March 22, 2013
Shifting SandsThe world is changing so fast now on such fundamental levels that no one really knows what is happening. It's a good time for snake oil salesmen and anyone a little bit shady who proclaims to have answers and to be able to predict where things are going. The forces in motion now are leading inevitably to tumultuous outcomes, but no human mind has the capacity to assimilate it, to see it on a macro level, say, from the viewpoint of the gods. To the extent that we can get a glimpse of where we are headed, it's so scary no one wants to look at it head on. And the suppression of one's own apprehensions just heightens the tension.
Many predictions have actually come true. The social conditions portrayed by Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Philip K. Dick have become real in many ways. The predictions of Marshall McLuhan about the effects of media were remarkably on target. But we've evolved so far now that even his projections are reaching their limit. It is a deeply troubled time. The social and political structures, the financial systems of the past cannot accommodate the realities of the present. They are obsolete, dysfunctional. The economic system has become so perverted that it no longer functions as a viable system of exchange to underlie a civilization. It has become a manipulated tool that undermines the social fabric and is producing an increasingly diseased social organism. Things are vastly out of whack.
In the tumult of social upheaval, two forces stand astride vying for dominance. One is corporatism, what is effectively the ruling order of the world today, though we like to talk a lot about democracy. As the transnational corporate state tightens its lethal grip on world civilization, the democratic forces, the grassroots resistance of freedom loving people against tyranny are coalescing and still very tentatively challenging the corporate world order.
In this confrontation we will discover if indeed Alexis de Tocqueville was right when he said that once the world had crossed from the aristocratic period to the democratic period it could never go back. If he is right, we have reason to be heartened. And we do have some mathematical reasoning on our side -- the side of democracy -- as well. The .01 percent who own and command virtually everything are greatly outnumbered.
The present tendencies do not present a very hopeful picture, however. And the stakes are high. There is a great deal of scientific information (I know, America is anti-science -- ! How did that happen?) that indicates that if the democratic forces do not wrench control from the predatory capitalist forces that are now wreaking havoc on the earth with a virutally free hand, the survival of the species itself is gravely threatened. I know it is almost impossible for human beings to imagine their own death, let alone that of the human species. But Mother Nature is likely to offer a few demonstrations that will remind us of our place in the overall scheme of things.
On the positive side, I was very encouraged by the way people behaved in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. On our present course, further catastrophes will keep coming at least to the point at which people wake up and realize that the world they've been hypnotized to believe in is not real. The real one will come crashing down. And we'll realize that burning up the surface of the earth is too big a price to pay for the enhancement of the corporate balance sheet. That realization will come, hopefully in time for us as a species to save ourselves.
After so many years of not blogging, I feel like Rip Van Winkle coming back to a world I left behind, a vastly transformed world. How much has Facebook changed the world in the last five years? No one really knows. No one yet knows the scope of the change or where it is leading. We can feel the change. We can observe many features of the change, but no one really can see the whole, size it up on a global scale. It's happening too fast, it's too new.
In the wake of Sandy I saw people help each other, care for each other, remember that we are a community and we are connected to all other members of the human community. The value system that bombards us constantly from the corporate media, urging consumption, materialism and dog-eat-dog selfishness, just dropped away. As effectively discredited as social connectedness has been by the corporate state's propaganda machines, it just pops right out again when misfortune strikes on a broad scale. We are socially in denial of the catastrophes we are brewing. Intelligent discussion of climate change is practically verboten in order to protect the oil world order. We have therefore made practically no preparation for dealing with the disasters we are creating. We will, however, change very quickly as those disasters manifest with increasing frequency. It's a mixed blessing, a yin-yang slap in the face, a colossal zen koan. But it's a kernel of hope amid a storm of chaos.
So if you'll permit me to ramble on...
