Category Archives: global inequality

The End of Anarchy and The Solidification of the Global Class

There once was a world where state actors operated in an anarchic international environment, where maximizing their overall power was their goal, and war was their means of achieving it. That world is now dead.

In its place we have the current spectacle of what were known as the “great powers” who are now, at least, formally if by no means fully, democratic and economically interdependent on one another and informally, if firmly, coordinated by transnational elites.

However, lest we be confused by their seeming historical similarities, this situation is very different than the one the world found itself in during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries.

Then, the world was both far from being even formally democratic and world capitalist elites were only beginning to form and more importantly were locked in lethal competition with older more parochial elites representing the still powerful aristocracies, militaries and agrarian concerns. For anyone who might want to learn more, Arno J Mayer’s classic The Persistence of the Old Regime is an excellent guide to this period.

Although much has been written about the “democratic peace”, a doctrine at least as old as Thomas Paine and Immanuel Kant, we might wonder how much the current era also known as the “long peace” is a product of an increase in the total number of democratic or semi-democratic states, especially the most powerful ones or is rather the semi-surreptitious erection of an overarching system of global elites united by their global economic interests and disciplined by the military/state security apparatus of their universal pay master or locus primaria: the United States.

After the classical world of power politics gasped its last (1945), the United States found itself in an unprecedented world historical situation: it could mold, coerce, cajole, and most importantly penetrate an exhausted world economically, militarily, politically, and culturally. This it did with unexampled speed and skill relying in part on its aura of victory over Fascism. It built both visible and, most importantly, invisible bonds to its long term interests which both quickly and over time also became the core interests of its new client states and their local/”national” elites.

The second phase of American Hegemonic Expansion occurred throughout what was known then as the “second” and “third” worlds; the communist and non-aligned states. Through a careful policy of coercion and corruption (the use of criminal organizations often went hand in hand with the use of security forces) the United States was able to convince and ultimately co-opt much of the world’s remaining elites in their lucrative and superficially attractive skein of capitalist production and consumption and cosmetic democracy. It was and is the world’s most effective formula for world domination to have ever been devised. It is the very life-blood of Pax Americana.

Interestingly, and not surprisingly, the regions of the world that are not under firm American Hegemony such as some parts of the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa are the locations of the most violent conflicts. In part, these regions are still operating under the old Hobbesian conditions of anarchy and war. They either “suffer” from not being of sufficient interest to Superpower or are locally too costly to integrate into the world system at present. This, of course, could change at any moment when and if transnational elites hit upon novel ways of making these “war-torn” countries of benefit to themselves. The historical record says they, ultimately, surely will.

Thus, unlike the nineteenth century, the world system is far more stable under a tightly knit regime of interdependent elites dedicated to the pursuit of their own personal interests which are well served by their collective organization by Superpower or Empire. Ancient anarchy has been therefore drained from the international system, and as Negri and Hardt have pointed out in their books on Empire all conflict within the system is more of a local civil war rather than an ultimate challenge to the whole system.

It should not be totally surprising that the current international system represents the ever increasing homogenization of the interests of a group of people since the world is both materially and culturally expressed in the power of a Hegemon.  American hegemony reproduced itself through the expert use and production of Baconian power and knowledge (and some geographic and historical luck). It is a totality that came of age when the old elites (remnants of the feudal ages) were militarily eliminated and new elites (primarily communist and nationalist and oftentimes both) were unable to be successfully born. In a world of mass surveillance, hegemonic power, elite interdependence, sophisticated consumption, and democratic ideology; what contradictions, if any, could liberate humankind from the sweet bondage of ever growing economic prosperity and, at least for the Great Powers, international peace through the solidification of the directory of the Great Global Class of the Twenty-First Century?

Three Lessons from the “Failed” Mueller Inquiry

Here are three important lessons for the progressive left to consider now that it is clear the inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russiagate is never going to uncover collusion between Donald Trump’s camp and the Kremlin in the 2016 presidential election.

Painting the pig’s face

1. The left never had a dog in this race. This was always an in-house squabble between different wings of the establishment. Late-stage capitalism is in terminal crisis, and the biggest problem facing our corporate elites is how to emerge from this crisis with their power intact. One wing wants to make sure the pig’s face remains painted, the other is happy simply getting its snout deeper into the trough while the food lasts.

Russiagate was never about substance, it was about who gets to image-manage the decline of a turbo-charged, self-harming neoliberal capitalism.

The leaders of the Democratic party are less terrified of Trump and what he represents than they are of us and what we might do if we understood how they have rigged the political and economic system to their permanent advantage.

It may look like Russiagate was a failure, but it was actually a success. It deflected the left’s attention from endemic corruption within the leadership of the Democratic party, which supposedly represents the left. It rechannelled the left’s political energies instead towards the convenient bogeymen targets of Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Mired in corruption

What Mueller found – all he was ever going to find – was marginal corruption in the Trump camp. And that was inevitable because Washington is mired in corruption. In fact, what Mueller revealed was the most exceptional forms of corruption among Trump’s team while obscuring the run-of-the-mill stuff that would have served as a reminder of the endemic corruption infecting the Democratic leadership too.

An anti-corruption investigation would have run much deeper and exposed far more. It would have highlighted the Clinton Foundation, and the role of mega-donors like James Simons, George Soros and Haim Saban who funded Hillary’s campaign with one aim in mind: to get their issues into a paid-for national “consensus”.

Further, in focusing on the Trump camp – and relative minnows like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone – the Russiagate inquiry actually served to shield the Democratic leadership from an investigation into the much worse corruption revealed in the content of the DNC emails. It was the leaking / hacking of those emails that provided the rationale for Mueller’s investigations. What should have been at the front and centre of any inquiry was how the Democratic party sought to rig its primaries to prevent party members selecting anyone but Hillary as their presidential candidate.

So, in short, Russiagate has been two years of wasted energy by the left, energy that could have been spent both targeting Trump for what he is really doing rather than what it is imagined he has done, and targeting the Democratic leadership for its own, equally corrupt practices.

Trump empowered

2. But it’s far worse than that. It is not just that the left wasted two years of political energy on Russiagate. At the same time, they empowered Trump, breathing life into his phoney arguments that he is the anti-establishment president, a people’s president the elites are determined to destroy.

Trump faces opposition from within the establishment not because he is “anti-establishment” but because he refuses to decorate the pig’s snout with lipstick. He is tearing the mask off late-stage capitalism’s greed and self-destructiveness. And he is doing so not because he wants to reform or overthrow turbo-charged capitalism but because he wants to remove the last, largely cosmetic constraints on the system so that he and his friends can plunder with greater abandon – and destroy the planet more quickly.

The other wing of the neoliberal establishment, the one represented by the Democratic party leadership, fears that exposing capitalism in this way – making explicit its inherently brutal, wrist-slitting tendencies – will awaken the masses, that over time it will risk turning them into revolutionaries. Democratic party leaders fear Trump chiefly because of the threat he poses to the image of the political and economic system they have so lovingly crafted so that they can continue enriching themselves and their children.

Trump’s genuis – his only genuis – is to have appropriated, and misappropriated, some of the language of the left to advance the interests of the 1 per cent. When he attacks the corporate “liberal” media for having a harmful agenda, for serving as propagandists, he is not wrong. When he rails against the identity politics cultivated by “liberal” elites over the past two decades – suggesting that it has weakened the US – he is not wrong. But he is right for the wrong reasons.

TV’s version of clickbait

The corporate media, and the journalists they employ, are propagandists – for a system that keeps them wealthy. When Trump was a Republican primary candidate, the entire corporate media loved him because he was TV’s equivalent of clickbait, just as he had been since reality TV began to usurp the place of current affairs programmes and meaningful political debate.

The handful of corporations that own the US media – and much of corporate America besides – are there both to make ever-more money by expanding profits and to maintain the credibility of a political and economic system that lets them make ever more money.

The “liberal” corporate media shares the values of the Democratic party leadership. In other words, it is heavily invested in making sure the pig doesn’t lose its lipstick. By contrast, Fox News and the shock-jocks, like Trump, prioritise making money in the short term over the long-term credibility of a system that gives them licence to make money. They care much less whether the pig’s face remains painted.

So Trump is right that the “liberal” media is undemocratic and that it is now propagandising against him. But he is wrong about why. In fact, all corporate media – whether “liberal” or not, whether against Trump or for him – is undemocratic. All of the media propagandises for a rotten system that keeps the vast majority of Americans impoverished. All of the media cares more for Trump and the elites he belongs to than it cares for the 99 per cent.

Gorging on the main course

Similarly, with identity politics. Trump says he wants to make (a white) America great again, and uses the left’s obsession with identity as a way to energise a backlash from his own supporters.

Just as too many on the left sleep-walked through the past two years waiting for Mueller – a former head of the FBI, the US secret police, for chrissakes! – to save them from Trump, they have been manipulated by liberal elites into the political cul-de-sac of identity politics.

Just as Mueller put the left on standby, into waiting-for-the-Messiah mode, so simple-minded, pussy-hat-wearing identity politics has been cultivated in the supposedly liberal bastions of the corporate media and Ivy League universities – the same universities that have turned out generations of Muellers and Clintons – to deplete the left’s political energies. While we argue over who is most entitled and most victimised, the establishment has carried on raping and pillaging Third World countries, destroying the planet and siphoning off the wealth produced by the rest of us.

These liberal elites long ago worked out that if we could be made to squabble among ourselves about who was most entitled to scraps from the table, they could keep gorging on the main course.

The “liberal” elites exploited identity politics to keep us divided by pacifying the most marginalised with the offer of a few additional crumbs. Trump has exploited identity politics to keep us divided by inflaming tensions as he reorders the hierarchy of “privilege” in which those crumbs are offered. In the process, both wings of the elite have averted the danger that class consciousness and real solidarity might develop and start to challenge their privileges.

The Corbyn experience

3. But the most important lesson of all for the left is that support among its ranks for the Mueller inquiry against Trump was foolhardy in the extreme.

Not only was the inquiry doomed to failure – in fact, not only was it designed to fail – but it has set a precedent for future politicised investigations that will be used against the progressive left should it make any significant political gains. And an inquiry against the real left will be far more aggressive and far more “productive” than Mueller was.

If there is any doubt about that, look to the UK. Britain now has within reach of power the first truly progressive politician in living memory, someone seeking to represent the 99 per cent, not the 1 per cent. But Jeremy Corbyn’s experience as the leader of the Labour party – massively swelling the membership’s ranks to make it the largest political party in Europe – has been eye-popping.

I have documented Corbyn’s travails regularly in this blog over the past four years at the hands of the British political and media establishment. You can find many examples here.

Corbyn, even more so than the small, new wave of insurgency politicians in the US Congress, has faced a relentless barrage of criticism from across the UK’s similarly narrow political spectrum. He has been attacked by both the right-wing media and the supposedly “liberal” media. He has been savaged by the ruling Conservative party, as was to be expected, and by his own parliamentary Labour party. The UK’s two-party system has been exposed as just as hollow as the US one.

The ferocity of the attacks has been necessary because, unlike the Democratic party’s success in keeping a progressive left-winger away from the presidential campaign, the UK system accidentally allowed a socialist to slip past the gatekeepers. All hell has broken out ever since.

Simple-minded identity politics

What is so noticeable is that Corbyn is rarely attacked over his policies – mainly because they have wide popular appeal. Instead he has been hounded over fanciful claims that, despite being a life-long and very visible anti-racism campaigner, he suddenly morphed into an outright anti-semite the moment party members elected him leader.

I will not rehearse again how implausible these claims are. Simply look through these previous blog posts should you be in any doubt.

But what is amazing is that, just as with the Mueller inquiry, much of the British left – including prominent figures like Owen Jones and the supposedly countercultural Novara Media – have sapped their political energies in trying to placate or support those leading the preposterous claims that Labour under Corbyn has become “institutionally anti-semitic”. Again, the promotion of a simple-minded identity politics – which pits the rights of Palestinians against the sensitivities of Zionist Jews about Israel – was exploited to divide the left.

The more the left has conceded to this campaign, the angrier, the more implacable, the more self-righteous Corbyn’s opponents have become – to the point that the Labour party is now in serious danger of imploding.

A clarifying moment

Were the US to get its own Corbyn as president, he or she would undoubtedly face a Mueller-style inquiry, and one far more effective at securing the president’s impeachment than this one was ever going to be.

That is not because a left-wing US president would be more corrupt or more likely to have colluded with a foreign power. As the UK example shows, it would be because the entire media system – from the New York Times to Fox News – would be against such a president. And as the UK example also shows, it would be because the leaderships of both the Republican and Democratic parties would work as one to finish off such a president.

In the combined success-failure of the Mueller inquiry, the left has an opportunity to understand in a much more sophisticated way how real power works and in whose favour it is exercised. It is a moment that should be clarifying – if we are willing to open our eyes to Mueller’s real lessons.

Three Lessons from the “Failed” Mueller Inquiry

Here are three important lessons for the progressive left to consider now that it is clear the inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russiagate is never going to uncover collusion between Donald Trump’s camp and the Kremlin in the 2016 presidential election.

Painting the pig’s face

1. The left never had a dog in this race. This was always an in-house squabble between different wings of the establishment. Late-stage capitalism is in terminal crisis, and the biggest problem facing our corporate elites is how to emerge from this crisis with their power intact. One wing wants to make sure the pig’s face remains painted, the other is happy simply getting its snout deeper into the trough while the food lasts.

Russiagate was never about substance, it was about who gets to image-manage the decline of a turbo-charged, self-harming neoliberal capitalism.

The leaders of the Democratic party are less terrified of Trump and what he represents than they are of us and what we might do if we understood how they have rigged the political and economic system to their permanent advantage.

It may look like Russiagate was a failure, but it was actually a success. It deflected the left’s attention from endemic corruption within the leadership of the Democratic party, which supposedly represents the left. It rechannelled the left’s political energies instead towards the convenient bogeymen targets of Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Mired in corruption

What Mueller found – all he was ever going to find – was marginal corruption in the Trump camp. And that was inevitable because Washington is mired in corruption. In fact, what Mueller revealed was the most exceptional forms of corruption among Trump’s team while obscuring the run-of-the-mill stuff that would have served as a reminder of the endemic corruption infecting the Democratic leadership too.

An anti-corruption investigation would have run much deeper and exposed far more. It would have highlighted the Clinton Foundation, and the role of mega-donors like James Simons, George Soros and Haim Saban who funded Hillary’s campaign with one aim in mind: to get their issues into a paid-for national “consensus”.

Further, in focusing on the Trump camp – and relative minnows like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone – the Russiagate inquiry actually served to shield the Democratic leadership from an investigation into the much worse corruption revealed in the content of the DNC emails. It was the leaking / hacking of those emails that provided the rationale for Mueller’s investigations. What should have been at the front and centre of any inquiry was how the Democratic party sought to rig its primaries to prevent party members selecting anyone but Hillary as their presidential candidate.

So, in short, Russiagate has been two years of wasted energy by the left, energy that could have been spent both targeting Trump for what he is really doing rather than what it is imagined he has done, and targeting the Democratic leadership for its own, equally corrupt practices.

Trump empowered

2. But it’s far worse than that. It is not just that the left wasted two years of political energy on Russiagate. At the same time, they empowered Trump, breathing life into his phoney arguments that he is the anti-establishment president, a people’s president the elites are determined to destroy.

Trump faces opposition from within the establishment not because he is “anti-establishment” but because he refuses to decorate the pig’s snout with lipstick. He is tearing the mask off late-stage capitalism’s greed and self-destructiveness. And he is doing so not because he wants to reform or overthrow turbo-charged capitalism but because he wants to remove the last, largely cosmetic constraints on the system so that he and his friends can plunder with greater abandon – and destroy the planet more quickly.

