The More Things Change ……
I want to start off this diary with a nod toward Memorial Day which was this last Monday. When I was young Memorial Day simply meant that school would be out in a week or two and summer vacation began.
I also would like to pay homage to Maj. General Smedley Butler who gave this speech in 1933.
WAR is a racket. It always has been
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.
How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?
Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.
And what is this bill?
This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.
Quite fitting, I would say. He gave this speech before WWII. Little did he know how correct he was as that war and the so called cold war that followed would prove to be the most profitable ventures for corporate America and Wall Street investors there ever was. What with the rest of the world still in the dark ages or having been bombed there, they had a captive audience and nearly free resources at their command.
This however would turn out to be the last hurrah of capitalism as is the subject of this audio interview with Chris Hedges, Morris Berman and Dmitri Orlov. All speaking of the slow and eventual demise of capitalism and the society and nation state on which it was built. With Hedges and Berman taking a more nation view – Hedges advocating fighting it even if there is no chance of winning and Berman advocating leaving the country to save one’s self.
Orlov takes a more global view and looks more toward removing one’s self from the system – unplugging as it were. And looking toward forming new community(s) that do not require the currents systems.
Not so very long ago, the Occupy Movement sought to draw a bright public circle around the terrible influence enjoyed by the few over the many. Mainstream opinion will say the movement collapsed due to its own inadequacies, but recent revelations have shown how the movement was attacked and undermined by law enforcement, elements of “homeland security” ostensibly meant to be part of the federal government’s anti-terrorism programs, and by private security firms hired by corporations and wealthy individuals to keep “undesirables” out of sight and out of mind.
Occupy was only the beginning, but may very well have been the last manifestation of peaceful resistance against the ever-widening chasm of inequality and desolation. The noose is tightening around the necks of average people, and more become radicalized with each passing day. The wealthy would do well to take note of this, and voluntarily move to square the savage imbalance that drives billions around the world into furious despair. It does not have to be this way, and if it continues in this way, eventually the dam is going to break. When that happens, woe be unto those who believe their wealth keeps them safe and cozy. On that day, the rock will not hide them, and the dead tree will give no shelter.
If it does not happen in my lifetime, it will happen in my daughter’s. I shudder to think what she will see. [Emphasis mine]
For the “left” as me and my generation of baby boomers used to know it has for the most part vanished. Even those of my generation have become uninterested in making any kind of waves or trouble and their offspring even less so. For this would mean forfeiting their cushy life styles.
It is a bitter reality, brought into vivid focus by five years of Obama, that the Left is an immobilized and politically impotent force at the very moment when the economic inequalities engineered by our overlords at Goldman Sachs who manage the global economy, should have recharged a long-moribund resistance movement back to life.
Instead the Left seems powerless to coalesce, to translate critique into practice, to mobilize against wars, to resist incursions against basic civil liberties, powerless to confront rule by the bondholders and hedgefunders, unable to meaningfully obstruct the cutting edge of a parasitical economic system that glorifies greed while preying on the weakest and most destitute, and incapable of confronting the true legacy of the man they put their trust in.
This is the politics of exhaustion. We have become a generation of leftovers. We have reached a moment of historical failure that would make even Nietzsche shudder.
We stand on the margins, political exiles in our own country, in a kind of mute darkness, a political occlusion, increasingly obsessed, as the radical art historian Tim Clark put it a few years ago in a disturbing essay in New Left Review, with the tragedy of our own defeat.
Consider this. Two-thirds of the American electorate oppose the ongoing war in Afghanistan. An equal amount objected to intervention in Libya. Even more recoil at the grim prospect of entering the Syrian theater.
Yet there is no antiwar movement to translate that seething disillusionment into action. There are no mass demonstrations. No systematic efforts to obstruct military recruiting. No nationwide strikes. No campus walkouts. No serious divestment campaigns against companies involved in drone technology.
Similar popular disgust is evident regarding the imposition of stern austerity measures during a prolonged and enervating recession. But once again this smoldering outrage has no political outlet in the current political climate, where both parties have fully embraced the savage bottom line math of neoliberalism. – JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
But this smoldering outrage will eventually manifest itself in some fashion. Maybe not as a confrontational direct approach but it will manifest itself in some form that may prove to be very unpleasant non the less. So far the younger techie radicals have limited their activities to software hacking and penetration.
But I assure you that the technology and it’s use and availability to cause actually physical damage is out there and sooner or later frustration, desperation and hopelessness will drive these people to engage in subversion and sabotage of one form or another. We have already had similar movements but the next time they will not be so easily put down. As the Union movements of the past have shown, desperate people will take desperate measures and those who feel they have nothing to lose and everything to gain are the most likely to take these measures. Indeed and we may well see alliances between groups not imagined here.
The so called liberals and progressives who like to “play survival” and “play activism” all the while believing they can leave the game whenever they choose will be swept away by those who actually have to survive and take real action for they have little or nothing left.
At which point these pseudo-leftists will find their nice safe causes and life styles summarily ignored for the greater cause of human survival. No one will care much about cell phones and internet sites and eating meat or smoking grass, the realm of the white upper crust.
Life will become real once more.