Reality Check

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I was troubled this morning to read of the 10,000 people who lost their lives in the UK in 2013 as a result of fuel poverty. Fuel Poverty Action is taking action. ”They’re targeting Energy UK, the lobbyists for the tax dodging, huge profit making, Big Six energy companies.” http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/guest-blog-no-more-deaths-from-fuel-poverty/ And  I was troubled for a second time in the face of the injustice that has caused citizens to take to the streets of Ferguson; in a nation where the police are in service of corporations and not the citizenry. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=482387718569407 And at risk of bathos, here in Australia, our government has just axed the budget of our much loved and non-commercial ABC and it’s sister television station SBS, both known for their cutting edge news and documentaries, their efforts to present balanced and alternative views, and their coverage of serious issues.

All this news caused me to pause. I knew instinctively that all three dreadful bits of news were connected. I needed to do a reality check. I had to remind myself of why these things are happening and happening in Western democracies. I thought again of that fabulous book Democracy Inc by Sheldon S Wolin. I share with Chris Hedges a passion for Democracy Inc. for it explains what is happening to democracy and why. It isn’t a light read. But sometimes things are too damn important to treat lightly. The more of us who take the trouble to give the book a go the better, for it does more than offer an explanation. The book occupies the ground otherwise too easily labelled conspiracy theory and what is going on behind the scenes is in fact a conspiracy and not theoretical at all!!

Here’s the way I see the con.

Reality check:

1/ The Sting. The GFC was caused by the banks who were then bailed out by governments with tax payers’ money. Government is now in debt to the banks. Citizens pay the banks (again) via austerity measures. Bankers are laughing all the way to their own front doors. Read Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia for a punchy and entertaining portrayal of what went on.

2/ The Second Sting. Behind the veil of budget deficit every small fragment of social democracy that can be privatised is being privatised. Once privatised the operating systems will be corporatised (asset stripped and so on) and services rendered both expensive and inadequate. The minimum will be provided, for the maximum profit. For an insight into how corporations operate as vulture capitalists read Antony Loewenstein’s Profits of Doom.

In the corporatised scenario citizens often pay for services that used to be provided for by government. Citizens also pay for the same services through their taxes, which go into the government outsourcing coffers to pay the new corporate service providers. So we pay for the same service twice. And the corporations are dizzy with delight.

3/ The Third Sting is the corporatisation of government itself. Imagine that our elected representatives are not representing us at all. They have been swallowed by the corporate sector. They have been bought, groomed, placed or otherwise corrupted to serve the interests of Capital and not the people. They wear false cloaks and false smiles. They hold our babies and steal our wallets. The best encapsulation of this sting is the revolving door, where individuals move back and forth from plum jobs in government to plum jobs in the corporate sector.

Studies have shown that the Corporation is psychopathic The hallmark of a psychopath is a distinct lack of empathy. As an entity a corporation is also a breeding ground for psychopaths. For people who lie, who deceive, who con, who cheat; heartless bastards whose capacity for cruelty is vast, whose capacity for blithe indifference equally vast.

It’s been six years since the GFC turned the screws on social democracy and created this latest horror show. Dystopia is upon us and many are accusing their governments of blatant fascism. We can and we must fight this beast. Not by following the ruthless cruelty of organisations like Islamic State, which are both corporate democracy’s nemesis and mirror, ( in effect a Fourth Sting fomented by corporate democracy to engender widespread fear and tighten security and surveillance laws). Instead, we must protest and campaign and educate and keep on shining a spotlight on reality. To that end I will from time to time hold up my own thin candle and shout.

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Waking up to the Third World

 

heges Back in the 1980s I enrolled in a course as part of my undergraduate degree with the Open University (UK) entitled Third World Studies. I was twenty-four and full of awe and amazement and outrage as I learnt about India’s Green Revolution, issues for the Tuareg of Niger, and of the economies of the newly-industrialised countries (NICs) of south-east Asia. I learnt about the problems created for poor economies by big business. I learnt about the IMF and the World Bank. I studied the socialism of governments in Tanzania and Mozambique. I read novels by Buchi Emecheta and the poetry of Louise Bennett. The course was multi-disciplinary (perhaps the first of its kind) and all-encompassing, or so I thought.

