“Life is tragic and absurd and none of it has any purpose at all. Science has killed religion, there’s no hope for the future with seven billion of us on the planet, and the only thing you can do is to laugh in the face of it all.”
~ TC Boyle
This past Thursday night I went to a reading by author T.C. Boyle at Northern Arizona University’s Cline Library. Outside the entrance of the auditorium were a couple of tables lined with signed copies of his numerous novels and collections of short stories and manned by a few young people, perhaps college students, taking people’s money. I had already bought a copy of T.C. Boyle Stories at the local bookstore before coming and read a few of the short stories before the auditorium doors opened. I seldom go to such events, but what had first caught my eye were the titles of some of his books, one of which is A friend of the Earth whose premise is rather dystopic.
While waiting in line for the event, I opened up my book and read “The Extinction Tales” from the author’s first volume of short stories. The title of this particular short story states exactly what it’s about, taking the reader across continents and centuries from the massacre of the passenger pigeon to the genocide of the aboriginal Tasmanians. A couple of modern-day vignettes serve as the bookends to this vast sweep of history, at the beginning the hunting skills of a lighthouse caretaker’s pet cat snuff out the remaining population of the island’s unique bird species and at the end a man is haunted by the death of his father whose funeral he neglected to attend.
The doors opened and perhaps 100 to 200 people filled the seats. After a few fawning introductions by a couple of NAU faculty members, Tom Coraghessan Boyle took the lectern. Tall and lanky with a goatee, wearing red sneakers, and dressed in black with the glowing cat eyes of a printed t-shirt peaking through his opened sports jacket, he appeared more hipster than a sixty-something tenured English professor, but spoke as eloquently and articulately as one would expect.
He read two stories, but the second one resonated with me the most. “The Relive Box” is an allegorical tale of a middle-aged single father who becomes obsessed with the latest hi-tech escapism device which mentally transports people back to any specified time in their life by reading their memories. He’s stuck reliving various moments of his past while his present life falls apart. The ‘here and now’ simply becomes lifeless space and time to be filled by the ‘relive box’.
The parallels with today’s addiction to computers, video games, iPhones, and social media are obvious; our inseparable relationship with technology has made us virtual cyborgs. Our enslavement to technology extends to a societal level with the wide-held assumption that geoengineering and adaptive technologies will evolve in time to spare us from the worst of a collapsing environment, allowing business-as-usual to continue no matter how dire current scientific reports and future projections may be. Unarmed by a blind faith in technology, industrial civilization barrels headlong into a world growing more violent and unstable by the day. Technocapitalists live by the sword of technology and will die by it as well.
Technology is no different in capitalism’s overriding dependency on the successful accumulation of capital:
The system within which institutions, cultures, and people operate determines its policies, beliefs, and behaviors. Those operating within a capitalist system conform to the dictates of corporations. Capitalism cannot be reformed and its resiliency to stay afloat during environmental collapse is remarkable:
Nonetheless, in the final analysis, our entire way of life based on fossil fuels and infinite growth on a planet of finite resources is untenable…
“A small minority — people who are at the margins of the system and who are thus able to observe it as if from outside, who are not tied into any of the major influence groups, and who have learned to seek out alternative sources of information and think critically — will gradually come to the conclusion that the entire system of industrial civilization is inherently unsustainable.”
~ Richard Heinberg, Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World
A “post-carbon world” may very well not include people, but building an alternative system demands that we believe a post-collapse world does include survivors.
I’m middle-aged and my nine-to-five work routine keeps the financial wolves at bay; as with most Americans, I’m dependent on every paycheck. Being fully aware of mankind’s global ecological overshoot definitely puts an extra twist into my daily outlook when I head off for work. How long will my job be around as the pressures of peak oil and climate change mount? Of course we’re all riding the crest of the largest bubble in history, i.e. human overpopulation, where enough people are added each day to fill a large city with every single inhabitant becoming a new source of pollution and CO2 emissions. This past year seems to be a real seminal point in the breakdown of modern agriculture with several major breadbasket regions getting hit hard by record drought such as California and Brazil. There is no adapting to this kind of extreme weather in which snowpack, seasonal rain showers, and aquifers dry up and then when moisture does come, it’s delivered in torrential floods. And yet a sea of hungry mouths continue to arrive each day. Very few of these new parents are aware of the inevitable mass starvation on the horizon. How could they know when unending economic growth is demanded by their governments, environmentalists and investigative journalists are treated as terrorists, and truth-tellers are silenced? So our predicament will be handled in the most ad hoc and chaotic manner, think Katrina or Fukushima. We were all born into this dysfunctional, irredeemable system, and there’s no escaping the long arm of industrial civilization…
“The problem was you had to keep choosing between one evil or another, and no matter what you chose, they sliced a little bit more off you, until there was nothing left. At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidates who reminded them most of themselves.”
~ Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye
The gears of the corporate state continue to grind onward while the plastic people go about their artificial lives oblivious to the strange rattling in the engine compartment. There really is no “carefree living” these days while you wish you could ‘unknow’ the dark thoughts of the wicked that is coming. No one or no thing is coming to save us.
Per the optimal foraging theory, humans are only following basic biological urges by burning the most optimal and high EROEI energy sources available to them – fossil fuels. The situation is complicated further by all the numerous mental traps humans subconsciously employ to avoid uncomfortable truths. Infighting between vested interests jockying to protect their slice of the pie is yet another gremlin in the engine. I really find little comfort in the thought that no matter how much damage we humans exact on the environment, life will eventually return to the planet. This seems to absolve us from acting as the so-called sentient and wise beings we claim to be. We might as well drop the pretenses and acknowledge the self-inflicted damage wrought by our technocapitalism. Its insidious mechanisms are busy digging a mass grave for everyone:
Philosopher Peter Lamborn Wilson called it the Technopathocracy of modern society. This dehumanizing system we live under offers the illusion of choice while also inculcating into the populace its antisocial nature, for instance cutthroat competition as “normal” and “healthy”. What the psychopathic elite deem as positive values becomes normalized:
“[It] is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, rising by 3 to 5 per cent every year, due to the decreased lifespan of the average computer from six years to two,” says Wong.
“In countries such as Australia the disposal of e-waste in landfills generates a potent leachate, which has high concentrations of flame retardant chemicals and heavy metals. These can migrate through soils and groundwater and eventually reach people.”
Wong says developed countries often send e-waste to developing countries in Asia and Africa for recycling, taking advantage of these countries’ lower cost of labour and lower environmental regulation.
But, he says, in these countries e-waste is processed to remove precious materials such as gold, silver and platinum, under “extremely primitive conditions”, leading to extensive pollution of air, water, food and people.
“The toxic chemicals generated through open burning of e-waste include PCDD, PBDEs, PAHs, PCBs and heavy metals,” says Wong. “[These] have given rise to serious environmental contamination.”
“Some of these toxic chemicals are known to build up in fish especially, which may then be traded locally and around the world.”
Wong says that science has now clearly demonstrated the risk of these toxic chemicals being passed on to the next generation, while babies are still in the womb, or in their mother’s milk.
“At the same time these e-waste contaminated sites are extremely hard to clean up due to the complex chemical mixtures they contain,” he says.
E-waste is simply one more positive feedback loop in our technocapitalist system that is overwhelming the planet like plastic waste in the oceans and GHG’s in the atmosphere. Mathematician Eric Schechter succinctly explains a few major flaws in capitalism which guarantee our own death by ecocide if the system is allowed to continue on its course:
“We must overthrow the system before ecocide kills us all. And if we throw out the plutocracy without changing our culture, the culture will just generate a new plutocracy. All parts of the system are interconnected, so we must change every aspect of our lives — in effect, we are part of what we must overthrow; we must change ourselves.”
Some Major Flaws of Capitalism:
If we were all valued members of the economy, rising productivity would theoretically make us all affluent, but under capitalism, just the opposite happens. The benefits of increased productivity are pocketed by the handful of people who control the workplace — the owners, the management executives, etc. Workers are seen as expendable tools.
Market fundamentalists claim that everyone profits from a “voluntary trade,” because they exchange something they value less for something they value more. But it doesn’t really work out that way. The wealthy keep the much larger portion of the profit S-P, and the poor’s portion will be just barely enough for survival. The wealthy get wealthier, because they have the bargaining power and only engage in deals that make them wealthier; they decline any other deals.
Greed is built into the system. A corporation is compelled, both by competition and by its legal charter, to maximize profits by any means available, disregarding or even concealing harm to workers, consumers, and the rest of the world. Fines for breaking rules generally are smaller than the profits obtained from such misbehavior, and so such fines are simply viewed as a part of the normal cost of doing business. Any CEO who finds scruples is quickly fired and replaced. Externalized costs are omitted from our measurements and calculations. We are taught to see our interests as separate, and the well-being of the community is not the responsibility of anyone in particular. The commons gets privatized and plundered, and as a result the ecosystem is dying.
