Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Weaponized Human Refuse Dump

It's bad enough in the most drastic epoch of wealth disparity in American history that most people are suffering economically. What makes this particular era so heinous is that the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed, and the underemployed are being kicked when they're already down. They are being ground into human mulch for dumping in a vast neoliberal landfill. People are not only poor, their poverty and suffering have literally been deemed crimes by the elite class of sociopaths running the place.

As Henry A. Giroux puts it in his new Truthout essay,
Economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich have argued that we are in a new Gilded Age, one that mimics a time when robber barons and strikebreakers ruled, and the government and economy were controlled by a cabal that was rich, powerful and ruthless.[3] And, of course, blacks, women and the working class were told to mind their place in a society controlled by the rich. What is often missing in these analyses is that what is new in the second Gilded Age is not just about the moral sanctioning of greed, the corruption of politics by big money, and the ruthlessness of class power.
What is unique is the rise of a brutal punishing-incarceration state that imposes its power on the dispossessed, the emergence of a surveillance state that spies on and suppresses dissenters, the emergence of vast cultural apparatuses that colonize subjectivity in the interests of the market, and a political class that is uninterested in political concessions and appears immune from control by nation states. The second Gilded Age is really a more brutal form of authoritarianism driven by what psychologist Robert Jay Lifton rightly calls a "death-saturated age," in which matters of violence, survival and trauma now infuse everyday life.
Giroux points out that for the first time, an entire generation has been condemned to lives of debt and hopelessness. Other recessions and depressions in our history have ended. This one is being extended, by deliberate design:
What has changed about an entire generation of  young people includes not only neoliberal society’s disinvestment in youth and the permanent fate of downward mobility but also the fact that youth live in a commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment that is unlike anything experienced by those of previous generations.  Nothing has prepared this generation for the inhospitable and savage new world of commodification, privatization, joblessness, frustrated hopes, surveillance and stillborn projects. The present generation has been born into a throwaway society of consumers in which both goods and young people are viewed increasingly as redundant and disposable or they are merely valued as consumers and commodities. In this discourse, young people are not seen as troubled but viewed as a source of trouble; rather than viewed as being "at risk," they are the risk and subject to a range of punitive policies.
So what can be done to prevent even more of us being treated as garbage by Neoliberal Waste Management? Writes Giroux,
It will not be enough only to expose the falseness of the propaganda pumped out by the commanding neoliberal cultural apparatuses. We also need to create alternative narratives about what the promise of democracy might be for our children and ourselves. This demands a break from established political parties, the creation of alternative public spheres in which to produce democratic narratives and visions, and a notion of politics that is educative, one that takes seriously how people interpret and mediate the world, how they see themselves in relation to others, and what it might mean to imagine otherwise in order to act otherwise.
He suggests alliances among disparate groups of feminists, immigration activists, organized labor, teachers, students -- and independence from and rejection of the two corporate political parties. Such solidarity is already manifest in spots -- for example in Chicago, where immigrants, mental health self-advocacy groups and teachers regularly join together to protest Mayor Rahm "One Percent" Emanuel's relentless privatization of education and housing and public sector jobs.

Read Giroux's whole piece. First, you get depressed. Then you get mad. Then you get inspired. And finally, you get moving.

Not to be confused with MoveOn, of course. Because you know what happens in those fake progressive, party-aligned veal pens? You eventually get chopped up and eaten up. And of course you know what happens to the leftovers. They're thrown out instead of saved. It's the American way.

So let's put the ruling class on a diet. If we refuse to be the food on their plates, it will be kind of impossible for them to throw us down their gilded garbage chutes. Right?


Oregoncharles said...

I just read this on Truthout. It's an excellent digest of Giroux's piece, which I find (in general) close to unreadable.
Yours is a vast improvement - we could call it "weaponized."
I hope Truthout will continue to post your interpretations of Giroux. I can't be the only one who finds him unreadable.
(To be clear: I'm a lifelong compulsive reader with extremely high verbal SAT and achievement test scores. The problem is his deeply academic style, which I've lost my tolerance for. He badly needs someone like you.)

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Well-said, Karen.

And the quotes you pulled from Giroux do get to the heart of the matter. "creating alternative narratives" is indeed essential --- as I've argued before, true progressives need to make the case and argue forcefully for what they want, otherwise, stuck in defense mode and ineffective, they'll just continue to be dragged rightward.

As Giroux said (among other things): "This demands a break from established political parties...". Most of us regulars on this forum probably agree, at least to the extent that he means the two main parties --- and perhaps the other existing parties as well, if those currently-minor parties can't demonstrate some creative political action.

And his consumer/commodification quote also seems central. I've watched my nieces fall prey to the whole consumption mentality. If even they have adopted such view (despite my one-on-one arguments against it), I'm left wondering just what it will take for the bulk of the populace to realize what an unsatisfactory, manipulated existence that is. Do we have to experience a complete collapse of our economy, or at least a much greater deterioration than occurred during this so-called "Great Recession"? And the more time goes by before an adequate public consciousness develops, the greater the chance that the political and economic powers-that-be will have by then put in place methods of control that make it impossible to break free.

Jay - Ottawa said...

For starters, suppose we drop the term “The Great Recession,” which supposedly began with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The term is too neutral, like some kind of vague miasma coming in off the swamps of no-man’s land and related to those unavoidable cyclic financial “corrections” of American history that seem to come and go like the seasons. Furthermore, the term implies that after all, you crybabies, it isn’t as bad as the Great Depression suffered by your grandparents. Whoever called our bad times “The Great Recession” meant to disarm us. A more accurate term might enlighten average Americans in a second, set their teeth to grinding and therefore arouse them to action.

Economic and political historians a generation from now might re-measure these endless years of hard times and find them worse on balance than the 1930s, both here and around the world. Deep economic problems (i.e., fraud) were compounded by the election (i.e., phony) of 2008. And so we suffered a perfect storm financially and politically in 2008. We did not elect an empty suit. We elected The Liar. It was he who, in eloquent terms, had promised to fix the problems both financial and political, but who worked assiduously thereafter to solidify our losses. At our expense he saved his financial backers on Wall Street and rolled back of the Bill of Rights, lest we complain. Most of us are more spied upon now than the East Germans were under the Stassi. These policies are being continued brazenly in the light of day.

The upshot of 2008 and the years that followed is that most of us are poorer and will remain so. Get used to it; it’s the new normal. Are you even aware that you have already conceded and are trying to adapt to the new normal? God help your children and grandchildren under all that and the neglected but ever unfolding events of climate change.

What we are living through might better be understood as “The Great Deception.”