Now I am reading Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco’s Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Nation Books, 2012) and I realise that the course title ‘Third World Studies’ was a misnomer. The title created the illusion that there was a First World, perhaps a Second World (Russia) and a Third or Poor to Very Poor World. Other notions have come along since, such as North and South, notions that also perpetuate the illusion. For upon reading Hedge’s text, it has struck me squarely that apparent third world conditions (slavery, corruption, severe inequality) have always existed and persist in America today.

Being from Australia it is fairly easy to say that our indigenous Australians have been condemned to exist as impoverished others in their own land, conditions normally associated with the very poorest of the poor in the ”Third World.” John Pilger’s Utopia suffices as an introduction to that view. Perhaps I have for too many decades been naive, or perhaps somewhat in the dark as regards poverty in America. I have known about low wages, trailer parks, food stamps, the state of Detroit, African American and Hispanic and Mexican poverty. I have known of the ludicrously high incarceration rate in America, mostly of African American men. And I knew, vaguely, that America’s First People are horribly oppressed and marginalised. I knew all of this, but only vaguely. I knew about the voracious appetite of American corporations too, of their corruption of democracy and the judiciary, and the casino-style hustlers in the world of American finance.

What I have not known, not contemplated, not engaged with so deeply it  turns my stomach and makes me want to holler with outrage and weep for the suffering – tears I had spilled decades earlier for many an African nation – Hedges portrays with unrelenting honesty. A laying bare of America’s underbelly, from the native Americans of Pine Ridge, the enormous widespread and utterly unjust suffering of the poor of Camden, the  devastation of the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia (500 mountains so far bombed into oblivion to extract their coal), and the Mexican slave workers in tomato fields in Immokalee, Florida.

That the American Elite (corporations in cahoots with duly corrupted and compliant political and judicial systems) can so devastate its own nation in such a ruthless manner, bodes so ill for the rest of us, for this is the package it persists in exporting to the rest of the world in the guise of development.

As I have indicated above, I have long known the dreadful environmental and social consequences of Big Mining. The struggles of the working classes and the poor around the world are so often bound up with the mining giants, along with the oil and gas giants. If not, they are bound up in agribusiness. It is a case of same old same old.

So when I read calls from the apparently awake  for others to wake up, I ask myself of the islanders of Bougainville – Are they awake? – Yes, I have to say yes they are. What of Papua New Guinea? – Are the people there awake to the shenanigans of corporate greed? – In large part I would say they are? What of the villagers of India whose valleys are being flooded by Big Dams? Are they awake? – I would say most definitely, judging by their protests.

What of the native Americans at Pine Ridge? Are they awake? Yes, I have to say mostly yes, for the alcoholism, the drug addiction, the suicides, the violence, surely they are a recognition of and a response to the consuming misery they are forced to endure. They are awake, to a nightmare.

So I ask of those who make the awake call, wake up who exactly? The privileged middle classes struggling to maintain expensive lifestyles and fat mortgages? Do they slumber? Or are they imprisoned by the system too, riven with fear of losing everything in an economic and social climate of uncertainty.

Sure there are those who are not so much asleep as rendered catatonic by consumerism with all its glamour, sure there are those whose hearts are riven by hatred and bigotry, those  prejudiced against the many who are not themselves. I don’t think there is much to be done about them, or at least, I don’t have a solution. All I know is that those who are catatonic and those who hate will most likely never ”wake up.”

There are enough of us around the globe who know more or less exactly what is going on. There are definitely enough of us who are awake to make a difference if and only if, we all decide to do something, to realise that what we face in the world today is a state of emergency akin to that of a world war, and we must resist at every turn.

I am a non-violent person. Which was why I was shocked when I woke this morning to the thought that someone should drop something big and heavy on Bohemia Grove at an opportune moment. Then I thought, no, that would make little difference. But I do know that we must make great personal sacrifices if we are to stave off the march of the corporations. We must preoccupy ourselves with the spirit of Occupy. And if ever there was a book to rouse the heart to action, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is it.