Killer Clowns, by George Monbiot – a reblog

Killer Clowns –

Killer Clowns

Posted: 30 Jul 2019 08:18 AM PDT

Why are so many nations now led by extravagant buffoons? Because the nature of capitalism has changed.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 26th July 2019

Seven years ago the brilliant impressionist Rory Bremner complained that politicians had become so boring that few of them were worth mimicking: “They’re quite homogenous and dull these days … It’s as if character is seen as a liability.” Today, his profession has the opposite problem: however extreme satire becomes, it struggles to keep pace with reality. The political sphere, so dull and grey a few years ago, is now populated by preposterous exhibitionists.

This trend is not confined to the UK – everywhere the killer clowns are taking over. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Matteo Salvini, Recep Erdogan, Viktor Orban and a host of other ludicrous strongmen – or weakmen as they so often turn out to be – dominate nations that would once have laughed them off stage. The question is why? Why are the deathly technocrats who held sway almost everywhere a few years ago giving way to extravagant buffoons?

Social media, which is an incubator of absurdity, is certainly part of the story. But while there has been plenty of good work investigating the means, there has been surprisingly little thinking about the ends. Why are the ultra-rich, who until recently used their money and newspapers to promote charisma-free politicians, now funding this circus? Why would capital wish to be represented by middle managers one moment and jesters the next?

The reason, I believe, is that the nature of capitalism has changed. The dominant force of the 1990s and early 2000s – corporate power – demanded technocratic government. It wanted people who could simultaneously run a competent, secure state and protect profits from democratic change. In 2012, when Rory Bremner made his complaint, power was already shifting to a different place, but politics had not caught up.

The policies that were supposed to promote enterprise – slashing taxes for the rich, ripping down public protections, destroying trade unions – instead stimulated a powerful spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation. The largest fortunes are now made not through entrepreneurial brilliance but through inheritance, monopoly and rent-seeking: securing exclusive control of crucial assets, such as land and buildings, privatised utilities and intellectual property, and assembling service monopolies such as trading hubs, software and social media platforms, then charging user fees far higher than the costs of production and delivery. In Russia, people who enrich themselves this way are called oligarchs. But this is not a Russian phenomenon, it is a global one. Corporate power still exists, but today it is overlain by – and is mutating into – oligarchic power.

What the oligarchs want is not the same as what the old corporations wanted. In the words of their favoured theorist Stephen Bannon, they seek the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Chaos is the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which the new billionaires thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend. The chaos of an undeliverable Brexit, the repeated meltdowns and shutdowns of government under Trump: these are the kind of deconstructions Bannon foresaw. As institutions, rules and democratic oversight implode, the oligarchs extend their wealth and power at our expense.

The killer clowns offer the oligarchs something else too: distraction and deflection. While the kleptocrats fleece us, we are urged to look elsewhere. We are mesmerised by buffoons, who encourage us to channel the anger that should be reserved for billionaires towards immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims, people of colour and other imaginary enemies and customary scapegoats. Just as it was in the 1930s, the new demagoguery is a con, a revolt against the impacts of capital, financed by capitalists.

The oligarch’s interests always lie offshore: in tax havens and secrecy regimes. Paradoxically, these interests are best promoted by nationalists and nativists. The politicians who most loudly proclaim their patriotism and defence of sovereignty are always the first to sell their nations down the river. It is no coincidence that most of the newspapers promoting the nativist agenda, whipping up hatred against immigrants and thundering about sovereignty, are owned by billionaire tax exiles, living offshore.

As economic life has been offshored, so has political life. The political rules that are supposed to prevent foreign money from funding domestic politics have collapsed. The main beneficiaries are the self-proclaimed defenders of sovereignty, who rise to power with the help of social media ads bought by persons unknown, and thinktanks and lobbyists that refuse to reveal their funders. A recent essay by the academics Reijer Hendrikse and Rodrigo Fernandez argues that offshore finance involves “the rampant unbundling and commercialisation of state sovereignty” and the shifting of power into a secretive, extraterritorial legal space, beyond the control of any state. In this offshore world, they contend, “financialised and hypermobile global capital effectively is the state.”

