Monday, July 22, 2013

Oligarchy Rising

One of the favorite canards of the deficit hawks is blaming youth unemployment in particular and human misery in general upon those greedy, healthy care-consuming old folks. They are the scapegoats of the financial predatory class. Even our Democratic president frequently uses the "generational theft" propaganda meme to hammer home the need for chained CPI and other Wall Street-friendly measures to justify our slide into serfdom.

 In the world view of the austerians, we simply can't have early childhood education unless the old people  first "share the sacrifice" by retiring late and eating less.  No matter that austerity as an economy booster, a la Rogoff & Reinhart, has been thoroughly debunked. Obama advisers are negotiating more of same even as we speak. The Fix the Debt crowd keeps rising from the grave like a smelly old corpse. White House sources say the president still is hoping against hope for a Grand Bargain of massive safety net cuts tempered by a few token dollars of revenue from the rich. His original offering of the poor and middle class on the altar of austerity still stands.

So, it was all the more gratifying to read the remarks of Pope Francis this morning as he traveled to Brazil, where the peasants are rising up against such things as bus fare increases and the funding of sports arenas. The Pope goes where no politician dares to go. He is traveling to the stark territory of the global class war, where all the generations are being victimized by an Oligarchy Rising:
Speaking to journalists on board his plane, Francis expressed concern about how many young people have no jobs and condemned a "disposable" culture which also hurt the elderly.
"The world crisis is not treating young people well ... We are running the risk of having a generation that does not work. From work comes a person's dignity," Francis said in prepared remarks to the papal press corps.
"Young people at the moment are in crisis," the pontiff said. "We have all become accustomed to this disposable culture. We do the same thing with the elderly, but with all these people out of work even they are afflicted by a culture where everything is disposable. We have to stop this habit of throwing things away. We need a culture of inclusion."
 Francis said young people must not be isolated.
The elderly are also the future of a people.... what a concept.  And one that is totally foreign to the American duopoly, where retirement and bodily decline are viewed as character deficits. Tell it to staunch Catholic people-eater Paul Ryan and the whole bipartisan crowd that sequestered Grandma from Meals on Wheels, and still thinks raising the retirement and Medicare eligibility ages are just what the Medieval leecher ordered.

Maybe the Pope can be convinced to make a detour to Detroit or Washington on his way back to the Vatican, and guilt-trip the vulture capitalists into stopping their attack on pensioners and public employees. Of course, sociopaths are incapable of feeling guilt. What they really need to feel is fear. And they need to feel it good and hard. If you haven't already seen it, be sure to watch Chris Hedges on the efficaciousness of instilling abject terror into public officials. 

Meanwhile, here's my comment to Paul Krugman's latest, on the class war in Detroit:

If a hard-right turn into fascism and continued racial and class animus are what our leaders are striving for, then Detroit is just what Dr. Moreau ordered.

They obviously love what they're seeing in the
experimental labs of the Greek isles. Where Democracy was born, so shall it die. Youth joblessness is at 60%, as the oligarchs merrily go through the spoils with a fine tooth comb. Violence is on the uptick, and there's no money to pay for police. Politicians have taken to calling sick people "health bombs." Sound familiar?

Gov. Rick Snyder, for his part, is enthusing that the rape of Detroit is the creatively destructive dawn of a new day. The CEOs of Quicken Loans and Little Caesar’s are rushing in to buy downtown property on the cheap, turning blight into profit and thousands of pensioners and poor people out onto the streets.

The growing Greek fascist party, incidentally, is called "New Dawn". When it comes to the annihilation of the poor and middle class, weasel words all sound the same when they're spewed by the economic vultures circling the globe.

Meanwhile, as our pols sad-facedly sigh, there is "no appetite" to bail out Detroit. Maybe it's the $85 billion a month the Fed keeps showering on Wall Street, whose profits skyrocketed between 30 and 70% last quarter.

When the people of Detroit take to the streets, we must all cheer them on and join right in. Because this is all set to go national. I can see the headlines now:

U.S. Government to You: Drop Dead!



The Black Swan said...

I don't get the emphasis on jobs. Who needs a job? I don't know a single person who enjoys their job. The emphasis needs to be on how do we provide adequate food, clothing, water, shelter and healthcare to everyone. All a 'job' does is take someone away from their essential self and force them into economic servitude. If we can provide basic, essential needs for everyone, then we can all become the creative, loving beings that are the root of humanity. I had a 'job' as a cook that detracted from my love of the arts and my creative drive. Should I have been grateful for this 'job' at the expense of the things I love? Should we all just hope for a 'job' and lose our selves?
The only way out of our current mess is to completely rethink and redefine every aspect of mankind, society, culture, ecology, etc. Start from a simple place, like Love or Compassion, and see what type of world would grow from there.

The apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation.

May all beings be happy.

Will said...

Black Swan & all,

Here are a couple of articles I read over the weekend that you may find interesting. :)

Zee said...

Jobs, Part I:

“I don't get the emphasis on jobs. Who needs a job? I don't know a single person who enjoys their job. The emphasis needs to be on how do we provide adequate food, clothing, water, shelter and healthcare to everyone. All a 'job' does is take someone away from their essential self and force them into economic servitude.” --The Black Swan

Let me see now. Hard to understand how we survive if no one has a job, and we are all out in search of our “essential sel[ves].”

The farmer who gets up at 4:00AM daily to provide your “adequate food” for all—does (s)he have a job that (s)he loves, day in and day out? The people who harvest the food—do they all have jobs that they, too, love? The people who get that food to market, and those who stack produce in the bins where people can obtain that “adequate food”—do they have jobs that they just love to death? And don't we all rely on all these jobs?

Who manufactures the “adequate clothing” to which you refer? Who grows or manufactures the fibers used to make the clothes? Who gets those fibers to the manufacturers, and who gets all that clothing to the rest of us? Don't they all have jobs upon which we rely?

Who designs, builds, operates and maintains the water systems that deliver the “adequate water” to the populace? Who constructs all that “adequate shelter” for the rest of us? Who digs all the holes and trenches, and levels the ground for this construction? Don't all these people have important jobs?

The doctor who treats you at 3:00AM in the emergency room when you're crippled by a kidney stone, and the nurse who gives you a dose of morphine to ease your pain—not to mention whoever manufactured the morphine and guaranteed its quality to keep you safe—don't they have jobs, too? And didn't they all go through years of training to provide you with real health care, rather than folk remedies and prayers?

Who teaches the farmer who strives to increase his/her crop yield? Or the engineer who designs and builds the water system? Or the doctor and nurse and pharmacist and pharmaceutical manufacturer who treat your ailments with skill and real medications instead of prayer? Do those who teach have a job that we can do without?

And who teaches the teachers? I don't think that my fifth-grade teacher loved my antics, but she was there every day, day in and day out, and was part of the educational chain that turned me into a competent scientfic researcher.

Can we do without any of these people and the “jobs” to which they dedicate their lives, and which they may not love every waking hour of every waking day? Where would we be if they all bought motorcycles and went off in search of America or their inner selves? Hell, who would build the motorcycles?

And those who devote their lives to providing the rest of us with those essential services that you enumerate—food, clothing, water, shelter and healthcare, and the list could go on—all expect something in return for their extensive training and subsequent labor. That's just human nature.

Zee said...

Jobs, Part II:

I don't think that's going to change in the immediate future, no matter how hard we try to “completely rethink and redefine every aspect of mankind, society, culture, ecology, etc.” It hasn't much changed in the 4,000-5,000 or so years since we started writing things down about human behavior, and it certainly isn't going to change over the next century no matter how hard we rethink and redefine things.
The doctor and nurse who work overtime to save lives and ease pain just might not have time to cook dinner (or breakfast) for themselves before they try to get enough sleep to treat their next patients with the same skill with which they treated you and your kidney stone. That's where your job as a cook comes in.

The doctor and the nurse and the engineer and the construction workers and clothing manufacturers and farmers who want a break from their own efforts, and so they turn to you, if you can provide them with a good meal.

Like it or not, we are a specialized and interdependent society now, and we all need a “job”—love it or hate it—in order to keep the wheels turning. And I guess it's just the naïve conservative in me, but I believe that there is dignity in all jobs.

What is necessary is not that we eliminate “jobs,” but that we provide all who do them with adequate time to regenerate their souls and explore their inner selves on a regular basis. That's called “vacation.”

Zee said...

And regarding bailouts of big, stupid, spendthrift cities, didn't Gerald Ford do the same for NYC?

There would appear to be conservative precedent here.

But who will bail me out if my pension goes belly-up? I'm not a sacrosanct public employee.

I'm just not feeling the love here.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

As I also remarked on a thread the other day, I'm surprised by the low number of comments on a subject that is as central as this one. (And also surprised by the lack of response to @Zee's raising on two recent threads the issue of a Basic Income Guarantee).

This "Oligarchy Rising" post by Karen, with its mention of mass unemployment, misery, austerity, cuts to the safety net, the all-too-common treatment of people both young and old as disposable, the further advantage gained by corporations as they buy up property in distressed areas --- all these fall under the banner of economic justice.