Confronting Corporatism -- In many of the discussions I have with people about the problems Americans are facing now, I find myself coming back to a single, central problem: the expansion of corporate power to the point where it dominates our society and much of the world. I believe that the expansion of corporate power is the central political issue of our time. It is not a partisan issue because one: it is written in the founding documents that power resides in the people, not in an aristocracy corporate or otherwise. And two, because the corporatocracy has coopted both parties. There is no non-corporate party in the two-party system. Both Bush Sr. and Clinton were for NAFTA. There was virtually no opposition. But NAFTA has not lived up to its promise for the people of either Mexico or the US. It has only worked out for Corporate America.
In "Unions For Beginners" I outlined how the biggest corporations in America banded together in the early 1970s and set an agenda to take power over political processes in America. We can easily see how successful their effort has been. But few people are probably aware that the takeover of America by the corporations was not just a natural evolution. It was a planned agenda that succeeded spectacularly.
The problem is that the corporate state operates on the principles of a corporation, to maximize profits only. And corporations are focused on quarterly profits, often at the expense of long-term considerations. It does not work as the guiding ethos of a society. A corporate entity cannot moderate itself. It cannot act on human concerns. A society cannot be run that way.
The rampant abuse of the earth cannot continue forever. Sooner or later humanity is going to confront the devastating effects of predatory industrial capitalism. The sooner we do, the better chance we have of saving ourselves and the quality of life we got used to before we fouled the environment to the verge of inhabitability.
For the past dozen years I've been working on a book called "Confronting Corporatism: Existential Politics in the 21st Century." It deals with the tendency for capitalism to evolve into corporatism, which is a name Mussolini used to describe fascism, "the merger of state and corporate power."
That evolution has been taking place in the US for a long time and at this point it's no longer a "what-if" proposition. It's more a matter of coming to a reckoning of the fact that the corporate-state merger is essentially a fait accompli, and then look at the ramifications of that. This is our world. This is our time. What do we do now?
When I started working on "Confronting Corporatism," the idea was a little more obscure than it is now. At this point the takeover of the country by a relatively small number of banks and corporations is pretty much common knowledge. The outrage is widespread, whether it's channeled into the Tea Party side or the Occupy side. But few people know what to do about it.
The Tea Party folks just let the situation turn into a boondoggle in which they ended up putting their passion behind the Republican forces who represent the most lethal part of the corporate elite that is robbing them. The Occupy side, on the other hand, has waged an interesting psychological campaign that has produced some creative activism, actions that really touch people's lives, like buying bad debt and canceling it. That kind of thing shows a creative way to confront the power that is so overwhelming and oppressive.
Even as I have left "Confronting Corporatism" idle for periods, the subject becomes increasingly relevant. So I've gotten it out again to work on it one more time. Maybe its time has come, if it's not too late. A dozen years is not a long time to work on a book. "Existentialism For Beginners" took 30 years from the first time I made a note of the idea of the book until its completion.
In all this time of stewing over "Confronting Corporatism" while I watched the increasing momentum and aggressiveness of the corporate juggernaut I did manage to come up with a list of suggestions for actual reforms that need to be enacted to take back for the people the power that has been coopted by corporations employing their lobbyists in Washington.
It's not "10 Easy Steps." It's more like 10 ridiculously fantastic improbabilities in the current climate. But if millions of people changed their minds just a little bit, a different world would be possible in spite of all the biggest guns and bombs in the world. This is the power of an idea.
If people can shake off the fog induced by the tsunami blast of propaganda and misinformation in their faces constantly and begin to understand what has happened, how the power has been shifted through a series of sleight of hand tricks, how they have been robbed and their democracy taken away, the war is won conceptually. The goal is a more democratic and humane government, as opposed to a corporate aristocracy. That's all. It's a matter of re-engaging the democratic process.
So to end the night on a positive note let me pass on to you my favorite quote of the day from one of a handful of people who really give me some hope for the future. Elizabeth Warren: "How many billions have to be laundered for drug lords before we consider shutting down a bank?"