The accumulation of capital corrupts all levers of government. Once upon a time, some of us believed that the market could be regulated and kept moral by government. But we were mistaken — it’s inevitable that the wealthy will capture the government. After all, wealth can be used for influence.
So as long as the system stays intact, we’re all along for the suicide ride over the cliff. Certainly anyone who is half awake can see that despite all the Rio Earth Summits and talk of “going green” over the last several decades, our path to the graveyard is all but written in stone. The human species will snuff itself out with the help of a socio-economic ideology that all the brainwashed people worship.
Sit back and enjoy the ride…
“Capitalism has survived communism. Now, it eats away at itself.”
~ Charles Bukowski, The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors
Have Taken Over the Ship
While the false debate continues in mostly right-wing circles that today’s Capitalism is some aberrant form of “true” Capitalism, the end game and final victory of Capital continues to play out with multinational corporations becoming the ‘winner take all’ in their complete takeover of the world’s economies and governments. As discussed before, the TTIP and TPP are the latest maneuvers in this corporate grab for power, wealth, and resources. Any last vestiges of environmental protection, worker rights, and sovereignty will be shredded. No illusions of democracy should be maintained in a world of corporate feudalism where gross social inequality will have become irreversible and the will of common people smothered by the abuses of great wealth:
“[The TTIP] proposes to establish a Regulatory Co-operation Council combining US and EU regulatory agencies with the purpose of working towards deeper ‘regulatory co-operation and increased compatibility for future and existing regulatory measures’. For example, health and safety regulations and food standards between the US and the EU will be made ‘compatible’, or more simply put, downgraded or removed.
The TTIP and TPP are intended to include investor-state dispute settlement clauses. When a corporation considers its expected future profits are being harmed by a government it can lodge a case before these tribunals consisting of three lawyers who represent corporate interests. These lawyers have no conflict of interest restrictions on their operations. There are no limits on the awards that can be claimed against governments and very limited rights of appeal for governments. Even if a government wins a case it must pay the tribunal’s costs and legal fees – averaging $9m a case. UNCTAD reports a tenfold increase in such cases since 2000. Any health or environmental policy that conflicted with corporate interests would be subjected to these extra-judicial tribunals. Tribunals are currently organised under World Bank and United Nations rules. The compensation is taken from the taxpayers.
Of the world’s ten biggest law firms, ranked by revenue, four are British and six are US. A golden age for corporate lawyers beckons! ConDem Coalition government Minister without Portfolio Ken Clarke explained, ‘Investor protection is a standard part of free-trade agreements – it was designed to support businesses investing in countries where the rule of law is unpredictable, to say the least.’
The following are just a few of the cases that corporations have brought to the investor-state dispute settlement tribunals: …” – link
The PR machine continues to churn out lies even under the glaring reality of today’s obscene wealth disparity. One particular study, entitled Your Fate? Thank Your Ancestors, was discussed in the New York Times recently, proclaiming that an individual’s path to success or failure in any society is foreordained in their genetic make-up and family lineage. Of course genes do play a part in the intelligence, talents, and behavior of every individual, but this particular meme is based on the myth that people in present day capitalist economies live and operate within “modern meritocracy societies” wherein everyone has the freedom and opportunity to develop and utilize the full potential of their talents. As one commenter at the New York Times rightly stated:
“This [study] appears to be one of a growing number arguing for the inherent superiority of some people over others while strenuously avoiding terms like superiority. The claim that some are born to lead and rule and others to be ruled over is as old as human civilization.”
Such propaganda serves the purpose of those at the top of the capitalist social hierarchy, allowing them to justify capitalism’s grotesque social inequality while at the same time preaching to the masses that their poor standing in society is a result of their genetic heritage and not the result of a structurally unjust and undemocratic system. In other words, those at the top deserve to be there and so do those at the bottom.
Many people remain under the spell of the American Dream which promises they can rise to the top of this corrupt system or at least receive the trickle down benefits it claims to offer, but the stark reality of shrinking wages and pensions, persistent unemployment, and rising costs of bare necessities prove otherwise. It’s known as “the meritocracy myth” and one book with that title, written by two professors, explains that a person’s social status is based more on factors such as class structure, politics, and race rather than on individual merit and initiative. Their major arguments are summarized below:
“Factors associated with Individual “Merit”
1.) Money makes money.
Sources of revenue that are unrelated to jobs, such as income from capital gains, dividends, interest payments, government subsidies as well as appreciating assets of wealth such as businesses, real estate, and stocks are predominantly owned by a small fraction of society’s upper echelon. This maldistribution of wealth illustrates that America is not a “middle class society”, but one of the haves and have-nots where wealth is concentrated at the very top of the system.
“…the shape of the distribution of merit resembles a “bell curve” with small numbers of incompetent people at the lower end, most people of average abilities in the middle and small numbers of talented people at the upper end. The highly skewed distribution of economic outcomes, however, appears quite in excess of any reasonable distribution of merit. Something that is distributed “normally” cannot be the direct and proportional cause of something with such skewed distributions…”
“Most experts point out, for instance, that ‘intelligence,’ as measured by IQ tests, is partially a reflection of inherent intellectual capacity and partially a reflection of environmental influences. It is the combination of capacity and experience that determines ‘intelligence.’ Even allowing for this ‘environmental’ caveat, IQ scores only account for about 10% of the variance in income differences among individuals (Fisher et al. 1996). Since wealth is less tied to achievement than income, the amount of influence of intelligence on wealth is much less. Other purportedly innate ‘talents’ cannot be separated from experience, since any ‘talent’ must be displayed to be recognized and labeled as such (Chambliss 1989). There is no way to determine for certain, for instance, how many potential world-class violinists there are in the general population but who have never once picked up a violin. Such ‘talents’ do not spontaneously erupt but must be identified and cultivated.”
3.) Hard work does not necessarily equate to economic success.
“Applying talents is also necessary. Working hard is often seen in this context as part of the merit formula. Heads nod in acknowledgment whenever hard work is mentioned in conjunction with economic success. Rarely is this assumption questioned. But what exactly do we mean by hard work? Does it mean the number of hours expended in the effort to achieve a goal? Does it mean the amount of energy or sheer physical exertion expended in the completion of tasks? Neither of these measures of “hard” work is directly associated with economic success. In fact, those who work the most hours and expend the most effort (at least physically) are often the most poorly paid in society. By contrast, the really big money in America comes not from working at all but from owning, which requires no expenditure of effort, either physical or mental. In short, working hard is not in and of itself directly related to the amount of income and wealth that individuals have.”
4.) Mental Attitude
“According to the culture of poverty argument, people are poor because of deviant or pathological values that are then passed on from one generation to the next, creating a “vicious cycle of poverty.” According to this perspective, poor people are viewed as anti-work, anti-family, anti-school, and anti-success. Recent evidence reported in this journal (Wynn, 2003) and elsewhere (Barnes, Gould ;1999, Wilson, 1996), however, indicates that poor people appear to value work, family, school, and achievement as much as other Americans. Instead of having “deviant” or “pathological” values, the evidence suggests that poor people adjust their ambitions and outlooks according to realistic assessments of their more limited life chances.
An example of such an adjustment is the supposed “present-orientation” of the poor. According to the culture of poverty theory, poor people are “present-oriented” and are unable to “defer gratification.” Present orientation may encourage young adults to drop out of school to take low wage jobs instead staying in school to increase future earning potential. However, the present orientation of the poor can be an “effect” of poverty rather than a “cause.” That is, if you are desperately poor, you may be forced to be present oriented. If you do not know where your next meal is coming from, you essentially have no choice but to be focused on immediate needs first and foremost. By contrast, the rich and middle class can “afford” to be more future oriented since their immediate needs are secure. Similarly, the poor may report more modest ambitions than the affluent, not because they are unmotivated, but because of a realistic assessment of limited life chances. In this sense, observed differences in outlooks between the poor and the more affluent are more likely a reflection of fundamentally different life circumstances than fundamentally different attitudes or values.”
5.) Moral character and integrity
“Although ‘honesty may be the best policy’ in terms of how one should conduct oneself in relations with others, there is little evidence that the economically successful are more honest than the less successful. The recent spate of alleged corporate ethics scandals at such corporations as Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, Adelphia, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Duke Energy, Global Crossing, Xerox as well as recent allegations of misconduct in the vast mutual funds industry reveal how corporate executives often enrich themselves through less than honest means. White-collar crime in the form of insider trading, embezzlement, tax fraud, insurance fraud and the like is hardly evidence of honesty and virtue in practice. And neither is the extensive and sometimes highly lucrative so-called ‘irregular’ or ‘under the table’ economy—much of it related to vice in the form of drug trafficking, gambling, pornography, loan sharking, or smuggling. Clearly, wealth alone is not a reflection of moral superiority. To get ahead in America, it no doubt helps to be bright, shrewd, to work hard, and to have the right combination of attitudes that maximize success within given fields of endeavor. Playing by the rules, however, probably works to suppress prospects for economic success since those who play by the rules are more restricted in their opportunities to attain wealth and income than those who choose to ignore the rules.”
