Archive for March, 2015

I have always remembered a striking line from the movie The Dancer Upstairs where the police investigator, who is tracking the leader of Shining Path in Peru in the 1980s, says (paraphrasing from Spanish), “I think there is a revolution going on.” Elsewhere on the globe today, Arab Spring has morphed from a series of U.S.-instigated regime changes into an emerging Arab state (ISIS), though establishing itself is violent and medieval. According to Tom Engelhardt, even the U.S. has a new political system rising out of the ruins of its own dysfunction. Unless I’m mistaken, a revolution is a political system being overthrown by mass uprising of the citizenry, whereas a coup is a powerful splinter within the current regime (often the military wing) seizing administrative control. What Engelhardt describes is more nearly a coup, and like the quote above, it appears to be coalescing around us in plain sight, though that conclusion is scarcely spoken aloud. It may well be that Engelhardt has succeeded in crystallizing the moment. His five principal arguments are these:

  1. 1% Elections — distortion of the electoral system by dollars and dynasties.
  2. Privatization of the State — proper functions of the state transferred into the hands of privateers (especially mercenaries and so-called warrior corporations — nice neologism).
  3. De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency — fundamental inability to govern, regulate, and/or prosecute at the Federal level, opening up a power vacuum.
  4. Rise of the National Security State (Fourth Branch of Government) — the dragnet complex revealed (in part) by whistle-blower Edward Snowden but plain to see post-9/11.
  5. Demobilization of the American People — surprising silence of the public in the face of such unwholesome developments.

Please read the article for yourself, which is very well written. (I am no great fan of the journalistic style but must acknowledge that Engelhardt’s work is terrific.) I especially like Engelhardt’s suggestion that a grand conspiracy (e.g., New World Order) is not necessary but that instead it’s all being improvised on the run. Let me offer a couple observations of my own.

Power has several attributes, such as the position to influence events, the resources to get things done, and the ability to motivate (or quell) the public through active management of perception. High offices (both government and boardroom, both elected and appointed) are the positions, the U.S. Treasury and the wealth of the 1% are the resources, and charismatic storytelling (now outright lying) is management of perception. Actors (a word chosen purposely) across the American stage have been maneuvering for generations to wield power, often for its own sake but more generally in the pursuit of wealth. One might assume that once personal wealth has been acquired motivations would slacken, but instead they divert in not a few psychopaths to maniacal building of multigenerational dynasties.

Pulling the levers of state in one capacity or another is a timeworn mechanism for achieving the proxy immortality of the American statesman. However, as dysfunction in the political arena has grown, corporations (including banks) have assumed the reins. Despite corporate personhood being conferred and recently expanded, largely via judicial fiat, the profit motive has reasserted itself as primary, since there is no such thing as a fully self-actualized corporation. Thus, we have the Federal Reserve System acting as a de facto corporation within government — but without conscience. Multiply that hundreds of times over and voilà: an American corporatocracy.

The effect has been extrapolated in numerous movies and television shows, all offering dystopic warnings of things to come where people, domestic and alien, are all expendable as power seeks to perpetuate itself. How far this can go before financial collapse, climate change, energy scarcity, or a host of others looming calamities overtakes is yet to be seen. Some hold out hope for true revolution, but I believe that possibility has been contained. Considering how the world has been accelerating toward ecocide, I venture that at most a few more decades of desperate negotiations with fate are in store for us. Alternatively, I find it entirely feasible that the delicate web of interconnections that maintain life in all its manifestations could suffer a phase shift rather quickly, at which point all bets are off. Either way, in no one’s wildest imagination could our current civilization be considered the best we can do, much less the best of all possible worlds.

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This is an unapologetic interdiction directed to the influx of new followers to this blog. It is meant to be at least partly true and maybe a bit humorous (if I can strike the right tone, which is unlikely). It is also inspired by Leavergirl’s recent post called “Pulling the Plug,” though I’d been mulling this post for at least a week prior to reading hers. Make of it what you will.

To Follow or Unfollow — That is the Question

Over the past few months, I have received a steady trickle of new followers/subscribers to this blog. The count is now over 250 (still pretty modest, I know, so why am I complaining?). Unlike most bloggers, Facebookers, and pundits who revel in increased attention that hits, likes, friending, thumbs up/down, votes, ratings, rankings, links, referrals, trackbacks, reblogs, and follows/subscriptions would suggest, I care about none of those. Evidence that anyone wandering into The Spiral Staircase is actually reading what’s written is mostly absent. (There is a surprisingly large number of Filipinos who find this blog searching for Scheler’s Hierarchy in Google, where my post is currently the fourth hit returned on the search. None of them stop to comment.) Real proof would be a thoughtful comment that addresses the subject of the post. Agreement and disagreement are both welcome but not really the point. I get some comments, but not many. However, if this blog were to receive scores of comments like successful blogs do (measured solely by numbers, of course), I would not be able to keep up. Therefore, I’m not especially desirous of voluminous commentary. Like the fellow who blogs at Gin and Tacos (see blogroll), I’d probably end up throwing up a post for consideration then ignoring the comments (or at least not deigning to reply, which I consider tantamount to the same). Admittedly, I don’t always have a reply.

I recognize that among the millions and billions of people out there surfing the Internet, lots of intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive, humane people do exist. The proportion of them who can construct a good English sentence with something worthwhile to say, on the other hand, is suspiciously small. I don’t quite know why (reckless conjecture withheld). So seriously, what the hell are you doing here? If your blog is in a foreign language (non-English) or is an obvious content farm, I’m not returning any favors. If you write a series of inspirational posts (religion, self-help, life coaching, careers, fashion, etc.) or muse on daily life, I’m not reading your posts. If you’re selling vinyl siding somewhere in Canada, probably Ontario (I’ve actually got one such follower), I’m not even remotely interested in buying. Think about going somewhere else. If you’re selling SEO, then please DIAF. (more…)