We may certainly debate the treatment of Helen Thomas, or more generally, the issue of media bias, but the average American --- at this point in time --- is either entirely ignorant about these controversies or simply doesn't care. Likewise with regard to most foreign policy issues. Furthermore, surveys over the course of many years have revealed that a large proportion of the populace thinks that essential liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights are actually Communistic goals. And of those who do recognize these items as part of the foundation of our nation, many are willing to sacrifice them for the proverbial small amount of security that might be gained.

In recent decades, how many Americans have participated in mass demonstrations over any of the above issues?

On the other hand, messages from Occupy such as "The banks got bailed out, we got sold out" resonated far and wide. And many in Wisconsin demonstrated against the push to restrain collective bargaining because they understood that ultimately, it was an economic issue. (Even those siding with the Republican administration likely did so for economic reasons, either the selfish ones connected to tax rates, or a jealous sense that government workers were better off than they themselves were after years of private-sector cost-cutting).

Economic justice is central to the well being of the people, and it is with regard to economic justice that progressives have the opportunity to demonstrate their relevance --- or irrelevance --- to the bulk of the populace.

We can, and should, at the same time also attempt to enlighten the great political middle with regard to their manipulation via media bias and advertising, the anti-democratic actions of the American empire, the increasing trend towards militarism and fascism both here and abroad as governments and corporations "partner" to advance their oligarchic/ plutocratic agenda. We can enlighten ourselves and others with regard to all of those things, but it is the issue of economic justice that resonates most strongly, and progressives who wish to advance the wide range of their causes should take every opportunity to expound on, and more actively support, matters of economic justice, no matter how much "battle fatigue" they may feel. Tired though we may be, consider it a matter of practice in making the case, and commitment to that goal. As with those fighting for racial equality in America in the 50s and 60s, we need to just keep coming, no matter what the unjust opposition may throw at us.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Off-topic, I know, and not an economic issue --- but as I said in my above comment, we can at the same time work for other things.

Here's my email to my congressman on the subject of the Amash-Conyers Amendment:

Congressman Barber:

I expect you to vote FOR the Amash-Conyers amendment to rein in NSA surveillance.

I will be watching closely, and will consider your vote for (or against) this amendment to be an unequivocal litmus test of whether I will vote for (or against) you in any of your future runs for public office.

I am a life-long Democrat, but if you vote against this amendment, or abstain, I will not only vote against you, I will actively work for and contribute to your opponents, regardless of who they may be.

In your campaigns and biography, you have emphasized your father's service in the military. Well, BOTH of my parents served in the military, during wartime --- and they did not serve so that this nation could be turned into a totalitarian-style surveillance state, as has happened.

Your vote FOR the Amash-Conyers amendment is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you still believe in the Constitution. On the other hand, if you vote AGAINST this amendment, it will demonstrate to voters --- and history --- that you are nothing but a servant to the military-industrial-security complex.

It's your legacy. What will it be?

Fred Drumlevitch

The Black Swan said...

Zee and everyone else,

I would highly suggest you read the articles linked to by Will. It is important for us to understand what each of us mean by such words as 'job' or 'work'. My views are very similar to those expressed in those articles.

For some background, so you can understand the context from whence my opinions were formed. I am in my late 20's, I do not have a college degree, I have worked in kitchens my entire adult life. I see a world with diminishing prospects for everyone, our environment is falling apart, the biosphere is dying, and humanity has been overcome with a madness that the Native Americans referred to as 'wetiko' or the cannibalization of life. Every 'job' is a furtherance of the failed and destructive institutions of our modern world.
But first let me go back to my own personal experiences as a wage slave in one of the few growth sectors for work in this nation, for the only truth I know is the one I have experienced. I typically worked 40-50 hours per week, the most I ever earned per hour was $12.50, I received no benefits, no sick leave, no paid vacation. Typical shifts were 9+ hours on my feet working hard without breaks. Meals were consumed on the fly if at all. I barely earned enough to cover living expenses, a day off from work meant the possibility I may not be able to pay rent. I am also very frugal, no smart phone, no TV, no eating out, no alcohol. Just the bare necessities for survival. So how was I to ever take a 'vacation' and recharge? A week off from work would mean homelessness. This is the situation for the majority of working Americans, and things just get worse the lower you fall down the economic ladder.

And whenever people talk about creating 'jobs', these are the types of jobs they are talking about. This is but slavery with a different name.

Zee had mentioned, "Like it or not, we are a specialized and interdependent society now, and we all need a “job”—love it or hate it—in order to keep the wheels turning." Well I for one don't want to see those wheels keep turning. Not if those wheels mean environmental degradation, global war, a consumerist society, debt peonage and wage slavery, and totalitarian governments. We have been failed completely by all the institutions of Man, and I for one want no part in keeping them propped up.