Nonmerit Barriers to Mobility
1.) The effects of initial class placement at birth on future life chances.
“…those born into great wealth start far ahead of those born to poor parents, who have a huge deficit to overcome if they are to catch up. Indeed, of all the factors that we might consider, where we start out in life has the greatest effect on where we end up. In the race to get ahead, the effects of inheritance come first and merit second, not the other way around.
Inheritance provides numerous cumulative nonmerit advantages that are available in varying degrees to all those born into at least some relative advantage, excluding only those at the very bottom of the system. Included among these nonmerit advantages are high standards of living from birth, inter vivos gifts (gifts between the living) such as infusions of cash and property bestowed by parents on their children at critical junctures in the life course (going to college, getting married, buying a home, having children, starting a business, etc.), insulation from downward mobility (family safety nets which prevent children from skidding in times of personal crises, setbacks, or as the result of personal failures), access to educational opportunities as well as other opportunities to acquire personal merit or to have merit identified and cultivated, better health care and consequently longer and healthier lives (which increases earning power and the ability to accumulate assets during the life course).
Another advantage of inheritance is access to high-powered forms of social and cultural capital. Social capital is one’s ‘social resources’ and refers to essentially to the value of whom you know. Cultural capital is one’s cultural resources and refers essentially to the social value of what you know. Everyone has friends, but those born into privilege have friends in high places with resources and power. Everyone possesses culture—bodies of knowledge and information needed to navigate through social space. Full acceptance into the highest social circles, however, requires knowledge of the ways of life of a particular group…”
2.) Bad Luck
“Bad luck can take many forms but two very common forms of bad luck are to be laid off from a job that you are good at or to spend many years preparing for a job for which demand either never materializes or declines. In looking at jobs and job opportunities, Americans tend to focus on the ‘supply’ side of markets for labor; that is, the pool of available people in the labor force. Much less attention is paid to the ‘demand’ side, or the number and types of jobs available. In the race to get ahead, it is possible and all too common for meritorious individuals to be ‘all dressed up with no place to go.’ For the past twenty years, the ‘growth’ jobs in America have disproportionately been in the low wage service sector of the economy. At the same time, more Americans are getting more education, especially higher education. Simply put, these trends are running in opposite directions: the economy is not producing as many high-powered jobs as the society is producing highly qualified people to fill them (Collins 1979, Livingstone 1998).
In addition to the number and types of jobs available, the locations of jobs both geographically and within different sectors of the economy also represent non-merit factors in the prospects for employment. For instance, a janitor who works for a large corporation New York City may get paid much more for doing essentially the same job as a janitor who works for a small family business in a small town in Mississippi. These effects are independent of the demands of the jobs or the qualifications or merit of the individuals holding them. Differences in benefits and wages between such jobs are often substantial and may mean the difference between a secure existence and poverty… rates of poverty in the United States continue to vary by region and locations within regions suggesting that geography is still a major factor in the distribution of economic opportunity.”
“…those with more education, on average, have higher income and wealth. Education is thus often seen as the primary means of upward social mobility. In this context, education is widely perceived as a gatekeeper institution which sifts and sorts individuals according to individual merit. Grades, credits, diplomas, degrees, and certificates are clearly “earned,” not purchased or appropriated. But, as much research has demonstrated, educational opportunity is not equally distributed in the population (Bowles and Gintis 1976, 2002, Bourdieu and Passeron 1990, Aschaffenburg and Maas 1997, Kozol, 1991, Sacks, 2003, Ballantine 2001). Upper class children tend to get upper class educations (e.g. at elite private prep schools and ivy league colleges), middle class children tend to get middle class educations (e.g. at public schools and public universities), and working class people tend to get working class educations (e.g. public schools and technical or community colleges), and poor people tend to get poor educations (e.g. inner city schools that have high drop out rates and usually no higher education). Educational attainment clearly depends on family economic standing and is not simply a major independent cause of it. The quality of schools and the quality of educational opportunity vary according to where one lives, and where one lives depend on familial economic resources and race. Most public schools, for instance, are supported by local property taxes. The tax base is higher in wealthy communities and proportionally lower in poorer areas. These discrepancies give rise to the perpetual parental scramble to locate in communities and neighborhoods that have reputations for “good schools,” since parents want to provide every possible advantage to their children that they can afford. To the extent that parents are actually successful in passing on such advantages, educational attainment is primarily a reflection of family income. In sum, it is important to recognize that individual achievement occurs within a context of unequal educational opportunity.”
4.) Loss of Self-Employment Opportunities and the Offshoring of Jobs
“…self-employment is popularly perceived as a major route to upward mobility. Opportunities to get ahead on the basis of being self-employed or striking out on one’s own to start a new business, however, have sharply declined. In colonial times, about three-fourths of the non-slave American population was self- employed most as small family farmers. Today, only seven percent of the labor force is self-employed (U.S. Census Bureau 2002). The “family farm,” in particular, is on the brink of statistical extinction. As self-employment has declined, the size and dominance of corporations has increased. This leaves many fewer opportunities for “self-made” individuals to enter existing markets or to establish new ones. America has witnessed the sharp decline of “mom and pop” stores, restaurants, and retail shops and the concomitant rise of Wal-Marts, Holiday Inns, and McDonalds. As more Americans work for someone else in increasingly bureaucratized settings, the prospects of rapid “rags to riches” mobility decline.
In addition to the decline of self-employment, manufacturing has also experienced drastic workforce reduction as production facilities have increasingly moved to foreign countries in efforts to reduce costs of production. This is a significant trend since the United States became a world power based on its industrial strength, which supported a large and relatively prosperous working and middle class. Some service jobs, such as customer service and computer programming, are also being moved to foreign countries in increasing numbers. All of these trends are occurring quite independent of the merit of individuals but nevertheless profoundly impact the opportunities of individuals to get ahead…”
“Discrimination not only suppresses merit; it is the antithesis of merit. Race and sex discrimination have been the most pervasive forms of discrimination in America, [but others include] sexual orientation, religion, age, physical disability (unrelated to job performance), physical appearance…”
In addition to the worsening inequality endemic to the system, the social fabric of society will be torn apart by a world now in the throes of multiple ecological crises. The availability and affordability of food and water will be magnified by anthropogenic climate change as the agricultural regions of an overpopulated world are ravaged by drought, flood, and fire. Infrastructure will begin to fail more frequently as extreme weather begins to rack up damage. The aloof elite, who ensconce themselves behind gated walls and the luxury that their wealth buys, will fan the flames of resentment and civil unrest in a desperate population scrambling just for the necessities of life. The cultural myths of capitalism are fraying and the collapse of industrial civilization, unable to change its omnicidal course for sundry reasons, is seemingly written in stone.
A DJ on the radio mentioned the flooding in England the other day and exclaimed, “The climate is going crazy!”. The shallowness of the conversation and its failure to dig any deeper as to the reasons why the climate is “going crazy” is mirrored in the mainstream media and our society. Real journalism is simply another casualty of our rotting consciousness. Like a leper, those who cannot see or feel are oblivious to their own self-inflicted wounds. The flywheel of industrial civilization continues to spin out of control, taking out chunks of ecological bricks making up a once diverse and vibrant living planet. In some parts of the world, epic drought is desiccating cropland and exposing the cracked surface of lake beds, while on the other side of the globe unceasing rain is causing deluges of biblical proportion. Still other regions are experiencing freak snow and ice storms. The damage is done, but humans will continue to scour the earth for resources to maintain a house whose foundation now rests on the shifting sands of a destabilized biosphere.
If you thought shale gas was a nightmare, you ain’t seen nothing yet. A subterranean world of previously ignored reserves is about to be opened up. These are the vast coal deposits that have proved unreachable by conventional mining, along with gas deposits around them. To the horror of anyone concerned about climate change, modern miners want to set fire to these deep coal seams and capture the gases this creates for industry and power generation.
