Tuesday, July 5, 2011
It has taken me a long time to understand that we live in a society that is fundamentally undemocratic. Perhaps I have had my head buried in the sand. Perhaps I have wanted to believe that things were more democratic than they are. But with every passing day, it becomes more and more evident that the world is run by the rich and powerful, for the rich and powerful. Man works for the economy, rather than the economy working for man. Those in power would have us believe that this is the intrinsic nature of the world, that things have to run in this manner. In fact, the system is created by men and runs by design, rather than by default.
The system to which I refer is the Capitalist System. Some people profit from Capitalism, and the majority lose. There is no arguing that this is the way the system is designed. In any transaction, there is profit, and a consequent loss. In Capitalism, every transaction has this profit and loss built in. Capitalism is designed to pass all the losses to the people at the bottom of the social scale, and to pass all the profits to the people at the top end of the scale. Consider any loan. You borrow money, and have to pay it back with interest. The interest paid is a loss to the borrower, and a gain to the person making the loan. It is, in effect, something for nothing.
Consider any stock transaction. How does one make a profit on such a transaction? One sells the stock when the price goes up. The person who buys the stock after the price goes up has taken the loss, and the seller has gained the profit. Likewise, if you sell when the price goes down, you take the loss and the buyer has the profit. Think of any transaction, and you will come to see that they all are designed to make a profit, but there has to be a corresponding loss. Capitalism is, in fact, like poker. There are only 1 0r 2 winners at a table of 10. The winners keep taking chips out of the game, and the losers either drop out, or have to borrow more to keep playing. The American Dream says anyone can be a winner. The patent absurdity of this, is that the system has losers built into it. Not everyone can be a winner. There have to be losers, and right now that means about 99% of us.
In the interval of time since I started this post (unfortunately, months) it is clear that that there is a real awakening in the public as a whole. The Occupy Wall Street movement has emerged, perhaps in response to the Arab Spring. There seems to be a realization that the masses are being subjugated by a tiny minority. The real problem is wealth and income inequality. This is built in to the Capitalist System, so under Capitalism there will always be this kind of problem. No one has a proposal for a different economic model that would solve these inequalities, so we are left with a mass movement with no focus except that there should be a more fair and equitable division of global resources, the pie. In previous times, this kind of inequality almost always led to violent conflict between those in power, and those without. One can recall that the French Revolution was a revolt by the general populace against the rich aristocrats of the day. One wonders if we can have a solution to our own wealth inequality through more peaceful means, or whether things will degenerate into a violent groundswell of anti-capitalist fervor.
I am of the opinion that the former would be preferable. Being a great fan of Ghandi, I understand that his methods of peaceful resistance were very effective at bringing the British Empire to heel in terms of its control over India. The 99% need to study Ghandi's methods. In a global sense, his advocation of peaceful resistance is preferable to violence. At the practical level, his approach has great strength, and can help confound those in opposition.
Large numbers of the 99% are gathering to protest the status quo. The 99% are those who actually do the work, and produce the profits for the 1%. Therein lies their power. The withholding of their labour is what will grind things to a halt. When people are at rallies showing their displeasure, no work will be done. No work means no profits for the 1%. And at those rallies, there should be mass sit-downs, with no violence of course. Kettling individuals necessarily requires herding them into enclosures. It is harder to herd people who are sitting down. It is also more difficult to brutalize someone who is sitting peacefully, showing the other cheek. There will no doubt be injuries on the side of the protesters. The police will use significant force to try to subdue them. But eventually they will come to the understanding that they are simply tools of the 1%, and are actually themselves part of the 99%. Will they wish to beat their brothers, sisters, parents, and other family members into submission? Will they agree with their colleagues doing the same?
The 99% actually have the power. They simply need to learn to wield it effectively in order to produce the changes that they desire.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Sitting in Chapters, trying to focus on a new post which is of some value to the ether. It is amazing how a few short weeks can change the entire dynamic of the planet. The world can change so rapidly as to make one's current words meaningless as events unfold at lightening speed. If nothing else, the popular uprising in the Middle East has shown us that the people do in fact have more power than the rulers, and that a concerted effort by the masses can bring about unprecedented change in very short order.