The other wing of the neoliberal establishment, the one represented by the Democratic party leadership, fears that exposing capitalism in this way – making explicit its inherently brutal, wrist-slitting tendencies – will awaken the masses, that over time it will risk turning them into revolutionaries. Democratic party leaders fear Trump chiefly because of the threat he poses to the image of the political and economic system they have so lovingly crafted so that they can continue enriching themselves and their children.

Trump’s genuis – his only genuis – is to have appropriated, and misappropriated, some of the language of the left to advance the interests of the 1 per cent. When he attacks the corporate “liberal” media for having a harmful agenda, for serving as propagandists, he is not wrong. When he rails against the identity politics cultivated by “liberal” elites over the past two decades – suggesting that it has weakened the US – he is not wrong. But he is right for the wrong reasons.

TV’s version of clickbait

The corporate media, and the journalists they employ, are propagandists – for a system that keeps them wealthy. When Trump was a Republican primary candidate, the entire corporate media loved him because he was TV’s equivalent of clickbait, just as he had been since reality TV began to usurp the place of current affairs programmes and meaningful political debate.

The handful of corporations that own the US media – and much of corporate America besides – are there both to make ever-more money by expanding profits and to maintain the credibility of a political and economic system that lets them make ever more money.

The “liberal” corporate media shares the values of the Democratic party leadership. In other words, it is heavily invested in making sure the pig doesn’t lose its lipstick. By contrast, Fox News and the shock-jocks, like Trump, prioritise making money in the short term over the long-term credibility of a system that gives them licence to make money. They care much less whether the pig’s face remains painted.

So Trump is right that the “liberal” media is undemocratic and that it is now propagandising against him. But he is wrong about why. In fact, all corporate media – whether “liberal” or not, whether against Trump or for him – is undemocratic. All of the media propagandises for a rotten system that keeps the vast majority of Americans impoverished. All of the media cares more for Trump and the elites he belongs to than it cares for the 99 per cent.

Gorging on the main course

Similarly, with identity politics. Trump says he wants to make (a white) America great again, and uses the left’s obsession with identity as a way to energise a backlash from his own supporters.

Just as too many on the left sleep-walked through the past two years waiting for Mueller – a former head of the FBI, the US secret police, for chrissakes! – to save them from Trump, they have been manipulated by liberal elites into the political cul-de-sac of identity politics.

Just as Mueller put the left on standby, into waiting-for-the-Messiah mode, so simple-minded, pussy-hat-wearing identity politics has been cultivated in the supposedly liberal bastions of the corporate media and Ivy League universities – the same universities that have turned out generations of Muellers and Clintons – to deplete the left’s political energies. While we argue over who is most entitled and most victimised, the establishment has carried on raping and pillaging Third World countries, destroying the planet and siphoning off the wealth produced by the rest of us.

These liberal elites long ago worked out that if we could be made to squabble among ourselves about who was most entitled to scraps from the table, they could keep gorging on the main course.

The “liberal” elites exploited identity politics to keep us divided by pacifying the most marginalised with the offer of a few additional crumbs. Trump has exploited identity politics to keep us divided by inflaming tensions as he reorders the hierarchy of “privilege” in which those crumbs are offered. In the process, both wings of the elite have averted the danger that class consciousness and real solidarity might develop and start to challenge their privileges.

The Corbyn experience

3. But the most important lesson of all for the left is that support among its ranks for the Mueller inquiry against Trump was foolhardy in the extreme.

Not only was the inquiry doomed to failure – in fact, not only was it designed to fail – but it has set a precedent for future politicised investigations that will be used against the progressive left should it make any significant political gains. And an inquiry against the real left will be far more aggressive and far more “productive” than Mueller was.

If there is any doubt about that, look to the UK. Britain now has within reach of power the first truly progressive politician in living memory, someone seeking to represent the 99 per cent, not the 1 per cent. But Jeremy Corbyn’s experience as the leader of the Labour party – massively swelling the membership’s ranks to make it the largest political party in Europe – has been eye-popping.

I have documented Corbyn’s travails regularly in this blog over the past four years at the hands of the British political and media establishment. You can find many examples here.

Corbyn, even more so than the small, new wave of insurgency politicians in the US Congress, has faced a relentless barrage of criticism from across the UK’s similarly narrow political spectrum. He has been attacked by both the right-wing media and the supposedly “liberal” media. He has been savaged by the ruling Conservative party, as was to be expected, and by his own parliamentary Labour party. The UK’s two-party system has been exposed as just as hollow as the US one.

The ferocity of the attacks has been necessary because, unlike the Democratic party’s success in keeping a progressive left-winger away from the presidential campaign, the UK system accidentally allowed a socialist to slip past the gatekeepers. All hell has broken out ever since.

Simple-minded identity politics

What is so noticeable is that Corbyn is rarely attacked over his policies – mainly because they have wide popular appeal. Instead he has been hounded over fanciful claims that, despite being a life-long and very visible anti-racism campaigner, he suddenly morphed into an outright anti-semite the moment party members elected him leader.

I will not rehearse again how implausible these claims are. Simply look through these previous blog posts should you be in any doubt.

But what is amazing is that, just as with the Mueller inquiry, much of the British left – including prominent figures like Owen Jones and the supposedly countercultural Novara Media – have sapped their political energies in trying to placate or support those leading the preposterous claims that Labour under Corbyn has become “institutionally anti-semitic”. Again, the promotion of a simple-minded identity politics – which pits the rights of Palestinians against the sensitivities of Zionist Jews about Israel – was exploited to divide the left.

The more the left has conceded to this campaign, the angrier, the more implacable, the more self-righteous Corbyn’s opponents have become – to the point that the Labour party is now in serious danger of imploding.

A clarifying moment

Were the US to get its own Corbyn as president, he or she would undoubtedly face a Mueller-style inquiry, and one far more effective at securing the president’s impeachment than this one was ever going to be.

That is not because a left-wing US president would be more corrupt or more likely to have colluded with a foreign power. As the UK example shows, it would be because the entire media system – from the New York Times to Fox News – would be against such a president. And as the UK example also shows, it would be because the leaderships of both the Republican and Democratic parties would work as one to finish off such a president.

In the combined success-failure of the Mueller inquiry, the left has an opportunity to understand in a much more sophisticated way how real power works and in whose favour it is exercised. It is a moment that should be clarifying – if we are willing to open our eyes to Mueller’s real lessons.

The Circle Over the Triangle: A Collectivism and Cyclic Belief Change Comes Around

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

Auguries of Innocence, by William Blake

There is an American Native game, counting coup, which is both rarefied and possibly the answer to the male testosterone/female co-opting of testosterone that has given rise to Civilizational humanity since the so-called fertile crescent gestated the evil arts of subjugating man, woman, child and ecosystems to a small cabal of landowners (sic) who got humanity to work for food.

I always go to Daniel Quinn and other neotribalists to look at the long-range, way back, to give some justification to a tribal and hunter-gatherer past that for many of us is locked in our genes, accessible to fewer and fewer people daily as the world becomes a landmine of DNA-warping, cell-depleting, culture-sapping madness orchestrated by white men (mostly).

In our cultural mythology we see ourselves as having left tribalism behind the way modern medicine left the leech and the bleeding bowl behind, and we did so decisively and irrevocably. This is why it’s so difficult for us to acknowledge that tribalism is not only the preeminently human social organization, it’s also the only unequivocally successful social organization in human history. Thus, when even so wise and thoughtful a statesman as Mikhail Gorbachev calls for “a new beginning” and “a new civilization,” he doesn’t doubt for a single moment that the pattern for it lies in the social organization that has introduced humanity to oppression, injustice, poverty, chronic famine, incessant violence, genocide, global warfare, crime, corruption, and wholesale environmental destruction. To consult, in our time of deepest crisis, with the unqualified success that humanity enjoyed here for more than three million years is quite simply and utterly unthinkable.

Daniel Quinn, Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Adventure

What’s lovely about my own intersection with Gary Brumback – the author of the book this review-dash-screed is enveloping: Life’s Triangles and America’s Power Elites: Can the Living Field be Leveled?  — is that Gary reached out to me and solicited my comments and possible endorsement of this book (he’s a regular contributor to Dissident Voice), through the auspices of one of modern civilization’s double-edged swords – the world wide internet.

I think it’s both unreal and uniquely human to reach out across the digital universe, and when someone who is connected to me through my words, and finds some linkage, then I believe that’s sign enough to make some connection deeper, or revealing.

It’s gutsy for this 84-year-old former organizational psychologist to have reached out to me (I’m not now your typical thinker and writer), and the proof is in the pudding when it comes to his writing and then how the diner/reader of those ideas, through the grist of his words and grammar (courses) gets the true taste (or terroir) of the author’s (chef’s) orchestration of ideas and composition.

As many readers of my work know, I am captivated by holism and systems thinking, and many times I am looking at life – universalities — through my own optics. I understand the drive to want to understand how tidal wetlands work and how elephant seals can go down 7,770 feet for up to two hours without succumbing to the bends or nitrogen narcosis.

But inherent in that learning and yearning, I understand the power of attracting forces, both physics and metaphysics, and the value in coincidences, both mathematical and magical, and more and more, daily, I am grasping the reasoning for my own living and thinking and breathing. Here I am on the Oregon Coast (central) just having done my first day’s class to be a certified marine mammal (and to help tourists/visitors understand the other zoological and ecological concerns) naturalist. I was about to fiddle with my short story collection which is coming out in several months from Cirque Press, and I was also prepped to blog from my post here in Otis, Oregon.

Instead, I answered the email call from Gary to take a look at his book and write up something. What interests me most about fellows like Brumback is his tenacity to not only understand the world around him using a variety of tools from his 84 years on the planet, but also his desire to be one among us as writers – anti-authoritarian thinkers who deeply question the role of this country in the upsetting of people and cultures throughout the globe.

“Call of Duty” is what I see my role now turning 62 next week. I have engendered good will and hard learning in thousands of students, at public gatherings where I “ran the show” (a hat off to Ed Sullivan) and in my writing, big and small. I’ve written three-parts to my hell-hole experience working with homeless veterans at the Starvation Army in Oregon. But in reality, the linchpin for me is my call of duty, call and answer, to carry forth in any way possible, the message of revolt. Speaking of revolt, I remember hanging out with Robert Bly on two occasions – one time in El Paso as we made it over to Juarez for tequila, and another time 23 years later in Spokane with bourbon and quietude. I wrote a promo article for his appearance in Spokane as part of Get Lit!. His poem, “Call and Answer,” is powerful, even at 17 years old.

I bring this up as a tangent to describe some of what I interpret as the core value in Gary’s new book:

Call and Answer

Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting?

I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”

We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow
Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.

How come we’ve listened to the great criers—Neruda,
Akhmatova, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass—and now
We’re silent as sparrows in the little bushes?

Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.
Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?
Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come.

It is the Saturday of my life, most likely, as I just spent sometime at Cascadia Head, where the Salmon River and the Pacific Ocean battle it out during the various tides ebbing and flowing. Alone, with harbor seals popping their heads up, and their partner, a river otter, watching me look at two bald eagles looking for seal placenta to gobble up.

Here, visiting Canadian photographer Isabelle Hayeur who is on a residency at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, is shooting the Oregon Coast. The Canadian is here on the Pacific Coast of Oregon for first time, and her residency continues her exploration of water and land, people and ecosystems — to show the changes to the ecosystems caused by humans. Here, that Cascadia Head shot and the Salmon hitting the Pacific near Lincoln City, Oregon.

See the source image

I know for sure as the colluding forces of capitalism – a real misanthropy of both the mind and body – eat at my exterior, the very simple act of movement — with my plodding bag of bones — if I am to survive in this sick world of capitulation of both parties working to mine the last corpuscles of the workers and working class — is sometimes herculean. It’s my Saturday, as Bly states, but I am not sure of this writer Gary’s place in time, if it’s Thursday for him, or Sunday.

I’m not saying this is the 84-year-old Brumback’s position, but I know his clarion calls are what Bly states clearly in these stanzas from this small poem –

We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.

Have we agreed to so many wars that we can’t
Escape from silence? If we don’t lift our voices, we allow
Others (who are ourselves) to rob the house.

Brumback is looking to reach those angels of our better selves, and he is wanting the cries of great writers and thinkers, alive and passed on, to push out the silence that is engulfing the entire body politic and public of this ripped-off-land-and-killing-natives country that has made more than a trillion pacts with the devil, a foundation that daily reverberates as the grand Faustian bargain of keeping silent for the few spoils of capitalism.

Americans are in their own tight spot now: keeping on the lights, fridge half full, Super Bowl projected on plasma TV, the latest model of Jeep in the driveway, work that eats at the soul and the body. The bargain, I believe, Brumback is not so quick to go quietly into the night, as this book uncovers the full weight of an old man’s lamentations and ruminations.

His book is compelling for those young minds that have been colonized and whose hearts and souls have been metastasized by consumer culture, the true bedrock of capitalism. Small intonations of the country’s history and this current manifestation of corruption are the drumbeats to his march forward in this quickly drawn book of very big historical ideas unleashed for the uninitiated mind.

Back to that Native American counting coup allusion I begin with:  It’s sort of what I see unfolding as my own literary device while reading Brumback’s book, Life’s Triangles and America’s Power Elites. “Coup” for the Lakota and others was counted to establish position in the tribal honor system. Status mattered, and competition to count the greatest coup was intense. Here’s the beauty of this bravery – getting close enough to touch an enemy with a coup stick without causing him harm.

The self-styled book is by former organizational psychologist Brumback, who counts his own coup many times in this book, as he wanders through the history of the United States, with both whimsy and with a Quaker’s eye toward justice. He uses a variety of wide angle and telephoto angles in order to look deeper at the simple equation of the rich — with military might behind them — controlling the destiny of the country – us, its inhabitants – and the insecurity of the planet, from all the other inhabitants of 192 countries plus the flora and fauna of the planet’s Gaia.

Here, for the Lakota, killing an enemy far away or at long range did not count as a coup. Moreover, winning by overwhelming numbers counted as a “non coup.” Bravery involving a solitary warrior in a headlong battle charge that was climaxed by touching, with no lethal tap of a stick, now that was a coup, as Indians harmlessly touched an enemy with wooden sticks for the purpose of counting coup.

In so many ways, Brumback’s book “touches”—counts coup — upon the enemies of humankind, with myriad of histories of this country since first contact with those Lakota et al. The writer delves into the mess of the United Snakes of America utilizing quick riffs while cracking open these causal relationships of greed, power, hierarchy, elitism, pathology in this country’s early years and now advancing into today’s predatory capitalism and parasitic economics (or our Shock Doctrine derived from our Monroe Doctrine) Brumbuck is interested in.

He’s also demonstrating another sort of intellectual “counting coup” in a sense since Brumback touches the enemy with his own touchstones and short pithy points connecting to the current state of global affairs.

His goal, it seems, is to consolidate a lot of his writing over his 84 years on planet earth and to codify a body of work he’s studiously read and then to bring himself to some conclusion that there might be some hope for his children and grandchildren. His belief in organizational psychology as a determinant of how bloody sociopathic the not-so-modern corporation is and how that pathology has twisted and turned (morphed) into a gigantic toxic and self-replicating broken set of laws regulating the elite’s projects of domination and extermination is the umbrella covering his writing.

Oscar Wilde is right when defining a cynic in his work, Lady Windemere’s Fan, with Lord Darlington quip: “A person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

From Raj Patel’s first chapter, The Value of Nothing, Patel can help me understand Brumback’s criticism of capitalism and his somewhat of a defense of it in some idealized state that hasn’t yet existed:

From its inception, the free market has spawned discontent, but rare are the moments when that discontent coalesces across society, when a sufficiently large group of people can trace their unhappiness to free market politics, and demand change. The New Deal in the United States and the postwar European welfare states were partly a result of a consortium of social forces pushing for new limits to markets, and a renegotiation of the relationship between individuals and society. What’s new about this crisis is that it’s pervasively global, and comes at the last moment at which we might prevent a global climate catastrophe. But the breadth and depth of both these crises reflect how profoundly our society has been transfixed by free market culture. To understand how this will affect us in the twenty-first century, we need to understand how it began, and to ask why today’s markets look the way they do

Here, the book Gary sent me, in a nutshell, which Brumbuck puts in his own book’s preface:

Here’s a quick overview of this book. It’s a substantial distillation of and addition to my relevant books and articles on the subject.

