The biggest jailbreak in history
On Tuesday, January 29, it will be exactly six months since I established a folder on my computer titled “The Crash of 2007”.
Tuesday January 29 will also be the 56th anniversary of my entry into what I thought was the honourable profession of journalism. These days many journalists ask themselves whether what they practice is a profession; whether what they do is honourable and even whether it constitutes journalism.
As disaster approaches we wonder why the global media don’t seem to notice.
As the so-called Thatcherite-Reaganite revolution cartwheels its ungainly, calamitous and soul-destroying progress towards implosion and self-destruction, many of us are too mesmerised by the gargantuan awfulness of it all to look at anything but the accompanying economic and financial mayhem.
But there is lots more not so obvious.
In Iraq at this moment, the major evidence of humanity’s eight millennia of civilisation is being looted and sold off to ‘investors’ who have more faith in the artefacts of Nebuchednezzar’s peasants than in all the oil wells of George Bush. As well they might. As we sang in the late sixties: “Everything Crash !”.
As Field Marshal (ret’d) Rumsfeld will tell you again, “Stuff happens!”
Move on! Get over it!
What is happening is so enormous, so transcendental that we can no more see it than we can see the rotation of the Earth.
But there are many people, neither prophets nor even experts, who for a long time have been feeling in their bones that something untoward is underway, rather as they say cats and dogs can sense seismic disturbances before earthquakes shake us up and destroy our cosy domesticity and, often our lives. Even people like me, who thought they were feeling the precursor tremors, are probably just as scared and apprehensive as anyone else. Worse yet, while we can vividly imagine what may happen, most people don’t get really frightened until their own houses start to to do the tango.
I’ve been watching for a long time as the invisible hand of capitalism attempted even more daring feats of prestidigitation; as the managers seized control from the shareholders and the corporate system abandoned any idea of public responsibility or accountability, as jobs and the people in them, were ruthlessly discarded and production was outsourced to slave societies – oops- ‘more cost effective countries’ – and the American capitalist forgot what the trade unions had been trying to tell them before they were emasculated: The money paid to American workers is what fuels American production. But the Enrons and the Exxons have never been interested. The idea was to make as much money as possible as fast as possible and to hell with the workers.
A declining workforce still being paid at the equivalent of 1975 wages could obviously not support the enormous superstructure of speculation, competitive consumption, greed and waste into which American capitalism has transformed itself. If the workers couldn’t afford to support the economy out of their wages or savings, their masters could always borrow European or Japanese or Chinese money to lend the workers and allow them to borrow more, paying ever higher rates of interest, running faster on the treadmill and losing ground, and the whole elaborate Ponzi scheme would go on and on until the second coming of Ayn Rand.
Multi billionaires like George Soros who spoke of ‘gangster capitalism’ and Warren Buffet, who spoke of the unfairness of the system were ignored: perhaps they were just envious of how fast the new Lords of the Earth could make money and didn’t really understand modern capitalism
What American capitalism has accomplished would have confounded Adam Smith and astonished even Karl Marx: it destroyed its own working class.
For the new-rich, capitalism was a no-risk game where governments had a duty to come to the rescue of those involved in unfortunate accidents, like Enron or the sub-prime mortgage debacle. Mr Alan Greenspan who keeps Ayn Rand at his bedside, had always delivered when necessary, despite a schoolmasterish tendency to vaguely deplore the ‘animal spirits’ and other juvenile delinquencies of his billionaire charges.
The problem of course, was that there were too many balls in the air and little or no certitude about how many capitalists could dance on the head of a peon. Ayn Rand, from beyond the grave, advised self-love and selfishness as the only virtues..
Margaret Thatcher did say ‘There is no such thing as Society” – expressing the Rand philosophy even more succinctly than Miss Rand herself. This pithy aphorism was then swallowed by various dummies all over the world. In the United States the explicit application of that principle has wiped out a significant proportion of the savings accumulated by African Americans over the last 50 years or so. And though it is blacks who are most critically affected, whites, Hispanics, and what is left of the working class are all condemned to fulfil the bizarre prediction in the gospel according to Matthew:
“For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath”. I’ve always considered that verse to perfectly represent capitalism.
The legacy of the Thatcherite-Reaganite counter revolution is not simply economic and social catastrophe but structural unsustainability in every dimension
Though the Reagan/Thatchers did not believe in society their commonplace lunacies such as the deregulation of aviation and Reagan's firing air traffic controllers – worked because of human altruism and the self-sacrifice of the victimised. They privatisated essential services – disregarding the fact that they would be run by the same people. According to them these people would suddenly become more efficient, since there was a profit involved. They ignored the probability of corruption, corner cutting, destruction of social cap[ital and decreases in the indices of civilised existence.
Thatcher and Reagan were not the causes of global warming or of any of the dire curses that attend us; they simply made it much harder for us to act quickly effectively and responsibly. The practical, pragmatic guys who ‘make things happen’ too often produce developments that depend on destroying the environment. maximising their profits and stealing environmental goods from the rest of us.