These world changing events must be watched with some degree of alarm in the Western world, where the masses are controlled through propaganda that tells them they have a wonderful life when it is clear that they do not. The statistics on distribution of wealth in the USA, for example, and the lack of access for people to basic human requirements such as food, housing and healthcare, show undeniable similarities to the problems in the social order that have led to the dethroning of Mubarak in Egypt, and the flames of revolt in much of the Arab world.
Empires are built on beliefs, and these beliefs are enforced through faith. Faith, by its nature, is destroyed by the availability of facts, as faith is a belief that is held despite the availability of evidence. Unfortunately for the current rulers, access to the internet has allowed the masses to question beliefs that were previously unquestionable. The 'Big Picture' can be viewed by all. Politicians and media pundits no longer have a monopoly on 'The Truth', and in fact they are frequently disinclined to even speak openly, as their 'facts' do not accord with reality. Political leaders would prefer not to be questioned, not to be challenged, and would have us revert to a time when they controlled 'facts', so that they could go about their business unfettered.
There is an old fable about the Emperor who did not wear any clothes, and how it takes a child to point this out. The reason of course that no one has pointed out that our Emperor's wear no clothes is fear. We are all part of the delusional system which keeps us in bondage, and no one wishes to expose the Emperors for fear of the future, and the chaos which would surely follow.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, we are reaching a tipping point. It has become evident to all that many of our leaders are interested only in power, and in enriching themselves. It is impossible to put this genie of knowledge back in the bottle. It is also clear that the disparity between the rich and the poor threatens the survival of the whole system. The general populace can only be subordinated for so long before the disenchantment reaches a point at which they will revolt. It is very convenient to blame external forces for social disruption in the Western world. It serves the purpose of the rulers to be able to restrict civil liberties, and eliminate rabble rousers, all in the name of protection of society. Addressing the real problems of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and hunger would be much more of a challenge, and would require the wealthy to give up some of their extreme riches. This is not likely to happen as a result of humanitarian compassion. The End of Empire is upon us. One wonders what kind of event it will take in our own back yard to trigger such change in our own society.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Empires come, and empires go, the theme of my last entry. What sustains empire is that the rulers are able to continue to rule, and those who are ruled continue to submit to being ruled. It is as simple as that. It is much like the monetary system. We are told that money has value. We use money to purchase things, and those to whom we give money, give us things in exchange. Paper currency (money) has value, only because we believe it does. Intrinsically it has little value except for perhaps its ability to start fires, and a 100$ bill is no better at lighting a smoke than a 10$ bill.
So the ruled continue to submit to the rulers, but why do they do so? Well, there is an intricate interplay of forces at work that enforces social order, and prevents people from stepping out of line.
In a 'democratic' system, the use of propaganda and myth is more important than violent repression, because there has to be the appearance of choice. People are more likely to revolt if they are brutally repressed, as in a dictatorship. In a democracy, it is important to give people the impression that they have the opportunity to improve their lives, even if that is not the case. The apathy associated with self blame makes people less likely to do anything that might upset the apple cart of the social order, and the promotion of individual activities and time wasting pursuits makes it less likely that people will unite to oppose those in power.
Horatio Alger stories promote the American dream, which is in fact a mythological construct helping to maintain the social order. They promote the idea that if you are determined to succeed, then you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, and you will get what you desire. The implication, of course, is that if you don't succeed it is because of your own flaws. It has nothing to do with 'the system'. This myth is important to promulgate, because if people understood that it was in fact the system that was preventing them from getting ahead, they might actually attempt to change the system. And those in power are not too fond of that idea.
I was chuffed to see that Colbert actually believes you can pull yourself up your boot straps. He saw a guy do it in Cirque De Soleil once...