– Fire in the hole: After fracking comes coal
Weather patterns once held in place by an ice-locked Arctic are unraveling at an unsettling pace, yet industrial man can’t seem to pull himself away from his carbon burning orgy long enough to see that the monkey wrench inside Earth’s intricate and homeostatic climate system is himself. Never in the history of Earth has a single species become a geologic force for mass planet-wide extinction. The worshippers of the “free market” proclaim solutions to climate change will be forthcoming in the form of technology, yet all environmental laws and regulations are simply window dressing around the resource consuming pit of capitalism. Technology cannot replenish depleted resources or restore the relative ecological equilibrium that existed prior to the industrial revolution. Natural law is nonnegotiable and those who transgress it, repeatedly ignoring clear and present warning signs, are doomed to suffer the unforgiving consequences. Modern man will leave behind a toxic and radioactive wasteland for eons.
The corporate state is impotent in the face of the environmental meltdown since its only real purpose appears to be an enabler and enforcer to the plunder of the commons and the concentration of wealth into the most ruthless and greedy hands. There is no escaping this system that is locked into a path of self-destruction except through death, as Kevin Moore describes on this blog:
“…in general terms the purpose of government is:
a) to facilitate the looting-and-polluting of local regions and the planet as a whole in order that a small minority can acquire material wealth and enjoy themselves.
b) to facilitate the transfer of wealth from those lower in the hierarchical system to those near the top.
c) to keep the general populace uninformed and compliant.
d) to provide sufficient ‘trickle down’ for the misinformed and deluded masses to think they are not being exploited.
e) [more recently] to promote the agendas of transnational corporations, which are focused on complete control of populations and resources and maximization of short-term profits.
The purpose of environmental laws is:
1. to facilitate the looting-and-polluting of local regions and the planet as a whole but to limit the impact of severe pollution in specific cases where that pollution would be detrimental to other planet-destroying money-making activities..
2. to provide the pretence that governments care about the welfare of the general populace.
3. to provide looters and polluters with official mandates for looting and polluting, i.e. an environmental impact process having been gone through and ‘no significant impacts identified’, the activity of the looter-and-polluter is given the stamp of approval.
Under such a system it become inevitable that all politicians are, or quickly become, bought-and-paid-for professional liars and that all senior environment officers become lackeys to the system and therefore enemies of the people.
The entire political-economic system of western nations is geared to making everything that matters worse, so everything that matters gets worse.”
These are the unvarnished and stark rules of the game for those who care to know the truth. Becoming fully aware is a hope-destroying and soul-wrenching realization, but the truth is never measured by its popularity and very few ever face and accept it. The welfare and safety of the public and future generations will continue to be sacrificed at the altar of stock markets and mass consumerism. As commenter James says:
“…Murdering extant humans NOW to gain wealth is accepted government policy and in some cases personal policy…”
Nowhere is this more true than in the one country that comprises 5% of the world’s population, but consumes 25% of its resources; others are furiously trying to catch up.
So as the industrial world whistles past the graveyard on its civilization-ending trajectory, we watch the signposts of doom whiz by us each day and wonder what is the point of getting up every morning to participate in this omnicidal culture. With virtually the entire planet having been plotted, demarcated, sold off for exploitation and surveillance by drone, I’m afraid no one is getting out of this trap alive so you might as well learn to respond to current news events with a certain black and morbid humor. We are the pathologists of capitalist industrial civilization, dissecting its potholed road to collapse just as a coroner would conduct the postmortem examination of a morbidly obese person who gorged themself on twinkies and high fructose soft drinks.
Many have used the phrase “the climate is moving to a new normal” or “moving to a new paradigm”. Such phrases give a false sense of security, as if the damage has stopped and the Earth’s systems can now recalibrate to a new settled state, but human forcing of the biosphere by way of GHG emissions continues unabated and in fact has now tripped multiple climate tipping points. There is no “new paradigm”, but an ongoing cascading collapse of all known stability and equilibrium.
When you go into your mindless 9-to-5 job and your micromanaging boss harasses you for petty little things, you’ll think about how meaningless it all is in an age where governments will crumble, billions will starve to death, and the earth will soon become just another lifeless rock floating through space.
“…Run for the hills, pick up your feet and let’s go. We did our jobs, pick up speed now lets move. The trees can’t grow without the sun in their eyes. And we can’t live if we’re too afraid to die….”
The . . . metamessage of our time is that the commodity form is natural and inescapable. Our lives can only be well lived (or lived at all) through the purchase of particular commodities. Thus our major existential interest consists of maneuvering for eligibility to buy such commodities in the market. Further, we have been taught that it is right and just—ordained by history, human nature, and God—that the means of life in all its forms be available only as commodities. . . . Americans live in an overcommodified world, with needs that are generated in the interests of the market and that can be met only through the market.
~ Stephen Fjellman, Vinyl Leaves:Walt Disney World and America
From the Amazonian tribe driven off its land by fossil fuel companies to the wage-enslaved city dweller dependent on mass-produced food and other commodities, no place on Earth has escaped the planet-wide reach of capitalist industrial civilization’s profit-extracting mechanisms. The oligarch’s of industry and banking shape public thought through an all-pervasive mass media monopoly, control legislation and regulation by pulling political purse-strings and commanding an army of lobbyists, sew death and mayhem with the global arms trade, sacrifice the next generation in resource wars, decimate ecosystems for short-term gain, manipulate and devalue currencies, create economic bubbles, and sell this entire vile process back to the masses as “progress” and “development” with measurements of inflated stock prices and skewed GDP figures. The untold human and environmental costs are now bursting at the seams with societal disintegration, epidemic mental illness, wide-scale resource depletion, industrial pollution and contamination, and the on-going collapse of the Earth’s biosphere.
If you’re wondering why there can never seem to be any significant action taken on climate change, don’t look for honest answers from those whose livelihood is tied to capitalism. If the true costs of the global industrial economy were calculated in terms of environmental damage, the ill-health effects on workers and the public, as well as the fraying of the Earth’s web of life, industries would find the costs too great to bear. The honest truth is that this ecocidal economic system would have to be dismantled for there to be any hope of humanity preserving a living planet and averting extinction.
“…big-time corporate capitalism is an omnicidal momentum. I mean, it just has one thing in mind, and it will destroy or weaken or co-opt anything in its way that is civic, that is democratic….corporations have been very clever A) in distracting people, especially young generation, with entertainment, with professional sports, turning them into spectators. Now you’ve got, you know, 24/7 entertainment. There’s no end to it. And they’ve also been very good in making people internalize a sense of powerlessness.” ~ Ralph Nader
Perhaps the three biggest crises facing civilization are unrestrained financialization of commerce and society, climate change, and peak oil (or peak net energy). Let’s take a quick look at how America is handling each of these crises:
Employing paid shills for the financial industry is now simply standard operating procedure in the U.$.A.:
…Consumer advocates and independent analysts do their best to weigh in as well, but they are outgunned. Meanwhile, consulting firms dedicated to playing matchmaker between corporations and hired experts have flourished in the new regulatory environment. Director Charles Ferguson, whose film Inside Job highlighted the role of sponsored professors in supporting the deregulatory policies that led to the financial meltdown in 2008, says the business of economic consulting firms that work to “source” academics for expert testimony and regulatory filings “has been going on for quite a while, and it’s now quite a large industry.”…
Of course anthropogenic climate change, the existential threat of modern times, would seem to be a catastrophe deserving of mankind’s attention, would it not? Well, as you can see, the capitalist only views it as a public relations war:
An extensive study into the financial networks that support groups denying the science behind climate change and opposing political action has found a vast, secretive web of think tanks and industry associations, bankrolled by conservative billionaires.
“I call it the climate-change counter movement,” study author Robert Brulle, who published his results in the journal Climatic Change, told the Guardian. “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this. This is a large-scale political effort.”
His work, which is focused on the United States, shows how a network of 91 think tanks and industry groups are primarily responsible for conservative opposition to climate policy. Almost 80 percent of these groups are registered as charitable organisations for tax purposes, and collectively received more than seven billion dollars between 2003 and 2010.
How about peak oil? Again, the energy industry has its PR machine in full swing touting America’s imminent energy independence along with many other myths, but commenter James of this blog cuts to the chase:
Now, which ponzi is most despicable, a religious or financial one? Both are based upon deceit and both serve primarily the enrichment of the scheme officialdom. One promises a payoff in eternal life while the other promises financial success. One examines your credit score while the other applies tick marks in you behavioral ledger of good and evil. Both systems of fleecing are based upon human fear and herd mentality. Society shuns the heretic of either ponzi and damnation awaits those that do not participate fully. Ponzis collapse when increasing numbers of fools, resources and energy can no longer be sucked into their cancerous growth schemes. The religious structures will be more enduring as they can always find plenty of poor dolts to give their last penny to gain a chance at the big after-life payoff. The financial schemers, faced now with meeting the absolutely unbelievable limits of growth will have to leave all those little nest eggs of promises, unhatched. The key is to convince the ponzi participants that the U.S. is the new Saudi Arabia, that fracking oil and natural gas is the future and we can get enough oil from shale to last a million years. “Just relax folks, you’re all gonna get your money back”. Not. What a miraculous world we live in.