We’ve lost the 21 square miles of Kingston Harbour to sewage, solid waste, to assorted manufacturers and to the Port Authority
Do you hear any of them offering to replace what they have stolen?
Of course, when the beach sand goes and when the jellyfish swarm the beaches stinging and scaring our visitors, guess who will be asked to find the money to fix the problems?
The biggest jailbreak in history
Ayn Rand would have approved of Israel’s latest initiative in Gaza. To punish the unruly Palestinians, Israel with the approval of the West, imposed a blockade which quickly shut down municipal services, food supplies and emergency rooms. As someone (not Margaret Thatcher) once said “The prospect of being hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully” but what if the mind belongs to babies on a respirator who will die when the last generator runs of of fuel?
If Mugabe or Milosevich had done what the Israelis have done (and not for the first time) there would have been outraged howls from the State Department and other chancelleries of the civilised world, condemning barbaric, primitive inhuman behaviour. What happens to Palestinians or Haitians is not the concern of the cognitive elite of the world. Haitians and Palestinians live in law-free zones where human rights should not interfere with effective governance. And Condoleezza Rice, George Bush and the governments of the North Atlantic community approve of Israel’s turning Gaza into a concentration camp. Their motive: to convince the Palestinians that they were wrong to choose as their government the Hamas party. The Fatah party, once led by Yasser Arafat, was judged wanting by the Palestinians who voted for the much more radical Hamas. Fatah, once into hijacking planes and reviled as a terrorist organisation, became the darling of the West after the death of Arafat
Hamas and Israel share the same basic prejudices. Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s statehood; Israel refuses to recognise Palestinians right to their own country. Normally the Hamas opposition is expressed as if it meant the extermination of the Israelis. The last Intifada was sparked by Israeli retaliation for the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister who advocated exterminating the Palestinians or at the minimum, expelling them from Palestine.
The Europeans, atoning for Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews, have consistently backed the Israeli contention that the Jews of the world deserve a homeland and that homeland should be the territory of Palestine (land of the Philistines/Falastin).
For the last 70 years, those Palestinians not expelled by Israel have lived in smaller and smaller reservations in their own homeland with Israel continuing to install ‘facts on the ground’ – Israeli owned housing scheme on Palestinian owned land.
A map of Palestine (if the western media would print one) would show Palestine looking rather like a chocolate chip cookie, with Israeli settlements represented by the chocolate chips. Palestine is essentially split into two non-viable tribal reservations, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) including Jerusalem and a slim sliver of land on the Mediterranean – the Gaza Strip.
Unlike the Haitians, the Palestinians are recognised by the United Nations as refugees in their own land and have been so since 1948. Hamas two years ago won the electoral loyalty of the majority of Palestinians. Israel and her western allies decided that democracy was fine for Gaza, but, that, as in Haiti, you can vote for anyone you choose as long as it’s our surrogate – the Henry Ford principle.
The Israelis try to control the Palestinians by a variety of means, incursions by the Israeli army in which Palestinians including children, women and other innocents are ‘unfortunately’ killed; and by other means such as pre-dawn runs by Israeli aircraft generating sonic booms which terrify children and drive adults crazy.
The Gazans retaliate by firing primitive rockets into Israeli settlements (built on Palestinian land) and by suicide bomb attacks – although, mercifully, there haven’t been any for some time.
The situation is dangerous, crazy and unjust for everybody. The latest clampdown on Gaza was forcing people into starvation, putting children and sick people at dangerous risk and imposing generally inhuman punishment on the entire population for the sins of the rocket launching radicals. The Gazans were penned into this prison by an Israeli- built analogue of the Berlin Wall, a 26 ft./8 meter high concrete and steel barrier.
The Hamas government of Gaza last week decided to create its own facts, in the words of one of its leaders. Its sappers and heavy equipment drivers knocked down the massive wall and nearly half a million Gazans streamed out into Egypt on the first day. For some it was their first time out of the Gaza prison/concentration camp in their entire lives
The difference in perceptions is vast. TIME, Newsweek, CNN and other US media treated the breakout as if they were reporting the annual Spring merchandise sales in the US.
To describe the desperate scramble of people seeking baby food and basic necessities in Egyptian shops across the border, TIME said: It took explosives to do what diplomacy couldn't: allow Palestinians to go on a shopping spree – Newsweek and CNN evaluated the incident in terms of a public relations disaster for Israel.
That’s what we journalists call ‘the human touch’.
The Israelis say it is up to the Egyptians to restore the wall and the prison. The Egyptians realise that popular opinion is with the Palestinians and everybody realises that Palestine is the main excuse for the existence of Al Qaeda.
What with Gaza, the imminent worldwide economic collapse and climate change, all our lives are going to become much more interesting very soon.
Copyright©2008 John Maxwell