Demons of Folk Friday Tune of the Week: Social Panic #4

 

Social Panic #4

 

All over the world, the forces of casino capitalism are invoking austerity measures that produce a kind of social and civil death as they dismantle the historically guaranteed social provisions provided by the welfare state, defining profit-making as the essence of democracy, expanding the role of corporate money in politics, waging an assault on unions, augmenting the military-security state, overseeing widening social inequality, promoting the erosion of civil liberties, and undercutting public faith in the defining institutions of democracy. The script is not new, but the intensity of the assault on democratic values, civic engagement and public service has taken a dangerous turn and provides the ideological, political and cultural foundation for a society that seems unaware it is in the midst of an authoritarian stranglehold on all of its most cherished institutions, ranging from schools and health care to the very foundation of democracy. Austerity has become the weapon of choice, an economic poison designed to punish the middle and working classes while making clear that casino capitalism will administer the most severe penalties to those who challenge its authority. The police have become the new private armies of the rich, designed to keep the public in check hoping to make them fearful of being exposed to police brutality, state violence or the expanding mechanisms of the multiple surveillance apparatuses that now collect every piece of information that circulates electronically. Conformity has become the order of the day and fear the new norm, reinforced by a disimagination machine and the punishing state now mutually informing each other.

-Henry A. Giroux, Reclaiming the Radical Imagination: Challenging Casino Capitalism’s Punishing Factories. 

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Fear of Equality, Part 13. Money and the Death of Democracy

Margaret Thatcher: Denier of Society or denier of Democracy?
Margaret Thatcher: Denier of Society or denier of Democracy?

 

“Mankind is not an entity, an organism, or a coral bush. The entity involved in production and trade is man. It is with the study of man—not of the loose aggregate known as a “community”—that any science of the humanities has to begin.” 

Ayn Rand – “What is Capitalism”

 

“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it: ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society.

“There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

 Margaret Thatcher

 

To begin with, it is fair to say that Ayn Rand was one to never allow practical common sense or intellectual honesty to get in the way of her juicy, radical individualist claims. It must be remembered that Rand’s personal experience with group and community was largely a negative one, as she blamed the community’s participation within what she viewed as the destruction of her family’s wealth and social placement in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, so such a denial of the community should be understood within that context when reading Rand’s writings or understanding her deep resentments and suspicions (and let’s be frank, hatred) towards the community and equality. She did, as we are all preprogrammed to do, live within a mental world where preciously defended ideas and mental constructs and equation carry far more weight and significance than anything in physical reality.

Obviously, any sensible definition of Mankind, or the Human Race can only refer to the collective class of human beings united by the shared quality of… well, this is going to sound a bit crazy, but, “being human.” Rand’s premise that science must forego any discussion of the community of humanity is totally connected to Rand’s overarching paranoia with the danger of collective action. Rand never received any scientific training and was largely a self – taught philosopher and writer. Her ability was in word – wrangling and constructing philosophical systems that supported her perspective. And so the key of understanding what she says and why must be in line with her negative evaluations and assertions of an inconsolable loss she felt she experienced at the hands of the community. Thus her views that equality and social responsibility cannot coexist within the confines of the freedom and liberty capitalism allegedly provides.

The similar statement by Margaret Thatcher also illustrates how master politicians are able to manipulate through words and symbols, the reality and perceptions of a nation. Thatcher was a whole-hearted supporter of the “free market” mythos and the so –called democratizing power of free market capitalism. It is a testament to her oratory skills as a politician that she was able to occlude, misapply and switch definitions of key words and have nobody call her on it.

On the face of it, the statement above from Thatcher seems to be unfocused and wobbly, and a surprisingly ironic position coming from such a hardline nationalist like Thatcher (see the Falkland Islands episode).[1]  Obviously Thatcher viewed nationalism and society in terms she could categorize and separate depending on the spin, context or the definition she wished to use to further her agenda. The problem is that the premise rests on a foundation of deceptive verbal incoherence meant to diffuse, dissemble and camouflage its subject.

Society and the Nation can be defined in various ways, and it is the politician’s job to couch these terms that will help them sell whatever ideological perspective that will keep them in power and further the agenda. The job of the politician is to present a version of reality to the voters that the voters already believe in and accepts as reality. The relentless bombardment by media has been so effective for so long in presenting a virtual reality that mirrors and reinforces the belief system of voters makes presenting social lies and sentimental narratives all the easier to shove it down the throats of the populace.

For example, one such sentimental narrative that is employed by the neoliberal and libertarian thought – machines is that decisions made by individuals are just as powerful or more powerful than decisions made by groups. This meme uncomfortably sits side by side this nagging, existential thought that the little guy, err…, I mean, the “individual” has zero influence on or access to those who sits in the seats of power. In fact, the individual doesn’t even know who sits in those chairs and how much control these mysterious Masters have over his life. All the individual knows is that if he or she can’t make it work in this life, that they will be left behind by all others, outside in the darkness, and nobody – neither society or any other individual – can be expected to be called on for help.

Another social narrative that has misled people is that somehow conservatism presents a front against “big government.” And yet, under conservative purview the federal government has increased on a titanic scale. The “government” now is completely under control of and operated as the legislative arm of stateless corporations – which gives itself many benefits, rights and privileges – and which such gifts and handouts are not made available to the people, let alone to the community and more important, no obligations are currently required for its “entitlements.” How great is that?

In reality conservatives and liberal alike are mainly interested in protecting the elite’s concentration of power. As economic power becomes more and more concentrated, the more real – world democracy evaporates under the invasion of neoliberal economic policies that has emerged as the controlling characteristic within capitalism’s feature of economic determinism where every life and every relationship in society is ultimately based on one’s connection and access to money.

Thatcher, like most master politicians, regularly employed the word game of Deception by Substitution. Here’s how it’s played. Substitute the word “society” with “democracy” and you get what Thatcher really meant:

 “They’re casting their problem on democracy. And, you know, there is no such thing as democracy.