The first chapter may seem very abstract and academic, but believe me, it is about very real matters, life itself. This chapter lays the groundwork for understanding why the power elite do what they do and what happens when they do it.

The second chapter explains the very nature of power and introduces my concept and illustration of the “power tower” with the elite at the top and the “les Misérables” at the very bottom with several levels in between.

Chapter Three probes what makes the power elite “tick” by looking inside their “black boxes.” When you read this chapter, you will understand that I don’t flippantly ascribe evil motives and evildoing to the power elite.

Chapter Four thoroughly describes and explains the power elite’s “badvantages,” my term for situations and circumstances that give advantage to bad behavior. For example, “our” government gives many handouts to its master, Corporate America.

Chapter Five describes the seemingly limitless bad behavior of the power elite and their functionaries of the corpocracy.

I want to warn you about Chapter Six. It is a true horror story of the consequences of the power elite’s evil doing. By the time you have finished reading this chapter you may be a bit depressed if you believe it is credible. As an antidote I’ll try to inject some homespun humor now and then, starting now. “There is no beating around the Bush, he is what he is.”

And finally, Chapter Seven asks whether the power tower with its power inequality can be changed to the power rectangle with its power equality; in other words, can the living field finally be levelled? This question explains the question mark at the end of the book’s subtitle. Putting there instead an exclamation mark would have been sheer balderdash.

What his book does is galvanize much of his reading – and respect for – other writers who have peered through the looking glass of the Military-Prison-Financial-Ag-Chemical-Education-Legal-Patent-Pharma-Med-IT-AI-Real Estate-Insurance-Education Complex to discover the truths many of us in the anti-authority/ anti-hierarchical/pro-humanity/ pro-universal rights of nature have discovered through our discourse, our deep and fledgling philosophies, and our own experiences in the insanity echo chamber that is modern and post-modern America.

He dedicates this book to Howard Zinn, and Brumback mentions that other books he himself has written could not have been envisioned or codified without the teachings and writings of Zinn:

I am also dedicating this book to the late Howard Zinn, the author of a book on American history that is a must read! I dedicated my previous book to him, which shows how indebted a follower I am. Like my previous book, I could not have written the one you have in your hands were it not for Mr. Zinn’s illuminating history book that tells the true history of America [A People’s History of the United States, 2005]. The power elite understandingly hate Mr. Zinn’s book. The former governor of my home state, for example, was gleeful upon hearing of Mr. Zinn’s death and promptly banned his book statewide from high school curricula. Is it any wonder that my high school history classes in the 1950’s remain the same today, “trivialized, militarized and numbing?”

What I love about this Will Rogersian approach to history Gary brings to this book is the power of his short, deliberate passages outlying the rules and madness that have been fomented in the name of a small elite in this country. He captivates himself in each section, as if new to the material himself, embarking on a self-styled journey to tell what he knows and what he’s read.

This book is a compilation, a Popular Mechanics and Farmer’s Almanac of Brumback’s autobiographical intersection at explaining how capitalism is a game of manipulated vestiges of a global  usury past, where Fiefdoms and Kingdoms and unholy alliances of dictators and religions have splayed humankind. No matter where Gary treads, he comes up with the same underpinning for the book, and his other books and probably all his other writings, as well as his own conundrum now in advanced age:

I’ll finally end this long Preface with two questions and an advance notice about my choice of certain nouns and pronouns.

First question: do you think on the one hand that there is a tolerable difference between a handful of evil doers choosing villagers in a far-away land and then bombing them to smithereens in our names and on the other hand the many millions of us letting it happen?

Second question: do you think the surviving loved ones blame the few or us in general? You can tell my answer by my varying use in the text of nouns versus pronouns. For example, instead of writing “the military bombs innocent people,” I will occasionally write “we bomb innocent people” to emphasize that whatever is done by a certain few is being done in our names. Since you might find this practice irritating if I always do it, I will do it only occasionally.

Here in the preface, Brumback sets up the entire tome on a simple proposition – what is done and said by/in Las Vegas/USA stays in/with those living/working/dying in Las Vegas/USA.

The contradiction is blaring, though, as one of my friends, Andre Vltchek states in his humanitarian and global writing – that the rest of the world, that is, the world other than Western Civilization; i.e., Europe/EU, UK, USA, Canada – pays for its/our so-called “higher standard” of living, higher level of economic/environmental/health well-being, and its/our unlimited (seemingly) time to ponder its/our own rotten and degenerate selves.

Through the eyes of someone (Gary’s unblindered eyes, as he states it in his book) in this country, USA, who believes that capitalism somehow can be fixed or somehow is derived from a fair system of checks and balances (however, capitalism always relies on growth and continual growth, antithetical to anything we know about the limits of growth, the finite systems), I venture close to proposing to Gary another set of principles needed to live as Homo Sapiens in this world, tied to retrenchement and a form of ecosocialism, far from any new and improved or regurgitated capitalism:  we are living in a closed system of planet earth, and the fragility of the commons (air, water, sea, land, food) now is even more pronounced with ecosystems collapsing (Sixth Mass extinction on steroids) from over over-harvesting, over-polluting, over-rearranging/razing.

Ecosocialism is Utopian, but so are we as writers and thinkers:

Ecosocialism is a vision of a transformed society in harmony with nature, and the development of practices that can attain it. It is directed toward alternatives to all socially and ecologically destructive systems, such as patriarchy, racism, homophobia and the fossil-fuel based economy. It is based on a perspective that regards other species and natural ecosystems as valuable in themselves and as partners in a common destiny.

Ecosocialism shares with traditional socialism a passion for justice. It shares the conviction that capitalism has been a deadly detour for humanity. We understand capitalism to be a class society based on infinite expansion, through the exploitation of labor and the ransacking of nature.

Ecosocialists are also guided by the life-ways of indigenous peoples whose economies are embedded in a classless society in fundamental unity with nature. We draw upon the wisdom of the ages as well as the latest science, and will do what can be done to bring a new society, beyond capitalism, into existence.

I go back to Andre Vltchek  who looks at the polluting effects of capitalism on cultures wide and far, tied to the so-called artist :

You say “European cultural institutions”, and what should come immediately to mind are lavish concerts, avant garde art exhibitions, high quality language courses and benevolent scholarships for talented cash-strapped local students.

It is all so noble, so civilized!

Or, is it really? Think twice!

I wrote my short novel, “Aurora”, after studying the activities of various Western ‘cultural institutions’, in virtually all the continents of the Planet. I encountered their heads; I interacted with the ‘beneficiaries’ of various funding schemes, and I managed to get ‘behind the scenes’.

What I discovered was shocking: these shiny ‘temples of culture’ in the middle of so many devastated and miserable cities worldwide (devastated by the Western imperialism and by its closest allies – the shameless local elites), are actually extremely closely linked to Western intelligence organizations. They are directly involved in the neo-colonialist project, which is implemented virtually on all continents of the world, by North America, Europe and Japan.

‘Culture’ is used to re-educate and to indoctrinate mainly the children of the local elites. Funding and grants are put to work where threats and killing were applied before. How does it work? It is actually all quite simple: rebellious, socially-oriented and anti-imperialist local artists and thinkers are now shamelessly bought and corrupted. Their egos are played on with great skill. Trips abroad for ‘young and talented artists’ are arranged, funding dispersed, scholarships offered.

Carrots are too tasty, most would say, ‘irresistible’. Seals of approval from the Empire are ready to stamp those blank pages of the lives of still young, unrecognized but angry and sharp young artists and intellectuals from those poor, colonized countries. It is so easy to betray! It is so easy to bend.

Please note I am not comparing Gary or his book to other writers or their books/writing, some of whom he cites liberally throughout this latest one. I believe in a new way of book analysis, or reviewing a book – by putting myself into the stream of consciousness that cascades for someone like myself who in the process of reading will take to heart how closely or far away that content resonates with my own life and my own writing. It is the power of a book like Gary’s to incite not only my own deep introspection about what it means to be an American, someone who has worked (albeit struggled by not getting bought and sold by corporate America, but still . . . sold down the river in the careers I’ve held), but also what it means to be counter to almost anything and everything this country produces or stands for in its national collective consciousness.

His thesis for the book is tied to his own backing of organizational psychology. He uses these equations to illustrate where he’s coming from:

Anyone’s Equation:
Person + Context = Person’s Behavior + Consequences

Any Organization’s Equation:
Organization + Context = Organization’s Behavior + Consequences

Any Nation’s Equation :
Nation + Context = Nation’s Behavior + Consequences

Of course, every person, every organization, every nation has their own equations, sort of like a unique DNA code. The specific details in any equation can change from day to day, except some of the details for chronic habits like that of America’s endless warring and spying change less.2 A nation, therefore, over the entire course of its history may have gone through zillions of its more significant equations with varying details in the input side.

Thus, what anyone, any organization or any nation do throughout their lives depends on themselves and their contexts. Behavior never happens without both and will never be fully explained without both.

Beyond his background in psychology, Brumback looks to his writing now as a way to express his historical knowledge of America’s bloody programs of subjugation and to militate his belief in non-violence as he was reared as a Quaker.

He sets up the book by talking about his background working with organizations, treating them sort of speak to heal themselves, which in the end he sees as impossible under the current structures of limited liability companies and the bigger transnational corporations that are rapacious in every way.

Brumback alludes to working a long time for industry, the US federal government and non-profit research business. The power of the company man, and his own background in academics (a rather conservative and lock-step group think cabal), he admits, muted his criticism of the Viet Nam War as he was then (1960-75) fearful of endangering his career and his family.

He talks of being a “recovering” academese reader, writer and talker, and his book is far from any sort of style found in the pedantic journals where members of the nefarious American Psychology Association dump their stories on.

Brumback: This book is therefore as deliberate ‘street write’ as I can make it, a conversation, although one-way with you.

Interestingly, he gives us 12 Facts (as seen in a Jan. 23, 2019 Dissident Voice piece) that are not truths that have embedded into the American mindset, the American propaganda of historical warping, lying and outright censorship. There is a reason why this country goes into zombie or dervish mode every year — when two multi-billion dollar organizations, Rams and Patriots, under the umbrella of a white patriarchy elitism called the NFL — watching entitled, redneck or mute millionaire players whose ultimate contribution to society is to sell cars, beer, Viagra and the lies of empire on their way to permanent Traumatic Brain Injury hell.

  • False Fact: The American Revolution was fought to free the people from suppression by King George and his chartered corporations.
  • False Fact: “We the people of the United States——-do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
  • False Fact: We are the “United States of America.”
  • False Fact: America is a democracy.
  • False fact: America’s Civil War was fought to free the slaves.
  • False fact: America’s wars have been unavoidable and just.
    False Fact: Whistleblowers are traitors.
  • False Fact. Our nation’s military represents the best this country has to offer.
  • False Fact. America’s war veterans are heroes.
  • False Fact: To rationalize its own excesses, including its hand-outs from the government, corpocratic capitalists spout the theory of trickle-down economics as a rationalization for their own hefty welfare benefits, arguing that more money at the top will eventually trickle down to the bottom in the way of jobs.
  • False Fact: The rich say the poor get what they deserve.
  • False Fact. Public services need to be privatized because government is inefficient and costly.

In many ways, Brumback has both fun moments and sarcastic fluidity  with these American exceptionalist delusions throughout his book, but he is serious about launching a straightforward attack on the elite’s continual degradation of the citizenry of this country: hollowing out our “symbolic democracy” through the systematic formula of penury, debt slavery, theft of the commons resources, the rapacious appetite to despoil ecosystems and communities, the socializing of the externalities of their dirty businesses and then in turn privatizing all the profits; and, finally, their basically illegal, unethical and unconstitutional ways of going about their wealth and political power accumulation.

What I like best about this book is the earnestness that Brumback brings to the page. He is there to guide the reader into the hall of mirrors and house of horrors that embody America. He is a troubadour for truth and unraveling the seemingly complexities of the elite’s rule over the majority, the 90 percent of us who are not any part of the Point Zero Zero One percent’s project of human annihilation.

In the end, Brumback hits back at the idea of nature versus nurture, at the very end of the book:

Recall in Chapter 3 that I included genetics as an input in the black box. Our genetic history simply can’t be denied. But when it comes to being bad or good morally speaking, what do we know about the role of genetics, and does it really matter?

Psychologist Stephen Mason concludes that “some people are, quite simply, born bad.”

Not so concludes psychologist Dacher Keltner. “He finds that positive emotions lie at the core of human nature.”

Two diametrically opposed conclusions. My conclusion is that while babies are innocent at the instant of birth because they have not had time to behave badly, some will eventually do so habitually, and some won’t. What role nature plays in influencing their behavior is immaterial in my opinion. What matters from a practical standpoint is the question of how to deal with the resulting wrongdoing.

What’s your opinion?

While we can argue over epigentics and the complete failure of the human seed and human semen to produce unadulteratedly since the  products of capitalism; i.e., toxins, from Teflon to aromatic particulates, from Atrazine to PCBs, from glyphosate to flame retardant, from mercury to cesium, have overtaken humanity and all zoological systems.

Is Donald Trump, the sociopath that he is, friend and abuser with Jeffrey Epstein and Roy Cohn, and that Donald whose father is in a Woody Guthrie song for the old man’s racism, well, is that president (sic-sic) who represents the ills of the father and the unfettered protection of his elite class and the muscle of his casino thugs, is Donald, with NPD (narcissistic personalty disorder), responsible for his hatred, racism, lies, and power hunger? Or is it his upbringing, or months inside his mama’s womb, or the people around him to blame?

roy cohn

That’s the crux of the book, really: Brumback is asking the reader to judge for ourselves the depth of the conspiracy of the rich toward absolute control of the majority. Is there true evil in the world, or are all children borne of original sin?

Those toxins and carcinogenics and structural violence systems were created, marketed, sold, defended, patented by men/women, in corporations. The socipathic definition of a corporation is the same as the person, but can we give a free ride to the majority of people in the corporation who are just, to recoin my favorite phrase, Little Eichmanns?

In any sense, the embodiment of the Hudson Bay Company is the message in the Heart of Darkness, which reflects the individual as sociopath and the LLC as sociopathic, as the amorality of corporations is obvious from a million cases we all can tap into from the written record. That these companies — polluters — have gained personhood is compelling, from the start of this country’s slide deeper and deeper into the morass of capitalism — set forth 133 years ago in 1886 in the Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. This obscure case set the precedent that corporations have some rights under the 14th Amendment and were given de-facto personhood.

So, then, we have given corporations even higher status in this personhood allusion/legal definition in the Citizens United Case . What sort of person is a corporation?

Are they philanthropic and kind to their neighbors or are they the kind of people who will slit your throat to take your wallet?

For most of us in the Brumback class, we see the very nature of the corporation as both amoral and sociopathic.

They exist to make money, regardless of the social consequences. And they have gotten legal protections from the consequences of their crimes — a true Mafioso or cartel paying off the politicians and the cops and judges to gain unimaginable wealth and power over us, the 90 percent.

A sociopath and a corporation have identical incentive structures and motivations:

  • Both sociopaths and corporations exist for the sole purpose of self-centered goals—sociopaths want a variety of things (money, power, sex, etc.) while corporations are solely focused upon making money.

  • Neither has an internal sense of morality and, barring intervention from a more powerful authority, both are willing to exploit others in service of their goal; just as how a sociopath may be willing to lie, cheat and steal their way through life, a corporation is willing to use child sweatshop labor to depress costs.

