Political comment isn’t usually found on this blog. But some things are just too pivotal to pass over. ‘Cablegate’ in conceptual terms mirrors the practical processes necessary to ensure survival in the increasing likelihood of food crises and civil unrest as the inevitable train wreck that is the western economic model ploughs into the buffers of unsustainability at the end of the line. It’s time to wake up, think for ourselves and stop waiting around in expectation that the ‘right’ solution will come twinkling down like fairy dust from somewhere higher up the pecking order.
“The point is, if you are not standing on solid ground in terms of not just food storage, but a plan for sustainability, then you and your family are in serious danger. This is not a game, and it is not to be taken lightly. It is not something to be shrugged off and postponed for some undefined “later date”. If you have not already started the process of prepping for economic downturn or collapse, then you need to start today.”
As John Naughton wrote in The Guardian this morning (and echoed in a slightly different version for Aljazeera),
“What WikiLeaks is really exposing is the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out. In the last decade its political elites have been shown to be incompetent (Ireland, the US and UK in not regulating banks); corrupt (all governments in relation to the arms trade); or recklessly militaristic (the US and UK in Iraq). And yet nowhere have they been called to account in any effective way. Instead they have obfuscated, lied or blustered their way through. And when, finally, the veil of secrecy is lifted, their reflex reaction is to kill the messenger.”
I don’t think Naughton has quite got to the core of it here. What WikiLeaks is really exposing is the extent to which the populations of western democratic nations have been victims of their own delusional gullibility.
Political and financial elites in every part of the world and throughout history have always been incompetent, corrupt and recklessly militaristic, not to mention secretive, duplicitous, self-serving, greedy and all the rest. Just because we have some naive expectation that our representatives should somehow be free of these qualities doesn’t make them so. They’re qualities which are every bit as much part of human nature as all the good stuff is, and positions of above-average power and responsibility seem to bring them out in above-average measure. (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton.)
Incredulity should be reserved for the fact that we’ve been so stupid as to believe it could be otherwise.
And in this context it doesn’t matter at all whether the Assange story can be taken at face value or is really, as some have suggested, a complex series of bluff and double bluff designed to manipulate public opinion, act as some sort of elaborate smokescreen, or justify more control of the internet.
“Our rulers have a choice to make: either they learn to live in a WikiLeakable world, with all that implies in terms of their future behaviour; or they shut down the internet. Over to them.”
Our rulers?!! In a democracy, we have representatives, not rulers. Or at least, so the theory goes …
WikiLeaks is a mega-decibel wake-up call to the citizenry of all so-called democracies. (As if 9/11 and the illegal war that followed wasn’t already …) The extent to which political pressure has apparently been successfully brought to bear on supposedly independent and apolitical corporations to shut off Assange’s financial support (PayPal and now VISA have closed WikiLeaks’ accounts) and ability to operate (his hosting companies have capitulated after repeated distributed denial-of-service attacks) when he has not been found guilty of any crime – the ‘rape’ charge seems a bit too convenient, but even if it were genuine is no justification for this kind of action – flies in the face of all known commercial and criminal laws and makes blatantly obvious what those in power get up to when things don’t go the way they want. In other words, what’s ‘right’ or ‘just’ won’t protect you.
Here’s another good post about the mainstream media’s signal failure to speak truth to power.
And some comment from the man himself.
SlBMA December 8, 2010
great post. thought-provoking. I hope you don’t mind but I have linked to it over at mine.
Brian Maynard December 12, 2010
I had a quick look at your site last week when visiting my brother and his wife’s attempt at growing vegetables down on the Algarve. There seems a dearth of decent practical advice on the subject at quick glance around the net, I work just short of an acre in Somerset with tunnel’s, pigs and chickens etc. organically having been attempting self-sufficiency for some 35 years now.
Just some thoughts to give you an idea of my world……..