Obviously, Thatcher could never get away with such a remark said so nakedly, thus the reason for speaking in political code. That is, by denying the power and reality of the community – there’s a denial of the power and reality that people form within relationships, thus placing the onus on the individual person, and so there’s no reasonable opposition to the view of corporatizing and privatizing the public space that was once under the auspices of the community is what is best for the individuals that make up society. Which means that the individual should lower its expectations severely: that no real power can be trusted within their hands and no real intervention can be counted on in the improvement of people’s lives because the democratic process – which works through the people just as Thatcher admitted – no longer applies. Democracy has disappeared into the black hole which now exists as the Neoliberal State. [2]

The fact is that this Neoliberal state is currently passing away, slowly yet surely. Its death is as certain as that fate that awaits all of us when we come to the end of our own lives. What Thatcher, Reagan, Bush, Obama, et al, none of them, or to be more frank, none of us seem to realize is the bigger view that needs to be considered: this sinking ship of economic determinism cannot be rescued, improved, salvaged or maintained. It is falling as surely as there’s a moon in the sky.. The only discussion that matters is the one we should be having now from the standpoint of economic equality and true democracy:  what will we choose as a collective Human Race to replace this current political – economic system?

Perhaps the most sensible way forward can be considered within this keen observation by Bernard Poolman:

“… instead of looking for political heroes who will solve problems for us on a national or global level, we focus on our community and work with trusted others to address issues in our place. As the crumbling of governments, financial systems, and other institutions exacerbates, collapse itself will compel us to implement local solutions. Thus, even in the face of such a painful demise as the collapse of civilization, we may be able to surrender to and celebrate the opportunity for rediscovering our own humanity and that of the other individuals who inhabit our community. Perhaps what we most need to discover and experience is not heroics but transformative defeat – the defeat of the paradigm of civilization.”

 

NOTES

[1] The Falklands Island War was commenced by the UK after Argentina claimed the islands for itself after invading the islands in 1982. Thatcher sent in the British Navy and battled Argentina for ten weeks until Argentina surrendered. In the conflict, World War II-vintage Argentine light cruiser ARA General Belgrano was sunk, killing its Argentinean crew of 323 men. The British Navy lost the HMS Sheffield which sank after being struck by an Exocet missile, killing 23 naval men. The aftermath of the war saw the UK maintain their hold on the disputed areas and Thatcher’s popularity swell and on that strength the conservative government won in a landslide in the next election, while in Argentina the military’s prestige was damaged beyond repair, enabling a return to free elections and democratic governance.

[2] “The new study, with the jaw-clenching title of “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” is forthcoming in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics. Its authors, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups. They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected.

The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a “non-significant, near-zero level.” The analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process. The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose.

The authors also say that given limitations to tapping into the full power elite in America and their policy preferences, “the real world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater” than their findings indicate. Who Rules America?  By Allan J. Lichtman,  August 12, 2014

 

 

 

Fear of Equality, Part 12: The Swindle of Fulfillment

Henry A. Giroux on Zombie Politics, November 22, 2013

A Dangerous Idea: Economic Determinism

The American Dream. Perhaps best exemplified within the immortal trope of, “all men are created equal and that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” The Classical Liberal conceits of freedom, liberty, equality and opportunity have been erected, transmitted and successfully absorbed into the mass consciousness of Americans for centuries now, and even though upward social mobility has never been more impossible to attain than it is currently, many Americans still hold on to this patriotic and sentimental idea –  even in the face of an undeniable economic determinism that dictates every facet of a person’s life.

What do I mean by, “economic determinism?” Well, economic determinism is the doctrine that states all cultural, social, political and intellectual activities are a product of economic organization of society. Originally, the term was coined by Karl Marx (1818-1893) to describe what he saw as a process of social phenomena having its roots within the relations of production.

In the social production which men carry on, they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society–the real foundation, on which rise legal and political superstructures and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness.

            A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Kerr, 1904), Preface, pp. 11-12.

The elephant in the room is this clause;

they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will;

The relations of production can easily be understood as the relationships of the platform of capital that connects with all the various segments of society. Marx attempted to explain capitalism as he understood it – as the systems of relationships with the members of society. However, many of Marx’s contemporaries sneered at the theory of economic determinism, thinking it as a clumsy, intellectually suspect social model. Marx and Engels were seemingly embarrassed and frustrated by the acceptance of the theory by certain Marxist factions, although Engels conceded there was a place for discussing the concept more in – depth that had been possible. [1]

The critical theorist brain trust (Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse and many others) was set up in Germany during the 1920s as a Marxist research institute to study and examination of various social issues from a Marxist perspective, also rejected ED as too plain and vulgar an explanation of the increasingly unfolding complexity of the relationships with the various systems at play in society. 

The mind loves complexity, you see. That’s why we have lawyers. But don’t follow the diversion.

I have a sneaking suspicion that when such a concept like economic determinism is laid so plainly, so bare, there is a visceral, instinctive, reactive desire to enter a state of cognitive dissonance. To deny the truth. To hold on what one believed in the face of overwhelming evidence that such beliefs no longer serve their purpose. That may explain an element of the resistance shown by the intelligentsia to give the concept of economic determinism full consideration. However, as a workable social theory economic determinism may have been resisted because of its loaded potential as a dangerous idea.

Perhaps the most dangerous point within the theory of economic determinism is that it leaves no room for the operation of Free Will, one of the most cherished of all Classical Liberal ideals. It is believed that all are born with Free Will, but in the real word, only a few possess enough wealth to afford to use it. If Free Will can be invalidated by economic determinism, Capitalism loses its greatest theoretical weapon in justifying the ethic of enlightened Individual self-interest. Such an idea may lead to questioning the fundamental point of why such a system where one has to pay others money for the right (or is it privilege?) to survive, is preferable to any other system that isn’t based on competition and power over others. Maybe questioning the system could lead to considering another system where the answer presented is yet another dangerous idea, and one just as simple.

That answer exists on the other side of fear, that answer is as simple as the question. The answer is economic equality. Only the lack of collective will make it such a seemingly impossible feat to attain.

But what about issues of culture, the markets, the ecology, politics, psychology, economic hegemony and ownership of resources? Surely all these factors can’t be reduced to a simple explanation that all relationships in capitalism is based on the social platform of consumers and consumption? Economic determinism still is a useful tool in explaining to others the Matrix – like, camouflaged system of enslavement and exploitation that people have accepted as “the norm.” And not only as the norm, but a normalcy that one feels an explicable loyalty towards an abusive, economic authoritarian system.