  • Both sociopaths and corporations are constrained through risk/reward analysis—sociopaths weigh the value or pleasure of doing something immoral against the legal/social risks, while corporations weigh the profit of their actions against the cost of legal/social actions against their agenda.

In the end, we have to develop both sensitivities and thick skins in the gambit called This American Life. Brumback makes his claim to some of those contradictions and dichotomies in his book. He can be contacted by the reader here for more information on ordering the book. Gary Brumback.

I sign off with the words of Eduardo Galeano whose Memory of Fire trilogy sets deep in my soul. From an interview:

I want to be an honest man and a good writer, as James Baldwin was. I greatly admired him. He once told a story that I used in the third volume of Memory of Fire. He was very young, and he was walking down the street with a friend, a painter. They stop at a red light. “Look,” says the friend. Baldwin sees nothing, except a dirty pool of water. The friend insisted: “Look at it, really.” So Baldwin takes a good look and sees a spot of oil spreading in the puddle. In the spot of oil, he sees a rainbow, and the street moving, and people moving in the street; and he sees madmen and magicians and the whole world moving. The universe was there in that little pool. On that day, Baldwin said, he learned to see. For me, that’s an important lesson. I am always trying to look at the universe through the little puddles in the streets.

Discipline Will Remain…or Will It?

Last October, Philip Hammond, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the annual federal budget speech to the UK Parliament, said this: “Austerity is coming to an end, but discipline will remain.”

Talk about Orwellian doublespeak. The truth about austerity is that it is a means of social control, or as Hammond put it, discipline. Hammond’s recent comment is completely illogical. Austerity is economic discipline. Really, it’s just a way of making the poor suffer more, while continuing to bail out the rich every time they implode the economy.

It’s rare that the titans of finance slip up so well, and so egregiously with their language, but it happens, this being an excellent case study. Now we know, straight from the source, just what economic experts, being mouthpieces of multinational corporations, really want, just as much or even more than “austerity”: discipline! Or, another way of putting it, they want austerity, except we aren’t supposed to realize that we live in austerity anymore…or at least don’t try and resist. These people want a normalization of austerity, until we just accept that this is the way it is.

A cursory look at the upcoming UK budget shows more of the same: billions to update the nuclear weapon systems, continued cuts for many government ministries, cuts to Scotland when considering inflation rates, a cap on total welfare spending, with a few crumbs for their Universal Credit benefits, etc. All of this is happening while homelessness is rising dramatically (up 169% since 2010).

So what kind of discipline is Mr. Hammond really talking about? A writer for VICE (one Simon Childs) succinctly summed it up:

In the end, Spreadsheet Phil went with ‘Austerity is coming to an end but discipline will remain’. So it’s not ‘over’, it’s ‘coming to an end’, at some point. But ‘discipline’ will remain – for which you can read ‘austerity’. So really, that’s, ‘Austerity is coming to an end but austerity will remain.’ If that sounds contradictory, that’s because it is. Austerity is a decade-long ideological project which has seen poor and working class people pay for the financial crash through cutting the supposed largesse of the welfare state. The government is trying to loosen spending up a bit while the effects of that project become even more stark.

As many commentators have pointed out, austerity is not based on any rational sense of finance or macroeconomic forces: it is an ideological mission, a moral argument stemming back to the Puritan/Calvinist and social Darwinist worldview. If you’re poor, it’s your fault, and all one has to do is pull oneself up by your bootstraps. Societal and systemic forces which consistently lead to high unemployment, substandard education, lack of social support structures, and stagnant wages are never addressed. What better way to keep people “disciplined” than to offload public spending onto the citizenry? Thus forcing private citizen, especially the poor and middle class, to pay more for essential services: this has predictably led to an explosion in college and personal debt.

The super-ego always judging itself produces a type of mental enslavement and has now engulfed the globe in late-stage capitalism. We are taught to always blame ourselves because we are not marketable, don’t keep up with technology, aren’t innovating or learning life skills to keep up in a gig/service economy with rising rates of poverty, which also is hollowing out all social forms of purpose and collective belonging.

The US educational system is complicit in this, since this is the first public institution most of us enter — a regimented oppressive nightmare of one-size-fits-all deluges of mostly useless information, where children are always competing and one-upping each other with grades, achievements, etc. As long as we were obedient little drones who raised our hands to ask questions, sat when told to, repeated the pledge of allegiance every day, and in general were (with our parent’s complicity) spoon-fed lies, omissions, and distortions of historical, scientific, and sociological facts, we could one day participate in adult life successfully. Of course, the more obvious sites for adult coercion and brainwashing barely need mention: jails, churches, mental institutions, large corporations, federal bureaucracies, etc.

The history of public education in our country is a history of indoctrination, or something worse, of which the horrors are so great they cannot be put into words, if one examines the African American or Indigenous histories of schooling. Modern schooling is freaking twelve years of boot-camp for the adult world of bio-psycho-social alienated labor. There is no use denying or getting around this fact.

The psycho-somatic beatings endured become embedded in our minds and the trauma is relived and has been passed down, generation to generation. This has created a militaristic society yet also a pacified and slavish one, which submissively bows down before capitalist/imperialist/colonialist systems of hierarchy. We are the “docile bodies” that Foucault spoke of.

We’ve been molded for the purpose of fitting into (increasingly mentally damaging) forms of labor. The stress of daily work in the US has almost completely precluded any serious resistance. I cannot stress this enough: as bodies synchronizing the finely-tuned engine of capital, we are poised to destroy ourselves and the majority of species on the planet if we continue down this path.

Once again, surprise surprise, the language we use has been beaten into us, and is a formidable weapon in the arsenal of capital. There’s a humorous anecdote in this Monthly Review article by Rebecca Stoner, spotlighting John Patrick Leary:

When General Motors laid off more than 6,000 workers days after Thanksgiving, John Patrick Leary, the author of the new book Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism, tweeted out part of GM CEO Mary Barra’s statement: ‘The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient, and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,’ she said. Leary added a line of commentary to Barra’s statement:

‘Language was pronounced dead at the scene.’

As Stoner explains, when it comes to words like “entrepreneur”:

When we talk about “entrepreneurs” with an uncritical acceptance, we implicitly accept [the] view that wealth was created by entrepreneurs via a process of innovation and creative destruction—rather than Marx’s belief that wealth is appropriated to the bourgeois class by exploitation.

This is why I always think of don Miguel Ruiz’s first agreement: “Be impeccable with your word.” So, Phillip Hammond was being perfect with his wording, really: he wants discipline, dammit!

Others take a more, well, mendacious approach to their phraseology. When people say that jail will “rehabilitate” prisoners or that “innovation”, “increased productivity”, and “hard work” will provide the tools to lead a 21st century economy, I am skeptical. Especially with regard our carceral-industrial complex, how obviously and openly corrupt and racist the prison system is in our country, where length of sentences are absurdly long compared to other nations, and rates of jailing are exponentially higher for black and brown peoples, with 10 cent an hour wages metered out for a smoke, snack foods, or a cell phone call while the largest corporations make billions off of what amounts to slave labor, which, mind you, the Chinese have been replicating with the Uyghur population in Xinjiang province. I’d rather those in power tell us how they really feel. In a lecture on Nietzsche (with a nod to Foucault), Rick Roderick put it quite well:

The idea that we would send someone to prison in order to rehabilitate them…now we’re getting to be more honest about that. We’re getting a little more barbaric, and for Nietzsche that’d be better, it’d be a little more honest. We’re sending them to prison because we’re scared of them and we know if they go there really bad things will happen to them and it will ruin their lives and that will make us happy. That’s what we should say when we send one to prison.

That is what it comes down to for today’s centers of power. Kill, jail, torture, or condemn those lower on the totem pole to lives of penury, marginalization, and unpleasant labor. The chthonic chant from Trump’s base is connected to this impulse: “Lock her up!”… “Build the wall!” Whoever you can’t control so easily, ply them with media, drugs, fame, money, power.

This is how the system was designed from the early days of the Enlightenment. As Foucault asks rhetorically in Disciple and Punish: The Birth of the Prison: “Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?” Architecturally one of the more famous blueprints for constant surveillance, interrogations, examinations, and constant monitoring of the social body came from Bentham’s design of the panopticon. We notice the ones under surveillance, or even those who think they’re being watched, increasingly self-censor and self-monitor themselves to avoid untoward further investigation or physical violence from state authorities, whether inside an institution or outside in the public sphere.

Rather than rehabilitation, the modern notion of discipline is to induce punishment, and goshdarnit, our culture sure does know how to punish those less fortunate. On any given year between 10 and 20 million people worldwide die of starvation, even as silos of food lie full all over the USA and Europe. Preventable childhood diseases kill perhaps another 10 million kids a year. A mobilization of food, medicine, and competent medical professionals along with a logistics network to access hard-to-reach rural areas in the Global South could solve these crises within a short time frame.

Today we see disciplinarian methods used as a general principle, a blunt instrument applied to daily life, where conformism, homogenization, and compliance to authority dictate modern culture in work and the home. Also, people avoid vocalizing their internal critiques of the state, authority, or the economy for fear of social reprisal, becoming an outcast, and basic issues of self-survival (in minority communities under attack from police brutality) in an atmosphere of generalized anxiety, suspicion, and paranoia.

Here we begin to uncover the archaeological, or rather, genealogical evidence and the ideological underpinnings of centers of power. Ideologues, economists, and capitalists do not need to explicitly promote “austerity” (they can just change the name), but they do need a certain type of discipline, and the contrived system of artificial scarcity which keeps the multitude desperate. This destructive economic system which we dub “neoliberal” stymies thought, kills dreams, exploits labor, and reaches into all facets of political and daily life.

In such an authoritarian state, today, just as in ages ago, women and children bear the worst forms of abuse and punishment even as they do most of the work, either unpaid in the home or in professional employment. Women still must deal with performing emotional labor for men in the West that have not self-analyzed, and cannot see how they directly benefit from patriarchal institutions of power that filter down into the workplace, community, home, etc.

The sociological make-up of the middle classes, constantly under threat of falling into penury until European and North American capitalist states underwent a significant shift in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Constant competition, the modern factory, and striving for status and material affluence shifted the previous belief in a “Protestant work ethic” towards one of Social Darwinism, and from there to a consumer-based age of affluence, where the might of economic powers to exploit becomes an inherent right, where monopolistic corporations use advertising to continually encourage consumptive, addictive, and childish behavioral patterns.

Coupled with eugenics and the westward spread of US territories under the ideology of Manifest Destiny, the genocidal policies of Social Darwinism and racist medical practices spread worldwide. The professional classes were fascism’s most slavish disciples: medical doctors joined the Nazi Party at a higher rate (some say 7 times the rate of joining as the average job) than any other profession in Germany.

The harsh, unrelenting regime of discipline inherent in such bourgeois values creates a new form of human behavior and outlook towards society: one which Erich Fromm called the “marketing orientation.” As he wrote:

The mature and productive individual derives his feeling of identity from the experience of himself as the agent who is one with his powers, this feeling of self can be briefly described as meaning ‘I am what I do.’ In the marketing orientation man encounters his own powers as commodities alienated from him. He is not one with them but they are masked from him because what matters is not his self-realization in the process of using them but his success in the process of selling them. Both his powers and what they create become estranged, something different from himself, something for others to judge and to use; thus his feeling of identity becomes as shaky as his self-esteem; it is constituted by the sum total of roles one can play: ‘I am as you desire me.’ It is worth remembering that mainstream economists such as Philip Hammond (or before him, fools such as Milton Friedman or Alan Greenspan in the US) are not basing their budgets or speeches or interest rates or stupid Powerpoint presentations for corrupt elites on any rational model, any shred of common sense, to help working classes or even middle class citizens. These people are PR spokespeople for capitalists, nothing more. They are as the multinational corporations and financial sector desire them.

We are all sort of becoming who the centers of power want us to be. Pliable, obedient, cowed, desperate. Also more hardened, isolated, commodified, and easier to control. The social conditioning is so deep here in the US.

When Philip Hammond says, “discipline will remain”, the capitalist and colonialist policies he and his elite associates pursue have global consequences. The effect of his words may be hidden from many Western eyes, but they are not any different from the direct violence in previous eras of the corrupt town sheriff, the racist prison warden, the sadistic psychiatrist, the violent headmaster of a school, the conquistador, the slave owner, the SS officer.

This is, in fact, exactly what modern day discipline is. Words, ideas, images, stock markets, debt ratios, and the concepts of the ruling classes become material life-threatening issues which undergird our system of artificial scarcity.

The spreading of this dark cloud of Western civilization, with all the concomitant issues of technology worship, reification, and commodification of the human spirit and creativity continues to tell us: be disciplined, be rational, be good citizens, even to be human (in a specific sense passed down by Enlightenment figures). It is unsurprising that many decades ago the first theoretical models for the post-human age were underway: since the beginning of the so-called Anthropocene era, we have seen how the artificial divisions of nature and culture have been exposed. Even today, much postmodern art and critique, which opens up new avenues for research by exploring ideas surrounding intersubjectivity, depthlessness, waning of affect, etc., still indulges in the fantasy of isolated, separate, urban-centered, and rational humans as a given.

Despite the push by liberal democracies to spread  a certain type of modern propaganda reminding us of our so-called secular, materialist, cosmopolitan, consumer society, the urge for spirituality, for raising of consciousness, still remains strong in contemporary culture via the rapidly expanding interest in yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices, psychedelics (another term is entheogens) and even paganism in the West. Yet even many of these basic self-exploratory and self-coping mechanisms are increasingly and continually mediated through corporations or at least small businesses and hierarchies, at the expense of cooperative and communal forms of organization.

What I think would be beneficial for people to think about is a return to a notion popular in 60s counterculture- the idea of a new sensibility (or sense-abilities, as it were). Readers may know about the ideas of/fury generated towards its most vocal theoretical promoters: Susan Sontag, Herbert Marcuse, Norman O. Brown. I believe it would be worthwhile to revisit those concepts.

In his speech “Liberation from the Affluent Society”, Marcuse said:

Let us give one illustration of…the need for such a total rupture [which] was present in some of the great social struggles of our period. Walter Benjamin quotes reports that during the Paris Commune, in all corners of the city there were people shooting at clocks on the towers of churches, palaces and so on, thereby consciously of half-consciously expressing the need that somehow time has to be arrested; that at least the prevailing, established time continuum has to be arrested, and that a new time has to begin…

He continues:

This situation presupposes the emergence of new needs, qualitatively different and even opposed to the prevailing aggressive and repressive needs: the emergence of a new type of human, with a vital, biological drive for liberation, and with a consciousness capable of breaking through the material as well as ideological veil of the affluent society…society has invaded even the deepest roots of individual existence, even the unconscious of man…We must get at the roots of society in the individuals themselves…who, because of social engineering, constantly reproduce the continuum of repression…

Further on, he states:

…to give sensitivity and sensibility their own right, is, I think, one of the basic goals of integral socialism…They presuppose…a total trans-valuation of values, a new anthropology…we may say that today qualitative change, liberation, involves organic, instinctual, biological changes at the same time as political and social changes…no longer subject to the dictates of capitalist profitability and of efficiency…socially necessary labor, material production, would and could become increasingly scientific…it means that the creative imagination…would become a productive force applied to the transformation of the social and natural universe…

Quite clearly and perhaps being a tad self-conscious, he later says: “And now I throw in a terrible concept: it would mean an ‘aesthetic’ reality- society as a work of art.” Indeed. Marcuse goes on to cite, in the Western tradition, hippies, Diggers, and Provos as groups (we can think of many more today, especially indigenous cultures) who offered “a new sensibility against efficient and insane reasonableness.”

It is intense “social engineering” and “insane reasonableness” which we are loath to stand up against due to our own relative affluence. Today that affluence is disappearing especially in the developing world as climate change and ecological devastation threatens all. In the West the stores may be open, and the planes may run on time, but late capitalism is running on fumes. The “veil” remains, along with elitist media manipulation which distracts and diverts public attention, but various anti-capitalist forces are arrayed at its edges, preparing to draw in the masses. Discipline has been unmasked for what it really is- a one way ticket to an early grave for the poor; or a lifetime of spiritual turmoil for the ruling class and the collaborating professional/managerial class flunkies and sycophants.