I get the sense we all want many of the same things, but we are all informed by our experience and may view the means to the ends in different ways. I don't see any reason to salvage a world that rejects Love and Compassion, I only see reason to build a new one from the foundations of Love and Compassion.

The apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation.

May all beings be happy.

Zee said...

@The Black Swan and all--

I did try to read the two articles for which Will provided the links, insofar as I could understand them, though one was very long.

As I do with all anarchist thought, I'm afraid that I find it hopelessly unrealistic when I consider that we are currently a nation of 314M people, and a world of some 7.1B. That's a lot of people who need access to “adequate food, clothing, water, shelter and healthcare.”

I don't see that either article explains how that is going to happen when we all decide that we will work when we feel like it—and, then, only if it happens to seem “fun” for a while:

“The secret of turning work into to arrange useful activities to take advantage of whatever it is that various people at various times in fact enjoy doing.” —Bob Black, The Abolition of Work

I can see it now: A neighbor comes running to my door and says “Hey, Zee! They're modifying the water system to better serve a couple of neighborhoods, and they need workers to help dig out the old pipes and lay and connect the new, larger pipes. Grab your pick and shovel, and let's go have some fun for a week or so!”

To which I reply, “Thanks so much for the offer, Ed, but this is my week to explore my creative side. I'm trying to write The Great American Novel; right now, the words are flowing like a river and I don't dare interrupt my train of thought.”

Or, perhaps you arrive in the emergency room suffering from, well, whatever, only to find that the doctors and nurses on duty that day mutually decided that repairing peoples' injuries just didn't seem like “play” at the moment, so they've all gone to the lake for a party.

However, the e-room receptionist is in a good mood that day, and she thinks that stopping the bleeding, setting your compound fracture, stitching up the wound and casting up your leg would be “interesting.”

Black Swan, please don't think that I'm mocking you.

Indeed, I am saddened that you feel that “[w]e have been failed completely by all the institutions of Man.” I feel that at least some of those institutions have served me well, but I am the first to admit that my life has been blessed. I wish that someday you might be able to say the same.

I absolutely agree with you that both our nation and the world are total messes at this time. But I see absolutely no alternative to large “institutions” in order to accomplish your goals of “provid[ing] adequate food, clothing, water, shelter and healthcare to everyone” when there are just so many of us alive today.

Our institutions require massive renovation, not total demolition, IMHO. How bad things will have to get before that happens, I don't pretend to know. But I fear that it will have to get much worse before it gets better.

There are two national “institutions” that would meet your criterion of being based on “Love and Compassion.” The first would be universal health care, and the second would be to explore what it would take—in terms of costs, tangible benefits, expectations and national sacrifices—to offer every American adult a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) that would constitute a “living wage.” (Whatever a “living wage” is.) As Fred Drumlevitch has pointed out above, I've raised the question of the latter on two recent threads, but no one seems able to point me in the direction of discovering how the latter would work. I thought the Progressives in this forum might have such a plan up their sleeves, and ready for “rollout” at an opportune moment, but apparently I was wrong. I will try to research this myself .

In closing, let me say that I respect your perspective, and the life experiences that have led you to believe as you do. I think we want the same things in many ways, but--as you say--our respective life experiences have led us to seek different means to the same end.

The Black Swan said...

I've read a few things about GDP sharing as a means to guaranteeing everyone a minimum living wage. Not sure how the mechanism would work though.

I would love to see everyone given a guaranteed minimum livable wage no matter what. Something not attached to work that would provide you with food and shelter and access to health care and education. Beyond that we can incentivise people to work in 'jobs' by providing extra income to allow for extra luxuries in their life. But we need to get away from jobs and work and wages being delivered at gunpoint, where you either toe the line or get left behind.

I would also recommend the book "the dispossessed' by Ursula K. LeGuin which deals directly with the functions of an anarchists society in contrast to a capitalist society.

and Zee, don't feel sad for me, I am very happy. I just wish to be a part of creating a better world for all beings.

Zee said...

@The Black Swan--

Thanks for the book suggestion. I have the book "on hold" at the library. There are four people ahead of me, which is interesting for a book first published in 1974.

I used to be a great reader of science fiction and fantasy--if you've ever read my frequent references to Robert Heinlein--before I decided to give myself headaches reading about current affairs and historical events such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The "break" will be welcome.

The Black Swan said...

Stranger in a Strange Land (the uncut version) is one of the most influential books I've ever read. I've read some other Heinlein, but that one truly connected with me.

As far as science fiction goes, I think it is a genre that allows the greatest expression of what could be possible. It holds a lot of optimism that there will be a future, and that the future might hold wonders beyond imagine. Some of the greatest minds in the modern era conveyed their messages through the medium of science fiction. Frank Herbert is another author whose works I hold very dear, and might be one of the greatest philosophers of our time.