Professor Henry A. Giroux calls this phenomena, “the swindle of fulfillment,” So what is the swindle? That society has been given a set of quaint, romantic values to identify itself with as the overarching self – definition its members must embody and transmit to all others, which is the principal role of the individual to exists as consumer and the commoditized. All relationships are based on one aspect: one’s relationship and access to money. The social elite has successfully hijacked and redefined these terms, and has employed them to further entrench and consolidate its power over all others, and in doing so, robbed democracy, liberty and freedom of their meanings and replaced it with fraudulent and abusive, pathological ideals, all the while overseeing the erosion of expectations, common sense and the obliteration of the social safety net in order to hand that common institution over to the privateers.

The Tyranny of an Idea: The Validity of the Middle Class

In an earlier blog I noted Kenneth Rexroth’s observation for the necessity of a nationalist “social lie” that advances the vested interests of the elites at the cost of everyone else. If, as a nation, people start questioning the lie, then perhaps the truth may emerge and make itself known. However, the ruling elites have done their job of social conditioning so extremely well, it is all too easy to understand how they have been able to deploy their ideological weaponry to convince an economically vulnerable and gullible public to not only vote against their chief public interests, but to support such measures out of a theological – like commitment to self-defeating ideologies, values, beliefs religious and political principles that are managed, manipulated and controlled through patriotic or religious sentimentality and cultural media conditioning.

In order for such a morally and ethically twisted system to retain its validity among the members of society, the ideology must be successfully sold to the populace. Part of that conditioning is generally accepted understanding by everyone that each one of us occupies a specific placement within this system, or Heaven help you, outside of it (And woe to those who are outside the system or fails to wear the signature of the Beast. Weeping and gnashing of teeth awaits).

One of the most successful of these ideologies that has benefited the social elites is the myth of the existence, sanctity and value of the American Middle Class, which exists as a metaphysically charged utopia within the minds of those who identify with its values, achievements and aspirations. As Howard Zinn points out, the Middle Class exists as an economic buffer or wedge between the elites and the impoverished. It also serves as a sentimental cultural set piece for the members of society to identify with, aspire to and maintain its place with American society.

Of course, there are various layers within this mythic class structure.  Somewhere between what I call the “safe” Middle Class, or those that have a dependable, secure access to income – and the working poor who mainly consist of the service sector is the layer of those that may live in the same neighborhoods as the safe Middle Class, but are desperately treading water. The anxiety of the Middle Class is broadcasted daily in the media with endless stories projecting the fears and doubts about its “shrinking.” This fear is massaged, nourished and broadcasted via the media to keep the populace anxious, for it is a well – known principle in advertising to “turn up the pain” to get the required response from those who are being sold. All advertising aims at maximizing discontent and demoralizing the individual/consumer with visions of social conflict amid reduced expectations and fear of losing out.

How skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, building resentment on top of humiliation! How adroit to bus poor black youngsters into poor white neighborhoods, in a violent exchange of impoverished schools, while the schools of the rich remain untouched and the wealth of the nation, doled out carefully where children need free milk, is drained for billion-dollar aircraft carriers. How ingenious to meet the demands of blacks and women for equality by giving them small special benefits, and setting them in competition with everyone else for jobs made scares by an irrational, wasteful system. How wise to turn the fear and anger of the majority toward a class of criminals bred – by economic inequity – faster than they can be put away, deflecting attention from the huge thefts of national resources carried out within the law by men in executive offices.”

― Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present

Isn’t it funny how the politicians always talk about how great the middle class is, and yet the Middle Class is understood by everyone in America to be an endangered species? Isn’t it hilarious that the politicians sell so skillfully the bit about how ardent they are in pursuing the “national interests” as if all American Citizens held the same value as those who sit in the seats of real power in this country? Obviously, the anxiety that is palpable within the Middle Class exists as an unspoken, existential fear that as a group, there is no access or influence it can muster against those sitting in the seats of power. There can only be a grudging, resentful hope that the Middle Class won’t be sacrificed upon the crucible of neoliberal agenda. For the Middle Class there can only be the unrelenting churn of helplessness as they are chained to the deck chairs of a slowly sinking economic state of affairs.

It will never occur to them, until they are in danger of losing everything, to ask why should there even BE a “Middle Class,” never mind whether it should be something worth aspiring to or keep it around while ignoring its own certain and approaching death as it encounters the mother of all economic icebergs. It will never occur to them that the illusion of attaining the American Dream keeps the social and economic injustices firmly in place. As the neoliberal agenda marches onwards to total economic domination over every aspect of life, fear of equality will continued to milked for all its worth by the masters of deception and given to masses to drink, enabling the terrible truth to continue to be hidden in plain sight.

It is a fact that the current economic system in America is causing a growing crisis in democracy. As the Middle Class evaporates into the steam of cultural amnesia, so follows democracy, or what passes for democracy, with it. In its place awaits total economic domination of the neoliberal program. It doesn’t take much to overcome the fear of equality. It only takes the will to do so.

 

Fear of Equality, Part 13. Money and the Death of Democracy

 

NOTE

[1] “Marx and I are ourselves partly to blame for the fact that the younger people sometimes lay more stress on the economic side than is due to it. We had to theoretical the main principle vis-a-vis our adversaries, who denied it, and we had not always the time, the place or the opportunity to give their due to the other elements involved in the interaction. But when it came to presenting a section of history, that is, to making a practical application, it was a different matter and there no error was permissible. Unfortunately, however, it happens only too often that people think they have fully understood a new theory and can apply it without more ado from the moment they have assimilated its main principles, and even those not always correctly. And I cannot exempt many of the more recent “Marxists” from this reproach, for the most amazing rubbish has been produced in this quarter, too. (Engels) Letter to J. Bloch, 21 September 1890

 

FEAR OF EQUALITY, PART 11. Our Enemy, the State

Alfred Jay Nock: Equality is an “utterly untenable popular perversion”
Alfred Jay Nock: Equality is an “utterly untenable popular perversion.”

The modern conservative movement, specifically its libertarianneoliberal wing, has its modern-day pop stars, grand masters and philosophical pillars who have formed and provided clear direction and shape to its doctrines and beliefs. Some of them are more wellknown than others. William F. Buckley, Jr., Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, Hayek and von Mises, et cetera. Some of these libertarian pillars originate from the more obscure past, yet still casts an influential shadow well into the 21st century. Alfred Jay Nock may not be as well-known today as he was during the middle of the 20th century, but his influence was profound during his lifetime as an author, social critic, educational theorist and anarcho-capitalist, and his thought has become embedded into the philosophical DNA of the modern libertarian-neoliberal movement.

