Saturday, November 20, 2010

All We Are Saying, Is Give Wealth a Chance

Foreclosuregate is one of those potential political and socioeconomic watersheds that make a guy like me hope, again, that deep change might well and truly be 'just around the corner.' But, before I stride forward and cry, "The Revolution is Come!" I ought first to confess that my intuition has been oft deceived by my fervent hopes. The mighty sheeple are about to stir from their propaganda-induced slumber! This time it's different! And yet, thus far, no matter what the indicators, no matter how flagrant the decadence and criminality, the expected fireworks have not been seen. Perhaps I'm expecting the wrong type of fireworks.

Observation 1; the revolution will not be televised. A strong argument can be made that Revolution is Now, though deliberately and skillfully ignored by the MSM. The status quo must, for its own protection, direct our gaze elsewhere, by presenting any information that might suggest 'the wheels are coming off' as normal business, humdrum hiccups and bumps along The One True Way. The MSM is The View of the World the status quo needs us to use, it is the window we are led to when we want to know what's going on 'out there.'

Some months ago, Yves Smith posted an article about the failure of the left to make hay while the sun shines, or rather, as capitalism's sun sets. It prompted some good debate, but my favourite comment came from an activist who lambasted the article and commenters for failing to 'get out there and act.' The commenter claimed to be part of a thriving community of people stepping out from the system and building a new one, of course unreported in the media. (I can't find the article, because I can't remember the title.) I wrote a blog on the opting out option, which I believe is an essential precursor of revolution, particularly today. Opting out is fairly bloodless in its initial stages, but should it generate momentum enough to upset the status quo's apple cart, attempts will be made to stamp it out. All systems want to live on and on, no status quo can be an exception to this, yet everything dies.

Observation 2; Foreclosuergate is massive and full of juicy stories of suffering and woe, so has to be in the mainstream to some extent. It furthermore follows an unbroken and ongoing succession of other scandals and robberies (bailouts and bonuses) I'm sure the majority do not want.

Is the great propaganda machine losing its grip? Not on everyone certainly, and where it is slipping, in different ways among different groups. The right is as dissatisfied as the left, each reacts differently, much as I hate to feed into what I see as cosmetic divisions fostered by the very propaganda I try to ignore. There is agitation and deep frustration, a yearning hunger for something else, but no real consensus. 'Divide and conquer' has worked well, though its harvest will be bitter indeed.

And yet, as Charles Eisenstein puts it, a millennia-old story is coming to a close. The heart of that story is 'self against other,' with its younger offspring, 'survival of the fittest,' 'nice guys finish last,' 'the invisible hand,' and Efficient Markets Hypothesis being but the latest iterations of it. The Guardians of this story occupy society's fulcrum as The Finance Industry, and have been in control of cultural definitions of money and wealth for a very long time. Since they possess the keys to the Money Making Machine, they get to shroud it in mystery while telling us, on a need to know basis, what success and wealth are. In short, they get us to want what they have to give; money. Therefore, money must be wealth, and monetary wealth must be success. Money must be the arbiter of all that gets done. 'Let Money; Price; and Hand, The Invisible take care of business, and everything will be just fine. Trust us. We know what we're doing.'

Faith in this tale is wearing thin, and the moles keeping on digging up the garden.

Recently, some US politicians have been getting a clue, and subjecting the Guardians' underlings to some half-way decent questioning. Yves Smith's article quotes a Congressional Oversight Panel paper:

While these documentation irregularities may sound minor, they have the potential to throw the foreclosure system – and possibly the mortgage loan system and housing market itself – into turmoil.


The guts of the Money Making Machine are at risk of prolapse, which means the status quo itself is at death's grim edge staring into the abyss. While they won't debate issues such as money and wealth, they will, and do, squeal about system collapse and the end of civilization, again (echoes of 2007-2008).

Chase Manhattan has been accused of perjury. The Republic of Ireland is facing its High Noon, an epic struggle that goes to the very core of Money Power, and the carrot society uses to propel itself 'forwards.' Regular Naked Capitalism commenter DownSouth posted the following:

Are the wheels starting to come off the corporate states? These are the anti-democratic governments that are underpinned by the ideology of state capitalism that emerged during the 19th century and became dominant in the West during the 20th century. Corporate states now rule over almost all Western peoples, as well as much of the rest of the world.

And let there be no mistake. American banking oligarchs are aware of the stakes, as became evident at Tuesday’s Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing “Mortgage Services and Foreclosure Practices.” Senator John “Jack” F. Reed made this explicit in his comments starting at minute 2:15:35:

There’s a real question, I think: Do we have that time? And not just in terms of the individual homeowners but the economy. And if the economy gets worse for reasons not directly related to this—-sovereign debt crises overseas, etc—-then the foreclosure problem we face today, you know the bottom keeps slipping down, down, down, down, down, then this problem becomes really tremendous.