Yet again, the violence of words such as productivity, efficiency, free markets, national sovereignty, etc., all contribute to the intolerable living conditions for large portions of the world’s population. This is the metaphysics of capital, where abstract business concepts have very real, and deadly, consequences. Jason Read writes in Crisis and Critique:

Labor power must be made virtual, and then productive. The foundation of the capitalist relationship is the separation of workers form the means of production, and thus the potential of labor power as a potential. Once this potential is sold, enters into the workplace, it must be actualized, transformed into actual productive acts.

He goes on to cite Pierre Macherey, student of Althusser:

From this point of view, we could say that when the capitalist occupies himself with his workers’ labor-power, which he has acquired the right to employ in exchange for a wage, treating it as a ‘productive power’ whose productivity he intends to increase in order to produce relative surplus value – he practices metaphysics not in a theoretical but in a practical way. He practices this peculiar sort of metaphysics not during his leisure time, as a distraction or mental exercise, as he would a crossword puzzle, but throughout the entire working day dedicated to production. By opening up his company to notions such as ‘power,’ ‘capacity’ and ‘causation,’ he thereby makes them a reality, realizing these fictions, these products of the mind, which he then employs with daunting efficacy. In this way, with payrolls and charts of organizational tasks at hand, he shows, better than a philosopher’s abstract proofs, that the work of metaphysics could not be more material, provided that one knows how to put it to good use in introducing it into the factory. One could, incidentally, derive from this a new and caustic definition of metaphysics: in this rather specific context, it boils down to a mechanism for profit-making, which is no small matter. This means that, amongst other inventions that have changed the course of history, capitalism has found the means, the procedure, the ‘trick’ enabling it to put abstract concepts into practice – the hallmark of its ‘genius.’

More bluntly, the contributors at the website Endnotes put it like this:

The abstract universal — value — whose existence is posited by the exchange abstraction, acquires a real existence vis-à-vis particular concrete labours, which are subsumed under it. The real existence of abstractions, which acquire the ability to subsume the concrete world of production under them — and posit themselves as the truth of this world — is for Marx nothing other than a perverted, enchanted, ontologically inverted reality. The absurdity and violence which Hegel perceives in a relation of subsumption applies not only to Hegel’s system itself, but also to the actual social relations of capitalist society.

As one can see, it takes a very specific sort of discipline to deploy this type of thought — as well as to mouth the PR Double-plus good Newspeak that Philip Hammond and the GM executive spoke of above. As we have seen through history, the consequences are not pretty. This shackling of the human spirit molds workers in a totalitarian way, and becomes the baseline ideology for accessing elite institutions of knowledge and power. Hence, this is why some today speak of “total subsumption.”

In this sense, production via exploitation of labor power only speaks of half of the problem: the flip side is that humans are produced as cogs, or, put another way; the social reproduction of the masses is instilled by the constant reminder under capitalism to be productive, market yourself, speak appropriately in every varied situation, etc. Thus, humans are molded to believe in the need for police, tax collection agencies, borders, and industrial civilization. As usual, the unwaged labor of care work in the home continues to oppress women around the globe, as feminists such as Martha Gimenez, Kathi Weeks, Nancy Fraser, Silvia Federici, and many others have shown.

Words cannot express how far capitalism extends into daily life; or the amount of harmful and hateful behavior it has led to. Humans are valued only insofar as they are productive: productive in a myopic framework designed to narrow consciousness, reduce potentialities, blight the human condition, and destroy and degrade wildlife and ecosystems. People all over the world are simply being “farmed” for their labor power, their creativity, their social media posts, to pay taxes, the various licenses, fees, and insurances needed to secure a bare means of existence. Not only are the elite thriving economically, the 1% are estimated to live 10 years longer than the average of the 99%, as Danny Dorling explains in Inequality and the 1%.

The modern calendar and clock also regiment, divides, and orients our perception around the holy grail of productivity, turning human potentialities for creativity, for organic agriculture, for art, for useful crafts, for efficient renewable energy systems, for basic joy, and destroy those possibilities. Instead, we find abstract notions of labor and value, which are then actualized and concretized into power “paving the way” for progress. Our time system, essentially from the very beginning of Western civilization in Mesopotamia, started with set dates for repaying debts, which eventually morphed into regularly scheduled time frames for starting wars, shackling us all to a five day work week, etc. Our time system is the operating system for Empire, its software; hence the Parisians desire to end it.

Solutions lie in listening to indigenous peoples worldwide who have been living sustainably for millennia, via processes of trust-building, of starting truth and reconciliation for past atrocities and modern day dispossession, of growing communities based on non-profit cooperatives, etc. Tight-knit indigenous livelihoods counter the growth of destructive forms of modern discipline, an unnatural system of time, instrumental reason, capitalism, racism, and patriarchy; through power structures distributed horizontally, with deliberative bodies and direct democratic practices.

Authentic resistance against our system should therefore question and dispel the lies embedded in what the rulers and functionaries of capital call “discipline.” Our interior lives have been colonized, our jobs are alienating and exploitative, and our social media and data are now “harvested” for wealth. The abstractions of capital must be abandoned. Perhaps only by returning to the “integral”, the holistic, something closer to the Earth, by finding something elemental, by reigniting desire, can the vast utopian dreams and potentialities, which for many lie dormant, lead us to find some sort of joy and sustainable methods of living to transform this mad society.

Discipline Will Remain…or Will It?

Last October, Philip Hammond, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the annual federal budget speech to the UK Parliament, said this: “Austerity is coming to an end, but discipline will remain.”

Talk about Orwellian doublespeak. The truth about austerity is that it is a means of social control, or as Hammond put it, discipline. Hammond’s recent comment is completely illogical. Austerity is economic discipline. Really, it’s just a way of making the poor suffer more, while continuing to bail out the rich every time they implode the economy.

It’s rare that the titans of finance slip up so well, and so egregiously with their language, but it happens, this being an excellent case study. Now we know, straight from the source, just what economic experts, being mouthpieces of multinational corporations, really want, just as much or even more than “austerity”: discipline! Or, another way of putting it, they want austerity, except we aren’t supposed to realize that we live in austerity anymore…or at least don’t try and resist. These people want a normalization of austerity, until we just accept that this is the way it is.

A cursory look at the upcoming UK budget shows more of the same: billions to update the nuclear weapon systems, continued cuts for many government ministries, cuts to Scotland when considering inflation rates, a cap on total welfare spending, with a few crumbs for their Universal Credit benefits, etc. All of this is happening while homelessness is rising dramatically (up 169% since 2010).

So what kind of discipline is Mr. Hammond really talking about? A writer for VICE (one Simon Childs) succinctly summed it up:

In the end, Spreadsheet Phil went with ‘Austerity is coming to an end but discipline will remain’. So it’s not ‘over’, it’s ‘coming to an end’, at some point. But ‘discipline’ will remain – for which you can read ‘austerity’. So really, that’s, ‘Austerity is coming to an end but austerity will remain.’ If that sounds contradictory, that’s because it is. Austerity is a decade-long ideological project which has seen poor and working class people pay for the financial crash through cutting the supposed largesse of the welfare state. The government is trying to loosen spending up a bit while the effects of that project become even more stark.

As many commentators have pointed out, austerity is not based on any rational sense of finance or macroeconomic forces: it is an ideological mission, a moral argument stemming back to the Puritan/Calvinist and social Darwinist worldview. If you’re poor, it’s your fault, and all one has to do is pull oneself up by your bootstraps. Societal and systemic forces which consistently lead to high unemployment, substandard education, lack of social support structures, and stagnant wages are never addressed. What better way to keep people “disciplined” than to offload public spending onto the citizenry? Thus forcing private citizen, especially the poor and middle class, to pay more for essential services: this has predictably led to an explosion in college and personal debt.

The super-ego always judging itself produces a type of mental enslavement and has now engulfed the globe in late-stage capitalism. We are taught to always blame ourselves because we are not marketable, don’t keep up with technology, aren’t innovating or learning life skills to keep up in a gig/service economy with rising rates of poverty, which also is hollowing out all social forms of purpose and collective belonging.

The US educational system is complicit in this, since this is the first public institution most of us enter — a regimented oppressive nightmare of one-size-fits-all deluges of mostly useless information, where children are always competing and one-upping each other with grades, achievements, etc. As long as we were obedient little drones who raised our hands to ask questions, sat when told to, repeated the pledge of allegiance every day, and in general were (with our parent’s complicity) spoon-fed lies, omissions, and distortions of historical, scientific, and sociological facts, we could one day participate in adult life successfully. Of course, the more obvious sites for adult coercion and brainwashing barely need mention: jails, churches, mental institutions, large corporations, federal bureaucracies, etc.

The history of public education in our country is a history of indoctrination, or something worse, of which the horrors are so great they cannot be put into words, if one examines the African American or Indigenous histories of schooling. Modern schooling is freaking twelve years of boot-camp for the adult world of bio-psycho-social alienated labor. There is no use denying or getting around this fact.

The psycho-somatic beatings endured become embedded in our minds and the trauma is relived and has been passed down, generation to generation. This has created a militaristic society yet also a pacified and slavish one, which submissively bows down before capitalist/imperialist/colonialist systems of hierarchy. We are the “docile bodies” that Foucault spoke of.

We’ve been molded for the purpose of fitting into (increasingly mentally damaging) forms of labor. The stress of daily work in the US has almost completely precluded any serious resistance. I cannot stress this enough: as bodies synchronizing the finely-tuned engine of capital, we are poised to destroy ourselves and the majority of species on the planet if we continue down this path.

Once again, surprise surprise, the language we use has been beaten into us, and is a formidable weapon in the arsenal of capital. There’s a humorous anecdote in this Monthly Review article by Rebecca Stoner, spotlighting John Patrick Leary:

When General Motors laid off more than 6,000 workers days after Thanksgiving, John Patrick Leary, the author of the new book Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism, tweeted out part of GM CEO Mary Barra’s statement: ‘The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient, and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,’ she said. Leary added a line of commentary to Barra’s statement:

‘Language was pronounced dead at the scene.’

As Stoner explains, when it comes to words like “entrepreneur”:

When we talk about “entrepreneurs” with an uncritical acceptance, we implicitly accept [the] view that wealth was created by entrepreneurs via a process of innovation and creative destruction—rather than Marx’s belief that wealth is appropriated to the bourgeois class by exploitation.

This is why I always think of don Miguel Ruiz’s first agreement: “Be impeccable with your word.” So, Phillip Hammond was being perfect with his wording, really: he wants discipline, dammit!

Others take a more, well, mendacious approach to their phraseology. When people say that jail will “rehabilitate” prisoners or that “innovation”, “increased productivity”, and “hard work” will provide the tools to lead a 21st century economy, I am skeptical. Especially with regard our carceral-industrial complex, how obviously and openly corrupt and racist the prison system is in our country, where length of sentences are absurdly long compared to other nations, and rates of jailing are exponentially higher for black and brown peoples, with 10 cent an hour wages metered out for a smoke, snack foods, or a cell phone call while the largest corporations make billions off of what amounts to slave labor, which, mind you, the Chinese have been replicating with the Uyghur population in Xinjiang province. I’d rather those in power tell us how they really feel. In a lecture on Nietzsche (with a nod to Foucault), Rick Roderick put it quite well:

The idea that we would send someone to prison in order to rehabilitate them…now we’re getting to be more honest about that. We’re getting a little more barbaric, and for Nietzsche that’d be better, it’d be a little more honest. We’re sending them to prison because we’re scared of them and we know if they go there really bad things will happen to them and it will ruin their lives and that will make us happy. That’s what we should say when we send one to prison.

That is what it comes down to for today’s centers of power. Kill, jail, torture, or condemn those lower on the totem pole to lives of penury, marginalization, and unpleasant labor. The chthonic chant from Trump’s base is connected to this impulse: “Lock her up!”… “Build the wall!” Whoever you can’t control so easily, ply them with media, drugs, fame, money, power.

This is how the system was designed from the early days of the Enlightenment. As Foucault asks rhetorically in Disciple and Punish: The Birth of the Prison: “Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?” Architecturally one of the more famous blueprints for constant surveillance, interrogations, examinations, and constant monitoring of the social body came from Bentham’s design of the panopticon. We notice the ones under surveillance, or even those who think they’re being watched, increasingly self-censor and self-monitor themselves to avoid untoward further investigation or physical violence from state authorities, whether inside an institution or outside in the public sphere.

Rather than rehabilitation, the modern notion of discipline is to induce punishment, and goshdarnit, our culture sure does know how to punish those less fortunate. On any given year between 10 and 20 million people worldwide die of starvation, even as silos of food lie full all over the USA and Europe. Preventable childhood diseases kill perhaps another 10 million kids a year. A mobilization of food, medicine, and competent medical professionals along with a logistics network to access hard-to-reach rural areas in the Global South could solve these crises within a short time frame.

Today we see disciplinarian methods used as a general principle, a blunt instrument applied to daily life, where conformism, homogenization, and compliance to authority dictate modern culture in work and the home. Also, people avoid vocalizing their internal critiques of the state, authority, or the economy for fear of social reprisal, becoming an outcast, and basic issues of self-survival (in minority communities under attack from police brutality) in an atmosphere of generalized anxiety, suspicion, and paranoia.

Here we begin to uncover the archaeological, or rather, genealogical evidence and the ideological underpinnings of centers of power. Ideologues, economists, and capitalists do not need to explicitly promote “austerity” (they can just change the name), but they do need a certain type of discipline, and the contrived system of artificial scarcity which keeps the multitude desperate. This destructive economic system which we dub “neoliberal” stymies thought, kills dreams, exploits labor, and reaches into all facets of political and daily life.

In such an authoritarian state, today, just as in ages ago, women and children bear the worst forms of abuse and punishment even as they do most of the work, either unpaid in the home or in professional employment. Women still must deal with performing emotional labor for men in the West that have not self-analyzed, and cannot see how they directly benefit from patriarchal institutions of power that filter down into the workplace, community, home, etc.

The sociological make-up of the middle classes, constantly under threat of falling into penury until European and North American capitalist states underwent a significant shift in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Constant competition, the modern factory, and striving for status and material affluence shifted the previous belief in a “Protestant work ethic” towards one of Social Darwinism, and from there to a consumer-based age of affluence, where the might of economic powers to exploit becomes an inherent right, where monopolistic corporations use advertising to continually encourage consumptive, addictive, and childish behavioral patterns.

Coupled with eugenics and the westward spread of US territories under the ideology of Manifest Destiny, the genocidal policies of Social Darwinism and racist medical practices spread worldwide. The professional classes were fascism’s most slavish disciples: medical doctors joined the Nazi Party at a higher rate (some say 7 times the rate of joining as the average job) than any other profession in Germany.

The harsh, unrelenting regime of discipline inherent in such bourgeois values creates a new form of human behavior and outlook towards society: one which Erich Fromm called the “marketing orientation.” As he wrote:

The mature and productive individual derives his feeling of identity from the experience of himself as the agent who is one with his powers, this feeling of self can be briefly described as meaning ‘I am what I do.’ In the marketing orientation man encounters his own powers as commodities alienated from him. He is not one with them but they are masked from him because what matters is not his self-realization in the process of using them but his success in the process of selling them. Both his powers and what they create become estranged, something different from himself, something for others to judge and to use; thus his feeling of identity becomes as shaky as his self-esteem; it is constituted by the sum total of roles one can play: ‘I am as you desire me.’ It is worth remembering that mainstream economists such as Philip Hammond (or before him, fools such as Milton Friedman or Alan Greenspan in the US) are not basing their budgets or speeches or interest rates or stupid Powerpoint presentations for corrupt elites on any rational model, any shred of common sense, to help working classes or even middle class citizens. These people are PR spokespeople for capitalists, nothing more. They are as the multinational corporations and financial sector desire them.