While I find the collective brain trust of conservatism and neoliberalism (let’s dispense with the term “libertarian,” since its aims, definition and direction have been absorbed completely and successfully by the neoliberal project) somewhat wearisome and intellectually dishonest, one is bound to find points that are interesting and worthy of discussion. And that can be said of Nock’s views, of which many points are debatable, are at least coherent and soberminded. In particular, his biting critique of the academic system as it existed during his lifetime deserves to be considered here.

 Nock’s Theory of Education

Nock published his book A Theory of Education in the United States because he was troubled by the inadequacies of the educational system he observed as it existed in the 1930s. Nock had problems with the premise that the educational system presented to society. “Bring your children,” he claimed the system promised, “and we will put them through this process under the sanction of an egalitarian and democratic theory. It did not work.”

For Nock, there were very striking reasons why he considered the educational system to be a failure. (Remember, the era when he made his observations occurred in the 1920s1940s). The major fails appeared on the fault line of unsupported and illconceived premises based on sentimentality and poorly defined and confusing terms of art (more on this later). Nock identified three points of failure.

 The first point was the theory of equality. “All children,” the system told society,should be able to be educated equally.” Nock claimed this theory failed because reality suggests otherwise. [1]

Depending on class, environment and quality of teaching and parenting, it is inconceivable that a child in the impoverished Deep South (for instance) could acquire the same quality of education as a child blessed to be born into the moneyed coastal elite. Obviously, there are differences between academic achievements between schools, let alone within a room of students, as some of them will learn at a greater rate than others. Nock says that this inequality among the populace did not go unnoticed by the Founding Fathers. In fact, Nock, who studied the life of Thomas Jefferson, claimed that according to Jefferson’s written letters, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence was very concerned how to manage the educational talent in the several states and came up with an academic scheme that today sounds fantastical and a bit demented by today’s standards. [2]

Nock says that educational equality was obviously never taken seriously, least of all by the elites that owned the country. Thus, the theory that all children are able to be educated equally is based on a false definition of egalitarianism that is based on a mythic and cultural sentimentality. When class and money are concerned, the myth of educational equality is further decimated. Nock correctly observed that education was clearly a class prerogativea privilege afforded by class and wealth.

The second point of failure that Nock observed was the myth of Democracy. To begin with, Nock had serious problems with democracy, period. In an article entitled, The Criminality of the State published in 1939, Nock cried,

““Democratic State practice is nothing more or less than State practice. It does not differ from Marxist State practice, Fascist State practice, or any other. Here is the Golden Rule of sound citizenship, the first and greatest lesson in the study of politics: you get the same order of criminality from any State to which you give power to exercise it; and whatever power you give the State to do things for you carries with it the equivalent power to do things to you.”

Furthermore, Nock added these disdainful words, “Democracy is animated by a hatred of elitist authority.” In regard to the previous point about educational equality, Nock incorrectly surmises that democracy “it must aim at no ideas above those of the average man.” I am tempted to consider this quote a bit of a rhetorical flourish, but Nock isn’t usually taken to make statements he doesn’t wholeheartedly believe. Nock believed that the democratic state was at war with itself and against the individual.

Nock refers to and holds the view that has been shared by the elite from the beginning that the masses are merely self-serving idiots in need of guidance from the more intellectually advanced minority. Greek intellectual tradition of Western civilization has this ruling class template embedded in its core logicso embedded it is ubiquitous and taken for granted.[3], The result is a society at war with itself, engaging within a dynamic struggle between opposing currents of an internal conflict and anxiety within society.

The middle class anxietywhich is always fearful of sinking into poverty, mistrust, loathes and actively hates the ruling elites that offer the masses sustenance. This guidance more often than not metamorphosed into outright enslavement and exploitation of the masses.

This failure of democracy is linked to the previous point of educational equalityfor Nock, it is a false premise that education can be applied democraticallyin other wordsin equality. Democracy is a fiction, according to Nock, and does not in fact, exist on any level except through a cultural narrative based on sentimentality and confused language, which results in counterfeit versions of equality, democracy and literacy.

Nock stresses that this confusion of terms has also been laden with sentimental notions and specious logic, producing imitation (and devalued) definitions of equality, democracy and literacy. The masses become victimized by a predatory monetary system that is linked to a tyranny of ideas about equality and democracywhile remaining perversely loyal to the inequitable system that has enslaved and disempowered them. This misplaced cultural loyalty ironically closes down any attempt to adjust and abolish the current system. In this way, Nock feared democratic states were destined to authoritarianism.

The third point of failure was that it was assumed that what was considered best for the child was best for the country, and that a literate society was the goal for a highly functional state. However, the mass of society over time became more illiterate and less able to process information.

It is telling that thiscritique Nock made in the 1940s is still applicable today, as literacy rates continue to fall well into the 21st century. The promise of creating an informed literate class failed. Obviously, the educational system failed to create a literate citizenry. Nock observed that the crucial distinction between education and training had evaporated, and the assumption that all children could be educated equally was a mistaken one, as Nock considered the mass of humanity as “barbarians” unworthy and incapable of bettering their intellectual powers. Nock referred to the elite capable of superior mental ability as the “Remnant,” and Nock placed his faith in that small group since it was his opinion that this elite was largely responsible for the advancements made in any society. What could one really expect from a barbarian?

Nock concluded at the end of A Theory of Education, that although he was stridently opposed to statecontrolled compulsory education, he allowed that most people are able to be trained to perform various vocational tasks, but like his hero, Thomas Jefferson, only a few could be of real service for the country due to their superior intellect and power of thought. It was in this intellectual elite that Nock placed his hopes, as it was his view that the course of the country’s destiny was shaped and directed not by the barbarian masses, but by this superior intellectual elite.

Society’s Lies

Within the arena of human relationships, humanity has devised two strategies to address the human being’s need for survival: that is labor in exchange for labor, and appropriating the labor from others through force or exploitation.