What is at stake here? The financier's will scream 'Life Itself!' or at least, 'The Good Life,' but I think it's our cultural definitions of wealth and money. The more often this putrid game repeats, the more often we borrow money to lend to those up to their eyeballs in debt to 'rescue the system,' the more ridiculous money seems to be. This soiling of money's 'good name' is behind recent attempts to bring gold back to the forefront as a 'store of value.' Solidity is sought as the ground beneath our feet crumbles away. People want something 'real' to hold on to. I don't believe gold can do it. Nothing can which is 'wealth as money or single commodity.' The rot is just too deep, the old story too old.

A new story is being written, people are opting out, the rich are eating themselves, and though mostly at the fringes and desperately ignored and finessed, this squeaks through into the mainstream, from time to time, as Catastrophe. For the mainstream it is a death knell, though allegedly 'fixable' with standard medicine. The old way is indeed dying. The Revolution is indeed Now, but is disjointed, straggly, leaderless and groping. As it grows down and out into society there will be increasing chaos, horror, collapse, and then something unknowable.

As I have come to see it and consequently promote it, real wealth arises spontaneously from healthy networks. A human being is a society of individual cells cooperating as one organism whose health depends on access to the right environmental conditions. Society is likewise a collection of individual cells (and clusters of cells) whose health depends on access to an appropriate environment. Wealth is a complex of relationships, not an 'out there,' detached object we can hold to ourselves like gold or money or property or land. The new emergent story is principally about this; systems interdependently embedded within other systems in a state of perpetual change. This is the counterargument capitalism and liberalism do not want to engage.

Transitioning from that old to this new will be, I believe, an unprecedentedly broad and deep planetary process, and the outcome is uncertain. But make no mistake, it is underway and cannot be stopped. The best we can do is give our energies to those processes we believe will promote societal and environmental health, hoping for a good outcome.

14 comments:

Edwardo said...

"Observation 1; the revolution will not be televised. A strong argument can be made that Revolution is Now, though deliberately and skillfully ignored by the MSM."

Perhaps, but I think the MSM don't merely ignore signs of revolution, they propagage a counter reality the purpose of which is to derail any departure from the tattered status quo.

The latest brouhaha over the nature of scanning passengers at airports is a case in point. The issue isn't security, or how we might best achieve it, but, rather, the issue is the blatently (false) premise that propels all the, to date, invasive,and, in some cases, unhealthy security measures.

That the premise behind the aforesaid invasive security measures might be false is only admissible for consideration on the blogoshpere not the MSM.

Edwardo said...

"Is the great propaganda machine losing its grip?"

Yes, it is. The Daily Bell spends quite a bit of time discussing the whys and wherefores of the elite's mechanisms for control and their growing failures.

With that in mind, the internet has a large role to play in the propaganda machine's loss of power. We have yet to reach the point, at least in the U.S.,(where, even now, servile obedience is the default position of the vast majority of the populace) where the failure of the elite's mechanisms of control noticeably manifests. I have in mind rallies, protests, and various sorts of activities that last for more than a day and actually disrupt the day to day operations of our fascistic overlords.

In that respect, we have much to learn-and emulate- from our European compatriots.

Toby said...

"Perhaps, but I think the MSM don't merely ignore signs of revolution, they propagage a counter reality the purpose of which is to derail any departure from the tattered status quo."

Absolutely, and that's what I meant to imply with "skillfully." They weave a clever tale which fits quite closely the 'facts and figures,' but the more the wheels come off, the more the MSM diverges from reality on the ground.

And yes, the internet is a key, if not the, key wild card in this, and yes, Europe is playing host to a lot of interesting developments, not only demonstrations and the like. I've mentioned guaranteed income, but there are also heartwarming volunteer efforts here in Berlin, each of which makes a mockery of the Rational Economic Man nonsense TPTB would have us believe.

I hadn't heard of The Daily Bell, so looked into it. I respect Ron Paul without necessarily agreeing with him, and found the one or two articles I scanned to be too 'free' market oriented for my taste, but if it is exposing MSM bullshit that's a good thing. Does it have a large readership?

Karl said...

Tony,

Thank you for taking the time write about the social transformation that is occurring. I identify with your perspective more than any other blogger I've found. It's comforting to know that other people clearly see the problems and can point the way towards a sane society.

Money is a primitive form of information technology. Now that we have the real deal in this department it has become painfully obvious just how primitive it really is. Money and markets are simply tools, but when the tools become the objects of worship and seen as goals in and of themselves then the problems begin.

Karl said...

He he... sorry Toby, I typed your name incorrectly.

Edwardo said...

The Daily Bell does seem to have a decent sized readership though I couldn't say what the numbers are with any sort of precision. They excel at picking apart the sort of memes that the elites and their organs of (dis)information dissemination traffic in. And while The Bell may not be doing it in concert with "Econosophy", they are, for the most part, helpful to the cause of finding a better way forward.

Toby said...

Karl,

thanks for the compliment, I really appreciate that. And I'm very happy to meet a fellow human who has pierced the web of lies to see money and price mechanisms for what they are. Now it's all about gathering the threads of the new story as best we can, and being honest and open about that process.

Edwardo said...

We are about to see if things will continue in a business as usual manner. The word is that the Irish Pols seem prepared to cave to the $IMF and their fellow travelers. Will the Irish populace respond as Icelanders did or not?

