Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Capitalism - only without the Pixie Dust

All greed. All capitalism. No "Pixie Dust" (that's what Rick Santelli labels public/consumer confidence on CNBC).

Any way you slice it, it's a rotten, rotten sandwich.

So go ahead Ben, Tim and Barack. Print and hang paper all over the world economy. It won't help one bit without "pixie dust" -- i.e. without you and me believing and investing in our own undemocratic subjugation to the top one percent, and its continuing successful inundation of our ninety-nine percent in false, "Horatio Alger", "American Idol" dreams.

Without that so-called "pixie dust" to which Santelli refers, Wall Street and Washington's scheming is for naught.

And Hugo Chavez' brand of "change" might be onto something.

"If the plane is in trouble, you don't shoot the pilot, you grab a parachute and jump." -- Daniel Quinn

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Crash as precursor to a new New World

Adbusters #82

This is my tribute to author David Graeber – never has my emergent belief system been codified so perfectly on two pages -- as perfect, compact and transcendent as Hank Paulson’s initial TARP proposal was evil, insidious and utterly combustive.

Hopelessness isn’t natural. It needs to be [mass] produced. To understand this situation, we have to realize that the last 30 years [Reagan Era] have seen the construction of a vast bureaucratic apparatus that creates and maintains hopelessness [through materialism].

Once one [erroneously] assumes that capitalism will be around for all eternity, the only kind of economic democracy left to imagine is one in which everyone is equally free to invest in the market.  [Thus] Freedom has become the right to share in the proceeds of one’s own permanent enslavement.

Whenever a genuinely democratic movement begins to emerge, particularly one based on principles of civil disobedience and direct action, the reaction is the same: the government makes immediate concessions (fine, you can have [your] voting rights) and then starts revving up military tensions abroad.  The movement is then forced to transform itself into a [weak, amorphous] anti-war movement

Consider the term “communism.”  Rarely has a term come to be so utterly reviled.

[But] In fact, communism really just means any situation where people act according to this [Marxist] principle: from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

If, for example, two people are fixing a pipe and one says “hand me the wrench,” the other doesn’t say “and what do I get for it?” [What’s in it for me?]

[Instead] they apply the principles of communism because they’re the only ones that [truly] work.  [All real and sustainable progress requires collectivism, whereas individualism and selfishness inevitably produce only failure for large-scale endeavors.]

That’s why even Republican computer engineers trying to develop new software ideas tend to form small [or large] democratic collectives [to succeed].

[Thus] Communism is already here [and always has been].  The question is how to further democratize it. Capitalism, in turn, is just one possible way of managing communism.  [But] It has become increasingly clear that it’s rather a disastrous one.

All this makes it much easier to understand why capitalists are willing to pour such extraordinary resources into the [mass produced] machinery of hopelessness.

Debt is the most efficient means ever created to make relations [between individuals] fundamentally based on violence and inequality seem [somehow] morally upright.  [But] When this trick no longer works everything explodes.

Think of the promise made by capitalism: we can live like kings if [only] we are willing to buy stock in our own collective subordination [to hopelessness].  [But now, today] All of this has come crashing down. What remains is what we are able to promise one another directly, without the mediation [and subjugation] of economic and political bureaucracies. The revolution [our revolution] begins by asking what sort of promises do [truly] free men and women make one another and how, by making them, do we begin to make another [new] world?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Comfortably Numb?

All men are created equal... - Thomas Jefferson

You own the banks and we pay the mortgages.

You control billions and leave us holding plastic cards.

You are bailed out and our capacity to sustain perpetual hopelessness foots the bill.

You own every asset and every government as we struggle to survive in the marketplace.

You own the factories and your salt, cholesterol and medicine courses through our veins.

But as long as your magic screen glows: blue, orange then green...  distracting us with stories of octuplets and single mothers with fourteen children, in every dwelling, on every night, in America...

Then we at least share something.

...the single goal of the industrial economy, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, has been the highest possible margin of profit.  That is to say that its single motive has been greed.  The economy justifies itself as a sequence of innovations that it calls "progress."  But it is progress for the sake of the biggest possible profit.  Industrialism [corporatism] is the most effective system ever devised for the concentration of wealth and power.  Its most characteristic "progress" has been the increasing ability to concentrate wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands.
- Wendell Berry

Sunday, February 01, 2009

My House My Fetish

This is our house.  And as houses go I hope it reveals something about me.  For example:

  • I'm middle class.
  • Like most of the American middle class, I'm simultaneously materialistic and narcissistic.
  • But unlike most Americans at least one of my fetishes is for saving beautiful and old things that arguably warrant preservation.

But my wife and I have never deluded ourselves that any old house we've borrowed substantially to own, in title (rather oxymoronic isn't it?), ultimately to restore, was an investment.

Because houses are not investments.  They are, in varying degrees, material fetishes.  At their best, houses are dwell-able, domestic works of art commensurate with household assets earned (or inherited) under a private capital system.  Often larger than need be and, today, mostly showy and impractical in much the same way that America has become showy and impractical in my lifetime.  Shining visage above.  Substantial rot beneath.

And rotten and impractical are seldom more than predictors for abject failure.

Our house is comprised of massive granite stones, laid up by hand in 1890, at the height of the Victorian work ethic (and worker exploitation) as well as the peak of Montana's robber baron era of gold, silver and copper extraction.  That it has largely survived the ensuing Panic of 1893, at least two major earthquakes, urban renewal, and a host of other, mostly human contrived, maladies is testament to America and humankind's capacity to share and to propagate fetishes across generations through culture.

But it is not an investment and it never will be!

Anyone that earlier profited selling this (or any) American house was lucky.  But such luck was a byproduct, one of many such random American windfalls that are hopefully byproducts of moral, sustainable choice.

And OH MY, but how times have changed! 

Today, American investment firms routinely hold 2.5% of their assets as capital reserves, if at all.  Today, American wealth is a measure of social and academic status determining indirect corporate or direct political access to Washington's printing presses.  Today, America is a collapsing house of cards, run into the ground by a politburo of  secret haters and the Harvard MBA money changers they work for.

For thirty years, the sham metastasized behind a veil of Ronald Reagan, Hollywood illusions.  Until today when, despite Obama, too much of America's leadership class is as hollow, mean, selfish and destructive as its front runners -- as people like Rush Limbaugh or Paris Hilton.

Thus, my bailout package for my country and its too weak Democracy is this: lay it up or tear it down; dig a hole and fill it up again -- in the end it matters not one twit.  History values sustainability.  And without us, the faith bearing, hard working, collective underclass, and without leaders, enforcing and ennobling the essential human values inherent in any long lived culture, then something from nothing (a k a Wall Street; a k a Washington; a k a paper money) ends in nothing all the same.