One of the major influences on Nock’s world view was the social critic and anarchist, Franz Oppenheimer, who was of the opinion that the State engaged in wholesale robbery. Nock wholeheartedly shared this view as well [4]. It is unclear whether Nock shared Oppenheimer’s view that Capitalism’s exercise in exploitation was the key for generating the State’s wealth, but it is known that Nock held a generally favorable view of capitalism.

Nock’s radical individualism necessarily made him a staunch anti-collectivist. In his view, the common man was too finite, flawed and stupid to create a utopia. Besides, the State was dedicated to subverting the individual’s will in service of the State, thus making the State the poorest vehicle imaginable for addressing and providing solutions for the problems in society. The State held all the cards, and revolution only offered a change of a system of oppression. Nock saw that the State manipulating public opinion through slippery, sentimental and confusing language, especially more so with the media’s power to make any statement mean anything. Others have noticed this feature in governance, although the perspectives and conclusions may pull apart different dimensions and analysis. Kenneth Rexroth claimed:

 “Since all society is organized in the interest of exploiting classes and since if men knew this they would cease to work, and society would fall apart; it has always been necessary, at least since the urban revolutions, for societies to be governed ideologically by a system of fraud.”[5]

 

Rexroth called this system of fraud, thesocial lie.” According to the Classical Liberal narrative, the “social contract” born of the period of European Enlightenment had replaced the previous world order commonly known as the “divine right of kings.” Oppenheimer (and Rexroth, for that matter) considered the social contract little more than a myth, or in Rexroth’s words, “an eighteenth-century piece of verbalism.” The status quo is maintained by the anxiety produced within these internal conflicts we mentioned earlier (the resentment, fear and loathing directed towards the elite by the masses, and the perverse loyalty felt by the populace towards the ideological narratives justifying the exploitation).

Conclusion

What Nock didn’t realize or want to realize was that his critique equally applied to capitalism as well Anti-democratic crypto-authoritarianism. One wonders how Nock would view today’s corporate welfare state and how those commercial interests have essentially become “the government,” what with the 1% controlling the levels of power in Washington D.C.

In all of his criticisms about the adversarial nature of the State, Nock failed to comment on the incursion of corporate interests into the roles of government. Perhaps the intrusion of corporatism wasn’t as widely prevalent as it appears in modern times. On one hand as a staunch defender of free-market capitalism, Nock would be quite at home with the evolution of libertarian philosophy as it reaches into the 21st century and the neoliberal agenda of privatizing the social and natural resources. However, one can make a case that Nock would be greatly dismayed at the neoliberal program of empire-building and constant military involvement into the affairs of other countries. The free market ideals that Nock held so dear have morphed into crass casino capitalism where the free market has been replaced by a stateless, global economic cryptoauthoritarianism which owes its allegiance to no one and exploits for profit entire nations and peoples. Even the privatization of the world’s water supply has been targeted as fair game.

Nock may have been a harsh critic of equality and democratic values, but in all honesty, democracy had never allowed to organize itself in a way that would benefit everyone. Allow me to speak plainly: the foundation of the American State was organized by an elite of white men who saw themselves as the owners of the country, and was not above enslaving or destroying other cultures, races and women in order to build its unimaginable wealth for itself. Since colonial times, the evolution of capitalism has resulted in the corporate interests, and the governing State becoming oneit seems incredible that Nock, with all his intellectual powers and insight, couldn’t predict this. Maybe he had an inkling. Nevertheless, he chose not to acknowledge it out of a curious case cognitive dissonance.

The State doesn’t have to be our enemy but it could be is a Living Community based on the principle of mutual consent, mutual benefit, mutual prosperity bound together by acknowledgment that all of us have an equal share in the bounty this world has to offer.

 

Fear of Equality, Part 12: The Swinde of Fulfillment

 

NOTES

[1] “They did not pretend to believe that everyone is educable, for they knew, on the contrary, that very few are educable, very few indeed. They saw this as a fact of nature, like the fact that few are six feet tall. […] They accepted the fact that there are practicable ranges of intellectual and spiritual experience which nature has opened to some and closed to others.” Nock, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, pg. 34 (1943)

[2] Jefferson’s ideal scholastic model consisted of a group of students passing through a series of institutional gauntlets, where students are culled at specific points: those that fail to reach the highest levels of accomplishments are sent home, while the top “geniuses” are selected to move into higher classes until only a few of the top scholars remain. Sounds like a colonial academic version of American Idol, doesn’t it? According to Jefferson, “by this means, 20 of the best geniuses (in each State, mind you), shall be raked from the rubbish annually.” Yes, the Father of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas “All men are created Equal” Jefferson considered his fellow countrymen to be nothing more than human trash, at least intellectually.

[3] Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were all held anti-democratic views, and insisted that the model society would require ruling by an intellectual elite, rigid social stratification, hierarchies and various divisions of labor.

[4]There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man’s needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means . . . the State invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation.  Nock, Our Enemy, The State 1935

[5] Interview with Kenneth Rexroth, from Lawrence Lipton’s The Holy Barbarians (Messner, 1959).

 

 

Fear of Equality Part 9. Escape from the Collective

 

Milton Friedman. Grins and shrugs.
Milton Friedman. Grins and shrugs.

 

Milton Friedman once gave a Speech in Harlem in 1978. It is one of the worst speeches I’ve ever had to listen to. The speech is entitled, “The Escape from Collectivism. You can watch it here on YouTube. Milton Friedman asks, “Why is it that the role of government has been increasing when it comes to education?” Friedman goes on to state that since the 19th century there has been a shift in perspective with society; from a 19th century belief that the ideal individual was self-reliant and self-responsible, and totally owned his trajectory towards success or failure.

The role of the government back then (according Friedman) “was to provide maximum opportunity for the “Individual to express and develop their values and capacities.”

Friedman mockingly and dismissively regards that the modern view holds that the Individual was “an innocent puppet” beset by social forces beyond his control. According to Friedman, this puppet wasn’t responsible for his unfortunate station in life – society was. The ultimate unit in society was the “collective” – not the Individual.

Friedman further says that those 19th century schools did achieve the same goals of the19th century government: making people “responsible for their own development and learning.”

In the 20th century, again according to Friedman, the concept changed – the schools were a reflection of society’s values and interest that should be imposed upon the child. Schools sought to get the child out of the clutches of “the ignorant and unsophisticated parents and not the hands of educational experts.

Friedman complains: it’s the very concept of collectivism that alienates the individual and robs the individual of self -respect, removes from the individual feelings of importance and significance. “The whole justification for governmental public schooling was in order to provide a common framework so you can have citizens who can exist together in a single, free, democratic society.”

Golly, that sounds nice. Nevertheless, I wondered if the statement was true, so I decided to investigate the matter best I could.

Point #1.Here we lookat the assertion that there was a shared social value which arose in the 19th century in which “the ideal individual was totally responsible for his achievements and shortcomings in his life.”

Let’s see if this sweeping generalization holds water, shall we? We have plenty of information about the times of the 19th century and America’s national and international policies, social order, work relations and financial state. Throughout the 1800s, we would be remiss not to mention that the colonization program of North America began building all its wealth within the twin projects of genocide and slave trading. Wars fought against the indigenous people of this continent and against other nations became a deadly, recurring pattern. The War Between the States – which was initiated over conflict of expanding slavery to the western states kicked off at the height of the Industrial Revolution. There were many banking panics, scandals, grinding, unimaginable poverty and often deadly workmen strikes. Children were exploited in factories and if you weren’t a White, property – owning male, like a farmer or shipping magnate, there was often no justice or recourse available to you. Friedman’s assertion that during this era, the government’s role, “was to provide maximum opportunity” to for the “Individual to express and develop their values and capacities”, sounds silly and desperate.

The closest thing that lines up with Friedman’s claim could be the notion that was formed at the beginning of the 20th century with the arrival of the views of the social theorist, Max Weber, who authored the monumental thesis, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” Essentially boiled down, this is the belief that hard work, faith and thriftiness led to success in one’s life. For Weber, this mindset evoked a religious morality of Capitalism. At the base of this thesis is the proposition that the Calvinist ethics inherited by Puritan and Quaker fundamentalism gave shape and direction for the religious worship of Capitalism that was woven into the social fabric of American society.

“Wealth is thus bad ethically only in so far as it is a temptation to idleness and sinful enjoyment of life, and its acquisition is bad only when it is with the purpose of later living merrily and without care. But as a performance of duty in a calling it is not only morally permissible, but actually enjoined. The parable of the servant who was rejected because he did not increase the talent which was entrusted to him seemed to say so directly. To wish to be poor was, it was often argued, the same as wishing to be unhealthy; it is objectionable as a glorification of works and derogatory to the glory of God. Especially begging, on the part of one able to work, is not only the sin of slothfulness, but a violation of the duty of brotherly love according to the Apostle’s own word. The emphasis on the ascetic importance of a fixed calling provided an ethical justification of the modern specialized division of labour. In a similar way the providential interpretation of profit-making justified the activities of the business man.” [1]

Friedman’s point that the individual was seen as a self-directive agent that succeeded or failed on his own is a squashed and mangled oversimplification, an empty assertion pressed into service to fight a pseudo-intellectual culture war on the side of the Individual against the enemy; the Collective. What remains unspoken, yet ringing loudly in that unuttered, smirky silence is the condemnation, shaming and vilification of the impoverished, disenfranchised; in other words the sinners and heretics of the Capitalist Religion. The reality contained in the historical record is much grimmer. The government has never been interested in making sure that the Individual “express and develop their values and capacities,” as Friedman inveigled, but rather it was set up to serve the elite that owned the country.[2]

Howard Zinn said it perfectly: “Those upper classes, to rule, needed to make concessions to the middle class, without damage to their own wealth or power, at the expense of slaves, Indians, and poor whites. This bought loyalty. And to bind that loyalty with something more powerful even than material advantage, the ruling group found, in the 1760s and 1770s, a wonderfully useful device. That device was the language of liberty and equality, which could unite just enough whites to fight a Revolution against England, without ending either slavery or inequality.” (Howard Zinn) A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present.

Point #2. What about those marvelous 19th century schools that made people “responsible for their own development and learning?” Well, not entirely true. Perhaps the universities, college were able to achieve this at some level, but America’s public school system was only put in place because of the greater needs of Industry that needed a unity of compliant workers that was distributed among all the varieties of ethnic groups that comprised the populace. Friedman’s sloppy assessment that the justification for government public schooling was, “to provide a common framework so you can have citizens who can exist together in a single, free, democratic society,” is only partially correct.

John Gatto, the author of the “Dumbing Down of America,” researched the origins of the federally enforced public school system and found some interesting documentation. The public school system was originally conceived:“ as a means to achieve important economic and social goals for the national character.” Gatto quotes from a document he discovered that revealed the future educational plan of the United States (this document circa 1967). Quoting Gatto:

The BEHAVIORAL TEACHER EDUCATIONAL PROJECT outlines specific teaching reforms to be forced on the country, unwillingly of course, after 1967. It also sets out, in clear language, the outlook and intent of its invisible creators. Nothing less than quoting again “the impersonal manipulation through schooling of a future America in which few will be able to maintain control over their own opinions”, an America in which (quoting again) “each individual receives at birth, a multipurpose identification number which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of their [underlings]”, (underlings is my interpretation, everything else came out of the document), “and to expose them to the directors subliminal influence of the state education department and the federal department acting through those whenever necessary,” and quoting Gatto again: “The project identified the future as one (again I’m quoting) “in which a small league would control all important matters, one in which participatory democracy would largely disappear.”Children would be made to see that their classmates, and indeed the average man or woman were so inadequate, were so irresponsible that they had to be controlled and regulated.

The pubic school system exists for one purpose only: to create a disposable class of workers that will fight over the few jobs that are left, and apparently, that’s been the goal since the beginning.

Professor Henry A. Giroux notes that the Texas GOP has a curious plank in their political platform concerning a particular problen with education. “We oppose teaching of Higher order Thinking Skills [because they] have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental control.” This concern makes total sense if one sees that acquiring the life skill of critical reasoning is “dangerous.” It is certainly unwanted. How many times do we have to say, “Thou Shalt Not Question the System?” Don’t question yourself, your place in society, your relationship to capitalism as a commoditized consumer, your political system and most important, your beliefs and opinions you received and accepted from the media. Okay? You’re just making it harder for the rest of us to go on with our tiny, inconsequential, unimaginative lives. Listen, it’s all been thought out for you. If anyone deserves a dysfunctional, decrepit and useless educational system, it’s us! Mighty Individuals “expressing our values and capabilities” in accordance with the wishes the State and Industry.

Submitted for your approval: a report issued by John D. Rockefeller General Education Board, circa 1913. Perhaps Friedman was referring to this.

“In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into men of learning or philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters, great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, statesmen, politicians, creatures of whom we (the elite?) have ample supply. The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way”. [3]

Think about it: don’t you want to live your life according to an illiterate, anti-intellectual narrative that reduces for each member in society the possibilities of human and social achievement? Wouldn’t you rather base your opinions and beliefs on ignorant, emotionally charged, pseudo-intellectual soundbites that passes for “intellectual discourse” in the media? It’s in the country’s best interest that you’ve been dumbed-down and your brain rendered null and void when it comes to critical analysis of the world. The Milton Friedman’s, George Will’s and the Fox News tribes of the world are just doing their job –  to keep your expectations low and your questioning to a minimum and they are all counting on the fact that you are too wrapped up in mindless consuming and eternal bill-paying to notice how badly society is breaking down around you. Why on Earth would you want to examine the world beyond your current belief systems and rebuild language that expands and enriches meaning and possibilities for your life when you can instead easily continue to be persuaded by the same comforting half-truths and lies floating into your intellectually – enfeebled brainpan? Better to escape the evil Collective and live as a brain-dead, alienated unfulfilled yet mighty Individual.

Isn’t it?

Next: Fear of Equality, Part 10; The Theology of Capitalism

NOTES

[1] Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1905, Chapter V, “Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism”

[2] John Jay, the very first Supreme Court Chief Justice exclaimed, ”The people who own the country ought to govern it.”

[3] General Education Board, Occasional Papers, No. 1 (General Education Board, New York, 1913) page 6.

 

Fear of Equality Part 8. Don’t Question the System

Frederick_Douglass_as_a_younger_man

 

Recently I have been engaged in yet another YouTube debate with someone who is not so readily convinced that the world is ready for equality. Predictably the excuses… err, reasons given were many, but they all boiled down to a singular point: this person assumes that in order for everybody to take part in an egalitarian world, he would have to be required to give up his money or worse, suffer the fate of having his money taken away from him. I reassured him angry mobs would not be lining the streets with their palms out wanting to whet their beaks on his bank account, and I asked what was it about Capitalism that he was so interested in defending. Instead of an answer, he played this card:

“Here’s the thing, WE DON’T WANT YOUR NEW WORLD ORDER. Nothing you can propose will change our feelings on this. We are far from perfect, but we do love our country. Make fun of it all you like with your tongue in cheek “Murike” remarks. There are millions upon millions of us here in the United States alone who are telling you to take your Utopia and stick it. Now, how are you going to “re-educate” the world into your point of view without committing to the “morality of abuse” you claim to oppose? How will you force us to assimilate? Is resistance futile?
Come get some.”

By the way, this person was going on and on about the elevated sanctity of the Individual and how maintaining that specific self-identity was very important – especially when its reality can be affected by the “evil Collective,” of which he holds a deep and abiding mistrust and sees as the enemy of the Individual’s “sovereignty.” And yet he appeals to the “millions upon millions” who he claims share in his position that they will be unwilling to grant economic equality (the term he used is “Utopia”) under any circumstances. What does this show us? It could be seen as a “double-standard” where his position in his argument need to be arrayed in such a fashion that the Individual must be ever vigilant to the sinister machinations of the “Collective,” and so the Individual is accorded nearly divine status that cannot be questioned. And of course, when the fear arose within him in imagining a world where economic justice and equality were indeed given to all equally, he psychically gathered within his consciousness the opinions of “millions upon millions here in the United States” who like him, he believes, opposes economic equality. He instinctively understands that there is strength in numbers, much more than could ever be found in a single Individual. This is instructive to see because you can see here how one fails to see how they are holding opposing or conflicting views within their minds. Actually, the conflict isn’t real – as the argument can only proceed upon a logical foundation, which will change in an instant when one has to defend something that can’t be defended on moral terms. It’s intellectually dishonest, but people love to have morality on their side. That’s how they can morally justify dishonesty. You don’t expect to hear the truth, do you?

Knowing this, I asked the gentleman once again; “what is it about the current state of capitalism that you find so worthy of defending?” He hasn’t answered yet. It’s a question I’ve found very few people are willing to answer honestly, because to do so (and make sense) one has to either give up the morality point (that is, capitalism is not a moral good for everybody equally) or admit that the system is more trouble than it’s worth (for countless reasons). And beyond that, I’ve found in discussing this point that many people who are so heavily invested in having their opinion, beliefs and projections validated by others, that they will very rarely come out of the block and plainly say, “Yeah, I know capitalism exploits and kills and destroys everything on this planet. But as long as I don’t have to change or suffer, I couldn’t give a crap.” Most people will dissemble and lie and start talking gibberish, but they will never give up morality. It would be too embarrassing. They would rather hide behind the lies. They consider themselves as civilized, you see.

Fear of Equality is rooted in FEAR. I have a hard time accessing what that would feel like since I don’t have fear of equality, but I reckon on of the main sources of that fear is having one’s ideas, beliefs or self-definition invalidated through morality, reason, logic, what have you. It’s too much trouble to rebuild all that within one’s self, hell, it may be impossible. Yet, it is a fear that has resonated within the minds of those who sought to control and dominate the lives of others ever since the time of the first Master and Slave.

I was reading an account about the life of the former slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. Douglass was taught the alphabet by the wife of his owner, but was soon discovered by her husband, who disapproved. Mainly, it was against the law for slaves to read. But beyond that, the husband explained to the wife that if a slave learned to read, he would soon question himself and become dissatisfied with his station in life and desire freedom. Imagine that! Here was an honest expression defending a system of exploitation on moral grounds! So much for morality, then. “Look, in order for this system to work, we need to subjugate this person, rob him of his liberty, his labor, his time and ultimately his life. Plus, he has to remain in this ignorant state unless he awakens to a possibility where he can express himself as something greater!”

Sounds familiar? It is the same argument used today to keep people in poverty and alienation. “Don’t give everybody a living income – they will question themselves, question the system and their station in life and desire freedom!”

To think that there exists a type of person who would purposely continue to exploit or to benefit from the exploitation of others is a notion that is despicable to me. Investigate the Living Income Guarantee and expand your definition in what is possible.