We are all sort of becoming who the centers of power want us to be. Pliable, obedient, cowed, desperate. Also more hardened, isolated, commodified, and easier to control. The social conditioning is so deep here in the US.

When Philip Hammond says, “discipline will remain”, the capitalist and colonialist policies he and his elite associates pursue have global consequences. The effect of his words may be hidden from many Western eyes, but they are not any different from the direct violence in previous eras of the corrupt town sheriff, the racist prison warden, the sadistic psychiatrist, the violent headmaster of a school, the conquistador, the slave owner, the SS officer.

This is, in fact, exactly what modern day discipline is. Words, ideas, images, stock markets, debt ratios, and the concepts of the ruling classes become material life-threatening issues which undergird our system of artificial scarcity.

The spreading of this dark cloud of Western civilization, with all the concomitant issues of technology worship, reification, and commodification of the human spirit and creativity continues to tell us: be disciplined, be rational, be good citizens, even to be human (in a specific sense passed down by Enlightenment figures). It is unsurprising that many decades ago the first theoretical models for the post-human age were underway: since the beginning of the so-called Anthropocene era, we have seen how the artificial divisions of nature and culture have been exposed. Even today, much postmodern art and critique, which opens up new avenues for research by exploring ideas surrounding intersubjectivity, depthlessness, waning of affect, etc., still indulges in the fantasy of isolated, separate, urban-centered, and rational humans as a given.

Despite the push by liberal democracies to spread  a certain type of modern propaganda reminding us of our so-called secular, materialist, cosmopolitan, consumer society, the urge for spirituality, for raising of consciousness, still remains strong in contemporary culture via the rapidly expanding interest in yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices, psychedelics (another term is entheogens) and even paganism in the West. Yet even many of these basic self-exploratory and self-coping mechanisms are increasingly and continually mediated through corporations or at least small businesses and hierarchies, at the expense of cooperative and communal forms of organization.

What I think would be beneficial for people to think about is a return to a notion popular in 60s counterculture- the idea of a new sensibility (or sense-abilities, as it were). Readers may know about the ideas of/fury generated towards its most vocal theoretical promoters: Susan Sontag, Herbert Marcuse, Norman O. Brown. I believe it would be worthwhile to revisit those concepts.

In his speech “Liberation from the Affluent Society”, Marcuse said:

Let us give one illustration of…the need for such a total rupture [which] was present in some of the great social struggles of our period. Walter Benjamin quotes reports that during the Paris Commune, in all corners of the city there were people shooting at clocks on the towers of churches, palaces and so on, thereby consciously of half-consciously expressing the need that somehow time has to be arrested; that at least the prevailing, established time continuum has to be arrested, and that a new time has to begin…

He continues:

This situation presupposes the emergence of new needs, qualitatively different and even opposed to the prevailing aggressive and repressive needs: the emergence of a new type of human, with a vital, biological drive for liberation, and with a consciousness capable of breaking through the material as well as ideological veil of the affluent society…society has invaded even the deepest roots of individual existence, even the unconscious of man…We must get at the roots of society in the individuals themselves…who, because of social engineering, constantly reproduce the continuum of repression…

Further on, he states:

…to give sensitivity and sensibility their own right, is, I think, one of the basic goals of integral socialism…They presuppose…a total trans-valuation of values, a new anthropology…we may say that today qualitative change, liberation, involves organic, instinctual, biological changes at the same time as political and social changes…no longer subject to the dictates of capitalist profitability and of efficiency…socially necessary labor, material production, would and could become increasingly scientific…it means that the creative imagination…would become a productive force applied to the transformation of the social and natural universe…

Quite clearly and perhaps being a tad self-conscious, he later says: “And now I throw in a terrible concept: it would mean an ‘aesthetic’ reality- society as a work of art.” Indeed. Marcuse goes on to cite, in the Western tradition, hippies, Diggers, and Provos as groups (we can think of many more today, especially indigenous cultures) who offered “a new sensibility against efficient and insane reasonableness.”

It is intense “social engineering” and “insane reasonableness” which we are loath to stand up against due to our own relative affluence. Today that affluence is disappearing especially in the developing world as climate change and ecological devastation threatens all. In the West the stores may be open, and the planes may run on time, but late capitalism is running on fumes. The “veil” remains, along with elitist media manipulation which distracts and diverts public attention, but various anti-capitalist forces are arrayed at its edges, preparing to draw in the masses. Discipline has been unmasked for what it really is- a one way ticket to an early grave for the poor; or a lifetime of spiritual turmoil for the ruling class and the collaborating professional/managerial class flunkies and sycophants.

Yet again, the violence of words such as productivity, efficiency, free markets, national sovereignty, etc., all contribute to the intolerable living conditions for large portions of the world’s population. This is the metaphysics of capital, where abstract business concepts have very real, and deadly, consequences. Jason Read writes in Crisis and Critique:

Labor power must be made virtual, and then productive. The foundation of the capitalist relationship is the separation of workers form the means of production, and thus the potential of labor power as a potential. Once this potential is sold, enters into the workplace, it must be actualized, transformed into actual productive acts.

He goes on to cite Pierre Macherey, student of Althusser:

From this point of view, we could say that when the capitalist occupies himself with his workers’ labor-power, which he has acquired the right to employ in exchange for a wage, treating it as a ‘productive power’ whose productivity he intends to increase in order to produce relative surplus value – he practices metaphysics not in a theoretical but in a practical way. He practices this peculiar sort of metaphysics not during his leisure time, as a distraction or mental exercise, as he would a crossword puzzle, but throughout the entire working day dedicated to production. By opening up his company to notions such as ‘power,’ ‘capacity’ and ‘causation,’ he thereby makes them a reality, realizing these fictions, these products of the mind, which he then employs with daunting efficacy. In this way, with payrolls and charts of organizational tasks at hand, he shows, better than a philosopher’s abstract proofs, that the work of metaphysics could not be more material, provided that one knows how to put it to good use in introducing it into the factory. One could, incidentally, derive from this a new and caustic definition of metaphysics: in this rather specific context, it boils down to a mechanism for profit-making, which is no small matter. This means that, amongst other inventions that have changed the course of history, capitalism has found the means, the procedure, the ‘trick’ enabling it to put abstract concepts into practice – the hallmark of its ‘genius.’

More bluntly, the contributors at the website Endnotes put it like this:

The abstract universal — value — whose existence is posited by the exchange abstraction, acquires a real existence vis-à-vis particular concrete labours, which are subsumed under it. The real existence of abstractions, which acquire the ability to subsume the concrete world of production under them — and posit themselves as the truth of this world — is for Marx nothing other than a perverted, enchanted, ontologically inverted reality. The absurdity and violence which Hegel perceives in a relation of subsumption applies not only to Hegel’s system itself, but also to the actual social relations of capitalist society.

As one can see, it takes a very specific sort of discipline to deploy this type of thought — as well as to mouth the PR Double-plus good Newspeak that Philip Hammond and the GM executive spoke of above. As we have seen through history, the consequences are not pretty. This shackling of the human spirit molds workers in a totalitarian way, and becomes the baseline ideology for accessing elite institutions of knowledge and power. Hence, this is why some today speak of “total subsumption.”

In this sense, production via exploitation of labor power only speaks of half of the problem: the flip side is that humans are produced as cogs, or, put another way; the social reproduction of the masses is instilled by the constant reminder under capitalism to be productive, market yourself, speak appropriately in every varied situation, etc. Thus, humans are molded to believe in the need for police, tax collection agencies, borders, and industrial civilization. As usual, the unwaged labor of care work in the home continues to oppress women around the globe, as feminists such as Martha Gimenez, Kathi Weeks, Nancy Fraser, Silvia Federici, and many others have shown.

Words cannot express how far capitalism extends into daily life; or the amount of harmful and hateful behavior it has led to. Humans are valued only insofar as they are productive: productive in a myopic framework designed to narrow consciousness, reduce potentialities, blight the human condition, and destroy and degrade wildlife and ecosystems. People all over the world are simply being “farmed” for their labor power, their creativity, their social media posts, to pay taxes, the various licenses, fees, and insurances needed to secure a bare means of existence. Not only are the elite thriving economically, the 1% are estimated to live 10 years longer than the average of the 99%, as Danny Dorling explains in Inequality and the 1%.

The modern calendar and clock also regiment, divides, and orients our perception around the holy grail of productivity, turning human potentialities for creativity, for organic agriculture, for art, for useful crafts, for efficient renewable energy systems, for basic joy, and destroy those possibilities. Instead, we find abstract notions of labor and value, which are then actualized and concretized into power “paving the way” for progress. Our time system, essentially from the very beginning of Western civilization in Mesopotamia, started with set dates for repaying debts, which eventually morphed into regularly scheduled time frames for starting wars, shackling us all to a five day work week, etc. Our time system is the operating system for Empire, its software; hence the Parisians desire to end it.

Solutions lie in listening to indigenous peoples worldwide who have been living sustainably for millennia, via processes of trust-building, of starting truth and reconciliation for past atrocities and modern day dispossession, of growing communities based on non-profit cooperatives, etc. Tight-knit indigenous livelihoods counter the growth of destructive forms of modern discipline, an unnatural system of time, instrumental reason, capitalism, racism, and patriarchy; through power structures distributed horizontally, with deliberative bodies and direct democratic practices.

Authentic resistance against our system should therefore question and dispel the lies embedded in what the rulers and functionaries of capital call “discipline.” Our interior lives have been colonized, our jobs are alienating and exploitative, and our social media and data are now “harvested” for wealth. The abstractions of capital must be abandoned. Perhaps only by returning to the “integral”, the holistic, something closer to the Earth, by finding something elemental, by reigniting desire, can the vast utopian dreams and potentialities, which for many lie dormant, lead us to find some sort of joy and sustainable methods of living to transform this mad society.

Can Our Civilization Survive?

Lately, I have been asked this question on several occasions. “Can our humanity really survive?” “Am I an optimist or a pessimist?”

My replies vary, as I don’t think there can ever be one single answer to this most urgent, the most important query.

Sometimes my answer gets influenced by location: where I am at that moment, or where I have been recently? In a Taliban-controlled village in Afghanistan, on a rooftop of a whorehouse in Okinawa while filming deadly US air force bases, or perhaps in an elegant café after visiting an opera performance with my mom, in Stuttgart or in Paris.

Whether I have been injured on a battlefield or in a slum, or have been applauded (most of the time, hypocritically) at some event where I was invited to speak? Have I been doing something ‘forbidden’, insane and dangerous, or merely processing my visual or written materials in Japan or in Bangkok?

Depending on the circumstances, I can sound negative or cautiously optimistic.

But the truth, the honest truth is: I am scared.

Not scared for my own life, or my health or even my well-being. My work and my struggle: nobody forced me into it; all that I do is my own choice. I want to do it and therefore I do it. And while I do it, as it is often not safe, I have to understand that my life may end, prematurely, or that something else, very unpleasant, could happen. I have to understand, and I do understand. Shit happens! Unfortunately, it happens often. But that’s not what makes me scared.

What truly frightens me is something else, something much more essential: this beautiful ‘project’, this incredible, gigantic experiment called humanity, could very soon end in ruins and up in smoke.

What scares me even more is that, perhaps, it is already ending although I sincerely hope that it is not.

I have no religion, and I have absolutely no idea whether there is some sort of afterlife or not. Afterlife, God: what I am absolutely certain of is that no one on this planet really knows any answers to these so-called big questions, and those who claim that they do, know even much less than me.

This world and this damn humanity of ours is all that I know, and it is all that I have and care about. And I love it, because I have no other choice but loving it, despite all of its brutality and foolishness, recklessness and short-sightedness. But this planet, which used to be so brilliantly beautiful and pleasing, to all of our human senses, is now frightened, humiliated and plundered. It is getting raped, savagely, in front of our own eyes. And we are just watching, ruminating like cattle, shitting, and amusing ourselves in increasingly brainless ways.

That’s what we are actually supposed to do, according to those bastards who are ‘in charge’.

Our humanity had been derailed from its natural aims, goals and dreams. Goals like egalitarianism, social justice, beauty and harmony, used to be on everyone’s lips, no matter where they were living; just so recently, just one century ago.

The brightest minds, bravely and determinedly, worked on finishing with all forms of inequality, exploitation, racism and colonialism. Crimes against humanity committed by Western imperialism, racism, slavery and capitalism were being exposed, defined, condemned and confronted.

Unfortunately, it was one century ago that we were just about reaching the peak of enlightenment, and as humanity we were much closer to harmony and peaceful co-existence, than we are now.

Our grand-grandparents had no doubts whatsoever, that reason and logic would soon be able to triumph, everywhere on earth, and that those who had been ruling so unjustly all over this world, would either “see the light” and voluntarily step down, or would be once and for all defeated.

Great revolutions erupted on all continents. Human lives were declared to be well above profit. Capitalism seemed to be finished. Imperialism and capitalism were discredited, spat at and stepped on with millions of feet. It was clearly just a matter of years, before all people of all races would unite, before there would be no more dictatorship of greedy and degenerate businesspeople, of crooked religious demagogues, of perverse monarchs and their serfs.

In those days, humanity was full of optimism, of ground-breaking ideas, inventions, intellectual, as well as emotional courage and artistic creativity.

A new era was beginning. The epoch of serfdom and capitalism was ending.

But then, the dark revanchist forces of oppression, of greed, regrouped. They had money and therefore could pay to buy the best psychologists, propagandists, mass-murderers, scholars, and artists.

*****

A hundred years later, look where we are! Look at us now.

There is nothing to celebrate, and plenty to puke about.

Gangsters and moral degenerates, who ruled during all previous centuries, are still in full control of the planet. As before, oppressed people form majority: they inhabit Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Sub-Continent and Southeast Asia.

Actually, things have gone much further than before: the majority of people on our planet lost their ability to think logically. They have been brainwashed by the propagandist mass media, by mass-produced movies and pop music, by bizarre ‘trends’ in fashion and by aggressive consumerism.

Education and media outlets have lost all their independence and become subservient to the interests of the regime.

Western ‘democracy’ (not much of a project to begin with), has kicked the bucket quietly and discretely, and its advocates again began taking direct dictates from big business, multi-billionaires and their multi-national corporations. The system has evolved from turbo-capitalism into turbo-kleptocracy.

I work all over the world, on all continents, and what terrifies me is how ‘complete’, or call it ‘bulletproof’ the system has become.

With advanced computerization, with the ability of the regime to monitor and analyze basically all corners of our planet, there seems to be no place on earth that can escape the advances and attacks of Western imperialism and neo-colonialism.

Just imagine: some country decides to resist and to work for the well-being of its own people, and immediately the Western propaganda, its NGO’s, academia, media outlets, and potentially its mercenaries and military, get to work, systematically smearing the rebellious government, and potentially ruining entire countries. This is how Argentina collapsed, and then Brazil. This is how Syria was first destabilized and later almost destroyed.

It appears that nothing can withstand the global dictatorship.

And the global dictatorship has no mercy; it lost all rationale.

Greed, the maximization of profits, knows no boundaries. Sacrificing human lives is now commonly perpetrated. Thousands of human lives, or a few millions, it does not seem to matter. In the Democratic Republic of Congo or in West Papua, who cares, as long as coltan, uranium, gold and oil are flowing.

I witnessed entire nations ‘sinking’, becoming uninhabitable, due to global-warming: Kiribati, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands. I see tremendous islands like Borneo (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia) being thoroughly and irreversibly ruined. And nobody gives a damn. Corrupted (by the West and their own servile governments) scientists in places such as Indonesia, are still arguing that global warning and deforestation, as well as the palm oil plantations, are actually not threatening the world and its survival.