As you can see, America is handling all three crises like a sleazy car salesman unloading a lot full of lemons.
And if anyone was spooked by the Snowden revelations of government spying, the implications of corporate espionage on social-change organizations that threaten to impede unfettered access to profits is truly terrifying.
…The fruits of such idolatry are clear: the injustice and unemployment and waste of human talents; the corruption of our political leadership and their collusion with immoral financial practices; the depredation and degradation of our natural environments and the exhaustion of our natural resources; the inevitable wars and other crises that arise from the systematic fostering of base human appetites and the refusal to compromise our ways of life, and pursue a more equitable sharing of the gifts bequeathed to us…
I would not blame anyone for wanting to seek comfort in a bottle or some other form of self-medication, but perhaps doing something more dramatic to escape this nightmarish reality of a thoroughly corrupted, money-worshipping society is in the cards. When your back is against the wall and you’ve lost faith in everything, then revolution is the antidote for the “pseudo-realities” that plague us.
“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.” ~ Philip K. Dick
The specter of death, near-term extinction, haunts us as we silently endure the evil and decay all around us, going along just to get along in the belly of the American empire. One day pent-up anger and hunger will burst forth, pushing us into the streets. Blood and emotions will flow freely. Inept and crooked governments will fall. We’ll have nothing left to lose.
Newcomers to the subject of industrial collapse have a lot of catch-up to do behind those in the vanguard. If the abundant evidence, collected over several decades by this late date but foreseen long ago, is evaluated honestly and soberly, the realization might reasonably stun the collapse ingénue into silence. But in the era of instantaneous communications, emotional promiscuity, oversharing, and careerist news reports logged in real time (before events are fully known), who has the good sense to refrain from adding one’s idiotic voice to the din — especially to ask questions and subsequently provide answers that have already been gone over thoroughly and discarded by others? None too many, I venture to say.
Having struggled to understand industrial collapse now for six years or so myself, it has been curious and demoralizing to witness how even the most hopeful optimists and problem-solvers have yielded to the conclusion that what solutions may have existed some decades ago are now long behind us. Given the nature of our institutions and individual characters, we’re actually accelerating toward doom rather than braking. Thus, old-timers often descend into what might be called a Slough of Despond, but collapse newbies still desperate to cheat reality would rather name it a Gulf of Despond. To the old guard, the Slough looks like an abyss, a black hole, a bottomless pit that gobbles insatiably all energies dumped into it. To late-comers, the Gulf, by virtue of its spin-doctored name, must be somehow manageable, bridgeable, traversible, often with a glorious opportunity to establish a new, utopian social order (within a generation, of course, because that’s how history works) using all the wisdom we’ve accrued about imbalances and abuses of power. I have some empathy for those just now getting on board, but for those with a pulpit from which to preach, I suspect misdirecting our energies may be worse than just letting things unfold. Hard to know.
So what exactly produces the Slough/Gulf? The short course is that we’re already in the midst of an epoch-changing shift — a process advancing with alarming celerity compared to precedence found in the geological record — due to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases (released from burnt fossil fuels) that have initiated climate change and the sixth great extinction event, to which we humans are most certain to fall prey. Without bothering to assess blame, the numbers indicate that it is not something about to happen; it’s already in the process of happening and will only get successively worse as delayed effects and feedback loops come fully into play. Let me repeat: this is already happening and there can be no pullback, pullout, stall, or reverse. The worst case scenario is, well, the worst, and we appear to be on track to spring that trap on ourselves. Three foreseeable planet-wide effects are (1) runaway global warming and climate chaos, (2) collapse of the biosphere (basically, anything that lives except for a few extremophiles), and (3) total irradiation from hundreds of nuclear sites that will melt down after being left unattended.
But because the future has not yet happened, though it is laid out before us with inevitability if one is honest, all the preferred hedges and escape hatches in language are utilized (might, could, perhaps, potential, possible, probable, likely, etc.) about what’s occurring all around us. No doubt this quells panic that would ensue if a credible voice began telling the truth, but it also prevents adoption of moral choices still available to us for taking our leave gracefully while demonstrating some concern for the rest of creation. That would be for me the most global moral choice, but there are others far more specific. For instance, we could stop the mad, greedy hustle for more — power, riches, resources, extravagance — and instead live modestly so that those who follow in our wake before the end of it all have something other than abject misery and desperation. We could stop inflicting utterly tortuous lives in cages, feedlots, and industrial barns on animals that eventually become our McNuggets, Whoppers, and bacon. We could share what we have with those truly in need rather than hoarding, doing so without self-serving expectations. We could ease suffering and mistreatment inflicted on others by the pursuit of ever-greater efficiency and profit. We could stop doubling down on all the schemes and antisocial values that have landed us, knowingly or not, in a death spiral. Lots of options out there.
However, again, given our nature, we seem intent on ending none of the stupidity, profligacy, and cruelty done by us, on our behalf, or with our complicity at least partly because Judeo-Christian values that inform industrial capitalism are still revered as sacred. (This is why the radical right has been attacking the center right — including St. Ronnie — for not being righteous doctrinaire enough. It knows its vision of salvation is broken but doubles down in desperation to validate itself.) The most important individual choice, considering our powerlessness to put a stop to the industrial juggernaut and those very real hatchetmen who perpetuate it, may be simply to do our best to understand the world that history has delivered us, represent the truth as well as possible, and go forward while we can with clear eyes and conscience. That means treating others, both villains and victims in this living nightmare, with compassion rather than universal condemnation.
This may be just about the darkest view out there, and it gives me pain to express it, just as all doomers out there struggle with what to do with their awful foreknowledge, but it’s not nihilistic. It’s not Charleton Heston at the end of one of the Planet of the Apes movies saying, essentially, “fuck it” and triggering the ΑΩ Bomb. Rather, honorable moral choices in the face of self-annihilation offers an opportunity to achieve one last, satisfying bit of grace that helps ease the pain of knowing what humans have done to the planet.
You almost have to feel sorry for the conservatives, tea partiers, and the whole menagerie of free market evangelists these days. Even a casual perusal of AM talk radio, along with the buffoonery and gas baggery of the hard right news shows, one can see evidence of collapsing narratives at every turn.
Our disintegrating social conditions demand a plausible explanation from the right, and any such explanation, ideologically, must be sure to exonerate capitalism and the free market system.
This is becoming increasingly hard to do, as the shrill and contradictory defenses put forth become less satisfying every time the story is told. The story evolves, the audience reactions carefully polled, and the messaging refined to try and adapt to a low information audience growing more skeptical by the minute. There are many versions of the same story, depending on who tells it and more importantly who is paying for it, but for this discussion we are interested in the narrative brought forth by the evangelical right, and their socially conservative stable mates, or in general, the fire and brimstone crowd accounting for something near half of the American population.
The operating theory of this cohort centers for the most part on morality, or lack thereof, as principal cause for our society’s collapse.
Rush Limbaugh provides a pathetic but typical example of this type of addled logic:
The reason all of these stats on income inequality don’t work anymore is because the baseline for the statistical start is the fifties. Now, what was happening in the fifties? Well, in the fifties we had this thing called a nuclear family. There was a mother, a woman. There was a father, a man. They had babies by engaging in coitus. Leave It To Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet — hell, even the Beach Boys, for crying out loud! They were seemingly clean and pure as the wind driven snow.
Anyway, then after the coitus in the bedroom, then little Beaver was born and then Wally, and there were 2.8 of the kids and little picket fence and (if the dad got a vice presidency), there were two cars in the garage, and mom — the female. I’ve gotta make that distinction. The mother was a woman, the wife of a man. She stays home, raises the kid, fixes breakfast, sends ’em off to school, talks to the PTA. There was all that. There was one breadwinner, and there was an economic boom going on at the same time, following World War II.
Incomes in America rose dramatically. Then something happened. The left didn’t like that arrangement. That was just bad. They didn’t fit in. They didn’t like the idea of coitus in the bedroom. They didn’t like coitus with someone the opposite sex, necessarily. They didn’t even like coitus as a means of producing a kid. In fact, most times they didn’t even like the kid. They wanted to have the abortion. So what happened was that the nuclear family became under assault by “progressive” forces of modernization.
So today, you can’t compare family income today to what it was in the fifties when the boom time ’cause the family’s not the same. You’ve got single women, single-parent families, fewer nuclear families. Incomes have been divided. It doesn’t work.
The root of American ethics and morality stems in part from its heavily Protestant and Calvinistic theological underpinnings, which we might well reduce to the “Puritan” ethic. There are several key components of this behavior, tracing back to the late 17th century:
1. Personal sacrifice fulfilled by austere living conditions.
2. Self-sufficiency and disdain of charity for one’s self.
3. Obsessive work ethic fueled by the notion that idleness is evil.
Of course there are others, but we can use these generalizations to continue. In addition we should mention that Calvinism utilizes the principle of predestination, or predetermination, a fundamental departure from modern evangelical Christianity.