Toby said...

I found this beauty at The Guardian's site on the Ireland saga and England's role in the 'rescue':

As David Cameron put it, it's money that you "have to go out and raise in order to lend it".

I love it; reported without so much as a murmur, the clear admission that the money to be lent first has to be borrowed, to help a nation drowning in debt. You couldn't make it up!

MwaH said...

Toby,

first of all, thanks for all that work you put up here on your blog. It's not just the thougts themselves, but also the possibility to witness the development of these thoughts that makes your blog a great source of insight.

Second, I wondered if you're aware of YES! magazine. They have an inspiring section on "the path to a new economy", which might prove fruitful to and/or confirm your own views on some matters. Give it a look:

http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/path-to-a-new-economy/path-to-a-new-economy

Kind regards.

Greg said...

Great article Toby

I too like reading downsouths comments at Yves' place.

I think that part of what we are witnessing is the hubris of modern American capitalists. Especially supply side acolytes. I use the term intentionally because like so many other things, the American version is just bigger brasher, more ignorant to how the world works (they OWN the world and make it work the way they want) and constantly pushing the envelope and then discovering (too late) that there are limits they never considered.

My best example of this is the modern day obsession with freeing the shackles from our businesses. Everything is framed as govt OR market, not both. It is talked about as if these entities can not exist side by side. Freedom lovers talk adoringly of Ayn Rands character John Galt and really think that the successful could and might just decide to sit this one out for a while. I really do wonder about their understanding of markets and prices if they really think that a large percentage of "owners" could just all decide to sell and live off what they accumulated in a short period of time ? They really are slaves to their own wealth and will have nothing at all if they try to all cash out at once. Its a ridiculous threat on its face, showing both their sociopathic tendencies and economic ignorance......... and these are the people in charge.

I think people are slowly wising up to their BS and a quiet revolution is underway but TPTB will ruin a lot of other lives besides their own on their way out, of that we can be sure.

The corporatocracy is running out of customers and they are trying to bully all govts into making all things privatized and financialized. There is a limit to what the people will put up with. The dichotomy is not left right its corporate state or non corporate state and right now few are speaking for the non corporate state since the US govt is essentially "US Inc" and owns the traditional left and right.

The real sad thing in America is we have a new movement, Tea Party, that uses non corporate state language but has corporate state goals. Many of the well meaning older Tea Partiers will be dead when their grandchildren might get to inherit the corporatocracy nightmare that their funders(Koch brothers etc) are pushing for. These guys will let their older supporters keep their SS/Medicare while undoing every possible means of public support for non corporate private interests. These folks are selling out their grandchildren.


Oh... Happy Thanksgiving

Toby said...

MwaH, you're very welcome, and thank you for your thank you! I write to be read, so it's good to hear that is happening.

I have heard and visited Yes! magazine, but only to read an article on money, scarcity and abundance in the form of an interview with Bernard Lietaer. I shall read the article you link to.

Toby said...

Hi Greg,

"Everything is framed as govt OR market, not both. It is talked about as if these entities can not exist side by side."

This is a big area of interest for me. I find the state/market dichotomy forced, drenched in propaganda, even though there is a fundamental difference, which lies in the nature of exchange and money flow, I believe.

I haven't read Ayn Rand, but have read about her, and know libertarian arguments well enough, but find them incomplete. The whole notion of person as isolated individual I utterly reject. The very fact of language is enough to demonstrate the power and necessity of the collective as precondition for the very emergence of notion that there might be such a thing as an isolated individual. Web-like interconnectivity is reality, not independent agents requiring total freedom from 'interference' to be creative and potent.

Jeremy Rifkin's book on Europe painted an interesting picture of the American psyche as the pioneer, battling nature and the elements alone to succeed. This myth of human potency, of being alone in the wilds to tame and make profitable that which previously was useless, lives on strong. The vast spaces still visible to many Americans suggest endless potential for growth and room for that dream to persist, albeit notionally, whereas the overcrowded areas of Europe suggest cooperation and coming-together are the better methodologies. I certainly found his arguments interesting. The book is called "The European Dream" and has lots of good stuff in it.

I hope we're right about people smelling the bullshit and withdrawing support, whether physical or spiritual, from the story of growth and differential advantage that has become so poisonous to is all. It seems that way, but when you want something badly, self-deception comes easy. Time will tell how accurate our instincts on this are.

Greg said...

Hey Toby


"I hope we're right about people smelling the bullshit and withdrawing support, whether physical or spiritual, from the story of growth and differential advantage that has become so poisonous to is all. It seems that way, but when you want something badly, self-deception comes easy. Time will tell how accurate our instincts on this are."


I couldnt agree more about the self deception. We must, as a pastor I like to listen to named Robin Meyers says, "Watch that spiritual pride!".

Mostly I'm operating on the idea that the market makers need the customers more than vice versa. Without market share, their business models cant hold up. As their complete reliance on govt bodies to enforce their market rights becomes more and more blatant the "game" will be exposed. It will become obvious they seek NOT free markets but completely captured markets.