Some fifty years ago, there would have been powerful books written on these subjects. Wonderful art films were made, songs written and sang by brave bards, and the masses in both the oppressed world, but also in the West itself, bought revolutionary novels by the millions of copies. Multitudes of people stood in line, to watch films that were depicting their life, their struggle and their suffering.

Now? The destroyed masses are conditioned to forget about their nightmares and instead watch brainless horror films, some Star Wars ‘epic’, ‘romantic comedies’ depicting sweet suffering or the rich and famous. After saving for months, poor families in the devastated world are dragging their children to Disney Worlds; to those factories of plastic, emotionless dreams, to those Burger Kings of fairytales!

Mobile phones have replaced paper books, newspapers and magazines. For centuries, paper books were symbols of knowledge. No computer or telephone screen can ever replace the printed word. A scholar, a man or a woman of letters has always been surrounded by books, by notes, by documents.

All this is not happening by chance. Electronic offering is much easier to control, divert and choke, than materials that are printed on paper. The de-intellectualization of the world is clearly being done by design, step by step, in an organized fashion. Forget about ‘renaissance men and women’ in the 21st Century: even educated Western anti-capitalist thinkers are now ‘specialized’. They ‘don’t read fiction’. They are collecting ‘facts’, producing non-fiction essays and books, as well as documentary films and videos, but fully neglecting the point that all successful revolutions were always based on emotions, creativity and art; inspiring the masses, making people laugh and cry, dream and hope.

The world has become full of ‘data’, of digits. ‘Facts’ are widely available, but they do not inspire or move anybody. They do not call people to action; to the barricades. Everything is standardized. Western propaganda has managed to regulate human desire, dictating how the ‘perfect’ female or male body should look and behave. Or what the ‘correct’ perception of ‘democracy’ should be, or what is trendy and what should be considered boring and outdated.

The life of both the victims and victimizers appears to be ‘de-politicized’. But it is not! The acceptance of Western propaganda and collaboration with the regime is actually an extremely political act!

*****

I am scared because it appears that a great majority of the people have accepted what the twisted regime has ordered them to accept.

They have accepted surveillance, trends, de-humanized ‘desires’, ‘political correctness’, global imperialist fascism, pop, grotesque capitalism and grey uniformity.

Like parrots, they repeat anti-Communist slogans, as well as propaganda barks against all the countries and governments that are still resisting this monstrous Western dictatorship brought to its most bizarre extreme.

I am scared, and at the same time, I am increasingly furious. If this is the future for humanity, do we, as human beings, really have right to exist; to survive as a species? Are we so submissive, so uninventive that we always end up begging for crumbs, praying to some invented superior forces, and prostrating ourselves in front of evil greedy monarchs and morally-corrupt individuals and systems?

Fortunately, not everyone is blind, and not everyone is on his or her knees. Not all of us have lost the ability to resist, to dream, and to fight for a world that appeared to be so possible just one century ago.

Those who are still alive and standing on their feet, know perfectly well: Revolution is possible and morally justifiable. Capitalism and imperialism are totally inhuman. A Socialist or Communist system is the only way forward: not in some ‘conservative’, dogmatic form, but in an ‘internationalist’, enlightened and tolerant way. (As clarified in my latest book Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism. ).

It is the beginning of the year; 2019. Let us try to recap some basics:

Destroying entire parts of the world, and ransacking their natural resources for cold, selfish profit, is wrong.

Brainwashing countries, overthrowing their progressive governments, and derailing their natural development, is damn wrong, too.

Turning populations of the entire planet into idiots and zombies, making them consume violent and brainless movies, listen to crap music and eat junk food, dreaming about making love to shop window figurines and their human equivalent, is evil.

Using the media, education and entertainment for indoctrination purposes is barbaric.

And so is turning the entire planet into some primitive consumer market.

To fight such a system is glorious. And it is by definition ‘trendy’ and fun.

To use the terminology of the empire: collaboration and uniformity can never be ‘cool’. Listening and watching the same garbage cannot be ‘fashionable’. Banging into the same mobile phone screens can hardly be defined as ‘advanced’, and broad-minded.

Licking the boots of some old fart who owns banks or destructive corporations, is far from a modern, elegant and refined way of living.

Watching how our beloved planet is going up in flames, due to neo-imperialism and turbo-capitalism, while not doing anything to stop it, is nothing else other than stupid.

*****

I began 2019 by writing the first chapter of my 1000-page novel “One Year of Life”. This novel began in 2019 and it will finish at the end of the same year. At the very end of it. Enough of non-fiction only!

As a novelist and playwright, I believe in human emotions. I have also witnessed enough uprisings and revolutions to finally realize that naked facts and data will never bring people to the barricades.

Time to un-dust the old banners, to bring back poetry, art, literature, films, theatre, and music. They are our best allies.

The West tries to silence emotions, ‘burn’ books and hit us all with ugly, meaningless noise and images, because it knows perfectly well that beauty is creative and inspiring. Beauty and creativity are also ‘dangerous’, in fact, fatal to the regime’s dark and depressing designs.

I may be scared, but I am also cautiously hopeful. We can still win. Actually, it is our obligation to win. This Planet has to survive. If we win, it will. If we lose, it will go to hell.

It will be an extremely tough struggle that lies ahead of us. And no one will fight just in the name of facts and data. People are known to fight only in the name of a beautiful future. For us to win, all great muses are expected to march by the side of brave and determined revolutionaries!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

The Importance of Alternative Media

Social critic Neil Postman contrasted the futures predicted in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World in the foreword of his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Show Business (1985). He wrote:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Neil Postman’s book had its origins at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where he was invited to join a panel discussing George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Postman said that our present situation was better predicted by Huxley’s Brave New World. Today, he maintained it is not fear that bars us from truth. Instead, truth is drowned in distractions and the pursuit of pleasure, by the public’s addiction to amusement.

Postman sees television as the modern equivalent of Huxley’s pleasure-inducing drug, Soma, and he maintains that television, as a medium, is intrinsically superficial and unable to discuss serious issues. Looking at television as it is today, one must agree with him.

The wealth and power of the establishment

The media are a battleground where reformers struggle for attention, but are defeated with great regularity by the wealth and power of the establishment. This is a tragedy because today there is an urgent need to make public opinion aware of the serious problems facing civilization, and the steps that are needed to solve these problems. The mass media could potentially be a great force for public education, but in general their role is not only unhelpful – it is often negative. War and conflict are blatantly advertised by television and newspapers.

Newspapers and war

There is a true story about the powerful newspaper owner William Randolph Hearst that illustrates the relationship between the mass media and the institution of war: When an explosion sank the American warship USS Maine in the harbor of Havana, Hearst anticipated (and desired) that the incident would lead to war between the United States and Spain. He therefore sent his best illustrator, Fredrick Remington, to Havana to produce drawings of the scene. After a few days in Havana, Remington cabled to Hearst, “All’s quiet here. There will be no war.” Hearst cabled back, “You supply the pictures. I’ll supply the war.” Hearst was true to his words. His newspapers inflamed American public opinion to such an extent that the Spanish-American War became inevitable. During the course of the war, Hearst sold many newspapers, and Remington many drawings. From this story one might almost conclude that newspapers thrive on war, while war thrives on newspapers.

Before the advent of widely-read newspapers, European wars tended to be fought by mercenary soldiers, recruited from the lowest ranks of society, and motivated by financial considerations. The emotions of the population were not aroused by such limited and decorous wars. However, the French Revolution and the power of newspapers changed this situation, and war became a total phenomenon that involved emotions. The media were able to mobilize on a huge scale the communal defense mechanism that Konrad Lorenz called “militant enthusiasm” – self-sacrifice for the defense of the tribe. It did not escape the notice of politicians that control of the media is the key to political power in the modern world. For example, Hitler was extremely conscious of the force of propaganda, and it became one of his favorite instruments for exerting power.

With the advent of radio and television, the influence of the mass media became still greater. Today, state-controlled or money-controlled newspapers, radio and television are widely used by the power elite to manipulate public opinion. This is true in most countries of the world, even in those that pride themselves on allowing freedom of speech. For example, during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the official version of events was broadcast by CNN, and criticism of the invasion was almost absent from their transmissions

The mass media and our present crisis

Today we are faced with the task of creating a new global ethic in which loyalty to family, religion and nation will be supplemented by a higher loyalty to humanity as a whole. In case of conflicts, loyalty to humanity as a whole must take precedence. In addition, our present culture of violence must be replaced by a culture of peace. To achieve these essential goals, we urgently need the cooperation of the mass media.

The predicament of humanity today has been called “a race between education and catastrophe”. Human emotions have not changed much during the last 40,000 years. Human nature still contains an element of tribalism to which nationalistic politicians successfully appeal. The completely sovereign nation-state is still the basis of our global political system. The danger in this situation is due to the fact that modern science has given the human race incredibly destructive weapons. Because of these weapons, the tribal tendencies in human nature and the politically fragmented structure of our world have both become dangerous anachronisms.

We have to learn to think in a new way. Will we learn this in time to prevent disaster? When we consider the almost miraculous power of our modern electronic media, we can be optimistic. Cannot our marvelous global communication network be used to change anachronistic ways of thought and anachronistic social and political institutions in time, so that the system will not self-destruct as science and technology revolutionize our world? If they were properly used, our instantaneous global communications could give us hope.

The success of our species is built on cultural evolution, the central element of which is cooperation. Thus human nature has two sides, tribal emotions are present, but they are balanced by the human genius for cooperation. The case of Scandinavia – once war-torn, now cooperative – shows that education is able to bring out either the kind and cooperative side of human nature, or the xenophobic and violent side. Which of these shall it be? It is up to our educational systems to decide, and the mass media are an extremely important part of education. Hence the great responsibility that is now in the hands of the media.

How do the mass media fulfill this life-or-death responsibility? Do they give us insight? No, they give us pop music. Do they give us an understanding of the sweep of evolution and history? No, they give us sport. Do they give us an understanding of need for strengthening the United Nations, and the ways that it could be strengthened? No, they give us sit-coms and soap operas. Do they give us unbiased news? No, they give us news that has been edited to conform with the interests of the military-industrial complex and other powerful lobbies. Do they present us with the need for a just system of international law that acts on individuals? On the whole, the subject is neglected. Do they tell of the essentially genocidal nature of nuclear weapons, and the urgent need for their complete abolition? No, they give us programs about gardening and making food.

A consumer who subscribes to the “package” of broadcasts sold by a cable company can often search through all 100 or so channels without finding a single program that offers insight into the various problems that are facing the world today. What the viewer finds instead is a mixture of pro-establishment propaganda and entertainment. Meanwhile the neglected global problems are becoming progressively more severe. In general, the mass media behave as though their role is to prevent the peoples of the world from joining hands and working to change the world and to save it from thermonuclear and environmental catastrophes. The television viewer sits slumped in a chair, passive, isolated, disempowered and stupefied. The future of the world hangs in the balance, the fate of children and grandchildren hang in the balance, but the television viewer feels no impulse to work actively to change the world or to save it. The Roman emperors gave their people bread and circuses to numb them into political inactivity. The modern mass media seem to be playing a similar role.

Our duty to future generations

The future of human civilization is endangered both by the threat of thermonuclear war and by the threat of catastrophic climate change. It is not only humans that are threatened, but also the other organisms with which we share the gift of life. We must also consider the threat of a global famine of extremely large proportions, when the end of the fossil fuel era, combined with the effects of climate change, reduce our ability to support a growing global population.

We live at a critical moment of history. Our duty to future generations is clear: We must achieve a steady-state economic system. We must restore democracy in our own countries when it has been replaced by oligarchy. We must decrease economic inequality both between nations and within nations. We must break the power of corporate greed. We must leave fossil fuels in the ground. We must stabilize and ultimately reduce the global population. We must eliminate the institution of war; and we must develop new ethics to match our advanced technology, ethics in which narrow selfishness, short-sightedness and nationalism will be replaced by loyalty to humanity as a whole, combined with respect for nature.

Inaction is not an option. We have to act with courage and dedication, even if the odds are against success, because the stakes are so high.

The mass media could mobilize us to action, but they have failed in their duty.

Our educational systems could also wake us up and make us act, but they too have failed us. The battle to save the earth from human greed and folly has to be fought in the alternative media.

The alternative media, and all who work with them, deserve both our gratitude and our financial support. They alone can correct the distorted and incomplete picture of the world that we obtain from the mass media. They alone can show us the path to a future in which our children, grandchildren, and all future generations can survive.

Author’s Note:

• A book discussing the importance of alternative media can be freely downloaded and circulated from this address:

• More freely downloadable books and articles on other global problems can be found here.

A Global People’s Bailout for the Coming Crash

When the global financial crisis resurfaces, we the people will have to fill the vacuum in political leadership. It will call for a monumental mobilisation of citizens from below, focused on a single and unifying demand for a people’s bailout across the world.

*****

A full decade since the great crash of 2008, many progressive thinkers have recently reflected on the consequences of that fateful day when the investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, foreshadowing the worst international financial crisis of the post-war period. What seems obvious to everyone is that lessons have not been learnt, the financial sector is now larger and more dominant than ever, and an even greater crisis is set to happen anytime soon. But the real question is when it strikes, what are the chances of achieving a bailout for ordinary people and the planet this time?

In the aftermath of the last global financial meltdown, there was a constant stream of analysis about its proximate causes. This centred on the bursting of the US housing bubble, fuelled in large part by reckless sub-prime lending and an under-regulated shadow banking system. Media commentaries fixated on the implosion of collateralised debt obligations, credit default swaps and other financial innovations—all evidence of the speculative greed and lax government oversight which led to the housing and credit booms.

The term ‘financialisation’ has become a buzzword to explain the factors which precipitated these events, referring to the vastly expanded role of financial markets in the operation of domestic and global economies. It is not only about the growth of big banks and hedge funds, but the radical transformation of our entire society that has taken place as a result of the increasing dominance of the financial sector with its short-termist, profitmaking logic.

The origins of the problem are rooted in the early 1970s, when the US government decided to end the fixed convertibility of dollars into gold, formally ending the Bretton Woods monetary system. It marked the beginning of a new regime of floating exchange rates, free trade in goods and the free movement of capital across borders. The sweeping reforms brought in under the Thatcher and Reagan governments accelerated a wave of deregulation and privatisation, with minimum protective barriers against the ‘self-regulating market’.

The agenda was pushed aggressively by most national governments in the Global North, while being imposed on many Southern countries through the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s infamous ‘structural adjustment programmes’. A legion of books have examined the disastrous consequences of this market-led approach to monetary and fiscal policy, derisorily labelled the neoliberal Washington Consensus. As governments increasingly focused on maintaining low inflation and removing regulations on capital and corporations, the world of finance boomed—and the foundations were laid for a dramatic dénouement in 2008.

Missed opportunities

What’s extraordinary to recall about the immediate aftermath of the great crash is the temporary reversal of those policies that had dominated the previous two decades. At the G20 summit in April 2009 hosted by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, heads of state envisaged a return to Keynesian macroeconomic prescriptions, including a large-scale fiscal stimulus in both developed and developing countries. It appeared that the Washington Consensus had suddenly lost all legitimacy. The liberalised global financial system had clearly failed to provide for a net transfer of resources to the developing world, or prevent instability and recurrent crisis without effective state regulation and democratic public oversight.

Many civil society organisations saw the moment to call for fundamental reform of the Bretton Woods institutions, as well as a complete rethink of the role of the state in the economy. There was even talk of negotiating a new Bretton Woods agreement that re-regulates international capital flows, and supports policy diversity and multilateralism as a core principle (in direct contrast to the IMF’s discredited approach).

The United Nations played a staunch role in upholding such demands, particularly through a commission set up by the then-President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. Led by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the ‘UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development’ proposed a number of sensible measures to protect the least privileged citizens from the effects of the crisis, while giving developing countries greater influence in reforming the global economy.