Whenever I write politics it’s always difficult to choose words who’s meanings are clear. This is because some of us don’t share many of today’s tacit assumptions. Most of these usually unexamined assumptions are social democratic or liberal. They dominate all corporate media. These myths don’t hold up to rational scrutiny and seem an unrecognised form of mind control. Here is an attempt to list some of them.
1. This is a democratic system (The Democratic Fallacy).
If ‘democracy’ means ‘rule by the people’, it isn’t. It is an oligarchic system of elected political elites tightly enmeshed with the unelected economic elites in industry, state bureaucracy and the media. These, often discordant, elites together make up the ruling class.
2. Democratic parties are run democratically (The Party Fallacy).
Just like any communist party, when it comes to the crunch, the major parties are all run top-down from head office. Power group and faction deals done outside the party meetings decide on key positions. Party executives and apparatchiks hold great internal power. Candidates chosen by the local rank and file, if at all, can be replaced by those chosen by head office when necessary. Party discipline and perceived unity are always placed above open debate and dissent. Even parties that start off with greater grass-roots participation end up with oligarchic power structures. The term ‘democratic party’ is an oxymoron.
3. Elections are very important and provide real alternatives between parties (The Election Fallacy).
This reduces the core political notion of freedom to the freedom to choose between the two wings of the one pro-capitalist and neo-liberal party. We live in a de facto One Party state. We are left with the freedom to choose which current faction of the ruling political elite will probably be less disastrous.
The key investment decisions are not made by politicians and thus elections are only of secondary importance. (The next four points are simply corollaries of this fallacy.)
4. The key decisions are made in cabinet and parliament after rational debate and in the interest of the common good. (The Parliamentary Fallacy).
Key investment decisions are made behind closed doors by the democratically unaccountable corporate bureaucrats of big business. Key political decisions are made by the top levels of the political executive in close consultation with unelected top bureaucrats and business lobbyists. ‘Revolving doors’ between these groups assure their fundamental unity of interest. As in Communist systems, parliaments merely rubber stamp these decisions along party lines. The term ‘parliamentary debate’ is also an oxymoron. ‘Question time’ is schoolboy-level grandstanding and bullying because it is nothing but a pseudo-event of clashing ‘personalities’ designed for the media.
5. The differing personalities of politicians are important things to consider. (The Personalist Fallacy 1).
Politicians with different personalities may set up differing cultural atmospheres and political priorities in non-core areas. These may at times be important. However, personalities make as little difference to the core power/class relations as do gender or race. For ruling elites and democrats
alike, politicians are not to be judged by what they may or may not privately be but by what they publicly do or fail to do.
6. When politicians lie and deceive, it is a personal failing. (The Personalist Fallacy 2)
Politicians may be personally honest or dishonest to varying degrees. However, all are systemically caught between meeting popular demands (election time ‘idealism’ and ‘hope’, polls) and meeting big business and state-systemic demands (post-election time ‘realism’). When they then lie or
‘betray’ their popular election promises and their previous ‘idealism’ magically and inevitably becomes ‘realistic’ and ‘pragmatic’, they are in fact simply meeting the demands of the system and its very real power relations. Politicians are necessarily two-faced because they are always
serving two masters, the public and the powerful, but in the end only the powerful master is really the master and calls the shots.
7. The planet can be saved by pressuring politicians into developing ‘political will’. (The Lobbying Fallacy)
Persistent and massive grass roots direct action (demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience etc) and lobbying may sometimes change politicians’ ‘will’ in many non-core areas. When this popular pressure is lessened, this ‘will’ will always quickly weaken or backtrack back to
systemic ‘realism’ (power maintenance). If focussed exclusively on politicians (instead of on big business power and creative self-activity), this lobbying activity will, by definition, sap creative energy, not change the system itself and thus not save the planet.