Today’s billionaires are the real citizens of nowhere. They fantasise, like the plutocrats in Ayn Rand’s terrible novel Atlas Shrugged, about further escape. Look at the “seasteading” venture funded by Paypal’s founder Peter Thiel, that sought to build artificial islands in the middle of the ocean, whose citizens could enact a libertarian fantasy of escape from the state, its laws, regulations and taxes, and from organised labour. Scarcely a month goes by without a billionaire raising the prospect of leaving the Earth altogether, and colonising space pods or other planets.

Those whose identity is offshore seek only to travel further offshore. To them, the nation state is both facilitator and encumbrance, source of wealth and imposer of tax, pool of cheap labour and seething mass of ungrateful plebs, from whom they must flee, leaving the wretched earthlings to their well-deserved fate.

Defending ourselves from these disasters means taxing oligarchy to oblivion. It’s easy to get hooked up on discussions about what tax level maximises the generation of revenue. There are endless arguments about the Laffer curve, that purports to show where this level lies. But these discussions overlook something crucial: raising revenue is only one of the purposes of tax. Another is breaking the spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation.

Breaking this spiral is a democratic necessity: otherwise the oligarchs, as we have seen, come to dominate national and international life. The spiral does not stop by itself: only government action can do it. This is one of the reasons why, during the 1940s, the top rate of income tax in the US rose to 94%, and in the UK to 98%. A fair society requires periodic corrections on this scale. But these days the steepest taxes would be better aimed at accumulated unearned wealth.

Of course, the offshore world the billionaires have created makes such bold policies extremely difficult: this, after all, is one of its purposes. But at least we know what the aim should be, and can begin to see the scale of the challenge. To fight something, first we need to understand it.

39 thoughts on “Killer Clowns, by George Monbiot – a reblog

  1. deteremineddespitewp

    This is the harsh truth.
    A similar situation played out in Germany in the 1930s. There the oligarchs and the generals thought they could put Hitler on a stage and pull his strings. In that case they underestimated the power of raw megalomania.
    None of the current crop have that frightening chemistry Hitler had held, these and their followers are as the old Russian terms goes ‘Useful Idiots’….which goes way back before the communists; I wish I could find the record.
    Of course what the oligarchs never realise is the force they worship ‘Capitalism’ is actually a force with its own powers, a manifestation of the collective Human Tribe’s greed, fear and opportunism. They have no more control of the consequences of their actions than they have over the waves.
    History beckons.
    Lenin was supposed to have said ‘When we hang the last capitalist it will be with a rope he has sold us,’. They will be frantically wheeling and dealing as their buildings collapse, hoping that their God The Market will protect them when all it will be looking to do is consume them, before itself is consumed by the waiting Beast of Chaos

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      That’s well put Roger. I believe that greed on the scale we are seeing today is an addiction. Addictions is what the ancients would have labelled demon possession and when one is in the grip of one addiction s/he is usually also trapped by a number of others, namely gambling, pornography, pedophilia, drug and alcohol. Corruption begets more corruption on an exponential scale. That is why I can see the debasement of civilization until nothing is left of it worth trying to salvage.

      1. deteremineddespitewp

        It is not a scenario I would argue with Sha’ Tara.
        History warns. Not just Human History, but the History of Life on the planet.
        We are not so grand, as many a religion in their basic teachings warn…. Hubris.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” Hubris is the final madness. If we bother reading our recorded history we find an incredible number of empowered madmen who drove their nations, empires, their peoples and themselves to destruction blinded by hubris. “Après moi, le déluge!” Having finally realized his dream of Drang Nach Osten and Deutschland Uber Alles was dead, he (Hitler) “consigned” every remaining German to death. (The Americans desperately wanted to fulfill Hitler’s final curse.) After a very short reign of “America Over All” we’re seeing a potential replay of that same madness being performed in the White House.

