought to. It must. Because the status quo is simply unsustainable. Because the wars in Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan; the Israeli occupation of Palestine; the dehumanization and economic strangulation of Africa and South America, and so on, must not be allowed to become an everyday occurrence.
But for that better, more equitable future to arrive, our understanding of it must be situated within a historically valid, ideologically defensible, and humane view of our troubled world, of ourselves and of others — and not within the detached and callous view of mainstream Western economists or celebrity philosophers.
It is indeed strange how Zizek and his like can still embrace an ethnocentric view of Europe and Christianity while still being viewed as ‘communist’. What strange breed of communism is this ideology that does not acknowledge the centrality and history of global class struggles?
If we are to place the Marxist class struggle within broader and more global terms, it is befitting and tenable then to assume that Western powers have historically represented the ‘ruling classes’, while the colonized and historically oppressed Southern hemisphere makes up the ‘subordinate classes’.
It is this dynamic of oppression, usurpation and enslavement that fueled the ‘engine of history’ — the Marxist notion that history is propelled by internal contradictions within the system of material production.
It would be simply naive to assume that an outbreak of a pandemic can automatically and inexorably, in itself, propel and produce change, and that such a romanticized ‘change’ will intuitively favor the ‘subordinate classes’, whether within local societal structures or at a global level.
There is no denial that the current crisis — whether economic or within the healthcare system — is fundamentally a structural crisis that can be traced to the numerous fault-lines within the capitalist system, which is enduring what Italian anti-fascist intellectual and politician Antonio Gramsci refers to as ‘interregnum’.
In his Prison Notebooks, Gramsci wrote: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
The ‘variety of morbid symptoms’ were expressed in the last two decades in the gradual decay, if not decimation, of the very global system that was constructed ever so diligently by capitalist Western forces, which shaped the world to pursue their own interests for nearly a century.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s was meant to usher in a whole new world – uncontested, militaristic to the core and unapologetically capitalist. Little of that has actualized, however. The first US-led Iraq military adventure (1990-91), the parallel ‘new world order’ and subsequent ‘new Middle East’, and so on, ultimately, amounted to naught.
Frustrated by its inability to translate its military and technological superiority to sustainable dominance on the ground, the US and its Western allies fell apart at a much faster rate than ever expected. Barack Obama’s administration’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ — accompanied by military retreat from the oil-rich Middle East — was only the beginning of an inevitable course of decline that no US administration, however belligerent and irrational, can possibly stop.
Largely helpless before relentless crises facing the once-triumphant capitalist order, dominant Western institutions, the likes of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU), grew useless and dysfunctional. No prophecies are required here to assume that the post-coronavirus world will further undermine the very idea behind the EU. Interestingly, although not surprisingly, the ‘European community,’ at the time of Europe’s greatest crisis since World War II, turned out to be a farce, since it was China and Cuba that extended a helping hand to Italy and Spain, not Germany, France or the Netherlands.
It is rather ironic that the very forces that championed economic globalization — and derided reluctant countries that refused to join in — are the same as those that are now advocating some form of sovereignism, isolationism, and nationalism.
This is precisely the ‘interregnum’ that Gramsci has talked about. It should not be taken for granted, however, that this political vacuum can be filled through wishful thinking alone, for real, lasting and sustainable change can only be the outcome of a mindful process, one that keeps in mind the nature of future conflicts and our ideological and moral position in response to these conflicts.
Celebrity philosophers certainly do not represent, nor do they earn the right to speak on behalf of the ‘subordinate classes’ — neither locally nor globally. What is needed, instead, is a counter ‘cultural hegemony’, championed by the true representatives of oppressed societies (minorities united by mutual solidarity, oppressed nations, and so on), who must be aware of the historical opportunity and challenges that lie ahead.
A distinct symptom of ‘interregnum’ is the palpable detachment exhibited by the masses towards traditional ideologies — a process which has begun much earlier than the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“If the ruling class has lost its consensus, i.e., is no longer ‘leading’ but only ‘dominant,’ exercising coercive force alone, this means precisely that the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies, and no longer believe what they used to believe previously”, Gramsci wrote.
Admittedly, there is a problem with true democratic representation all over the world, due to the rise of military dictatorships (as in the case of Egypt), and far-right populism (as in the case of the US, various Western countries, India and so forth).
Bearing all of that in mind, simply counting on ‘trust in the people and in science’ — as disconcertingly prescribed by Zizek — will neither ‘re-invent communism’, restore democracy or redistribute wealth fairly and equitably among all classes. And, needless to say, it will not bring the Israeli occupation to an end or humanely end the global refugee crisis.