The rollup of these centuries old dogmatic beliefs is a programing bias towards moral explanations for when things go wrong, and strong lifestyle choices that dictate high moral standards when times are normal, in order to stave off any potential (future) fall from grace. The modern evangelical right has conflated this DNA to represent a distorted view of Christianity leaning heavily on Capitalism-which has fascist underpinnings in its ultimate embodiment.
In the Flat Fields
A gut pull drag on me Into the chasm gaping we Mirrors multy reflecting this Between spunk stained sheet And odorous whim Calmer eye- flick- shudder- within Assist me to walk away in sin Where is the string that Theseus laid Find me out this labyrinth place
I do get bored, I get bored In the flat field I get bored, I do get bored In the flat field
What is often lost in our current infatuation with Enlightenment thinking is the degree to which the Pre-Enlightenment Church managed commerce, financing, and general market forces. In fact, the Church maintained an iron hand on issues such as usury, which was condemned and not distinguished from the “normal” practice of charging interest until the late 19th century.
In the age of Church hegemony, which lasted for centuries, it was considered immoral, and grossly so, to profit in any way through trade, charging interest, or commerce which resulted in a profit without actually performing any work. specifically, any rent seeking activity was forbidden.
Things that are considered commonplace today, such as raising prices for items needed in a disaster, (supply and demand) were thoroughly rejected by the Church and considered inconceivable during that time. Thomas Aquinas brought forth these concepts in the theory of Just Price in his Summa Theologica circa 1274 AD. Although this was clearly a Pre-Capitalist economy, much learning was put towards strict management of commerce dating back to the money changers being expelled from the temple in Biblical times- a theme oft repeated through the Dark Ages and well beyond.
For centuries, civilizations knew full well the dangers of markets and unconstrained commerce, and there is more than a passing connection between this realization and theology, present in virtually all religions throughout time.
This reality has been brought to the fore with the recent, and controversial, exhortation Evengelii Gaudiumfrom the Roman Catholic Pope. Pundits have been zeroing in on the more provocative aspects after his release of the document last month. I’ve read all 244 pages of it and I’m here to tell you that he has pretty well burned down the Christian right’s moralistic narrative along with a good bit of the more mainstream conservative cohort.
For those who have dismissed previous Papal exhortations (as well as any other messaging, written or otherwise delivered) as irrelevant and hypocritical drivel, and I count myself on this list, the recent missive is a shocker. Let’s take a look as some selected passages:
We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmers, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.
The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality,no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.
Now this passage in particular stands out, and is a recurring theme throughout the document. Inequality is the root of all social ills. Not moral misbehavior. Rush Limbaugh is positively foaming at the mouth with this conclusion. You see, the story as told has to exonerate Capitalism, so the explanatory focus is redirected to not just suggest, but to demand that the moral lapses of the populace are the sole causality of a world gone bad.
After all, the world was given to us with abundance, work hard, maintain high moral standards, and its abundance will never run out. No limits to resources, no environmental disasters, no exploitation, nothing but paradise, unless of course you take a bite of that apple.
Let’s go on:
Sometimes we prove hard of heart and mind; we are forgetful, distracted and carried away by the limitless possibilities for consumption and distraction offered by contemporary society. This leads to a kind of alienation at every level, for “a society becomes alienated when its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer the gift of self and to establish solidarity between people.
Karl is that you?
Genuine forms of popular religiosity are incarnate, since they are born of the incarnation of Christian faith in popular culture. For this reason they entail a personal relationship, not with vague spiritual energies or powers, but with God, with Christ, with Mary, with the saints. These devotions are fleshy, they have a face. They are capable of fostering relationships and not just enabling escapism. In other parts of our society, we see the growing attraction to various forms of a “spirituality of well-being” divorced from any community life, or to a “theology of prosperity” detached from responsibility for our brothers and sisters, or to depersonalized experiences which are nothing more than a form of self-centredness.
This would seem to be a dig at modern “strip mall religiosity” as it is now de rigueur to have non denominational churches in strip malls, repurposed industrial buildings, etc, all which have superficial distorted messaging, often pronouncing how wealth is your divine right.
Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.
Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.
So now we get to the money shot:
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the socialized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers.
So this goes on in a similar vein, and this position does not bode well for the conservative narrative. We see capitalism explicitly blamed for inequality, and in turn inequality for societies ills, a disturbing cause and effect that is disruptive to the American status quo. Coming from a supposedly impartial and world recognized voice of moralistic guidance, this is particularly damning.
We have to ask given the (millennial) history of precisely just this set of teachings, where the hell have these people been for the last 400 years? Mired in child molestation cases, and other aspects of immeasurable hypocrisy, that’s where. Typically dispensing irrelevant teachings to a disinterested world, met with a yawn and the clink of coins in the Sunday collections basket, the cafeteria Catholics and faithful parishioners buy their penance on the free market of theology, shopping for workable edicts and morals they can live with, and leaving aside things that might prove troublesome.
And the Church, let’s not (yet) get all misty eyed that the new Pope has found his voice, that the Holy See can finally see after 400 years of Post Enlightenment blindness, because if we learned anything in the Dark Ages we learned the Church was an authoritarian, totalitarian institution, honed to perfection after centuries of practice, misappropriating Christianic themes in furtherance of its own power and hegemony. Restricting knowledge, capturing books, and distorting, twisting and interpreting discovery with a certain malleability of facts, and containing science to maintain its omnipotence.
It is worth noting that at its core, the Church operates as a corporatist entity, with significant focus on profits itself, poisoned if you will, by the very same sickness it chastises. So we might well leave the discussion here, hopeful that the new Papal vision will at least upset some belief systems, and file this under the category of good ideas for the wrong reasons, and move on to other superficial topics. Except that we have 2000 years of history here, history that resonates with this same message, repeated in many ways over and over again. We have a seminal event in the Enlightenment, which purported to shut down the fiefdoms, mysticism and fanciful explanations, replacing it with science and reason to wrest the power and authority from cloistered theocrats.
And this has failed.
None of the Post Enlightenment theories of political economy have provided satisfactory, sustainable solutions despite 400 years of trying. By most measures, they are in fact worse. The current fashionable trend to double down on technology as means of providing solutions is not working, and critical thinkers can see these measures are leading to cascading failure modes, with each technological “breakthrough” creating new and unanticipated failures of their own, with insufficient study as to unanticipated outcomes.
I had occasion last month to attend a talk by Chris Hedges, the first time I have heard him in person. The venue was in Santa Monica in a historic building now owned by the Women’s Club, a depression era wood structure with a whitewashed paint job, faintly reminiscent of a church. The venue was packed to the rafters, with the upstairs balcony fairly bulging under the weight of way more people wanting to see Hedges than the organizers anticipated. Everyone finally got in to the standing room only crowd. Hedges has found his voice, he is articulate in person, but powerful, vocally projecting in a way I’ve not seen him do in taped interviews where he seems more reflective and almost mournful. His message is a powerful force and it is clear his upbringing under a Presbyterian minister (his father) and his education in seminary converge to forge his style and messaging. The emotion and power left me somewhat stunned, I wasn’t prepared for the electricity in the room and palpable agitation of the attendees who know full well the truth in his message.
It might seem that these events conspire to ordain a germ of an idea, a small, kindled spark that suggests, almost horrifically, that the assemblage of the capitalist mode of production is not a just theory of economics or political economy. It is not merely an exchange of commodities or a clever and oblique system of exploitation. It is not just a mechanism for conflicting class structure or means for the landed nobility to hold down the masses.
It is a religion, a theology so all consuming that it transcends borders, boundaries, catechism and Koran. It extends to every denomination, to every corner of the earth with a deification and worship of commerce and consumption so deeply ingrained that there is no inoculation once infected. Its participants trapped in a purgatory analogous to opium dens, transient pleasure of consumption and accumulation, but in the 19th century opium dens most knew to advise a friend to retrieve them after several hours (or days) as they would be unable- and unwilling- to leave on their own.