Around the same time, the UN Secretary-General endorsed a Global Green New Deal that could stimulate an economic recovery, combat poverty and avert dangerous climate change simultaneously. It envisioned a massive programme of direct public investments and other internationally-coordinated interventions, arguing that the time had come to transform the global economy for the greater benefit of people everywhere, including the millions living in poverty in developing and emerging industrial economies.

This wasn’t the first time that nations were called upon to enact a full-scale reordering of global priorities in response to financial turmoil. At the onset of the ‘third world’ debt crisis in 1980, an Independent Commission on International Development Issues convened by the former West German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, also proposed far-reaching emergency measures to reform the global economic system and effectively bail out the world’s poor.

Yet the Brandt Commission proposals were widely ignored by Western governments at the time, which marked the rise of the neoliberal counterrevolution in macroeconomic policy—and all the conditions that led to financial breakdown three decades later. Then once again, governments responded in precisely the opposite direction for bringing about a sustainable economic recovery based on principles of equity, justice, sharing and human rights.

A world falling apart

We are all familiar with the course of action taken from 2008-9: colossal bank bailouts enacted (without public consultation) that favoured creditors, not debtors, despite using taxpayer money. Quantitative easing (QE) programmes that have pumped trillions of dollars into the global financial system, unleashing a fresh wave of speculative investment and further widening income and wealth gaps. And the perceived blame for the crisis deflected towards excessive public spending, leading to fiscal austerity measures being rolled out across most countries—a ‘decade of adjustment’ that is projected to affect nearly 80 percent of the global population by 2020.

To be sure, the ensuing policy responses across Europe were often compared to structural adjustment programmes imposed on developing countries in the 1980s and 1990s, when repayments to creditors of commercial banks similarly took precedence over measures to ensure social and economic recovery. The same pattern has repeated in every crisis-hit region, where the poorest in society pay the price through extreme austerity and the privatisation of public assets and services, despite being the least to blame for causing the crisis in the first place.

After ten years of these policies a new billionaire is created every second day, banks are still paying out billions of dollars in bonuses each year, and the top 1% of the world population are far wealthier than before the crisis happened. At the same time, global income inequality has returned to 1820 levels, and indicators suggest progress is now reversing on the prevention of extreme poverty and multiple forms of malnutrition.

Indeed the United Nations continues to face the worst humanitarian situation since the second world war, in large part due to conflict-driven crises that are rooted in the economic fallout of the 2008 crash—most dramatically in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Countries of both the Global North and South remain in the grip of a record upsurge of forced human displacement, to which governments are predictably failing to respond to in the direction of cooperative burden sharing through agreements and institutions at the international level.

Not to mention the rise of fascism and divisive populism that is escalating in almost every society, often as a misguided response to pervasive inequality and a widespread sense of unfairness among ordinary workers. It is surely reasonable to suggest that all these trends would not be deteriorating if the community of nations had seized the opportunity a decade ago, and acted in accordance with calls for a just transition to a more equitable world order.

The worst is yet to come

We now live in a strange era of political limbo. Neoclassical economics may have failed to predict the great crash or provide answers for a sustained recovery, yet it still retains its hold on conventional academic thought. Neoliberalism may also be discredited as the dominant political and economic paradigm, yet mainstream institutions like the IMF and OECD still embrace the fundamentals of free market orthodoxy and countenance no meaningful alternative. Consequently, the new regulatory initiatives agreed at the global level are largely voluntary and inadequate, and governments have done little to counter the power of oligopolistic banks or prevent reckless speculative behaviour.

Banks may be relatively safer and possess a bigger crisis toolkit, but the risk has moved to the largely unregulated shadow banking system which has massively increased in size, growing from $28 trillion in 2010 to $45 trillion in 2018. Even major banks like JP Morgan are forewarning an imminent crisis, which may be caused by a digital ‘flash crash’ in which high frequency investments (measuring trades in millionths of a second) lead to a sudden downfall of global stock markets.

Another probable cause is the precipitous rise in global debt, which has soared from $142 to $250 trillion since 2008, three times the combined income of every nation. Global markets are running on easy money and credit, leading to a debt build-up which economists from across the political spectrum agree cannot last indefinitely without catastrophic results. The problem is most acute in emerging and developing economies, where short-term capital flowed in response to low interest rates and QE policies in the West. As the US and other rich countries begin to steadily raise interest rates again, there is a risk of a mass exodus of capital from emerging markets that could trigger a renewed debt crisis in the world’s poorest countries.

Of most concern is China, however, whose credit-fuelled expansion in the post-crash years has led to massive over-investment and national debt. With an overheating real-estate sector, volatile stock market and uncontrolled shadow banking system, it is a prime candidate to be the site for the next financial implosion.

However it originates, all the evidence suggests that an economic collapse could be far worse this time around. The ‘too-big-to-fail’ problem remains critical, with the biggest US banks owning more deposits, assets and cash than ever before. And with interest rates at historic lows for many G-10 central banks while the QE taps are still turned on, both developed and developing countries have less policy and fiscal space to respond to another shock.

Above all, China and the US are not in a position to take the same decisive central bank action that helped avert a world depression in 2008. And then there are all the contemporary political factors that mitigate against a coordinated international response—the retreat from multilateralism, the disintegration of established geopolitical structures and relationships, the fragmentation and polarisation of political systems throughout the world.

After two years of a US presidency that recklessly scraps global agreements and instigates trade wars, it is hard to imagine a repeat of the G20 gathering in 2009 when assembled leaders pledged never to go down the road of protectionist tariff policies again, fearing a return to the dire economic conditions that led to a world war in the 1930s. The domestic policies of the Trump administration are also especially perturbing, considering its current push for greater deregulation of the financial sector—rolling back the Dodd-Frank and consumer protection acts, increasing the speed of the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, D.C., and more.

Mobilising from below

None of this is a reason to despair or lose hope. The great crash has opened up a new awareness and energy for a better society that brings finance under popular control, as a servant to the public and no longer its master. Many different movements and campaigns have sprung up in the post-crash years that focus on addressing the problems wrought by financialisation, which more and more people realise is the underlying source of most of the world’s interlinking crises. All of these developments are hugely important, although the true test of this rising political consciousness will come when the next crash happens.

After the worldwide bank bailouts of 2008-9—estimated in excess of $29 trillion by the US Federal Reserve alone—it is no longer possible to argue that governments cannot afford to provide for the basic necessities of everyone. Just a fraction of that sum would be enough to end income poverty for the 10% of the global population who live on less than $1.90 a day. Not to mention the trillions of dollars, euros, pounds and yen that have been directly pumped into financial markets by central banks of the major developed economies, constituting a regressive form of distribution in favour of the already wealthy that could have been converted into some form of ‘quantitative easing for the people’.

A reversal of government priorities on this scale is clearly not going to be led by the political class. They have already missed the opportunity, and are largely beholden to vested interests that are unduly concerned with short-term profit maximisation, not the rebuilding of the public realm or the universal provision of essential goods and services. The great crash and its aftermath was a global phenomenon that called for a cooperative global response, yet the necessary vision from within the ranks of our governments was woefully lacking. If the financial crisis resurfaces in a different and severer manifestation, we the people will have to fill the vacuum in political leadership. It will call for a monumental mobilisation of citizens from below, focused on a single and unifying demand for a people’s bailout across the world.

Much inspiration can be drawn from the popular uprisings throughout 2011 and 2012, although the Arab Spring and Occupy movements were unable to sustain the momentum for change without a clear agenda that is truly international in scope, and attentive to the needs of the world’s majority poor. That is why we should coalesce our voices around Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims the right of everyone to the minimal requirements for a dignified life—adequate food, housing, medical care, access to social services and financial security.

Through ceaseless demonstrations in all countries that continue day and night, a united call for implementing Article 25 worldwide may finally impel governments to cooperate at the highest level, and rewrite the rules of the international economic system on the basis of shared mutual interests. In the wake of a breakdown of the entire international financial and economic order, such a grassroots mobilisation of numberless people may be the last chance we have of resurrecting long-forgotten proposals in the UN archives, as notably embodied in the aforementioned Brandt Report or Stiglitz Commission.

The case of Iceland is widely remembered as an example of how a people’s bailout can be achieved, following the ‘Pots and Pans Revolution’ that swept the country in 2009—the largest protests in the country’s history to date. As a result of the public’s demands, a new coalition government was able to buck all trends by avoiding austerity measures, actively intervening in capital markets and strengthening social programs for the less privileged. The results were remarkable for Iceland’s economic recovery, which was achieved without forcing society as a whole to pay for the blunders of corrupt banks. But it still wasn’t enough to prevent the old establishment political parties from eventually returning to power, and resuming their support for the same neoliberal policies that generated the crisis.

So what must happen if another systemic banking collapse occurs of even greater magnitude, not only in Iceland but in every country of the world? That is the moment when we’ll need a global Pots and Pans Revolution that is replicated by citizens of all nationalities and political persuasions, on and on until the entire planet is engulfed in a wave of peaceful demonstrations with a common cause. It will require a huge resurgence of the goodwill and staying power that once animated Occupy encampments, although this time focused on a more inclusive and universal demand for implementing Article 25 and sharing the world’s resources.

It may seem far-fetched to presume such an unprecedented awakening of a disillusioned populace, as if we can expect a visionary leader of Christ-like stature to point out the path towards resurrecting the UN’s founding ideals of “better standards of life for everyone in the world”. Unfortunately, nothing less may suffice in this age of economic chaos and confusion, so let us all be prepared for the climactic events about to take place.

Priorities of the Time: Peace

For as long as anyone can remember violence and conflict have been part of daily life: humanity appears incapable of living peacefully together. There are the brutal cries of war, the vile acts of terror, homicides, rapes and assaults of all kinds. People everywhere long for an end to such conflicts, and are crying out for peace and understanding, to live in a just world free from fear.

Creating a world at peace not only demands putting an end to all forms of armed brutality, it also entails building peace within communities, in the workplace, educational institutions and the home, in the natural environment and, most importantly, it requires the inculcation of harmony within all of us. Each of these areas of living are interconnected, the prevailing condition in each affecting the stability and atmosphere of the other.

The task before us is to identify and change the prevailing divisive modes of living for inclusive ways that facilitate peace and cultivate tolerance. Peace itself is part of our essential nature: when the conditions of conflict are removed, peace between groups and within individuals arises naturally.

We are Society

Society is not an abstraction; it is a reflection of the consciousness of the individuals that make up any given community. As such, the responsibility for the nature of a town, city, school, office, country, region, etc., rests largely with those who live within its boundaries. I say “largely” because the corporate and state bodies that fashion the structures and promote the ideals of the day bear a large part of the responsibility. Specific values and conclusions are daily poured into the minds of everyone, virtually from birth, conditioning the consciousness and behavior of people around the world; the media (including the internet), institutionalized education and organized religion being the main outlets for such propaganda.

Variations on the nature of such conditioning are determined by circumstances of birth and background: the religious, political, socio-economic belief systems, the values of the family, the region and/or the country. All ism’s are inhibiting and divisive, and as the Dalai Lama says in A Human Approach to World Peace, when they are adopted people lose “sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a single human family.” Freedom of thought and independent creative thinking is denied, conformity expected. And can there be peace when the mind is imprisoned within the confines of a doctrine, no matter how lofty?

Whilst it is true that a symbiotic relationship exists between society and the individual, fundamentally the external world in which we live is a reflection of the internal life of humanity. Violent, disharmonious societies are the external manifestation of the inner turmoil, discontent and fear that many people feel.

The business of War

The loudest, ugliest form of violence is war, the machinery of which is a huge global industry greatly valued by the corporate state. It is a business ostensibly like any other, the difference being its products are intended to kill people and destroy everything in their path.

Like all businesses, weapons manufacturers operate to generate profits: wars are big business for arms companies, and therefore highly profitable, desirable even. International arms sales (dominated by America, with 34% of the total) according to the BBC “is now worth about $100bn.” By contrast, to end world hunger, which currently crushes the lives of around a billion people globally, would cost a mere $30 billion per year. And we wonder why there is no peace – how can there be peace when such gross injustice and inhumanity persist?

Profit, whether financial remuneration, status or power, is the principle motivating force within the working methodology of the global economic system. It is an unjust model that promotes a range of divisive, therefore violent values, including selfishness, competition and ambition. It thrives on and continually engenders dissatisfaction, and can there be peace when there is discontent?

Enormous wealth and power for a handful of men flow from the Ideology of Consumerism, leading to unprecedented levels of inequality in income/wealth, influence, education, health care, employment opportunities, access to culture and freedom to travel. Inequality is a fundamental form of social injustice: peace will never be realized where social injustice exists. Nor can peace be known when hunger, poverty, and exploitation, flowing from (financial) vulnerability, stalk the land destroying the lives of millions throughout the world.

Removing the obstacles to peace

Extreme inequality is a vile stain on our common humanity; inequality between the hideously wealthy, who have everything but want more, and the desperately poor, who have nothing, can barely feed themselves and live lives stunted by suffering; inequality between the economically secure and habitually complacent, and those who work until they drop yet can barely pay the rent. The hierarchy of injustice is crude at the extremes, variable in the middle and toxic throughout. It feeds anger and resentment and crushes peace.

Together with a ‘dog-eat-dog’ mentality, global inequality fuels insecurity and fear, both psychological and physical, leading to tension, anxiety and depression. It fosters bitterness, crushes hope and strengthens false notions of superiority and inferiority. This in turn reinforces the prevailing fear and a strengthening spiral of suspicion, intolerance and unease is set in motion, thereby denying the quiet manifestation of peace.

The realization of peace is inextricably related to the introduction of a new socio-economic order based on values altogether different from the existing model. A socially just system that reduces inequality, encourages cooperation instead of competition, and facilitates equal access to well designed accommodation, good quality health care and stimulating education. Where social justice exists trust develops, relationships evolve, peace comes into being.

At the heart of any alternative system should be the inculcation of the Principle of Sharing; sharing not only of the food, water, land and other natural resources, but of knowledge, skills and opportunities. Sharing encourages cooperation between people from different backgrounds, allowing understanding and tolerance to grow. Tolerance of those who look different, pray and think differently, and understanding that humanity is one, that the human condition is universal no matter one’s circumstances or worldview. That we share one home, which we are all responsible for, and that in every corner of the world men, women and children want the same things: to live in peace free from fear, to build a decent life for themselves and their families and to be happy.

When we share, we acknowledge our common need, our shared humanity and our universal rights. Through sharing, a more equitable world can evolve; sharing, together with cooperation, tolerance and understanding are key elements of the time, and when expressed individually and collectivelyallow for peace to naturally come into being. Complementary to such Principles of Goodness, forgiveness and the absence of retaliation or retribution are essential in establishing peace. As is well documented, punishment without rehabilitation and compassion is a recipe for despondency, more violence and further acts of crime. Such actions have dogged humanity since records began, as has war, and while there have been tremendous advances in technology, medicine and science, the consciousness of humanity seems to have changed very little, we remain violent, selfish and fearful. As the Dalai Lama puts it, “there is no doubt about the increase in our material progress and technology, but somehow this is not sufficient as we have not yet succeeded in bringing about peace and happiness or in overcoming suffering…the basic human problems remain.”

The overcoming of these ‘basic problems’ and the realization of peace both flow from the same root: the recognition of mankind’s essential unity, and the cultivation of a sense of “universal responsibility”. Fragmentation and dishonesty of mind must be resolved, fear and desire understood. The current modes of living inflame these negative tendencies and make what already appears difficult, even more so. Discontent and desire are constantly agitated, social and national divisions inflamed, and an atmosphere of insecurity created. At the same time a reductive image of happiness and security is portrayed through mainstream films, TV and other media outlets. It is a hollow construct based on pleasure, the fulfillment of emotionally rooted desires and material satisfactions, none of which will ever create lasting happiness or inner peace. Peace does not lie inside walls of division, whether formed of concrete or constructed out of some ideological doctrine, but, like lasting happiness, reveals itself when there is total freedom from desire.