8. Public opinion is made by the public. (The Public Opinion Fallacy)
It isn’t. It is made for the public by a process of selective filtering and re-framing on the part of the owners, managers and employed commentators of the corporate media. Corporate think tanks and PR machines also play important public opinion-forming roles, often behind the scenes. The
important ideological and manipulative work of all these ‘pundits’ is to keep public discourse within the tight parameters and limited concepts of allowed official discourse. The purpose is to manufacture consent for the decisions and policies of the ruling elites. There is no conspiracy involved here, it is a ‘natural’ part of the system and works largely by cultural osmosis and conformity.
9. This might not be a perfect system, but there is no alternative (Margaret Thatcher: ‘TINA’). Democracy and capitalism necessarily go together. Socialism has failed spectacularly. (The TINA Fallacy)
Capitalism and outright terror states are quite compatible (fascism, third world dictatorships). Democratic imperialism has also killed millions of innocent people. ‘Socialism’ itself has never been tried anywhere. Despite their labels the Soviet and Chinese systems were/are not socialist in any
sense. They were authoritarian forms of state capitalism that have now morphed into more modern forms of McStalinism. Whether still called ‘socialism’ or not, the alternative is a radically democratic, both decentralised and globalised society in which economic and local community
self-management, solidarity and mutual aid are maximised.
10.Economically, this is a Free Market Society. (The Free Market Fallacy)
There is no free market and never has been, even under the rule of the deregulating, neo-liberal state. A completely free market system would self-destruct in no time. Because it can, by definition, only care for its individual vested interests and not for the good of the whole system, capitalism needs constant saving from itself by the state. The capitalist state has always been there to massively support, gently oversee, subsidize and bail out the capitalist economy in countless ways, not only in times of crisis. Corporate and middle class welfare is actually its main game. The
state helps capital privatise the profits and socialise the costs. It provides the physical infrastructure, educational development of the ‘human capital’ and picks up the immense social, health and environmental costs of the latter’s wrecking balls. All this happens whether the state is neo-liberal or social democratic (Keynesian) in nature.
11. Wars of aggression and military humanitarian interventions are foreign policy mistakes or blunders. (The Mistaken Foreign Policy Fallacy)
They are not mistakes. Official humanitarian aims are pretexts. Initially, they are planned military interventions for geo-strategic, financial, ideological gain. The so-called ‘mistakes’ or ‘blunders’ are usually military and financial over-reaches and misjudgements of popular resistance. Millions of innocent civilians and duped soldiers die or are maimed or displaced in the process.
12. World peace is possible without world social justice. (The Peace Fallacy)
When the rich 20% of the world lay claim to about 80% of the world’s resources, leaving the poor 80% with 20% of the resources and billions in poverty, there can be no lasting peace until this exploitative imbalance and historical injustice are redressed.
13. Capitalism can function without growing infinitely. (The Natural Capitalism Fallacy)
When capital ceases growing, it ceases being capital and reverts to being mere money. Capital must accumulate and expand to survive. Nothing like this exists in nature except perhaps certain forms of virus.
14. There can be infinite growth within a finite world. (The Growth Fallacy)
A fallacy obvious to any child but not to economists, politicians and their media pundits.
15. Capitalism and this planet are compatible. (The Business as Usual Fallacy)
Quinta do Vale December 12, 2010
:-) Spot on Brian! All points that need to be made again, again, again and again, so thank you so much for taking the time to do so here at such succinct length (and no, that’s not oxymoronic: these are immense issues).
The thing is, the present set-up is simply unsustainable. It depends on the promulgation of myths 1-12 and the continuing subscription to them on the part of ordinary people for its very existence. And it’s unsustainable in and of itself (myths 13-15). So even if the majority of western society have become so morally and ethically impoverished that they’re content to support such a system and justify its continued existence to themselves by continually lying to themselves, knowing it is what it is, it will still collapse. Hence the first quotation in the post above …
35 years’ experience of organic near self-sufficiency? Are you writing about this somewhere? As you say, there’s a dearth of good practical advice.
Quinta do Vale December 12, 2010
Synchronicity! Just found out about the movie Freedom Ahead. From the blurb …