In this version, no one is coming to get you out, there is no getting out. No one is free from the addictive vapors of consumption.
a) First of all because, as we have seen, capitalism, by deﬁning itself as the natural and necessary form of the modern economy, does not admit any diﬀerent future, any way out, any alternative. Its force is, writes Weber, ‘irresistible’, and it presents itself as an inevitable fate.
b) The system reduces the vast majority of humanity to ‘damned of the earth’ who cannot hope for divine salvation, since their economic failure is the sign that they are excluded from God’s grace. Guilty for their own fate, they have no hope of redemption. The God of the capitalist religion, money, has no pity for those who have no money . . .
c) Capitalism is ‘the ruin of being’, it replaces being with having, human qualities with commodiﬁed quantities, human relations with monetary ones, moral or cultural values with the only value that counts, money.
d) Since humanity’s ‘guilt’ – its indebtedness towards Capital – is permanent and growing, no hope of expiation is permitted. The capitalist constantly needs to grow and expand his capital if he does not wish to be crushed by his competitors, and the poor must borrow more and more money to pay their debts.
e) According to the religion of Capital, the only salvation consists in the intensiﬁcation of the system, in capitalist expansion, in the accumulation of more and more commodities; but this ‘remedy’ results only in the aggravation of despair.
So in other words, the will of God is substituted by the will of the market. The Saints of Capitalism are not represented by iconography in dusty church alcoves, rendered in plaster bas relief, illuminated by flickering votive candles aligned in perfectly concentric rows, no, these saints are reproduced on our paper money, mass produced by photoengraved plates and scaled to feel, to touch, with every transaction to reacquaint and remind the heathen that this is the portal to eternal salvation.
Our cathedrals are not limestone structures of centuries production, flying buttresses soaring gracefully to the heavens, constructed of a scale to intimidate and instill perspective of scale between creator and subject, no these cathedrals are chrome and glass, with banal and endless rows of cubicles for the disciples to prosthelytize to the unwashed masses, “lift yourself, take our hand and elevate yourself to the glory of all the money is and can be”.
Consume or be consumed, the entire New Testament may be reinterpreted not as a warning of end times, not as a statement of worldly evangelism, but each parable and writing a searing indictment and prophetic warning of a planet destroying insidious religion about to rise. The Original Sin may well be reduced to being born into a world which requires you to sell your labor power for survival, the baptism a cleansing in preparation of a lifelong participation in commodity exchange- labor for goods.
There is no expiation in the religion of Capitalism, it is game theory analogous to Newcomb’s Paradox, a contrivance where an omniscient being gives you two choices, one of which is already made for you, and analyzes your strategy for utility maximization when you know that your choice is already predetermined- and you cannot change the outcome.
Once in a while in that vast nothingness of the internet I’ll happen across a blog from someone who has something of substance to say. I have also learned that Dmitry Orlov is likely discontinuing any more ‘collapsitarian’ blog posts. Probably not a good subject to dwell on when you have an infant son. In ‘Dmitry flicks it in‘, Harry Willis reminds us that America has been the epicenter of capitalism, always for sale to the highest bidder and now home to a new growth industry – Doomsaying:
“…David Halberstam’s book The Fifties was, I think, very enlightening in this regard. We are the home of the chain hotel (Holiday Inn), the chain restaurant (McDonald’s and all its followers), the Big Box stores (Wal-Mart, CostCo), the mega-hardware store (Home Depot, Lowe’s), the strip mall, the suburban housing tract, and most importantly, the concept that corporate power should be concentrated in huge holding companies that own very diverse and large businesses. On this latter point, whether Americans realize it or not, every meal they eat out, every processed food they buy at the market, every sundry (detergent, household necessities) they purchase wherever, every drug and almost everything else they routinely buy is sold to them by about 10 huge holding companies. And all communications are essentially owned by 6 large corporations, so everything you ingest with your ears and eyes is also owned by a corporate cartel.
These huge companies are multinational in character, with much of their business (and payroll) located overseas. They are nominally American, but the sinking mass of the American middle and lower classes here are more or less of marginal relevance to them, and only to the extent that Americans form part of their customer base. The American booboisie needs to be manipulated because the U.S.A. is still nominally a democracy, de jure, although de facto it is what Sheldon Wolin calls an “inverted totalitarian state,” one where the government is owned by Big Business. We are not going to “vote” our way out of this situation, as Russell Brand, among numerous others (including Dmitry Orlov, most definitely) seems to get.
America is a corporate headquarters and tax haven which executes its business plans by means of a huge standing army, which does not often just stand around. We got this way because (a) power always tends to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands, even in a liberal democracy, since as money aggregates it can get rid of legal impediments such as high taxation and anti-trust laws, and (b) because America was the most innovative and naturally-blessed (our peerless real estate) nation on Earth. We also benefitted mightily from intellectual immigration to this country, made possible by the double-digit IQs in charge of Nazi Germany.
I don’t think the United States is going to collapse in the sense that the Collapsarian community talks and writes about. For one thing, the emphasis is too much on Peak Oil. I’ve written before that I think Peak Oil represents a kind of deus ex machina for anti-American wish fulfillment. Some sensitive souls, such as James Kunstler, Dmitry Orlov and many others, are so appalled by the grisly ugliness of the American crapscape, with its chain everything and grotesque proliferation of hideous suburban grids, that they long for some way to predict confidently that it must fall of its own weight. That’s where Peak Oil comes in: you posit that an economy runs on cheap energy, especially petroleum in the American economy, and this gives you a means of assuring everyone that it will all be over soon and an anodyne vision of Norman Rockwell’s neighborhoods will materialize peacefully out of the formless void.
No, I don’t think so. The lower 90% of the American populace has no way to go but down, until it reaches a rough parity with the hard-working masses in Asia who, after all, have many of the same employers as the Americans. The American multi-nationals are indifferent to the fate of their so-called “countrymen,” indifferent to the environment (mountain top removal, fracking, pesticide and fertilizer flushes into the Gulf and oceans, plastic waste, soil erosion, CO2 emissions) and essentially react only when conditions become so dire that the American “platform” is threatened. We’re inflating bubbles again through money printing to retard this natural contraction, and when the bubbles pop (again), we’ll have nother “crisis” which will in fact simply be another step-phase down after the gooey soap is cleaned up. I think that’s how we’ll get there, in a ratchet fashion. We will even adapt to oil high prices, as in fact Americans have done since the 2008 financial crisis began. Americans drive 3% fewer miles now per year than they did 5 years ago, despite increases in population and the “recovery.” Gasoline usage is way down, as people shift to fuel-efficient cars and just leave the car keys on the table in the hallway. Or by the oil can fire under the bridge.
The dramatic immiseration of the American people (thanks, Rob Urie) since 2008 has made catastrophe prediction and doomsaying one of America’s chief growth industries, and many, many writers and speakers have gotten in on the act. But it’s not especially lucrative. Owning one of the Big Corporations is better for that, so the doomsayers drop out and flick it in. It’s always nice to go over to Mom’s house.”
Economic and cultural coercion are readily apparent in our society. And if those don’t work, the corporate state also has policies of overt force – military and law enforcement. You could call this arrangement an ‘open air prison’ or the more apt phrase for America would be ‘inverted totalitarianism’ in which the prisoners aren’t fully aware of their own shackles, transfixed as they are by mass media manipulation, the consumer culture, and the trappings of our high-energy way of life. Is there any wonder that a post apocalyptic scenario holds a certain amount of perverse romanticism for those yearning to escape capitalist modernity?
In an era of end-stage capitalism where life has become a sordid grab for dollars while the world lives on the edge of financial and ecological collapse, it comes as no surprise that America would be captivated by the story of a struggling school teacher going for the ‘American dream’ by crook or by hook. A tourist mystique has even been created in this show’s filming location of Albuquerque. The premise for this darkly comic tale is an all too familiar one for the average American family – the threat of bankrupting medical bills. Recently diagnosed with stage-three lung cancer and now at the end of his financial rope, Walter descends into the seedy world of illicit drugs in an attempt to save his family from economic ruin. Walter’s predicament represents the dilemma of most Americans who live quiet lives of desperation, just one paycheck away from hunger and homelessness. Ironically, the drug that Walter and his reluctant partner Jesse Pinkman wind up producing is also the drug of choice for many chained to the hamster wheel of capitalism:
“…the rise of meth coincided with the rise of low-paying low-skilled service work, where people had to work multiple menial jobs to earn the same amount they used to earn in one manufacturing job, or other good-paying low-skilled position.
The CDC notes that some meth users rely on it to get “increased energy to work multiple jobs.” Researchers at Indiana University and at the Universities of Colorado and Kentucky have found that, “The long hours and tedious work in oil fields, agriculture, construction, ancillary health care and fast food restaurants may be more tolerable on methamphetamine. Users report using meth to provide the energy to work multiple jobs or be a good mother.”
Guides to identifying and treating meth addiction, like Herbert Covey’s “The Methamphetamine Crisis,” tell readers to look out for, “workaholics or low-income adults who use it to stay awake and perform in multiple jobs. Working low-income individuals find meth attractive because they must work several jobs or long hours to support themselves or their families. They find that higher energy and alertness (ability to stay awake for prolonged periods) helps them cope with the demands of multiple jobs.”