      3. deteremineddespitewp

        Slight difference,
        This current incumbent in the Whitehouse being an incompetent fool and egotist does not have the slightest idea as to what is really happening much less what he is actually doing

      4. Sha'Tara Post author

        Agreed, however the incompetent in the WH is a puppet and if one looks closely one can see that curtain behind the puppet, moving. A lot of heavy calculation is going on behind Trump; a lot of long-term planning the Muggles have absolutely no clue about. Illuminati or whatever, Trump is being very carefully managed. Hitler was also managed and a lot of that was “proudly made in the US of A.” The madmen who bring down nations and empires are useful idiots as Lenin said. When I look into the far future then look back I can see how it was all staged managed for a particular end, although the “end” is not exactly what the stage managers had in mind or hoped for… Just because they have a longer-term view than their currently installed useful idiots doesn’t mean they are that much smarter. They too are subject to the “whims of the gods” and are being staged managed for a purpose they cannot even begin to think about.
        I used to read the book of “Revelation” without the helpful interpretations and it forced me to want to know what that was all about. To anyone, I recommend a re-read… without the notes.

      5. deteremineddespitewp

        There we have to disagree Sha’ Tara.
        I have the opinion that history is littered with examples of idiocy caused by greed, vanity, ignorance and so forth.
        If we did learn our lessons many problems would be solved, but we just keep on thinking simple answers are the best.
        Hence, Terminal Stupidity.

      6. Sha'Tara Post author

        I think that we are in agreement on that, at least at the stage/level, you are addressing. I just go beyond the obvious looking for the behind-the-scenes motivators.

      7. Sha'Tara Post author

        Certainly all my blogger friends are on my “to do” list of people I want to find again and interact with on a much more personal and more “aware” level of understanding and acceptance. My current ‘dream’ is to be the ultimate rebel who breaks through the imposed barrier and comes back to “talk” to people I’ve known who are still of Earth and in physical bodies. I’m fed up with the “mysticism;” the mythology, the “possible/not possible or it would have been done” arguments and speculation.

      8. deteremineddespitewp

        We must work on this.
        For here am I in my harsh, authoritarian approach to stamping out Intolerance (you have to love the paradox) interfacing with your good self and your far more Universal view.

      9. Sha'Tara Post author

        The greater ‘cosmic’ view of life, I found necessary to combat my own predilection to want to use force as the means to solve problems. I see a repetitive pattern on Earth of people using “force” in various ways, not always overtly violent, but nevertheless intended to force someone, or others, to change their ways or to do other than what they be doing… proselytizing by religious people, or political demonstration, rallies, threats, insults, I could go on and on. It’s easy to go that route; it’s easy to say, they’re doing it to me, it’s time I do it to them; it’s easy to live a life of them versus us and sadly I see more of this even here in my rather placidly Canadian neighbourhood. I “hear” a growing resentment and I know I have to move away from that; to be the “elder” and the peace maker. But I can’t do that if I too engage the endless confrontations over what is in essence very small stuff. Satyagraha is a lot more tricky to practice than I ever thought when I was reading the book about Gandhi! I know this, that those who truly want to be peace makers will find their way to the front lines – and there’s another paradox for you!

      10. deteremineddespitewp

        Many was the conscientious objector in both world wars who volunteered to be stretcher bearers and medics, earning great respect for their bravery.
        The film Hacksaw Ridge portrays this.
        I hope the peacemakers will win out over the authoritarians like me, our system always falls into abuse at some stage (pretty early on usually)

      11. Sha'Tara Post author

        I would have been a conscientious objector (I object to just about everything so it isn’t a hard choice!) but I live in Canada and here you can have a conscience without having to object about it, we’re pretty informal about most stuff! 🙂 I also wanted to become a criminal defence lawyer so I could to to court and say, “I object!” but I didn’t qualify, I didn’t have a criminal record, just a stack of old LP’s of the Boston Pops and New York Philharmonic. They can be so picky, can’t they?