In fact, the opposite is true. Under the cover of trying to control the spread of the coronavirus, several governments have carried out authoritarian measures that merely aim at strengthening their grip on power, as was the case in Hungary and Israel.
Not that Hungary and Israel have been governed according to high democratic standards prior to the spread of the coronavirus. The collective panic that resulted from the high death-toll of a barely understood disease, however, served as the needed collective ‘shock’ — see Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine — required by authoritarian regimes to seize the moment and to further erode any semblance of democracy in their own societies.
Following each and every global crisis, analysts, military strategists and philosophers take on whatever available platform to prophesize seismic changes and speak of paradigm shifts. Some even go as far as declaring the ‘end of history’, ‘clashes of civilizations’, or, as in the case of Zizek, a new form of communism.
French critic and journalist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (born November 1808), has once written that “the more things change, the more they continue to be the same thing”.
Indeed, without a people-propelled form of change, the status quo seems to constantly reinvent itself, restoring its dominance, cultural hegemony and undemocratic claim to power.
Undeniably, the global crisis invited by the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic embodies within it the opportunity of fundamental change (towards greater equality or greater authoritarianism), or no change at all.
It is us, the people, and our true authentic voices — the ‘organic intellectuals’, not the celebrity philosophers — who have the right and the moral legitimacy to rise up to reclaim our democracy and redefine a new discourse on a global, not ethnocentric, form of justice.
It is either that we exercise this option, or the current ‘interregnum’ will fizzle out into yet another missed opportunity.
The name of the latest enormous transfer of wealth to the one percent, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, represents a public relations coup. Unsurprisingly, this great sounding title misrepresents the bill’s contents.
Pattern of transferring wealth upward
Unfortunately, this bill is essentially a repeat of the bailout of Wall Street during the Great Recession that further enriched the obscenely wealthy at the public’s expense. This current legislation again showers Wall Street and gigantic corporations with oodles of money while providing aid for Main Street that is far too little and far too late. This legislation will also increase our already shamefully large wealth chasm.
This creatively misnamed Act is the fourth time in the past twenty years that our government of, by and for the corporations has bestowed massive gifts on the wealthy. The gifts were in the form of huge tax breaks under the George W. Bush and Donald Trump administrations and gigantic bailouts under the Barack Obama and Trump administrations.
Naomi Klein’s 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism details how politicians use crises to transfer great amounts of wealth upward at the public’s expense. We saw an immediate example of this doctrine triggered by the 2008-09 Wall Street caused financial crisis that led to the Great Recession. The White House, Congress and the Federal Reserve quickly provided trillions of dollars to bail out Wall Street, but did little for Main Street. In addition, Wall Street executives were not held responsible for their crimes.
It wasn’t always this way. For example, during the Great Depression, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration passed many pieces of progressive legislation that greatly benefited the public and the common good.
Today, in response to an ongoing banking and corporate financial crisis, our corporate influenced government quickly took advantage of the horrific novel coronavirus outbreak to massively reward their major campaign contributors with a huge bailout.
Two sections of the CARES Act
Most of the corporate media reported that the CARES Act would inject $2.2 trillion dollars into the economy. In reality, about $450 billion of the $500 billion set aside for loans to large corporation and banks can be used to insure lending to these corporations from the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve can leverage this money into an additional $4 trillion or so for the recipients. The media usually ignore or downplay this $4 trillion.
Instead the corporate media highlights the money set aside for so-called small businesses and workers. For example, there is to be a one-time income-dependent transfer of at most $1200 to most Americans adults and $500 for dependent children under 17. This one-time payment to the public is a drop in the bucket compared to the needs. In addition, many of the public are still waiting for this relatively small amount.
Another more substantial assistance is the expansion of eligibility for unemployment insurance. Crucially, unemployment recipients will also get $600 per week for four months on top of the state’s unemployment benefits. However, compare this to some European nations that are underwriting 70% to 90% of workers’ pay if their companies keep them employed during the crisis.
Politicians must do much more to aid the suffering public. For example, one of many examples of the failure of the profit driven system is health care. We clearly need an expanded Medicare for All since tying health care to employment has failed miserably. We must also strengthen our public health system that has been weakened by severe under-funding. This pandemic and the Trump administration’s terrible response also show our security clearly isn’t tied to excessive military spending that is at the expense of domestic programs.
Unless politicians pass legislation to directly address public needs, the future will be extremely bleak. The US economy has already experienced an unprecedented job loss with over 26 million people filing for unemployment insurance in the last five weeks. This situation is likely to worsen as more small businesses fold during this pandemic despite the latest bill. When the pandemic is over, the number of unemployed and of homeless will likely be enormous. After all the bailouts of the obscenely wealthy, it’s past time for the government to provide for the public’s needs. Otherwise, how will a desperate public react?