Saturday, November 21, 2009
We Need to Talk
The sentence "We need to talk" is a powerful one. When it is used in a marriage it either means that the request is to deal with difficult problems or, in the case of an abusive relationship, that phrase may mean the victim has had it. It's over.
If you're old enough you may remember when we fell in love. We had just emerged through tough times; a depression and a war. It was the 50s. The grim years had passed and we were courted by a spirit; the spirit of capitalism. The grim bleakness of the past was giving way to televisions, household conveniences of all sorts, rock and roll and a world of optimism and colour. And over the next few decades the trajectory was clear and it was aiming toward heaven. The sky was the limit. Everything was getting better.
We collectively fell in love with the spirit of capitalism. It was youthful and charming and it was a fantastic provider. Our lives were improving. Wages were rising and demand for goods and services demanded more goods and services.
In Western Europe and North America we not only fell in love with capitalism, we got married. Our past flirtations with socialism were forgotten. Capitalism loved us and we loved capitalism. It demanded fidelity and we grew to trust it. We became loyal. It was a marriage made in heaven.
Something happened along the way.
We assumed that capitalism would remain faithful. But it hasn't. Instead, it began its affairs. We looked the other way. Capitalism had its 'needs'. It dated throughout Latin America and in Asia but we remained confident that it would always come home. It spent weekends in the Middle East and assured us that it was a matter of bringing home the bacon. It was business.
At first, we could look the other way. After all, this was just sex. It wasn't love.
Have we fooled ourselves? Has capitalism just used us? We thought it was genuine love and that love would last forever. Are we in denial? We still dream of yesterday and superimpose it on tomorrow. We continue to believe the lies; we want to. We believe that this is just the natural cycle of boom and bust and that the good times will return. We want to believe it in the face of some very hard realities.
Our partner seems more and more inhumane as time goes by. Sometimes it behaves like a psychopath. And maybe it isn't "sometimes", maybe it is a psychopath all the time. Maybe that is just what we have been married to all these years.
We must examine ourselves; our own dual nature. We are a consumer and we are a worker. Capitalism has always served and smiled at the consumer side. And it has been served by the worker side. It has been far more ruthless to the worker that it has depended on for its very sustenance; capital. It has turned vicious to the worker while still flirting with the sexy consumer side of us. But we are one and the same. Kill one and the other dies as well. Abuse the worker and the consumers wilts.
Capitalism flirts and smiles at others and still rules the household with an iron fist. In the past we ignored its nasty side when it would come home drunk and beat the hell out of us. We were forgiving when it raped Vietnam and punished us for protesting. We have forgiven and forgotten all the violence, the cruelty, and the disappointments.
But now things are getting serious. We are at a point where we have to ask ourselves whether this marriage is good for us. We thought the violence would end, that the system would mature and settle down. It matured alright but instead of settling it has become more virulent. Like the saying goes - 'be careful what you wish for'. It matured and is becoming less stable and predictable. It is ripping all we had built to shreds. It still rules the roost and what do we get out of it? The house is falling to pieces. We are running out of food and medicine and capitalism is off running with that whore in China. In the past we put up with the abuse but we were getting something out of it.
What we have to face up to is the fact that we fell in love with and married a psychopath and that psychopath is now an addict. While the house falls to pieces capitalism it is still borrowing and spending like there's no tomorrow. It is feeding its insatiable gambling habit. And where is the money coming from? Need we ask? We are in hock to his communist whore and we have no idea how we'll pay it back. We never see a paycheque anymore and the kids are getting hungry.
It is time to take a sober second look at what we have been married to.
To be fair, capitalism never did promise loyalty. It always said that it was interested only in making profit. We assumed that we were part of it. And we were as long as we were needed to create capital. In return we got shiny new cars and a feeling of security. We didn't complain or even notice the ugly moods as long as we got what we wanted. We sold ourselves to them. We needed the money. We knew we were being exploited and we all said, in unison, "what's good for GM is good for America". We knew it was a marriage of exploitation. We considered it mutually beneficial and it was.
Our failure to look at the ugly nature of our partner is something we all need to take responsibility for. Our partner went all over the globe killing and dominating poor people and what did we do? We turned away and pretended it wasn't happening. Their theft was our hegemony and we glazed over the invasions, the assassinations, and the proxy fascism that our masters used to bring home the bacon. We accepted it and called it 'national security'; obedient to a fault.
Within the hegemony the terms of exploitation we had agreed on are no longer satisfactory to our partner. Gambling finance capital is far more lucrative and far more attractive than dealing with ugly blue collar workers demands and complaints. Gambling is a lot more fun, even when the gambler knows he will win. The shell games have been hard to keep up with but they are worth watching. These games expose the lack of loyalty our partner has for us.
We have just witnessed massive criminal activity on the part of capitalists resulting in further gutting to our manufacturing infrastructure. They created a false economy through leveraging to overvalue stocks. They have operated using any means available to increase short term gains for themselves and have been rewarded for their criminal behaviour with massive bailouts granted to them by their employees (politicians). They have created bubble after bubble staving off reality. Pretending everything's okay - telling us everything's okay. Lying.
Our partner continues to spend and buy flashy things and as time passes he spends less on the house and family and more on himself.