This holds up if you look at places where meth use is highest. Hawaii’s heavy rate of meth use has been attributed to its high cost of living and service-based economy. “If you’re doing mind-numbing, repetitive work, this enables you to overcome both the painful tedium of the boredom as well as increase concentration and safety,” Dr. William Haning, a psychiatry professor at the University of Hawaii, once told the Maui News…“
From his former business partners at Grey Matter Technologies who stole his ideas and became incredibly wealthy to the demeaning work he endures at his car wash moonlighting job, the elusive ‘American dream’ has haunted Walter White. At first his scheme is to generate just enough cash to cover his medical expenses and secure a modicum of financial security for his family, but in a society whose primary metric of self-worth is the number of dollars one can accumulate, Walter quickly transforms into a cutthroat businessman bent on building an empire. His metamorphosis from a meek, mild-mannered family man to a Machiavellian drug kingpin is quite astonishing. Walter rationalizes and euphemizes his manufacture of the insidious drug meth by referring to it as his “product”, following strict steps to create “the highest quality product to perform as advertised.” “The chemistry must be respected,” proclaims Walter.
In this world of hyper-exploitive capitalism, ‘staying in the game’ involves making choices that seldom include moral concerns. As the dead bodies continue to pile up around Walter’s drug operation, the more callous and psychopathic he becomes. Warren Buffet, the poster child for Capitalism, has praised the business acumen of the show’s main character while even tweeting a picture of himself as Walter White. Replace Walt’s blue crystal with iPhones or any other mass-produced product and the basic business model is eerily the same. The Economist even published an essay illustrating how ‘Breaking Bad’ was a “first-rate primer on business“:
“…Mr White’s biggest failing is also a common one in business: hubris. The more successful he becomes, the more invulnerable he feels. The more rules he breaks, the more righteous he feels. And the more wealth he accumulates, the more he wants. An impressive volume of social-science studies suggests that leaders are more willing to break the rules than followers. There is no shortage of corporate examples, from Enron to Olympus, to illustrate this. Walter White is a thoroughly odd character: Mr Chips turned Scarface, as the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, puts it. But he also holds a worrying mirror to the business world….“
Walter seals his own fate when he proclaims “there’s no stopping this train.” The accumulation of money becomes the “be-all and the end-all” for Walt’s existence, but for all the mountains of cash piling up in duffel bags, crawl spaces, storage units, and 55-gallon barrels, Walter and his family are unable to make much use of it and in fact are plagued by it. In the end, the money becomes a curse, destroying the very thing it was supposed to save… Walt and his family.
Another irony among many is that the bruised and battered psyche of Jesse Pinkman, the drug addict ostracized by his well-to-do suburbanite parents, serves as the moral compass in a world of lies, deceit, and betrayal. Despite the fact that Walter and Jesse are producing one of the most destructive drugs in history, outright murder was never in their plans. Walter becomes inured to the killings, but Jesse is unable to cope. He sees their ill-gotten gains as “blood money” and gets rid of his share by tossing it all over a neighborhood. It’s quite fitting then that in the final conclusion Jesse ends up as the sole survivor of this trip through hell.
Interestingly, those who are masters at getting away with their crimes are the ones hiding in plain sight who have ingratiated themselves with law enforcement and other institutions of society. Behind the clean-cut and bespectacled mask of Gustavo “Gus” Fring lurks a cold-blooded drug lord whose meth superlab sits beneath the façade of an industrial laundry business. The distribution network of the drug is integrated into Fring’s fast food chicken chain. Gus Fring is a perfect representative for the psychopathic elite in our society who hide behind the phony rhetoric of PR firms, lobbyists, and dark money politics. I see an analogy with the toxicity of meth and the climate change wrought by fossil fuels. Industrial civilization’s addiction to fossil fuels is similar to the feeling of unlimited energy that a meth addict gets, but the downside is that both kill. For the psychopaths at the helm of industrial civilization, business-as-usual must be protected even as we race toward extinction. To quote a reader of this blog:
“…steady or rising coal and gas consumption in advanced countries (all countries, really), in the face of all this ecocide (not that so many actually consider it to be in their face) illustrates the inability of either producer or consumer to dial back within the confines of our system–a polygamy of empire and finance and thermodynamics. …we can’t get off the train…not in one piece anyhow.”
Walter White’s self-destructive end seems to be as tragic and foolish as the one capitalist industrial civilization is hurtling towards, or perhaps it’s simply the inevitable course of events governing all of life:
“As many of you know, I have a background as a chemistry teacher. I’ve come to realize that much of what I teach my students applies not only to what goes on in the classroom, but in life also. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. You see, technically, chemistry is the study of matter, but I prefer to see it as the study of change: Electrons change their energy levels. Molecules change their bonds. Elements combine and change into compounds. But that’s all of life, right? It’s the constant, it’s the cycle. It’s solution, dissolution. Just over and over and over. It is growth, then decay, then transformation. It’s fascinating really. It’s a shame so many of us never take time to consider its implications.” ~ Walter White
Capitalism has, throughout its history, built itself off the backs of the weak through dispossession, slavery, colonialism, technology and military power. Protecting the capitalist system into the 21st century, U.S. military served as the all-powerful proxy force of the global corporate elite. In the waning days of modern-day civilization, transnational corporations found even more ways to amass power and squeeze out every last penny from the Earth to the gods of capital. In the name of ‘free trade’, secretive agreements with alphabet soup-acronyms like TTP and TPIP were concocted to protect and expand profits as well as investor returns at the expense of all else, including the sovereignty of nations and the very habitability of the planet. Corporations became the new kings and queens, tsars and tsaritsas, bishops and popes. The last grab for what was left could now be done more swiftly while circumventing the laws of nations.
“…Capitalism has an inbuilt wondrous capacity of resurrection and regeneration; though this is capacity of a kind shared with parasites – organisms that feed on other organisms, belonging to other species. After a complete or near-complete exhaustion of one host organism, a parasite tends and manages to find another, that would supply it with life juices for a successive, albeit also limited, stretch of time.
A hundred years ago Rosa Luxemburg grasped that secret of the eerie, phoenix-like ability of capitalism to rise, repeatedly, from the ashes; an ability that leaves behind a track of devastation – the history of capitalism is marked by the graves of living organisms sucked of their life juices to exhaustion…” ~ Zygmunt Bauman
In a world of finite resources controlled by a tiny capitalist class, there would eventually only be two classes remaining – the über-wealthy or global elite and the vast underclass of disposable workers who eked out a subsistence existence. The wealth of society continued to be funneled upwards to the corporate overlords by way of deregulation, privatization, low or nonexistent tax rates, control of the legal system, and the cutting away of any last scraps of a social safety net.
Preoccupied by their digital screen devices and satiated on mass-produced junk food, the plebs never really noticed they were living in an open-air prison. In the meantime, the walls of a police state rose up to protect the sociopathic elite. As long as the ‘consumers’ were kept in a continual state of ‘amusement madness’ and on the treadmill of work exhaustion, there would be no time for contemplating the reality of climate change, the ever-widening wealth gap, the rise of a corporate fascist state, or the disappearance of the natural world.
“Living in an age of advertisement, we are perpetually disillusioned. The perfect life is spread before us every day, but it changes and withers at a touch.”
~ J. B. Priestley
This Ponzi scheme economy was so entrenched in the psyche of the general populace that essentially none questioned its validity, even in the face of increasingly chaotic weather and rising seas, mountains of toxic waste, lifeless oceans, epidemic industrial disease, and grotesque wealth maldistribution. The right to seek profit trumped the health and safety of humans, the stability of the environment, and the legal recourse of governments on behalf of their citizens. National borders were effectively erased and a global corporatocracy now ruled the planet. Ironically, the one world government feared by so many right-wing conspiracists had become reality without any protest from them.
Acid rain and erratic weather, the unintended consequences of half-baked geoengineering fixes, forced most food production into industrial greenhouses. Due to the chemical pollution levels in the environment, all water had to be treated before it was used for anything, and gas masks became ‘everyday outdoor wear’ like hats and umbrellas. Most stayed indoors to escape such hazards, immersing themselves in the artificial environments of virtual reality software. Zoos became the only sanctuaries for wildlife, their sperm safely kept frozen for the day humans might want to de-extinctify them. National parks were privatized and plastered with corporate logos. The ranks of the homeless and destitute swelled, but most soon found themselves living inside the cell of a private, for-profit prison where they toiled away as cheap labor contracted by the corporations. Such crises were always looked upon as business opportunities, a niche to fill in the profit-seeking mind of homo economicus. Commodification and commercialization of everything became completely normalized.
Taken to the extreme and turned into a rigid belief system, all ideologies can become dangerous. When the ethics of a society bow to laissez-faire capitalism, life in the U$A becomes a cruel joke: