2008 Financial Meltdown, Banking, Chris Hedges, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Consumerism, Corporatocracy, Global Elite, Globalization, Inverted Totalitarianism, Mortgage Fraud, Neoliberal Capitalism, OWS, Security and Surveillance State, Sheldon Wolin
“Most people [Americans] have been reduced to a market demographic. They’re consumers, they’re not citizens. No matter how active they are within the system [employment, religion, government, etc.] the system is the problem.” – Joe Bageant
The ideology we have today permeating every aspect of life in America is neoliberal capitalism which takes its ultimate expression in the form of megacorporations or multi-national corporations whose tentacles of power and influence reach deep into government and other nations as well, considering that their wealth and budgets are larger than that of many small countries. Indeed in America the government and the corporate world are one, merely separated by a revolving door.
As long as you conform to what they have programmed you to be, an obedient consumer, then behavior which is in line with that mindset is deemed permissible or legal. Similar behavior which questions the consumer culture and the power structure behind it is deemed illegal and is either squashed or otherwise corralled through State violence and coercion. In an article in the early 1980s in which he referred to the American people as ‘consumer-depositors’ in thrall to the financial elite, Gore Vidal saw into this aspect of the system decades ago.
Consumerism as Hegemony:
By hegemony, Gramsci meant the permeation throughout society of an entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs and morality that has the effect of supporting the status quo in power relations. Hegemony in this sense might be defined as an “organizing principle” that is diffused by the process of socialization into every area of daily life. To the extent that this prevailing consciousness is internalized by the population it becomes part of what is generally called “common sense” so that the philosophy, culture and morality of the ruling elite comes to appear as the natural order of things.
With government and corporations merging as one we now have what is called the Corporate State. Neoliberal capitalism is essentially unfettered, unrestrained capitalism, the very thing that caused the financial meltdown of 2008:
It was Wall Street banks and hedge funds, not home buyers, who created the enormous demand for high-risk mortgages to pool, to securitize, and to turn into Ponzi-like gambling structures with names like CDOs, CDO squared and synthetic CDOs. It was the money-grubbing rating agencies that blessed these pieces of garbage with AAA ratings. As a result, trillions of dollars of worthless toxic assets polluted our financial system. When the bubble they induced burst, our system crashed, causing 8 million working people to lose their jobs in a matter of months due to no fault of their own. Anyone who still blames low-income home buyers, or regulations or Greece — or anyone other than Wall Street — should be checked for dementia.
This deregulation of capitalism into a more predatory and destructive form has occurred at the same time as our government has slowly militarized this nation’s domestic police force and turned our country into a Security and Surveillance State. We are paying for our own enslavement. The rapacious corporate forces that were behind the meltdown of our economy in 2008 are now backed in power by this strengthened Authoritarian State. The inverted totalitarianism that Sheldon Wolin talked about has come to fruition. The great irony is that this totalitarianism is not coming from some socialist revolution as feared by the far right, but from Neoliberal Capitalism, the very system that Fox news and the corporate mainstream media trumpet.
With the dawning of an age of depletion and peak resources, Consumerism and the antisocial behavior of neoliberal capitalism can no longer survive and are simply being propped up and enforced by the iron fist of the Corporate State. Peak oil had a hand in bursting Wall Street’s housing bubble. This scenario of an ever-growing oppresive State in the face of an energy-starved future bodes ill for the rest of us who are not so privileged to be sitting in ivory towers, oblivious to the coming storm. Author Brian Davey describes this disconnection with reality that the elite suffer from, ensconced as they are in their own world of narcissism and luxury:
…There is nothing new in the phenomena of power arrogance and hubris. Since the earliest civilisations, rulers have made decisions and overreached their power in the confident belief that they had God on their side. In more modern times our rulers have believed that nature rewards the fittest, in other words, them.
Irrespective of what point in history they emerge, the starting point of most elites is the comfortable assumption that, as things have typically gone right for them in the past, they will continue to go right in the future. This belief is compounded by the fact that for a long time it has been the “little people” who bear the costs while those higher up the food chain reap the benefits. Power means that they are effectively cocooned from the negative kick-back from their actions. Long before the rulers themselves are successfully challenged and fall — and this typically happens only in the final stages — millions of others have already lost out badly and immense damage has been done.
What we term hubris is the cruel arrogance that arises from a failure of bottom-up feedback in systems where vast social and geographical distances exist between the powerful and the powerless. The punishment of Nemesis, the Greek goddess who was supposed to re-impose limits on those who overstepped their power, typically befalls entire societies before it befalls the rulers. Today the vast distance that separates the global elite from ordinary people is magnified further by the high-power technologies of communications, transport, production and weaponry. Nemesis, when she comes, will be global….