    2. Sha'Tara Post author

      Going back over the comments, I picked this up, quote: “Of course what the oligarchs never realise is the force they worship (as?) ‘Capitalism’ is actually a force with its own powers, a manifestation of the collective Human Tribe’s greed, fear and opportunism. They have no more control of the consequences of their actions than they have over the waves.”
      No better way to state that fact. Capitalism will eat its worshipers just as readily as it is eating its current victims. If the oligarchs expect special treatment, perhaps they will be served as hors d’oeuvres.

  2. sloppy buddhist

    …or weakmen as they so often turn out to be – dominate nations that would once have laughed them off stage. The question is why? I do imagine another world 😌

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      I think that the world, mostly because of technology, has become addicted to mediocrity. I do imagine another world, but it isn’t on planet Earth. For the record, it isn’t in “heaven” either!

      1. wolfess

        Is it addiction to mediocrity, or is it a shortened attention span that won’t allow our fellow peons to absorb anymore than a few ‘bytes’ of information? Of course, lack of attention span is in itself a form of mediocrity … at some point in my life I understood it was possible to solve almost any problem/conundrum by using critical thinking skills — were we taught how to think critically by our teachers … or our parents … or did we simply pick up those skills on our way to adulthood? What I see missing now is a serious ability to think/consider a problem and work it through to the point of solution — is that because many of us don’t want to take the time to consider/ruminate on something until we figure out how to solve it? Or does it go back to an inability to think something through before that ever-present squirrel flits across our line of vision?

  3. Hyperion

    I do like the characterizations going on here. I’m sure all the private islands are occupied but hey, finding them is easy. The billionaires only appear to be out of range of justice because they have loopholes to navigate through that are closed to the rank and file. Thou shalt not impose any law that will punish the politician’s funding stream. I go back to the deeply flawed but uber powerful and rich Templar Knights. When the Pope and the French King got worried they might be too powerful and they needed money, they condemned the Templars, slaughtered them, and dispelled the survivors throughout the world. That lesson learned, the uber rich and powerful own the Kings and Pope, the news media, and pull the strings. There will be a reckoning for the current buffoons so that other democratic buffoons can drive the last nail in the coffin of civilization. A fresh supply of Colonic Clowns will keep the populace off balance while the rape and pillage continues. It will be easy because there is no one on the planet that can or will do anything. Of course, I did notice Epstein failed to pay his clowns on time and they got him on the most heinous of crimes. Strange that they let him play for 10 years and victimize countless young women and children before they found another funding stream and cut Epstein off. All cynicisms aside, I liked the article but I just wish all the whistle blowers would offer a solution. We know the crime, what’s the punishment? What is an actionable plan that the little people can execute to make this Colonic Clown situation go away?

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      I like it when someone mentions “solutions.” It’s not the whistle blowers’ job to come up with solutions though some may be able to do that also, though it is a contradiction. It didn’t work for the Old Testament prophets, did it!
      I have an impeccable solution to civilization’s failure and downfall. Let it fall; stop trying to prop it up. Become a self empowered INDIVIDUAL who no longer plays the losing hand of the collective game and give no credibility or justification for any aspect of the Powers’ dominion. Think your own thoughts and weigh them judiciously before applying them to the life at hand.
      No more braying with the sheeple. No more collective adherence and performance. No more God and no more Devil or anything that has been substituted to take their place.

