Crystallizing the Moment (redux)

Posted: March 22, 2015 in Corporatism, Culture, History, Politics
Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

  1. Chris says:

    I read this on my iPad before getting out of bed. Think I’ll just pull the covers up over my head…

    • Brutus says:

      That sentiment is entirely understandable. I suppose I still want my eyes open to bear witness, even if it accomplished nothing besides making me miserable.

  2. colinc says:

    Indeed, your two closing sentences begin to hint at the crux of “our” conundrums. Your penultimate statement that current conditions “could suffer a phase shift rather quickly” is the first step in comprehending non-linearity. Examples would be how strain builds up at the junction of two or more tectonic plates or pressures are increased as magma accumulates in a subsurface “pocket.” While these processes develop, little is noticed until “BANG,” the fault-line ruptures in an earthquake or the volcano blows its top. The increase in strain or pressure may be “linear,” literally, but the violent result certainly is not.

    The final sentence is a well stated, though slightly whimsical, debasement of the too often used and abstract terms “progress” and “better.” I say whimsical as I am certain there ARE some people (e.g., the 0.01% of wealth-holders) who would joyously proclaim that “this” is “the best of all possible worlds.” Of course, a multitude of others would less joyously say it’s not even close. Regardless, I’ve seen NO satisfying definitions to what actually constitutes “progress” or “better.” That is, how and why can the achievements of humanity be considered “progress?” Unless, as is usually the case, one’s perspective is utterly myopic, the term is ill-suited to its generally accepted meaning. How and why is having a new electronic distraction, which will be obsolete in a year or less, be considered “better?” Again, only through a doltishly myopic point of view could one accept the generally believed meaning. Alas, all of this is, at this point, just intellectual exercise as I perceive no means to reverse, mitigate or even adapt to the changes that are on the horizon and accelerating. But, hey, what the hell do I know?

    • Brutus says:

      Intellectual exercise indeed. I share your view that there’s not much to do at this point. The die is cast. But I cling defiantly to the idea that there may yet be things worth doing as moral agents even if they amount to nothing.

  3. paulchefurka says:

    Regarding de-legitimizing your Congress and President, have you seen the Wikileak on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

    • Brutus says:

      Not until you pointed to it. Everything I learn about the TPP indicates that it’s bad news, making it hard to understand who would agree to it. Analysis at Daily Kos indicates that under the TPP, if enacted, foreign business entities could litigate over changes in business environments. Here is a hypothetical instance: a Chinese corporation is operating rice and/or almond farms (highly water intensive, BTW) in the Central Valley of California, now in severe, prolonged drought stage. If the State of California were to restrict or ration water usage because, frankly, there’s no more water to be had, the Chinese corporation could sue for lost profits. Governments (municipal, state, Federal) can’t maintain stable arrangements now. Why on earth would they enter into agreements that establish liability stemming from uncontrollable events?

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