Before running to a divorce lawyer we may want to look at the possibility of reforming the relationship. If two parties want to make it work it has a chance. But we need to ask ourselves; What would reform look like? After all, the marriage itself starting within a context of reform. John Maynard Keynes recognized flirtations back and forth between workers/consumers and capitalism and he dressed capitalism up in a shiny new suit and taught it to speak and act like a gentleman.
In the 1980s the magical belief that supply creates demand was pushed by politicians, right wing think tanks and economists. These voodoo ideas took hold and this redefined the relationship. The Keynesian marriage was now standing on precarious ground. Supply side economics implied that wealth emanates from the wealthy class and dismissed the value of work and workers in favour of a myopic focus on increasing short term capital. It was as if the marriage didn't matter anymore. And to the capitalists, it didn't.
Keynes was on the demand side and said that demand creates supply. Keynes made sense. The former does not. The crisis of 2008 drives that reality home in spades. And even though it makes no sense to you or me, Bush and Obama were instructed by their betters to deliver boatloads of tax dollars based in dead labour to bail out the criminals. The story line was that those deemed "to big to fail" were supposed to stimulate the economy by loaning our tax dollars back to us.
That cynical thought that just crossed your mind is pure intelligence. Recognize it.
The model that has been successful worked with the understanding that to stimulate the economy it is necessary to stimulate demand for goods and services. Instead of bailing out the capitalists the Treasury should have saved homes and jobs. They should have provided massive infrastructure projects like Roosevelt's New Deal. That would have stimulated the economy. But it would have caused inflation. The same people that wrote up Obama's bailouts are those that would be hurt most by inflationary pressures. And it was not done.
But there is more to it than that. The context we are operating with is one of advanced and matured monopoly capitalism. Products are produced as cheaply as possible (for the benefit of the consumer) and any and all means to cut costs are utilized as the capacity to squeeze a dime from a unit of labour decreases. As it is, capitalists are becoming ruthless. And it is far easier to squeeze a dime from a unit of labour in China than it is in North America or Europe.
Not only is John Maynard Keynes dead; so is Henry Ford. Capitalism in 2009 - 2010 is not the same partner that we married in the 50s. It has morphed into monopolism. It has lost its facade, its charm.
Raw capitalism is cruel. People are sacrificed every day in wars and over 40,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford health insurance. This is a health care holocaust. It is easily and completely avoidable but the problems persist and persist for the sake of profit. Monopolism has shown itself to be a more ruthless psychopath than any human could possibly be. Decisions are made every day in boardrooms that result in human misery and death. The system is pernicious and incorrigible.
We also need to consider the outcomes that reform (if at all possible) would result in. If we could resurrect Keynes and get the production machines back in gear in the post industrial world, the outcome would be exactly the same as it has been. We would stave off the inevitable but the nature of the beast would remain unchanged. Staving off the inevitable is exactly what Greenspan, Paulson and Bernanke have done. It is what the smoke and mirrors bubbles of the past few decades have done; bought time.
In all this we tend to our daily lives and ignore the deterioration of our economic and social realities. We have been doing so since the 80s when capital began its 'globalization' emphasis. Leftists like Michael Moore and scores of protesters were pointing out red flags to no avail. And here we are twenty years later and we can see that the leftists were right. And at this point, time is not on our side.
The metaphor here points toward divorce. As we search the metaphorical singles bars looking for a new marriage partner we can see that there is none. The old communist order has fallen to pieces for good reason. Communist and clerical totalitarians smile and wave from the dark corners. The psychopath told us its either him or them. We have but two choices. The dictatorship of the psychopath or totalitarianism.
Looking into a crystal ball for the way forward we consider the status quo and see shades of Colombian drug gangs or Somalian style anarchy in our streets. We may see shades of Mussolini fascists beating them back. No matter what way we look we see poor people trembling over burning barrels. It is capitalism without Keynes and it could morph into any of a number of styles of barbarism.
The status quo has got to go.
Collectively we are pioneers. We are going where no society has gone before. For the most part, we have no idea where we are going. We really need to take this matter seriously. And we must look at facts.
To begin with we need to recognize that the psychopath had never been our provider. It was always the other way around. It is the workers that have fashioned every item of value in our world; the cars, the streets, the buildings and everything in them. The capitalist hires managers who are workers and people to organize the trading and the buying and selling; also, workers. Everything that is done is value from mining the ore to building the cities is done through work. If we examine it, it was us all along. It is us that built this infrastructure that now rots and rusts. And it rots and rusts because Joe Psycho can't make a profit.
We lack confidence in our ability to survive without our abuser. But this is nothing to be alarmed about. Slaves have always felt dependent on their master and on some level feared independence.
We have more choices than we imagine. We don't have to decide between one tyrant over another. We can roll up our sleeves and stand together, independent of rulers and tyrants.
We need to develop a vision where each and every human being has his and her vital needs guaranteed. THEY will tell us we can't do it without 'them'. THEY will tell us we will perish without 'them'. Abusers always need to make victims feel dependent and helpless. But if we examine what has really happened and how wealth is actually created, we can see that all the wealth, including capital, has been manufactured by us; the people that get up and trudge off to work every day.
We believe that the abuser has the power but in fact, we have all the power. The abusers power is based in illusions and scams.
We need to talk.