      1. Hyperion

        I think the person that yells Fire 🔥 should decide to flee and save themselves or risk injury or death and help save others. I always did the later. Later, I’d question my sanity. We can choose to save ourselves and let the others fend for themselves or we can place a higher value on making a difference over our own comfort. We have uncountable criers in the street yet no one agrees that the drum beats of doom are even real because every crier now has a hidden political agenda that no one can agree on. So the wistle blower no longer has credibility even if they are legit. We don’t need more whistle blowers. We need people that can fix things, that can be true leaders in their family, community, city, state, nation. I think if we all suddenly became lone wolves, the death rate would clear the earth of over population in one year and those that are left would have to be some mighty tough hombres and still people would collect in groups to survive. We can’t get away from the collective until we are all gone and a new Hominid species evolves from some other genetic line that is not a social animal. Hmmmm maybe the Sasquatch is the answer. That fella or lady has stealth living perfected since no one has produced a real physical specimen since the first sighting. I don’t intend this to be a counter to your comment. I just don’t see us getting there soon. There has to be an interim of evolution to that singular state and then human existence, if we can call it that, is no more or no less important than prairie grass or seasonal rains. I’m totally down for that. I plan to do my part by kicking the bucket at a statistically valid time and then on the recycle, totally work on being that being you describe. Maybe we’ll bump into each other. That would be cool. For me. You might experience annoyance, unless I get my vociferous bloviating under control on the next cycle.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        I picked this from your comment, Daniel. “We can’t get away from the collective until we are all gone and a new Hominid species evolves from some other genetic line that is not a social animal.”
        The way I understand it, or that I have “seen” it, that is what is going to happen. From the downfall of the Homo Sapiens species, a new, much more human and definitely humane intelligent, sentient and self aware species is going to mutate from the old. It will gradually retake parts of the planet, mostly certain cities and rehabilitate them. Other than that it is going to repudiate everything to do with the old beliefs and ways. It will disavow any connection with the current failing species and its dying civilization. Nothing of its knowledge or technology will be carried forward. All will be destroyed, particularly all written records of HS’s passage here. No history of HS will be kept and none of it taught. When questioned about their past, the children will be told: “They destroyed themselves and we watched them die. We refused to help them out of necessity and compassion for the future. Their ways were evil and embedded in their DNA. Unless we wanted to inherit their madness we could not allow them to interact with us.” “You killed them, then?” will ask the children, and “our” answer will be, “No. For many years they persecuted and massacred us but it was a test for us that we would not respond in kind. They were predators and we are not. They took everything by force while we coax power from the Cosmos with understanding and cooperation. They were vile and violent, even to each other whereas we are compassionate and empathetic. It was most difficult to watch them die in bloodshed, disease and famine as they continued to extract every ounce of useful material and labour resource from their dying world. Once enough of us had joined forces all we did was create force-fields to prevent them from invading our homes, the same force fields that soon are going to take us back the the stars where we came from a long time ago, as time was once reckoned.” “We are leaving Earth, then?” “Yes, we are leaving Earth.”

      3. Hyperion

        I do believe this too. I had a premonition about it and in this vision saw the genesis of it. I tried to write a story about it which was the origin of my Return of Dragons. The Dragons were the people that were the means to the end of HS. The story lost its way and I abandoned it. Regardless, there is no future for HS in its current form. Evolve or go the way of Neanderthal. Perhaps you and I won’t see it happen, but we will return and perhaps be a part of it. I’ll look for you so we can compare notes.

      4. Sha'Tara Post author

        There are some individuals I intend to reconnect with in a more evolved reality. I’m looking forward to finding you again and to compare notes on our visions of our pasts, and our future. Thanks for choosing such a path, Daniel. I knew there was a point to this blogging after all!

      5. Hyperion

        Yes indeed, there is a point. It can be hard to see with so much to think about and so much to wade through. I know that it is a way for like minds to find each other and there seems to be a benevolent power that comes from that connection.

      6. Hyperion

        Oh yes. It wouldn’t be long before Big Money tried to buy you out. You might have to join Paul and Akira’s band of hideaways.

      7. Sha'Tara Post author

        I wouldn’t mind hiding out with Paul, Akira and co. In fact, I think they could do with another “alien” in the group. Thanks for the chuckle.

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