 

Next: Fear of Equality Part 9. Escape from the Collective

 

NOTE

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4ZLe7CcMUA&list=LL5rA6LDTwLoA1g8RePrLTJA

FIFA in Brazil: Welcome to the Existential Games!

Image

Homeless worker protesting on the eve of the Brazil 2014 World Cup

 

Four years ago (it scarcely seems that long ago!) I found myself in the middle of all the Fifa World Cup hoopla, hype and hysteria in the country that was hosting the tournament: South Africa.  The first time I was ever aware of the World Cup proper was when the USA hosted the event in the summer of 1994. I played a bit in grade school but never followed the sport internationally. I was struck at the difference in the level of play between Team USA and their opponents. The Americans seemed slow, confused and pretty much bumbled around the pitch like bumper cars (my probably inaccurate recollection). I was also struck by how passionately the fans rooted for their respective country’s team.

I began checking out professional soccer games on television. Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN offered the most coverage in my town, and when the Major League Soccer franchise opened in Columbus as Columbus Crew Soccer Club with the first soccer – specific stadium in American history, well I thought that was cool. I needed a hobby to placate my entertainment – starved mind.

It’s the innocuousness of such an introduction that today leaves me with a vague sense of embarrassment and loathing. In many ways, the game as it exists within its own frame of reference, logic and reality, is a perfect combination of space, energy, physical skill and mental acuity; in other words, the balanced, perfect relationship between the mind and body (in relationship between the other minds and bodies on the pitch) all focused on a singular task. Running, jumping, passing, tackling, defending or kicking a ball into a net. It’s very complex, and yet easy to understand the draw of such a physical drama can have on consciousness. It is easy to understand how the mind can compartmentalized and separate the perceived innocuous, feel – good essence of the sport from its toxic, reptilian reality. The essence more times than not, can only be perceived by assertions or fleeting emotions and feelings. Reality, however – cuts like a knife.

For example: In that 1994 World Cup the U.S. team first tied Switzerland 1-1, and in a surprising upset, defeated the fourth – ranked Colombia squad, the difference, an own goal deflected into the net by Colombian defender Andreas Escobar. While it was the only high point in the U.S. team’s experience in the World Cup, Escobar was murdered in a hail of gunfire as he left a Medellin nightclub. The assailant was reported to yell, ‘Goal!” after each shot.  Such are the ways of mankind. [1]

In South Africa, many years later, and totally by coincidence as far as I was concerned, I was in another country experiencing World Cup fever. I didn’t get to see much of the games unless I was at the mall or managed to see it online or in the shops. But for me I had already encountered and appreciated a deeper perspective of all the issues and dimensions such a mass event presents. It was reported in the media that colossal stadia of dubious public benefit were going to be built basically at the expense of the public good. In essence, that’s a fancy way of saying that money that should have been used to benefit the people was instead diverted into the pockets of the entities that have engorged themselves silly on the stateless corporate entity called Fifa; a reptilian, parasitic outfit, widely (and correctly) viewed as a colossal existential tower of greed and corruption answerable to nobody but its own pathological self-interests and desires.

Four years later, those games tore into South Africa, sucked up billions of tax – free profits and caught the next train out of town. It sure is a good thing Fifa is a tax-exempt, not – for – profit organization and all. It cost Germany $1.5 billion to put on the World Cup in 2006. South Africa? Make that a hot $4 billion bucks to put on the games in 2010.  This year’s World Cup is going to be much more expensive for Brasil to host: $11 billion bucks. Which is the most expensive World Cup to date. Which should induce a moral outrage in any clear – headed human being. But that’s why I marvel at the mind’s ability to compartmentalize, separate and isolate competing and contradictory factors bouncing within our domes;  it can either cause one to question one’s own scene, or to consign the ugliness to darkness to be forgotten, unremembered and easily reassembled into nostalgia.

While I was in South Africa during that World Cup, I watched a few games on the big screen,mainly, and marveled at individual plays while keeping an eye on the ugly side of the event as it presented itself. There were no major demonstrations from what i remember. The whole thing was basically a mass event that lived in the mind for months before climaxing as a cultural event during a few short weeks and then, quickly fading out of our collective memory.  All bets are off for this year’s World Cup in Brazil, however. It’s already looking to be a different kind of World Cup experience.

And now the games are going down in a day or two in Brasil. Protests? Check. Labor strikes? Check. Media schadenfreude? Check. Accusations of bribery? Check. Nervous corporate sponsors? Check. So far, so good for Brazil…

And then we come to the titular head of Fifa, Sepp Blatter. He’s a great guy to have on your team. When the news and allegations over charges of corruption and mistreatment of foreign workers in Qatar (World Cup 2022) began gaining momentum, Sepp grinned and shrugged; “I would never say it’s corruption.” When sponsors began recoiling at the possible commercial blowback on its links to Fifa, he muttered; “Sadly there’s a great deal of discrimination and racism.” Aww, makes him “sad.” But Sepp is not taking this laying down! “‘We are in the situation where we need leadership,” he said. “I still have fire inside me and if we show unity that is the best way to deal with those in the world that want to destroy FIFA.” The 78 year-old Sepp openly bribes members of Fifa with “bonuses” if they continue to support his re-election! [2]

Well, I’m sad, too. I’m sad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

Fifa is the perfect, monolithic monument to the glory of neoliberal capitalism. It is unfettered by local and international law, it exists solely to increase its wealth and power, and it absolutely has no other interests, business or humanitarian, other than what it can get for itself. It is a living existential nightmare that is bound to no nation, creed, tax or law. In many ways it has taken the form of an itinerant,  organized religious entity, leaving in its wake a series of barely – used enormo-domes scattered across the Earth, destined to fall into vacant disrepair and neglect, while the locals pay with their blood, sweat, tears and life the price for the global entertainment of minds made possible through the villainy, greed and power of neoliberal economics. There’s no joy that can be had in this world worth such a cost. And yet, the future suggests that the resistances, pressures and fissures that will be at play arrayed onto the stateless gravy – train – golden era for Fifa and other players of the Existential Games may not be long for this world.

 

NOTES

[1] http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/soccer/world/2002/world_cup/hof/escobar/

[2] Sepp on those wanting to “destroy FIFA.”